Obama Administration Set to Release Memo That Approved Targeted Drone Killings
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will disclose a secret memo used to justify drone strikes against Americans living overseas who are suspected of terrorism.
A court ruling is requiring disclosure of the memo, according to Businessweek. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he will accept U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.'s recommendation not to appeal the ruling. However, redactions to the memo will be made prior to its release, according to an official in the administration.
The decision to disclose the memo was made before a vote was held Wednesday to make the memo's author a federal judge. The author, former Justice Department official David Barron, was nominated by Obama for a position at the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Massachausetts.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and other lawmakers demanded the release of the memo that was written by Barron. The legal memo justified the use of lethal drones against U.S. citizens to counter suspected terrorists.
The drone program was brought under heightened scrutiny when Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. U.S. officials said the U.S.-born imam was a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki's teenage son was also killed in a separate drone strike two weeks later, although he wasn't the target of the strike.
Sen. Paul said he didn't argue that al-Awlaki "deserved to die," but didn't agree with how it was carried out.
"I don't necessarily disagree with his punishment," Paul wrote in the Boston Herald. "I disagree with how the punishment was decided. American citizens not on a battlefield must be convicted before they are sentenced to death."
Paul said he will oppose Barron's nomination.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is largely opposed to the drone strikes, implored senators to read the policy memo before taking a vote on Barron's nomination.
"The release of this memo will allow the public to better understand the scope of the authority that the government is claiming," said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued in the lawsuit to release the memo about the targeted killings. "We will continue to argue in court for the public release of the other targeted killing memos and related documents."
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