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Judge allows US journalist in Syria to challenge inclusion on ‘kill list’

Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American citizen and journalist working in Syria [Twitter]
Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American citizen and journalist working in Syria [Twitter]

A federal judge today allowed an American journalist based in Syria to challenge his alleged placement on a US kill list, the Washington Post reported today.

The green light gives Bilal Abdul Kareem, a journalist operating in Syria, the ability to seek answers as to whether he is included on a US kill list.

US government lawyers asked the US Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District Columbia to dismiss the case, claiming that Kareem is not able to evidence his case based on the secrecy involved in targeted killing decision making in the US military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Due process is not merely an old and dusty procedural obligation … It is a living, breathing concept that protects US persons from overreaching government action even, perhaps, on an occasion of war,” Collyer said in her ruling.

Five attempted assassinations

Kareem has escaped being killed by drone strike on five occasions, including two strikes on cars he was travelling in. Two additional strikes were executed on his independent news agency, On the Ground News, while he was working in the studio. Kareem can now directly challenge the US government in court on the procedure of selecting him to be killed without notice or challenge.

Assad: UK, US, France prolonging war in Syria

Al Jazeera journalist Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan had his case dismissed as “speculative” by the same judge. The dual Pakistani-Syrian citizen “alleged that a leaked US government document indicated that he was named by a National Security Agency metadata tracking programme allegedly used by the CIA and called Skynet”, the newspaper reported. Zaidan was the first person to interview Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda’s former leader, in the 1990s.

Drone strikes double under Trump

Former US President Barack Obama previously warned high risk counter-terrorism operations should be used sparingly and only after internal review. His successor Donald Trump has sidestepped that rule and provided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Military broader powers. In addition, the US considers some countries “areas of activity hostilities” or temporary battlefields where looser targeting rules apply. US drone warfare has taken the lives of some 10,858 individuals since 2004, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).

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