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Forum Post: Extreme Abuse of Power: Government dismisses lawsuit over Americans killed by drones

Posted 5 years ago on Dec. 16, 2012, 7:49 p.m. EST by TrevorMnemonic (5827)
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Extreme Abuse of Power

U.S.: dismiss lawsuit over Americans killed by drones By JOSH GERSTEIN | 12/15/12 1:10 AM EST

The U.S. Government on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over the killing of three American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen earlier this year: alleged Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, his son Abdulrahman, and alleged AQAP magazine editor Samir Khan.

The administration also threatened to invoke the State Secrets Privilege if the suit is not dismissed on other grounds. The privilege, which 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama regularly blasted the Bush administration for invoking, allows the government to seek dismissal of a suit if it could expose national security secrets.

In the motion to dismiss, Justice Department lawyers argue that the necessity for the strikes and the viability of any alternatives is a question beyond the proper purview of the courts.

"Plaintiffs thus invite this Court to determine whether an individual in Yemen whom the Executive Branch had already declared a leader of an organized armed enemy group, and a foreign operative of that group, posed a sufficient threat to the United States and its citizens to warrant the alleged use of missile strikes abroad within the context of an armed conflict and the Executive’s national self-defense mission," the motion says. "Moreover, they ask this Court to pass judgment on the Executive’s purported battlefield and operational decisions in that conflict—namely, to determine whether lethal force was the most appropriate option available; if so, what sort of lethal force to employ; and whether appropriate measures were taken to minimize collateral damage. Each of these issues is a 'quintessential source' of political questions."

News reports and the lawsuit filed in July by the family members indicate that Khan was a collateral casualty of the September strike that killed the elder Al-Awlaki, and the junior Al-Awlaki was a collateral casualty of an October strike aimed at an Egyptian named Ibraham Al-Banna.

However, the Justice Department said the legal legitimacy of the alleged collateral casualties was inextricably intertwined with the justification for the use of deadly force against the intended targets.

"In assessing the claims of Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, the complaint also implicitly asks this Court to determine the magnitude of the threats posed by the alleged targets, Anwar Al-Aulaqi and Al-Banna—a necessary predicate to evaluating which protective 'measures' were 'feasible' or 'proportionat[e]' in any action against them," the motion says.

The U.S. Government motion insists that the Executive Branch's power to use deadly force against citizens is governed by legal principles and guarantees "due process," but that the courts have no role to play in ensuring the enforcement of those limits.

"The Attorney General has laid out some of the principles underlying the Executive Branch’s exercise of its national self-defense prerogative against a leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force. It is the notion of judicially crafted and managed standards in the context of the issues raised by Plaintiffs’ complaint that collides with the separation of powers delineated in our Constitution," the motion says.

The motion describes notifications to Congress as a check on the president's power to order drone strikes, but the motion appears to concede that Congress is not informed about specific strikes until after they take place. "The Legislative Branch...has not acted to preclude them," the Justice Department filing says.

The groups backing the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, issued a statement Friday deploring the Obama administration's position.

"The essence of the government’s argument is that it has the authority to kill Americans not only in secret, but also without ever having to justify its actions under the Constitution in any courtroom. To claim, as the administration has today, that the courts have no role at all to play in assessing whether the government's targeted killings of Americans are lawful—even after the fact—simply cannot be squared with the Due Process Clause," the groups said.

"The president himself has acknowledged that the targeted killing program must be subject to more meaningful checks, but there is little evidence of that recognition in the brief filed by the government today," the statement added.

The government also made a technical argument against the lawsuit, asserting that the family members have no authority to proceed since they've not been officially designated as executors of the deceased individuals estates.

In 2010, a federal judge in Washington dismissed a similar suit seeking to strike the elder Al-Awlaki from a purported "kill list" maintained by the U.S. Government. U.S. District Court Judge John Bates agreed that the dispute was not one well-suited to the courts, but he acknowledged that the suit raised serious questions. He pointed out the odd fact that the government would need judicial approval to wiretap Al-Awlaki but appeared to need no such approval to kill him.

The Justice Department has declined to confirm that Anwar Al-Awlaki was wanted on criminal charges at the time of his death. However, it has claimed he was a key player in the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to bring down a Delta Airliner arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam. He was also formally designated as a terrorist by the State Department.

The Justice Department's motion to dismiss in the new suit is posted here. The notice regarding possible invocation of the State Secrets Privilege is here.




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[-] 3 points by trashyharry (3082) from Waterville, NY 5 years ago

Drones are the absolute apex of Tyrannical Despotism in the history of the planet.This technology should have been adamantly opposed by Americans.Instead,Politicians who are puppets of a cruel and relentless group of wealthy Elites enabled the development of a technology which can,and will eventually be used to destroy American Liberty.

