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'Secret' 41-page memo released by court Monday


NEW YORK (AP) -- The secret U.S. government memo outlining the justification for the use of drones to kill American terror suspects abroad was released by court order Monday, yielding the most detailed, inside look yet at the legal underpinnings of the Obama administration's program of "targeted killings."

The 41-page memo - whose contents had previously been summarized and released piecemeal - was heavily redacted for national security reasons, with several entire pages and other passages whited out.

But it argues among other things that a targeted killing of a U.S. citizen is permissible under a 2001 law passed by Congress soon after 9/11. That law empowered the president to use force against organizations that planned and committed the attacks.

"The release of the memo will allow the public to better assess the lawfulness of the government's targeted killing policy and the implications of that policy," said Jameel Jaffer, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued for release of the memo. "Despite the release of this memo, the public still knows scandalously little about who the government is killing and why."

He said the memo contains the first formal acknowledgment by the government that the CIA is involved in the program.

The July 2010 memo was written by a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge. It was released after a yearlong legal battle by The New York Times and the ACLU.

The memo specifically provided the legal justification for the September 2011 killing in Yemen of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader and one-time cleric at a Virginia mosque who had been born in the United States, and another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, who edited al-Qaida's Internet magazine. An October 2011 strike also killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's teenage son and also a U.S. citizen.

Al-Awlaki had been involved in an abortive attack against the U.S. and was planning other attacks from his base in Yemen, the memo said. It said the authority to use lethal force abroad may apply in certain circumstances to a U.S. citizen who is part of the forces of an enemy organization.

The memo said the Defense Department operation was being carried out against someone who was within the core of individuals against whom Congress had authorized the use of "necessary and appropriate" force.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York released the memo after the Times and the ACLU sued for any documents in which Justice Department lawyers had discussed the highly classified "targeted killing" program.

The appeals court ordered the memo disclosed after noting that President Barack Obama and other senior government officials had commented publicly on the subject.

David E. McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel for the Times, called the memo "a critical addition to the public debate over targeted killings and should fuel a richer discussion of the legal and security issues that are at the heart of that debate."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, responding to criticism from groups that complained that it took a court order to get the memo released, said the administration worked through the legal system "to produce a redacted document that protected national security interests while at the same time trying to live up to our commitment to transparency."

"In this case, I think even the groups that sharply criticized us would call this a win for transparency," Earnest said.

The memo was written by David Barron, who at the time was acting chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. He was recently confirmed as a judge in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

U.S. officials considered al-Awlaki to be an inspirational leader of al-Qaida, and they have linked him to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting American and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.

Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the memo's contents showed that the targeted killing program was built on "gross distortions of law."

Kebriaei, who worked with the ACLU on two lawsuits challenging al-Awlaki's killing, estimated that more than 4,000 people may have been killed by drone strikes since 2009.

The lawyer said that although the U.S., England and Israel are the only countries that have used drones to kill, other countries soon will have such aircraft of their own.

"The United States loosening and redefining international rules governing the use of force and war is ultimately not going to make anyone any safer," the lawyer said.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Circuit indicated that the memo's release might not be the last. The appeals court also ordered the Justice Department to show other legal opinions to a lower-court judge to determine whether they, too, must be disclosed.

In February 2013, the administration released a 16-page Justice Department "white paper" summarizing the legal arguments detailed in the memo released Monday. The paper asserted that it would be legal to kill a U.S. citizen who had joined al-Qaida if "an informed, high-level official" concluded that the person could not be captured and posed "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States."

The paper said an imminent threat "does not require ... clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."

A Yemeni human rights activist, Abdel-Rahman Barman, said the memo shows that any security tip that reaches the U.S. government could lead to somebody being killed.

"This will only endanger the lives of more people," Barman said.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Ken Dilianian and White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington; Kim Gamel in Kabul, Afghanistan; and Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.


Join the discussion

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FRED June 24 2014 at 5:26 AM

By far, the biggest liar of all time, this man should not only be impeached but thrown in prison for the rest of his life. Then we may be able to pick up the pieces and rebuild America the way it was and should be again.

Flag Reply +58 rate up
8 replies
mociambz June 24 2014 at 5:04 AM

a win for transparency when the aclu has to sue to see it now that's Obama for you a liar and deceitful man

Flag Reply +43 rate up
1 reply
rlightb240 mociambz June 24 2014 at 7:56 AM

Dont forget to mention lost records computer crashes etc .....

Flag Reply +1 rate up
rayser711 June 24 2014 at 7:19 AM

The most corrupt and dishonest administration in the history of this nation. I thought the Bush bunch were bad...and they were...But Obama?
What gets me is no one has the stones to bring this guy down...Impeachment or arrest etc.
How the heck does this guy get away with the cr@p he does. I don't care what color he is...he is way out of line and is a real danger to this country !

Flag Reply +37 rate up
9 replies
runswthscisors40 June 24 2014 at 5:01 AM

So much for transparency...............

Flag Reply +33 rate up
4 replies
taurus7125 June 24 2014 at 5:52 AM

National Security? Bullshit, bobo and his crew are hiding something. Send bobo to Iraq lets see if he can talk to ISIS.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
4 replies
tmccull52 June 24 2014 at 5:32 AM

Provided below is a snippet from the heavily redacted file:

I duped you again.

Barack Obama
United States of America

Flag Reply +28 rate up
4 replies
coopdabomb June 24 2014 at 5:39 AM

Don't ask them for anything more because the dog ate them

Flag Reply +21 rate up
1 reply
vobox3343 coopdabomb June 24 2014 at 11:22 AM

Seeing that this Republican Congress tried to appeal the ACA over 50 times, you might be able to piece something together here. They're still for the law they voted for post 9/11. Angst out, please.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
ygreen42 vobox3343 June 24 2014 at 11:48 AM

Good news is, that Affordable Crap Act won't need to be repealed if he gets impeached.

Flag +2 rate up
coopdabomb vobox3343 June 24 2014 at 12:28 PM

So you must think osama obamacare works now? Do you watch anything but msnbc? Come on out get some sunlight with the rest of us.

Flag +2 rate up
PERFORATOR June 24 2014 at 6:42 AM

Add a comment...He'd even find a way to lie on a blood test!

Flag Reply +16 rate up
1 reply
rimit9 PERFORATOR June 24 2014 at 3:04 PM

he is so dumb, he thinks you have to study for a blood test.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
moooooooooochelle June 24 2014 at 10:00 AM

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't got for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold
I am gross and perverted
Im obsessed n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you
I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think Im delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin out
From your president

Flag Reply +7 rate up
jc1939 June 24 2014 at 11:50 AM

The most corrupt administration in US History. Add Pelosi and Reid to the mix and you have the reason the US has lost the respect of the rest of the world. Please think hard when voting for Hilary. She was up to her neck in all these scandels.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
Eli jc1939 June 24 2014 at 12:04 PM

I don't know about that, The Cheney/Bush administration sure give them a run for their money.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Danny Eli June 24 2014 at 12:20 PM

Slick Willie Clinton was the champion of free trade with China that resulted in the shipping of America's jobs overseas. You think Killary will be any different? If you aren't in the work force, but living off a teet of the government, this should be of importance as taxpayers are what government money is. If enough jobs keep leaving US, there will be no tax money to support the non working liberals.

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