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Utah Sen. Lee wants to see memos on drone attacks on Americans

First Published Mar 06 2013 01:06 pm • Last Updated May 31 2013 11:32 pm

Washington • Sen. Mike Lee pressed Attorney General Eric Holder for access to secret legal memos on the nation’s drone program, part of a bipartisan effort in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

In particular, the senators want to review memos that show the Obama administration’s justification for using drones to kill suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens.

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"I have heard the committee express the desire to see these memoranda, and I will — let me be careful here — but I will bring that to the attention of the appropriate people within the administration," Holder said in response to Lee. "I am not unsympathetic to what you are saying."

Lee, R-Utah, discussed a leaked white paper obtained by NBC News, which is a truncated version of the administration’s drone policy. That white paper said the government can kill a U.S. citizen with a drone strike if he or she is a suspected terrorist who is an "imminent threat" and could not be feasibly captured.

Lee considers the sections "fraught with opportunities for manipulation," particularly the question of the imminence of a threat to national security, which the white paper states does not have to be information about a terrorist attack in the immediate future.

"What does imminence mean if it does not have to involve something immediate?" Lee asked.

Holder said Lee hit on something that is more fleshed out in the undisclosed memos. "It is one of the strongest reasons why the sharing of the advice with this committee makes sense," he said.

President Barack Obama’s team has allowed the Senate Intelligence Committee to review the justifications and the president, in his State of the Union address, promised more information.

"In the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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