Obama Administration Rejected FOIA Before Touting Drone White Paper

02/06/2013 12:07 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for the "white paper" outlining the legal justification for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists less than two weeks before a White House spokesman pointed to a leaked version of the memo as evidence the administration was enabling a public discussion about the legal principles behind targeted drone strikes.

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department declined to disclose the white paper in a letter on Jan. 23, telling the newspaper the document was a "draft" and was exempted from FOIA because it was part of the "deliberative process."

But White House spokesman Jay Carney touted the release of the white paper as evidence the administration was enabling a public conversation about the principles behind the government's targeted killing program, stating at one point on Tuesday that the white paper had been "released" rather than leaked.

"The President has made clear, as reflected in the statements by and speeches by senior administration officials, that we need to inform the public and explain to the public and to you the process that we're undertaking and the reasoning behind it," Carney said, according to a White House transcript. "And the white paper that was provided to some members of Congress -- it is unclassified, it's been released -- is part of that process. And since it is out there, you should read it. I think it's a click away."