The Daily Rundown | February 04, 2013
>> the united states government can order the killing of american citizens. he broke this story on nbcnews.com and joins me now. so, michael, this has been -- this has been a debate inside the administration for a while to ever go public with this or not. we know the president himself, when he was a candidate, was very critical of the bush administration when they were hiding legal opinions , having to do with detainees and torture and things like that.
>> as were a lot of democrats. in fact, the release of the so-called torture memos was one of the democratic refrains for years during the latter years of the bush administration . and you look at this memo, which is an obama administration memo. first of all, you read it in its entirety. people can go on dotcom. it's really hard to see anything there that's -- that relates to operational security . it's not classified. it's purely legal arguments. so why has it taken until now for us to get a copy of it and let the public read it?
>> we know for sure the memo was written by the justice department . we assume inside the olc , the office of legal counsel . that's what we believe.
>> the sequence of events, as i understand them is this. members of congress, pat leahy , others, were demanding to see the olc memos on targeted killing of americans.
>> jane harman who was in the house intelligence committee saying she was stunned more hadn't been demanding this. say they'd asked during the bush years for olc memos.
>> democrats were not nearly as loud on this subject as they were during the bush years, but they were asking for them. and so what the justice department did was say, okay, we're not going to give you the olc memos because we're not going to release those, but we'll give you this 16-page white paper that reflects and tracks the analysis of the olc memos. and that's the document that we got. now they gave -- they turned that over to the committee under the rule it be committee confidential and not be discussed publicly. so for the last six months you have not heard one word about the analysis that is in this memo.
>> if the olc memos can't be seen by house and senate intelligence committees, they deal with classified information all the time. as much as we want to say congress leaks all the time, these people don't leak. and the administration refuses to show them these? who sees these memos?
>> well, is it basically three or four people total.
>> authoritative legal adviser to the executive branch to the president. so there's a small --
>> nobody in the legislative branch and nobody in the judicial branch sees these memos?
>> the most transparent administration in history has taken the position that this is confidential legal advice for the president and nobody else can see it. but look. let's talk about the substance. you reflected on that. and i think that's where the real news here is. we've had these public speeches by holder saying, okay. there's a three-set test. the first test is imminent evidence of imminent -- violent attack on the united states . then you go into this white paper memo and you see how they are defining imminent attack and they talk about what they refer to, the striking phrase of broader concept of imminence than having active intelligence that a plot is under way.
>> who determines imminent threat ?
>> a high level informed official, according to this memo. that could be the president. that could be the cia director . could be john brennan who has been the architect of the drone campaign.
>> that's very subjective.
>> but clearly there's a lot of latitude there for people who to make decisions about who they want to go -- which american citizens they want to go after and which they don't.
>> talking about stretching the actual framework of american law and the constitution. that's going to spark a hearty debate, i imagine, when john brennan meets his conversation. mike isikoff, i have a feeling you'll have a very busy day having to explain on air what you did off air last night in breaking that story. thank you, sir.
>> thank you.