CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Opinion

March 18, 2013

COMMENTARY: Lift Veil of Secrecy on Drone Policy

(Continued)

This is why I say, respectfully: Give them up, Mr. President.

Begin by fully sharing with the congressional committees that have jurisdiction all of the documents used by your administration to legally substantiate and govern the targeted killing program, including the justification for targeting U.S. citizens. The law that directs our government's activities should not be kept secret.

All branches of the people's government have the right to know the rules and standards under which the other branches act. Congress has the power to oversee the conduct of the executive branch, and lawmakers must be permitted to use it. As Woodrow Wilson wrote: "The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function." Appropriate congressional oversight is critical in building long-term credibility with the public across the political spectrum for the actions the administration undertakes in the people's name.

This isn't to say that the executive branch is obligated to disclose information on operational details or case-specific profiles that are, deservedly, highly classified. But that information can be redacted without undermining the public's understanding of the legal justification on which the government's actions are based.

The American people have the right to know the laws they live under. In addition to allowing Congress to properly fulfill its oversight duties, the administration should make available to the public the criteria justifying the targeted killing of Americans and the safeguards put in place to protect against wrongful death.

This level of transparency is important for our democracy and for governments around the globe. The United States is not the only country with drone technology. We are not the only country with the ability to deploy cyberweapons. We are not the only country grappling with how to apply the rule of law — and the laws of war — when the nature of conflict has changed dramatically, and in a short time.

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