CIA veteran writes counterterrorism 'playbook' for White House

The Obama administration will soon have formal rules of war for how to carry out targeted killings around the globe against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, reports the Washington Post.

The rules will be embodied in what presidential counterterrorism adviser John Brennan calls the "playbook." The document will cover the selection and approval of targets, as well as who should carry out the killing when it is warranted, the story said. It also will point a finger at the local authorities the administration believes sanction such actions in southwest Asia, the Horn of Africa and other hot spots.

Targets chosen will come from a newly established "disposition matrix" that lists the names of terrorism suspects and catalogs the resources that can be brought against them through clandestine operations. The matrix is designed to serve as a long-term blueprint for how to track down and dispose of terrorists in the months and years ahead. 

Brennan, who has 25 years of experience with the CIA, is the architect of a policy that transformed U.S. counterterrorism from a narrow, conventional battle in Afghanistan to a global effort relying heavily on unmanned aircraft for surveillance and targeting of terrorists in isolated attacks, the story said.

Interestingly, Brennan has argued against the CIA's leadership in the targeted killing of al Qaeda terrorists, the story said. Instead, he favors a return by the agency to a focus solely on intelligence activities, leaving the killing to the military. For now, though, he continues to serve as the chief liaison between the CIA and Obama, and he is responsible for recommending targets for final approval to President Obama. 

Brennan says that the Yemen model, which was constructed by the Obama administration, offers a vision for future counterterrorism efforts, the story said. That approach involves working through local authorities to bring persons to justice, by providing intelligence or enhanced capabilities. If a particular government is unwilling or unable to act, "then we have an obligation as a government to protect our people, and if we need to take action ourselves...we look at what those options are," Brennan said in the story.


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