In the latest manifestation, White House officials are leaking to the news media that they are considering whether to use drone strikes to kill an unnamed American in Pakistan. This behavior is bizarre as a matter of national security: If a terrorist really poses an imminent threat, how exactly does the administration have time to test the political waters before taking him out? But it is the inevitable result of a more fundamental, long-term problem with the U.S.'s use of drone strikes. President Barack Obama's administration has kept secret the legal justification for such strikes on Americans, as well as the internal procedures to be followed in making the decision. The secrecy shrouds the drone program in a basic sense of illegitimacy. No wonder the administration feels it can’t just kill our enemies, but needs to send up trial balloons first: The whole program is operating under a bad legal conscience.
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