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ACLU and CCR File Lawsuit Challenging Targeted Killing of Three U.S. Citizens

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July 18, 2012

Today, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s targeted killing of three U.S. citizens in drone strikes far from any armed conflict zone.

In Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta (Al-Awlaki v. Panetta), we charge that senior CIA and military officials violated the Constitution and international law when they authorized and directed drone strikes that resulted in the deaths of three U.S. citizens – Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi – in Yemen last year.

The killings were part of a broader program of “targeted killing” by the U.S. government outside the context of armed conflict and based on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts.

On September 30, 2011, U.S. strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, who had been placed on CIA and JSOC “kill lists” over a year before, and another American, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, on October 14, U.S. strikes killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, at an open-air restaurant. Our new video features Nasser Al-Aulqai – the grandfather of Abdulrahman – speaking about the death of his grandson.

Nasser Al-Aulaqi speaks about the illegal killing of his 16-year-old grandson.

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Our complaint argues that these killings occurred outside of armed conflict and violated the Constitution and international law, which prohibit the government from using lethal force except as a last resort to protect against specific, concrete and imminent threats of deadly harm. The complaint also alleges that the government failed to take legally required measures to protect civilian bystanders. The government has never charged any of the three U.S. citizens with a crime.

Since 2002, and routinely since 2009, the U.S. government has carried out deliberate and premeditated killings of suspected terrorists overseas. In some cases, including that of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, the targets were placed on “kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon. According to news accounts, the targeted killing program has expanded to include “signature strikes” in which the government does not know the identity of individuals, but targets them based on “patterns” of behavior that have never been made public. The New York Times recently reported that the government counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

In 2010, the ACLU and CCR filed suit on behalf of the father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi to challenge the authorization for his son’s death. The district court dismissed the case, holding that his father lacked standing to bring suit, and that the request for before-the-fact judicial review raised non-justiciable “political questions.”

To learn more about the ACLU’s new lawsuit visit, and join us in calling on the CIA and the Pentagon to end illegal targeted killings.

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