You might surmise from the scenario described in the Justice Department white paper that was leaked this week—a senior, operational leader of Al Qaeda or an allied group who poses an “imminent threat” and whose capture is “infeasible”—that targeted killings within the United States are out of bounds. But the white paper itself makes it clear that there may be other circumstances where killing an American citizen is OK. There clearly are other circumstances where killing foreigners is OK.
Brennan’s idea of open and transparent government boils down to this: Trust us. That is what he means when he talks about explaining “the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, [and] the reviews” that precede one of the president’s death warrants. Once people understand the “extensive process” that’s involved—behind closed doors and entirely within the executive branch—they will stop worrying about the Fifth Amendment and go back to their reality shows. The one thing Brennan and his boss adamantly refuse to discuss is the evidence that leads them to convict someone of a crime punishable by death. You just have to take their word that in any given case they have plenty.