Someone has leaked to NBC news a Justice Department "white paper" explaining the justification for the targeted killings of American citizens who are believed to be active terrorists. The Washington Post reports that the document had been given to the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees last summer.
What's going on? Several Senators are demanding to see the legal justification for the program, which the White House has resisted. John Brennan, the official overseeing the program for the President, has a confirmation hearing on Thursday for his nomination to be CIA director where this is a likely topic of questioning. Some Senators have threatened to filibuster his nomination if they don't get satisfactory answers.
Since these "white papers" are often unclassified versions of the secret document, often with few if any deletions but lacking the imprimatur of the official version, I take this as probably the most the administration is willing to release, but still enough for discussion to take place. The long delay since the paper was turned over to some in Congress makes me think that the leak to NBC was administration-inspired to help Brennan, but it could have come from someone on the Hill who got access to it for the first time.
Anyway, we can now have a more informed discussion of the policy and its rationale.