The ACLU is suing the Obama administration to force the release of information regarding drone attacks that some argue have resulted in the defacto executions of American citizens without trial. The Justice Department contends that any American who joins a foreign terrorist organization has become an enemy combatant and therefore has surrendered rights as a U.S. citizen.
Wednesday’s ACLU complaint referred to wide media coverage of the administration’s 2010 decision to place Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen allegedly allied with Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, on “kill lists” compiled by the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. Awlaki was killed in September in Yemen by a joint CIA-JSOC drone operation that similarly received wide publicity. Samir Khan, also a U.S. citizen, was reported killed in the same attack. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was reportedly killed in a JSOC drone strike two weeks later. At the time, public statements by Obama confirmed the elder Awlaki’s death. News reports indicated that the operation had been carried out after the administration requested and received an opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel saying that targeting and killing U.S. citizens overseas was legal under domestic and international law.
The biggest problem for some progressives is the government’s claimed right to secretly classify a person an enemy of the nation. Such decisions are cloaked for “national security” concerns.