Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court, Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta. The suit sues senior CIA and military officials, and argues that the killings of three American citizens by their own government in drone strikes in Yemen last year violate the U.S. Constitution and international law. On September 30, 2011, U.S. drone strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, who had been placed on government “kill lists” over a year before, along with Samir Khan. Two weeks later, on October 14, U.S. drone strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, as he was eating dinner with his teenage cousin at an open-air restaurant.
Our suit seeks accountability for those killed. It seeks some modicum of justice for Abdulrahman, the boy whose family could not give a proper burial because he was blown to pieces by a U.S. missile, and who the United States never alleged committed any harm. Our suit seeks to ensure that there are no more Abdulrahmans in the future, that no more individuals are needlessly killed in dangerously expanding covert U.S. wars that must end.
Our suit also challenges the government’s claimed power to target and kill individuals, including U.S. citizens, without due process and far from any field of armed conflict. It challenges the Executive Branch’s unconstitutional and dangerous assumption of the role of judge, jury and executioner.
Under the Obama administration, U.S. targeted killings have escalated and expanded. Strikes have been carried out in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines. Thousands of people have been killed, including many hundreds of civilians. A single strike in Yemen on December 17, 2009, killed 41 civilians, including 21 children, and led to popular protest. In Pakistan alone, the Obama administration has already reportedly launched six times as many strikes as the Bush administration, in fewer years in office.