11 Secret Documents Americans Deserve to See
Monday, December 10, 2012
Many documents produced by the U.S. government are confidential and not released to the public for legitimate reasons of national security. Others, however, are kept secret for more questionable reasons. The fact that presidents and other government officials have the power to deem materials classified provides them with an opportunity to use national security as an excuse to suppress documents and reports that would reveal embarrassing or illegal activities.
I’ve been collecting the stories of unreleased documents for several years. Now I have chosen 11 examples that were created—and buried—by both Democratic and Republican administrations and which cover assassinations, spying, torture, 50-year-old historical events, presidential directives with classified titles and…trade negotiations.
1. Obama Memo Allowing the Assassination of U.S. Citizens
When the administration of George W. Bush was confronted with cases of Americans fighting against their own country, it responded in a variety of ways. John Walker Lindh, captured while fighting with the Taliban in December 2001, was indicted by a federal grand jury and sentenced to 20 years in prison. José Padilla was arrested in Chicago in May 2002 and held as an “enemy combatant” until 2006 when he was transferred to civilian authority and, in August 2007, sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiring to support terrorism. Adam Gadahn, who has made propaganda videos for al-Qaeda, was indicted for treason in 2006 and remains at large.
After he took over the presidency, Barack Obama did away with such traditional legal niceties and decided to just kill some Americans who would previously have been accused of treason or terrorism. His victims have included three American citizens killed in Yemen in 2011 by missiles fired from drones: U.S.-born anti-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, an al-Qaeda propagandist from North Carolina, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
Obama justified his breach of U.S. and international law with a 50-page memorandum prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Attorney General Eric Holder argued that the killing of Awlaki was legal because he was a wartime enemy and he could not be captured, but the legal justification for this argument is impossible to confirm because the Obama administration has refused to release the memo.
2. The Obama Interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act