In October 2013, the ACLU filed a FOIA request to find out more about the US counterterrorism drone program, the Guardian reports. Since then, the Obama administration has fought "tooth-and-nail" against releasing documents and "failed to follow through on … commitments to openness," the ACLU said today to explain why it's filing a lawsuit to retrieve that information, per the ACLU website. The suit demands all "basic" details about the initiative, including the criteria the US uses for its "kill list," how potential civilian casualties are analyzed, and how the government deciphers who was actually killed, the site notes. "Over the last few years, the US government has used armed drones to kill thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians," Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, tells the Guardian. "The public should know who the government is killing, and why it's killing them."
The suit alleges that since the FOIA request, the ACLU has hit a wall with various governmental departments, including State, Justice, and Defense. The group says when it has heard back, important details are redacted or left out, terms aren't adequately spelled out, and certain decisions aren't explained. This, the ACLU says, belies the transparency President Obama promised in his 2013 SOTU address, in which he promised to reveal more about US lethal targeting because "in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we're doing things the right way." Jaffer says there's no excuse for this "stonewalling." "The categorical secrecy surrounding the drone program doesn't serve any legitimate security interest," he tells the Guardian. "It serves only to skew public debate, to obscure the human costs of the program, and to shield decision-makers from accountability."