ACLU Wants Obama To Release Targeted Killing Records

President Obama talks to national security officials Tom Donilon and Ben Rhodes as former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley looks on.<a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/5610942562/">Flickr/White House</a>

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The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Wednesday seeking not only the legal justification for America’s targeted killing program, but the process by which US citizens suspected of terrorism are placed on its so-called “kill list.” The ACLU is also seeking the evidence the US government used to determine that radical American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in September, was actually a terrorist.

Little is known about the process by which the US determines whether killing an American citizen suspected of terrorism abroad is justifed. Just last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS’ 60 Minutes that the president himself signs off on targeted killings when aimed at American citizens. 

While the New York Times has also filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking the Office of Legal Counsel memo that lays out the legal justification for targeted killings of American citizens suspected of terrorism, the ACLU lawsuit goes farther in asking for specific evidence both related to Awlaki’s death and details about how the US government decides it can kill one of its own citizens without a trial. While Awlaki was well known for spreading extremist ideas, concrete evidence of his operational involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was never made public. 

Last time the ACLU sued over targeted killing of Americans a judge sided with the CIA, which argued that the government had not officially acknowledged the program’s existence, despite the program being essentially the world’s biggest open secret. On Monday Obama told a questioner during an online forum that the drone program was “on a very tight leash” and that his administration’s exponential increase in the use of drone strikes did not amount to the US conducting “a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly.” Between the president’s remarks and Panetta’s, perhaps this time around the government won’t be able to use the excuse that it remains nominally classified.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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