Saturday, October 2, 2010

CIA seeks to gag critics of terror hit list

CIA seeks to gag critics of terror hit list

THE Obama Administration is trying to use national security laws to pre-empt an embarrassing court case over its targeted assassinations of terror suspects.

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In papers filed over the weekend Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, argued that American security would be breached if the lawsuit was heard in court.

"This case cannot be litigated without risking or requiring the disclosure of classified and privileged intelligence information that must not be disclosed," he wrote.

Mr Panetta was responding to a lawsuit brought against the Government by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual US-Yemeni citizen. His name was added to the counter-terrorism "kill list" after his alleged involvement in the failed Christmas Day airline bombing last year.

Nasser al-Awlaki, the suspect's father, a moderate politician in Yemen, told The Times last month: "What the US Government is doing is against the American Constitution. If Anwar has done anything wrong he should be prosecuted, not targeted by a drone."

The Justice Department said that Anwar al-Awlaki was a leading member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula who trained the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before his attempt to detonate an explosive device hidden in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009. Mr al-Awlaki was also in e-mail contact with Major Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. Officials fear Mr al-Awlaki's influence as a recruiter of potential terrorists in the US where he lived for many years, studying civil engineering and working as an imam.

The lawsuit argues that the US Government exceeded its authority by sanctioning extrajudicial killings. It also claims that it is unconstitutional for the Administration to target an American national.

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