01:40 GMT20 June 2021
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    Two journalists are suing US President Donald Trump and other American officials and agencies as they believe they have been erroneously placed on a "kill list" compiled by the Obama administration and which the current administration has maintained. They are asking to be removed from the list immediately.

    The lawsuit was filed by the human rights group Reprieve on behalf of former Al Jazeera Islamabad Bureau Chief Ahmad Zaidan and freelance journalist Bilal Kareem in a District Court in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

    Kareem, a US citizen who has lived in New York for most of his life, has been reporting from Syria for years – and claims that he has nearly died in five separate airstrikes over the past 12 months. He has provided reporting for a range of outlets including the BBC, the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, CNN, Sky News and Al Jazeera.

    Zaidan is a Pakistani and Syrian citizen who worked as a bureau chief for Al Jazeera for over 20 years. During his time at the Qatar-owned Arabic news network he interviewed a range of high-level terrorists, among them Osama bin Laden himself, on multiple occasions. In a 2010 letter, the 9/11 mastermind referred to the journalist as “brother Ahmad Zaidan.”

    Files that were leaked by former National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2015 that Zaidan had been labeled a member of Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood by the agency, and added to the terror watch list.

    Both men claim to have been wrongly placed on a “kill list” due to flawed “algorithms” used to identify terrorists, and deny having any affiliation to terrorist groups.

    “Their travel, communications, social media content and contacts, related data and metadata have been input into ‘algorithms’ used by the United States to identify terrorists. Those algorithms have identified them as persons to be killed, not because they are terrorists but because the methodologies employed by defendants result in the unjustified killing of innocent people,” the lawsuit claims. “Plaintiffs’ inclusion on the Kill List is the result of arbitrary and capricious agency action, accomplished without due process, and in violation of the United States Constitution and US and international law.”

    Despite their claims that they were placed on the kill list by the Obama administration, the lawsuit asserts that current President Donald Trump “bears the ultimate responsibility” for the “actions at issue here and in the past.” 

    It also asserts that Trump has loosened restrictions previously enacted on the program – as previously the CIA only had the authority to use drones to locate suspected terrorists and had to go through the military to carry out strikes, they are now permitted to launch strikes themselves.

    “While plaintiffs were placed on the Kill List by his predecessor, on information and belief, defendant Trump has continued to include them on the Kill List and has, in addition, removed certain restrictions and criteria previously employed in the designation of persons to be included on the Kill List,” the lawsuit alleges.

    Former President Barack Obama is not named in the lawsuit. 

    The other plaintiffs named are CIA Director Michael Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, DHS Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States of America.


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