Obama ‘Kill List’ is a set of baseball cards with names
Obama’s ‘kill list’ revealed: How President uses Al Qaeda ‘baseball cards’ to decide who will live and who will die
By Daniel Bates
PUBLISHED: 16:40, 29 May 2012 | UPDATED: 20:23, 29 May 2012
Barack Obama has insisted on personally approving a ‘kill list’ of Al Qaeda terrorists who should be hunted down and executed, according to reports.
The U.S. president requests that his advisers draw up ‘baseball cards’ with pictures and biographies that he pores over to see who should live and who should die.
As part of the bizarre ‘nomination’ process he then retires for personal reflection to work out whether or not to order a drone strike to take them out.
No president in history has taken such a singular role in deciding such matters, The New York Times reported.
The disclosures jar with Mr Obama’s past as a liberal law professor and show how his approach to terrorism has become significantly tougher since taking office.
The baseball cards also have a striking echo with the deck of 52 playing cards issued by the Bush era White House in Iraq for members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Mr Obama had already come under fire for ordering the killing last September of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen living in Yemen who was suspected of having links to the 9/11 plot.
Commentators said that it set a worrying precedent that the president could single-handedly decide to be ‘judge, jury, and executioner’ over an American.
According to reports in the New York Times however he has been making such decisions about non U.S. citizens on his own far more often than had been thought.
Sources describe how every week more than 100 members of the national security team gather to decide who should be put forward as a potential target for a drone strike.
Overseen by the Pentagon, Obama is shown PowerPoint slide and a book of mugshots and biographies of suspects that look like a high school yearbook.
In one instance they included several Americans and a girl who was just 17 years old, but looked far younger.
Obama also chairs meetings in the White House Situation Room with two dozen of his most senior security advisers before making the final decision all on his own.
The process however has not been without complications and the president has often asked how to be sure a target is a serious threat.
Recounting one such discussion William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff in 2011, said: ‘One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20?
‘At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?’
He added that Obama ‘realises this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence.’
He said: ‘The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.’
Mr Obama’s national security adviser Thomas Donilon added that the president was ‘determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go.’
He said: ‘His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.
‘He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.’
Mr Obama’s record on human rights has caused even his most committed supporters to do a double take.
Campaigners have attacked him for refusing to close Guantanamo Bay despite promising to do so in his 2008 run for the presidency.
And when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009, he had authorised more drone strikes than George W. Bush had approved during his entire presidency, author Daniel Klaidman writes.
In his new book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, which has been extracted on the Daily Beast, he tells how Obama ‘had come a long way in a short time’ after assuming office.
He writes: ‘Schooled as a constitutional lawyer, he had had to adjust quickly to the hardest part of the job: deciding whom to kill, when to kill them, and when it makes sense to put Americans in harm’s way.
‘His instincts tilted toward justice and protecting the innocent, but he also knew that war is a messy business no matter how carefully it is conducted.
‘He saw the drones as a particularly useful tool in a global conflict, but he was also mindful of the possibility of blowback.
‘In this overheated election season, Obama’s campaign is painting a portrait of a steely commander who pursues the enemy without flinching.
‘But the truth is more complex, and in many ways, more reassuring. The president is not a robotic killing machine.’