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The Evolution of Law and Policy for CIA Targeted Killing


Afsheen John Radsan


William Mitchell College of Law

Richard W. Murphy


Texas Tech University School of Law

January 19, 2012

Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Vol. 5, p. 339, 2012
William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-01

Abstract:     
Many critiques of the Central Intelligence Agency’s alleged use of killer drones depend on law that does not bind the United States or on contestable applications of uncertain facts to vague law. While acknowledging a blurry line between law and policy, we continue to develop a due process for targeted killing. In the real world, intelligence is sometimes faulty, mistakes occur, and peaceful civilians are at risk. International humanitarian law, which applies during armed conflicts, demands very little in the way of process beyond the admonition to take feasible precautions. Even so, the intelligence-driven nature of targeted killing, and the accompanying concerns over mistakes and abuse, prompt the law – whether couched as IHL or something else – to develop specifics for a CIA drone program. To assist this development, the United States should publicize and defend its standards. If any of these standards turn out to be indefensible, the United States should abandon them and develop better rules for its shadow war. The law and policy for CIA drones should evolve toward accountability and transparency without blocking the sometimes necessary assertion of American force around the world.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: CIA, drones, targeted killing, terrorism, law and policy, international law, humanitarian law

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Date posted: January 25, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Radsan, Afsheen John and Murphy, Richard W., The Evolution of Law and Policy for CIA Targeted Killing (January 19, 2012). Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Vol. 5, p. 339, 2012; William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1990530

Contact Information

Afsheen John Radsan (Contact Author)
William Mitchell College of Law ( email )
875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States
Richard Wyman Murphy
Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )
1802 Hartford
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
806-742-3990 ex.320 (Phone)
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