Following a Freedom of Information Action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan released today the (heavily redacted) Justice Department memo that outlined the legality of President Obama's authorization to kill an American citizen overseas by drone strike.
The memo, which can be viewed here, specifically details the lawfulness of the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki—a Muslim cleric, an accused terrorist, and an American citizen—without a trial. Al-Awlaki was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen, along with Samir Khan, also an American citizen. Further from the New York Times' report:
Intelligence officials had concluded that Mr. Awlaki was an operational terrorist leader who was plotting attacks to kill Americans and that his capture was not feasible. Working from that premise, David Barron, then the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, concluded that it would be lawful for either the military or the intelligence agency to kill Mr. Awlaki, notwithstanding federal statutes against murdering Americans overseas and protections in the Constitution against unreasonable seizures and depriving someone of life without due process of law.
The memo concludes, per the Associated Press' report, that the killing was legally justified, "as long as it was carried out in accord with applicable laws of war."
[Image of Anwar Al-Awlaki via AP]