Justice Department asks Court to Dismiss Case Challenging Obama Assassination Program

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit over the killing of three American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen in September and October 2011.


The deaths involved those of Anwar Al-Awlaki, considered the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan, another AQAP official.


The Obama administration claims the plaintiffs, who are relatives of the deceased, have no legal ground to sue the government for the attacks. Federal lawyers also have threatened to invoke the State Secrets Privilege, which allows the government to seek dismissal of a suit if it could expose national security secrets.


“In the motion to dismiss, Justice Department lawyers argue that the necessity for the strikes and the viability of any alternatives is a question beyond the proper purview of the courts,” wrote Josh Gerstein at Politico.


The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which support the lawsuit, criticized the motion to dismiss by the Justice Department.


“The essence of the government’s argument is that it has the authority to kill Americans not only in secret, but also without ever having to justify its actions under the Constitution in any courtroom. To claim, as the administration has today, that the courts have no role at all to play in assessing whether the government's targeted killings of Americans are lawful—even after the fact—simply cannot be squared with the Due Process Clause,” the groups said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S.: Dismiss Lawsuit Over Americans Killed By Drones (by Josh Gerstein, Politico)

Nasser Al-Aulaqi v. Leon Panetta: Motion to Dismiss (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Nasser Al-Aulaqi v. Leon Panetta: U.S. Statement of Interest (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Holder’s Rationale for Killing Americans is Full of Holes (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama’s Secret Assassination Program (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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