Case Documents

View Attached Documents

Take Action

ACTION: No More U.S. Militarism in Iraq

CCR stands against further military action in Iraq, in solidarity with our partners and allies…

Related Cases

What's New

Leading Groups Stand Strong With American Muslims in Appeal of NYPD Spying Lawsuit

July 11, 2014, New York – Last night, dozens of organizations and individuals representing diverse…

NSA Surveillance of Muslim Leader Fits Same Pattern as FBI Spying on MLK, Say Civil Rights Attorneys

July 9, 2014, New York  – In response to news, reported today by Glenn…

Related Resources

CCR and the ACLU v. OFAC & Al-Aulaqi v. Obama

Print Friendly and PDF

Synopsis

On August 3, 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme that requires them to obtain a license in order to file a lawsuit concerning the government’s asserted authority to carry out targeted killings of individuals, including U.S. citizens, far from any battlefield.

On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Dr. Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, in violation of the Constitution and international law.

Status

On December 7, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Bates dismissed the suit of Al-Aulaqi v. Obama on grounds that Nasser Al-Aulaqi did not have legal standing to challenge the targeting of his son, and that the case raised "political questions" not subject to court review. The court did not rule on the merits of the case.

Description

In early July 2010, CCR and the ACLU were retained by Nasser al-Aulaqi, the father of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the death of his son, who was placed on kill lists maintained by the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) earlier this year.  On July 16, 2010, however, the Secretary of the Treasury labeled Anwar al-Aulaqi a “specially designated global terrorist,” which makes it a crime for lawyers to provide representation for his benefit without first seeking a license from OFAC.  CCR and the ACLU sought a license, but after the government’s failure to grant one despite the urgency created by an outstanding authorization for Al-Aulaqi’s death, CCR and ACLU brought suit challenging the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme as applied to the representation they seek to provide.  CCR and the ACLU have not had contact with Anwar Al-Aulaqi.

The OFAC requirements generally make it illegal to provide any service, including legal representation, to or for the benefit of a designated individual.  A lawyer who provides legal representation for the benefit of a designated person without getting special permission is subject to criminal and civil penalties.  In their lawsuit, CCR and the ACLU charge that OFAC has exceeded its authority by subjecting uncompensated legal services to a licensing requirement, and that OFAC’s regulations violate the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the principle of separation of powers.  The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the regulations and to make clear that lawyers can provide representation for the benefit of designated individuals without first seeking the government’s consent.

The underlying representation that CCR and the ACLU seek to provide Nasser Al-Aulaqi would challenge the government’s decision authorizing the CIA and JSOC to target and kill his son, who is currently hiding in Yemen, without charge, trial or any form of due process.  

While the government can legitimately use lethal force against civilians in certain circumstances outside of a judicial process, the authority contemplated by senior Obama administration officials is far broader than what the Constitution and international law allow.  Under international human rights law, lethal force may be used in peacetime only when there is an imminent threat of deadly attack and when lethal force is a last resort. A program in which names are added to a list though a secret bureaucratic process and remain there for months at a timeplainly goes beyond the use of lethal force as a last resort to address imminent threats, and accordingly goes beyond what the Constitution and international law permit.

Moreover, targeting individuals for killing who are suspected of crimes but have not been convicted – without oversight, due process or disclosed standards for being placed on the kill list – also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people.  Since 9/11, the U.S. government has detained thousands men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable and release them.

For additional information see:

 

Other Media

 

Video of Yemen Human Rights Panel

by Center for Constitutional Rights

 

* Tawakkol Kamran, Ezz-Adeen Al-Asbahi, Pardiss Kebriaei & Leili Kashani

 On September 2, 2010, at the Brecht Forum in New York City, CCR convened "The United States and Yemen: Destroying Lives in the Name of National Security," a public discussion featuring prominent Yemeni activists and a CCR human rights attorney addressing the human costs and legal consequences of characterizing Yemen as a new frontier in the so-called "War on Terror."

The U.S. government increasingly describes Yemen as "an important partner in the global war on terrorism" while at the same time characterizing it as an Al-Qaida stronghold. In turn, the Yemeni government has taken advantage of the U.S. partnership and increasing military aid to justify its domestic "anti-terror campaigns" which have resulted in egregious human rights violations, including mass arrests, illegal abductions, enforced disappearances, torture, and killings. The victims of this violence are not only alleged militants and their families, but Yemeni dissidents and journalists critical of their government. The "War on Terror" has served as a cover for the Yemeni state to increase repression and militarization in response to its own internal political crises -- all with the tacit approval of the international community.

This video provides an exceptional opportunity to hear visiting Yemeni activists at the forefront of human rights struggles in their country discuss what they are doing to resist this mounting repression and to create a meaningfully democratic and peaceful future, and reflect on what ethical solidarity with Yemeni people might look like.  Also hear from a CCR attorney who is trying  to stop a "targeted killing" by the United States in Yemen and who represents men at Guantanamo—where Yemeni men constitute the largest group of remaining prisoners, all declared by the Obama administration to be indefinitely detainable without charge based solely on their nationality. Developing an understanding of this political reality is crucial to ending the U.S. government's complicity in more human rights abuses, and to stopping the creation of a boundless war without end that threatens our collective safety.

* This event was co-sponsored by FIDH and the Brecht Forum.

Timeline

On July 23, 2010, CCR and the ACLU submitted an urgent request to OFAC for a license authorizing them to continue to provide pro bono legal services to Nasser Al-Aulaqi as representative of the interests of Anwar Al-Aulaqi.

On August 3, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit against the Department of Treasury and OFAC challenging the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme requiring them to obtain a license to continue their representation of Nasser Al-Aulaqi as representative of the interests of Anwar Al-Aulaqi.

On August 4, 2010, OFAC granted CCR and the ACLU a license to represent Nasser Al-Aulaqi.

On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Dr. Nasser Al-Aulaqi against President Obama, CIA Director Panetta, and Defense Secretary Gates, challenging their decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, in violation of the Constitution and international law. 

On August 30, 2010, CCR and the ACLU also filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction asking the court to declare that it is illegal for the government to kill Anwar Al-Aulaqi, unless he is found to present a concrete, imminent threat, and there are no other means besides lethal force that could be used to stop the threat.

On September 25, 2010, the government opposed Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and moved to dismiss the case arguing that Nasser Al-Aulaqi lacks standing to bring the case, that the issues are political questions not appropriate for judicial review, and that litigation would risk disclosure of “state secrets.”

On October 8, 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed a brief in response to the government’s motion to dismiss and opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, arguing that Dr. Al-Aulaqi has appropriate standing to assert his son’s constitutional claims, that the determination of those claims present squarely justiciable issues, that Dr. Al-Aulaqi has also stated an appropriate claim in his own right under the Alien Tort Statute against the extra-judicial killing of his son, and that “state secrets” do not foreclose litigation of his claims.

Three declarations were submitted in support of the brief and the premise that the targeted killing of Dr. Al-Aulaqi’s son in Yemen would occur outside the context of armed conflict, including from Professor Bernard Haykel of Princeton University addressing factual issues concerning Yemen and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and from Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame University addressing legal issues concerning armed conflict.

On November 8, 2010, DC District Court Judge John Bates heard the oral arguments for Al-Aulaqi v. Obama.

On December 7, 2010, DC District Court Judge John Bates granted the government's Motion to Dismiss on procedural grounds. He did not rule on the merits of the case.