Why we need a drone court

Story highlights

  • Amos Guiora: Court oversight would help create a broad drone policy rooted in rule of law
  • Court should not be seen as limiting state's fundamental right to self-defense, he says

Amos Guiora is professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, the University of Utah. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)Targeted killings sit at the intersection of law, morality, strategy, and policy. But while they are an important tool for helping states protect innocent civilians, there's an important caveat -- such killings must follow rigorous standards, criteria, and guidelines.

Amos Guiora
True, the cost of terrorism across the globe is huge and cannot be dismissed. Terrorists do, after all, deliberately target innocent civilians. And after some 20 years sitting at the table of operational counter-terrorism efforts in Israel I believe there is an important place for the judicious use of targeted killings.
    However, increasingly broad definitions of imminent threats, combined with new technological capabilities, are drastically altering the legal and moral principles that targeted killings are based on. Indeed, in 2013, the Department of Justice developed a white paper on the Obama administration's drone policy defining imminence so expansively that there actually need not be clear evidence of a specific, imminent attack to justify the killing of an individual, including U.S. citizens. This extraordinary broadness is to targeted killings what the Bybee "torture memos" were to interrogation excesses under the George W. Bush administration.
    It shouldn't be this way. And it doesn't need to be.
    If the U.S. government wants to ensure broad trust in targeted killings, then it should work to establish a standard of scrutiny that meets the kind of standards that would be expected to be met in a court of law, that could be adjudicated by a non-state actor.