Before David Barron was confirmed this year to a lifetime seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, his critics objected that the cover he gave President Obama to carry out extrajudicial killings of American citizens ought to disqualify him from the bench. "I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the president has the power to kill an American citizen not involved in combat and without a trial,"
Senator Rand Paul declared in remarks opposing the nomination. "I rise to say that there is no legal precedent for killing citizens not involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a president is not worthy of being one step away from the Supreme Court."
Barron, who wrote his controversial memo while at the Office of Legal Counsel, was confirmed anyway, before the public was permitted to see the legal reasoning he used to weaken the Fifth Amendment as well as an executive order banning assassinations and a statute prohibiting the murder of American citizens abroad. Now that analysis is available for review.
One memo was released with significant redactions on June 23. Charlie Savage of The New York Times, who has fought alongside the ACLU for the release of all such memos, set forth what it revealed about Team Obama's legal reasoning. Then on Friday, the administration released an even earlier Office of Legal Counsel memo. Also heavily redacted, it nevertheless gives us insight into Barron's initial attitude toward one of the most fraught questions in American constitutional law. The memo, co-written with Marty Lederman, is here. And it coveys disturbing information about an Obama-appointed federal judge.