Must-read on the drone wars

The Washington Post this morning had lengthy and detailed article on the Obama administration’s internal management of targeted killings — i.e. drone strikes.

In his windowless White House office, presidential counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is compiling the rules for a war the Obama administration believes will far outlast its own time in office, whether that is just a few more months or four more years.

The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.

 There are many interesting items in this story — including Brennan’s effort to move the decision-making surrounding drone strikes out of the hands of the CIA and into the military.
Over opposition from the agency, he has argued that it should focus on intelligence activities and leave lethal action to its more traditional home in the military, where the law requires greater transparency.
The article underscores the power of a single person, Brennan, in making decisions — and adds:

But the concentration of power in one person, who is unelected and unconfirmed by Congress, does not sit well with critics.

To many in the international legal community and among human rights and civil liberties activists, Brennan runs a policy so secret that it is impossible for outsiders to judge whether it complies with the laws of war or U.S. values — or even determine the total number of people killed.

The entire article is worth a read:

A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counter-terrorism policy by Karen DeYoung [Washington Post]