The Central Intelligence Agency is under renewed legal pressure to release “thousands” of records pertaining to its international drone war, following an appeal filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties in Washington, D.C. The motion comes just days after The Intercept published an eight-part series based on cache of secret documents detailing the U.S. military’s parallel reliance on unmanned airstrikes in the war on terror.
While The Intercept’s series, The Drone Papers, offered new insights into the Pentagon’s drone missions in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan, the CIA’s covert drone war has largely remained an official black hole. In the absence of verifiable facts and documentary evidence regarding the agency’s operations, the task of mapping and understanding a central component of modern American warfare has fallen on journalists and legal organizations.
The ACLU’s Monday filing marks the latest chapter in one such effort — a five-year legal battle with the U.S. government over the CIA’s program that began with a 2010 freedom of information request calling for a release of official documents detailing when, where, and against whom the U.S. considers itself authorized to conduct drone strikes, as well as information illustrating how the attacks are consistent with international law.
Following the request, the CIA initially refused to confirm whether its drone program existed. The ACLU challenged that defense, noting that numerous U.S. officials had publicly confirmed its existence. In March 2013, a lower court ruling siding with the CIA was reversed by a unanimous 3-0 decision in favor of the ACLU.