Court Releases [REDACTED] Memo on al-Awlaki Drone Strike

On Monday, a federal court released a “secret government memo” explaining the 2011 killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was a United States Citizen and accused Al Qaeda operative killed during a drone strike in Yemen.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd circuit in New York order the memo released.

According to the Washington Post, “Important sections of the Justice Department’s legal analysis were stripped from the version of the document released to the public.”  The paper speculates the missing material “presumably explained why the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that killing Awlaki in a drone strike would not violate the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees due process to U.S. citizens accused of crimes.”

Awlaki’s relationship with al-Qaeda “brings him within the scope” of the 2001 congressional authorization of the use of military force, according to the document. Citing information provided by the CIA and Pentagon, the memo said Awlaki has “operational and leadership roles” with al-Qaeda and “continues to plot attacks intended to kill Americans.

The memo also revealed, according to the WaPo, “that federal laws designed to prevent U.S. nationals from getting away with murder overseas ‘had nothing to do with the conduct of an authorized military operation by U.S. armed forces.’ “

On the civil liberties front, the government argued that

“killing a U.S. citizen carries ‘the risk of erroneous deprivation of a citizen’s liberty in the absence of sufficient process,’ the memo argued that those considerations are overwhelmed when the target poses ‘a continued and imminent threat of violence or death’ to other Americans.”

Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and was linked to an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen involved in terrorist plots against the U.S., including the bombing of a plane heading to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.