WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Saturday invoked the state secrets privilege, which would kill a lawsuit on behalf of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged terrorist said to be targeted for death or capture under a U.S. government program.
Believed to be hiding in Yemen, Awlaki has become the most notorious English-speaking advocate of terrorism directed at the United States.
E-mails link Awlaki to the Army psychiatrist accused of the killings at Fort Hood, Texas, last year. Awlaki has taken on an increasingly operational role in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Justice Department said in a court filing, including preparing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his attempt to detonate an explosive device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
In its court papers, the Justice Department said that the issues in the case are for the executive branch of government to decide rather than the courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement, "The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy."
Awlaki's father, Nasser Awlaki, filed the case in federal court in Washington through the CCR and the ACLU.