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Administration asks court to censor targeted-killing memo after Barron awarded judgeship

Government asking to redact further information about the targeted-killing via drone strike of American citizens suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, author of secretive memo awarded judgeship.
By JC Sevcik   |   May 28, 2014 at 6:38 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 28 (UPI) -- Last week the White House said it would comply with a federal appeals court ruling ordering the public disclosure of a Justice Department memo on the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen.

This week the Obama administration is asking that portions of the document remain censored.

The timing is significant because the declassification and disclosure of the document was pivotal in the appointment of the memo's author, former Justice Department official David Barron, to a position as an appeals court judge.

Barron was narrowly voted into his new position, and many Senators withheld their support until the contents of the secret memo—which made legal a lethal drone strikes in Yemen in September of 2011 that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who intelligence officials accused of plotting terrorist attacks—was made public.

For instance: Senator Mark Udall, D-Colorado, who initially said he would oppose Barron because of the administration's secrecy, said he would support him after the Justice Department agreed to disclose the contents of the memo, which also justified the killing of other American citizens and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the father of Anwar al-Awlaki.

It was only after the administration agreed to public disclosure of the document that Barron garnered the support needed to be elected to his new judgeship, but immediately after Baron being voted in, the administration is asking for permission to censor the memo.

In January of last year, a Federal District Court judge denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU and the New York Times and ruled that the government could withhold the memo, but a Federal Appeals Court overturned the ruling, ordering the government to make public those portions of the memo providing the legal rationale for the killings, but allowing the administration to redact other factual sections containing classified intelligence. The administration initially agreed, but assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Normand has filed a request with the court to redact further information.

"Some of the information appears to have been ordered disclosed based on inadvertence or mistake, or is subject to distinct exemption claims or other legal protections that have never been judicially considered," Normand wrote.

The ACLU and the New York Times have said they will oppose the Justice Department's attempts to withhold the information, but the politics of David Barron's appointment to his new judgeship which directly hinged on the administration lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding his memo, have left some, including Udall, wary of the timing.

"I intend to hold the White House to its word," Udall said with regards to the redactions.

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