WASHINGTON – On the eve of a critical Senate vote and under court order, the Obama administration signaled it will publicly reveal a secret memo describing its legal justification for using drones to kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism overseas.
Two administration officials told The Associated Press that the Justice Department has decided not to appeal a Court of Appeals ruling requiring disclosure of a redacted version of the memo under the Freedom of Information Act. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The decision to release the documents comes as the Senate is to vote today on advancing President Barack Obama’s nomination of the memo’s author, Harvard professor and former Justice Department official David Barron, to sit on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had vowed to fight Barron’s confirmation, and some Democratic senators were calling for the memo’s public release before a final vote. Today’s expected procedural vote would allow the Senate to move ahead with a final vote on Barron on Thursday.
Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader born in the United States, was killed after being targeted by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.
The release could take time, since the redactions are subject to court approval.