1st Amendment News

Court battles continue over transparency in drone targeted killings

Notwithstanding the ruling by a federal district judge in New York last week that allows the federal government to avoid addressing the issue of whether its targeting killing policies are unconstitutional (Courthouse News Service), the court battles are just beginning.

In her ruling, Judge Coleen McMahon indicated she wanted to rule against the government but that “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly valid certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”

In an editorial, The New York Times disagreed with the judge, saying that the administration had used the killing of  American-born U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in September of 2011 in his re-election campaign. Such public discussion of the strike on al-Awlaki puts the issue squarely into the public forum.

The First Amendment Coalition filed a FOIA suit in February of 2012 seeking legal rationale for the killing of  al-Awlaki. The FAC lawsuit will proceed in a different federal court division and requests far fewer records so that if it succeeds in federal circuit court, it is possible that given conflicting decisions at the circuit level, the Supreme Court may some day take it on, a case that raises serious Constitutional issues. -db

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