U.S. to disclose legal justification for drone strikes on Americans

WASHINGTON Tue May 20, 2014 7:48pm EDT

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California in this January 7, 2012 USAF handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2013. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez/Handout

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California in this January 7, 2012 USAF handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government has decided to disclose its legal justification for the use of drones against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday.

The U.S. solicitor general has made the decision not to appeal a federal appeals court's decision in April requiring the

release of the redacted memorandum spelling out the justification for the policy, the official said. The court and the Justice Department have not set a time for the document's release.

While the legal analysis that justifies the use of drones will be disclosed, some facts will still be excluded from the document, the official said.

In a case pitting executive power against the public's right to know what its government does, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month reversed a lower-court ruling preserving the secrecy of the legal rationale for the killings, such as the death of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

Ruling for the New York Times in the case, a unanimous three-judge panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings.

Civil liberties groups have complained that the drone program, which deploys pilotless aircraft, lets the government kill Americans without constitutionally required due process.

The U.S. use of drones against militants in countries like Pakistan and Yemen has drawn international criticism and has fanned anti-American sentiments in some Islamic countries.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (3)
Torc wrote:
Just business as usual for Obama and his administration…..half truth’s, lies, and deceit.

May 20, 2014 7:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
4825 wrote:
It is never justified for the US Government to kill an American without due process of law. If you use the excuse that the government is only killing citizens outside the US borders, well it is only a matter of time before they start killing citizens on American soil. Be very careful what you allow your government to do.

May 20, 2014 8:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RMax304823 wrote:
If it were business as usual, it wouldn’t be an issue. We wouldn’t even know about it, just as we never knew about the NSA gathering metadata that began until the NYT made it public a year later. In this instance, as in many others, it’s the American Civil Liberties Union that is fighting for transparency.

May 20, 2014 8:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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