GOP senator dismisses ‘CliffsNotes’ explanation for killing citizens abroad

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday demanded that the White House hand over documents that detail the administration’s legal case for killing U.S. citizens abroad who are believed to be terrorist threats.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dismissed a recent speech on the issue from Attorney General Eric Holder as the “CliffsNotes” version, and said the administration needs to spell out the legal rationale for the killings.

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“If the attorney general is going to justify targeted killings based upon ‘robust’ congressional oversight, he needs to follow through and make these documents available to Congress, not just give us the CliffsNotes in a speech to law students,” Grassley said at an executive meeting of the Judiciary Committee.

Last week, in a speech at a Chicago law school, Holder gave his first public remarks on what he said is the government’s “clear authority” to kill U.S. citizens overseas who are believed to pose threats against America. He said the determination to carry out such an attack would be subject to congressional oversight.

“This is another example of the continued failure of this administration to live up to its goal of being the most transparent administration ever,” Grassley said.

Holder’s comments were made in the wake of the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Muslim cleric and alleged leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, last September. 

Grassley said he asked in October for a complete analysis of the administration’s authority to carry out these types of attacks and has yet to receive it. He said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has also asked for an analysis. 

“However, to date, the Justice Department refuses to admit whether such a memo even exists,” Grassley said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when or if it was planning to provide lawmakers with a detailed briefing on the issue.