The U.S. does not have an indiscriminate power to kill

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Post endorses a program of targeted killing under which the executive branch has unilateral authority to hunt and kill individuals -- including U.S. citizens -- anywhere in the world ["In defense of drones," editorial, April 13].

The program is unlawful.

Lethal force may be used outside armed-conflict zones only when there is an imminent threat of deadly attack -- and, even then, only if nonlethal means such as arrest are truly not feasible. The program you endorse -- under which names are added to a kill list after a secret bureaucratic process and remain there for months -- is clearly not limited to imminent threats and is far more sweeping than the law allows.

Over the past eight years, we have seen the government over and over again detain men as "terrorists," only to discover later that the evidence was weak, wrong or nonexistent. This experience should lead us to reject out of hand a program that would invest executive officials with the authority to effectively impose death sentences on U.S. citizens and others far from any battlefield without charge or trial.

Anthony D. Romero, New York

The writer is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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