Intelligence Committees Get Additional Targeted Killing Memos, But Not the Public

March 5, 2013 12:20 pm

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“Baby Step” Toward Better Congressional Oversight is Positive Move But Insufficient, ACLU Says

March 5, 2013

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WASHINGTON – In a win for congressional oversight over the government’s vast killing program, the Obama administration has shown an additional but undisclosed number of Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the program to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, but has continued to withhold some of its legal opinions from the intelligence committees and has not provided any of the legal opinions to the rest of Congress or to the American public. The legal opinions focused on non-citizens continue to be hidden from the committees.

“This is an important baby step towards restoring the checks and balances between Congress and the president, but it isn’t enough. Amazingly, the Obama administration continues to hide at least some of its legal opinions, even from the intelligence committees. The intelligence committees should have been given all of the legal opinions years ago, particularly when the Obama administration has claimed broad authority to kill people, including American citizens, far from any battlefield,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The legal opinions also shouldn’t stay hidden with the few dozen members of the intelligence committees, but should be available to all members of Congress and minimally redacted copies should be made public. It makes a mockery of the rule of law when the government hides the rules, or makes them up as they go along. It is time to come clean with Congress and the American people.”

Previously, only four memos were briefly shown to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which prompted some Senate committee members to stall the confirmation of John Brennan—the architect of the targeted killing program and President Obama’s choice to run the Central Intelligence Agency. In response, the government sent additional materials to the intelligence committees, but has not shown the committees all 11 legal opinions sought by several committee members, and also has not provided the legal opinions to other senators or made them public. This afternoon, the Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on whether to send John Brennan’s nomination to the full Senate.

In Freedom of Information Act cases now pending before federal appeals courts in Washington and New York, the ACLU is suing for the release of OLC memos and other records concerning the targeted killing program.

More information on the ACLU’s work on targeted killing can be found at:

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