The Most Important Court Case You May Never Have Heard Of


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

It has not made a lot of noise in the main stream media, but recently, an important case filed jointly by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the Department of Justice and the Obama Administration’s drone war was argued in front of Judge Rosemary Collyer.  That case is Anwar Al-Aulaqi vs. Panetta, et al and it was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012.  You can find the filing here.

What makes this case so important is that it was filed on behalf of the estate of a 16-year-old American citizen who was killed by an American drone strike, along with other victims,  in Yemen in 2011.  Recently the United States Department of Justice presented a defense that is quite striking. 

“Another thing you should know is the specific defense the government is mounting in this case. As the New York Times reported, the Obama administration’s Deputy Attorney General Brian Hauck first declared that courts have no right to oversee executive-branch decisions to extrajudicially assassinate Americans. He also insisted that the White House already provides adequate due process for those it kills, prompting federal judge Rosemary Collyer to point out that “the executive is not an effective check on the executive.” The fact that the judge needed to issue such a reminder speaks volumes about an administration utterly unconcerned with constitutional governance.

But perhaps the most important thing to know about this case is what the government is arguing about the law itself. In defending the administration, Hauck asserted that such suits should not be permitted because they “don’t want these counterterrorism officials distracted by the threat of litigation.” ‘ Nationofchange

Yes, you read that correctly.  The Department of Defense is arguing that officials should not be bothered by having to defend themselves against possible illegal actions!  Does anyone here find that notion a little arrogant?  I have to commend Judge Collyer for her succinct reminder that the law does not consider any branch of the government is a proper check on itself.

The author of the aforementioned Nation of Change op-ed suggests that President Obama is taking a page out of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s playbook by mounting this kind of legal defense to what many consider an extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.  Not to rain on Dick Cheney’s parade, however, I actually think this mentality actually harkens back to President Richard Nixon who basically stated that if the President does it, it must be legal.

While this case is still ongoing, I consider it important to shed as much sunlight as I can on this kind of outrageous Executive branch over reach.  It is one thing to authorize possibly illegal spying, it is quite another matter to order the killing of American citizens without judicial due process.

As Scotusblog described the filing of the lawsuit, “While the lawsuit seeks a sweeping judicial condemnation of the drone policy, it specifically seeks to have a court rule that Panetta, Petraeus, and the other two officials “authorized and directed” the killing of the three citizens specifically, that at the time of the killings themselves none of the three presented “a concrete, specific, and imminent threat to life,” and that there were other means short of killing them to deal with any such threat.   None of the three at the time, the lawsuit asserted, was directly taking part in “hostilities within the meaning of the law of war.”

Is the request that the Executive Branch and the Department of Defense and the CIA should actually follow the law and the Constitution, asking too much?  Do you think that this case has a chance to be successful?  Will it eventually reach the Supreme Court and if so, do you think the Supreme Court will rubber stamp this taking of an American citizen’s life without due process?  How would you rule?

90 thoughts on “The Most Important Court Case You May Never Have Heard Of”

  1. Thanks very much Rafflaw, for bringing this to our attention. This is a VERY important suit. The Executive Branch is completely out of control, their arrogance beyond measure. If these criminals would suddenly be required to take responsibility for their outrageous overreach maybe we’d begin to see more roaches scatter in such light. Then we could restock the pantry, no prior FedGov service permitted.

  2. @RandyJet and Jill: Uh, wasn’t 9/11 an inside job? A fine job it did to scare a hell of a lot of people to accept the Patriot Act and declare a war on terror. What a great way to cause thousands to hate on one group of people. Falsely blame a group of people, one that can’t be pinned down and can cross many borders, as an excuse to go into countries that aren’t easily intimidated. And what a great way to breed more hatred and create real enemies. This war on terror is a great way to distract the people from the truth.

    This happened before. Spain was blamed for blowing up the battleship Maine as an excuse to create the Spanish American War. Research who really did it. It was an inside job too.

    Please research everything (even the ones called “conspiracy theories”) and stop believing the lies that MSM is feeding us. Step back and just connect the dots. It’s all a lie. Everything’s been a lie to scare us all into giving up our rights day by day.

  3. @Lottakatz – In retrospect… If you mean I’m “behind the curve” (aka “out of date”) on my constant “Zionist were behind 911 rant” because you were a devoted blog-reader and book-purchaser of ex-CIA Philip Marshall and his diatribe on how the Saudis did it ALL… well I’m not convinced. Maybe I will buy a hybrid “blended” operation of sorts. I know I read he had compelling evidence to release to the world to convince everybody that the Saudis did it. I mean UBL was Saudi, and the Saudis were/are paying terrorist’s families posthumously. Also Dubya’ was really TOO dam’d friendly with them and even worked for the Saudi bin Laden’s when he was an oil man at Arbusto.

    However, I’m just not on board for the 100% Saudi did it routine Phil was peddling. I’m not convinced he killed his family and himself this past February either. I don’t feel the American IC (Intelligence Community) did it either. Was it a Saudi hit-team? I dunno… Was it a Mossad hit-team? Hmmmm… The evidence is not conclusive either way. I think we may never know who really was behind 9/11 and Phil’s family-murder in California.

    I can say, though, that it wasn’t a tall man on a kidney dialysis in a villa at Abbotabad Pakistan or in a cave in Turaburra that planned and executed 9/11. I mean this man was barely effective with the Mujahedin during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. After being recruited from college back in the 1970’s to take over and then having his organization’s changed to al-Qeada (the base or database) by CIA people working for DCI Bush, he just pretty much cocked up everything. So now we are to expect that UBL planned and executed 9/11 during a war games drill (i.e. Vigilance *** subset of NORAD’s Operation Northern Vigilance)? How would a Saudi-elite gone rogue (i.e. UBL) know of such American classified internal operations?

