al-Majalah Freedom of Information Act Request

At a Glance

Current Status 

The FOIA request was submitted to eight government agencies on April 17, 2012.

Date Filed: 

April 17, 2012

Co-Counsel 

American Civil Liberties Union

Case Description 

On April 17, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to several government agencies for information about a December 17, 2009, U.S. airstrike on a rural community in southwestern Yemen, in the al-Majalah region.  The strike, the first in Yemen authorized by the Obama administration, killed a reported 41 people, including at least 21 children.  The Yemeni government initially claimed that it had carried out the strike, but leaked U.S. government cables later revealed that Yemen had covered up the United States’ responsibility for the strike.

CCR and the ACLU’s FOIA request seeks information about the strike in al-Majalah from eight government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Department of State.  The request is part of CCR’s work challenging the U.S. government’s “targeted killing” program.

Case Timeline

May 30, 2012
Defense Intelligence Agency conducts search, responds that it has no records responsive to FOIA request
May 30, 2012
Defense Intelligence Agency conducts search, responds that it has no records responsive to FOIA request
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) responds to FOIA request, noting that, after a thorough search of "its systems for records for responsive documents," "no documents responsive to your request were found." CCR and the ACLU appealed this determination, but DIA reiterated its claim that it had no responsive records. Other agencies' responses have been purely administrative, such as denials of requests for expedited processing of the FOIA claims. No records have yet been produced.
April 17, 2012

CCR and the ACLU submit a FOIA request concerning the al-Majalah strike to eight U.S. government agencies.

April 17, 2012

CCR and the ACLU submit a FOIA request concerning the al-Majalah strike to eight U.S. government agencies.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeks several categories of information about the strike in al-Majalah, including the U.S. government’s legal basis for the strike; its decision-making process and factual basis for ordering the strike; its knowledge that civilians, including children, were present in the community and any measures taken to limit civilian casualties; its measures, if any, to compensate victims’ surviving family members for the resulting loss of life and property; and its efforts to conceal its responsibility for the strike. The request is directed to eight government agencies, including Department of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Department of State.

November 2011
WikiLeaks reveals cable showing the U.S. carried out the al-Majalah strike
November 2011
WikiLeaks reveals cable showing the U.S. carried out the al-Majalah strike
The State Department cable describes a meeting between General David Petraeus and former President Saleh of Yemen. According to the cable, "Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are 'not very accurate' and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. 'We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,' Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just 'lied' by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG."
December 17, 2009
U.S. cruise missiles carrying cluster bombs strike the al-Majalah region in southwestern Yemen, killing a reported 41 people.
December 17, 2009
U.S. cruise missiles carrying cluster bombs strike the al-Majalah region in southwestern Yemen, killing a reported 41 people.
At least 21 children among the deceased. The Yemeni government initially claims responsibility for the attack.