Constitutional Law

2nd Circuit backs NY Times, orders DOJ to turn over legal rationale for targeted US killings

Reversing a federal district court ruling that allowed the Department of Justice to keep secret the legal reasoning behind targeted U.S. killings of certain individuals linked to terrorism cases, a federal appeals court has ruled that the feds must provide information requested by two New York Times reporters.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is based, at least in part, on the fact that a leaked DOJ “white paper” and public comments by government officials have already disclosed information about the rationale for the killings, the New York Times (reg. req.) reports.

While the unanimous decision by a three-judge panel requires disclosure of some information, however, it does not require disclosure of all information.

The ruling was made in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Times concerning the death of Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Intelligence officials allege that he was a member of al-Qaida.

NBC News first made the white paper (PDF) public.

See also:

ABAJournal: “Uneasy Targets: How Justifying the Killing of Terrorists Has Become a Major Policy Debate” “Suit Is Filed in Drone Strike Deaths of Radical Cleric and Two Other US Citizens” “Judge Acknowledges Catch-22, But Says Legal Memos on Drone Killing Are Protected”

Daily Comment (The New Yorker): “The Memo on Killing Americans Abroad”

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