[-] 3 points by Nevada1 (5843) 5 years ago

Those running the USA, are killers.

[-] 3 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

16 year old Abdulrahman who was born in Denver never killed anyone. There has been no evidence provided that he committed any crime.

BBQ Airstrike Kills 16 Year Old American - The Young Turks, Cenk Provides input - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu1fmT9j_5c

Stanford Law and NYU's School of Law found that the drones have a 2% accuracy rate.

Everyone deserves a day in court!

The government got scared because they have no legal right to do what they did. That is the only reason to have this case dismissed and keep everything secret.

They dismissed this lawsuit just like they did with the ACLU's lawsuit questioning the legality of drone strikes and kill lists.

[-] 3 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Imagine how Americans would react to Chinese drone strikes in America killing civilians (or even military).

[-] 2 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

It would be pandemonium like we have never seen...

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago


[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

"In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.

This narrative is false." - Stanford Law and NYU School of Law

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

That's incredible that the lie could be so dramatic. Because the way they've sold this to the American people is that it's so damn precise that we're only getting the bad guys, just like in the movies. Son of a gun. How is that possible that the truth you just referenced doesn't break through?

[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

Two words. Predator drones.


Democrats don't want to speak ill of their guy. and republicans are pro-war. That is why this is going practically unmentioned.

There is massive questioning about the embassy in pursuit of political gain, but there is no question about the legality behind the war against Libya or questions of the number of civilians killed in the name of saving civilians.

Not too many speak of Afghanistan being a war for resources anymore. Even though it's the truth. Patraeus listed it as a reason in 2010. "Trillions with an S"

The anti-war movement has shrunk and it's sad. Speaking out against the wars is why I often get attacked on this forum.

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Wow. That joke is in pretty poor taste, especially if you are a family member of a loved one who was an innocent bystander and was killed by a predator drone.

[-] 2 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

Just another day in the life of the Bush/Clinton/Bush and now Obama dreamland of no accountability mixed with a dash of hope.

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Holy mackerel. What the hell ever happened to due process? I wish we had a list of all the good stuff we once took seriously and when it "went out of fashion" and under what circumstances. Like "the fairness doctrine, for example. And I remember growing up as a kid being told numerous times in social studies and history classes that the U.S. has a rule against executions. Then, something dramatically changed with the drone attacks and the killing of Bin Laden. I must have had plenty of company scratching my head on the sudden shift... Seriously, weren't we the people who at least claimed not to assassinate? I know we did all sorts of assassinations prior to that -- but we never claimed it outwardly. Not saying it makes a difference morally but it still is a stark shift. Can anyone help me out on that? Was there a lot of public wrestling with this shift that I missed or did we just kind of wake up one day, start assassinating and then public was mum or Ho hum?

What did I miss?

[-] 1 points by PublicCurrency (1387) 5 years ago

Yes really!

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Tom Beringer in Sniper?

[-] 2 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Never saw it. When did it come out? What's the significance?

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Came out a long time ago - sniper sent out on missions to kill drug/crime lords.


Americans are raised on a steady and varied diet of violence.

Some celebrates organized crime - some celebrates governmental crime - some just celebrates blood in general. But there is no end to all of the violence - just more - Hey but please show me some good chase scenes with explosions and stuff.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Great point. Think of all the popular shows put out there where the police are the heroes.... Not to many people showing how current police forces function as paramilitary. But then, that's really not the way we're controlled. Unfortunately it's more like this which is even more powerful: See especially the new clip from film Network which is not the typical one: http://www.occupywallst.org/forum/be-a-spirit-not-a-ghost-corporate-owned-mainstream/

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

The link is not there.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

No - there are a couple of comments now - but the post has been removed.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Interesting. Any possible explanation? Have you seen such things before? It shows up on my screen with comments from others. Most recent comment was at about 3:30 am. You're saying that comment is there but the post isn't.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Looks like the forum banned the post - that is why you can still read it - but I can't. What was/is the post about? Is there anything in it that would prompt it's removal?

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

Corporate media lies and propaganda is the theme. It's a short post and pretty inoccuous actual. Has links to a few YouTube clips of short scenes from films like Easy Rider, manufacturing consent, network. I can't imagine for the life of me why it would be banned.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

Copy the post link. Put it in a e-mail to the abuse address and ask them why it was rejected from the forum and if that can be corrected in any way.

[-] 1 points by therising (6643) 5 years ago

OK thanks

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33486) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

No problem - I think you may have just hit some auto-filter that has been put in place from responding to past attacks on the site.