Author of Drone Memos Passes Senate Despite Writing Drone Memos

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After the White House agreed to release one of David Barron's infamous drone memos, the Senate approved his nomination for the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals through a procedural vote, likely setting up his confirmation tomorrow.

Barron's controversial drone memo was written in advance of the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American with ties to al Qaeda who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. A later U.S. strike killed Awlaki's teenage son. In a letter to Congress last May, Attorney General Eric Holder said U.S. drones had killed a total of four Americans in Yemen and Pakistan. 

Barron has worked as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department.

Was it a contentious process without the drone memo horse trading? Most definitely. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul delivered a half-hour-long speech in which he quoted everyone from Stephen Colbert to The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf  to oppose Barron's nomination. 

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat. I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.”

Rise though he did, Paul's efforts was ultimately undercut by the easing of the filibuster rules by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last November. Paul, as you may remember, filibustered the night away last March in a doomed attempt to block the nomination of John Brennan to be the new CIA director.

Others opposed Barron's nomination on the grounds that they believe him to be too liberal, but the vote passed 52 to 43, mostly along party lines. The release of Barron's drone memo, which will be heavily censored, won't happen immediately, meaning that Barron will have likely been confirmed for weeks by the time the public gets to see the memo. The Senate has had unfettered access to the memos for the past week. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.