A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that the Obama administration must release portions of the legal memo used to justify the drone strike that killed American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. The Obama administration has been fighting this tooth and nail, of course.
Ruling for the New York Times, a unanimous three-judge panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings.
These included a Justice Department “white paper,” as well as speeches or statements by officials like Attorney General Eric Holder and former Obama administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, endorsing the practice.
The Times and two reporters, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, sought the memorandum under the federal Freedom of Information Act, saying it authorized the targeting of al-Awlaki, a cleric who joined al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate and directed many attacks.
“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.
He said it was no longer logical or plausible to argue that disclosing the legal analysis in the memorandum jeopardizes military plans, intelligence activities or foreign relations. The court redacted a portion of the memorandum on intelligence gathering.
You can read the full ruling here.