An arrest warrant needs a name on it; a death warrant needs none.
In the narrative that sketches the legality of the war on terrorism, the tribal nature of the “battlefield” is the pretext used to justify killing people instead of attempting to arrest them. Counterterrorism experts scoff at the notion that FBI agents (or Pakistani law enforcement officials for that matter) could possibly waltz into a village in South Waziristan and handcuff a Taliban or al Qaeda suspect. The logistics of such an operation would indeed be daunting.
But here’s the thing: The United States is now killing people when it doesn’t even have a legal basis for even initiating their capture.
In the US — and most other legal jurisdictions — an arrest warrant needs to show probable cause connecting a crime that has been committed to the person named on the warrant.
In Pakistan, the CIA can target someone for assassination without knowing their name, without witnessing them commit a crime — simply on the Orwellian pretext that their “pattern of life” can be deemed a threat to the United States.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials.
The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by President Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as “pattern of life” analysis, using evidence collected by surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft and from other sources about individuals and locations.
The information then is used to target suspected militants, even when their full identities are not known, the officials said. Previously, the CIA was restricted in most cases to killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list.
The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.
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