But we cannot lead if the American people are kept in the dark. We cannot lead if the world does not know the principles and laws that guide us, or if others can credibly say that our commitment to a government of the people, by the people and for the people is simply window-dressing, or that we sacrifice our constitutional principles when it is expedient.
James Madison said that "a popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy; or, perhaps, both."
March 16 is Madison's birthday. Mark it, Mr. President, by upholding the promise of openness and transparency you made in your State of the Union address last month. Release the legal guidance governing your targeted killing programs, including the justifications for targeting Americans, and take charge of the informed, free and vigorous debate that undoubtedly will follow.
The writer is chairman of the Center for American Progress and a visiting professor of law at Georgetown University. He served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff from 1998 to 2001.