A Justice Department memo was released by a federal court on Monday that justifies the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki with the use of a drone, according to The Huffington Post. There were quite a few redactions by the government that left much of the reasoning confidential.
Awlaki was a citizen of the United States who reportedly became a senior member of the Yemen branch of al Qaeda. He was killed in September of 2011 during a drone attack operated by the CIA.
In the memo, from July 2010, First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Barron wrote, “There is no precedent directly addressing the question in circumstances such as those present here.”
At the time of the memo, Barron was acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. He was just recently appointed to the bench. The memo was released as a portion of a public records lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times against the United States government.
Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU said, “The release of this memo represents an overdue but nonetheless crucial step towards transparency. There are few questions more important than the question of when the government has the authority to kill its own citizens. The drone program has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including countless innocent bystanders, but the American public knows scandalously little about who is being killed and why.”