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Letters: Battling over drone policy

February 22, 2013

Re "Drones and due process," Opinion, Feb. 17

I was pleased to read three lawyers' views on due process and targeting U.S. citizens in drone strikes. However, as a former prosecutor and practicing lawyer, I was dismayed by two of the opinions.

All three questioned whether a citizen who has not physically menaced any U.S. soldier or been charged with a crime can be lawfully killed by the government without a court's intervention. Only Vicki Divoll, a former legal advisor to the CIA, answered the question directly. She cited legal authority to support her conclusion that the judiciary must be involved.

Chapman University Law School Dean Tom Campbell, rather than answer the question, suggested that a law on drone strikes be passed, followed by a court review. Yale Law School professor Peter Schuck's response was devoid of recognizable legal reasoning. He apparently accepts the allegations of our government against Anwar Awlaki, the U.S. citizen against whom formal charges were never filed but who was killed by a drone strike in 2011.

Killing anyone without first giving him due process, especially if he is innocent, is immoral.

Geoffrey N. Lachner

Laguna Niguel

When is it legally acceptable to kill using drones? Whose assassination is acceptable? What due process is necessary in targeting Americans and others? Three writers — a Yale Law School professor, the dean of Chapman University Law School and an ex-CIA legal advisor — discuss those questions.

Added to these thorough legal articles is another constitutional question: Which of our branches of government should be in charge of the "kill list"? Is the president exceeding executive power without congressional complicity?

Academically credited authorities become complicit by confining the discussion to a frame outside essential moral, ethical and human concerns.

Haskell Wexler

Santa Monica

A primary function of government is to provide for the safety of its citizens. Should a government identify a clear and present danger to its citizens, it is appropriate for that government to act to remove that danger. That was the situation with Awlaki, who, at the time of his death in Yemen, was a U.S. citizen but had, according to the government, amply demonstrated by his association with accused Ft. Hood gunman Nidal Malik Hasan his ongoing desire and ability to harm Americans.

Our government would have been derelict in its duty to protect us had it failed to move against Awlaki.

Louis H. Nevell

Los Angeles

Divoll's important Op-Ed article misses one major point: The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn't say that "no citizen" should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process but that "no person" shall not be deprived.

Why aren't we examining all extrajudicial executions by drone instead of just those of U.S. citizens?

John L. Hammond

New York

The three essays fail to refer to international treaties ratified by the United States.

In 2012, Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, characterized many drone attacks as war crimes in violation of international law. The U.N. Human Rights Council is now deliberating whether to concur.

In any case, extrajudicial executions are banned by Articles 6, 14 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Michael Haas

Los Angeles


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