You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Senate approves David Barron for federal appeals court

David Barron.

AP

David Barron.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate approved a top federal judgeship on Thursday for an architect of the Obama administration’s legal foundation for killing American terror suspects overseas with drones, as Democrats overcame opposition by Republicans and quelled concerns by some civil libertarians.

By a near party-line 53-45 vote, senators confirmed David Barron to join the Boston-based 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia were the only lawmakers to cross party lines and vote against the confirmation.

Continue reading below

President Barack Obama’s pick of Barron for the job last September drew criticism from members of both parties. It became a proxy fight over drone attacks on Americans abroad who the administration believed were terrorists, including those not on a battlefield. Also contentious was the administration’s refusal to divulge documents showing why it believes it has the constitutional right to kill US citizens without trial.

Barron, a Harvard Law School professor, is the husband of gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem.

“Today, the Senate confirmed my husband David J. Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.,” Keyyem said in a statement. “David is an exceptional lawyer, committed to public service and the law. He will be an amazing judge and, as his wife, I couldn’t be prouder.”

In 2009 and 2010, Barron was acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel when he authored at least one such memo. His judgeship nomination gained steam this week after the administration declined to fight a federal appeals court order to release a censored version of one of his memos, though the document has yet to be made public.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., mocked concerns he said some lawmakers have expressed about the possible US use of drones in places like Canada and Germany.

‘‘Oh my God, talk about grasping at straws,’’ Leahy said. ‘‘We’re dealing with reality here, not Alice in Wonderland.’’

In a half-hour speech on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said it was unconstitutional for the government to kill Americans without due process of law. He said the right to trial is a given, even for unpopular defendants.

‘‘It is easy to argue for trials for the high school quarterback or the American Idol winner,’’ said Paul, a possible 2016 GOP presidential contender. ‘‘It is hard to argue for trial for traitors and for people who would wish to harm our fellow Americans. But a mature freedom defends the defenseless, allows trials for the guilty, protects even speech of the most despicable nature.’’

An unmanned US drone killed American-born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. US officials considered al-Awlaki to be an inspirational leader of Al Qaeda, and they have also linked him to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting American and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner.

Administration officials have acknowledged that three other Americans have been killed by drones but say they weren’t specifically targeted.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said such killings are legal abroad if the targeted American poses an imminent threat to the US and cannot be captured.

Barron cleared a pivotal hurdle Wednesday when senators voted 52-43 to end opponents’ efforts to derail the nomination.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.