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House Judiciary Members Split on After-the-Fact Review of Drone Strikes Against U.S. Citizens

Vladek favored an after-the-fact court review. Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, said a prospective court review could work, but only if it was limited in scope. John Bellinger, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP, said Congress could get involved in specifying conditions and processes for targeting a U.S. citizen, but that the processes should reside in the executive branch. And Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the Intelligence Committees already provide some after-the-fact congressional review of drone strikes.

Bellinger said that the administration has constitutional authority to conduct the strikes, but the legislative authority is shakier. He said Congress ought to revise the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (PL 107-40) because the threat has changed since it was enacted immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Others agreed that the 2001 measure needs to be clarified.

“It is not clear that Congress intended to sanction lethal force against a loosely defined enemy in a wide-ranging conflict with no discernible borders or ending,” said John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

John Gramlich contributed to this report.

Attributes comments to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that had been incorrectly attributed to House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.

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