ACLU sues Obama over drone killings of U.S. citizens

Sunday, February 05, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: ACLU, Obama, drones

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(NaturalNews) You may remember that lawyers for the Obama administration have advised the president that using drones to target and kill American citizens without a trial is perfectly legal. If you were outraged by this so-called legal opinion and convinced it was made without any respect for the Constitution's due process requirements, take heart: The American Civil Liberties Union agrees with you.

In fact, the ACLU has now filed suit against the Obama administration to provide details of, believe it or not, the 10-year-old program of using drones to target and kill American citizens.

"The request relates to a topic of vital importance: the power of the U.S. government to kill U.S. citizens without presentation of evidence and without disclosing legal standards that guide decision makers," says the ACLU suit. "Given the momentous nature of the governmental powers that are subject of the request, the fullest possible transparency and disclosure is vital."

Momentous, indeed. The legal organization has said no one knows just how many Americans have been killed since the program began around 2002, but it's a huge concern that has dire constitutional implications, especially following the government's determination that even suspected terrorists can be killed, even if they are Americans by birth and citizenship.

The ACLU's complaint stems from the Obama administration's decision to kill Anwar al Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and leading al Qaeda figure who died following a drone strike on his position in a mountainous region of Yemen Sept. 30. Two other U.S. citizens - al Awlaki's son, Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan, were also killed by drone strikes in Yemen last year. And like al Awlaki, none of them were ever charged with terrorism, and you have to charge Americans with a crime if you think they're guilty of something. That's the way it works.

But instead of being forthright, the president has chosen instead to downplay the program, telling viewers during a digital interview from the White House recently only a few civilians have been killed in drone strikes.

"I want people to understand that drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties," he said in the interview. "For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we have been very careful about how it's been applied."


The truth is, other than a few privileged elites within the administration, no one really knows whether the president is being honest or not. And the ACLU says we have a right to know. The organization is undoubtedly correct on this matter.

"The government's self-serving attitude toward transparency and disclosure is unacceptable," says the ACLU complaint. "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 the so-called 'kill lists;' the standards under which it determines which Americans may be put to death; or the evidentiary basis on which it concluded that those standards were satisfied in any particular case."

U.S. lawmakers and international legal bodies also want more information about the program. But like the ACLU's complaint makes clear, those who deserve answers most are us - the taxpayers and citizens the Constitution was written to protect.

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