Secrecy of Memo on Drone Killing Is Upheld
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Manhattan refused on Wednesday to require the Justice Department to disclose a memorandum providing the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
The ruling, by Judge Colleen McMahon, was marked by skepticism about the antiterrorist program that targeted him, and frustration with her own role in keeping the legal rationale for it secret.
“I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret,” she wrote.
Judge backs Obama administration on secrecy of targeted killings of terrorism suspects
By Karen DeYoung, Published: January 2
The Obama administration acted lawfully in refusing to disclose information about its targeted killings of terrorism suspects, including the 2011 drone strikes that killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
But the judge also described a “veritable Catch-22” of security rules that allow the executive branch to declare legal “actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in her ruling.