Groups Urge Oversight of Targeted Killing Program as Part of Homeland Security Confirmation Hearing

As a part of his confirmation process to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, a group of human rights and civil liberties organizations, including The Constitution Project, urged members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to question Jeh Johnson on his role in the United States’ targeted killing program.

In a letter sent to the leadership of the committee on November 12, the groups pointed to numerous media reports that describe the significant role Mr. Johnson played in authorizing and explaining the targeted killing program during the period of 2009 to 2012, when he served as General Counsel to the Department of Defense. For example, on September 16, 2011, The New York Times reported that Mr. Johnson argued for the United States to “significantly widen its targeting” of terrorism suspects beyond al Qaeda.  As reported in Daniel Klaidman’s book Kill or Capture, Mr. Johnson also wrote a memo specifically addressing the legality of targeting alleged terrorist financiers in addition to militants.

“Given the important role of the Secretary of Homeland Security in national security decision making and policy deliberation, particularly as a member of the National Security Council principals’ committee … Senators should understand this critical aspect of his record, which could have a bearing on his future decisions if confirmed as Secretary,” the groups wrote.  They encouraged the committee to seek clarification of Mr. Johnson’s views of the legal authority for and scope of the targeted killing program and to request that the Obama administration provide the committee with copies of any legal memos he may have authored or reviewed on this subject.

The Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee discussed the importance of transparency and accountability related to the program in the report “Lift the Veil of Secrecy on Targeted Killing.”

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