Anwar al-Awlaki FOIA: The CIA Speech the CIA Did Not Mention

John Brennan and Eric Holder gave speeches–the government says–and therefore the CIA admits it has documents pertaining to targeted killing, but cannot say any more about those documents.

As I noted yesterday, the government explained its changed stance toward the NYT and ACLU FOIAs for the Anwar al-Awlaki OLC memo and related documents by pointing to a bunch of speeches. The motion mentioned speeches by four Administration officials officially–those of Harold Koh, Jeh Johnson, Eric Holder, and John Brennan.

One result of that analysis has been a series of speeches by the State Department Legal Adviser, by the Department of Defense General Counsel, by the Attorney General, and by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism that have set forth for the American people the legal analysis and process involved in the determination whether to use lethal force.

It focuses on two in particular: those by Eric Holder and John Brennan.

Since the filing of these cases, senior U.S. officials have publicly addressed significant legal and policy issues pertaining to U.S. counterterrorism operations and the potential use of lethal force against U.S. citizens who are senior operational leaders of al-Qaida or associated forces. Bennett Decl. ¶ 17. These include speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder on March 5, 2012, and by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan on April 30, 2012, addressing the circumstances in which it would be lawful to use lethal force against such U.S. citizens, and the process employed by the government in making decisions to employ targeted lethal force, respectively.

As noted by the citation to the Bennett declaration above, this focus comes from the declaration the Director of Clandestine Services, John Bennett, submitted in this suit.

However, the CIA has since determined that it can acknowledge the existence of responsive records reflecting a general interest in these broad topics without harming national security. These records include, for example, the speech that the Attorney General gave at Northwestern University Law School on 5 March 2012 in which he discussed a wide variety of issues pertaining to U.S. counterterrorism operations, including legal issues pertaining to the potential use of lethal force against senior operational leaders of al-Qa’ida or associated forces who have U.S. citizenship. The Attorney General explained that under certain circumstances, the use of lethal force against such persons in a foreign country would be lawful when, among other things, “the U.S. government . . determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual pose[d] an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” These records also include the speech that the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism gave on 30 April 2012, in which he addressed similar legal and policy issues related to the U.S. Government’s counterterrorism operations.

There’s one speech that never gets mentioned in all of this discussion, however: the one CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston made on April 10. While Preston engaged in a liberal use of hypothetical, his speech clearly addressed targeted killing.

Suppose that the CIA is directed to engage in activities to influence conditions abroad, in which the hand of the U.S. Government is to remain hidden, – in other words covert action – and suppose that those activities may include the use of force, including lethal force.

As I noted, Preston blathered on at length about the Osama bin Laden “triumph,” but the underlying context seemed to relate to Anwar al-Awlaki, as well.

And yet, neither the CIA nor DOJ wants to mention it now.

I’m not sure what to make of that, mind you. Perhaps the CIA speech is irrelevant because this FOIA response really is kabuki intended to distract from a DOD document search conducted before the government had acknowledged its targeted killing programs. Perhaps the CIA speech goes unmentioned because doing so would constitute further acknowledgment of CIA’s involvement, meaning it would have to turn over more. Perhaps the CIA speech goes unmentioned because it appeals to inherent Presidential authority rather than the AUMF usually used to justify the Awlaki killing.

In short, I don’t know what to make of the CIA’s silence about the CIA’s own speech on targeting killings. But the silence sure seems notable.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

12 Responses to Anwar al-Awlaki FOIA: The CIA Speech the CIA Did Not Mention

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel Love that govt doesn't want you to know all the things that were on Tamerlan's smart phone, since NSA did collect on him but not read it.
14mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Very impt in anticipation of USA F-ReDux rollout: IC CAN'T do everything want to do right now. Beware expansion! https://t.co/N5zxWvmnoO
19mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Can someone at the @steve_vladeck panel ask Bob Litt if he thinks MoDo is a disgrace for being dealt and publishing info abt CIA women?
24mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Oh no! @mattapuzzo & @MarkMazzettiNYT disgraced NYT for reporting known names of drone killers, sez Bob Litt https://t.co/CFyBTRwskg
33mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @DLind: Motel 6: We'll leave the Panoptic on for you. https://t.co/DojCMNYoNM
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @RKTlaw: @bmaz @ScottGreenfield @TimCushing Guess they leave a light on for the cops too
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @josephfcox That plus who ever does anything fun in Windows? Soon they'll say Linux use is a sign of support for terrorism, like encryption
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @Popehat: If you're traveling on a Budget, might want to skip Motel 6. Snitches should get stitches. https://t.co/02JUvlynqw
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @TimCushing What the fuck??
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @ScottGreenfield: Motel 6 turns over all guests info to cops every night. Via @TimCushing "pure bootlicking dickishness." https://t.co/3
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @susanzalkind Remember, NSA HAD collected on him. They just didn't read it until he had killed a bunch of people.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
June 2012
S M T W T F S
« May   Jul »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930