The DOJ Argued It Can Kill US Citizens Without Oversight
The claim made in court by a government attorney in November 2020 is chilling in its implications.
Standing in front of the DC Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on November 16, 2020, DOJ attorney Bradley Hinshelwood argued that the US government could legally kill its own citizens without judicial oversight when “states secrets are involved.”
The case was brought to the court by Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US citizen, and Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, a Pakistani-Syrian. Both journalists are alleging that they were targeted for death by the US government while in Syria, doing investigative work on the civil war.
Kareem claims he was placed on a “US ‘kill list,’ compiled by the government at least since the early years of the Obama administration, to carry out extrajudicial political assassinations.” He further alleges that the US government targeted him five times, including a drone strike involving a Hellfire missile, during the Summer of 2016.
Until now, the government has not provided any information relating to the two men, asserting “state secret” and “national security” privileges.
Kareem’s attorney, Tara Jordan Plochocki, stated that:
Whether that’s in a parking lot in the United States or abroad in Syria, the government has claimed — for the first time ever in this case — that it has unfettered and unreviewable discretion to kill US citizens at will.
Following party lines, the three judges — two appointed by Obama and one by W Bush — gave differing opinions on the matter. Judge Henderson, the Bush appointee, considered Kareem’s claims that missiles be targeted at him a “spectacular delusion of grandeur.” Judges Millett and Srinivasan were not as clear cut in their opinions about M. Kareem.
Plochocki did not entertain the debate on the veracity and the severity of the bombings that destroyed Syrian cities. She nonetheless argued that, usually, U.S. attacks on Syrian territory demonstrated a high level of precision.
She further alleges that the government was asking M. Kareem, in a cynical twist, to “provide the make and model of the missiles fired at him.”