The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] demanding the US government release information about their targeted killing program [press release] of US citizens abroad. The lawsuit comes in response to the three American citizens that have been killed by drones in the past four months. In particular, the ACLU seeks specific evidence that provided the basis for the strikes in Yemen during the fall of 2011, which killed three Americans. This lawsuit overlaps and expands on a lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by the New York Times (NYT) [media website] requesting the legal memos that provide the basis for the US's targeted killing program. The complaint states:
Although U.S. government officials, including the President and the Secretary of Defense, have made statements on the record confirming the existence of the targeted killing program, the government has not disclosed the process by which it adds names to so-called "killed lists;" the standards under which it determines which Americans may be put to death; or the evidentiary bases on which it concludes that those standards satisfied in any particular case.The Obama administration maintains that the killing of American terrorism suspects is a state secret.
Targeted killings have been a controversial topic [JURIST comment] during the current war on terror. In December, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] alleging the government violated the FOIA in refusing to release legal memoranda related to targeted killings of terror suspects. The suit relates to the death of the US-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was killed in a US drone strike [JURIST report] in Yemen in September 2011. An Obama administration legal memorandum [JURIST report] from 2010 found that the killing of US citizen and senior al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader al-Awlaki would only be legal if it were not feasible to take al-Awlaki alive. The memo followed months of legal debate regarding the decision to kill a US citizen without first having a trial.