Former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton says there needs to be checks and balances for situations like last month’s killing of an American-born radical cleric in Yemen.
The co-chair of the 9/11 Commission says he is not second-guessing President Obama’s decision to kill Anwar Al-Awlaki, whom he describes as “a very, very bad guy,” and he says CIA Director David Petraeus has personally assured him there was a thorough process to make that call. But Hamilton says the fact that killing Al-Awlaki was the right thing to do must not cloud the larger issue.
“You have to think of the precedent of an American President unilaterally making the decision to kill an American citizen, and that’s an awesome power to give to any one person,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton suggests requiring independent approval from a federal judge, similar to the special court established to issue top-secret surveillance warrants. Hamilton says it is similar to the 9/11 Commission’s call for an independent civil liberties board.
With both surveillance issues and kill orders, Hamilton says it is easy to imagine abuses, even if one agrees with how the power has been used so far. He complains Presidents Bush and Obama both endorsed the board, but have not given it any money — and three of the five seats are still vacant.