House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes that President Obama doesn’t necessarily have to announce that an American citizen suspected of terrorism has been killed in a drone strike.
“Maybe. It just depends,” Pelosi replied when The Huffington Post asked her if “the administration should acknowledge when it targets a U.S. citizen in a drone strike.” When Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike, President Obama announced the killing within hours. “People just want to be protected,” Pelosi also said. “And I saw that when we were fighting them on surveillance, the domestic surveillance. People just want to be protected: ‘You go out there and do it. I’ll criticize you, but I want to be protected.’”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, responded less blithely. “Anytime the government willfully executes a citizen, regardless of the circumstances, it is a very serious issue,” Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement to The Washington Examiner. “As the body that oversees executive branch actions, at the very least, Congress should have a full accounting – even if it must sometimes be in a classified setting – of the specific considerations that went into the decision.”
The top House Democrat suggested that the disclosure issue “depends on the timing, because that’s right — it’s all about timing, imminence. What is it that could be in jeopardy if people know that happened at this time? I just don’t know.”
Lee also acknowledged the possibility of some situations that might call for secrecy, though he emphasized the need for congressional review. “Government should always err on the side of greater transparency and make details public where they can,” he said in his statement. “Where there are limited and serious national security concerns about releasing certain details, the appropriate committees in Congress should have the opportunity to perform oversight.”
Pelosi suggested that she would have the same position if President George W. Bush were still in office. “Those opposed are pretty critical, and other people are just listening to see what this is and why this is necessary, because we’re in a different world,” she told HuffPo.
Lee wants Obama to reveal the Justice Department legal analysis underpinning the drone program to the Judiciary Committee, rather than just the intelligence committees in both chambers of Congress.
“If you’re going to regard somebody as presenting an imminent threat of an attack on the U.S. simply because you have concluded that they are an ‘operational leader’ or they are involved in planning an attack in one way or another, you find yourself giving way to much discretion to the government,” he told The Examiner in an interview after NBC revealed the DOJ white paper on the drone program.
“We know that in some instances where the government has released its legal analysis, it gets it wrong,” Lee added.