While the country was riveted on the fall-out from the election results—one of the most divisive Presidential elections in recent history—as well as engaged with concerns about more Covid lockdowns, the DOJ quietly went to a court in a significant civil rights case and declared that the US can kill anyone, anywhere and claim “state secrets,” thus avoiding any judicial review or due process.
Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is a US born journalist and has worked for the BBC and CNN, filed a case in federal court in 2017 alleging that he had been put on a US government kill list. The pleadings cite at least four attempts on Kareem’s life in the Middle East, where he has been covering the conflict for a number of years. These attempts involve targeted drone strikes as well as one attack on his personal vehicle apparently by a Hellfire missile. The citation of the Hellfire is significant as this is a US weapon.
In September of 2019, Judge Rosemary Collyer in US District Court dismissed Kareem’s case after the DOJ cited “state secrets.” Oral arguments appealing Collyer’s decision took place in DC Court of Appeals on November 16, which you can listen to here.
Kareem’s attorney, Tara Plochocki, was first questioned as to the plausibility of the claim that Kareem himself was the target of the strikes, given that Kareem was working in a war zone. The questioning then focused on the attorney for the Department of Justice, Brad Hinshelwood. The judges asked him what potential remedy exists for a US citizen who is put on the kill list. The question also arose if this “state secrets” privilege would also pertain for a target on US soil.
Asserting the absolute privilege associated with “state secrets,” Mr. Hinshelwood suggests that Congress might want to pass some legislation. At that time, circa 37 minutes in, one can hear one of the judges say, somewhat incredulously, “He should try to get a bill passed?”
The judge persists, saying “My car keeps blowing up and I keep getting shot at…and the government’s position is, tough luck, you have no rights, you have no capacity to get yourself off the list…The government may execute me and there is nothing I can do about it?”
DOJ attorney Hinshelwood responds: “So an individual on the kill list…in that circumstance…given the courts competence to adjudicate claims…there is no recourse.”…