Spencer S. Hsu / Washington Post & Charles Davis / Criminal Justice – 2010-09-27 00:37:31
US Seeks to Toss Targeted-killing Suit
Spencer S. Hsu / Washington Post
WASHINGTON (September 26, 2010) — The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a US citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.
The US-born citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al Qaeda there.
Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al Qaeda.
Civil liberties groups sued the US government on behalf of Awlaki’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Awlaki on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists — outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat — amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a US citizen. They asked a US district court in Washington to block the targeting.
In response, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the groups are asking “a court to take the unprecedented step of intervening in an ongoing military action to direct the President how to manage that action — all on behalf of a leader of a foreign terrorist organization.”
In a statement, lawyers for Nasser al-Awlaki condemned the government’s request to dismiss the case without debating its merits, saying that judicial review of the pursuit of targets far from the battlefield of Afghanistan is vital.
“The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy,” the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights said.
Justice Department officials said they invoked the controversial legal argument reluctantly, mindful that domestic and international critics attacked former President George W. Bush for waging the fight against terrorism with excessive secrecy and unchecked claims of executive power.
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Tell Obama: It’s Not Okay To Kill US Citizens Without Trial
Charles Davis / Petition from Criminal Justice.org
To The President of the United States, Sen. Pat Leahy (VT), and Rep. John Conyers (MI-14)
Barack Obama campaigned on a platform that called for restoring the rule of law. Since taking office, however, he has ordered the US government to kill its own citizens when they travel abroad, without even bothering to first charge them with a crime. That isn’t restoring the rule of law — that’s eviscerating it.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in Yemen, is one man we know has been targeted for an extrajudicial killing.
In December, Obama ordered air strikes to take him out. Though unsuccessful, the strikes — using cluster bombs banned by nearly ever other country — did kill more than 41 innocent civilians, according to Amnesty International, including 14 women and 21 children.
Others may also be targeted, but the Obama administration has refused to disclose the list of Americans it believes deserve to die without a trial.
As Obama is fond of saying, “This is America,” where citizens accused of crimes are supposed to be guaranteed the right to be judged by a jury of their peers — not to be extrajudicially murdered by their elected leaders.
And since this is America, it is time we quit passively accepting violations of our liberties and let the White House and congressional leaders know we do not appreciate having to check our Constitutional rights at the border.
Obama May Invoke ‘State Secrets’ in Targeted Killings Case
Charles Davis / Criminal Justice
(September 16, 2010) â€“ President Obama has already asserted the right to kill a US citizen abroad without even first charging them with a crime. Now his administration is considering invoking the “state secrets” privilege to dismiss a lawsuit challenging that authority, a move a former Bush administration lawyer and self-confessed “fan” of executive power says is “too harsh even for me.”
The state secrets privilege can’t be found in the Constitution, but courts have ruled that it can be invoked in cases where the government maintains the release of certain information would endanger US national security. Just last week the White House successfully invoked the privilege in a federal appeals court to deny a group of men tortured under the Bush administration’s rendition program their chance to achieve justice.
Writing in The New York Times, Charlie Savage reports that the administration is again considering invoking the state secrets privilege, this time in order to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in Yemen, who Obama has targeted for extrajudicial killing. (Al-Awlaki’s father is represented in the case by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights.)
As Savage writes, “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki — regardless of his citizenship — if he is found in an ungoverned place or in a country that grants permission.” However, “many in the administration are reluctant to air in court the case that Mr. Awlaki is waging war against the United States, in part because they do not want to concede that judicial review is appropriate for executive branch decisions on targeted killings.”
In ordinary English, that means the Obama administration does not want a court to hear why it believes al-Awlaki deserves the death penalty without so much as being charged with a crime, much less convicted of one, because that would concede decisions taken by the president in the name of the “war on terror” are reviewable; in this post-9/11 era, only the government is entitled to know why one of its own citizens must be killed.
If you think the “imperial presidency” died when George W. Bush left office, think again.
Not everyone’s on board with the Obama administration’s potential assertion of the state secrets privilege in the al-Awlaki case, however. And they’re not just from the ACLU.
“I’m a huge fan of executive power,” former Bush administration lawyer David Rivkin tells the Times, “but if someone came up to you and said the government wants to target you and you canâ€™t even talk about it in court to try to stop it, thatâ€™s too harsh even for me.”
It remains to be seen whether that’s too harsh for Barack Obama.
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