Relative of Americans Killed by Drone Strikes: No Justice in U.S. Courts

Having lost faith in the ability of U.S. courts to provide justice and accountability for their relatives' deaths, the family members of three U.S. citizens killed by drone strikes in Yemen in 2011 have decided not to appeal a court decision dismissing their lawsuit challenging the killings.

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the parents and grandparents of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, filed the lawsuit in 2012, charging that the killings violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process.

Earlier this year, the court dismissed the suit on national security grounds in a decision that I described at the time as "treating the government's allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court." I also explained that the "court's view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution."

Now, our client Dr. Nasser al-Aulaqi, the father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi and grandfather of Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, explains his decision not to appeal:

I believe that my son and 16-year-old grandson were unlawfully killed by their government, and for a long time, I had faith that an American court would decide whether the killings of at least these American citizens violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process.

My faith was shattered by the district court's opinion, which went out of its way to defer to the government's claims of killing authority, without allowing those claims to be challenged. I have now spent years asking American courts to decide whether the U.S. government can deprive even its own citizens of life as part of a killing program that has devastated families like ours, and the courts have repeatedly accepted the government's broad claims of national security and told me they will not decide.

This isn't justice.

I have no faith left in a judiciary that refuses even to hear whether Abdulrahman, an American child, was wrongfully killed by his own government. Although the court failed to fulfill its role in this case, my family and I continue to hope that answers to our questions about why our son and grandson were killed will someday see the light of day, and that there may someday be accountability for the government's actions.

When we filed the case, Dr. al-Aulaqi described in the video below his hope that the court would provide accountability for the government's actions — especially for the death of Abdulrahman, a boy born in Denver, Colorado, whom no one has accused of wrongdoing and who was killed by a U.S. drone while eating dinner outdoors.

Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from

Getting answers in court for the state's killing of citizens should not be too much to ask in a democracy, but our system of checks and balances failed these families. We share their deep disappointment that in deferring to the government on national security grounds and refusing to hear their claims, the court's decision fell short of its constitutional duty.

Learn more about targeted killings and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (3)
Read the Terms of Use


That's because they're DINGbats, and I can't believe my all RePUBLIcan family didn't choose to be angry at President Obama about THIS. But no, they couldn't be angry at that. Not when they could be disgusted with him because he "allows gay marriages" or "wasn't born in the United States or we're not sure he was even after seeing his birth certificate." Or any of the other similar reasons they've come up with for why they hate his guts.

Of all the dipshitted things they could have opted to feel shortchanged about, they selected all the dip-shittiest ones but have STILL said nothing at ALL about the drone killings or deportations.
And they all wonder why I don't want anything to do with them anymore. Besides the fact that I simply fail at all times to understand why they still believe there even IS a Republican Party (there ISN'T but don't let them in on that secret) I can't even understand why the hell they've decided to be angry at President Obama about anything and everything exCEPT the two things they really COULD feel angry about and actually be justified.
But the ugly reality is that not even one of them gives a good gd about mistreating immigrants or people with all-Arab names, so they believe they have no choice but to be disgusted with his support of gay marriage and refusal to go to war with Syria "and clean Assad's clock." Things like that.

People in my family aren't that far behind the government when it comes to being a dingbat.


As if that fact were some big secret. I was born in the United States and lived here all my life but was placed into an Orphanage in 1984, then raped by two guys in 1985, who went scot-free because their sick bastard of a defense attorney used that very information to say I was a lying orphan whore (without actually using the words, he brought the message across loudly and clearly) and so it COULDN'T be proven that I "didn't want it so it's not rape."
So two guys who attacked me by force and with a knife never served one freakin' day for what they did and never felt the slightest BIT of remorse, which I'm sure is true to this day even if I never saw them again except for the time that one of them found and tried to kill me just for taking him to court where he apparently forgot he was found innocent.
Excuse me if I don't think that looking up the victim two years later is the sign of an INNOCENT person. They got away scot-free and one of them still came back and tried to kill me.
Don't tell me that attorneys aren't making the court process just as difficult as ANYone else has made it.
For more than 25 years, I thought every single defense attorney on the face of the earth was horrendous. I didn't change my mind (with the exception of one friend who's that, but whom I never thought was disgusting about it) until they said that the defense in the Zimmerman trial acted horrendously and should NOT have been allowed to say half the shit they did. I'm referring to someone other than my friend, who said it on the days the trial was occurring. He had no comprehension what the hell was going on with the judge, who could have told them they're not going to do those things in her courtroom.
I know this is true because in my own crime, which was different from the rape (I was the victim of two separate violent crimes), the judge in the second case came right out and said that "as this trial progresses, all of Los Angeles County is going to be watching it; for that reason I will brook none of the usual games from the prosecution or defense."
When he said it, or reminded them of it, I had no earthly clue what the hell he was talking about. In fact, from that day until the day my friend mentioned the Zimmerman trial and judge, I never knew why the first judge had made the statement.
After my friend said that the judge "could have laid down a harder line than she appears to be giving them" I suddenly understood what the first judge meant by his statement. He was exTREMEly resolute when he said it. I didn't even know what he was talking about but read the zero tolerance of game-playing in his tone. Only the biggest dope on earth would have missed it.

from Richard, V...

Define 'battlefield' as you're using the term. The last time I checked, battlefield lines in true combat become completely blurred to the point of sometimes appearing to be nonexistent. That's not to make excuses for anyone either. Believe me when I say, excuses are the last thing anybody in combat deserves to get. But this business of expecting one country to uphold the laws of the Geneva Convention while the other country flat-out ignores every last one of those laws and regulations is akin to expecting our soldiers to throw themselves willingly in front of the enemy's bullets and shrapnel. If you're going to be so concerned with following the Geneva Convention's "Rules of War," then for God's sake stop sending us to fight an enemy combatant who refuses outright to follow any of the same "rules."
Words placed in quotes because this commenter believes there has never been any such thing as "orderly laws and rules" that one follows when one's ass is on the line and about to catch fire. The survival instinct is far stronger and has been around far longer than the Geneva Convention's "rules of conduct in battle."
My government sent me to war against my will and core belief in what was the right thing to do; I didn't believe fighting in Vietnam was the answer to any of the questions of the day.
I did the best I could with what they forced me to do and I fell short more often than I care to admit. But one thing I damn sure never will do, not even 44 years later, is think it would have been ok to throw myself to the enemy's lack of mercy and wait to die by his hand. That's what you would have to do in this situation because I can't think of a single Middle Eastern country that recognizes the Geneva Convention.
Which brings me full circle to the question I asked: What is your definition of battlefield when one country is bound by the "Rules of War" set out by the Geneva Convention while the other country doesn't honor the same "rules?"

Sign Up for Breaking News