Monday, August 30, 2010

Rights Groups File Challenge to U.S. Assassination Policy

From an important joint press release by the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, announcing an important lawsuit against President Obama, the CIA and the Department of Defense, attempting to block the wide-spread "targeted killing" policy of the U.S. government. As a recent article at AlterNet put it, "mass U.S. assassination on a scale unequaled in world history lies at the heart of America's military strategy in the Muslim world, a policy both illegal and never seriously debated by Congress or the American people."
Rights Groups File Challenge To Targeted Killing By U.S.

CCR And ACLU Charge That Practice Violates The Constitution And International Law

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today filed a lawsuit challenging the government's asserted authority to carry out “targeted killings” of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone.

The authority contemplated by the Obama administration is far broader than what the Constitution and international law allow, the groups charge. Outside of armed conflict, both the Constitution and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific, and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury. An extrajudicial killing policy under which names are added to CIA and military “kill lists” through a secret executive process and stay there for months at a time is plainly not limited to imminent threats.

“The United States cannot simply execute people, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world based on its own say-so,” said Vince Warren, Executive Director of CCR. “The law prohibits the government from killing without trial or conviction other than in the face of an imminent threat that leaves no time for deliberation or due process. That the government adds people to kill lists after a bureaucratic process and leaves them on the lists for months at a time flies in the face of the Constitution and international law.”

The groups charge that targeting individuals for execution who are suspected of terrorism but have not been convicted or even charged – without oversight, judicial process or disclosed standards for placement on kill lists – also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people. In recent years, the U.S. government has detained many men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable.

According to today’s legal complaint, the government has not disclosed the standards it uses for authorizing the premeditated and deliberate killing of U.S. citizens located far from any battlefield. The groups argue that the American people are entitled to know the standards being used for these life and death decisions.

“A program that authorizes killing U.S. citizens, without judicial oversight, due process or disclosed standards is unconstitutional, unlawful and un-American,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “We don’t sentence people to prison on the basis of secret criteria, and we certainly shouldn’t sentence them to death that way. It is not enough for the executive branch to say ‘trust us’ – we have seen that backfire in the past and we should learn from those mistakes.”

CCR and the ACLU were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government's decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, whom the CIA and Defense Department have targeted for death. The complaint asks a court to rule that using lethal force far from any battlefield and without judicial process is illegal in all but the narrowest circumstances and to prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings except in compliance with these standards. It also asks the court to order the government to disclose the standards it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.

Today’s lawsuit was filed against the CIA, Defense Department and the president in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Jameel Jaffer, Ben Wizner and Jonathan Manes of the ACLU; Pardiss Kebriaei, Maria LaHood and Bill Quigley of CCR; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital. Co-counsel in Yemen is Mohammed Allawo of the Allawo Law Firm and the National Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD).

For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit: and
See also Glenn Greenwald's article on the lawsuit filing, "Lawsuit challenges Obama's power to kill citizens without due process":
The lawsuit -- captioned Al-Aulaqi v. Obama -- was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, and names Barack Obama, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates as defendants. Among other relief, the Complaint asks the court to (a) "declare that the Constitution [along with 'treaty and customary international law'] prohibits Defendants from carrying out the targeted killing of U.S. citizens, including Plaintiff’s son, except in circumstances in which they present concrete, specific, and imminent threats to life or physical safety, and there are no means other than lethal force that could reasonably be employed to neutralize the threats"; (b) "enjoin Defendants from intentionally killing U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi" unless they demonstrate the applicability of those narrow circumstances; and (c) "order Defendants to disclose the criteria that are used in determining whether the government will carry out the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen" (emphasis added [in original])....

What I've found most disturbing about this controversy from the start is how many Americans are willing to blindly believe the Government's accusations of Terrorism against their fellow citizens -- provided they're Muslims with foreign-sounding names -- without needing to see any evidence at all. All government officials have to do is anonymously leak to the media extremely vague accusations against someone without any evidence presented (Awlaki is involved in multiple plots!!), and a substantial number of people will then immediately run around yelling: Kill that Terrorist!!

It's an authoritarian scene out of some near-future dystopian novel, yet it's exactly what is happening.

No comments:

Search for Info/News on Torture

Google Custom Search
Add to Google ">View blog reactions

This site can contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my effort to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.