June 18, 2012

CREW and Others Call on AG Holder to Release Memo Justifying Killing of al-Awlaki

Eric HolderWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and more than 25 other groups called on Attorney General Eric Holder to release the memo drafted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. 

Mr. Awlaki, an American-born radical Muslim cleric, was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.  Newspaper articles have revealed that the OLC issued a memo justifying his killing.  Despite numerous calls for disclosure of the memo by members of Congress as well as several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to release the memo. 

“By withholding this memo, DOJ seems to be trying to evade the accountability that stems from transparency,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.  “Insisting that the memo remain secret is all the more surprising given President Obama’s stated commitment to an open government.”

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a memo hailing the critical role transparency plays in our democracy and the importance of the FOIA to ensure an open government.  Months later, he authorized the disclosure of Bush administration OLC memos justifying the use of certain forms of torture on detainees.  In ordering the memos’ release President Obama explained, “withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time.  This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.”  The same arguments could be made about refusal to release the al-Awlaki memo.

“Americans shouldn’t be kept in the dark when the U.S. government authorizes the targeted killing of one of its own citizens on foreign soil,” continued Sloan.  “Further, the memo’s existence is about as secret as the drone program or Stuxnet.  As with the torture memos, insisting on secrecy is ridiculous and counterproductive.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or

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