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From: Sid Shniad <shniad <at> gmail.com>
Subject: Secret panel can put Americans on "kill list''
Newsgroups: gmane.politics.communism.environmental
Date: Wednesday 18th April 2012 18:33:14 UTC (over 6 years ago)

                              Oct 5 2011
*Secret panel can put Americans on "kill list''*

*Obama, who ran for president denouncing predecessor George W. Bush's
expansive use of executive power in his "war on terrorism," is being
attacked in some quarters for using similar tactics. They include secret
legal justifications and undisclosed intelligence assessments.*

*By Mark Hosenball<http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=mark.hosenball&>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed
on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government
officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel,
which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several
current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing
its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant
preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was
killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a
citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss
anything about the process.

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge,
Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only
American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due
to their alleged involvement with militants.

The White House is portraying the killing of Awlaki as a demonstration of
President Barack Obama's toughness toward militants who threaten the United
States. But the process that led to Awlaki's killing has drawn fierce
criticism from both the political left and right.

In an ironic turn, Obama, who ran for president denouncing predecessor
George W. Bush's expansive use of executive power in his "war on
terrorism," is being attacked in some quarters for using similar tactics.
They include secret legal justifications and undisclosed intelligence

Liberals criticized the drone attack on an American citizen as
extra-judicial murder.

Conservatives criticized Obama for refusing to release a Justice Department
legal opinion that reportedly justified killing Awlaki. They accuse Obama
of hypocrisy, noting his administration insisted on publishing Bush-era
administration legal memos justifying the use of interrogation techniques
many equate with torture, but refused to make public its rationale for
killing a citizen without due process.

Some details about how the administration went about targeting Awlaki
emerged on Tuesday when the top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, was asked by reporters about
the killing.

The process involves "going through the National Security Council, then it
eventually goes to the president, but the National Security Council does
the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the
situation, you have input from the military, and also, we make sure that we
follow international law," Ruppersberger said.


Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier
than what Ruppersberger described.

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of
mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their
recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning
Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel
of principals could have different memberships when considering different
operational issues, they said.

The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

They confirmed that lawyers, including those in the Justice Department,
were consulted before Awlaki's name was added to the target list.

Two principal legal theories were advanced, an official said: first, that
the actions were permitted by Congress when it authorized the use of
military forces against militants in the wake of the attacks of September
11, 2001; and they are permitted under international law if a country is
defending itself.

Several officials said that when Awlaki became the first American put on
the target list, Obama was not required personally to approve the targeting
of a person. But one official said Obama would be notified of the
principals' decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the
official said.

A former official said one of the reasons for making senior officials
principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to
"protect" the president.

Officials confirmed that a second American, Samir Khan, was killed in the
drone attack that killed Awlaki. Khan had served as editor of Inspire, a
glossy English-language magazine used by AQAP as a propaganda and
recruitment vehicle.

But rather than being specifically targeted by drone operators, Khan was in
the wrong place at the wrong time, officials said. Ruppersberger appeared
to confirm that, saying Khan's death was "collateral," meaning he was not
an intentional target of the drone strike.

When the name of a foreign, rather than American, militant is added to
targeting lists, the decision is made within the intelligence community and
normally does not require approval by high-level NSC officials.


Officials said Awlaki, whose fierce sermons were widely circulated on
English-language militant websites, was targeted because Washington
accumulated information his role in AQAP had gone "from inspirational to
operational." That meant that instead of just propagandizing in favor of al
Qaeda objectives, Awlaki allegedly began to participate directly in plots
against American targets.

"Let me underscore, Awlaki is no mere messenger but someone integrally
involved in lethal terrorist activities," Daniel Benjamin, top
counterterrorism official at the State Department, warned last spring.

The Obama administration has not made public an accounting of the
classified evidence that Awlaki was operationally involved in planning
terrorist attacks.

But officials acknowledged that some of the intelligence purporting to show
Awlaki's hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.

For instance, one plot in which authorities have said Awlaki was involved
Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to blow up a
Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb hidden in his

There is no doubt Abdulmutallab was an admirer or follower of Awlaki, since
he admitted that to U.S. investigators. When he appeared in a Detroit
courtroom earlier this week for the start of his trial on bomb-plot
charges, he proclaimed, "Anwar is alive."

But at the time the White House was considering putting Awlaki on the U.S.
target list, intelligence connecting Awlaki specifically to Abdulmutallab
and his alleged bomb plot was partial. Officials said at the time the
United States had voice intercepts involving a phone known to have been
used by Awlaki and someone who they believed, but were not positive, was

Awlaki was also implicated in a case in which a British Airways employee
was imprisoned for plotting to blow up a U.S.-bound plane. E-mails
retrieved by authorities from the employee's computer showed what an
investigator described as "operational contact" between Britain and Yemen.

Authorities believe the contacts were mainly between the U.K.-based suspect
and his brother. But there was a strong suspicion Awlaki was at the
brother's side when the messages were dispatched. British media reported
that in one message, the person on the Yemeni end supposedly said, "Our
highest priority is the US ... With the people you have, is it possible to
get a package or a person with a package on board a flight heading to the

U.S. officials contrast intelligence suggesting Awlaki's involvement in
specific plots with the activities of Adam Gadahn, an American citizen who
became a principal English-language propagandist for the core al Qaeda
network formerly led by Osama bin Laden.

While Gadahn appeared in angry videos calling for attacks on the United
States, officials said he had not been specifically targeted for capture or
killing by U.S. forces because he was regarded as a loudmouth not directly
involved in plotting attacks.
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