ACLU files FOIA request on Predator program


This is sure to make many people in Washington uncomfortable:

In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed today, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.

“The American public has a right to know whether the drone program is consistent with international law, and that all efforts are made to minimize the loss of innocent lives,” said Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration has reportedly expanded the drone program, but it has not explained publicly what the legal basis for the program is, what limitations it recognizes on the use of drones outside active theaters of war and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far. We’re hopeful that the request we’ve filed today will encourage the Obama administration to disclose information about the basis, scope and implementation of the program.”

The administration has used unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Pakistan and Yemen. The technology allows U.S. personnel to observe targeted individuals and launch missiles intended to kill them from control centers located thousands of miles away.

Today’s FOIA request was filed with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the Office of Legal Counsel), the Department of State and the CIA.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • DANNY says:

    I am a member of the American public and I could care less about the info requested. ACLU Quit using me as an excuse to drag down America in this time of war. A war I remind you we didn’t start.

  • DANNY says:

    I am a member of the American public and I could care less about the info requested. ACLU Quit using me as an excuse to drag down America in this time of war. A war I remind you we didn’t start. Go to hell.

  • Steve says:

    I agree Danny. If this program saves soldiers lives, let the ACLU find another cause to fight.
    Stay out of this one.

  • Swede says:

    Heck, even here in Sweden, a country that historically has been very critical of US military action, the drone attacks aren’t seen as very controversial. If anything, this kind of low-profile activity against terrorist leaders is an example of what people here think is the right way to go about the WOT.
    I wish the ACLU would think a step further. They question the legitimacy of drone strikes because Pakistan and Yemen aren’t “active war zones”. Does that mean that the ACLU would rather the US pursue the alternative to drone attacks: a full scale invasion, making the areas into wars?

  • Dan says:

    Let me get this strait, the ACLU wants us to take out warrants against enemy leaders before we can shoot, rocket, bomb them. Pardon my sarcasms, but when in the history of civilized warfare has this ever been done before?
    If memory serves me right our country has a long history of taking out enemy leaders in wartime, from Continental sharpshooters taking out British officers during the American Revolution, to shooting down ADM Yamamoto’s “Betty”

  • Anti-Tal Bill says:

    Dear ACLU:
    Please refrain from interfering in matters of national security involving individuals in countries other than America. I believe ACLU stands for American Civil Liberties Union, not the World Civil Liberties Union. Furthermore, the Predator program is ruled classified, and the FOIA does not allow for classified information vital to our national security being released. Please also stop using the American Public as justification to enact your political agenda.
    Thanks – A member of the American Public

  • Mr. Wolf says:

    Part of me agrees with all of you, but part of me wants this to go through. That part realizes that soon, we will have the need to target “terrorists” within our borders. If this request can place known criteria into the federal domain, there will never be a lawsuit by anyone targeted by one of these aircraft.
    In some ways, the American Public, can be saved by the formalities of military doctrine by this request. No case outside of the US could proceed if there are known criteria to follow for a strike. Such as known locations, behavior, size of parties, weapons displayed, electronic monitoring, time of trace and other investigative “gut feelings”.
    The need to target terrorists within our borders includes the Islamic threat, but increasingly the drug war in Mexico is creeping into Texas and the other border states. Kidnappings, drug runs, neighborhood gangs, could be targeted if they are found crossing the border within this list of known actions to take. Which include all other apprehension techniques as well.
    Currently if DHS thinks something is going on, they can only watch from above, call in choppers, and try to catch them before the green line. If the ability to deploy military grade remote explosives is put on the table, we may be able to reduce the snatch and grab technique becoming popular along the border.

  • Solo says:

    To gather first hand evidence for their suit I would suggest the ACLU travel to where they can get a Talibans eye view of the Predator strikes. Ought to take care of any questions.

  • Lucy says:

    Didn’t Congress authorize the President under the AUMF to take whatever actions necessary to fight the perpetrators of 9/11 and terrorism?

  • Mikw says:

    Lucy, you are exactly right. The president is within his legislative authority, and certainly within his authority under international law (the doctrine of self-defense) to kill terrorist leaders (whose stated goal attack the United States) wherever they hide. The FOIA request would only serve to disclose national security secrets, and should not be approved. And I doubt any court would overrule the government, if it decided to deny the request.
    However, the ACLU serves an essential function, which cannot be overlooked. They are tireless defenders of our rights and liberties, and for the rule of law. Remember, we are talking about extrajudicial killings across international borders. Also remember that the cleric whose house was bombed in Yemen recently is an American citizen. So, this is at least a gray area of law.
    Were war not so clearly declared by al Qaeda’s actions on 9/11, and on so many other occasions before and after, I would be very skeptical of the authority of the executive to carry out such operations. However, given the current circumstances, the FOIA request should be denied.


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