The legal memo justifying the killing of United States citizen and suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was released by a federal court Monday, after Freedome of Information lawsuits from both the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Justice Department memo, portions of which were redacted before release, provide their legal justification for the killing of al-Awlaki without a trial, noting that his American citizenship "could raise distinct questions under the Constitution," but that "we do not believe that [al-Awlaki's] U.S. citizenship imposes constitutional limitations that would preclude the contemplated lethal action under the facts represented to us by DoD, the CIA, and the intelligence community."
Al-Awlaki was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. In 2010, the U.S. government had labeled him a global terrorist. Following his death, the Times and the ACLU both filed lawsuits requesting the release of this memo signed by David Barron, then head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (and now a federal appeals court judge). In 2013, the Obama administration released a shorter document outlining a summary of its legal analysis, but in April a federal appeals court ordered the release of the full Justice Department memo, arguing that "the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings."
See the full memo with sections redacted, via Time:
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