Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

U.S. Says It Will Release Drone Strikes' Legal Defense

Image:
An armed U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper is seen during a combat mission in southern Afghanistan in an undated photo.Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt / US Air Force via AP file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

The Justice Department will not appeal a federal court order that the government must make public a version of the administration's legal reasoning for the use of drones to kill Americans overseas, a department official confirmed Tuesday.

The official says that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who handles appeal issues, decided not to fight the April ruling and that Attorney General Eric Holder concurred.

The legal reasoning, the official said, will be made public in full - but it will take several weeks before the document can be redacted to remove specific facts.

Image:
An armed U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper is seen during a combat mission in southern Afghanistan in an undated photo.Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt / US Air Force via AP file

Several officials familiar with the classified version say it is substantially the same as the reasoning spelled out in a white paper that was leaked last year. In fact, the court relied in part on the fact of that leak in saying there was no good reason to keep the memo itself from the public. (You can read that 16-page memo here.)

The memo concluded that the government could order the killing of American citizens if they were believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or “an associated force.”

It provided a look at the legal reasoning behind a dramatic increase during the Obama administration of drone strikes against al Qaeda suspects abroad, including American citizens.

— Pete Williams

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news