Judge Denies Requests for OLC Memos on Drone Strikes

Even as U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the government was correct to deny requests from two New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union for access to documents related to the government's "targeted killing" drone program, she conceded that the pronouncement had an "Alice-in-Wonderland nature." Indeed, it strikes us as supremely un-democratic and anti-transparency that the government can publicly proclaim it has the legal authority to pursue the "targeted killing" program, but continually refuses to allow the public access to the actual legal analysis from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

According to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "If President Obama wants to fulfill his promise of creating "unprecedented levels of openness in Government," his national security policies must be brought in line with his domestic efforts to make the government more open and accountable. His decision to declassify the controversial Bush-era OLC memos on torture was the right one. And declassifying the "targeted-killing" memos is just as central to preserving the rule of law. The public needs to know the government’s legal justifications in order to have an informed and public debate."

The need for not only OLC memos, but for all authoritative interpretations of law (e.g., FISA Court opinions, administrative rulings) to be available to the public (with minimal redactions to safeguard classified information) was noted in the 11th of our recent 12 Open Government New Year's Resolutions for the Obama Administration.

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