ACTION ALERT: Lawyer Who Approved Assassination of US Citizens Seeks Appointment as Federal Judge
May 7, 2014
Just Foreign Policy & Stephanie Condon / CBS News & Associated Press
David Barron, who was a lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, wrote secret legal memos approving a September 2011 drone strike that killed two US citizens. Now Barron has been nominated to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Senators to delay consideration of Barron's nomination until all Senators have the opportunity to read all of the memos Barron has written on government killing with drone strikes.
ACTION ALERT: Lawyer Who Approved Assassination of US Citizens
Seeks Appointment as Federal Judge
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, and Megan Iorio / Just Foreign Policy
(May 6, 2014) -- David Barron, who was a lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, wrote secret legal memos approving a September 2011 drone strike that killed two US citizens. Now Barron has been nominated to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Senators to delay consideration of Barron’s nomination until all Senators have the opportunity to read all of the memos Barron has written on government killing with drone strikes. 
Join the ACLU in urging your Senators to delay consideration of Barron’s nomination until the Administration shares the legal justification for drone strikes by signing our petition at MoveOn:
It’s impossible for anyone outside the US government to make a definitive judgment on whether and to what extent the drone strike policy complies with US and international law without knowing exactly what the policy is. The memos saying what the Administration believes to be legal and why are crucial documents that define what the policy is and that should inform public judgment about the drone strike policy.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has ruled that the Justice Department must make public portions of its memos justifying the extra-judicial killing of US citizens with drones.  But the Administration has not yet complied with the ruling.
Join the ACLU in calling on your Senators to delay consideration of Barron's nomination until the Administration has shared the drone strike memos by signing and sharing our petition:
Rand Paul Threatens To Hold
Up Nominee over Drone Policy
Stephanie Condon / CBS News
(May 5, 2014) -- Before the Senate confirms David Barron to a lifetime spot on the First Circuit Court of Appeals, it should insist on the public release of redacted memos that Barron helped write, authorizing the killing of an American on foreign soil, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Barron's nomination could come up for consideration in the Senate as early as this week, but Paul said that he will object to any attempts to speed up Barron's confirmation until his concerns are satisfied.
Paul noted that last month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Justice Department to release a redacted version of the memo that authorized the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who joined al Qaeda, in Yemen.
As a lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Barron helped author at least two such memos, the New York Times reported last year.
"It would be irresponsible for the Senate to move forward on this nomination" until the Justice Department complies with the order, Paul wrote to Reid, in a letter dated April 30. "The constitutionality of this policy has been the subject of intense debate in our country since it's implementation. . . . The disclosure of this document will not only clarify that debate it will also allow the Senate to gain critical insight into David Barron's judicial philosophy."
The Justice Department has yet to release the memo, as the government is still considering whether or not to appeal the Second Circuit decision.
Should Barron's nomination come up for a vote this week, it would only need a simple, 51-vote majority to pass. However, Paul's objections could draw out the vote for several days. Furthermore, some Democrats may side with Paul on the matter.
Last year, Paul staged an old school, 13-hour filibuster over John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA over President Obama's drone policies. Ultimately, Brennan was confirmed, but three members of the Democratic caucus -- including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. -- voted against the confirmation. Two other Democrats didn't vote.
The ACLU on Monday sent a letter to senators, urging them to delay Barron's confirmation until all senators have had an opportunity to read the legal opinions that authorized "an unprecedented killing."
"The OLC opinions represent the administration's view of the law on when a person can be killed away from a battlefield," the ACLU letter says. "There are few questions of greater importance and consequence to Congress."
The Senate Judiciary Committee in January approved Barron's nomination to the First Circuit along a party-line vote, but Leahy last month said that members of his committee have only been granted access to "some" Office of Legal Counsel documents related to killing Americans overseas.
"Although I cannot share the substance of these classified documents, I can say that I spent considerable time scrutinizing these opinions and remain concerned about the constitutional and legal underpinnings that justify the targeted killing of American citizens overseas," Leahy said in a statement prepared for a hearing on the use of drones.
"I will continue to seek additional information from the administration about these targeting decisions and the constitutional and legal authorities upon which it relies, and I will continue to advocate for public disclosure of this legal analysis, consistent with the protection of national security."
As the ACLU noted in its letter, Barron's memos helped from the legal justification for a "large-scale killing program" that has resulted in as many as 4,700 deaths by drone attacks, including the deaths of four Americans.
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US Must Release Drone Killings Memo,
New York Court Says
Larry Neumeister / AP
NEW YORK (April 21, 2014) — The US government must publicly disclose in redacted form secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas, because President Barack Obama and senior government officials have commented on the subject, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for The New York Times. In 2011, they sought any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed the highly classified "targeted-killing" program.
The requests came after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who had been born in the United States, and another US citizen, Samir Khan, and after an October 2011 strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's teenage son and also a US citizen. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the US to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to phone and email message requests for comment.
In January 2013, US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that she had no authority to order the documents disclosed, although she chided the Obama administration for refusing to release them.
In an opinion written by 2nd Circuit Judge Jon Newman, a three-judge panel noted that after McMahon ruled, senior government officials spoke about the subject. The panel rejected the government's claim that the court could not consider official disclosures made after McMahon's ruling, including a 16-page Justice Department white paper on the subject and public comments by Obama in May in which he acknowledged his role in the al-Awlaki killing, saying he had "authorized the strike that took him out."
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an email that "the government can't pretend that everything about its targeted killing program is a classified secret while senior officials selectively disclose information meant to paint the program in the most favorable light."
David E. McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Co., said in an email that the 2nd Circuit "reaffirmed a bedrock principle of democracy: The people do not have to accept blindly the government's assurances that it is operating within the bounds of the law. They get to see for themselves the legal justification that the government is working from."
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