Targeted Killing

Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration's Addresses on National Security Law

By Benjamin Wittes, Kenneth Anderson
Thursday, March 28, 2013, 7:08 AM

We are excited to announce the launch of a project at which we have been hard at work for some time. It's a book---being published chapter by chapter---by the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law, explicating and evaluating the Obama Administration's speeches on national security legal issues.

Entitled Speaking the Law The Obama Administration's Addresses on National Security Law, the book is designed as a kind of handbook on the framework for counterterrorism the administration has laid out in its canonical national security law speeches. Consider it the White Paper the administration has never issued---a single document that brings together in one place everything the administration has said publicly about the law of the conflict with transnational terrorist groups.

There is a myth that the administration has had little to say on the subject of its counterterrorism authorities, especially targeted killing and drones---largely because it has declined to release publicly its Office of Legal Counsel targeted killing memoranda. Part of the point of Speaking the Law is to show how wrong this myth really is. The administration has actually said a huge amount. It's just that it has said a great deal of it orally, and has broken up its utterances among a number of different statements. What we have tried to do is weave it all back together, creating a synthetic account of the administration's views that is worth more collectively than the sum of its parts.

In an admittedly experimental move, we have decided to publish this book online, in real time as we write it. The idea is that these issues are matters of ongoing controversy, so waiting until we've written the entire manuscript in this digital age seems like a bad use of time. Today we are releasing the Introduction and Chapter 1, which gives an overview---largely without commentary---on what the administration has said on a wide variety of issues. Chapter 2, which offers our evaluation of where the speeches get things right, where they get things wrong, and where they remain underdeveloped, has been written and is currently in copyediting. We are currently writing Chapters 3 and 4.

When it's all done, Hoover will publish it as a hardcover book, along with the relevant portions of the speeches as an appendix. In the meantime, we will embed each chapter on Lawfare as it comes out, and we've created a Speaking the Law page on Lawfare, which contains all of the chapters in one place.


Speaking the Law (Introduction), by Kenneth Anderson and Benjamin Wittes

Speaking the Law (Chapter 1), by Kenneth Anderson and Benjamin Wittes