Scott Shane on Codifying US Drone Rules

By Matthew Waxman
Saturday, November 24, 2012, 7:52 PM

Scott Shane of the New York Times has an interesting story in tomorrow's paper:

Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The story suggests that there was concern among some Obama administration officials about leaving the targeted killing program to a Romney administration without having institutionalized adequate constraints.  Besides noting that the drone program has expanded under the Obama administration, however, it also explains that there remain major internal, interagency disputes about how broadly or narrowly such constraints -- legal and policy constraints -- should be crafted, and that the Obama administration "has not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are acceptable under international law."

The story also explains that in addition to the substance of any standards and procedures the Obama administration might further promulgate in the second term, major related questions include how publicly transparent these rules should be and what role Congress should play.  The former issue is especially important in relation to persuading international audiences and shaping international practice, and the latter issue is especially important in light of Bobby's discussion of the "destabilizing legal architecture of counterterrorism."