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... supports Professor William Snyder's sections of National Security Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Prosecuting Terrorists at the Syracuse University College of Law.

Suit Over Targeted Killings Is Thrown Out

In an article entitled "Suit Over Targeted Killings is Thrown Out," The New York Times reports yesterday that Judge John Bates, threw out a lawsuit that had sought to block the American government from trying to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, the United States citizen and Muslim cleric in hiding overseas who is accused of helping to plan attacks by Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen. 

The ruling permits the Obama Administration to continue in its efforts to try to kill Awlaki and represents a government victory in that it shields from judicial review targeted killings, one of the Administration's most striking counterterrorism policies.  

Judge Bates found that al-Awlaki's father does not have standing to challenge the targeted killing of his son and that targeted killings in such circumstances were a “political question” for executive branch officials to make — not judges.

The Times reports:

Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, praised the ruling for recognizing “that a leader of a foreign terrorist organization who rejects our system of justice cannot enjoy the protection of our courts while plotting strikes against Americans. The court properly rejected that course and declined to intrude into sensitive military and intelligence matters.”

But Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision “a profound mistake” that would dangerously expand presidential power. The A.C.L.U. and the Center for Constitutional Rights represented Mr. Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki, in the matter without compensation.

“If the court’s ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation,” Mr. Jaffer said. “It would be difficult to conceive of a proposition more inconsistent with the Constitution, or more dangerous to American liberty.”

Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, said the limits of Judge Bates’ conclusion would be a matter of dispute. He portrayed it as “a sweeping argument against judicial review of targeted killing decisions.”

“The slippery slope is obviously the concern here,” Mr. Chesney said. “Judge Bates is at pains not to decide this question for other circumstances. But the question remains: what else besides this fact pattern would enable the government to have the same result?”

For the full text of The New York Times article, click here.

For Benjamin Wittes' thoughts on the decision see, "Some Thoughts on Judge Bates' Decision." 

Jack Goldsmith writes:

Judge Bates wrote a solid, careful, and in my view persuasive opinion in al-Awlaki.  The opinion is clearly a victory for the government.  But it was not without small victories for ACLU, CCR, and others who want to establish judicial limits on presidential targeting authorities.  

For Jack Goldsmith's full article, see "What ACLU and CCR Won in al-Aulaqi." 

For the 83 page opinion itself, click here

For those without the time to allocate to 83 pages, see Robert Chesney's outline of the opinion, click here.

 

 

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