A federal judge was forced this month to protect the secrecy of executive branch documents, and she said that she was not happy the law required her to do it. Judge Colleen McMahon was reported by the New York Times on January 3 of this year to have said, “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” when she had to rule that the public was not entitled to see the executive branch order for a targeted killing of a U.S. citizen on foreign soil.
Judge McMahon, of the Manhattan federal circuit, wrote that she was operating in a “veritable Catch-22” legal environment when the NYTimes and the American Civil Liberties Union sought memos and documents under the Freedom of Information Act. One of the requested documents was for the order to deploy a drone strike in 2011 that killed Anwar al-Awlaki on September 30. Two weeks later his son, born in Colorado, was killed by another drone strike.
Several government officials have spoken extensively about drone strikes generally and about this one in particular, yet the law allows them to keep the details of the decision -making and the order itself a secret.
“More fulsome disclosure of the legal reasoning on which the administration relies to justify the targeted killings of individuals, including United States citizens, far from any recognizable ‘hot’ field of battle, would allow for intelligent discussion and assessment of a tactic that (like torture before it) remains hotly debated,” Judge McMahon wrote in her opinion.
The founding framers of the U.S. Constitution must be spellbound by the mad hatter tea party this seems to conjure.