Obama backs off on release of drone memo

The Obama administration will release a memo outlining the legal rationale for drone attacks against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, according to a senior administration official.

The decision is expected to ease Senate confirmation of David Barron, who wrote the controversial memo. President Obama nominated the former Justice Department attorney and Harvard Law professor to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, but some lawmakers have said they would block his nomination unless the memo was released publicly.


The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times had sued the government demanding the release of the memo following a 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born al Qaeda leader.

A court ordered the Justice Department to turn over a redacted version of a memo outlining the administration's legal justification, but the administration was deciding whether to appeal that ruling. An appeal would have prevented its release.

Earlier this month, the White House announced that it would make an unredacted version of Barron's memo available to senators considering his nomination.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the administration had made public not only the memo at the heart of the lawsuit, but “copies of all written legal advice issued by Mr. Barron regarding the potential use of lethal force against U.S. citizens in counterterrorism operations.”

“The administration is working to ensure that any remaining questions members of the Senate have about Mr. Barron's legal work at the Department of Justice are addressed,” Carney said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he believed he had the votes to confirm Barron while speaking with reporters earlier Tuesday.

“We’ll vote on the Barron filibuster, stopping that tomorrow. I think we’ll be OK,” Reid said, adding that “most everyone in our caucus” had been satisfied by the administration's accommodations.

This story was updated at 9:18 p.m.