WASHINGTON -- Until last week, the Obama administration's official position was that it had never technically acknowledged the existence of a memo from the Office of Legal Counsel laying out the legal framework for the targeted killing of an American citizen.

"The very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified," the Justice Department wrote in a previous letter, despite wide discussion from members of the administration on the general principles of the targeted killing program.

Even a broader document -- a so-called "white paper" -- that spelled out the less-specific legal basis for targeted killings was "protected by the deliberative process privilege" though it was turned over to select members of Congress, a Justice Department official wrote late last month to a reporter from The New York Times who had requested that document.

But once the white paper was disclosed by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, the government had a change of heart. Jason Leopold, a reporter for Truthout who had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the white paper in August, contacted DOJ after the leak, reminding them he was granted expedited processing. An official called to tell him it would take three months to disclose the already-public paper but wound up turning over the document in an email to Leopold late Friday as a matter of "agency discretion." Other requestors got the same document on Friday.

"It's completely ridiculous and to me this action underscores how the Obama administration has failed to live up to its promise of open government and transparency," Leopold told HuffPost. "This was an unclassified document shared with certain members of Congress. It should have been made available to me not long after I filed my records request."

The decision to disclose the document "displays some minimal capacity for reality-testing," wrote Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists. "To continue to insist that the document was protected and exempt from release would have been too absurd. But the Freedom of Information Act process is supposed to meet a higher standard than 'not absurd,' and in this case it failed to do so."

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting on in its mission to get the full OLC memo on targeted killing made public and more information on the CIA's drone program disclosed. The ACLU believes the white paper and the testimony of John Brennan during his CIA confirmation hearing last week bolster its case.

"We think we were right before and we think we have an even stronger case now," Brett Max Kaufman, a national security fellow with the ACLU, told The Huffington Post.

John Brennan's testimony during this CIA confirmation hearing last week offered additional evidence, the ACLU believes. The ACLU sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is deciding the organization's appeal of the CIA decision to reject their FOIA. The letter points to the transcript where Brennan and the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "extensively discussed various aspects of the CIA’s targeted-killing program, including the 'role' of the 'CIA director in [the] approval process” for targeted killings abroad."

ACLU lawyers are also in the midst of appealing a federal judge's decision to deny their FOIA for the OLC memo despite what the judge described as the "Alice-in-Wonderland nature" of the process. Now that the government has formally acknowledged that the OLC memo exists and turned over a copy to select members of Congress, the ACLU hopes the appeals court will take its side.

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  • Lahore

    Pakistani NGOs workers shout slogans against US drone attacks and religious fundamentalism during a protest in Lahore on October 21, 2010. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Manila

    Protesters set on fire to a mock model of a U.S. drone during a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013. They protested an unarmed target drone found in central Philippine waters over the weekend which U.S. officials claimed was launched from a U.S. Navy ship during a combat exercise off Guam last year and may have been washed by ocean currents to the country. The embassy spokeswoman Bettina Malone said the BQM-74E drone was launched from the USS Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, as a mock missile target during naval combat exercises off Guam. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Islamabad

    American anti-war coalition CodePink activists, protest while fasting to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani tribal region, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The placard, center, reads, "fasting for peace." (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

  • New York

    Nick Mottern of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., hands out information to a passerby as he stands beneath a model of an unmanned drone, which he labeled an "unmanned assasination vehicle" during an anti-war teach-in as part of the Occupy Wall Street protest now in its fourth week at Zuccotti Park in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Washington DC

    A cardboard 'drone' is seen at an occupy DC camp in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Occupy DC's website states the movement is built on the example of Occupy Wall Street, whose activists have continuously camped out in a New York park since September 17. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Lahore

    Activists of the Pakistani fundamentalist Islamic party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) shout slogans against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis and an US drone strike in the Pakistani tribal area, during a protest rally in Lahore on March 18, 2011. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Islamabad

    A Pakistani boy holds a placard during the second day of protests against the US drone attacks along with tribesmen of north Waziristan in Islamabad on December 10, 2010. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Washington DC

    Members of Pax Christi USA, Foreign Policy in Focus, CODEPINK and other organizations, mock and protest the unmanned US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on October 7, 2010 at Union Station in Washington DC. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Multan

    Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Multan on January 8, 2013, against the drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas. (S.S MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Islamabad

    American citizens rally in Islamabad, Pakistan against drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

  • North Carolina

    Protesters march with a drone effigy outside Duke Energy headquarters in Uptown, the Charlotte the business district, before the start of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) September 2, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Thomas Bolanos holds an American flag as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Dina Formentini (C) and Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin (R) join others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin holds a sign reading, 'Raytheon's Drones Create Enemies,' as she joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Clay Colson holds a sign reading, ' Healthcare not Warfare!', as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin holds a sign reading, 'Raytheon's Drones Create Enemies,' as she listens to a police officer ask the group to move to a public sidewalk durin a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    Liz, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, holds a sign reading, 'Obama's Drones Kill Americans, Too,' as she joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Largo, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Florida

    James L. holds a sign reading, ' Obama is just another war prez ', as he joins others in a protest in front of a Raytheon company building which they say is building military drones on August 23, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Philippines

    Protesters display placards during a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Philippines

    Protesters march towards the U.S. Embassy in Manila with a mock model of a U.S. drone Friday Jan. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • YEMEN-UNREST-DEMO-DRONE

    Yemenis hold up a sign in Arabic that reads, 'No to Foreign Intervention...No to American Terrorism' during a protest against US drone attacks on Yemen close to the home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the capital Sanaa, on January 28, 2013. Strikes by US drones in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think-tank New America Foundation. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • YEMEN-UNREST-DEMO-DRONE

    A Yemeni hold up a banner during a protest against US drone attacks on Yemen close to the home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the capital Sanaa, on January 28, 2013. Strikes by US drones in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think-tank New America Foundation. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)