Since September, at least 60 people have died in 14 reported CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions. The Obama administration has named only one of the dead, hailing the elimination of Janbaz Zadran, a top official in the Haqqani insurgent network, as a counterterrorism victory.That is the heart and soul of the U.S. Government’s framework: we can do what we want, in total secrecy and with no checks, including to U.S. citizens, and you don’t need to know anything about it and we need no checks: you should just trust us. That, of course, was precisely the rationale long offered by the neocon Right to justify the radical, transparency-free powers of detention, surveillance and militarism seized by the Bush administration: maybe these powers could theoretically be abused one day by a Bad Leader, but right now, we have a good, noble, Christian family man in office who only wants to Keep us Safe, so we can trust him. That has now been replaced by: maybe these powers could theoretically be abused one day by a Bad Leader, but right now, we have a good, noble, urbane, progressive Constitutional scholar and family man in office who only wants to Keep us Safe, so we can trust him (see, for instance, CAP’s Ken Gude dismissing concerns about the indefinite detention bill by expressly invoking the Goodness of President Obama: “if the president does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to order military operations in the United States, then there is no military detention authority in the United States”; “President Obama has made clear he does not want military detention in the United States. . . . Yes, a future president may interpret that authority differently, but that is  a fight for another day . . .”).
The identities of the rest remain classified, as does the existence of the drone program itself. Because the names of the dead and the threat they were believed to pose are secret, it is impossible for anyone without access to U.S. intelligence to assess whether the deaths were justified.
In outlining its legal reasoning, the administration has cited broad congressional authorizations and presidential approvals, the international laws of war and the right to self-defense. But it has not offered the American public, uneasy allies or international authorities any specifics that would make it possible to judge how it is applying those laws. . . .
“They’ve based it on the personal legitimacy of [President] Obama — the ‘trust me’ concept,” [American University Professor Kenneth] Anderson said. “That’s not a viable concept for a president going forward.”