How Many of the Seven Missing OLC Opinions Authorize Targeted Killing in Unknown Countries?

Dianne Feinstein has released a statement trying to pretend the Senate Intelligence Committee’s post-killing review constitutes enough oversight of the drone program. In it, she reveals that the Committee is still waiting on 5 OLC memos on targeted killing.

Since 2010 the committee has asked for copies of all the legal opinions written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice on targeted killing. I have sent three letters, each joined by Vice Chairman Kit Bond or Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, requesting these opinions.

In 2012, the committee included a legislative provision in its annual authorization bill to require the executive branch to provide OLC opinions. Unfortunately that provision was removed prior to final passage of the bill. Until last week, the committee had been provided access to only two of the nine OLC opinions that we believe to exist on targeted killings.

Last week, senators on the committee were finally allowed to review two OLC opinions on the legal authority to strike U.S. citizens. We have reiterated our request for all nine OLC opinions—and any other relevant documents—in order to fully evaluate the executive branch’s legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff.

So there are 9 total. The Committee had already seen 2. It got 2 more last Thursday. Leaving 5 memos on targeted killing — purportedly not related to US persons.

Update: Charlie Savage asked for clarification on the number. There are 11 total. The Committee is still waiting on 7.

If they don’t relate to US persons, then why is the Administration so squeamish about releasing them?

Remember, per Ron Wyden, the Administration still hadn’t provided the committee a list of all the countries it has used its lethal counterterrorism authorities.

So it’s hiding where it is using targeted killings in that form. How many specific OLC memos authorize the use of targeted killings in countries not imagined to be part of the scope of the current war on terror?

Update: I’ve changed the title to reflect the likelihood that we’re using targeted killing in some countries we’re not operating drones.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. greengiant says:

    Could already be imagined, just not suitable for publication… Iran Philippines, Syria, Venezuela, Columbia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan(s), Central Asia, …

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