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.

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"...

NYU–Stanford Report Documents U.S. Government’s False Narrative on Drone Strikes

NYU–Stanford Report Documents U.S. Government’s False Narrative on Drone Strikes

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 4:18pm

Today, researchers at the law schools of New York University and Stanford University published an important and comprehensively documented report about the human and strategic costs of the United States’ drone program in Pakistan. The report marshals…

U.S. Targeted Killings Program: A Dangerous Precedent

U.S. Targeted Killings Program: A Dangerous Precedent

By Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU at 4:55pm

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi delivered a statement at the U.N. Human Rights Council today calling on the U.S. government to provide transparency and accountability in its targeted killing program. While noting that targeted killings…

Why Targeted Killing is “Unlawful and Dangerous”

Why Targeted Killing is “Unlawful and Dangerous”

By Ateqah Khaki & Hannah Mercuris at 2:08pm

This morning, USA Today ran an op-ed by ACLU National Security Project director, Hina Shamsi about the U.S. government’s unlawful targeted killing program. She writes:

Today, our government is killing people in countries in which the…

New Eyes in the Sky: Protecting Privacy from Domestic Drone Surveillance

New Eyes in the Sky: Protecting Privacy from Domestic Drone Surveillance

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:32am

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAV’s or “drones” as they are called – are on the way. Just this week the Los Angeles Times reported that Customs and Border Patrol agency has been lending their Predator drones to law enforcement…

WATCH: Administration Silent as Targeted Killing Legal Debate Continues

WATCH: Administration Silent as Targeted Killing Legal Debate Continues

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 2:44pm

Following a brief lull in U.S. targeted killings abroad, a series of drone strikes recently killed several dozen people in Yemen. Who was killed? What was the legal and evidentiary basis for the killings? What kind of deliberation led to their deaths?

We…

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...

U.N. Human Rights Expert to Investigate U.S. Targeted Killing Program

U.N. Human Rights Expert to Investigate U.S. Targeted Killing Program

By Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU at 5:28pm

The U.S. government’s targeted killing policy and its use of drones for killing will be the subject of an investigation by the United Nations, it was announced today. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson,…

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...

Free Future Friday links roundup

Free Future Friday links roundup

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:20am

A few links that have caught our eye this past week:

The Citynewswatch blog in Charlotte, NC has a nice post on that city’s new license plate reader program, among other surveillance systems (pity any city that hosts a major national…

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