Federal Judge Troubled by Government Argument That US Targeted Killings Not Subject to Court Review

killed in drone strikefamily photoA year ago, Nasser Al-Awlaki, the father of Anwar Al-Awlaki, along with the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, sued over the constitutionality of the CIA’s drone program, which they contended had killed Al-Awlaki, his sixteen year old son Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan, all US citizens. It wasn’t until this May, however, that the White House, via a letter from Eric Holder to Congress, admitted responsibility for the killings. According to Holder, only the older Al-Awlaki was specifically targeted by the US. The disclosure came only two months after a federal appeals court ruled the CIA could not decline to confirm or deny a drone program that had become secret-in-name-only. And despite President Obama’s occasional lip service to  contemplation or discussion, government stonewalling continues.

Today, a federal judge heard the Department of Justice’s argument about why Al-Awlaki, the ACLU, and the CCR couldn’t challenge the US killing of Al-Awlaki, his son, and Khan. The government argued that its killing of US citiziens was “extraordinary” and not a regular occurrence, and that the courts did not have a place in reviewing those security decisions. The judge found that argument “troubling,” pointing out the America was “a nation of laws.” Nevertheless, she has not yet made a ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss.

Nasser Al-Awlaki, notably, had gone to court to prevent the killing of his son in 2010, but that judge dismissed the case, ruling that Al-Awlaki did not have standing (like his son, the target, might) and that the matter raised “political questions” beyond the court’s purview. On the op-ed page of yesterday’s New York Times, Al-Awlaki explained how he’s spent two years trying to find out why his grandson (along with a teenage cousin and five others at an open-air restaurant in Yemen) was killed in a drone strike; President Obama has never publicly addressed the killing of the 16-year-old, though Robert Gibbs appeared to blame the boy's dad.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    President Obama has never addressed the killing of the 16-year-old.

    He only sticks his nose into fatalities that don't have anything to do with him.

  • Warrren||

    He just wants to promote his national discussion on your racism.

  • Killazontherun||

    Not like he would kill a kid that looked like he could have been his kid. Hmm, maybe with some white tail on the side, he could have a kid that looked like that. No, Abdulrahman looks too naturally happy to have been a member of the Obama clan.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Really, get with the program. Obama is now saying Martin was him 35 years ago, not his illegitimate son. Therefore, Zimmerman is guilty of a federal crime: assassination.

  • Killazontherun||

    So, Martin is the sacrificial form of the son of God, and Obama is the Resurrection Incarnate? I'm still missing something . . .

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, Obama is the Father. What I'm not clear on. . .wait, yes I am. The Holy Ghost is the Teleprompter.

  • Hugh Akston||

    He read about it in the paper, same as you.

  • True In The Game||

    /threadwinner

  • Warrren||

    If the FYTW is that transparent do you actually see it?

  • ||

    Nasser Al-Awlaki, notably, had went to court to prevent the killing of his son in 2010, but that judge dismissed the case, ruling that Al-Awlaki did not have standing (like his son, the target, might) and that the matter raised “political questions” beyond the court’s purview.

    Hahaha, it's almost like people continue to think that there are three branches of government, each one charged with being a check against the balance of power falling to far in favor of one of the other three branches. What a quaint ideal!

  • ||

    Has this administration put forward any argument in court yet that did not amount to FYTW? Shown anything but contempt for the rule of law?

  • ||

    Most transparent. Administration. Ever.

    Transparently contemptuous, that is.

  • Metazoan||

    Where is what's his face to complain about a child being murdered?

  • Killazontherun||

    On, the Newsmax headlines, I'm getting -- Obama: 'Trayvon Could Have Been Me' -- Be serious, Barry. No one thinks you have the muscle tone to throw life threatening punches.

  • Killazontherun||

    Anyone needs extra commas I got plenty. Too often, I change the phrases but don't notice the punctuation needs to reflect the change.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Commanist!

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Robert Gibbs has to be one of the lowest forms of scum in existence, blaming Abdulrahman's killing on the fact that the 16-year-old, born in Denver, should have had a "more responsible father"

    So by that logic, we should drone Obamessiah, correct?

  • Killazontherun||

    No, I'm pretty sure the drones only go one way, from the locus of power then they spread outward on to the heads of the little people. Any suggestion otherwise could land the person making such a suggestion in hot water.

  • Aresen||

    The government argued that its killing of US citiziens was “extraordinary” and not a regular occurrence, and that the courts did not have a place in reviewing those security decisions.

    Tell me the part again about how the WoT is "defending freedom."

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    In the same way the WoD is "promoting sobriety"

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Or the War on Poverty mandating affluence.

  • ||

    By killing those who would be our murderers and rulers; to the glorification of God, as they judge his will to be.

  • IceTrey||

    Wait. If Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan weren't targeted then they can't have been "security decision" therefore the court should have jurisdiction. I think the Feds just screwed themselves.

  • RickCaird||

    The standing issue needs to be addressed by Congress. The Supreme Court has just ruled that initiative and referendum are cannot be defended if the government chooses to ignore the result because of lack of standing. Now, we have the government accused of wrongful death via a drone strike in a foreign country, but the only one having standing to bing suit is the dead guy. How can that possible work?

    In essence, government is working hard to eliminate curbs on government and the courts are going along by not allowing anyone objecting access to the courts. Congress needs to fix this.

  • ||

    If targets for extrajudicial killing by government, are chosen and the execution carried out under the authority to prosecute war as the Congress has given the Executive authority for such, or by the Executive in response to the fact of war existing whether Congress has yet authorized it--with only Congressional response to untoward Executive action of such type being impeachment, which is exactly all the Constitution first permits--the the Judicial branch has no grounds to exercise review.

    Not any more than a warrant should issue before a rifleman pulls the trigger, or an artilleryman a lanyard. The laws of war are not the civil laws, and they should not be conflated or permitted to be intermingled.

  • Monty Crisco||

    Glad he's dead. One less we have to worry about in the future...

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement