(CN) – A group of human rights attorneys on Tuesday challenged a federal rule that limits their ability to represent individuals accused of terrorism, and challenged the Obama administration’s decision to allow the military and the CIA to kill a U.S. citizen with suspected ties to al-Qaida.
The attorneys want a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to strike a rule by the Treasury Department that requires them to get a license before they can work on a case against the Obama administration’s plans to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born Muslim clerk thought to be hiding in Yemen.
“The government is targeting an American citizen for death without any legal process whatsoever, while at the same time impeding lawyers from challenging that death sentence and the government’s sweeping claim of authority to issue it,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit along with the Center for Constitutional Rights..
“This is a dual blow to some of our most precious liberties, and such an alarming denial of rights in any one case endangers the rights of all Americans,” he said. “Attorneys shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission in order to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s conduct.”
The media has reported that the Obama administration is targeting Awlaki after a Nigerian man, charged with trying to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, allegedly said that Awlaki told him to do it.
The Treasury Department announced that it was applying the global terrorist designation against Awlaki, which blocks Americans from engaging with him.
The civil rights groups say they applied for a license to be allowed to transact with Awlaki, but claim the department has yet to respond.
“The same government that is seeking to kill Anwar al-Awlaki has prohibited attorneys from contesting the legality of the government’s decision to use lethal force against him,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit names Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Asset Control, as defendants.
The groups want a ruling that the requirement to obtain a license is illegal and beyond the department’s authority.