The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will take the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to court over US President Barack Obama’s assassination drone strikes.
The ACLU has tried to file Freedom of Information Act requests to get information on the drone program from the CIA.
However, the US government has refused to release documents related to drone attacks, also known as the “targeted killing” program, saying that it cannot confirm the existence of the program.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst from Washington, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
I’m a little bit confused, Mr. McGovern, about why the CIA would refuse to answer the requests for freedom of information as this ACLU has said that even President Obama has spoken about these drone attacks in the past?
First, let me just say how painful this is for me to discuss. As an army officer, I took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. That includes the Amendments to the Constitution, and I’m thinking of the Fifth which says, “No person shall be deprived of life, property without due process.”
The problem arises here when this covert action takes it into its own recognizance and its own power to deprive people of life without due process. The White House is saying, well, we do “due process” here -- we just do “due process.”
In our government, we have three branches. Congress is out to lunch on this. They’re afraid lest anyone appears to be soft on terrorism just as in my day it couldn’t be possible to appear to be soft on Communism.
The executive wants to do this without any reference to anything else, so they do what they call covert action. Covert action was instituted to give the president plausible denial, to give them plausible denial that it’s going on. Here you have the president and a lot of his “satraps” just really bragging away on this.
What about the judiciary? Well, they haven’t been involved yet. But what has happened here is that the Freedom of Information Act provides for the possibility that people like the American Civil Liberties Union can get access under that act to this kind of information.
Who picks these people to be killed? Under what law is it justified? What about the international laws involved? January 2010, more than two-and-a-half years ago, is when the ACLU filed that brief.
Just now, tomorrow indeed, the US District Court -- a three-judge court -- will be weighting whether the administration can do two things. One, deny that there is a drone program or refuse to give out any information about it. And number two, brag about how effective it is. That is truly absurd.
If you can, talk about the consequences of the use of these drones on not only the United States’ image but overall America itself and its stability. Do the American people realize the kind of image that is being portrayed of the United States and the world through these drone attacks?
The painful answer to that is no they don’t realize that. And that has to do with the way our corporate media is controlled by people, by corporations who are actually profiteering on these wars. There’s lots of money to be gotten from building the weapons, selling the weapons and giving the weapons to wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, God forbid, Iran.
The people who control the media are the same corporations that are profiteering. So the Americans are denied information that allow them to make judgments to say, well, this is not what America is all about.
The Fifth Amendment really does say “no person,” not just “no American,” but “no person shall be deprived of life without due process.” Due process is always taken place in the judiciary not in the White House. This is some very novel law that the president is trying to establish out of thin air.
Mr. McGovern, are you confident that the ACLU will be able to win this specific case?
I’m not an expert on the court involved or the three judges who will be weighting this. I must say that I’ve been terribly disappointed with the performance of some of these judges in some of these cases that have to do with civil liberties.
I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens tomorrow and in the following days, but I applaud the American Civil Liberties Union for bringing this case forward.