NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday demanding that the Trump administration release documents about the January 29 raid in Yemen that left a Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL dead, along with many Yemeni civilians.
The death of Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL from Naval Special Warfare Development Group, was the first combat death under President Donald Trump.
In addition to Owens’ death, several other service members were injured, and reports have said as many as two dozen civilians, or more, were killed, including an eight-year-old daughter of the deceased al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.
President Trump called the mission successful, which has been highly criticized.
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March with the Central Intelligence Agency asking for records, including the legal basis and decision-making process used for the raid and assessments of civilian deaths.
The Departments of Defense, Justice and State are now asking a federal court to enforce the request.
The father of Senior Chief Owens spoke out against the White House in February, telling the Miami Herald, “Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation.”
“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said.
In February, it was said there were three military investigations of the raid underway: one to look at civilian deaths, another to look at the crash landing of one of the aircraft involved, and a third to look into Owens’ killing, as is standard practice when there is a combat death.
The ACLU says the Obama administration had rules requiring there be “near certainty” that no civilians would be killed in military strikes “outside areas of active hostilities,” such as in Yemen. But, they say, the Trump administration has exempted parts of Yemen from that rule to “temporarily” designate them as “areas of active hostilities.”
The ACLU’s FOIA request also asks about this change, which has not been explained by the government.