In an argument before a US federal appeals court, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) argued the United States government had the right to take an American citizen’s life – without judicial review – if state secrets would be exposed.
Bradley Hinshelwood, a DoJ attorney, argued before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Monday that the United States can target its own citizens for killing without judicial review when litigation would expose state secrets.
The argument drew noticeable alarm among judges on the Circuit Court panel.
“Do you appreciate how extraordinary that proposition is?” US Circuit Judge Patricia Millett asked Hinshelwood, rephrasing his claim as giving the government the ability to “unilaterally decide to kill US citizens.”
The plaintiff, Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US citizen, works as a journalist in Syria for an obscure news channel. This news outlet provides access to Islamofascist rebel fighters. The jihadis Kareem interviews are linked to al Qaida.
Yes. THIS DOES IN FACT SEEM ALARMING. https://t.co/lmgRkEJYzb
— Eric Garland (@ericgarland) November 16, 2020
Kareem claims that he is targeted, included on a “kill list,” that resulted in five military strikes against him that he believes were carried out by the US military. He claims his inclusion on the alleged “kill list” came about because of metadata from electronic devices.
The US government sought to dismiss the case, saying that the bulk of his complaint was held under the state secrets privilege. A federal judge agreed with the government.
In its appellate brief, it was argued that Kareem lacked standing to bring the case because he makes an unsubstantiated claim about being targeted in a war zone. Even if he had standing, Hinshelwood argued, the state secrets privilege supersedes the claim in his litigation.
Hinshelwood did acknowledge that considering a potential strike against US citizen is a serious undertaking and admitted the courts have a role in deciding whether the state secrets privilege is appropriately applied in the matter.