Privacy SOS

The ACLU's Hina Shamsi and The Nation magazine's Jeremy Scahill were on MSNBC's “Up with Chris” program this morning to discuss the Obama administration's “kill list” and extrajudicial assassination policy.

A May 29, 2012 New York Times article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane exposed previously unknown details about the killing program, revealing a number of troubling facts such as the presence of Obama 2012 campaign political advisor David Axelrod at the “Terror Tuesdays” meetings where officials decide who is next to die. The story also revealed that the government is undercounting civilian deaths caused by drone strikes by calling all “military aged males” within strike zones militants, absent any evidence whatsoever.

The NYT story is full of details about the assassination program, revealed through interviews with dozens of current and former government officials close to the program. The “take no prisoners” approach is therefore highly visible, yet shockingly, the CIA continues to pretend that the program is a secret when challenged to defend it in court. 


The President claims the authority to unilaterally declare people 'enemies of the state,' including US citizens, and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process, and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a greater — a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.”

“We really have a cynical secrecy game being played right now. Over three dozen people — current and former administration officials — gave interviews to Jo Becker and Scott Shane of the New York Times. But in court, in response to lawsuits filed by the ACLU, by the New York Times, seeking transparency about the targeted killing program, the government still takes the position that it is a secret that cannot be acknowledged. If this is a secret it is the worst kept secret in the world.”

The CIA has a bad habit of pretending to have lost its mind when in court. Before judges, the agency “does not concede or not concede” that waterboarding is illegal, and pretends that no one knows about the targeted killing program, even though the former head of the CIA, top counterterrorism advisor John Brennan and the President himself have publicly acknowledged and defended the program.

Down the rabbit hole we go.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.