A federal lawsuit was filed on Monday by The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, challenging the CIA’s authority to kill a U.S. born cleric.
The two groups filed their lawsuit in District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, whom federal officials believe inspired the shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, the car bombing in Times Square and an attempted bombing of an airplane on Christmas Day Al-Aulaqi is believed to be hiding in Yemen.
The CIA placed Aulaqi on its list of suspected terrorists it is authorized to kill earlier this year; the cleric had been on a separate list of individuals targeted by the Joint Special Operations Command.
In a written statement Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said “The United States cannot simply execute people, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world based on its own say-so. That the government adds people to kill lists after a bureaucratic process and leaves them on the lists for months at a time flies in the face of the Constitution and international law.”
President Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are named as defendants in the lawsuit
The lawsuit states: “According to numerous published reports, the government maintains lists of suspects – “kill lists” – against whom lethal force can be used without charge, trial or conviction,”
“The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. Outside the context of armed conflict, the intentional use of lethal force without prior judicial process is an abridgement of this right except in the narrowest and most extraordinary circumstances.”
The lawsuit continues: “The United States is not at war with Yemen, or within it. Nonetheless, government officials have disclosed the government’s intention to carry out the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqui, who is hiding there.”
The groups say the use of targeted killing is unconstitutional “except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific and imminent threats of death or serious physical activity.”
CIA spokesman George Little said his agency acts “in strict accord with American law.”