Relatives Sue CIA and Pentagon over Drone Killings of 3 U.S. Citizens

Monday, July 23, 2012
Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi
The Obama administration violated the U.S. Constitution last year when it ordered airstrikes that killed three Americans in Yemen, according to a lawsuit brought by family members of those who died.
The drone attacks launched by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense amounted to extrajudicial “targeted killing” by the U.S. government, states the civil complaint brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which are representing the surviving families.
Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a prepared statement: “The Constitution does not permit a bureaucratized program under which Americans far from any battlefield are summarily killed by their own government on the basis of shifting legal standards and allegations never tested in court.”
In September 2011, U.S. strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a Muslim cleric born in New Mexico, who had been placed on the government’s two “kill lists,” that of the CIA and that of the Joint Special Operations Command, and another American, Samir Khan, who was not on the lists.
Two weeks later, another drone attack killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, while he sat at an outdoor restaurant. Pardiss Kebriaei, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “When a 16-year-old boy who has never been charged with a crime nor ever alleged to have committed a violent act is blown to pieces by U.S. missiles, alarm bells should go off.”
Although Anwar Al-Aulaqi was a supporter of anti-American terrorism, there is no evidence that his son was, too. Both Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi apparently fell into the category of “kill list collateral damage.” However, the lawsuit takes the position that, from a legal point-of-view even the killing of Anwar Al-Aulaqi was unconstitutional.
Those named as defendants in the lawsuit include Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus. The Obama administration never officially acknowledged responsibility for the airstrikes, although media outlets consistently said American forces were behind them.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Relatives Sue Over Yemen Drone Strikes (by Annie Youderian, Courthouse News Service)
Nasser Al-Aulaqi v. Leon Panetta (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)


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