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US rights group sues for drone strike information

02 february 2012, 19:06
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero. ©REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero. ©REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The leading US civil liberties group on Wednesday filed a lawsuit seeking the release of documents authorizing targeted drone strikes, such as the September attack that killed US-born Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaqi in Yemen, AFP reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the case in a New York court demanding that the government release "basic -- and accurate -- information about the government’s targeted killing program."

The US government’s "deliberate and premeditated killing of American terrorism suspects raises profound questions that ought to be the subject of public debate," the ACLU said in a statement.

The group's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit overlaps with a suit filed by The New York Times seeking the legal memos on which the targeted killing program is based.

In addition to the legal memos, the calso wants "the government’s evidentiary basis for strikes that killed three Americans in Yemen in the fall of 2011.

"We’re also seeking information about the process by which the administration adds Americans to secret government 'kill lists,'" the rights group said.

At least three US citizens have been killed by drone strikes unilaterally authorized by the executive branch, the ACLU said.

Anwar al-Awlaqi, the first US citizen to be put on a US list of militants targeted for assassination, was killed September 30 in an air strike in Yemen.

US officials accused Anwar al-Awlaqi of being a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and linked him to two 2009 incidents: a US army major charged with shooting dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a US airliner.

President Barack Obama said in September that Awlaqi's killing was a "major blow" to Al-Qaeda's Yemeni outfit, and marked "another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates."

The lawsuit also mentions US citizen Samir Khan, killed in the same attack on Awlaqi, as well as Awlaqi's 16-year-old son, Denver-born Abderrahman al-Awlaqi, killed in October in a separate suspected US air strike in Yemen.

The New York Times reported in October that the Obama administration crafted in secret a legal document allowing the killing of a US citizen without trial ahead of the strike on Awlaqi.

The ACLU suit seeks documents from the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense and the CIA.

Contacted by AFP, neither the Justice Department nor the Pentagon had any immediate reaction.

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