Dan Creighton/Fordham Law School

Amid debate over the limits of the federal government’s drone program, Jeh Johnson, who until last December was the U.S. Defense Department’s general counsel, spoke yesterday at Fordham University School of Law on the legal and practical problems of a proposed national security court that would approve lethal counterterrorism operations.

Read the text of Johnson’s remarks.

While a so-called "drone court" may give more creditability and independence to lethal force decisions, Johnson said, he questioned whether the oversight court would be viewed as rubber-stamping decisions and how constantly changing objectives on the battlefield may pose problems for such a court.

"Like others, I believe the idea of a national security court is worth serious consideration, for the sake of our democratic process. I see certain advantages, but also a number of legal and practical problems," he said. "The advisability of the idea also depends in very large part on the scope of what such a court is to review. If I must be labeled one way or another, I guess I belong in the category of skeptic."

Johnson, who is now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in Washington, D.C., spoke during an all-day conference touching on legal authorities in war.