Families Sue US in Yemen Drone Strikes
Relatives of three US citizens killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against four senior national security officials Wednesday.
The suit, in the US District Court here, opened a new chapter in the legal battle about the Obama administration’s use of drones to pursue terror suspects away from traditional ”hot” battlefields such as Afghanistan.
The first strike, on Sept. 30, killed a group of people including Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico, and Samir Khan, a naturalized US citizen who lived at times in New York and North Carolina. The second, Oct. 14, killed a group of people including Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who was born in Colorado.
Accused in the lawsuit of authorizing and directing the strikes are Leon E. Panetta, the secretary of defense; CIA chief David H. Petraeus; and two senior commanders of the military’s Special Operations forces, Admiral William McRaven of the Navy and Lieutenant General Joseph Votel of the Army.
“The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all US citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law,” the complaint says.
Press officials with the CIA, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department declined to comment.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed by Nasser Awlaki, who was Anwar’s father and Abdulrahman’s grandfather, and Sarah Khan, Samir’s mother. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights are assisting them.
In 2010, the two groups helped Nasser Awlaki in an effort to obtain a court injunction against government efforts to kill his son. A federal judge threw out the case, primarily on the ground that Nasser Awlaki had no standing to sue in place of his son. Now Nasser Awlaki and Sarah Khan represent the estates of their sons and his grandson.