Drone strikes: Who should make the call?

Updated
An unmanned U.S. Predator drone makes a landing after completing a flight over former Yugoslavia at the remote air base of Gjader in north central Albania on...
An unmanned U.S. Predator drone makes a landing after completing a flight over former Yugoslavia at the remote air base of Gjader in north central Albania on...
AP Photo/Armando Babani

Anti-war protesters disrupted the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for CIA director. But Brennan may have the majority of Americans behind him.

According to a Washington Post-ABC poll from last year, 83% of Americans approve of the Obama administration’s use of unmanned drones against suspected terrorists abroad, compared to just 11% who are opposed. When asked if they approve of using drones against Americans overseas who are suspected of being involved in terrorist attacks, a strong majority—79% –still approve.

Brennan, who’s currently the Obama administration’s top counterterrorism adviser, defended the use of drones on Thursday, arguing “there is a misperception on the part of some American people who believe we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort.” His remarks come as NBC News disclosed a confidential Justice Department memo which spelled out the legal case for drone strikes on Americans if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.”

Hardball host Chris Matthews said that while several senators are taking issue with the White House’s secrecy surrounding its drone program, no one has voiced any objections to the drones themselves. msnbc political analyst Ron Reagan told Matthews on Friday that the question is “not whether we should [use drones] but on whose say-so do we do it.” Reagan urged some type of judicial review. “We’re a country of checks and balances…If it was so justifiable, why was it so secret?”

Cynthia Tucker, a visiting professor at the University of Georgia, noted that those who are placed on American kill lists are likely on them for days—if not weeks, or months. “Why not present that evidence to an independent review body” the moment there are concerns that someone is a danger to the United States, she suggested.

Tucker said that while she’s a fan of Obama’s, “I want [the decision to be made my] people of an outside branch of government who feel the independence to disagree with the government,” she said.

Drone strikes: Who should make the call?

Updated