Obama to Release OLC Memo after Only 24 Congressional Requests from 31 Members of Congress

Congratulations to Rand Paul, who, having made request number 24, has finally gotten the Administration to agree to publicly release the OLC memo authorizing the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Here, for posterity, is a record of the at least 24 requests from at least 31 members of Congress for this memo.


 

February 2011: Ron Wyden asks the Director of National Intelligence for the legal analysis behind the targeted killing program; the letter references “similar requests to other officials.” (1) 

April 2011: Ron Wyden calls Eric Holder to ask for legal analysis on targeted killing. (2)

May 2011: DOJ responds to Wyden’s request, yet doesn’t answer key questions.

May 18-20, 2011: DOJ (including Office of Legislative Affairs) discusses “draft legal analysis regarding the application of domestic and international law to the use of lethal force in a foreign country against U.S. citizens” (this may be the DOJ response to Ron Wyden).

October 5, 2011: Chuck Grassley sends Eric Holder a letter requesting the OLC memo by October 27, 2011. (3)

November 8, 2011: Pat Leahy complains about past Administration refusal to share targeted killing OLC memo. Administration drafts white paper, but does not share with Congress yet. (4) 

February 8, 2012: Ron Wyden follows up on his earlier requests for information on the targeted killing memo with Eric Holder. (5)

March 7, 2012: Tom Graves (R-GA) asks Robert Mueller whether Eric Holder’s criteria for the targeted killing of Americans applies in the US; Mueller replies he’d have to ask DOJ. Per his office today, DOJ has not yet provided Graves with an answer. (6) 

March 8, 2012: Pat Leahy renews his request for the OLC memo at DOJ appropriations hearing.(7)

June 7, 2012: After Jerry Nadler requests the memo, Eric Holder commits to providing the House Judiciary a briefing–but not the OLC memo–within a month. (8)

June 12, 2012: Pat Leahy renews his request for the OLC memo at DOJ oversight hearing. (9)

June 22, 2012: DOJ provides Intelligence and Judiciary Committees with white paper dated November 8, 2011.

June 27, 2012: In Questions for the Record following a June 7 hearing, Jerry Nadler notes that DOJ has sought dismissal of court challenges to targeted killing by claiming “the appropriate check on executive branch conduct here is the Congress and that information is being shared with Congress to make that check a meaningful one,” but “we have yet to get any response” to “several requests” for the OLC memo authorizing targeted killing. He also renews his request for the briefing Holder had promised. (10)

July 19, 2012: Both Pat Leahy and Chuck Grassley complain about past unanswered requests for OLC memo. (Grassley prepared an amendment as well, but withdrew it in favor of Cornyn’s.) Leahy (but not Grassley) votes to table John Cornyn amendment to require Administration to release the memo.

July 24, 2012: SSCI passes Intelligence Authorization that requires DOJ to make all post-9/11 OLC memos available to the Senate Intelligence Committee, albeit with two big loopholes.

December 4, 2012: Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, and Bobby Scott ask for finalized white paper, all opinions on broader drone program (or at least a briefing), including signature strikes, an update on the drone rule book, and public release of the white paper.

December 19, 2012: Ted Poe and Tredy Gowdy send Eric Holder a letter asking specific questions about targeted killing (not limited to the killing of an American), including “Where is the legal authority for the President (or US intelligence agencies acting under his direction) to target and kill a US citizen abroad?”

January 14, 2013: Wyden writes John Brennan letter in anticipation of his confirmation hearing, renewing his request for targeted killing memos. (11)

January 25, 2013: Rand Paul asks John Brennan if he’ll release past and future OLC memos on targeting Americans. (12)

February 4, 2013: 11 Senators ask for any and all memos authorizing the killing of American citizens, hinting at filibuster of national security nominees. (13)

February 6, 2013: John McCain asks Brennan a number of questions about targeted killing, including whether he would make sure the memos are provided to Congress. (14)

February 7, 2013Pat Leahy and Chuck Grassley ask that SJC be able to get the memos that SSCI had just gotten. (15)

February 7, 2013: In John Brennan’s confirmation hearing, Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden reveal there are still outstanding memos pertaining to killing Americans, and renew their demand for those memos. (16)

February 8, 2013: Poe and Gowdy follow up on their December 19 letter, adding several questions, particularly regarding what “informed, high level” officials make determinations on targeted killing criteria.

February 8, 2013: Bob Goodlatte, Trent Franks, and James Sensenbrenner join their Democratic colleagues to renew the December 4, 2012 request. (17)

February 12, 2013: Rand Paul sends second letter asking not just about white paper standards, but also about how National Security Act, Posse Commitatus, and Insurrection Acts would limit targeting Americans within the US.

February 13, 2013: In statement on targeted killings oversight, DiFi describes writing 3 previous letters to the Administration asking for targeted killing memos. (18, 19, 20)

February 20, 2013: Paul sends third letter, repeating his question about whether the President can have American killed inside the US.

