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DC Appellate Court Revives ACLU Suit for CIA Drone Records

A week full of flak over the secrecy of CIA drone operations was capped by a ruling on Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On Tuesday, the Politico newspaper reported that a Democratic senator had faced off Obama in a closed-door meeting on the questions of checks and balances over the use of drones, and on Wednesday, the Washington Post carried an opinion by John Podesta criticizing the withholding of legal opinions on drone use.

In the instant matter, the ACLU had sued under the Freedom of Information Act for records related to drone use. The CIA, in its bid to quash the suit argued that it was not in a position to either confirm or deny of the existence of drone records due to security concerns. The ACLU countered that the existence of the drone program had been acknowledge by government officials in public statements from 2009 to 2012.

While the suit would now head back to trial, the fact that the CIA did not even acknowledge the existence of drone records before the court made the appeals court observe, “There comes a point where … courts should not be ignorant as judges of what (they) known as men and women.”

Writing for himself and the other two judges of the panel, Judge Merrick Garland observed, “The president of the United States has himself publicly acknowledge that the United States uses drone strikes against al Qaeda.”

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While in response to the ruling, Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman said the administration was more transparent than any of its predecessors, and “We will continue to disclose as much as we can – as soon as we can – regarding the framework, the standards, and the process through which we approve such operations,” the CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz refused to comment and said, “The CIA does not, as a rule, comment on matters before the courts.”

The deputy legal director of the ACLU, Jameel Jaffer issued a statement countering, “The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders.”

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