With new details about the Obama administration’s secret drone kill list known as the “disposition matrix” revealed, even more mystery and concern remains.
We have never known all that much about how the secret kill list works, as I pointed out in my first article on the subject in 2011. Since that time, attempts to learn more were repeatedly thwarted in court until a federal judge finally ruled that the Obama administration never has to explain the legal basis for the program.
However, Attorney General Eric Holder has assured the world that the secret reviews of classified evidence based on secret criteria conducted in secret by unidentified individuals count as due process.
The “disposition matrix” term was first made public in an October 2012 article in The Washington Post which identified the matrix as “a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list.”
While individuals in Somalia and Yemen whose names are placed into the matrix will continue to be targeted for drone strikes, the Guardian states that those individuals are only part of the picture.
“An unknown number would end up in the so-called black sites that the US still quietly operates in east Africa, or in prisons run by US allies in the Middle East or Central Asia,” Ian Cobain writes for the British news outlet which was blocked from Army networks recently.
The system is amazingly complex, comprised of a grid placed upon a database containing the biographies of individuals who are said to pose a threat to U.S. interests.
The matrix includes their suspected or known locations and a range of options for their disposal.
One must wonder what kind of “threat” these individuals must pose to the United States and/or U.S. interests.
If it is the brand of “imminent threat” revealed in a Justice Department white paper earlier this year, it would mean that just about anyone could be included in the matrix.
Indeed, the white paper revealed that people can be targeted for killing without “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
Cobain points out that the matrix “both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing.”
“There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence,” Cobain reports. “And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.”
It is far from surprising when one realizes that the British have been implicated in drone strikes in the past and that the British intelligence agency GCHQ is working closely with the National Security Agency to collect the world’s data by directly tapping in to fiber optic cables.
The British government has increasingly used their power under the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act to strip British dual nationals of their British citizenship.
British Home Secretary Theresa May has used this power with increasing frequency, according to the Guardian, usually stripping British citizenship from individuals after they have left the country.
While individuals can appeal the government’s decision, the appeals are heard at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, where the British government “can submit evidence that cannot be seen or challenged by the appellant,” according to the Guardian.
At least 17 people have been stripped of their British citizenship thanks to May’s approval, but more details about the manner in which this power has been used are thin.
The role the British government plays in the disposition matrix is similarly mysterious, since the UK routinely refuses to either confirm or deny that they share intelligence with the U.S. government in support of drone strikes.
According to the British government, to divulge such information would damage national security and British-American relations.