American drone strike victims' parents sue U.S. government in D.C. court

Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. AP Photo.

In what could be a groundbreaking case, the parents of American citizens who were suspected of terrorism sued the U.S. government today for killing their family members in drone strikes, rather than take them to trial.

Among those killed was Anwar al-Awlaki, the former Imam of a Virginia mosque, his son, and another alleged terrorist.

There was considerable controversy when Anwar al-Awlaki was first reportedly put on a U.S. hit list, because he was an American citizen.

He allegedly inspired both the Ft. Hood shooter and the "underwear bomber."

Also killed in separate drone strikes were Samir Khan of North Carolina and al- Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman.

Al-Awlaki's father today sued in D.C. Federal Court along with Khan's family, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

They allege that "the killings violate the fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law."

The defendants are Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Gen. David Petraeus, and two commanders alleged to have given the green light to the drone strikes.

Imam Johari Abdul Malik once preached along side al-Awlaki at a Falls Church mosque. Although he condemned al-Awlaki's teachings, he did not believe in killing him without trial, saying that the guarantee of due process is one of the differences between the United States and al Qaeda.

The Justice Department says they're reviewing the lawsuit and says the president "...may use force abroad against a senior operation leader of a foreign terrorist organization in which the United States is at war, even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen."

Al-Awlaki's family insists that Abdulrahman, their grandson, was not affiliated in any way with terrorism and was killed because he was at the same restaurant as a man the U.S. was targeting.

The families are not suing for a specific dollar amount, saying it's not about money, but rather accountability.