By James Vicini and Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt the Obama administration's program to capture or kill American citizens who join militant groups abroad, a case involving a Muslim cleric in
The ruling was a defeat for civil liberties groups that brought the lawsuit on behalf of the father of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a
The lawsuit aimed to halt the program and reveal the criteria the Obama administration set for targeting someone.
U.S. officials have refused to officially confirm the existence of the program, although they have said the CIA gave the green light to capture or kill al-Awlaki, who has never been tried or convicted of any terrorism-related crime.
"The serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a
The judge called it a unique, extraordinary case. "Vital considerations of national security and military and foreign affairs ... are at play," he wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that brought the case, said it still believed the
"If the court's ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation," said Jameel Jaffer, the group's deputy legal director.
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Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and who lived in Virginia until leaving the United States shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, has been sought by Yemeni authorities who also want to capture or kill him.
The al Qaeda affiliate has said it was behind the plot by a Nigerian man who tried to blow up a
Assistant Attorney General Tony West said he was pleased with the ruling and called al-Awlaki "very dangerous."
If al-Awlaki wants access to the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs