ACLU, CCR Sue to Protect Anwar al-Awlaki’s Right to a Lawyer

Some weeks ago, the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights had planned to sue the government on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki’s father. But in remarkable bit of timing, the government designated Awlaki a specially designated terrorist, meaning ACLU and CCR would have to get a “license” before they could engage in a transaction like legal representation on behalf of Awlaki. So now, the two groups are suing to make such licensing illegal.

Glenn Greenwald has the full story:

Early last month, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights were retained by Nasser al-Awlaki, the father of Obama assassination target (and U.S. citizen) Anwar al-Awlaki, to seek a federal court order restraining the Obama administration from killing his son without due process of law.  But then, a significant and extraordinary problem arose:   regulations promulgated several years ago by the Treasury Department prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with individuals labeled by the Government as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” and those regulations specifically bar lawyers from providing legal services to such individuals without a special “license” from the Treasury Department specifically allowing such representation.On July 16 — roughly two weeks after Awlaki’s father retained the ACLU and CCR to file suit — the Treasury Department slapped that label on Awlaki.  That action would have made it a criminal offense for those organizations to file suit on behalf of Awlaki or otherwise provide legal representation to him without express permission from the U.S. Government.  On July 23, the two groups submitted a request for such a license with the Treasury Department, and when doing so, conveyed the extreme time-urgency involved:  namely, that there is an ongoing governmental effort to kill Awlaki and any delay in granting this “license” could cause him to be killed without these claims being heard by a court.  Despite that, the Treasury Department failed even to respond to the request.

Left with no choice, the ACLU and CCR this morning filed a lawsuit on their own behalf against Timothy Geithner and the Treasury Department.  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.

Click through for much more.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. PJEvans says:

    Not to mention the whole idea that it’s somehow okay for the government to order anyone, especially a citizen, killed without any kind of legal proceeding, whether they have a lawyer available or not.

  2. Mary says:

    It’s not unconstitutional according to Obama’s political pick for the Court, who is getting the nod to cover for HIS war crimes.

    And Dems never bothered to hold her feet to the fire over any of these topics. I get my emails from Feingold and Leahy and the rest for fundraising and I want to be sick.

    • PJEvans says:

      It makes me want to vote for anyone who is reasonably sane and not supported by the WH or the D party ‘leadership’.

  3. Mary says:

    Kagan channels Shakespeare: The first thing we do, let’s make it illegal to be a lawyer for suspects.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      For those who’ve forgotten their Cliff Notes, that “kill all the lawyers” line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI was a tactic intended to foment and consolidate rebellion.

      That was not because lawyers were angels of mercy or justice, but because they were literate in an illiterate society and displaced abbotts, priests and bishops as counselors to kings. They kept their records, protected their property, implemented their policies, rendered their “justice” and history, and applied precedent to establish and keep order – as the king understood it.

      In short, they made government happen. For Shakespeare and Dickens, lawyers were also characters of derision because they often perpetrated injustice through self-dealing and arcane processes. The two roles (among others) are not mutually exclusive; we see elements of both in Team Obama, as we did in Team Bush.

      In Henry VI, the line was spoken by fools, not to characterize the odds of the tactic working, but to suggest those characters would be unable to pull it off and thus achieve their ends. Team Obama may be unprogressive, it may sometimes respect the rule of law as little as did Team Bush, but it is not comprised of fools.

      • bobschacht says:

        You make good points, EOH.

        IIRC, the Khmer Rouge may not have specifically targeted lawyers, but didn’t they essentially target anyone who was literate?

        Bob in AZ

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Thanks to ACLU and CCR, and to Glenn and EW for highlighting this important issue.

    FBI and other police agencies, including Scotland Yard, attended this 2004 conference:

    Those professions or vocations that feature interpersonal deception as a central component of the job (e.g., undercover police work) frequently have little written doctrine on how to deceive, and even more rarely have subjected that doctrine to rigorous scientific inquiry. This project aims to 1) systematically comb through the existing scientific literature for guidance on effectively practicing interpersonal deception, 2) survey a wide-variety of professionals who practice deception, in order to compile a broad knowledge base containing “best practices” of conducting deception, 3) identify gaps or untested hypotheses regarding the practice of deception in both the scientific literature and professional knowledge base, and 4) formulate a “road map” of scientific experimentation to address shortcomings, inaccuracies, and gaps in existing doctrine on deceiving….

    Individuals who professionally practice deception (e.g., smugglers, undercover cops) may have a great deal of explicit and implicit information about what variables are key, what methods work and don’t work….

    See also this related article by Shahid Buttar of Bill of Rights Defense Committee on FBI’s Cointelpro 2.0 http://huff.to/dcJd6Y

    • bobschacht says:

      Don’t forget to add “disinformation” to your keyword searches. Some Republicans, at least, are known to have training in this area (e.g., Rick Renzi, IIRC).

      Bob in AZ

  5. jerryy says:

    “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    It sure seems like folks in this administration took former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ view about the Geneva Conventions being ‘quaint’ straight to heart and decided to apply that view to civil liberties as well. I am guessing they will say that Dr. King’s use of the word can means that he did not mean it should never happen.

    Dr. King also said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I wonder what he would have said about our last president and our current one.

  6. mattkane says:

    For the US government to kill one of its citizens without the due process of law required by the Constitution would set a very dangerous precedent, as well as go against 40 years of executive orders banning assassination by anyone in the government, acting on behalf of the government, or hired by the government.

  7. Mary says:

    I’m not 100% with you on your last point EOH. You don’t have to be uneducated or lacking in self interested calculation to be foolish.

    I think they’ve been very foolish and I’d say that my bit could also ahve been, like the line in Henry VI, spoken by a fool. But that’s just mo.

    @13 – As much as I’d kind of like to give Conway some support in KY, or even Feingold with all the emails I get, I can’t give support Democrats or Republicans right. As crazy as Paul is on so many things – he’s almost more sane on GITMO and Afghanistan and Iraq than most of the Democratic party. That leaves me with 3P or writing in something, someone.

    A credible proposal to amend the Constitution to get rid of the Senate might get my support – but I think the ERA showed how unlikely it is that we’ll ever get such amendments again.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I hadn’t thought of comparing the current administration to the Khmer Rouge, but they seem as adamant as Bush that a straight-up judicial challenge to their legal excesses is to be avoided at all costs.