Most Transparent Administration sued for... keeping secrets.

Josh_R

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The New York Times Is Suing the DOJ Over the Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki
Mike Riggs | December 21, 2011

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 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."

More excerpts from the lawsuit:

4.) Given the questions surrounding the legality of the practice under both U.S. and international law, notable legal scholars, human rights activists, and current and former government officials have called for the government to disclose its legal analysis justifying the use of targeted lethal force, especially as it applies to American citizens.

5.) For example, the former legal adviser to the United States Department of State in the Bush administration, John Bellinger, has argued that it is "important to domestic audiences and international audiences for the Administration to explain how the targeting and killing of an American complies with applicable constitutional standards."

6.) To date, the government has not offered a thorough and transparent legal analysis of the issue of targeted killing. Instead, several government officials have made statements broadly asserting the legality of such actions in a conclusory fashion.

Even if The New York Times and Savage win their suit, there is a chance the Obama administration will not comply with the ruling. In spring 2009 Obama refused to comply with a U.S. Court of Appeals decision ordering the Pentagon to release photos of detainees captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fate of the photos had been in limbo since the American Civil Liberties Union filed a FOIA suit against the Bush administration in 2006. When the court ordered in April 2009 that the pictures had to be released, Obama initially said he would comply, but three weeks later he changed his mind, saying, "The most direct consequence of releasing them would be to further inflame anti-American opinion, and to put our troops in greater danger." In October of 2009, despite his promise not to withhold information based on “speculative or abstract fears,” Obama signed hastily written, bipartisan legislation prohibiting the release of the photos. There's every reason for him to do it again with the al-Awlaki memo.
http://reason.com/blog/2011/12/21/the-new-york-times-is-suing-the-doj-over
 

Lord Zero

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#2
Anwar al-Awlaki was an agent of al-Qaeda. We're at war with al-Qaeda. By extension, we're at war with Anwar al-Awlaki, his superiors, his underlings (if he had any), and anyone who provided him with material support. His assassination was 100% justifiable (although, maybe not exactly legal). The New York Times can go eat a decomposing dick.
 

Josh_R

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Anwar al-Awlaki was an agent of al-Qaeda. We're at war with al-Qaeda. By extension, we're at war with Anwar al-Awlaki, his superiors, his underlings (if he had any), and anyone who provided him with material support. His assassination was 100% justifiable (although, maybe not exactly legal). The New York Times can go eat a decomposing dick.
There should be no such thing in the United States government. Now, the NY Times does not seem to be saying it was illegal, they just want to know exactly what legal justification was reached by the Obama administration's lawyers. This is no different than the media requesting the memos that the Bush administration used to justify the use of waterboarding. If the administration determined that it was permissible to assassinate an American citizen without first even charging him with anything, then they should at least have to show how they came to that legal decision.
 

lajikal

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There should be no such thing in the United States government. Now, the NY Times does not seem to be saying it was illegal, they just want to know exactly what legal justification was reached by the Obama administration's lawyers. This is no different than the media requesting the memos that the Bush administration used to justify the use of waterboarding. If the administration determined that it was permissible to assassinate an American citizen without first even charging him with anything, then they should at least have to show how they came to that legal decision.
That's what's taught in school/government classes, but the extent and overwhelming legal and other power the president/cinc has in reality is not broadcast.
 

Lord Zero

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#5
There should be no such thing in the United States government. Now, the NY Times does not seem to be saying it was illegal, they just want to know exactly what legal justification was reached by the Obama administration's lawyers. This is no different than the media requesting the memos that the Bush administration used to justify the use of waterboarding. If the administration determined that it was permissible to assassinate an American citizen without first even charging him with anything, then they should at least have to show how they came to that legal decision.
The "not exactly legal" part was in reference to international laws of war which I'm not familiar with. I was saying that I don't know if it was legal or not under those laws and that I'm not really concerned with those laws. It was an admission of ignorance and contempt. As far as the justification for the assassination goes under U.S. law goes, it's very clear. Anwar al-Awlaki was fair game. Killing him was no different than killing Osama bin Laden.
 

Josh_R

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The "not exactly legal" part was in reference to international laws of war which I'm not familiar with. I was saying that I don't know if it was legal or not under those laws and that I'm not really concerned with those laws. It was an admission of ignorance and contempt. As far as the justification for the assassination goes under U.S. law goes, it's very clear. Anwar al-Awlaki was fair game. Killing him was no different than killing Osama bin Laden.
Then why did they have special legal memos drafted just to cover this instance? Has a President ever authorized the assassination of a U.S. citizen before? Also, the point of posting this article is not to debate the legality of their actions, but to point out the humor/hypocrisy in the "most transparent administration" being sued because they refuse to be transparent about a guy that is already dead.
 

NuttyJim

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Who fucking cares?
 

