Targeted Drone Killing Memos Can Remain Classified, Appeals Court Rules

Memos pertaining to the legal justification of targeted killings of people overseas that the United States government suspects to be involved in terrorism can remain classified, a federal appeals court in New York ruled in a document released on Monday.

Reuters reports that the ruling, which comes out of a three-judge panel with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, effectively denies the New York Times and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act request to release such documents in the wake of the 2011 drone strike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen – who is believed to have directed several terrorist attacks while aligned with an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The details of the appeals court’s unanimous ruling, which was reached last month, was detailed in a 22-page document that was placed under temporary seal prior to its recent release. The Associated Press reports that it remained sealed for a month in order to allow time for an appeal.

While attorneys with the ACLU and NY Times used the notion that the targeted killing’s memos constitute “working law” and subsequently must be released to the public, Judge Jon Newman denied their request because, in his opinion, the memos provide at most and in their specific contexts, “legal advice as to what a department or agency ‘is permitted to do'” and this “advice ‘is not the law of an agency unless the agency adopts it’,” he wrote on behalf of the panel, quoting a 2014 federal court ruling deemed relevant.

At most, they provide, in their specific contexts, legal advice as to what a department or agency ‘is permitted to do’ … and its advice ‘is not the law of an agency unless the agency adopts it’

In particular, the panel’s ruling covers roughly 10 documents pertaining to the U.S. government’s targeted killing operations against people overseas – specifically, non-citizens in foreign countries.

Clarifying the reasoning behind the panel’s recently unsealed ruling, the NY Times reports that their and the ACLU’s request was denied because the details of American legal policy and standards pertaining to the issue are classified.

ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer was quoted by the NY Times as having said that the ACLU “strongly” disagrees with the panel’s ruling that allows for the U.S. government to lawfully keep these “crucial” legal memorandums secret.

We strongly disagree that these crucial legal memos can lawfully be kept secret (…) In a democracy, there should be no room for ‘secret law,’ and the courts should not play a role in perpetuating it. The government should not be using lethal force based on standards that are explained only vaguely and on facts that are never published or independently reviewed.

In other drone coverage here at Immortal News, a meth-laden drone reportedly crashed over the border from California, in the Mexican border town of Tijuana. And more recently, an underwater drone founded by NASA engineer Eric Stackpole began making waves on Kickstarter where it’s raised over $815,000.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - Get Important Content Like This Delivered Directly To You

Get important content and more delivered to you once or twice a week.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.