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Federal Court Dismisses U.S. Drone Strike Lawsuit
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer sided with the administration in holding individual officials cannot be held accountable for acts of war and dismissed a lawsuit brought over drone strikes in Yemen that killed three U.S. citizens including a cleric of Al Qaeda.
In the lawsuit brought against former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former CIA Director David Petraeus and two commanders in the Special Operations forces, the judge had argued last July that the suit could be considered as “the executive is not an effective check on the executive.”
However, in the months in between, the federal judge came to understand the viewpoint of the administration and observed while dismissing the lawsuit “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into `the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation…”
The court also observed that “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” and, “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”
The judge said that the drone strikes and consequent deaths of U.S.-born al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, and al-Awlaki’s son raised issues regarding the conduct of armed conflict where decisions rested upon the president, and the Congress according to the Constitution and the court lacked jurisdiction to delve into such matters.
The 41-page opinion stated that the moves of the U.S. government against al-Awlaki were authorized by the defendants according to the statutory powers they derived from the Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted by the Congress following the 9/11 attacks.
Collyer further observed that “Allowing plaintiffs to bring a Bivens action against defendants would hinder their ability in the future to act decisively and without hesitation I defense of U.S. interests.”
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