Obama Backs Down, Instructs DOJ To Give Drone Memo To Congress

In a move that surprised many observers of the Washington political scene, President Obama reconsidered his refusal to provide Congress with a copy of the classified DOJ memo outlining the administration’s legal justification for targeted killings. The controversial document will now be made available to the Congressional Intelligence Committees holding hearings on the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. The decision was confirmed Wednesday afternoon by a highly placed source within the Obama Administration, who requested anonymity.

Late Wednesday night, Senator Wyden of Oregon acknowledged that he spoke personally with the President and Obama assured him the document would be available to the Select Senate Intelligence Committee. Obama also told Wyden that provisions would be made to show the document to Senators not on the Intelligence Committee. President Obama has no plans to release the document to the public and several groups are preparing to file a FOIA request for the document and sue the Administration if they are denied access.

The demand to allow Congress to review the classified Department of Justice copy of the document intensified after a unclassified copy of a white paper on the ruling was leaked to NBC News. John Brennan was one of leading voices in the creation of Administration’s drone policy and Congress made it perfectly clear they expect the Obama Administration to make the document available before they consider Brennan’s nomination.

After the unclassified document was published and it became known that the Obama Administration claimed they have the legal authority to use drones to kill American citizens anywhere in the world without the benefit of legal consul or due process, critics of the Administration were outraged. They accused the President of ignoring the Constitution and taking the unprecedented step of legalizing the murder of American citizens by simply placing their names on a top secret list.

Meanwhile, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee are celebrating the decision to release the document as proof of the President’s support for Democracy. Senator Wyden praised the President for sharing information with the Congress:

“I think this is an encouraging first step. We need to conduct robust oversight of the intelligence community and find a way to make sure the American people understand the rules under which a president may make these consequential decisions.”

Senator Feinstein took a break from trying to force her Assault Weapon Ban on the American people to compliment the President for releasing the document to a secret committee of eight Democrats and seven Republicans:

“I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counter terrorism operations. It is critical for the committee’s oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counter terrorism operations.”

Perhaps our diligent Senators are satisfied, but one might wonder why the Senators and the President feel they have no obligation to release the document to the American public. After all, any American citizen could become a target for a drone if their name ends up on a White House kill list. That certainly gives every single American citizen a right to clearly understand why our President feels he has the legal authority to kill Americans without due process in violation of our Constitutional rights.

[Photo by Ted Majdosz]

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