A judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by an American journalist challenging his alleged placement on a U.S. government “kill list.” The man’s belief that he is on the list stems from what he describes as multiple aerial bombings targeting him while in Syria. The judge dismissed the case because of the government’s invocation of the “state secrets privilege” so as to not disclose classified information needed to establish the man’s prima facie case.
Although targeted killings are hardly a novel military tactic, they have gained significant attention in recent years as the US government has increasingly employed the method in its overseas counterterrorism operations. Many critics have attacked the government’s targeted killing programs on grounds of excessive civilian casualties, an matter that remains sharply contested. The targeted killing programs also raise legal questions under both domestic law and international law, as well as thorny legal and moral issues regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other autonomous systems in the carrying out of targeted killings.