The decision comes in the case of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, 39, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, who is believed to be living in Yemen. The U.S. Treasury Department declared he is a specially designated global terrorist, and government officials have placed him on the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command kill lists.
Washington claims al-Awlaki is affiliated to al-Qaeda and corresponded with Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
In August the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit by Naseer al-Awlaki demanding a halt to government actions to kill his son. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and CIA Director Leon Panetta were the defendants.
U.S. District Judge Robert Bates on December 7 threw the case out, saying the plaintiff had no standing to file such a suit. Targeted assassinations are political and military questions that the executive branch decides, the judge said. There are circumstances in which the Executives unilateral decision to kill a U.S. citizen overseas is judicially unreviewable, he wrote.
The courts ruling gives the government authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation, stated ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer.
In this case the Obama administration invoked the state-secrets privilege, where the executive branch refuses to reveal information on national security grounds.
Washington has a long record of ordering assassinations of its adversaries around the world. In the 1960s, top government officials approved numerous covert plans to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro. During the Vietnam War the CIAs Operation Phoenix was exposed for assassinating thousands who opposed the U.S.-backed puppet regime in South Vietnam, including mayors, teachers, and doctors. Recently, stepped-up drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed Taliban and other opposition figures.
In the case of al-Awlaki the government is openly declaring its intention to kill someone, in this instance a U.S. citizen.
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