Document dates: October 31, 2011
Every Friday, POGO will strive to make one document available that we or others have obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), especially documents that have not previously been posted online. Some of these documents will be more important than others, some may only be of historical interest— although relevance is in the eye of the beholder. POGO is doing this to highlight the importance of open government and FOIA throughout the year.
By NICK SCHWELLENBACH
In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by POGO, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) "neither confirms nor denies the existence of the" OLC memo that describes the legal justification for its killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen.
The U.S. government alleges that Awlaki was a "regional commander" with al Qaeda.
As I wrote earlier, whether or not you support the targeted killing of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, you should at least support the redacted release of the OLC memo. Americans deserve to know under what circumstances the executive branch believes it is justified in killing citizens without the normal constitutional protection of due process.
As John B. Bellinger III, former legal adviser to the State Department in the Bush administration, told The Washington Post, “I do think it would be important for domestic audiences and international audiences for the administration to explain how the targeting and killing of an American complies with applicable constitutional standards.”
New York Times reporter Charlie Savage received the same response to his FOIA request. The Government Accountability Project (GAP) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested the OLC memo through FOIA as well and will presumably, if they haven’t already, get the same response as well.
POGO received a nearly identical response to its request for a mandatory declassification review (MDR) of the OLC memo as well. I plan to appeal the OLC’s denial of both the FOIA and MDR requests.
Nick Schwellenbach is POGO's Director of Investigations.