NEFAC Calls on AG to Follow Court Order, Disclose Information on Drone Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Rose Cavanagh | 401.331.7209 | rosecavanagh.nefac@gmail.com

The New England First Amendment Coalition and more than 20 other organizations representing a broad range of interests have joined to urge the U.S. Attorney General not to appeal a recent federal court ruling that would provide the public with critical information about the legal analysis underpinning a targeted killing program. (Read full letter here).

“This is an issue that affects all Americans,” said Rosanna Cavanagh, NEFAC’s executive director. “Because of its significance and the implications this case has on the public’s right-to-know, we felt compelled to advocate for disclosure of the drone program’s legal foundation.”

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 at the U.S. Department of Justice. In New York Times Co. v. United States, a decision concerning Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union and two reporters from The New York Times, 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 against U.S. citizens. (All court filings in the case can be found here).

“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 OpenTheGovernment.org, who organized the groups in support of the letter. “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 best practices for providing legal analysis says that opinions should be made available in the interest of “contributing to accountability and effective government, and promoting public confidence in the legality of government action.” NEFAC believes this is a clear and convincing case for why DOJ should move quickly both to provide the public with a redacted version of the OLC memo, and why it should also make more information about the targeted killing program available.

NEFAC regularly signs onto amicus briefs and letters to government officials that address matters of First Amendment concern. To read past briefs and letters, and to learn more about how NEFAC can help your organization, please visit http://nefirstamendment.org/amicus-briefs/.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.