The Pros and Cons of Drone Court

Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department’s former general counsel, said on Monday he remains a “skeptic” of the need to establish a national security court of federal judges—often dubbed a “drone court”—tasked with approving lethal counterterrorism operations. “The idea of a national security court is worth serious consideration,” said Johnson during a March 18 speech at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York City. However, “we must be realistic about the degree of added credibility such a court can provide,” he added. The “advisability” of such a court depends on the scope of what it’s asked to do, said Johnson. He highlighted three points to consider when mulling this issue. First, the United States should continue striving for transparency. Second, targeted lethal force is least controversial when the US military carries it out as part of a congressionally authorized armed conflict. Anything else, he said, “looks to the public to lack any boundaries, and lends itself to the suspicion that it is an expedient substitute for criminal justice.” Finally, the President should “institutionalize” his decision-making process, said Johnson. (Johnson’s prepared remarks)