Bilal Abdul Kareem

A target of multiple U.S. drone attacks

Last updated: 29th November 2021

Bilal Abdul Kareem is an African-American, a former stand-up comedian, a Muslim, a war correspondent and, on several occasions, a target of the U.S. assassination program.

He and the U.S. share enemies: President “Mad” Assad and ISIS. However, Bilal was apparently slated for assassination because he used his “On the Ground News” network (OGN), to help the world understand the perspectives of everyone else in the Syrian conflict.

His philosophy is encapsulated on his twitter account: 

“Most conflicts can be resolved through understanding the opposing point of view & a desire to create win-win solutions.”

About Bilal

Bilal was born in New York in 1970. He studied at the Performing Arts University in New York. He worked in theatre, but he loved stand-up comedy most and performed around the comedy circuit in the New York City area.

In 1997 he converted to Islam, and this eventually led him to Syria where he reported from danger zones to help deliver the messages of disenfranchised Syrians who hoped that the Arab Spring would bring their salvation.

He has reported for the BBC, CNN, Channel 4, Sky News and Dutch Newseur among others, and he offered his perspective on the bombing of rebel fighters to Jon Snow:

Being an American and having spent extensive time documenting the Mujahideen fighters, I think there is much common ground between them. It would take courageous leadership on both sides to explore the idea of getting to know one another… Usually this type of broad-minded thinking comes about after huge massacres on both sides. Hopefully we can avoid that kind of killing and create a situation wherein both parties can feel safe.

The U.S. has targeted him on multiple occasions. The instances where it is most apparent have been when weaponized drones were used, since the U.S. was the only combatant in the region with such weapons at the time.

The Legal Case

Working with D.C. based pro bono law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, Clive brought litigation in 2016 to try to put a stop to all this. Ahmed Zaidan of Al Jazeera was included because of the other unique aspects of his case and because he was not an American – we thought this would give the judge the chance to ‘split the baby’ and give us some relief, as some judges are willing to do.

We sued President Trump (which was dismissed as the law prevents this), and also Gina Haspel, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD), the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), all in their official capacities, as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ), DOD, DHS, and CIA.

On June 13, 2018, Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in our favour with respect to Bilal, but not Ahmed Zaidan. She found that an American citizen had a right to some form of due process before being assassinated (or subjected to the death penalty without trial).

However, the government then claimed national security grounds and on September 24, 2019, Judge Collyer ruled that this put the issue beyond the power of judges to interfere. The case went to the D.C. Circuit where, extraordinarily, the government lawyer argued that they could assassinate the very judges hearing the case under the theory he was advancing. Equally extraordinary was the court’s ruling, holding that Bilal had no “standing” to bring the case in the first place.

Bilal’s is our first case in what will doubtless be a long battle against the burgeoning international industry of assassination, or execution without trial.

The U.S. is sadly setting a dreadful example to other countries, and the U.K. is, not untypically, following along with its big brother. The purported legal justification for assassination offered by the U.S.: the AUMF or Authorization for the Use of Military Force, has been copied by Putin in 2006 as the basis for the Russian assassination program, which has notoriously reached the placid streets of Salisbury.


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