Government can keep legal justification for drone strikes secret

A federal judge rejected the New York Times' bid to have the Obama administration provide legal justification

Topics: Drones, Civil Liberties, Anwar al-Awlaki, Barack Obama, Kill Lists,

Government can keep legal justification for drone strikes secret (Credit: Shutterstock)

The Obama administration does not, under law, have to provide legal justification for its targeting killings to the public, a federal judge ruled today. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the government did not violate the law by refusing the New York Times’ FOIA requests for such information.

As Reuters noted, however, “McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the ‘vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty.’”



The Times and its reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane sued the government for information about the government’s targeted killing program, including the late 2011 killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, in separate drone strikes in Yemen, which have sparked outcries from civil libertarians.

“We began this litigation because we believed our readers deserved to know more about the U.S. government’s legal position on the use of targeted killings against persons having ties to terrorism, including U.S. citizens,” stated New York Times assistant general counsel David McCraw. The paper plans to appeal McMahon’s decision.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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