March 17, 2013

When on the same day (March 15) the opinion pages of The Post reveal a convergence of view between liberal John Podesta [“No more secret law on drones”] and conservative Charles Krauthammer [“Codify the drone war”], a tipping point clearly has been reached. National opinion has arrived at common sense: A democratic government based on law must make public (and thus accountable) the code under which it deals out lethal force, in this case through our anti-terrorist drone wars abroad.

I say that as a former national security official, a drone supporter and one who believes we are in a long-term asymmetrical “war” with foreign terrorists that cannot be prosecuted primarily by judicial means. But it is a corruption of democracy for the executive branch to seek to conceal the legal rationales and basic criteria governing its use of lethal force. Releasing such information would not betray any operational sources and methods, which deserve secrecy. That information, however, would make clear and thus accountable (yes, even debatable) the “law of war” policies under which our nation now is operating and which ultimately should be subject to popular (congressional) consent, not concealed executive fiat.

Giving the executive branch the power to create (or creatively interpret) secret law on any subject, much less the use of lethal force, strikes at the very foundations of our congressionally based republican form of government. This must end.

Marc E. Nicholson, Washington