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.

After Al-Aulaqi's Killing, Why Due Process Matters

After Al-Aulaqi's Killing, Why Due Process Matters

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 5:04pm
In "Crime or War: Execution or Assassination?" David Shipler of The Shipler Report writes about why due process — even for terrorism suspects who have admitted to plotting against the U.S. — is important:
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…

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,…

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…

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (5/11/2012)

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Weekly Highlights (5/11/2012)

By Anna Salem, ACLU of Northern California at 2:52pm

In the digital age that we live in today, we are constantly exposing our personal information online. From using cell phones and GPS devices to online shopping and sending e-mail, the things we do and say online leave behind ever-growing trails of…

Domestic Drones: Hear About Who’s Watching You from Above

Domestic Drones: Hear About Who’s Watching You from Above

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU at 9:44am

The ACLU recently released a report prompted by the increasing use of surveillance drones by U.S. law enforcement and other agencies. It finds that current privacy protections are lacking, and recommends that new federal rules for domestic drones are…

Newest Word to Take on Orwellian Overtones in Internet Age: “Trust”

Newest Word to Take on Orwellian Overtones in Internet Age: “Trust”

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 5:44pm

What could be warmer and fuzzier than “trust”? Between two human beings, it’s a hard-won bond that binds them together. In society, it is a currency that helps create a prosperous and efficient economy and culture, as thinkers such as Francis…

Obama's Drone Killing Program Slowly Emerges from the Secret State Shadows

Obama's Drone Killing Program Slowly Emerges from the Secret State Shadows

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:11am

Should we be happy or worried that the CIA may, someday soon, no longer be able to order a drone pilot to shoot a Hellfire...

In Court Today: Fighting the CIA's Secrecy Claims on Drones

In Court Today: Fighting the CIA's Secrecy Claims on Drones

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 7:41am

This morning the ACLU will appear before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA’s use of drone aircraft to carry out targeted killings around the world. We will argue that the court…

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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