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Family of Slain Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki Sues Leon Panetta, David Petraeus

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The family of an al Qaeda member is suing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus for the drone attack that killed Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year.

Others joining the lawsuit include the relatives of al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, and online jihadist publication editor Samir Khan.

Since al-Awlaki, his son and Khan were all American citizens, the suit alleges the drone strike "violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the dead Americans by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

According to a report by The New York Times, the lawsuit "may face other procedural impediments before it would reach any substantive ruling on whether the strikes violated the Constitution."

Al-Awlaki, who was born in the U.S., was considered a key member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was tied to various attempts to plant bombs aboard planes bound for the U.S. and a car bomb that did not detonate in New York City's Times Square.  He also regularly communicated with Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.

Back in 2010, a federal judge turned back an attempt by al-Awlaki's father to block the Obama administration from targeting the cleric for assassination.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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