The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or

ACLU Seeks Information On Predator Drone Program

Group Files Lawsuit For Data On Targeted Killings Of Suspected Terrorists And Civilian Casualties


The American Civil Liberties Union filed a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today demanding that the
government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to
conduct targeted killings overseas. In particular, the lawsuit asks for
information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be
authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and other basic
information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using
armed drones to conduct targeted killings.

"The public has a right to know
whether the targeted killings being carried out in its name are
consistent with international law and with the country's interests and
values," said Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow with the ACLU National
Security Project. "The Obama administration should disclose basic
information about the program, including its legal basis and limits, and
the civilian casualty toll thus far."

The CIA and the military have used
unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan
and Iraq but also in Pakistan and, in at least one case in 2002, Yemen.
The technology allows U.S. personnel to observe targeted individuals in
real time and launch missiles intended to kill them from control centers
located thousands of miles away. Recent reports, including public
statements from the director of national intelligence, indicate that
U.S. citizens have been placed on the list of targets who can be hunted
and killed with drones.

The ACLU made an initial FOIA request
for information on the drone program in January. Today's lawsuit
against the Defense Department, the State Department and the Justice
Department seeks to enforce that request. None of the three agencies
have provided any documents in response to the request, nor have they
given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU's
request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant
documents. The CIA is not a defendant in today's lawsuit because the
ACLU will first appeal the CIA's non-response to the Agency Release

"The government's use of drones to
conduct targeted killings raises complicated questions - not only legal
questions, but policy and moral questions as well," said Jameel Jaffer,
Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "These kinds of
questions ought to be discussed and debated publicly, not resolved
secretly behind closed doors. While the Obama administration may
legitimately withhold intelligence information as well as sensitive
information about military strategy, it should disclose basic
information about the scope of the drone program, the legal basis for
the program and the civilian casualties that have resulted from the

The ACLU's lawsuit seeks, in addition
to information about the legal basis for the drone program, information
about how the program is overseen and data regarding the number of
civilians and non-civilians killed in the strikes. Estimates of civilian
casualties provided by anonymous government officials quoted in the
press and by various non-governmental analysts differ dramatically, from
the dozens to the hundreds, giving an incomplete and inconsistent
picture of the human cost of the program.

Attorneys on the case are Manes,
Jaffer and Ben Wizner of the ACLU National Security Project and Arthur
B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital.

The ACLU's complaint can be found

The ACLU's FOIA request can be found

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666