Federal judge dismisses Yemen drone strike lawsuit

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed a lawsuit [opinion, PDF] on Friday brought against officials of the Obama administration [official website] for the 2011 drone strikes that killed three US citizens in Yemen. The lawsuit was specifically brought against [AP report] former defense secretary, Leon Panetta [official profie], former CIA director, David Petraeus [official profile] and two commanders in Special Operations [official website] forces. Judge Rosemary Colleyer [official profile] found that there were serious constitutional issues in the case but that "this case would impermissibly draw the court into 'the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation.'" Three US born al Qaeda leaders and propagandists al-Awlaki Khan [JURIST news archive], his son Abdulrahman Khan and Samir Khan, were killed by the drone strikes in 2011. Al-Awlaki has been linked to several attacks on the US, including an attempt in 2009 on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airplane.

Awlaki, a dual US-Yemeni citizen, had been approved for targeting killing by the Obama administration, an action that was challenged based on Awlaki's US citizenship. In December 2010 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] challenging the Obama administration's ability to conduct "targeted killings" in al-Awlaki's case. Judge John Bates found that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case, filed by the ACLU and the CCR on behalf of Awlaki's father, dismissing it on procedural grounds and noting that important questions remain. Bates heard arguments [JURIST report] in the case in November 2010 on the same day Awlaki called for jihadist attacks on US citizens in a video posted on extremist websites. Earlier that month Yemeni prosecutors charged [JURIST report] Awlaki with incitement to kill foreigners, and he was later sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.

 

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