Foreign Relations & International Law

D.C. Circuit Dismisses "Kill List" Case for Lack of Standing

Bryce Klehm
Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 1:20 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed Bilal Abdul Kareem’s suit against Gina Haspel, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and others. Judge Karen Henderson threw the case out for lack of Article III standing. Kareem originally filed suit against various national security agencies and their respective heads after he survived five different aerial bombings in Syria while working in what he claims was his capacity as a journalist covering anti-Assad forces in 2016. His proximity to five aerial bombings over the course of three months led Kareem to believe that his name was “included on a list of targets for U.S. military action.” In his original suit, he sought “a declaration that his inclusion on the terrorist target list is unlawful and/or unconstitutional,” as well as injunctions that would both prevent the U.S. government from putting him on the target list “without providing additional procedural protections” and require the various agencies to remove him from the list.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Kareem had standing because he “plausibly alleged that he was in 2016 a target on the Kill List.” The court of appeals, however, reviewed the district’s decision de novo and dismissed the case because there were no facts that established the missile strikes came from the United States or targeted Kareem specifically. Due to those factors, the court found that Kareem’s “standing theory does not cross the line from conceivable to plausible.”

The D.C. Circuit’s 18-page decision can be found here and below:

Bryce Klehm is a first year law student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is a former associate editor at Lawfare.

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