During the Iraq invasion the U.S. government and military posted its “Most Wanted” list of terrorists or fleeing officials, issued as a deck of cards, complete with a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” tag. The list went out to anyone and everyone, with hefty rewards advertised.
Now, however, the government’s kill list for drone strikes is opaque. It doesn’t even refer to actual people, and sometimes targets places where military-age males suspected of terrorist activity gather.
Congress will have an opportunity Thursday to hear from the man who, with the president, often helps decide who appears on that list. For John Brennan is due to face the Senate Intelligence Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Committee members will be able to ask: Is the U.S. government carrying out strikes on behalf of other regimes? What makes people on these lists a direct threat to the U.S. when there is no evidence they ever plan on coming to America? How can a geographic location make it onto a hit list because it appears to exhibit patterns of suspected terrorist activity?
The administration asserts that people on the kill list are put there after serious, all-other-options-eliminated considerations. Attorney General Eric Holder stated there was a legal basis for such strikes after a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in Yemen in 2011. But NBC News’ disclosure Monday of a leaked Justice Department white paper describing the legal arguments behind the drone strikes, has raised even more questions about how vague that list is.