Groups Challenge Terror-Related Rule on Attorneys
August 3, 2010 - 3:04 PMTwo civil liberties groups went to court Tuesday to challenge a requirement that they get a government license before mounting a legal attack on the decision to put alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki on a CIA target list.
The Treasury secretary categorized al-Awlaki as a specially designated global terrorist last month. That made it illegal for lawyers to provide representation for al-Awlaki's benefit without obtaining the license.
The requirement is delaying efforts by al-Awlaki's father to retain the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union to sue over the constitutionality of the Obama administration program that placed al-Awlaki on a CIA list of alleged terrorists to be killed or captured.
Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the U.S. government is creating obstacles to putting the targeted killings program before the courts.
"We don't believe we should have to play 'Mother may I' with the government," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said of the attorney licensing requirement.
An American citizen and radical Muslim cleric thought to be hiding in Yemen, al-Awlaki is believed to have helped inspire recent attacks in the U.S., including the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings, the fizzled Times Square bombing attempt and the failed Christmas Day bombing of a jetliner approaching Detroit.
The Obama administration added al-Awlaki to its terrorism blacklist July 16, months after his name was added to the CIA target list.
At a press briefing, Romero said the timing of imposing the attorney license requirement "raised our eyebrows" because it took place several weeks after the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU spoke with al-Awlaki's father and staff from the two groups went to Yemen.
Asked whether the Obama administration might invoke the state secrets privilege to stop any lawsuit about the targeted killings program, Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project, said that the government had made no secret of the program.
Jaffer said he doesn't think the government can discuss it publicly, "and then declare it a state secret."
The groups filed their challenge to the Treasury's ruling in U.S. District Court here. There was no immediate comment from the Justice or Treasury Departments.
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