To Disclose Legal Justification For Drone Strikes On Americans
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[May 21, 2014]
By Julia Edwards
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government
will disclose its legal justification for the use of drones against U.S.
citizens suspected of terrorism, a senior Obama administration official
said on Tuesday.
The U.S. solicitor general has made the decision not to appeal a
federal appeals court's decision in April requiring the
release of a redacted memorandum spelling out the justification for
the policy, said the official, who was not authorized to speak
publicly. The court and the Justice Department have not set a time
for the document's release.
While the legal analysis that justifies the use of drones will be
disclosed, some facts will still be excluded from the document, the
In a case pitting executive power against the public's right to know
what its government does, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last
month reversed a lower-court ruling preserving the secrecy of the
legal rationale for the killings, such as the killing of U.S.
citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
Ruling for the New York Times in the case, a unanimous three-judge
panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making
repeated public statements justifying targeted killings.
Civil liberties groups have complained that the drone program, which
deploys pilotless aircraft, lets the government kill Americans
without constitutionally required due process.
The U.S. use of drones against militants in countries such as
Pakistan and Yemen has drawn international criticism and fanned
anti-American sentiments in some Islamic countries.
In a March 2012 speech at Northwestern University in Illinois,
Attorney General Eric Holder had said it was "entirely lawful" to
target people with senior operational roles in al-Qaeda and
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"Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had has been
lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the
highest levels and official disclosure of the DOJ White Paper,"
Circuit Judge Jon Newman wrote for the appeals court panel in New
York last month.
The judge said in the ruling that it was no longer logical or
plausible to argue that disclosing the legal analysis could
jeopardize military plans, intelligence activities or foreign
On April 4, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington
dismissed a lawsuit against the government by the families of those
killed in the drone strikes, saying senior officials cannot be held
personally liable for money damages "for conducting war."
(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Peter Cooney and Steve
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