New York • The U.S. government must publicly disclose in redacted form secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas because President Barack Obama and senior government officials have commented on the subject, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters for The New York Times. In 2011, they sought any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed the highly classified targeted-killing program.
The requests came after a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who was born in the United States and another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, and after an October 2011 strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's teenage son and also a U.S. citizen. Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.