In an article posted here by our friend and editor, Edger, reported that a federal court panel ruled on Monday the U.S. government must publicly disclose secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas, because President Barack Obama and senior government officials have publicly commented on the subject.
The 2nd US circuit court of appeals in New York ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for the New York Times. In 2011, they sought any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed the highly classified “targeted-killing” program.
The requests came after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who had been born in the United States, and another US citizen, Samir Khan, and after an October 2011 strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Awlaki’s teenage son and also a US citizen. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the US to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial. [..]
In January 2013, US district court judge Colleen McMahon ruled that she had no authority to order the documents disclosed, although she chided the Obama administration for refusing to release them.
In an opinion written by 2nd circuit judge Jon Newman, a three-judge panel noted that after McMahon ruled, senior government officials spoke about the subject. The panel rejected the government’s claim that the court could not consider official disclosures made after McMahon’s ruling, including a 16-page Justice Department white paper on the subject and public comments by Obama in May in which he acknowledged his role in the Awlaki killing, saying he had “authorized the strike that took him out”.
Most certainly, the Obama administration will appeal this ruling.
Earlier this month, Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein addressed a panel discussion on government secrecy and overreach at Yale Law School that was arranged by activist and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. He spoke directly about President Barack Obama’s dangerous level of executive power and the lack of congressional oversight.
“And what about Congress? That’s not an impeachable offense, to lie under oath and mislead the American people?!” he asked, referring to testimony by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. “No. He’s still serving. We have as our Director of National Intelligence, who’s entrusted with secrets about us, a known perjurer, remains in office, untarnished, public reputation there. Where’s all the newspapers calling for his resignation? Silence.”
Clapper confirmed in a letter sent last week to Senator Wyden that U.S. persons have been targeted by the surveillance program – something he had earlier and categorically denied.
Fein, who also worked under the acting attorney general in the early 1970s to write a paper outlining a rationale for impeachment of President Richard Nixon, says Obama is exercising a dangerous level of executive power without adequate checks. “This president has authority to kill anyone on the planet, to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, if he decides, in secret, that the target of the Predator drone – could be another instrument of death, doesn’t have to be a Predator drone – is an imminent threat to U.S. national security.” Fein added the process “is not subject to review by Congress, it’s not subject to review by courts, it’s not subject to review by the American people. It is limitless.”
We apparently still have judges and courts that are willing to rein in the administration, now if we only had the congress we had in the 1970’s.