Covering Up War Crimes
Late last night under cover of Friday darkness, the Obama DOJ filed a brief requesting that U.S. District Judge Robert Bates dismiss a law suit over its targeting of an American citizen for assassination in another country. The government claims that the case would reveal “states secrets”.
Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al-Qaeda.
Civil liberties groups sued the U.S. government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Aulaqi on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists – outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat – amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a U.S. citizen. They asked a U.S. district court in Washington to block the targeting.
In response, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the groups are asking “a court to take the unprecedented step of intervening in an ongoing military action to direct the President how to manage that action – all on behalf of a leader of a foreign terrorist organization.”
Miller added, “If al-Aulaqi wishes to access our legal system, he should surrender to American authorities and return to the United States, where he will be held accountable for his actions.”
Now if that isn’t a “Catch 22”. . .
“The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy,” the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights said.
“In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check,” they said.
Is this is the higher bar for keeping “state secrets” that that President Obama had Attorney General Eric Holder set just last year?
Bush and Cheney must be proud of Obama.
Up Date: Marcy Wheeler now has an article on the briefing itself at emptywheel:
Obama Doesn’t Know Why the Fuck He’s Entitled to Kill Al-Awlaki, He Just Is, Damnit
The most striking aspect of the government’s motion to dismiss the ACLU/CCR lawsuit challenging the use of targeted killing is that the government does not commit to the basis for its authority to kill an American citizen like Anwar al-Awlaki with no review.
Up Date 2: Glenn Greenwald from Salon chimes in:
But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”: in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate its legality. . . .
But he’s not been charged with any crimes, let alone indicted for any. The President has been trying to kill him for the entire year without any of that due process. And now the President refuses even to account to an American court for those efforts to kill this American citizen on the ground that the President’s unilateral imposition of the death penalty is a “state secret.” And, indeed, American courts — at Obama’s urging — have been upholding that sort of a “state secrecy” claim even when it comes to war crimes such as torture and rendition. Does that sound like a political system to which any sane, rational person would “surrender”?
h/t lambert @ Corrente
See also Stopping Obama’s Targeted Assassinations
Now Cross posted @ FDL‘s The Seminal