Judge: American journalist can’t challenge placement on militant “kill list”

A MQ-9 Reaper drone in flight. (Photo: Wikicommons)

A federal judge on Tuesday sided against an American journalist who filed a lawsuit over his alleged placement on a secret U.S. government “kill list.”

That journalist, Bilal Abdul Kareem, claims he escaped five attempted drone strikes while working inside Syria because of his purported placement on a list of militants circulated amongst U.S. government officials.

Last year, a federal judge paved the way for the New York-born freelance journalist to sue the government in an attempt to clear his name. But the Trump administration recently invoked a “state secrets” privilege to withhold information from coming out in court that contained material the government said contained “sensitive national security information.”

In court filings, the government said Kareem and his lawyers sought information that could reveal “the existence and operational details of alleged military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.”

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said Kareem had a “constitutional right” to “due process” that the government is bound to “before the government may take a life.” But she said she was bound to the current governance of law, which says the administration has an “absolute” right to withhold security material from public disclosure.

Prosecutors argued revealing to Kareem whether he was on the kill list could “permit him to evade capture or further U.S. action, and also could risk revealing or compromising intelligence sources and methods,” the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Collyer said if the government was to formally prosecute Kareem, Justice Department attorneys would have to disclose the classified information if it was critical to his defense.

Kareem’s lawyers said they were disappointed by the decision.

“For the first time ever, a United States federal court ruled that the government may kill one of its citizens without providing him the information necessary to prove that he is being wrongly targeted and does not deserve to die,” attorney Tara J. Plochocki said in a statement. “The U.S. Government could have provided this information but chose not to and the Court found that the Government’s assertion of national security trumps his right not to be killed.”

It was unclear if Kareem’s attorneys planned to appeal the decision.