Before he authored legal memos related to the Obama administration's targeted killing program, David Barron joined a group of left-leaning legal scholars and endorsed a statement of principles urging more transparency from the very office now withholding his work from the public.
"David Barron is highly qualified, but as one of the authors of the Anwar al-Awlaki opinion, Barron's nomination understandably raises key questions about the administration's legal justification for the targeted killing of Americans and about its year-old pledge of greater transparency," Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall said in a statement to msnbc Monday evening. "As such, the White House should comply with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal's order to release its redacted legal justification for killing a U.S. citizen. Unless the White House complies, I cannot support David Barron's nomination."
Last week Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter saying he would attempt to block Barron's nomination from coming to a vote until the administration complied with that order. Monday, the ACLU sent a letter to all Senators in the chamber urging them not to vote on the Barron nomination until they see more information about the targeted killing program.
Senate Democrats abolished the filibuster late last year and they retain a five-seat majority in the chamber. Even a small number of Democratic defections could tip the balance. In a statement to msnbc Monday, Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden -- who has been a frequent critic of Obama national security policies -- did not commit to opposing Barron’s nomination but said that “These memos need to be shared with the public, and the important questions that they failed to address must be answered.”
Senators themselves did not get to see the controversial legal memos until 2013, after several Senators threatened to block the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the CIA. Only members of the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees were given access to the memos, most of the Senators who would vote on Barron's nomination have not seen what is arguably his most consequential legal work.
The introduction to the 2006 document was written by Dawn Johnsen, a prominent critic of the Bush administration's war on terror whose nomination to head the Justice Department's office of legal counsel was derailed by Senate Republicans over her opposition to torture.