A court battle has been brewing over a challenge by two civil rights groups to the Obama administration’s Predator drone strike program, which began under the Bush Administration and has continued under President Obama’s watch. At the center of that battle is Anwar al Awlaki, the Yemeni cleric infamous for his mentoring of Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, and his role inspiring the failed Christmas Day and Times Square attacks. Months ago, Awlaki’s name was added to the CIA target to capture or kill list for his implications in these plots. The issue is whether Awlaki should be provided representation in court, a right he lost when his name was added to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of specially designated global terrorist last month. Being added to this list makes it illegal for anyone to represent them in court without obtaining a license from the Treasury Department.
Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, Nassir, has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to help him obtain the license needed to have gain for his son. Awlaki’s father has been fighting to have his son’s name removed from CIA kill list, which the ACLU feels is out of bounds considering he hasn’t been indicted in the US. Visiting with Awlaki’s father in Yemen, attorneys retained by the elder Awlaki had this to say:
“There’s no question that the government has the authority to use lethal force against Americans who join the Taliban, say, or who join the insurgency in Iraq,” the ACLU’s Jaffer said. “But the United States is not at war in Yemen, and the government doesn’t have a blank check to kill terrorism suspects wherever they are in the world. Among the arguments we’ll be making is that, outside actual war zones, the authority to use lethal force is narrowly circumscribed, and preserving the rule of law depends on keeping this authority narrow.”
The lawsuit by these two groups is that latest challenge to the Obama Administration’s Predator drone strike program. On March 16, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the the Defense Department, the State Department, and the Justice Department, demanding enforcement of its January request for information on the program.
As to whether or not Awlaki would receive representation, the Treasury Department indicated that it may indeed grant the ACLU and the CCR the license to represent Awlaki. From OFAC Director Adam Szubin via the AP:
“To the extent that the particular legal services that the ACLU wishes to provide in this instance do not fall into any of the broad categories that are generally licensed, OFAC will work with the ACLU to ensure that the legal services can be delivered,” Szubin said in a statement.
“It is “significantly misleading” to say that OFAC regulations prohibit lawyers from giving free representation to people on the terrorist list unless the government gives them permission, said Adam Szubin, OFAC’s director.”
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