The CIA recently rejected an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request for documents that disclose the US government’s guidelines for targeting US citizens and foreign nationals with drone attacks.
In its response to the ACLU request, the CIA wrote that “it can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to this request without compromising national security concerns.”
Take it away, Glenn Greenwald:
Numerous Obama officials — including the President himself and the CIA Director — have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks…
… Everyone in the world knows the CIA has a drone program. It is openly discussed everywhere, certainly including the multiple Muslim countries where the drones routinely create piles of corpses, and by top U.S. Government officials themselves.
But then when it comes time to test the accuracy of their public claims by requesting the most basic information about what is done and how execution targets are selected, and when it comes time to ask courts to adjudicate its legality, then suddenly National Security imperatives prevent the government even from confirming or denying the existence of the program: the very same program they’ve been publicly boasting and joking about. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it after Obama publicly defended the program: “At this point, the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it” – that, and ensuring that any facts that contradict these public claims remain concealed.
Nine organization have now filed an Amicus — or friends of the court — brief to support an ACLU appeal against the CIA’s refusal to disclose documents that explain “when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killing.”
The organizations signing the brief are:
- Bureau of Investigative Journalism
- Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- Center on National Security at Fordham Law School
- The Constitution Project
- First Amendment Coalition
- Human Rights Watch
- International Commission of Jurists
- National Security Archive