No doubt the administration is reluctant to provide the justifications in a timely fashion because it will be immediately criticized and the administration will be held accountable. Even to find out what facts may be available the ACLU had to file a lawsuit. Even if legal basis does stand up to criticism the problem of civilian casualties still stands. The estimate given in this article is very low actually. It seems to be the preferred estimate now. This is from the Huffington Post.
State Department To Produce Legal Justification for Drone Attacks
State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has promised to produce the Obama administration's legal justification for its increased use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, reports Shane Harris of the National Journal.
"I have studied this question," Koh told the audience at an American Bar Association breakfast yesterday. "I think that the legal objections that are being put on the table are ones that we are taking into account. I am comfortable with the legal position of the administration, and at an appropriate moment we will set forth that in some detail."
Let's hope that "appropriate moment" comes pretty soon, because controversy over the drone attacks is heating up. The ACLU in January filed a FOIA request asking the government to turn over that legal justification, as well as the facts underlying it. Then this week, after receiving a response from the CIA that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant documents, the ACLU filed a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, as Adam Serwer points out at The American Prospect, a New America Foundation study raises concerns that about a third of the victims of drone attacks have been civilians, and international lawyers have been debating for months now whether the targeted killings violate international law. (Jane Mayer's story on drone attacks in the New Yorker last October does an excellent job of laying out the controversy.)