Obama Plans for 10 More Years of Extrajudicial Killing by Drone


His kill list is being rebranded as a "disposition matrix." But if drone strikes work, why would we need another decade of them?drone sky full reuters .jpg


An important story published late Tuesday by The Washington Post reports that America's drone war, a policy that's never even really been debated, is likely to continue for at least another 10 years. If all goes according to plan, there will be high-school students in 2022 who've never known an America that wasn't using killer robots to assassinate people based on the unchecked authority of the president, who declares himself judge, jury, and executioner, and operates in secret.

"That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism," the article states. "Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero."

Kudos to Greg Miller for reporting a vital piece. I do wish that coverage of this subject was less solicitous of Obama Administration branding. Take the beginning of the article:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the "disposition matrix." The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the "disposition" of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

If Team Obama succeeds in replacing "kill list" with "disposition matrix" the country really is doomed. Far better is this paragraph:

CIA Director David H. Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones, U.S. officials said. The proposal, which would need White House approval, reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-Sept. 11 focus on gathering intelligence.

A paramilitary spy agency empowered to kill in secret via remote control.

What could go wrong?

But the most chilling lines in the article are these: "Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent. So are apparent alternatives."  That is never a good sign.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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