Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Obama Administration’s Latest Anonymous Leaks Aim to Justify Drone Killings of US Citizens


Journalists for the New York Times have published a story that purportedly provides an account of what ultimately led the United States government to target and kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who had been born in the US. It also provides some details on what happened when US citizen Samir Khan and Awlaki's son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki were killed. However, importantly, the story consists primarily of "anonymous assertions" by "current and former Obama administration officials."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have condemned the story:

…In anonymous assertions to The New York Times, current and former Obama administration officials seek to justify the killings of three U.S. citizens even as the administration fights hard to prevent any transparency or accountability for those killings in court. This is the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government's killing program, including its use against citizens…

Though the introduction claims the story "highlights the perils of a war conducted behind a classified veil, relying on missile strikes rarely acknowledged by the American government and complex legal justifications drafted for only a small group of officials to read," the Times essentially provides a forum for government officials to explain their side of the story and defend the decisions that were made in the process of  killing an American without charge or trial.

It is insidious because, as the ACLU and CCR appropriately points out, "Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Awlaki, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution's due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Awlaki posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court."

Now, officials "anonymously assert that Samir Khan's killing was unintended and that the killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi was a mistake, even though in court filings the Obama administration refuses to acknowledge any role in those killings.  In court filings made just last week, the government in essence argued, wrongly, that it has the authority to kill these three Americans without ever having to justify its actions under the Constitution in any courtroom."

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