This kind of lawsuit is a consequence of pretending that we are not at war. In a war, enemy combatants are targeted without due process. Awlaki and Samir Khan were at war with the United States. But since the Administration does not acknowledge the existence of that conflict, and tends to treat actions against jihadis as matters of law enforcement rather than war, it has only itself to blame for this lawsuit. That is not to say, however, that the ACLU doesn’t bear responsibility for yet again acting against the interests of Americans.
“Families of Americans killed by drones file suit,” by Greg Miller for the Washington Post, July 18 (thanks to Wimpy):
The families of three U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year, including militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, filed a lawsuit Wednesday that accuses top CIA and U.S. military officials of violating the constitutional rights of those killed.
The lawsuit, which was prepared in part by the American Civil Liberties Union, represents the most direct legal challenge yet to the Obama administration’s decision to kill U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations without open due process measures or scrutiny from courts.
“These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts,” the suit alleges.
The suit stems from two drone strikes that took place over a six-week stretch last fall. The first, in September, killed Awlaki as well as alleged al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan. The second strike, in October, killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. All three were born in the United States.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the ACLU, said the suit seeks compensation for the families, but is primarily aimed at forcing the Obama administration to disclose details about decisions that were made in secret.
“It’s an effort to get accountability,” Jaffer said. The administration has argued that requiring a court order in advance of strikes would cause delays and make the country more vulnerable to terrorist attack. Jaffer said the ACLU is “asking the government now, after the fact, to explain to a court why it did what it did.”
The defendants named in the suit include Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and CIA Director David H. Petraeus, as well as two of the top officers in the U.S. military special operations ranks: U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Votel.
Spokesmen for the CIA and Pentagon declined to comment on the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs listed include Nasser al-Awlaki, the father of the cleric, and Sarah Khan, mother of Samir.
Obama administration officials have recently defended the drone campaign in a series of speeches, but have generally refused to discuss legal positions or criteria for operations in substantial detail.
In March, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that “it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.”
The suit, which was also prepared in part by the Center for Constitutional Rights, argues that none of the three U.S. citizens killed met that standard and that the government failed to exhaust opportunities to apprehend the men without resorting to lethal force.
“Some officials have suggested that the U.S. government targets its citizens only if they present “˜imminent” threats,” the suit says, “but they have defined the term “˜imminent” so broadly as to negate its meaning.”
U.S. officials have said that Awlaki, a native of New Mexico, was directly tied to several terrorist plots against the United States, including the failed attempt by a NiÂgerÂian man to detonate a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009….
That doesn’t seem too “broadly” defined to me. Awlaki was waging jihad warfare against Americans. He got what was coming to him.