Court orders U.S. to release memo on drones, al-Awlaki killing
A federal appeals court-ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to start crucial parts of the memorandum justifying the federal government’s targeted killing of individuals associated with terrorism, including Americans.
In a case pitting government power from the public’s to understand what its government does, the Next U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling protecting the secrecy of the legal reason for the murders, like the death of U.S. resident Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone attack in Yemen.
Judgment for the New York Times, an unanimous three-judge panel said the federal government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying specific killings.
These included a Justice Department “white paper,” in addition to speeches or statements by authorities like former federal government counterterrorism agent John Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder, promoting the practice.
The two and Changing Times journalists, Scott Shane and Charlie Savage, wanted the memorandum under the federal Freedom of Information Act, declaring it approved the targeting of al-Awlaki, a cleric who led several episodes and joined al-Qaeda’s Yemen internet.
“Whatever protection the appropriate research may once have experienced has been lost by virtue of public statements of public authorities in established disclosure of the DOJ White Paper and the highest levels,” Circuit Judge Jon Newman wrote for the appeals court panel in Ny.
He explained it was no further reasonable or plausible to argue that revealing the legal investigation might jeopardize military ideas, intelligence activities or international relations.
The court redacted some of a part of its choice, in addition to the memorandum on intelligence gathering. It’s unclear if the memorandum or the entire 2nd Circuit decision may be made public, or if the government may appeal.
Allison Price, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the office had no opinion about the choice.
David McCraw, an attorney for the Changing Times, said the paper is happy with your decision, saying it promotes public discussion on national-security problem and an essential foreign-policy.
“The court reaffirmed a bedrock principle of democracy: the folks don’t need to accept blindly the federal government’s assurances that it’s working inside the bounds of regulations; they get to determine for themselves the legitimate reason the government is operating from,” McCraw said in a statement.
Charles Grassley and Senators Patrick Leahy, ranking Republican to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Democratic chairman, are also seeking the appropriate reason, and Grassley on Monday urged the Justice Department to begin getting ready to change it around.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Monday’s decision largely reversed a January 2013 judgment by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan.
She decided for the management despite skepticism over its antiterrorism plan, including whether it might unilaterally approve murders outside a “hot” field of battle.
“The Alice-in-Wonderland character of the pronouncement isn’t lost on me,” she wrote.
Civil rights groups have reported the drone program, which deploys pilotless plane, allows Americans are killed by the federal government without constitutionally required due process.
FOIA requests at issue in the Next Circuit event also centered on drone hits that killed two different U.S. residents: al-Awlaki’s teenage daughter, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan, who had been an editor of Inspire, an English-language al-Qaeda journal.
McMahon decided 30 days prior to the Justice Department launched the white paper, which lay out problems before deadly force in foreign countries against U.S. residents might be applied.
The problems are that the leading U.S. standard must choose a goal “presents an imminent risk of violent assault” from the United States, the goal can’t be taken, and any procedure could be “consistent with applicable law of war rules.”
In a March 5, 2012 talk at Northwestern University, Holder had said it had been “entirely legitimate” to focus on individuals with senior operational jobs in al-Qaeda and related causes.
The Times has said the tactic of targeted killings had first been considered from the Bush administration, right after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
On April 4, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington dismissed a lawsuit from the government from the groups of those killed inside the drone hits, saying senior officers can’t be personally responsible for money damages “for conducting warfare.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which had submitted its litigation within the government’s disclosure procedures, said it plans in light of Monday’s decision to come back for the lower court to challenge the withholding of additional files associated with targeted killings.
“It Is A definite rejection of the federal government’s attempt to make use of secrecy and selective disclosure to control public opinion concerning the specific killing plan,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.
The situation is New York Times Co et al v. U.S. Department of Justice et al, second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 13-422, 13-445.