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Federal appeals court dismisses request for drone records

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Thursday upheld [order] a district court's dismissal of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [official website] request for information about the US government's use of drones for "targeted killings." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] sought to obtain legal memoranda on drone use as well as compilations of data on government strikes that can detail who intended targets were, locations of strikes, and how many people have been killed, among other information. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) argued that the documents are exempt from disclosure, and the lower court granted summary judgment in their favor. The appeals court on Thursday agreed with the CIA that the requested documents were properly classified and exempt from FOIA requests because they pertain to intelligence activities and/or foreign activities of the US. The court also agreed with the CIA that there we no "segregable portions" of the documents which could be disclosed.

The use of drones [JURIST backgrounder] is controversial in both domestic circles and in the international arena. In January the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled that the president's National Security Council (NSC) [official website] is not subject [JURIST report] to FOIA. In November the circuit also ruled that the US government may keep secret memoranda [JURIST report] related to the legal justification for the use of drones for targeted killings of those in other countries believed to be involved in terrorism. The case was the result of FOIA requests by the ACLU and the New York Times [media website] for documents prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel of the US Department of Justice [official website] regarding the drone strikes. In June the families of two Yemeni men killed by US drone strikes filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the government, claiming they were wrongfully killed. In December 2010 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Obama administration's ability to conduct targeted killings, a challenge spurred because one subject of a targeted killing, al-Awlaki-Khan, was a dual US-Yemeni citizen.

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