ACLU Takes CIA to Court over Targeted Killings

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and President Barack Obama deliver remarks on the Defense Strategic Review at the Pentagon (Jason Reed/Reuters)

ACLU Takes CIA to Court over Targeted Killings

The American Civil Liberties Union will continue its fight with the CIA in court on Thursday, in a bid to obtain documents concerning the US "targeted killing" drone program.

The ACLU has requested documents pertaining to the drone strikes via a Freedom of Information Act request, but has thus far been rebuffed by the White House and the CIA. The ACLU argues that the program has been referenced in public by President Barack Obama, other senior administration officials, and been widely reported by international media. The CIA, however, continues to refuse to hand over crucial documents pertaining to the strikes, claiming that to do so would harm the secretive nature of an essential national security program.

"The notion that the CIA's targeted killing program is a secret is nothing short of absurd," said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the program both on the record and off. They've claimed that the program is effective, lawful and closely supervised."

"If they can make these claims," continued Jaffer, "there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act."

The ACLU's original FOIA request was filed in January 2010, seeking to learn "when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the U.S. ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings." The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the CIA upon their refusal to comply, but the court ruled in favor of the CIA.

Thursday's proceedings will hear oral arguments from both sides in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The effects of the US targeted killing program have been reported upon widely, including strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Civil and human rights activists contend that the targeted killing program is not only unconstitutional and an affront to international law, but a moral failing that leads to the death of innocent civilians around the world.

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