The Ideological Diversity Behind Demands for Targeted Killing or Drone Oversight and Transparency

When Barbara Lee and 7 other progressives sent a letter to the President asking for more information on both the legal authorization for targeted killings and the “architecture” of the program generally, a number of people on the left took it as a response to Rand Paul’s filibuster. The implication was that the liberal left had matched the Tea Party right in its interest in targeted killing oversight and transparency, and that no one in between those “extremes” had expressed such an interest.

As I laid out the other day, that portrayal is nonsense. It ignores the number of solidly centrist or mainstream, more authoritarian, Republicans who have called for targeted killing oversight or transparency. Democrats run the risk of underestimating the degree to which Republicans may make this a political, rather than just an oversight, issue (as I pointed out when Bob Goodlatte first expressed an interest a month before Barbara Lee did).

As I see it, the people who have called for more oversight or transparency on drones or targeted killings fall into 6 overlapping groups. They fall roughly like this, though trying to imagine anyone’s motivations is imperfect and I’m obviously making rough judgments. (Note, I’ve added people who don’t appear on my list of those who have formally asked for OLC memos, but have spoken out or sponsored legislation.)

But the groupings provide some idea of where drone and targeting killing politics might head. A good many of people raising concerns are perfectly happy to use drones to kill people; they just want it to either be more efficacious or legally justifiable, or they want to make political hay.

Statutory Oversight: Chuck Grassley, Pat Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Jerry Nadler, Ron Wyden, John Conyers, Bobby Scott, Mark Udall, Dick Durbin, Bob Goodlatte, James Sensenbrenner, Trent Franks, Ted Poe, Trey Gowdy, Tom Graves

Civil Liberties: Ron Wyden, Pat Leahy, Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, Bobby Scott, Ted Poe, Rand Paul, Mark Udall, Jeff Merkley, Mike Lee, Al Franken, Ted Cruz, Jusin Amash, Zoe Lofgren, Ed Markey

Good Government: Chuck Grassley, John McCain, Susan Collins, Tom Udall, Mark Begich

Congressional Prerogative: Chuck Grassley, Pat Leahy, John Cornyn, Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, Bobby Scott, Bob Goodlatte, James Sensenbrenner, Trent Franks, Ted Poe, Trey Gowdy

Progressive Principle: Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, John Conyers, Jerry Nadler, Bobby Scott, Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Donna Edwards, Mike Honda, Rush Holt, James McGovern

Oppositional Opportunisim: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Saxby Chambliss, Mark Kirk, John Cornyn, Jerry Moran, John Thune, Jeff Flake, Ron Johnson, Tim Scott, Bob Goodlatte, James Sensenbrenner, Trent Franks, Trey Gowdy, Justin Amash, Jeff Duncan, Scott Garrett, Jim Jordan, Billy Long, James Sensenbrenner

5 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Where’s the category for congressmen who recognize “if we won’t stand up against an executive who invokes ‘secret law’ to execute Americans without due process and in violation of fundamental constitutional rights, just exactly when will Congress or the American people ever be able to expect the executive to consider his/her authority subject to congressional limitation”?

  2. thatvisionthing says:

    I wish you included a definition to go with your groupings. They all seem about the same to me, especially when the last two come from apparently completely opposite directions — so, not a left vs. right issue, but a Constitutional issue.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    Also, as a Constitutional issue, I wish we’d see the courts represented here.

    I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret. – Judge Colleen McMahon, as she rules against the ACLU’s targeted killing FOIA

    Like, if Bradley Manning were a judge instead of an Army private, what would he have done?

    I’m thinking about Manning lately because the paradox of how he can be convicted of crimes while upholding his oath to the Constitution just keeps bugging me. He exposed crimes, harms to the Constitution, yet he’s facing life in prison and he’s so gagged that we haven’t heard his voice, ever, until someone sneaked a courtroom recording out. That tells you how much we the country of the First Amendment suck now. Am I understanding this right? He has to plead guilty so he can read a statement so someone can secretly record it so we can finally hear in his own words his side of the story?

    Pat Leahy’s finest moment, as far as I’m concerned, was this one:

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: And then you said, “I took an oath to the president, and I take that oath very seriously.” Did you mean perhaps you took an oath to the Constitution?

    SARA TAYLOR, FMR WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR 2005-07: I, uh, yes. You are correct. I took an oath to the Constitution. But, uh, what –

    LEAHY: Did you take a second oath to the president?

    TAYLOR: I did not. What I should have said –

    LEAHY: The answer was incorrect.

    TAYLOR: The answer was incorrect.

    LEAHY: Thank you.

    TAYLOR: What I should have said is that I took an oath, I took that oath seriously, and I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the president.

    LEAHY: No! The oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know the president refers to the government as being his government. It’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the president, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.

    Has there been a court case where someone stood on oath to Constitution and won?

    Are we allowed to even imagine an instance where the U.S. would commit crimes, treaty violations, and checks and balances work? How are we supposed to self-correct?

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    Daniel Ellsberg: A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words for the First Time


    Some of the most critical documents leaked by Manning revealed torture by the Iraqi government, which the US knew about, and according to the international treaty on torture, the US should have required investigations.

    In fact, the Iraq war logs show hundreds of instances of cases of torture, and in every case, the soldiers were given the illegal order not to investigate.

    In his statement to the court, Manning talks about an incident where he thought men who were apprehended shouldn’t have been, and that they were being handed over to the Iraqis to possibly be tortured. He went to his superior and was told to forget about it.

    Bradley Manning, by releasing this information, is the only solider who actually obeyed this law, the international treaty, and by extension, the Constitution.

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