NEW YORK — A civil rights group asked a court Monday to force the U.S. government to divulge more information about a January raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a U.S. Navy sailor and Yemeni civilians.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, saying it wants to learn the legal basis and decision-making process that preceded the Jan. 28 raid on an al-Qaida compound. It said in the lawsuit that the raid "raised deep concerns about the legal and factual basis, planning and execution of the operation."
Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, died the day of the attack of wounds sustained during the raid. The Navy SEAL was the first known U.S. military combat casualty since President Donald Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20. Several other U.S. service members were injured in the mission.
The nonprofit organization said it filed Freedom of Information Act requests in March with the Central Intelligence Agency and the departments of defense, justice and state after the government released scant information about the raid following its internal investigation. It said it has received no documents in response, although some of the agencies have agreed to handle the request in an expedited manner.
The ACLU said more information is needed, in part, because of conflicting facts that emerged after the raid. The ACLU said the military has claimed between four and 12 civilians were killed, while others, including a human rights organization and independent journalists, say as many as 25 died. The raid also resulted in the deaths of over a half dozen militant suspects.
It said the raid's outcome and the conclusions of subsequent investigations have "raised serious concerns about the legal and factual basis for the raid.
A government spokesman declined comment.
"We have seen that this White House cannot be trusted to give the public accurate information, which is especially critical when the president authorizes military action that kills civilians," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project.
Shamsi said in a release that the administration of former President Barack Obama had a poor transparency record about lethal strikes in Yemen, but had put safeguards in place to protect citizens.
Shamsi said the current administration has "little credibility, and the documents we seek are essential for public accountability when civilians are killed in the name of our national security."