Paul, Dems demand release of drone docs

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFirst responder calls senators blocking 9/11 victim funding 'a--holes' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Jon Stewart rips into Rand Paul after he blocks 9/11 victim compensation fund: 'An abomination' MORE is joining three Democrats in urging a federal court to release secret documents about the government’s use of drones to kill three Americans.

Along with Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Advocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform MORE (Ore.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate Democrat releasing book on Trump admin's treatment of migrants at border MORE (Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichHillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target 'deepfake' video threat Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away MORE (N.M.), the Kentucky Republican filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Wednesday supporting a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The New York Times.

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“Shrouding in secrecy the limits of the executive’s authority to target a U.S. citizen for execution without trial runs counter to our democratic principles,” the four senators wrote in their brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

They added that they are “deeply concerned that the executive branch’s excessive secrecy is ... impeding a healthy debate on an issue of paramount importance: when the government may use drone strikes to kill one of its own citizens without charge or trial.”

In 2012, the Times and the ACLU filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding documents about the Obama administration’s legal basis for killing Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who allegedly served as an operational leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and directed and influenced attacks from the failed “underwear bomber” plot to the recent massacre at a satirical magazine in Paris.

The 2011 CIA drone strike that killed al-Awlaki in Yemen also killed Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, who created an online magazine for Islamic extremists. Two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed in another drone strike.

Last year, a federal appeals court ordered the release of a handful of legal memos about the Justice Department’s reasoning, but critics said many crucial portions were redacted. 

That prompted the groups to file a second appeal, asking for additional memos as well as questioning what was redacted the first time around.

“The drone memos should be public,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.

“As the senators rightly point out, the secrecy surrounding the drone program makes it impossible for the public to assess the lawfulness of one of the government’s most controversial national security policies.” 

In 2013, Paul — a likely presidential candidate in 2016 and frequent critic of the government’s secretive justification for the killing of al-Awlaki — launched a 13-hour filibuster to protest the Obama administration’s use of drones. Last year, he tried to block the confirmation of appeals court Judge David Barron, who authored the memo released during the summer.