The White House ordered the Justice Department on Wednesday to release to Congress the classified documents that explain the legal justification for putting U.S. citizens on the "kill list," a day ahead of the confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee and drone architect John Brennan.
As NBC News writes, "It’s Brennan who personally designed the 'kill lists' with the collaboration of the president, and Brennan who has publicly maintained the legality of the secretive program over the years."
The Guardian reports that the release of the memo is likely an attempt to ease pressure on Brennan at his hearing:
The White House move is likely to defuse some of the tension at Brennan's hearing and possibly limit the scope of senators' questions on the sensitive issue of the president ordering the deaths of Americans in al-Qaida on the grounds they will have been provided with classified information.
The release of the legal opinion to the intelligence committee is the latest twist in an unusually dramatic runup to a nomination for a CIA director, which is normally a routine affair.
The release of the memo to some members of Congress, according to the ACLU, showed President Obama's lack of commitment to real transparency.
"While this is a small step in the right direction, democratic transparency requires President Obama to make the full memo available to the public. The United States is not a nation of secret laws, and a memo authorizing the killing of American citizens is too important to keep from the American people," ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders said in a statement.
"Everyone – not just select members of Congress – has a right to know when the government believes it can kill American citizens. This concession has taken far too long and falls far short of President Obama's commitment to transparency he pledged to abide by since becoming president."
Earlier this week, NBC released a white paper that outlined some of the legal justifications for when the U.S. can use a drone strike to kill one of its citizens.