The Justice Department has agreed to publicly release controversial memos providing legal justification for the 2011 fatal drone strike against U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader living in Yemen. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli made the decision to release the memo, and Attorney General Eric Holder agreed, according to The Washington Post.
But the decision wasn't entirely voluntary: A federal appellate court had ordered the Obama administration to release a redacted version of the Awlaki memo in April, and the Justice Department is declining to appeal that decision. The memo should be released in a few weeks, pending the 2nd Circuit appellate court's ruling on which parts of the memo should be redacted (the court made its own redactions, and the Obama administration wants a bit more blacked out).
There's also politics involved: On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Harvard law professor David J. Barron to the Boston-based U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and a group of libertarian-leaning Democrats and Republicans were threatening to block his vote unless the Obama administration released the memo. Barron, as a DOJ lawyer, wrote one of the memos in question. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he will still vote against Barron, but the Democratic critics seem more amenable.