February 27, 2013: At hearing on targeted killing of Americans, HJC Chair Bob Goodlatte — and several other members of the Committee — renews request for OLC memos. (21)

March 11, 2013: Barbara Lee and 7 other progressives ask Obama to release “in an unclassified form, the full legal basis of executive branch claims” about targeted killing, as well as the “architecture” of the drone program generally. (22)

April 10, 2013: Bob Goodlatte and John Conyers send Obama a letter threatening a subpoena if they don’t get to see the drone killing memos. (23)

March 27, 2014: Alan Grayson holds hearing with drone victim, calls for more transparency over decision making.

April 21, 2014: 2nd Circuit orders Administration to release redacted version of OLC memo to ACLU and NYT.

May 5, 2014: Rand Paul issues veto threat for David Barron’s confirmation unless Administration releases OLC memo (already ordered for release by 2nd Circuit). (24)

May 20, 2014: The Most Transparent Administration Evah™ announces it will release (what is certain to be a highly redacted version of) the OLC memo.


Members of Congress who requested the memo:

  1. Ron Wyden
  2. Dianne Feinstein
  3. Saxby Chambliss
  4. Chuck Grassley
  5. Pat Leahy
  6. Tom Graves
  7. Jerry Nadler
  8. John Conyers
  9. Bobby Scott
  10. Ted Poe
  11. Trey Gowdy
  12. Rand Paul
  13. Mark Udall
  14. Dick Durbin
  15. Tom Udall
  16. Jeff Merkley
  17. Mike Lee
  18. Al Franken
  19. Mark Begich
  20. Susan Collins
  21. John McCain
  22. Bob Goodlatte
  23. Trent Franks
  24. James Sensenbrenner
  25. Barbara Lee
  26. Keith Ellison
  27. Raul Grijalva
  28. Donna Edwards
  29. Mike Honda
  30. Rush Holt
  31. James McGovern

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
    • bloopie2 says:

      Wait — you mean this is being released in order to influence votes? Whereas if someone else released it, she would be thrown in prison? Wow, democracy in action!

  1. Susan Pizzo says:

    Ummm – yesterday I took part in an extended ACLU ‘call my senator’ campaign to insist on release of the memo with respect to the Barron confirmation. I made pointed comments re: anti-democratic and unconstitutional nature of administration conduct. Ron Paul? Maybe. Just sayin’…

  2. john francis lee says:

    It will be redacted and worthless … the senate will vote this monster in anyway, citing the contentless ‘document’ as its ‘justification’.
    .
    Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and they’re really all on our side.
    .
    Maybe not.

    • chronicle says:

      quote”Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and they’re really all on our side.”quote

      BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nice. I see you’ve been studying Marci’s satirical weaponry.

  3. bloopie2 says:

    Just in: The best court brief yet on the illegality and unconstitutionality of the mass surveillance programs under Section 702. Read it and rejoice.

    http://pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/mohamud_reply_05192014.pdf

    Then follow up with January’s PCLOB report – beautifully written, it rips about a dozen new ones in Section 215. Astonishing.

    http://www.pclob.gov/SiteAssets/Pages/default/PCLOB-Report-on-the-Telephone-Records-Program.pdf

    In my opinion, the two essential documents, to date.

  4. Max-1 says:

    Been calling McDermott’s office for months now. I get the cold shoulder from his staff or they’re clueless or uninformed by the Congressman. Sad to not see his name in the list. Had this happened under Bush, he would have. Odd, no?

  5. chronicle says:

    quote”April 21, 2014: 2nd Circuit orders Administration to release redacted version of OLC memo to ACLU and NYT.

    May 5, 2014: Rand Paul issues veto threat for David Barron’s confirmation unless Administration releases OLC memo (already ordered for release by 2nd Circuit). (24)

    May 20, 2014: The Most Transparent Administration Evah™ announces it will release (what is certain to be a highly redacted version of) the OLC memo.”unquote

    So, the Second Circuit ORDERS The Most Transparent Administration Evah™ to release REDACTED version of OLC memo. Whereby The Most Transparent Administration Evah™ raises middle finger to the Most Compliant Judicial Branch Evah™ until such time The Most Dangerous Threat to a Confirmation Candidate Evah™ makes said threat. Oh, now I see how the Most Democratic Nation on the Planet Evah™ works. Right. In other words it’s the United States of Let’s Make A Deal. Gottcha. The Democratic Best Checks and Balances Evah™

    sheeezusHfuckingchrist. I gotta different take.. The Dumbest Country on the Planet..Evah™.

  6. Betty says:

    David Brooks should be celebrating the bipartisan nature of that list. Now if they could go a step further and outright condemn and make it clearly and absolutely illegal to conduct any droning of US citizens, that would be nice.

      • chronicle says:

        ya know..just the word..”targeting” in conjunction with “citizen” makes me almost projectile vomit. ..of which I would target Obama’s face.

  7. chronicle says:

    quote”Because citizenry is how all targeting distinctions should be made.”unquote

    Excuse me? Should? I’m sorry, I was under the impression it was already guaranteed on a 200 year old document some where? Dumb me. I must be in a parallel universe.

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