The American Civil Liberties Union is appealing a court decision that allows the CIA and the Obama administration to keep secret their legal justification for its drone strike program. The decision, passed by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon of New York in January, is almost comical in its catch-22 thorniness:
… this court is constrained by law, and under the law, I can only conclude that the government has not violated FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and so cannot be compelled by this court of law to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States. The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable catch-22. I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.
In other words, the government needn’t prove what it is doing is legal, because it isn’t doing anything illegal. The ACLU would like to see this decision overturned.
“The public has a right to know the circumstances in which the U.S. government believes it can kill people, including American citizens, who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime,” argued ACLU National Security Project director Hina Shamsi in the appeal, filed Monday. “The targeted killing program raises serious questions about government power in a constitutional democracy.”
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