December 17, 2010

Uncompensated Attorneys No Longer Need Government Permission To Represent Individuals Designated As Terrorists

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

WASHINGTON – Attorneys are no longer required to seek permission from the government to provide uncompensated representation to individuals the government has placed on a list of designated terrorists, following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in August. The groups filed the lawsuit against the Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) after the government failed to grant them the license required by OFAC's regulations in order to challenge the Obama administration's targeted killing program. The lawsuit charged that the government could not constitutionally require uncompensated attorneys to obtain a license in order to challenge government conduct, or to represent a particular client in court. OFAC granted the groups a license one day after they filed the lawsuit.

Today, CCR and ACLU voluntarily dismissed the case after OFAC made significant changes to the attorney licensing scheme. As of December 7, uncompensated attorneys may represent designated individuals in any U.S court or agency without first seeking a license from the government.

"We're pleased that the Office of Foreign Asset Control will no longer require that lawyers seek the government's permission before filing lawsuits that challenge the lawfulness of government conduct," said Jonathan Manes, Legal Fellow at the ACLU's National Security Project. "OFAC's regulations infringed both the free speech rights of attorneys and the due process rights of Americans, but the changes that OFAC has made in response to our lawsuit bring the regulations in line with the Constitution."

In July, ACLU and CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government's decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. Later that month, however, the Secretary of the Treasury labeled Anwar Al-Aulaqi a "specially designated global terrorist," freezing his assets and making it a crime for lawyers to provide representation for his benefit without first obtaining a license from OFAC.

"The effect of the OFAC regulations we challenged would have been to deny legal representation to a U.S. citizen the government is targeting for death," said CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. "While revising the regulations was an important change, the government's disturbing claim of authority to carry out the targeted killing of American citizens outside of armed conflict whom the executive branch has unilaterally labeled enemies of the state remains."

Today's dismissal and other documents related to the OFAC case are available online at: www.aclu.org/ofac and www.ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings

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