Privacy SOS

Does John Brennan think the executive branch could order targeted strikes on US soil?

The Senate Intelligence Committee has posted CIA director nominee John Brennan's post hearing "Questions for the record" document

When asked whether he thinks the US has the authority to "carry out drone strikes inside the United States," Brennan replies:

"This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so."

Someone should press the administration to give a straight "Yes" or "No" answer to this important question. Given the lack of any pushback for clarity on the issue from senators who had the opportunity to grill Brennan, we probably cannot rely on them to figure out the answer for us. The burden of pushing for answers to vital questions like this one therefore, once again, falls on the press and organizations like the ACLU.

Unfortunately, the process couldn't be more frustrating in the courts. Case in point: even after Brennan discussed the targeted killing program for hours in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, before thousands of people watching live on television, the Obama administration still claimed in court proceedings that it cannot confirm or deny the existence of the kill program.

As Conor Friedersdorf writes

the Department of Justice's argument grows weaker and more absurd with every passing week, as Obama Administration officials continue to talk about something that, officially, doesn't exist. Marcy Wheeler says it's like Team Obama has the opposite of an imaginary friend: People have real conversations about a subject but then act like they were pretend. 

Many people, including a judge who ruled on these issues, have described this untenable situation as akin to Alice in Wonderland. But maybe Friedersdorf is right, and the government is behaving more like Shaggy:

Maybe if Brennan is ever hauled into a courtroom and asked about his comments before the Senate (and the world), he'll just say, "It wasn't me."

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.