Norm Stansfield

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Here's that memo: We're at war, al-Awlaki was an enemy (insert classified info on why he is the enemy, and how we know that). So we killed him (insert classified info on how). The end.

And yes, it was entirely legal, on account that the war is entirely legal.

Then why did they have special legal memos drafted just to cover this instance?
I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing it had to do with facilitating congressional and judicial oversight of the action and the reasoning behind it.

What I do know for sure is that the existence of the memo has no logical bearing on the legality of the action, and there is no logical reason to bring it up at all, when debating said legality. What you should be bringing up is some kind of a law that differentiates between citizens and non-citizens among wartime enemies, and bans the killing of those enemies if they are citizens.

Has a President ever authorized the assassination of a U.S. citizen before?
You mean the killing of US citizens fighting for the enemy, on purpose? Yes, of course, pretty much any time there was a major war, some American citizens ended up fighting for the other side, and the US military ended up killing some of them, on purpose, just like they killed all the non-citizen enemies. Everything the US military ever does is done with the full sanction of its commander in chief, the President.

There are no American laws making any kind of distinction whatsoever between regular enemies and enemies with US citizenship, in war. The legality of killing an American citizen in war is exactly the same as the legality of killing a foreign citizen in war.
Also, the point of posting this article is not to debate the legality of their actions, but to point out the humor/hypocrisy in the "most transparent administration" being sued because they refuse to be transparent about a guy that is already dead.
They refuse to be transparent about a memo that obviously contains information on why he's dead and how he died. Disclosing either would disclose our methods of gathering information and carrying out the war. No sane person would disclose that.

If you want to point out the Obama admin's lack of transparency, they are keeping plenty of secrets not related to the war. Pick on one of those.
 

Lord Zero

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#9
Then why did they have special legal memos drafted just to cover this instance? Has a President ever authorized the assassination of a U.S. citizen before?
Anwar al-Awlaki renounced his citizenship the second he started actively plotting against the United States. He was an enemy combatant.

Edit:

Also, the point of posting this article is not to debate the legality of their actions, but to point out the humor/hypocrisy in the "most transparent administration" being sued because they refuse to be transparent about a guy that is already dead.
That's a good point that I agree with but that post made me realize that we're debating too different things. You were talking about the article itself while I was talking about the actual lawsuit. (I say that as if you didn't point it out first. I'm an ass.)
 

Josh_R

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Here's that memo: We're at war, al-Awlaki was an enemy (insert classified info on why he is the enemy, and how we know that). So we killed him (insert classified info on how). The end.

And yes, it was entirely legal, on account that the war is entirely legal.


I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing it had to do with facilitating congressional and judicial oversight of the action and the reasoning behind it.

What I do know for sure is that the existence of the memo has no logical bearing on the legality of the action, and there is no logical reason to bring it up at all, when debating said legality. What you should be bringing up is some kind of a law that differentiates between citizens and non-citizens among wartime enemies, and bans the killing of those enemies if they are citizens.


You mean the killing of US citizens fighting for the enemy, on purpose? Yes, of course, pretty much any time there was a major war, some American citizens ended up fighting for the other side, and the US military ended up killing some of them, on purpose, just like they killed all the non-citizen enemies. Everything the US military ever does is done with the full sanction of its commander in chief, the President.

There are no American laws making any kind of distinction whatsoever between regular enemies and enemies with US citizenship, in war. The legality of killing an American citizen in war is exactly the same as the legality of killing a foreign citizen in war.

They refuse to be transparent about a memo that obviously contains information on why he's dead and how he died. Disclosing either would disclose our methods of gathering information and carrying out the war. No sane person would disclose that.

If you want to point out the Obama admin's lack of transparency, they are keeping plenty of secrets not related to the war. Pick on one of those.
Yeah, I am a total idiot for even bringing it up. No one else (with far better credentials than me) has ever even mentioned it...

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/four-thoughts-on-the-anwar-al-awlaki-assassination/
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12085
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12140
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=13783
http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/awlaki-and-due-process/
http://www.npr.org/2011/09/30/140959250/debate-erupts-over-legality-of-al-awlakis-killing
http://articles.cnn.com/2011-09-30/...i-yemeni-embassy-drone-missile?_s=PM:POLITICS
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/30/awlaki-killed-american-cl_n_988929.html
http://swampland.time.com/2011/09/30/was-killing-american-al-qaeda-cleric-anwar-al-awlaki-legal/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/30/anwar-awlaki-extrajudicial-murder


That's a good point that I agree with but that post made me realize that we're debating too different things. You were talking about the article itself while I was talking about the actual lawsuit. (I say that as if you didn't point it out first. I'm an ass.)
Yeah, I think we already debated the Al-Awlaki killing in another thread, I was just trying to be funny in this one. Apparently I failed.
 

Lord Zero

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Neon

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Transparent? What did his father become his mother or sumptin'? tss...