ACLU and CCR Respond in New Court Filing to Government’s Acknowledgement of Responsibility for Killing U.S. Citizens in Lawsuit

June 11, 2013, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a response in district court to the government’s recent admission that it killed the three U.S. citizens at issue in their lawsuit, Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta. In a letter to Congress on May 22, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the United States killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, who died in drone strikes in Yemen in 2011. The organizations issued the following statement: 

Two years after the fact, the president declassified what the entire world knew to be true—that the government killed three American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy.  Now, the government continues to insist that the courts have no role in evaluating the legality of its actions.  But the executive branch cannot simply declare the killings lawful and attempt to close the book on that basis.  A federal judge, not executive officials examining their own conduct, must determine the constitutionality of the government's actions.  We look forward to pressing that argument in court next month.
The government has moved to dismiss the lawsuit. Oral argument will be heard in D.C. district court on July 19, 2013.
On July 18, 2012, the ACLU and CCR filed a lawsuit charging that senior CIA and military officials violated the Constitution and international law when they authorized and directed the drone strikes that resulted in the deaths of these three U.S. citizens in Yemen last year.  The drone strikes were part of a broader, continuing practice of extrajudicial “targeted killing” by the United States outside the context of armed conflict.
On September 30, 2011, U.S. strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, who had been placed on CIA and JSOC “kill lists” over a year before, and another American, Samir Khan.  Two weeks later, on October 14, U.S. strikes killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, at an open-air restaurant. 
The suit was filed on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi, the father and grandfather of Anwar and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, and Sarah Khan, the mother of Samir Khan.  It names as defendants former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; former CIA Director David Petraeus; Adm. William H. McRaven, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.
Other documents related to the case are available online at: and


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

June 11, 2013