House and Senate Judiciary Committees request administration’s legal justification for drone killings

The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have sent bipartisan letters to President Obama requesting that the administration release documents to their respective committees pertaining to the Justice Department’s legal justification for drone strikes on U.S. citizens overseas.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley sent their letter to Obama Thursday, requesting that the administration authorize the release of the documents. On Wednesday, the administration agreed to provide those documents to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

“The deliberate killing of a United States citizen pursuant to a targeted operation authorized or aided by our Government raises significant constitutional and legal concerns that fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the Committee,” Leahy and Grassley wrote.

The Judiciary Committees have jurisdiction over the Justice Department. The Senate committee has been requesting this documentation since 2011.

“Given the important constitutional issues implicated by the targeted killing of U.S. citizens by our Government, and given our Committee’s jurisdiction over these issues and the Department, we respectfully request that you direct the Department to promptly provide our Committee with access to unredacted copies of any and all legal opinions drafted by OLC that pertain to the targeted killing of U.S. citizens abroad,” the pair wrote in the letter made public Friday.

The House Judiciary Committee sent their letter echoing the Senate committee’s request Friday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Member John Conyers and other committee members signed onto the missive.

“We therefore request that you direct the Justice Department to provide members of the House Judiciary Committee the opportunity to review all legal opinions relied upon by your administration related to the use of lethal force to target specific terror suspects or the broader use of signature strikes,” the committee members wrote.

“Congress is perfectly equipped to confidentially handle sensitive information, and we are willing to discuss whatever safeguards you believe necessary to protect the information,” they added.

According to the letter, this is the committee’s third oversight request for these documents.

Earlier this week, NBC News released an unclassified Justice Department white paper which justified the killing of Americans believed to be involved in terrorism.

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