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U.S. asks court to censor passages in target-killing memo

  • Article by: Charlie Savage
  • New York Times
  • May 28, 2014 - 8:17 PM

– One week after the Obama administration said it would comply with a federal appeals court ruling ordering it to make public portions of a Justice Department memo that signed off on the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen, the administration is asking for permission to censor more passages in the document.

The Senate voted last week to confirm David Barron, a former Justice Department official who was the memo’s chief author, to an appeals court judgeship. At least one Democratic senator who had opposed Barron over the memo’s secrecy voted for him after the administration said it would release it.

The 41-page memo, dated July 16, 2010, cleared the way for a drone strike in Yemen in 2011 that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen accused by intelligence officials of plotting terrorist attacks.

The Justice Department said it would still soon disclose a version of the memo with the additional passages it wants to keep redacted blacked out. It said the additional passages discuss classified facts.

In January 2013, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the government could withhold the memo from the public entirely. But this April, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New York, ruled that the government must make public portions of the memo that lay out legal analysis.

The 2nd Circuit’s opinion specified which passages of the memo should be disclosed and which should be redacted. But in a new court filing, Sarah Normand, an assistant U.S. attorney, said that the sections that the court had designated for public release contained information that should be exempt from disclosure.

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