The report is especially critical of the use of intelligence agencies in such attacks. Although he notes that such killings are not “war crimes” even when perpetrated by the CIA, Philip Alston still takes issue with the use of the Intelligence Community (IC) for such actions. Rather than worrying about the actors, he worries about accountability and transparency:
States may have tactical or security reasons not to disclose criteria for selecting specific targets (e.g. public release of intelligence source information could cause harm to the source). But without disclosure of the legal rationale as well as the bases for the selection of specific targets (consistent with genuine security needs), States are operating in an accountability vacuum. It is not possible for the international community to verify the legality of a killing, to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of intelligence relied upon, or to ensure that unlawful targeted killings do not result in impunity. The fact that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for such disclosure does not absolve States of the need to adopt explicit policies.
Although in previous posts I mentioned Harold Koh’s speech outlining the legal justifications for the use of UAV strikes, Alson remained adamant that “no State has disclosed the full legal basis for targeted killings, including its interpretation of the legal issues discussed above. Nor has any State disclosed the procedural and other safeguards in place to ensure that killings are lawful and justified, and the accountability mechanisms that ensure wrongful killings are investigated, prosecuted and punished.”
Read more of the report, after the jump.