Conversations in Diplomacy: John Bellinger

Feb. 10, 2013 Series: Conversations in Diplomacy

John Bellinger is an American lawyer who served as the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. He is a partner at a Washington, D.C. law firm and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, Bellinger is a member of the American Law Institute, the American Council on Germany, the British-American Project, and the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on International Law. He has also been appointed to the Defense Legal Policy Board.

In this interview with John Bellinger, FDP examines the subject of drone strikes and differences between the Bush and Obama administrations on counter-terrorism issues. When speaking on the differences between the Bush and Obama administrations in regards to counter-terrorism, Bellinger notes that there has been “more continuity than change”. He states that the two presidencies have had very similar policies towards Al-Qaeda, except that the Obama administration has become far more aggressive in its use of drone strikes.

The discussion also touches on the subject of the legality of drone strikes, especially in regards to targeting American citizens. Bellinger agrees with President Obama's implicit decision that an American who takes up arms against the United States can be legally targeted with lethal force. However, he says that he is troubled overall by the thousands who have been killed by drone strikes with “virtually no transparency”.

In terms of legal processes, Bellinger believes that the Obama administration needs to provide more information on the use of drones. However, he does not think that it is appropriate for the American court system to get involved in the lethal targeting of individuals. Rather, he believes that Congress needs to pass legislation governing how the Executive Branch can target individuals. All in all, Bellinger states that the United States is on “unstable legal territory” regarding drone strikes.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Future of Diplomacy Project
For Academic Citation:Conversations in Diplomacy: John Bellinger.” News, , February 10, 2013.