The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday that it was saddened by a New York’s judge’s decision to keep secret most details pertaining to an Obama administration program that has so far assassinated three American citizens, including one who was not accused of being involved with terrorism.
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the ACLU, seeking to determine the administration’s legal justification for killing American citizens without charge or trial, was shot down Wednesday (PDF) by the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York. The court ruled in favor of the administration’s motion for summary judgement on the basis that deliberations over the program were privileged communications, and the ACLU failed to show why they should be exposed to the public.
The three Americans killed by the military’s anti-terrorist strikes are Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, and Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman.
“This ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government’s extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens and also effectively green-lights its practice of making selective and self-serving disclosures,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in an advisory.
“As the judge acknowledges, the targeted killing program raises profound questions about the appropriate limits on government power in our constitutional democracy,” Jaffer added. “The public has a right to know more about the circumstances in which the government believes it can lawfully kill people, including U.S. citizens, who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime.”
Very few details about Obama’s so-called “kill list” have been revealed to date, although a top national security adviser to the president hinted in 2010 that “dozens of U.S. persons” appear on the list, and confirmed that Obama directly authorizes each operation.
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