    No I smell Ariel Scheinermann’s dirty fat hands all over this. You know he feels we know he controls America from behind the scenes? Well maybe so as just look at America today… need I explain? Isn’t it self-evident? Phil may have stumbled on something or maybe it’s just more “sayanim”* disinformation thrown at us.

    *”Sayanim” – a Victor Ostrovsky – word look it up. It means “assistant”.

  4. Thanks for the link Jill, I’m not surprised to see that analysis. A lot of people thought Obama was going to be in a position to make good on his campaign promises and wind down the war(s) yada, yada, yada so we are no longer needed. Once the momentum is gone it’s difficult to get back. I don’t know if the numbers show that the objection and activism against the war(s) was partisan or laziness is partisan or optimism/trust is partisan, LOL, maybe it’s that optimism and trust thing. Interesting to read.

  5. @bigfatmike – I think randyjet was using sarcasm on the ‘beat down’ part. He knows it ain’t legal to do that. His tongue-in0cheek moment 🙂

    However, I believe HE believes that Roland Carnaby (ex-CIA operative) was shot in apparent self-defense. He did not see the video nor read Wayne Madsen’s investigate report on the incident I posted above. He also did not see how “Cecil” was watching Roland go for the Blackberry in his driver side door FROM the passenger side window. Then Washington from the front of the car comes around the door with gun blazing as if he saw a gun. Cecil seeing his partner firing starts firing breaking the window. They both handcuff Carnaby and let him bleed-out before getting EMT to respond as they wanted to make sure he was dead (to please their benefactors at the Harbor port?).

    Carnaby’s wife tried suing but I don’t think anything came of it. Also why did the HPD confiscate his laptop (with CIA stuff on it) and cell phone and then tell FBI and CIA it got “misplaced”? Why did they say his CIA photo ID was PhotoShopped when they all knew Carnaby worked for the local CIA field office? His CIA handler (case officer) played dumb on the phone as that is CIA S.O.P. to deny everything (or disavow) on the phone when being called blind like that. I mean the call could have come from the bad-guys at the Harbor?

    1. ” randyjet was using sarcasm on the ‘beat down’ part.”

      Thanks for the heads up. Not the first time I have been a bit literal minded.

      But I am still giving some consideration to the merit of flogging.

  6. @Jill – Jude Kenan Mohammed was NOT targeted. He was indicted in 2009 for planning a terrorist attack on the US Marine base in Quantico (i.e. due process?). Then he fled to Pakistan. The ISI (Paki-CIA-type agency) was all over him as he was doing stuff there too. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 as he too was in the wrong place at the wrong time like the others.

    Have you heard the old expression: “If you lay down with dogs you get fleas?” or how about “If you live by the sword you die by the sword”? We can not blame Mr. Obama for using a Congressionally approved federal law that allows him to target American citizens abroad who can’t be touched in any way for extreme-rendition and due process back home.

    Do you have any ideas how we could have captured Anwar Alawki peacefully for trial back home? I’ll wait… (Jeopardy (US TV game show) Music plays in background)

  7. L.K.,

    Also I recommend Black Agenda Report. I like this site because they are what I would call an old fashioned liberal site. I don’t agree with everything they say but they seem to care about the welfare of our society, actually, people of the world.

    I thought of them last night and wanted to mention them. They talk about the repression of left-wing dissent by the left but they talk about many other important things as well.

  8. rafflaw 1, August 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

    sonof thunder,
    Thanks, but I think if you reread my article, I did not suggest that other Americans were killed in this particular strike. I just said other victims. Secondly, if the killing of this American citizen was accidental, why isn’t that part of the defense used in the lawsuit? Even if you are correct, doesn’t the type of defense being utilized concern you?

    First I WAS SAYING that another American was killed along with Anwar Alawki. The second one was an accident. The killing of Anwar’s 16-year old son 2-weeks later was an accident. I’m not sayng YOU said this. I am just restating documented facts.

    Why is ACLU not seeing the REAL picture in their lawsuit? I dunno… maybe poor research or just good ol’ low-effort-thing again…

    Just FYI – no one can win a lawsuit against a President. Only the Speaker of the House (John Boehner) can bring articles of Impeachment for high crimes & misdemeanors. I can’t see how Mr. Obama is ABOVE THE LAW when he’s using a Congressional approved federal law as I stated above.

    LOTTAKATZ – Just where did I “cheese you off”? How am I behind the curve? I too share with you and others on George W. Bush and Richard Cheney’s war crimes and DIRTY HANDS. I just will not accept Mr. Obama’s role in this. He is working with what he was given. He is recycling Bush’s stuff because if you try and re-invent the wheel now you just create all new problems. If it works why fix it? Only ONE American was targeted UNDER FEDERAL LAW – the other two were ACCIDENTAL.

  9. “The Obama administration has admitted for the first time to killing four U.S. citizens in drone strikes overseas. Three died in Yemen: the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. A fourth, Jude Kenan Mohammed — whose death was not previously reported — was killed in Pakistan. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that all but the attack on the elder al-Awlaki were accidental, saying the other three “were not specifically targeted.” The admission came on the eve of a major address in which President Obama is expected to defend the secret targeted killing program and announce modified guidelines for carrying it out. We’re joined by Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, “Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield,” and co-producer of the upcoming documentary film by the same name.”

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