NY Times loses bid to uncover details on drone strikes

by Reuters  |  published on January 4, 2013

The facade of the New York Times building is seen in New York

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times’ bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the Obama administration did not violate the law by refusing the Times’ request for the legal justifications for targeted killings, a strategy the Times said was first contemplated by the Bush administration soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the “vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty.”

Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.

“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” McMahon said in her 68-page decision.

The newspaper and two reporters, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, had sued the government for details about the government’s drone program, including the late 2011 killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in separate strikes in Yemen.

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