Judge's Reluctant Ruling: Awlaki Memo to Stay Secret
Classified document outlined the legal justification for targeted killing
By Mark Russell, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2013 6:10 AM CST
In this Monday, Nov. 8, 2010 file photo taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites.   (AP Photo/SITE Intelligence Group, Dile)

(Newser) – The Justice Department can keep secret the classified memo that gave the legal go-ahead to kill US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, ruled a federal judge yesterday—with reluctance. The New York Times, which itself filed the lawsuit seeking access to the memo under the Freedom of Information Act, shares portions of Judge Colleen McMahon's grudging ruling. She wrote:

  • "I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret."

Lawyers for the New York Times and ACLU, which filed a larger request that was quashed by the ruling, plan to appeal. They had argued that because the government made so many public comments about the killings, it effectively relinquished the right to keep the legal basis for those killings secret. But McMahon called the administration's remarks "cryptic and imprecise," and found that they therefore didn't provide grounds for the memo's release. Still, she pushed for "more fulsome disclosure of the legal reasoning," writing that it "would allow for intelligent discussion and assessment of a tactic that (like torture before it) remains hotly debated."

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Judge's Reluctant Ruling: Awlaki Memo to Stay Secret is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 43 comments
Jan 4, 2013 11:49 AM CST
I don't care what was in the memo. I am just glad that the rag head is dead...whether he was American or foreign doesn't make a difference to me.
Jan 4, 2013 7:16 AM CST
When the courts now start agreeing with killing of us citizens without a a trial and no declared war the end of democracy has now come. There is no way that this judge should have allowed the government not to produce evidence for targeted killings. The constitution clearly states that the government must use due process and now we have judges that are scared of the executive branch. We are done as a democracy!
Jan 3, 2013 10:04 AM CST
The Imperial Powers that rule America see no need to justify their decrees and actions. Get used to it peasants.