Obama Administration Hopes to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Targeted Killing

CIA program reportedly targets U.S. citizen who inspired U.S. terror suspects.

ByABC News
September 24, 2010, 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2010 — -- The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the government's authority to target for death U.S. citizens abroad suspected of ties to terrorism.

"To litigate any aspect of this case would require the disclosure of highly sensitive national security information concerning alleged military and intelligence actions overseas," government lawyers argued in papers filed early Saturday morning.

The government cites, in part, the "states secret" argument to dismiss the case, saying that if the suit were to go forward it would provide a "treasure trove of vital information" that would enable terrorist organizations to "alter their plans and conceal their planning."

The lawsuit the Obama administration opposes centers on Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen hiding in Yemen.

The government believes Awlaki is a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that gained prominence for its connection to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Detroit on Christmas Day.

U.S. counterterrorism and homeland security officials say intelligence information indicates that Awlaki recently has taken an operational role in the group. The government has said that Awlaki is a "specially designated global terrorist."

Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, believes the government has authorized the killing of his son and has filed the suit.

The elder Awlaki, represented by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, seeks a declaration from the court that the Constitution and international law prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings outside of armed conflict except as a last resort to protect against imminent threats of death.

"The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights," the lawsuit claims. "Outside the context of armed conflict, the intentional use of lethal force without prior judicial process is an abridgement of this right except in the narrowest and most extraordinary circumstances."

The government also argues that Nasser al Awlaki has no right to bring the suit on behalf of his son, because the younger Awlaki does not lack "access to the courts."