Govt Lawyers: Drone Strikes Must Remain Classified

Insist Even Mentioning the Types of Documents That Exist a Threat

US officials have been very public in talking about the CIA drone strikes, sometimes.

But it depends partially on whim, and partially on whether they think they have something to lose, whether you’re going to get the president jovially joking about drone strikes against the Jonas Brothers, or government lawyers angrily insisting that not only is data related to the strikes classified, but that even mentioning the existence of documents related to the program in open court is a threat to the ongoing terror war.

The new argument has the US government is attempting to quash FOIA requests by the ACLU seeking documents about the legal basis by which the CIA carried out assassinations abroad. They are insisting that the judge must dismiss the FOIA lawsuits without any hearing, because even the discussion of the documents “would reveal information” they’d rather keep secret.

The ACLU rejected the argument, pointing out that the Obama Administration is more than willing to publicly talk about the drone strikes when it suits them, and even claimed that a legal rationale exists, though that rationale is never fully presented to the public beyond vague references to wartime power and a global battlefield.

The latest attempts to increase the secrecy surrounding the program come as the United Nations is warning that summary executions by drone strikes could be a violation of international law. It seems that faced with making their poor rationale public, they are determined to eliminate all questions through claims of national security.

This reflects administration policy in other cases where they were pressed on an argument, including last year’s attack on Libya. In that case, the administration promised to bring the matter before Congress as required by law then simply announced that it had decided not to, insisting that bringing the then-ongoing war before Congress for scrutiny could threaten international obligations.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.