Civil libertarians suffered a defeat today in their push against President Obama's policy allowing the U.S. to kill American terrorists without trial or judicial review. Obama has authorized the CIA to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, where he is allegedly involved in the local al-Qaeda branch. The White House went further in September, refusing to reveal its legal rational for the policy and requesting that a federal judge dismiss a lawsuit against that policy, arguing that even hearing the lawsuit could reveal sensitive state secrets. Now a lawsuit against the Obama administration for the "targeted killing" policy, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Awlaki's father, has been thrown out by U.S. District Judge John Bates.
- Why the Judge Dismissed the Suit "U.S. District Judge John Bates said in a written opinion that al-Awlaki's father does not have the authority to sue to stop the United States from killing his son," The Associated Press reports. "But Bates also said the 'unique and extraordinary case' raises serious issues about whether the United States can plan to kill one of its own citizens without judicial review." The judge "seemed tempted to take on the legal issues but said he must dismiss the case because Anwar al-Awlaki did not bring the suit."
- How Is He Supposed to File a Lawsuit if the CIA Is Hunting Him? Gawker's John Cook drips with sarcasm reacting to the judge's rationale:
You may be thinking to yourself, 'That's absurd! How could an American-Yemeni fugitive who is being actively hunted down by U.S. capture-or-kill teams possibly avail himself of the American legal system in order to stop his own assassination?' But before you do, just remember: The United States of America is the only country on the planet that will let you challenge the legality of its hit squads, so long as you do it yourself, in open court.
- Judge Clearly Troubled by Obama's Policy "Bates said the merits claims in the case raise serious issues of separation of powers and national security," the ABA Journal's Debra Cassens Weiss writes. "The opinion notes 'stark and perplexing questions,' including this one: 'How is it that judicial approval is required when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for electronic surveillance, but that, according to defendants, judicial scrutiny is prohibited when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for death?'"
- Victory for Unchecked Executive Power National security blogger Marcy Wheeler writes: "It was nice of [Judge] Bates to save the Obama Administration the embarrassment of invoking state secrets to hide the logic for its tyranny. All in all, a tremendous victory for unchecked executive powers!"
Unchecked Executive Power
How Can He Challenge This?
, ABA Journal
Behind the Decision
, Associated Press