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Obama administration releases redacted version of drone policy

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has released a redacted version of President Barack Obama's policy on drone strikes abroad following a freedom of information lawsuit filed last year, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Saturday.

The release of the Presidential Policy Guidance document, as well as other Department of Defense papers, follows an order by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon in February requiring the Justice Department to produce the document, also known as "the Playbook."

The document sets out the law and rules the government must follow when it carries out targeted attacks.

Obama pledged in 2013 to provide greater transparency about counter-terrorism operations, including drone strikes overseas, amid calls by some U.S. lawmakers and rights groups for more openness.

"We welcome the release of these documents, and particularly the release of the Presidential Policy Guidance that has supplied the policy framework for the drone campaign since May 2013," the ACLU's deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement.

"Its release now will inform an ongoing debate about the lawfulness and wisdom of the government's counter terrorism policies," Jaffer added.

The ACLU's lawsuit sought information, among other things, on the law and policies used to justify lethal force and how the government picks targets.

The administration has defended its use of drones as essential in the fight against al Qaeda and other militants in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have at times killed civilians who were not targets, igniting local anger.

Obama said in April that procedures covering drone strikes targeting suspected terrorists are constantly reviewed, acknowledging there had been "legitimate criticism" of the legal framework for drone strikes.