Drones

The CIA and the military are carrying out an illegal “targeted killing” program in which people far from any battlefield are determined to be enemies of the state and killed without charge or trial.

The executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on “kill lists” on the basis of a secret determination, based on secret evidence, that a person meets a secret definition of the enemy. The targeted killing program operates with virtually no oversight outside the executive branch, and essential details about the program remain secret, including what criteria are used to put people on CIA and military kill lists or how much evidence is required.

Outside of armed conflict zones, the use of lethal force is strictly limited by international law and, when it comes to U.S. citizens, the Constitution. Specifically, lethal force can be used only as a last resort against an imminent threat to life. Even in the context of an armed conflict against an armed group, the government may use lethal force only against individuals who are directly participating in hostilities against the U. S. Regardless of the context, whenever the government uses lethal force, it must take all possible steps to avoid harming civilian bystanders. These are not the standards that the executive branch is using.
,br>The U.S. continues to carry out illegal targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. The government must be held to account when it carries out such killings in violation of the Constitution and international law.

ACLU Litigation
Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta: On July 18, 2012, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s targeted killing of three U.S. citizens in drone strikes far from any armed conflict zone. The suit charges that the U.S. government’s killings of U.S. citizens Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi in Yemen in 2011 violated the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law.

Freedom of Information Act Cases:
Targeted Killing FOIA: On February 1, 2012, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about the targeted killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen in September and October 2011: Anwar al-Awlaki; his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki; and Samir Khan. The lawsuit seeks disclosure of the legal memorandum written by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel that provided justifications for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi, as well as records describing the factual basis for the killings of all three Americans. In response, the government has refused to confirm or deny whether it killed these three citizens or even whether the CIA has a targeted killing program, despite numerous statements by U.S. officials to the media about the program.

Drone FOIA: In March 2010, the ACLU filed a FOIA lawsuit demanding that the government disclose basic information about the use of drones to conduct targeted killings. The lawsuit seeks disclosure of the legal basis, scope, and limits on the targeted killing program; information pertaining to the training, supervision, oversight, or discipline of UAV operators and others involved in the decision to execute a targeted killing using a drone; and data about the number of civilians and non-civilians killed in drone strikes. In response, the CIA has refused to even confirm or deny whether it has a drone program.

Al-Majalah Civilian Deaths FOIA: On April 17, 2012, the ACLU and CCR submitted a FOIA request seeking information about a December 2009 U.S. missile strike on a community in the al-Majalah region of the Abyan province of Yemen. The attack, which was the Obama administration's first known missile strike in Yemen, apparently targeted alleged “militants” but killed dozens of civilians, including at least 21 children. The U.S. government has yet to release basic information about the strike.

For information about domestic surveillance drones, see here.

Selective Disclosure About Targeted Killing

Selective Disclosure About Targeted Killing

By Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of ACLU Center for Democracy at 10:47am
This piece was originally published on JustSecurity.org on October 7, 2013.

ACLU Court Filing Argues for Judicial Review of U.S. Targeted Killings of Americans

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 11:54am

The courts have a crucial role to play in determining the lawfulness of U.S. drone killings of three American citizens in Yemen in 2011...

ACLU Lens: American Citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi Killed Without Judicial Process

ACLU Lens: American Citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi Killed Without Judicial Process

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 11:43am

Today in Yemen, U.S. air strikes killed American citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. Al-Aulaqi has never been charged with a crime. Last year, the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights represented Al-Aulaqi's father in a lawsuit challenging the government's…

ACLU Challenges Government’s "Fiction of Deniability" on Use of Drones for Targeted Killing

ACLU Challenges Government’s "Fiction of Deniability" on Use of Drones for Targeted Killing

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 4:56pm

On Friday, the ACLU asked the federal district court in Washington, D.C. to reject the Central Intelligence Agency's argument that it cannot provide any information in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the use of drones…

A Year in Targeted Killing: Small Steps Forward on Transparency, Still No Accountability

A Year in Targeted Killing: Small Steps Forward on Transparency, Still No Accountability

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 1:01pm

One year ago today, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. government's drone killings of three American citizens in Yemen in 2011. Tomorrow, we will appear in court to…

Victory in Court: CIA Can No Longer Refuse to "Confirm or Deny" on Drones

Victory in Court: CIA Can No Longer Refuse to "Confirm or Deny" on Drones

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 1:48pm

In an important victory for transparency, a federal appeals court today put an end to the CIA's absurd claims that it "cannot confirm or deny"...

Is All (Drone) Politics Local?

Is All (Drone) Politics Local?

By Matthew Cagle, Volunteer Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:15pm

The next time a cop sees a picture of you, that picture may not have been taken by a person at all. Unmanned flying drones can allow their operators to remotely...

GRAPHIC: How the Government Simultaneously Confirms AND Denies Targeted Killing

GRAPHIC: How the Government Simultaneously Confirms AND Denies Targeted Killing

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 3:59pm

Today, ProPublica published an important and illuminating news article and accompanying interactive web feature that demonstrates just how duplicitous the government is being regarding the CIA’s targeted killing program.

As we’ve…

Report Details Government’s Ability to Analyze Massive Aerial Surveillance Video Streams

Report Details Government’s Ability to Analyze Massive Aerial Surveillance Video Streams

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:15am

Yesterday I wrote about Dayton Ohio’s plan for an aerial surveillance system similar to the “nightmare scenario” ARGUS wide-area surveillance technology. Actually, ARGUS is just the most advanced of a number of such “persistent wide-area surveillance”…

Thanks to John Brennan, a Big and Bipartisan Pushback Against the Vast Killing Program

Thanks to John Brennan, a Big and Bipartisan Pushback Against the Vast Killing Program

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:46pm

Just two months ago, when President Obama nominated the architect of his vast killing program, John Brennan, to be CIA Director...

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