WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said the case raises serious constitutional issues and is not easy to answer, but that “on these facts and under this circuit’s precedent,” the court will grant the Obama administration’s request.

The suit was against then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, then-CIA Director David Petraeus and two commanders in the military’s Special Operations forces.

Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,”’ said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States.

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, called it a “deeply troubling decision that treats the government’s allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court.”

“The court’s view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution,” said Shamsi, one of the attorneys who argued the case.

At oral arguments last July, the judge challenged the Obama administration’s position repeatedly, pointedly asking “where was the due process in this case?” for the now-dead U.S. citizens targeted in the drone attacks. When an administration lawyer said there were checks in place, including reviews done by the executive branch, Collyer said “No, no, no, no, no,” declaring that “the executive is not an effective check on the executive” when it comes to protecting constitutional rights. But in Friday’s ruling, it was clear that the administration’s arguments had a strong impact on the judge, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.

The government argued that the issue is best left to Congress and the executive branch, not judges, and that courts have recognized that the defense of the nation should be left to those political branches.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, Collyer’s 41-page opinion stated. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said.