The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


U.S. To Release Targeted Killing Memo Sought by ACLU FOIA Lawsuit


The Obama administration has reportedly decided that it will release a crucial Justice Department legal memo relating to U.S. targeted killing operations, which the government was ordered to do last month in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times. The memo, which authorized the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, was written by David Barron, whom the Senate is currently considering for an appeals court judgeship.

"We hope this report signals a broader shift in the administration's approach to the official secrecy surrounding its targeted killing program," said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the FOIA lawsuit before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The release of this memo will allow the public to better understand the scope of the authority that the government is claiming. We will continue to argue in court for the public release of the other targeted killing memos and related documents."

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on Barron's nomination to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU does not endorse or oppose any judicial nominee, but has urged senators to not vote on the Barron nomination until reading all of the legal opinions on targeted killing that he wrote while in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

"As important as this step is, we continue to believe that all Senators should have access to all targeted killing memos authored or signed by Mr. Barron," said Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel. "Senators' access to memos about this unprecedented program is their constitutional role, and reading those memos is their constitutional obligation."

The ACLU's FOIA request seeks documents related to the legal and factual bases for the government's killing of three Americans in Yemen in 2011: Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan. The request included memos written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel concluding that the killing of American citizens would be constitutional in certain situations. The New York Times submitted a similar but narrower FOIA request, and the two resulting lawsuits were combined.

Information on the FOIA lawsuit is at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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