Justice Department asks judge to dismiss lawsuit filed on behalf of radical cleric

By Pete Yost, AP
Saturday, September 25, 2010

DoJ seeks to dismiss suit filed for radical cleric

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Saturday invoked the state secrets privilege which would kill a lawsuit on behalf of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged terrorist said to be targeted for assassination by the U.S. government.

In a court filing, the Justice Department said that the issues in the case are for the executive branch of government to decide rather than the courts.

The department also said the case entails information that is protected by the military and state secrets privilege.

The courts have sufficient grounds to throw out the lawsuit without resorting to use of the state secrets privilege, the Justice Department said in its filing.

“The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy,” the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. “In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check.”

Al-Awlaki’s father, through the CCR and the ACLU, filed the case in federal court in Washington.

The father has demanded that the government disclose a wide variety of classified information which could harm U.S. national security, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“It strains credulity to argue that our laws require the government to disclose to an active, operational terrorist any information about how, when and where we fight terrorism,” said Miller.

Believed to be hiding in Yemen, al-Awlaki has become the most notorious English-speaking advocate of terrorism directed at the United States.

E-mails link him to the Army psychiatrist accused of the killings at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. Al-Awlaki also is tied through e-mails to the Nigerian man charged with attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas Day.

Al-Awlaki is a U.S. and Yemeni citizen born in New Mexico and is said to have inspired a wave of attempted attacks against the U.S.

Saturday’s Justice Department filing calls al-Awlaki a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who has recruited people to join AQAP and facilitated training at camps in Yemen in support of acts of terrorism.

The lawsuit filed on the cleric’s behalf seeks to have a court declare that the Constitution and international law bar the government from carrying out targeted killings; seeks to block the targeted killing of al-Awlaki; and seeks to force the U.S. government to disclose the standards for determining whether U.S. citizens can be targeted for death.

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