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June 23, 2014

OLC Memo Release Raises More Questions about Targeted Killing

Washington, DC – Human Rights First today noted that the redacted 2010 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo detailing the rationale behind the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, underscores the importance of additional transparency on the rules governing targeting killing as it raises questions about compliance with applicable law.

“While this is an important step towards transparency, this memo ultimately fails to deliver what the American people deserve to know: what is the government’s legal basis for the hundreds of drones strikes that have killed thousands of people overseas in the American people’s name?,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala.

Human Rights First notes that the memo released today only presents the legal analysis for a single operation targeting one U.S. citizen. The administration has yet to release at least 10 additional OLC memos related to targeted killing, in addition to the policy guidance that it uses to justify targeted killings.

“The President promised more transparency, and it’s critical that the administration provide to Congress and the public all additional OLC memos, as well as its policy guidance that’s being used to justify the use of force outside of active zones of hostilities,” added Wala.

Human Rights First also notes that the content of the memo released today raises questions about which States, groups, and individuals the United States is at war against, and whether the targeted killing program complies with applicable domestic and international law.

“The memo raises concerns about what the government believes counts as an “imminent” threat, and who the government claims to be at war with under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” said Wala.

For more information or to speak with Wala, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.