Nation & World

Court rejects claims by family members of U.S. drone strike victims

A federal court has rejected the claims of family members of Anwar al-Aulaqi and his teenage son, who were both slain by U.S. drone strikes.

In a 41-page opinion Friday, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer offered some critical words for the Obama administration’s handling of the case while still concluding the relatives couldn’t pursue damage remedies from administration officials.

“(Officials) must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the President and with the concurrence of Congress,” Collyer wrote. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”

Collyer did reject the Obama administration’s aggressive argument that courts shouldn’t even consider the lawsuit, noting that “the Bill of Rights was passed to protect individuals from an over-reaching government, and this Court cannot refuse to provide an independent legal analysis.”

Nonetheless, Collyer concluded “no available remedy under U.S. law” existed for the grieving loved ones.

Anwar Al-Aulaqi, whose name is sometimes seen as Anwar al-Awlaki, was a leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, and killed with a drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. The missile also killed Samir Khan, who was riding in the same vehicle. Both men were U.S. citizens. Two weeks later, on Oct. 14, 2014, the United States killed more men in Yemen with a drone missile. While this second drone targeted someone else, it killed was Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s teenage son.

They were Americans. As Collyer summed up:

Anwar Al-Aulaqi, was born in 1971 in New Mexico. He moved to Yemen with his parents in 1978, but later returned to attend Colorado State University. He obtained a Master’s Degree from San Diego State University and enrolled in a Ph.D. program at George Washington University, which he attended through December 2001. He married in the United States and had three children while he was living here, including Abdulrahman, who was born in Denver, Colorado, on August 26, 1995. Anwar Al-Aulaqi and his family left the United States in 2002 or 2003 and eventually moved to Yemen.