Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ACLU v. OFAC & Al-Aulaqi v. Obama

In June 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi, the father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the killing of his son, a U.S. citizen who had been placed on secret “kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the U.S. military’s covert Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) earlier that year. Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of the Treasury designated Anwar al-Aulaqi a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” which made it a crime for lawyers to provide pro bono legal services for his benefit without first seeking a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  CCR and the ACLU sought a license, but after the government’s failure to grant one despite the urgency created by the outstanding authorization for Al-Aulaqi’s killing, CCR and the ACLU brought suit challenging the legality and constitutionality of the licensing scheme. The government thereupon provided the license.

In August 2010, CCR and the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi, challenging the government’s decision authorizing the CIA and JSOC to target and kill his son in Yemen. Outside of the context of armed conflict, the Constitution and international human rights treaties the U.S. has ratified prohibit the state from depriving persons of life without due process, except as a last resort to protect against an imminent threat of deadly harm. Anwar Al-Aulaqi was being targeted far from the United States’ war in Afghanistan, and the standing order for his killing flew in the face of the plain meaning of the law’s imminence requirement. The district court in Washington, D.C., dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, without reaching the merits. This case is part of CCR’s work challenging unlawful drone killings by the United States and other fundamental rights violations being committed in the name of national security.