Years after George W. Bush created a secret “kill list” of alleged terrorism suspects, it remains murky how one gets on the list, and just as complicated to try to get off it, as Marjorie Cohn explains.
By Marjorie Cohn
After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration created a secret “kill list” to step up the targeting of alleged terrorists for assassination. The criteria for inclusion on the list have apparently morphed over three presidential administrations, yet they remain elusive.
Last year, two journalists filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump and other high government officials, asking to be removed from the kill list until they have a meaningful opportunity to challenge their inclusion. Both men claim to have no association with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, to have no connection to the 9/11 attacks, and to pose no threat to the United States, its citizens, residents or national security.
Kareem and Zaidan Try to Get Off
Bilal Abdul Kareem, a U.S. citizen and freelance journalist, has survived five attempts on his life from targeted air-strikes. A Turkish intelligence official told Kareem that the US government is trying to kill him.
Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, a citizen of Syria and Pakistan, is a senior journalist with Al Jazeera. He interviewed Osama bin Laden twice before the 9/11 attacks. Zaidan learned about his inclusion on the kill list from National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept.
The NSA zeroed in on Zaidan as a result of a program called SKYNET. Ars Technica revealed that SKYNET — which uses an algorithm to gather metadata in order to identify and target terrorist suspects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia — would result in 99,000 false positives.
In their complaint filed in March 2017, Zaidan and Kareem alleged they were included on the kill list as a result of algorithms used by the United States to identify terrorists.
At a May 1 hearing in the case, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia questioned the U.S. government’s assertion of authority to unilaterally kill U.S. citizens abroad. Collyer repeatedly challenged…