By Alexander Reed Kelly
Former National Security Agency official and whistle-blower William Binney is appalled but unsurprised by last week’s revelation that President Obama has institutionalized a mechanism for generating targets for his secretive assassination list.
As Greg Miller reported in The Washington Post, the “disposition matrix” is a database that links the profiles of suspected “terrorists” to “locations, known associates and affiliated organizations” as well as “strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols.” The process is operated by the National Counterterrorism Center, which has access to all intelligence and other information collected on American citizens and people abroad, and the process is not open to scrutiny by a judge or independent oversight committee.
In other words, Barack Obama and a small group of defense officials have taken for themselves the right to decide who is a terrorist, who should die and how.
In a telephone interview with Truthdig, Binney explained that the use of information connecting other people to suspects suggests the process will be used to create new suspects that pose no threat to the United States.
“They’re using metadata to target people,” he says. “… [A]ddresses and phone numbers, which gets back to relationships between suspects and others and social network building. If you use that kind of information to target people without having substantive stuff behind it, that’s getting down to more random killing or getting killed because you’re in proximity to somebody who’s doing bad things. It’s an undisciplined slaughter.”
When news of the matrix was released, Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the specifics of how suspects are generated and how targets are selected “will undoubtedly be kept completely secret,” with no checks and balances. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that since President Obama took office, at least 70 civilians have died in strikes in which they were not targeted. Without oversight of the targeting process, it is reasonable to expect people will continue to die in this way.
“What is the criteria for being on the kill list?” Binney asked. “A lot of innocent people are being killed. It’s all being done in secret by saying ‘Trust me, we’ll make the proper decisions.’ Well, do you really trust the government?”
Binney, who became a target of the Obama administration’s anti-whistle-blower campaign when he spoke out about the NSA’s data-mining project, doesn’t trust the government. Instead he questions whether terrorists worldwide pose as much of a threat to the security of American citizens as does the United States government.
“They’re moving more and more to a surveillance state and being out in the open and justifying it by laws after the fact. It’s just like the frogs slowly heating up in water and they don’t jump out and they get boiled. … We’re destroying a whole way of life here. The terrorists could never do this to us.”