NEW YORK — During Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney repeatedly directed reporters asking about the Obama administration’s drone policy to a confidential Justice Department white paper that provides the legal rationale for killing American citizens believed to be associated with al Qaeda.
Reporters have long sought more details about the legal justification for drone strikes aimed at Americans without a trial. The Obama administration, which promised years back to be “the most open and transparent in history,” successfully fought The New York Times’ Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month to obtain a classified legal memo reportedly justifying the deadly drone strike Anwar al-Awlaki, an American cleric linked to al Qaeda.
NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff obtained a copy of a 16-page, unclassified white paper sent in June to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees. The scoop has driven the news cycle, taking on added significance given that White House adviser John Brennan, the oft-described drone architect of the Obama administration, will surely face questions on the subject Thursday at his confirmation hearing to become CIA director.