February 24, 2013

James Robertson [“The wrong venue for drone review,” op-ed, Feb. 17] asserted that judicial warrants for proposed drone strikes, unlike search warrants, would be unconstitutional advisory opinions because a “search warrant is not a death warrant.” Undoubtedly, there is a difference in severity between search warrants and drone warrants, but that does not mean drone warrants are advisory opinions.

The purpose of drone warrants — like search warrants — is not to decide the ultimate legality of the act in question (e.g., police can still break the law while executing a valid search warrant). Instead, the purpose is only to ensure that the government had some legitimate grounds to proceed. Without that review, the government could search you (or bomb you) for any reason — including a made-up or illegal reason — or no reason at all (which is basically the policy we have now for drones). Warrants are not meant to prevent every unlawful act (or even most of them); they prevent only the most egregious acts.

Responsibility for wrongful drone strikes will always rest with the executive, but some review process is better than none. As with search warrants, the courts could issue them without violating the rule against advisory opinions. If judicial review could save even one innocent life from an unlawful drone strike, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Antonio L. Trubiano, Peace Dale, R.I.

While I have a lot of misgivings about drone use, there is one domestic use I would welcome: traffic surveillance. After being woken up at 5:30 a.m. by a traffic helicopter hovering over my house for an hour because of an accident on the Beltway, I can see how a traffic drone would be a lot less intrusive.

Scott Schneider, Silver Spring