Appeals Court Skeptical Of Obama Secrecy Around Drone Killings

David Ingram | Chicago Tribune News | September 20, 2012

A U.S. appeals court responded skeptically on Thursday to Obama administration assertions the government can withhold documents about a program that uses aerial drones for targeted killings overseas. A suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union is part of a broad legal strategy, also playing out in federal court in New York, to learn more about the drone program that the government says targets al Qaeda militants.

The program is shrouded in secrecy, even as officials up to President Barack Obama acknowledge it exists. What remains in dispute is whether the government has confirmed the involvement of the CIA in the program, and if so, whether the CIA must turn over documents to the ACLU.

Pressing government lawyer Stuart Delery, Judge Merrick Garland asked, "If the CIA is the emperor, aren't you asking us to say that the emperor has clothes even when the emperor's bosses say it doesn't?" All three appeals judges read aloud to a full courtroom statements from U.S. officials, some of them anonymous, that the judges said made the government's case difficult.