Senate Gives Initial Judicial Confirmation to Legal Author of Secret Memos Authorizing Drone Assassinations of U.S. Citizens

Thursday, May 22, 2014
David Barron (photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

A former Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer who provided the Obama administration with the legal justification for killing Americans overseas with drones appears headed for the federal bench.


David J. Barron, now a Harvard law professor, was nominated by President Barack Obama to join the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Liberals and conservatives in the U.S. Senate expressed concerns about Barron’s selection for the judgeship due to his writing at least one drone-assassination memo while serving in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Barron’s opinion is believed to be the basis for using drones to target and kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Al-Qaida leader, in 2011.


Opponents threatened to derail the nomination unless Obama agreed to show the controversial memos to lawmakers. Administration officials accepted the demand and made the documents available behind closed doors in the Senate. The Justice Department also decided not to appeal a court order requiring the memos be disclosed to the public.


The moves apparently worked with liberal critics, as the Senate voted 52 to 43 to advance Barron’s nomination to First Circuit. A final confirmation vote is expected Thursday.


All Republicans and two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, voted against proceeding with the confirmation.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

David Barron’s Judicial Nomination Clears Procedural Hurdle (by Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post)

Justice Dept. to Reveal Drone Memo (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Barron Likely to be Confirmed to Appeals Court (by Noah Bierman, Boston Globe)

Federal Judges Order Obama Administration to Release Memo Justifying Assassination of Americans (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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