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Opinion
Noah Feldman

The Drone Memos Are Out and Say Nothing

The Obama administration released the memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, and it's crucially incomplete, showing contempt for those who care about constitutional justifications for power.
This caption has been redacted.
This caption has been redacted.

Finally, after intense negotiation between the Barack Obama administration and senators including drone-strike stalwart Rand Paul, the government released the much discussed memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, which was written by David Barron when he was the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel. And the revelation is ... nothing, or near enough to it.

The reason isn't that the memo is benign. It's that it's crucially incomplete. The administration redacted the important passages of the memo referring to Awlaki's due process rights as a U.S. citizen. And it referred to another memo, also by Barron, that dealt with the constitutional issues. That memo is -- you guessed it -- still secret. As for Barron, once my colleague at Harvard Law School, he's now my former colleague because the Senate confirmed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit after the administration agreed to release the memo.