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Court orders U.S. to release legal memo that authorized drone strike on Anwar al-Awlaki

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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to turn over key portions of a memorandum justifying the government’s targeted killing of people linked to terrorism, including Americans.

In a case pitting executive power against the public’s right to know what its government does, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling preserving the secrecy of the legal rationale for the killings, such as the death of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

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Ruling for the New York Times, a unanimous three-judge panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings.

These included a Justice Department “white paper,” as well as speeches or statements by officials like Attorney General Eric Holder and former Obama administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, endorsing the practice.

The Times and two reporters, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, sought the memorandum under the federal Freedom of Information Act, saying it authorized the targeting of al-Awlaki, a cleric who joined al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate and directed many attacks.

“Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had has been lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the highest levels and official disclosure of the DOJ White Paper,” Circuit Judge Jon Newman wrote for the appeals court panel in New York.

He said it was no longer logical or plausible to argue that disclosing the legal analysis in the memorandum jeopardizes military plans, intelligence activities or foreign relations. The court redacted a portion of the memorandum on intelligence gathering.

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It is unclear whether the government will appeal, or when the memorandum might be made public.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

David McCraw, a lawyer for the Times, said the newspaper is delighted with the decision, saying it encourages public debate on an important foreign policy and national security issue.

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“The court reaffirmed a bedrock principle of democracy: The people do not have to accept blindly the government’s assurances that it is operating within the bounds of the law; they get to see for themselves the legal justification that the government is working from,” McCraw said in a statement.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

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Monday’s decision largely reversed a January 2013 ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan.

She ruled for the administration despite skepticism over its antiterrorism program, including whether it could unilaterally authorize killings outside a “hot” field of battle.

“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote.

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Civil liberties groups have complained that the drone program, which deploys pilotless aircraft, lets the government kill Americans without constitutionally required due process.

McMahon ruled one month before the Justice Department released the white paper, which set out conditions to be met before lethal force in foreign countries against U.S. citizens could be used.

In a March 5, 2012 speech at Northwestern University, Holder had said it was “entirely lawful” to target people with senior operational roles in al-Qaeda and associated forces.

The Times has said the strategy of targeted killings had first been contemplated by the Bush administration, soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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The American Civil Liberties Union supported the Times’ appeal of McMahon’s ruling. Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is New York Times Co et al v. U.S. Department of Justice et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 13-422, 13-445.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

[“Predator Type Rq1 Drones 3d Artwork” on Shutterstock]

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‘Why do we need camo in space’: Trump’s Space Force ridiculed for woodland camouflage uniforms

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On Friday, the United States Space Force released an image of their new uniforms on Twitter.

The image shows a Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) for a four-star general in a woodland camouflage pattern, with a matching camo nametape.

https://twitter.com/SpaceForceDoD/status/1218335200964464650

However, many people were confused as to why the Space Force would use uniforms designed to blend in on earth.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/PostCultRev/status/1218351691021484032

Sorry for the question but why do we need camo in space?

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BUSTED: National Archives caught doctoring exhibit to remove criticism of President Trump from women

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The National Archives were caught editing an artifact from the Trump administration to remove criticism of the president, according to a bombshell new report in The Washington Post.

The newspaper reported on a "large color photograph" at the National Archives exhibit marking the centennial of women's suffrage.

"The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts to show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement. But a closer look reveals a different story," the newspaper noted.

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Dershowitz is running a ‘bizarro defense’ of Trump: Harvard Law colleague says ‘Alan is just completely wacko’

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Two of the most famous names associated with Harvard Law School had competing appearances on MSNBC on Friday.

It began when Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus, was interviewed MSNBC chief legal correspondent Ari Melber about his new role officially representing President Donald Trump during the Senate impeachment trial.

Dershowitz claimed that neither abuse of power nor obstruction of Congress count as "high crimes" under the constitution.

Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has also been associated with Harvard Law for five decades, was asked about Dershowitz's argument during an interview with Chris Hayes.

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