On Monday, the Obama administration released nine previously-confidential memos and opinions outlining the legal limits of combating terrorism, CNN reports.
The documents, which came from the Justice Department, were written in the months and years following 911 and have long haunted the Bush administration. Congressional Democrats demanded that the documents be made public while Bush was still in office, but the president refused.
One particular memo, dated October 23, 2001, declares the president’s right to approve unwarranted searches of suspected terrorists.
According to the Justice Department memo, written by John Yoo, then a deputy assistant attorney general:
“We conclude that the president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States. We further believe that the use of such military force generally is consistent with constitutional standards, and that it need not follow the exact procedures that govern law enforcement operations.”
In another memo from 2008, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury advised that "caution should be exercised before relying in any respect on the memorandum" written by Yoo. Bradbury went on to state that the 2001 memo "should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose."
The memos also reveal that suspected terrorists and Taliban members caught in Afghanistan are not entitled to Geneva Convention rights, and that first amendment speech and free press rights “may be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”
Attorney General Eric Holder issued a public statement on Tuesday, declaring that "Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness.”
“It is my goal to make OLC opinions available when possible while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust internal executive branch debate and decision-making," Holder said.
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