The release by NBC News of a confidential “white paper” outlining the basis upon which the Obama Administration justifies the use of drones to conduct targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including American citizens, has prompted a substantial amount of commentary — mostly negative. Among other things, critics note the expansive notion of what constitutes an “imminent” threat. So, for instance, the memo provides:
the condition that an operational leader present an “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.
Conor Friedersdorf sees echoes of the early Bush Administration in this rationale (as does Charles at Popehat), and Glenn Greenwald finds it “chilling.” Patterico worries about the slippery slope and Jacob Sullum finds the memo disturbing. But don’t worry. White House spokesman Jay Carney assures us there’s nothing problematic about the administration’s position.
On the academic side of things, Greg McNeal notes “six key points” on the white paper. Kevin Jon Heller comments on the memo’s “confused approach to imminence (and capture)” and its mishandling of al Qaida’s organizational structure.
In the Washington Post Jack Goldsmith argues the white paper highlights the need for a new “rulebook” for the war on terror, preferably a statute debated and adopted by Congress (a step Gerard Magliocca urges as well), and his colleagues at the Lawfare blog have several more posts on the issue.
UPDATE: John Bolton and Senator Lindsey Graham defend the Obama Administration’s use of drones. According to Bolton, the current policy is a reasonable extension of the Bush Administration’s anti-terror policies.