POLITICS
02/27/2013 05:27 pm ET

Subpoenas For Drone Memos From House Judiciary Committee Has 'Bipartisan Interest'

WASHINGTON -- There is "bipartisan interest" within the House Judiciary Committee in subpoenaing the Justice Department's legal memos that justify the Obama administration's targeted killing program, the Republican chairman of the committee told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) held a hearing on Wednesday morning on the Obama administration's legal justification for the drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Members from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration that the administration has ignored their requests for more information.

Goodlatte cautioned that "no decision had been made” about whether to issue subpoenas for the documents, but added that such a move had "a lot of bipartisan interest," since the Obama administration isn't cooperating.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told The Huffington Post that such discussions had been "very preliminary," but several committee aides added that they expected the committee would eventually issue subpoenas unless the administration provides more information voluntarily.

The administration has thus far provided only a few of the DOJ’s 11 reported memos to those members of Congress on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The Judiciary Committees, which have oversight over the Justice Department, have been left out of the loop.

"All we are seeking is information to which we are entitled," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "We hope to convince the administration that this is not personal or political."

"I don't think the attorney general can refuse to come before our committee to discuss a subject that is within our jurisdiction," he added.

Republican members of the committee were vocal in highlighting what Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) characterized as the Obama administration's "hypocrisy" with regards to drone strikes, and even Democrats have hesitated to defend the White House.

"I know the executive has the ability to keep legal advice confidential," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said. "But if in this case [Obama] is acting legally, then it would be good government to share the memos."

Members of the committee alluded on several occasions to the fact that judicial review is needed for foreign surveillance, and questioned why it wasn't then also necessary for the targeted killing of American citizens abroad.

"There is a lot of dissatisfaction on the committee with the idea that American citizens can be put on a kill list without any apparent process," Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) told The Huffington Post. Scott also lamented the absence of an official review process, adding in reference to the administration that "You can't just make this stuff up as you go along."

One of the four witnesses at Wednesday's hearing, Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at Washington College of Law at American University and part of the legal team that successfully challenged the Bush administration's use of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, told The Huffington Post that it's "reasonable" to assume the committee will subpoena the Office of Legal Counsel's memos. Nonetheless, "that would be a fairly counterproductive next step," Vladeck said.

"The far more effective next step would be to work out some kind of compromise," he said, in which the administration "tries to assuage [the Judiciary Committee's] concerns that the emperor has no clothes."

Ryan J. Reilly contributed reporting.

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