Rights groups expressed dismay today after a New York judge ruled that President Barack Obama's government does not have to reveal its legal justification for extrajudicial drone killings in foreign countries.
District Judge Colleen McMahon said there were "legitimate reasons to question the legality of killings unilaterally authorised by the executive."
But she could "find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch to proclaim as perfectly lawful actions that seem on their face incompatible with our constitution and laws, while keeping the reason for their conclusion a secret."
Ms McMahon, who was ruling on a freedom of information request filed by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), added that the "Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me."
The plaintiffs sought information on the legal advice from the Justice Department over the killing of US citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen in September 2011 and the assassination of Mr Awlaki's 16-year-old son Abdulrahman - who was not a member of any terrorist group - a few days later.
When questioned about the killing of a US minor without due process former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs merely remarked that he should have had "a far more responsible father."
ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said the organisation would appeal against the verdict.
"This ruling denies the public access to crucial information about the government's extrajudicial killing of US citizens," he said.
"The public has a right to know more about the circumstances in which the government believes it can lawfully kill people who are far from any battlefield and have never been charged with a crime."
n The US's illegal drone assassination programme reaped another 13 lives in Pakistan today.
Pakistani security officials said the dead included a militant commander, Maulvi Nazir, who had signed a truce with Islamabad in 2009 and was seen by the government as key to keeping the peace in South Waziristan. Residents said around 10,000 people had flocked to his funeral.
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