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‘Drone court’ not a good idea, former Defense Dept. attorney says

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2013

The idea of a "drone court" wouldn't go over well with an American public that's already suspicious about the government's behind-doors discussions on the emerging technology, one former Defense Department official said.

What would help is more openness, said Jeh Johnson, during a Monday speech at Fordham Law School in New York, as Reuters reports.

"The problem is that the American public is suspicious of executive power shrouded in secrecy," Mr. Johnson said in the Reuters report.

Without official reports, "many in the public fill the void by envisioning the worst," said Mr. Johnson, who was an attorney in the Defense Department during President Obama's first term, Reuters reports.

The White House and Congress are taking steps to define drone use. One idea for the legislative branch: Create a court that operates in secret and decides whether government targets — declared or suspected terrorists — would violate law, Reuters said.

Aside from the secrecy angle, and the potential for fueling American fears and conspiracy theories, Mr. Johnson did point to one benefit of such a court.

"A national security court [could] help answer the question many are asking: What do we say to other nations who acquire this capability? A group of judges to approve targeted lethal force would set a standard and an example," he said in the Reuters report.

But in the end, the "costs" of a secret court will still far "outweigh the benefits," he said, as Reuters reported.

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