District court dismisses Al-Aulaqi v. Obama

(ASIL) The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has dismissed a civil action filed on behalf of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a dual U.S.-Yemeni citizen and an alleged al Qaeda supporter, currently hiding in Yemen. Al-Aulaqi’s father asked the U.S. court to issue an injunction prohibiting the U.S. government from executing an “unlawfully authorized targeted killing” of his son. The U.S government argued that all of plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed on several grounds, including that the plaintiff lacked standing; that the claims were in violation of the political question doctrine; that the Court should exercise its “equitable discretion;” that no relevant cause of action exists under the Alien Tort Statute; and that the state secrets privilege was implicated.

The District Court, in a lengthy decision that carefully analyzed each of the five grounds, concluded that while the alleged targeted killing of plaintiff’s son was a “drastic measure,” the Court was barred by the political question doctrine from judicial review. According to the District Court, it was not for the courts to question the decision “textually committed to the political branches, and . . . courts are functionally ill-equipped to make the types of complex policy judgments that would be required to adjudicate the merits of plaintiff’s claims.”

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