AlterNet: By Alli Fry: Death by Drone On Trial: Families of Killed Americans Push For Accountability!
U.S. drone strikes have killed four American citizens to date. The families of three of the victims are bringing a lawsuit against those responsible for the targeted killings, seeking accountability from the U.S. government. On September 30, 2011, a drone strike killed five people, including U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. On October 14, 2011, another strike murdered Al-Awlaki's 16 year-old son Abdulrahman. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ACLU are representing plaintiffs Nasser Al-Awlaki, Anwar's father and Abdulrahman's grandfather, and Sarah Khan, mother of Samir Khan. Codepink delegates met with Nasser Al-Awlaki in Yemen in June. In an interview with the delegates, Nasser expressed, "I'm not looking for compensation or anything else. I am looking for compensation or anything else. I am looking for accountability. I want the American system of law to tell me at least why the American system of law to tell me at least why the American government killed my grandson." This week, the Codepink DC staff helped fill the packed courtroom to hear the oral argument on the defendants' motion to dismiss. It is imperative that the unconstitutionality of the U.S. government killing its citizens without due process, a violation of our 5th amendment rights be addressed, but furthermore we cannot stand for extrajudicial killings with impunity, whether the victim is a citizen or non-citizen. The court opened with the defense explaining its motion to dismiss the case. The Department of Justice is representing former CIA Director David Petraeus, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Commander of Special Operations Command William McCraven, and Commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Joseph Votel. The defense argued that this was a delicate matter of national security and was "outside the court's confidence," essentially arguing that the President's kill list are untouchable by the judicial branch of government. Judge Collyer did not seem pleased with the argument, asking where that logic ends and where the limits are for executive authority. The defense received a lesson from Judge Collyer in how checks and balances work among the three branches of government. She said, "The best thing about the US is that we are a country of law."When the defense argued that the executive branch in this case is checked by Congress, Judge Collyer corrected him: "Congress cannot interpret law, that is what the courts are for." When pressed by Judge Collyer, the defense eventually implied that 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki was not their intended target, and this was a tragic accident. Both the defense and the plaintiff agree that as a US citizen, Abdulrahman has 4th and 5th amendment rights.