By Jeremy Herb
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Obama administration Wednesday to force the release of details about U.S. drone strikes in Yemen that killed terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and other Americans.
The ACLU’s lawsuit is directed at the Defense Department, CIA and Justice Department, asking for legal memos and evidence justifying the killing of three Americans in Yemen, as well as information about how the United States adds Americans to its “kill lists,” which al-Awlaki was apparently on.
The lawsuit states that government officials have discussed the program publicly, and it references Obama’s comments, as well as those that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made Sunday about drones on “60 Minutes.”
“The government’s self-serving attitude toward transparency and disclosure is unacceptable,” the civil liberties group said in a statement. “The public has a right to know the evidence and legal basis for the deliberate targeted killing of U.S. citizens. So chilling a power must be opened to public scrutiny and debate.”
The Obama administration has reportedly been debating whether to release more information about the killing of al-Awlaki, an American who became a key al Qaeda operative. He was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen.
A second American, Samir Khan, was also killed in the strike, and a week later al-Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed in another drone strike.
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request after the fall drone attacks, and said it has yet to receive any information.
The group posted a response from the CIA denying the request.
“The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request,” the agency stated, adding that “the fact of the existence or nonexistence” is classified and protected from disclosure.