The American Civil Liberties Union failed in late-2010 to push a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s claimed power to assassinate American citizens without charging them with any crimes, but is hoping for a consolation prize today, filing another suit challenging the killings after the fact.
“It’s an effort to get accountability,” noted ACLU deputy director Jameel Jaffer, saying that even though the Justice Department successfully argued that the killings couldn’t be challenged beforehand, they could now press the administration to “explain to a court why it did what it did.”
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the family members of three American citizens assassinated in the program, including US-born Sunni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, 16-year-old Abdulrahim Awlaki, and alleged al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) member Samir Khan. The defendants include Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, and other top officials.
So far officials have refused to comment on the new lawsuit, but will likely claim that information related to the program is classified, and cannot be challenged in open court. Similar claims about the “secret” nature of the drone program have been pushed in the past, despite the administration’s willingness to openly brag about the assassinations that have resulted from them.