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Targeting Killings Document Bid Rejected by U.S. Judge

Documents concerning the U.S. government’s so-called targeted killings of alleged terrorists will remain secret under a federal judge’s ruling denying a request by the American Civil Liberties and two journalists.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in New York today turned aside virtually the entire document request from the ACLU and two New York Times journalists. In rejecting the ACLU’s “overbroad” request under the Freedom of Information Act and a “narrower” bid by the journalists, she said the requests nonetheless “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the executive branch.”

“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” McMahon wrote in a 75-page opinion. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly legal certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws.”

As part of the so-called War on Terror, U.S. forces have pursued members of al-Qaeda and other groups around the world, in some cases killing individuals by using armed forces or unpiloted, remote-controlled drones, McMahon said.

“While the decision ultimately concludes that the courts are powerless to order disclosure,” said David McCraw, the assistant general counsel at the New York Times, said in a statement, “we continue to believe that disclosure is required under FOI. We plan to appeal.”

The case is New York Times v. U.S. Department of Justice, 11-cv-9336, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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