After announcing it would comply with a federal court order, the Obama administration has decided that it wants to conceal more portions of a controversial memo authorizing the assassination of Americans overseas.
Last week, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said they would make public parts of the internal document written in July 2010 by then-federal lawyer David Barron that justified the use of drones or other means to kill U.S. citizens accused of terrorist involvement.
The declaration came as the U.S. Senate was considering Barron’s confirmation as a judicial appointee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals—a move that helped convince at least one Democratic senator, Mark Udall of Colorado, to support the nomination.
Now, with Barron’s place on the federal bench secure, the Justice Department says it needs to censor some sections of the memo dealing with national secrets, not legal reasoning for the assassinations.
“Some of the information appears to have been ordered disclosed based on inadvertence or mistake, or is subject to distinct exemption claims or other legal protections that have never been judicially considered,” Sarah Normand, an assistant U.S. attorney, told The New York Times.
The 41-page memo led the way for a drone strike in Yemen three years ago that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric suspected of plotting terrorist attacks.
The judicial order calling for the document’s partial disclosure came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seeking to obtain a copy.
In seeking to keep additional redactions to the memo, the Justice Department asked the court to keep its request a secret—that next month’s hearing concerning the requested redactions be held privately, barring the presence of attorneys for the Times and the ACLU. But the judge denied that request.
Sen. Udall found it significant that the Obama administration gave its assurance that Barron’s legal reasoning for the drone assassinations would not be among the redacted portions of the memo.
“I intend to hold the White House to its word,” he said in a statement.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov.com