With state secrets privilege, U.S. ends challenge by journalist over drone ‘kill list’

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A U.S. judge today dismissed a lawsuit by an American journalist who sought to challenge his placement on a drone “kill list” by U.S. authorities in Syria.

In fighting Bilal Abdul Kareem's lawsuit, the Trump administration successfully invoked the “state secrets” privilege to withhold sensitive national security information.

In her 14-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of Washington, D.C. said she was bound to agree with the government, and said its right to withhold information in such instances is “absolute.”

“What constitutional right is more essential than the right to due process before the government may take a life? While the answer may be none, federal courts possess limited authority to resolve questions presented in a lawsuit, even when they are alleged to involve constitutional rights. This is such a case,” Collyer wrote.

“Despite the serious nature of Plaintiff’s allegations, this Court must dismiss the action pursuant to the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege.”

From Spencer S. Hsu at the Washington Post:

[Judge Collyer] last year had opened the way for Bilal Abdul Kareem, a freelance journalist who grew up in New York, to seek answers in his civil case from the government and to try to clear his name after what he claims were five near-misses by U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

Collyer in June 2018 ruled that Abdul Kareem, who said he was mistaken for a militant because of his frequent contact with militants linked to al-Qaeda, was exercising his constitutional right to due process in court.

But after talks between Abdul Kareem’s lawyers and U.S. authorities broke down, the government tapped the rarely invoked state secrets authority, saying Abdul Kareem sought information revealing “the existence and operational details of alleged military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.” (...)

Prosecutors said that disclosing whether Abdul Kareem is on the “kill list” could permit him to evade capture or further U.S. action, and also could risk revealing or compromising intelligence sources and methods.

U.S. invokes state secrets privilege to block American journalist’s challenge to alleged spot on drone ‘kill list’ [Washington Post]