Targeted Killing: Drones

Checks and Balances Working Well

By Jack Goldsmith
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, seventy percent of respondents (including a majority of self-identified liberal Democrats) said they approve of keeping open the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and 83 percent (including 77 percent of liberal Democrats) said they approve of Obama’s use of armed drone aircraft against terror suspects overseas.  Glenn Greenwald described these numbers as “repulsive progressive hypocrisy.”  I think there is a better explanation: our constitutional system of checks and balances has worked well to achieve a national consensus in support of a much-changed but now undoubtedly lawful and legitimate system of detention at Guantanamo Bay.  These checks and balances have also worked to produce a national consensus in support of military commissions, warrantless surveillance, and drone strikes, among other things.  I explain my reasoning in this Washington Post op-ed.  This basic argument is one of several themes in my new book, which will be published on March 12.