Groups Call on Holder to Follow Court Order, be Open about Targeted Killing Program

Thirty organizations representing a broad range of interests have joined to urge Attorney General Holder to decline to appeal a recent federal court ruling that would provide the public with critical information about the legal analysis underpinning the targeted killing program.

At issue in the case is a July 2010 memorandum authored by a current nominee to the federal bench, David Barron, while he was in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In New York Times Co. v. United States, a decision concerning Freedom of Information Act requests by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Second Circuit ordered the release of a redacted version of the July 16, 2010 memo to the Department of Defense explaining the justification for drone strikes targeting U.S. citizens.

“The Second Circuit’s ruling clearly supports the public’s need to have a clear understanding of what the government believes the law allows it to do,” said Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of “Particularly when the issues at hand are quite literally a matter of life and death, the public cannot be told to just trust that a program is legally and constitutionally sound.”

OLC’s own best practices for providing legal analysis directs that OLC opinions be made available in the interest of “contributing to accountability and effective government, and promoting public confidence in the legality of government action.” This is a clear and convincing case for why DOJ should move quickly both to provide the public with a redacted version of Mr. Barron’s memo, and why they should also make more information about the targeted killing program available.

Signatories to the letter, which was organized by include: American Library Association, Bill of Rights Defense Committee – BORDC, Center for Constitutional Rights – CCR, Center for Effective Government, Center for Media and Democracy, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington –CREW, The Constitution Projec,t Council on American-Islamic Relations – CAIR, Defending Dissent Foundation, Demand Progress, Electronic Privacy Information Center – EPIC, Essential Information, Federation of American Scientists, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Government Accountability Project – GAP, Human Rights First, Just Foreign Policy, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Security Archive, National Security Counselors, National Security Network, New England First Amendment Coalition, No More Guantanamos,, Progressive Librarians Guild, Project On Government Oversight –POGO, Public Citizen, Society of Professional Journalists, Sunlight Foundation, and Win Without War.

Download the letter here: