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MANHATTAN (CN) - Federal agencies must reveal a memorandum that outlines the legal basis for assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki while the U.S. citizen was living Yemen, the 2nd Circuit unanimously ruled today.
An American Civil Liberties Union official called the decision a "resounding rejection of the government's effort to use secrecy and selective disclosure to manipulate public opinion about the targeted killing program."
"The government can't pretend that everything about the targeted killing program is a classified secret while senior officials selectively disclose information to paint the program in the most favorable light," Jameel Jaffer, who heads the ACLU Center for Democracy, said in an email.
Obama 'Surprised,' 'Upset' When Anwar Al-Awlaki's Teenage Son Was Killed By U.S. Drone Strike
"surprised and upset and wanted an explanation" when he learned of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's October 2011 death, which one former White House official calls "a mistake, a bad mistake."
The anecdote is one of many new details mentioned in Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill's book chronicling the targeted killing of Abdulrahman's father, Anwar al-Awlaki. The elder al-Awlaki was a U.S. born cleric who took a leadership role in al Qaeda's operations in the Arab Peninsula. Scahill writes that the CIA tried to pay Anwar al-Awlaki's younger brother Ammar a sum of $5 million to turn in his brother.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed on Sept. 30, 2011 in a CIA drone strike in Yemen, the first known time a U.S.-controlled drone strike deliberately targeted and killed an American citizen. The killing prompted praise from Obama, who called it a "major blow to al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate."
But when a separate attack killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki just two weeks later, Scahill writes that the Obama administration found itself scrambling to determine what went wrong.
A former senior official in the Obama administration told me that after Abdulrahman’s killing, the president was "surprised and upset and wanted an explanation." The former official, who worked on the targeted killing program, said that according to intelligence and Special Operations officials, the target of the strike was al-Banna, the AQAP propagandist. "We had no idea the kid was there. We were told al-Banna was alone