‘Public should know who the government is killing, and why it’s killing them,’ says legal director Jameel Jaffer.
President Barack Obama working with senior staff on Air Force One in this file image.
The American Civil Liberties Union will file a new lawsuit against the Obama administration over continued secrecy surrounding its controversial use of armed drones to carry out lethal strikes and assassinations across the globe, the Guardian reports on Monday.
According to journalist Spencer Ackerman, who was given advance notice of the suit, the ACLU is seeking disclosure from the White House of legal documents and internal memos relating to Obama’s use of drones, with specific attention to how individuals end up on what has become known as the president’s “kill list.”
Though the ACLU has filed previous lawsuits and requests for disclosures regarding the administration’s drone program—operated largely by the CIA but also the military’s Joint Special Operations Command—the latest effort to obtain legal justification for the program follows continued secrecy and ongoing “stonewalling” by White House lawyers and other agencies.
“Over the last few years, the US government has used armed drones to kill thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians. The public should know who the government is killing, and why it’s killing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU, told the Guardian.
The new lawsuit, reports Ackerman, describes how numerous agencies under Obama’s authority—including the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon, as well as the CIA—have been stonewalling the ACLU for nearly 18 months.
While lawyers for the Obama administration have argued that national security prevents further disclosures and President Obama has said that internal changes have enhanced the safeguards surrounding the selection of targets and the execution of drone strikes, the ACLU argues the level of secrecy around a program of such profound importance is simply unacceptable in a representative democracy.
Jaffer told the Guardian there could be no “legitimate justification” for persistent official stonewalling on civilian casualties and the procedures by which people, including U.S. citizens, can find themselves on a secret government “kill list.”
“The categorical secrecy surrounding the drone program doesn’t serve any legitimate security interest,” Jaffer told the Guardian. “It serves only to skew public debate, to obscure the human costs of the program, and to shield decision-makers from accountability.”