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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/30/18

How Do You Get Off the US "Kill List"?

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Secret U.S. Panel Can Put Citizens On .Kill List.
Secret U.S. Panel Can Put Citizens On .Kill List.
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After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration created a secret "kill list" to step up the targeting of alleged terrorists for assassination. The criteria for inclusion on the list have apparently morphed over three presidential administrations, yet they remain elusive.

Last year, two journalists filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump and other high government officials, asking to be removed from the kill list until they have a meaningful opportunity to challenge their inclusion. Both men claim to have no association with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, to have no connection to the 9/11 attacks, and to pose no threat to the United States, its citizens, residents or national security.

Kareem and Zaidan Try to Get Off Kill List

Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US citizen and freelance journalist, has survived five attempts on his life from targeted air-strikes. A Turkish intelligence official told Kareem that the US government is trying to kill him.

Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, a citizen of Syria and Pakistan, is a senior journalist with Al Jazeera. He interviewed Osama bin Laden twice before the 9/11 attacks. Zaidan learned about his inclusion on the kill list from National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept.

The NSA zeroed in on Zaidan as a result of a program called SKYNET. Ars Technica revealed that SKYNET -- which uses an algorithm to gather metadata in order to identify and target terrorist suspects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia -- would result in 99,000 false positives.

In their complaint filed in March 2017, Zaidan and Kareem alleged they were included on the kill list as a result of algorithms used by the United States to identify terrorists.

At a May 1 hearing in the case, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US District Court for the District of Columbia questioned the US government's assertion of authority to unilaterally kill US citizens abroad. Collyer repeatedly challenged government lawyers to explain why national security considerations outweigh a US citizen's inclusion on the kill list with no right to notice and an opportunity to respond.

"Are you saying a US citizen in a war zone has no constitutional rights?" Collyer asked Stephen Elliott, a Justice Department attorney. "If a US person is intentionally struck by a drone from the US, does that person have no constitutional rights to due process ... no notice, anything?"

Anwar al-Aulaqi Placed on Kill List in 2010, Killed in 2011

Collyer is the same judge who, in 2014, dismissed a lawsuit filed by the families of Anwar al-Aulaqi, his son Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan -- all US citizens who were killed in 2011 US drone strikes. Their families were seeking to hold officials in the Obama administration personally liable for their roles in the strikes.

Nasser al-Aulaqi was the father of Anwar al-Aulaqi, who was placed on the kill list maintained by the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command in 2010. Later that year, Nasser filed a lawsuit challenging the authorization for Anwar's killing before he was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Nasser's lawsuit sought clarification of the scope of the global battlefield, targeting standards and lack of transparency.

US District Judge John Bates, also of the District of Columbia, dismissed Nasser's suit, ruling that he lacked standing to challenge the violation of Anwar's constitutional rights because Nasser's constitutional rights were not violated by the government's "alleged targeting of [Nasser's] son" and the alleged targeting was "not designed to interfere with the father-adult son relationship." Bates concluded, "[Nasser] cannot show that a parent suffers an injury in fact if his adult child is threatened with a future extrajudicial killing."

Bates also held that the political question doctrine, based on separation of powers, prevented the judicial branch from reviewing military and foreign affairs decisions made by the executive and legislative branches.

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)
 

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