Despite references by president and defence secretary, CIA cannot confirm drone useSubmitted by go213mph on Thu, 09/20/2012 - 10:01
The American Civil Liberties Union will go to court on Thursday in an attempt to get the CIA to hand over documents related to President Barack Obama's controversial "targeted killing" programme that uses unmanned drones to strike suspected Islamic militants.
The programme has been repeatedly referenced in public by numerous senior officials, including by Obama himself and defence secretary Leon Panetta, but the spy agency has refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request from the civil liberties group because it says it will not confirm the secretive use of drones.
As a result the ACLU has gone to court to argue that the CIA cannot deny the existence of a programme that has been so widely reported, including in great detail in off-the-record briefings by administration and agency officials. Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, said: "It is preposterous. The assertion that this programme is a secret is nothing short of absurd.
"For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the programme both on the record and off. They've claimed that the programme is effective, lawful and closely supervised. If they can make these claims, there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to [FOIA] requests."
The so-called targeted killing programme has become one of the most controversial aspects of Obama's national security policy. It has been used in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia to strike at suspected terrorists and their supporters. Proponents of the programme say attacks can be highly accurate and come at little risk to American forces as there is no need for ground forces. Critics point out that there often civilian casualties and little is known about how targets are identified and targeted.