by Glenn Greenwald Guardian/UK October 24, 2012
The Washington Post has a disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror. Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.
Obama has institutionalized the practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war." "Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it."
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process. This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability: In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc.:[But] there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. Excerpts only, from a long article]
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian