The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is seeking information on drone strikes under the Freedom of Information Act. The ACLU presented arguments today (Sept. 20) to a federal appeals court
The ACLU has been seeking information on the U.S. drone program for over two years now. The ACLU sued the CIA after it refused to acknowledge that it has documents that explain the use of drones to target individuals in Pakistan and Yemen. The CIA referred to a national security exemption that allowed it to neither confirm nor deny that such records exist.
A federal judge dismissed the ACLU case on the grounds that the government had never officially acknowledged the program's existence. The judge said this in the face of numerous statements by Leon Panetta the Defense Minister and President Obama about the program. There were boasts about the precision of the attacks and how the attacks killed many Al Qaeda members. The mass media often went along with this absurdity of not acknowledging the program existed by phrasing news reports in terms of suspected U.S. drone attacks.
The ACLU wants to know details of the program including the legal basis for using drones to kill humans, the number of strikes, the manner of selecting targets, the determination of civilian casualties, the evaluation of completed strikes and cooperation with foreign governments. So far after two years the group is exactly nowhere. This is exactly where the Obama administration wants them to be. The government claims that even revealing whether the program exists or not could hurt national security. The government says this at the same time as they themselves have revealed all sorts of information about the program which the administration thinks might be politically advantageous.
The ACLU argued before the appeals court that the CIA's refusal to affirm or deny that it has records on the program is unlawful on the grounds that President Obama and also Defense Secretary Panetta have publicly acknowledged the program in interviews.
Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU, lawyer said to the three-judge panel: “We think it’s clear -- and the government now acknowledges -- that there is a drone program run by the U.S. government. The hard question is what is the CIA’s role and whether the CIA is actively using drones to carry out targeted killings.”Jaffer went on in an even more critical vein: The assertion that this programme is a secret is nothing short of absurd. For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the programme both on the record and off. They've claimed that the programme is effective, lawful and closely supervised. If they can make these claims, there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to [FOIA] requests."
Issues such as the ACLU suit are studiously avoided during the election campaign. What is clear is that the Obama administration shows no interest at all in having a debate about drones or giving any information about the programs to the public. Mitt Romney chooses not to criticize Obama on this score.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com