Executive Power

Justice Department Releases OLC Memo on Soleimani Strike

By Scott R. Anderson
Monday, July 19, 2021, 11:35 AM

On July 16, the Justice Department released a redacted copy of a March 2020 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memorandum providing the legal rationale behind the controversial January 2, 2020, drone strike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and several leaders of the militia Kata’ib Hezbollah while in Baghdad, Iraq.

The release was the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit pursued by Protect Democracy. During the course of the litigation over the OLC memo, the district court concluded that the Trump administration had already made parts of the OLC memo’s substantive analysis public in a March 2020 speech, the transcript of which was posted on Lawfare. The unreacted portions of the OLC memo reflect material that was within the scope of those remarks.

Protect Democracy has previously represented members of the Lawfare team in FOIA and other litigation matters. Protect Democracy was also a co-plaintiff with Benjamin Wittes and Scott R. Anderson in a separate lawsuit over a different war powers report last year.

The memorandum can be found here and below: