The New York Times Is Suing the DOJ Over the Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki

Mike Riggs
Reason Magazine

Back in September President Obama had U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki assassinated. When pressed on the legality of using “targeted killing” against a U.S. citizen without first providing due process, the Most Transparent Administration in History™ clammed up. Eventually word leaked that White House and DOJ lawyers had written a memo justifying the assassination. The memo was “secret.”

In October Charlie Savage of The New York Times convinced someone in the Obama administration to describe the memo to him:

The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis. The memo, however, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr. Awlaki’s case and did not establish a broad new legal doctrine to permit the targeted killing of any Americans believed to pose a terrorist threat.

The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge or discuss its role in the drone strike that killed Mr. Awlaki last month and that technically remains a covert operation. The government has also resisted growing calls that it provide a detailed public explanation of why officials deemed it lawful to kill an American citizen, setting a precedent that scholars, rights activists and others say has raised concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties.

But the document that laid out the administration’s justification — a roughly 50-page memorandum by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, completed around June 2010 — was described on the condition of anonymity by people who have read it.

The legal analysis, in essence, concluded that Mr. Awlaki could be legally killed, if it was not feasible to capture him, because intelligence agencies said he was taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans, as well as because Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him.

The memorandum, which was written more than a year before Mr. Awlaki was killed, does not independently analyze the quality of the evidence against him.

That story has become, in part, the basis for a lawsuit Savage and the Times have filed against the DOJ for not disclosing the memo that justifies al-Awlaki’s assassination. The lawsuit, which Savage posted online today, “seek[s] the production of agency records improperly withheld by the United States Department of Justice in response to requests properly made by Plaintiffs.” While Savage and the Times don’t know how many documents exist, Savage’s contact in the administration revealed to him that “there exists at least one legal memorandum detailing the legal analysis justifying the government’s use of targeted killing.”…

The article continues at

Related: The President Can Kill You or Jail You Indefinitely on His Own Discretion: Prof. Jonathan Turley

This video is from C-SPAN and a December 19th broadcast they have called “Surveillance and Privacy Issues.”

About the totalitarian powers of putative President Obama, now acceded by the United States Congress and it’s new National Defense Authorization Act, Jonathan Turley, Law Professor of George Washington University, answers a caller from South Carolina.

That patriot, a self described Democrat, begins speaking at the 14:12 mark. I suggest sliding there to hear his comments, if not the entire video. Then, at 15:44 Turley responds…

If America is the battleground, nobody has any rights

…An amendment that would have explicitly excluded U.S. citizens from the bill’s military detention provisions failed by a 45-55 vote in the Senate, with only a handful of Tea Party Republicans — including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., — breaking with their party to oppose selective martial law within the United States.

The language that passed Thursday ducks the issue, stating that the bill isn’t intended to change existing law on U.S. citizens arrested in the U.S. But the compromise Congress settled on settles nothing. Existing law is unclear, and the NDAA makes it murkier still…


Update: Senator Mike Lee argues against “Defense Authorization Act”

…Glenn spoke with Congressman Allen West about the controversial and vague Defense Authorization Act which seems to give government power to detain American citizens who are merely ‘suspected’ of a terrorist act. Congressman West argued for it, Senator Lee is very much against it.

“It’s one thing if you have non-U.S. citizens captured on the battlefield. It’s quite another when you have captured a U.S. citizen captured in the territory of the United States of America,” he told Glenn.

Lee said the bill essentially makes the U.S. a battlefield – and for that reason he has in the past and will continue to vote against the bill.

Watch the full interview

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