The LATimes follows up today with an excellent story on how the bullseye will be planted on Anwar Awlaki, the former San Diego imam who U.S. counterterrorism officials believe has joined al Qaida’s forces in Yemen.
First, ABC News and then The Washington Post reported last week that the Obama administration is considering whether to order a Predator strike on Awlaki, a case that’s complicated by the fact that he’s a U.S. citizen.
The LATimes’ Greg Miller provides more detail on the process of how the CIA marks suspected terrorists for death in its “targeted killing” program:
- Memos proposing new targets are drafted by analysts in the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center.
- CTC analysts typically submit several new names each month to high-level officials, including the CIA General Counsel, Stephen W. Preston, and sometimes Director Leon E. Panetta.
- The list is scrutinized every six months; some names are scrubbed if the intelligence grows stale.
- The program is overseen by the National Security Council.
- The CIA does not need White House approval when adding names to the target list, unless the individual is a U.S. citizen.
Miller’s story contradicts a Jan. 27 story by Dana Priest at The Washington Post on a key point:
Miller: “No U.S. citizen has ever been on the CIA’s target list, which mainly names Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, according to current and former U.S. officials. But that is expected to change as CIA analysts compile a case against a Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico but now resides in Yemen.”
Priest: “As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”
Also are targeting decisions based on whether on an individual is “deemed to be a continuing threat to U.S. persons or interests,” as Miller reported. That appears to be a slightly lower threshold that what Priest describes as an individual who presents “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests.”
Semantics, perhaps, but we are talking about executing a U.S. citizen without due process.