“Disposition Matrix” Sketched Out on How U.S. Decides to Kill Citizens

b25ekilllist “Disposition Matrix” Sketched Out on How U.S. Decides to Kill Citizens

As
noted on Reason 24/7, a federal judge has summarily dismissed
FOIA requests by the New York Times and the ACLU
for the legal justification used by the White House to order the
killing of U.S. citizens. While officialdom is relatively silent on
the workings of America’s drone war, the work to piece together how
the U.S. might be operating based on what we know it’s doing
continues.  At the
Atlantic Daniel Byman and Benjamin Wittes, fellows at the
Brookings Institution, put together a “disposition matrix” of how
the U.S. might go about deciding which U.S. citizens it suspects of
terrorism it could/should kill.Byman and Wittes note that in fact “the domestic criminal
justice system is actually one of the workhorses of American
counterterrorism” and so arrest, indictment and prosecution is the
most common path along the flow chart (#2 if the target is in the
United States). The next terminal point, “prosecution or detention
by allied forces” might be better known as
rendition. One U.S. citizen
sued in 2009 after being captured in Kenya two years earlier.
The 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) made it
easier for the government to rendition U.S. citizens.The most serious terminal point, “target with lethal force”
(#13), has only been reached once, that we know of, by the White
House, when Anwar al-Awlaki was targeted in a drone strike in
Yemen. Al-Awlaki was alleged by the U.S. government to have been an
“operational leader” of Al-Qaeda, and Eric Holder insisted
afterward that the U.S. can kill citizens when they present an
“imminent threat,” though what imminent threat al-Awlaki might have
posed has never been revealed. Of note, also, is
the death of his teenage son, a U.S. citizen as well, in
another air strike two weeks later. At first the government
insisted al-Awlaki’s son was a 21-year-old Al-Qaeda fighter, but
the Washington Post later printed his birth certificate.
Robert Gibbs, working for the Obama campaign, suggested the
teenager ought to have had
“a far more responsible father.”  There are no indications
that the teen was an operational leader or an imminent threat. As
for the elder al-Awlaki, he had never been indicted for any
terrorism-related charges by the U.S., and the most prominent
terrorist act he’s been associated with in the press was the
shooting at Fort Hood, which the U.S. government
does not classify as a terrorist attack but an incident of
workplace violence (Major Nidal Hasan is currently on trial in
military court for the shooting spree).The New York Times
detailed some of the inner workings of the White House’s drone
war last year. 

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“Disposition Matrix” Sketched Out on How U.S. Decides to Kill Citizens


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