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Anwar al-Awlaki: ACLU wants militant cleric taken off US 'kill list'

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It says the killings are carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency or the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

“The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights,” says ACLU lawyer Arthur Spitzer in the complaint.

“US citizens have a right to know what conduct may subject them to execution at the hands of their own government,” Mr. Spitzer writes. “Due process requires, at a minimum, that citizens be put on notice of what may cause them to be put to death by the state.”

The complaint adds: “Both the Constitution and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific, and imminent threats.”

Government officials have defended the program, saying that after the 9/11 attacks Congress granted the executive branch wide latitude to take action to protect the country from Al Qaeda.

“The US is careful to ensure that all its operations used to prosecute the armed conflict against those forces, including lethal operations, comply with all applicable laws, including the laws of war,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

"This administration is using every legal measure available to defeat Al Qaeda, and we will continue to do so as long as its forces pose a threat to this nation," he said.

President Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are named as defendants in the suit.

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