The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights announced on Tuesday that they have filed a lawsuit against the United States government in connection with its practice of "targeted killings" of suspected terrorists. There's a twist to this particular case, however.
The two groups have been prevented from challenging the government's actions directly by a law which makes it a crime to provide any services to a "specially designated global terrorist" -- including legal representation -- without obtaining permission in advance from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Although the ACLU and CCR filed for the necessary license eleven days ago, they have received no response. Tuesday's lawsuit both challenges the failure of the Treasury Department to grant the license and asks for the regulation as a whole to be declared unconstitutional.
As explained by Salon's Glenn Greenwald, "The suit argues that Treasury has no statutory authority under the law it invokes -- The International Emergency Economic Powers Act -- to bar American lawyers from representing American citizens on an uncompensated basis. It further argues what ought to be a completely uncontroversial point: that even if Congress had vested Treasury with this authority, it is blatantly unconstitutional to deny American citizens the right to have a lawyer, and to deny American lawyers the right to represent clients, without first obtaining a permission slip from Executive Branch officials."