February 4, 2010

ACLU Says More Information Needed On Policy That Grants President Power To Target Americans Abroad

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the U.S. may, with executive approval, deliberately target and kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of being involved in terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed serious concern about the lack of public information about the policy and the potential for abuse of unchecked executive power.
 
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

"It is alarming to hear that the Obama administration is asserting that the president can authorize the assassination of Americans abroad, even if they are far from any battlefield and may have never taken up arms against the U.S., but have only been deemed to constitute an unspecified 'threat.' This is the most recent consequence of a troublingly overbroad interpretation of Congress's 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. This sweeping interpretation envisions a war that knows no borders or definable time limits and targets an enemy that the government has refused to define in public. This policy is particularly troubling since it targets U.S. citizens, who retain their constitutional right to due process even when abroad."

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Manes, legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project:

"The American people have a right to know more about a policy that grants the president the unilateral authority to approve the killing of U.S. citizens. It is essential that more information be made available about who can be targeted for killing, who makes these decisions and on the basis of how much evidence, and whether lethal force can be used if arrest or capture are possible or have not been attempted. While there is little doubt that a U.S. citizen fighting for an enemy army could lawfully be killed on the battlefield in the course of fighting, this policy goes far beyond the ordinary parameters of battlefield combat. It appears to allow for the deliberate targeted killing of American citizens far away from any active hostilities, as long as the executive branch determines unilaterally that they meet a secret definition of who the enemy is."

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