Recently, NBC News released information on a White House white paper leaked from the Department of Justice. The white paper points to details of the legal justification for targeted drone strikes that kill American citizens in the name of national security.

A recent case is the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, which was caused by one of these drone strikes. Many ethical questions are being raised about the killing of Americans without trial, and these events have inspired the topic of West Virginia University 2013 Applied Ethics Day.

The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Philosophy are co-sponsoring the upcoming Applied Ethics Day, which will be held March 7 at 8 p.m. in room 112 of Clark Hall. The presentation is free and open to the public, and will address issues surrounding today’s democratic society such as the justification for and limits of government secrecy as well as the nature and scope of executive authority.

“This year’s program is extremely timely,” said Mark Wicclair, professor of philosophy. “In the past two decades government secrecy and executive authority have increased substantially, some say to the point of threatening important Constitutional principles and protections. This lecture will examine the limits of secrecy and executive authority while exploring a critical question of national security: targeted drone killings of Americans.”

Those in attendance will have the opportunity to hear from Claire Finkelstein Ph.D., J.D., who has published numerous works about criminal law theory, moral and political philosophy as applied to legal questions and related areas of study. Finkelstein highlights the importance of protecting sensitive information to ensure military forces are successful in her article “Secrecy, Discretion and the Rule of Law.” However, she believes that lines are being crossed by the targeted drone strikes.

“When that force is used to kill American citizens without charges, trial, judge or jury, it seems hardly a stretch to say that foundational principles of personal liberty long recognized in the civil arena are placed at risk,” said Finkelstein in
her article.

Claire Finkelstein holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, and a law degree from Yale University. She is director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently finishing a book entitled “Contractarian Legal Theory.” The article “Secrecy, Discretion and the Rule of Law” was co-written with Jens David Ohlin, associate professor of law at Cornell University.

For more information, contact Mark Wicclair, professor of philosophy at 304-293-7709 or



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