Very glad to have joined the Lawfare team. I look forward to more sustained blogging once the spring grading season is over. For now, I’ll offer just a quick thought on the speech John Brennan delivered yesterday, and on the larger public outreach campaign of which it is a part.
Brennan is quite right that, even before yesterday’s speech, the combined effect of the President’s May 2009 National Archives speech, Harold Koh’s 2010 ASIL speech, Eric Holder’s recent Northwestern speech, and additional important addresses by Jeh Johnson and Stephen Preston (not to mention Brennan’s own speech at Harvard last fall), “the United States government has never been so open regarding its counterterrorism policies and their legal justification.” The Obama Administration deserves substantial credit for that; responsible transparency is difficult to deliver. Whether or not one thinks the Administration has achieved the optimal level disclosure (I myself think Holder’s speech, while undoubtedly well-intended, raised more questions than it answered), its sustained efforts to make public at least some aspects of the legal, ethical, and prudential underpinnings of its counterterrorism strategy are both admirable and wise.
Yesterday’s speech extends those efforts forward, especially regarding the (legal and prudential) standards and processes for deciding whether to target with lethal force specific members of al-Qaida, away from the “hot” battlefield. Questions remain, of course. I have some of my own, and I see that Jack has just identified some others. But that should not obscure the significant levels of responsible transparency that the Obama Administration has achieved, especially in light of yesterday’s speech.