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CIA sued over targeted-kill drone strikes

Published time: July 18, 2012 21:27
Edited time: July 19, 2012 01:27
AFP Photo / Karen Bleier

AFP Photo / Karen Bleier

For killing three of US citizens overseas without bringing them to trial, the Central Intelligence Agency and the US Defense Department are being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in the latest episode involving its drone program.

The ACLU filed a suit on Wednesday against the CIA and the Pentagon over the extrajudicial killings conducted last year aimed at alleged affiliates of al-Qaeda. Anwar al-Awlaki, his son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan — all US citizens — were executed during two separate drone strikes conducted last year in the country of Yemen.

The 2012 targeted kills have become one of the more memorable moments of America’s unmanned aerial vehicle program, which has been reportedly tied to the executions of hundreds of civilians overseas during the last few years. The 2012 executions aimed at the alleged al-Qaeda affiliated — and the United States’ reluctance to reveal the details in full — have only escalated contempt against the drone strikes in the months since.

In an article published by The New York Times earlier this year, White House officials alleged that US President Barack Obama has direct knowledge of the identifies of people listed on a so-called “kill list” and can authorize the Pentagon and CIA to conduct drone strikes to execute them, American citizen or not. The revelation has since become a crucial talking point in an escalating war against whistleblowers as the US government attempts to get to the bottom of its Defense Department leaks.

According to the suit, the US government has deliberately carried out these premeditated killings of suspected terrorists since as early as 2001, with statistics surging during the last few years. “

“While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan and the Philippines,” the suit claims. “These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process and evidence never presented to the courts.” The suit then directly identified Obama administration personnel for “authorizing and directing the killing of three American citizens,” the plaintiffs, which they allege violated fundamental rights granted to American citizens.

The ACLU claims that the killing of the three plaintiffs violates federal law since, during the time of the strikes, the US was not engaged in a military mission in Yemen. According to law, using lethal force is prohibited unless “at the time it is applied, lethal force is a last resort to protect against a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.”

“[T]he question is whether the government is justified in killing without charging them or trying them for anything,” the ACLU says.

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