Obama: The Man Holding the 'Kill List'

'New York Times' dives into president's counterterrorism approach
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2012 10:52 AM CDT
Obama: The Man Holding the 'Kill List'
US President Barack Obama wipes his brow during a ceremony May 28, 2012 at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)

The New York Times is running what is undoubtedly today's biggest talker—in terms of both length and heft. The paper interviewed three dozen current and past Obama advisers in an attempt to define the president's counterterrorism approach—a topic it describes using words such as baffling, confounding, paradoxical, and inscrutable. Among the most notable talking points:

  • Some 100 national security officials meet via video teleconference near weekly as part of a Pentagon-led "secret nominations process" (described as "an invention of the Obama administration") in which they review potential additions to the "kill list" of suspected terrorists.
  • Nominations are communicated to Obama, who himself approves every single name added to the "kill list," after reviewing potential targets' bios. He OKs "lethal action without hand-wringing."

  • Obama reportedly said the decision to kill American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen was "an easy one."
  • The Times makes frequent mention of Obama's "lawyering skills" and "lawyerly mind," which it says he uses to "enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against al-Qaeda."
  • Obama has reportedly instituted a "disputed method" for keeping count of any civilian victims of drone strikes: According to the Times, any "military-age male" in a strike area is regarded as a militant, unless proven otherwise posthumously. The Times believes this has allowed the administration to report an unbelievably low number of civilian deaths tied to drone strikes ("zero" and "single digits" have been cited before as civilian death tolls).
  • Some tell the Times that rather than deal with the messiness of detention, the administration's policy is to kill, rather than capture, whenever possible.
  • Colorful detail: When Obama starts asking questions in a rapid-fire manner, it's a sign he's angry.
Click to read the entire piece. (More Barack Obama stories.)

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