Are Judges finally Standing up to Secretive Drone Assassinations? (Searle)

Jack Searle writes at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Three federal appeal court judges greeted US government efforts to block the release of information on the CIA’s targeted killings programme with skepticism on Thursday, as they grilled the administration’s lawyers for double the scheduled time.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging the Obama administration to reveal records of the CIA’s drone programme, including the legal basis and policy decisions that allow the intelligence agency to target and kill alleged militants in foreign countries.

But the government refuses even to confirm or deny whether the records exist. Judge Merrick Garland responded by saying that the government was asking the court to say ‘the emperor has clothes, even when the emperor’s boss’ says the emperor does not have clothes, according to AP.

Sitting in the Washington DC circuit appeals court, Judge Garland put it to the government legal team that a speech by John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser, amounted to an official acknowledgment of the CIA drone programme.

Jameel Jaffar, ACLU deputy director, who gave evidence to the court, later told the Bureau: ‘All three judges questioned the government aggressively about the disconnect between its position in court…and the many statements it has made publicly about the programme.’

But Department of Justice lawyers stuck to their position that the government has not officially acknowledged the CIA’s use of drones.

‘Hardly secret’
Yesterday’s hearing was the latest installment of a two-and-half year legal battle between the ACLU and the US government.

The human rights group is also suing the government to reveal information about the killing of Anwar al Awlaki in a US drone strike in Yemen last year, and a cruise missile strike in Yemen in 2009 that killed 22 children. The ACLU is also helping al Awlaki’s family to bring cases against former CIA director and current Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, and President Obama.

The Bureau is one of a number of bodies that has filed an amicus brief with the Washington DC court in support of the ACLU’s argument, saying: ‘The existence of the CIA’s targeted killing programme… is so widely acknowledged and heavily reported upon that it can hardly be called a secret anymore.’

The government’s justification for refusing to give up information about its drone strikes is only applicable if the government has not officially acknowledged the CIA is using the unmanned aircraft in Pakistan. Last year a district court decided in the government’s favour.

The ACLU is now appealing that decision, saying that senior members of the Obama administration, including Obama and Panetta, have openly discussed the programme in speeches and interviews.

The ACLU believes this equates to official acknowledgement of an eight-year campaign that has seen the CIA launch 344 drone strikes, killing between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan. At least 474 of those killed were civilians and 176 children, according to data collected by the Bureau.

‘I continue to feel that anyone who reads these statements can’t possibly come away with the impression that the CIA has done anything except acknowledge that it uses drones to carry out targeted killings,’ said Jaffar.


Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Posted in Drone | 4 Responses | Print |

4 Responses

  1. Is this the gang who is proud of killing Bin Laden?

    The automobile company GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead?

    The gang that lied about the conditions of his death but brought in Hollywood to make a propaganda film?

    The gang that went on TV (so it must be real) and talked about the drones?

    The gang that gave approval for domestic use of drones here in the good old USA?

    The gang that gave the President the “legal” right to kill anyone, including Americans, anywhere in the world if they are on a “secret” kill list which is very, very secret, because they told us it was.

    And now this gang won’t stand up in court to tell the truth about what everyone knows?


    How does this stack up against the greatest threat to civilization, the collapse of the climate?

    Which will require new levels of intelligence, trust and cooperation in government, laws, economics, etc. to respond to the long emergency which could be hundreds or thousands of years to bring back some kind of stability to the biosphere.

    The oligarchs are hanging onto their bounty until the last.

    And Americans who use the most resources can’t imagine that we have to change.

    Watch the election circus ignore difficult issues with the two political factions (not really parties) in agreement on the military, finance, etc.

  2. And the Israeli government does not acknowledge “officially” that Yahoo commands maybe 400 nuclear warheads and bombs and probably man-portable thingies too…

    And the Army solemnly declared on their sacred honneur that Dreyfus was guilty.

    The new era of “implausible denialability.”

  3. This is welcome judicial review of a CIA program that openly engages in extrajudicial killings admittedly causing “collateral damage” i.e. accidental deaths of innocent civilians.

    The New York Times #1 bestseller “By Way of Deception” written by a former Israeli intelligence officer confirmed that there was a secret panel that existed in the Mossad that ruled on requests to kill subitted by agents; the existence of the panel was unknown to the Israeli Supreme Court and the panel was not known to have turned down a request for permission to kill a prospective target. It seems that the U.S. has a similar system with Obama as the fellow that signs off on the requisite permission.

    I have trouble visualizing Obama, as a former constitutional law professor, approving this assassination program. The Church Committee in 1975 exposed CIA assassnation plots and the American public was horrified. The impetus of the impanelling of the Church Committee was the Victor Marchetti book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence; and the lurid testimony before the Church Committee led to an executive order from President Ford barring intentional killing of foreign leaders.

    The scary part of this Obama-led program is its scope. We know that U.S. citizens are not immune from being targeted, nor is the CIA shy about “accidentally” killing innocent bystanders – even children.

    In what countries have targeted killings occurred? What are the standards for being placed on a list? What organizations have been targeted for these killings?

    When the U.S. intelligence community engages in morally questionable behavior such as this it damages American credibility overseas.

  4. It looks to me like the judges are standing up to secretiveness, not air strikes.

    The American political system is based on having competing branches of government jealously guarding their rights and authority against other branches. These judges clearly do not like being told by the executive branch that they don’t get to see the information they need in order to rule on the cases before them. Going from that observation, to the claim that they are tipping their hands on the air strikes themselves, is a bit of a reach.

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