Doyle McManus writes: When it comes to national security, Michael V. Haydenis no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.
But the retired air force general admits to being a little squeamish about the Obama administration’s expanding use of pilotless drones to kill suspected terrorists around the world — including, occasionally, U.S. citizens.
“Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel,” Hayden told me recently.
As an example of the problem, he cites the example of Anwar Awlaki, the New Mexico-born member of Al Qaeda who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen last September. “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him,” Hayden notes, “but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?”
Hayden isn’t the only one who has qualms about the “targeted killing” program. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been pressing the administration to explain its rules for months.
In a written statement, Feinstein said she thinks Awlaki was “a lawful target” but added that she still thinks the administration should explain its reasoning more openly “to maintain public support of secret operations.”
As Hayden puts it: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s dangerous.”