Returning from Guantánamo, I flew directly to D.C. for our hearing in federal court on a case the court heard for the very first time. Two journalists—one, a US citizen, and the other, an acclaimed reporter for Al Jazeera—are asking the U.S Government to remove them from its list of people to kill.
Their names are Abdul Kareem and Ahmad Zaidan, and they’re challenging their inclusion on a list of people that our country wants to kill. They are, in a very real sense, serving time on a death row that stretches from America out across the globe—one without bars or gates or guards, and none of the trappings of a recognizable justice system, either.
Ahmad is a renowned reporter with Al-Jazeera, who won acclaim for his work with CNN and PBS and was the first person to interview Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. He was falsely assumed to be a terrorist based on a flawed analysis of his phone and travel patterns (referred to as “metadata”).
Former CIA Director, Michael Hayden, famously said “We kill people based on metadata.” This is the kind of “metadata” that he was talking about, and Ahmad is the kind of person who could end up dead because of it.
Bilal, the other journalist plaintiff bringing the challenge, is an American Citizen asking his own government for the opportunity to hear his side of things before they kill him. He has reported on the conflict in Syria since it began. In 2016, he narrowly escaped being killed in drone strikes on five separate occasions, including two strikes on cars he was in and two strikes on the headquarters of his news agency.
“Are you saying a U.S. citizen in a war zone has no constitutional right to notice?” Judge Collyer asked the Justice Department attorney at yesterday’s hearing. “If a U.S. person is intentionally struck by a drone from the U.S., does that person have no constitutional rights to due process . . . no notice, anything?”
Yesterday, I witnessed the Trump Administration argue that people—American Citizens included—had no right to be heard in court, or even offer information to the agencies compiling the lists of people designated for death without trial. The decision to put a person on America’s Kill List, according to Trump, should be beyond the reach of the US’ judicial system.
But Bilal and Ahmad are journalists, not terrorists—all they are asking for is the chance to prove it. The Judge didn’t indicate whether she would grant them that opportunity, but we must hope that she will.