One of the greatest strengths of our democracy lies in our country’s ability to engage in public debate on some of the most controversial issues of our time. The national soul searching that often accompanies such discussions strengthens our government and its decision-making processes. This occurred when President Barack Obama authorized the disclosure of memoranda issued by the OLC justifying the use of certain forms of torture on detainees, the so-called “torture memos.” Unquestionably the president made the right decision by releasing those memos — helping to restore confidence in our government — even if many citizens disagree with the policy authorized by the memos.
Today, we face yet another test of our democracy as questions are raised about the wisdom and legality of the United States government conducting targeted killings on foreign soil. Newspaper articles have revealed that the OLC issued a memorandum justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, though it may apply to others as well. Nevertheless, despite numerous calls for its disclosure by members of Congress and several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the Department of Justice has refused to release this memo.
See a PDF of the letter from open government groups to Attorney General Holder here, and visit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for more from their release.