On Thursday a three-judge panel seemed dubious of the CIA’s efforts to block Freedom Of Information Act requests from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the use of unmanned drones to kill suspects, the AP reports.Judges of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia cited a statement by President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, who said that the U.S. uses the “full range” of the government’s intelligence capabilities to target terrorists.
“Isn’t that an official acknowledgment that the CIA is involved with the drone program?” asked Judge Merrick Garland, a Bill Clinton-appointee.
Acting assistant attorney general Stuart F. Delery argued that since the intelligence community has 17 agencies, the statement wasn’t an acknowledgment.
The judges also mentioned a comment made by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2010 to ABC News when he said “… we continue to disrupt al-Qaida’s operations, and we are engaged in the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world …”
However, Delery argued that Panetta did not specifically mention drones.
“They continue to take the position that they haven’t acknowledged the CIA uses drones to carry out targeted killings,” ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer told the AP, adding that the government has “repackaged” the same argument.
The ACLU filed a FOIA request in January 2010 that asked the government to disclose the legal basis for “its use of predator drones to conduct ‘targeted killings’ overseas” and has argued that the CIA should comply because several high-ranking officials have publicly discussed the use of drones.
The CIA had previously refused to confirm or deny whether any records regarding drones exist but Delery acknowledged Thursday that the agency “possesses records responsive to the ACLU’s FOIA request.”
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