|For Immediate Release
February 8, 2013
Contact: Kathryn Rexrode or Jessica Baker (202) 225-3951
House Judiciary Committee Requests Drone-Kill Legal Docs
Washington, D.C. – Today, a bipartisan group of top lawmakers from the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the Committee be granted the opportunity to review all Justice Department documents pertaining to the legal justification of drone strikes on Americans overseas. Earlier this week, the Administration authorized the release of these memos to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees but has yet to provide them to the House Judiciary Committee, which is charged with oversight of the Justice Department and the U.S. Constitution.
The bipartisan letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.); Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.); Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.); Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.); and Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Below is the text of the letter:
“Dear President Obama,
“We write to request that members of the House Judiciary Committee be granted the opportunity to review all Justice Department legal opinions related to the use of lethal force to target specific terror suspects or the broader use of unmanned aerial aircraft (“drones”) to conduct airstrikes against terrorist targets (so-called “signature strikes”). Earlier this week, you authorized the release of these memos to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, indicating your administration recognizes the value of oversight by Congressional committees. The House Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction in this area is clear and we believe that it is important that the legal justification for your targeted killings policy be analyzed by the Committee with the most familiarity in this area.
“In January 2009, you promised the American people that you would hold yourself to a new standard of openness. Specifically, you stated: ‘Information will not be withheld just because I say so. . . . Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.’
“This week, the confidential white paper that the Justice Department previously provided to this Committee in draft form, with the request that we not share it further, was leaked to the news media. That paper summarizes legal opinions generated by the Justice Department that provide the legal justification for the targeted killings of Americans overseas. As prior Judiciary Committee requests have made clear, we appreciate your Administration’s providing the white paper. But that does not fully satisfy our requests or fulfill our ongoing need for information that allows us to conduct meaningful congressional oversight.
“We therefore request that you direct the Justice Department to provide members of the House Judiciary Committee the opportunity to review all legal opinions relied upon by your administration related to the use of lethal force to target specific terror suspects or the broader use of signature strikes. Congress is perfectly equipped to confidentially handle sensitive information, and we are willing to discuss whatever safeguards you believe necessary to protect the information.
“We are disappointed that three prior requests to review these memoranda by members of the Committee have gone unanswered. We hope that you will reaffirm your commitment to transparency and openness by accommodating our request to review these documents. We respectfully request that you direct the Justice Department to provide the requested documents to the Committee by close of business on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.
“Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your timely response.”
A copy of the letter is available here.