UndieBomb 2.0 Led to John Brennan’s Personal Signature Strike Drone Shop

The AP story reporting on John Brennan centralizing control of drone targeting in his own grubby paws keeps evolving. Compare the first two paragraphs of what I believe to be the second version (the first was really a leak from DOD sources describing Brennan’s power grab):

The Pentagon’s role in choosing terror leaders to be targeted for drone attacks or raids has been minimized in a new system developed by White House counterterror chief John Brennan. The current procedure concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.

With Brennan’s team now in the lead, consulting with the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the list, a previous military-run review process in place since 2009 has become less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government targets terrorists.

With the first three paragraphs  of what I believe to be the third version.

White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in guiding the debate on which terror leaders will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure to vet both military and CIA targets.

The move concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones at the White House.

The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the list, making a previous military-run review process in place since 2009 less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government targets terrorists. [my emphasis]

One of the new details is that date: “about a month old.”

That is, around April 22.

Which means this decision–to bypass DOD’s evidence based targeting process and instead have Brennan do it all from the White House–coincides with and was probably a part of the decision to do signature strikes, which in turn both appear to have followed the Saudi delivery of a bomb “plot” to justify the change. Here’s what the known timeline currently looks like:

April 18: Greg Miller first reports on debate over signature strikes

Around April 20: UndieBomb 2.0 device recovered

Around April 22: John Brennan takes over drone targeting from JSOC

April 22: Drone strike that–WSJ reports, “Intelligence analysts [worked] to identify those killed” after the fact, suggesting possible signature strike

April 24: Robert Mueller in Yemen for 45 minute meeting, presumably to pick up UndieBomb

April 25: WSJ reports that Obama approved use of signature strikes

April 30: John Brennan gives speech, purportedly bringing new transparency to drone program, without addressing signature strikes

May 6: Fahd al-Quso killed

May 7: AP reports on UndieBomb 2.0

May 8: ABC reports UndieBomb 2.0 was Saudi-run infiltrator

May 15: Drone strike in Jaar kills a number of civilians

Note, other reporting makes it clear the Saudis had contact with the 2.0 UndieBomber leading up to him coming in, with some reports saying Obama had notice as well.

In any case, the chronology seems to be clear: the 2.0 UndieBomber came in, then Brennan brought the drone targeting–now including signature strikes!–into the White House for micromanagement.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. PeasantParty says:

    Wait! What?

    I haven’t been following closely so forgive my questions.

    I thought Brennan was in charge of US based Counter Terrorism, right?

    He is going over the heads of Military and CIA in these actions, right?

    He has not to my knowledge announced to the US public/taxpayers exactly who, where, why, and when there are terror indicators for US citizens, right?

    BTW, EW just gotta say good job on the questions and comments from the BK Salon on Sunday. I couldn’t utter one word due to drop jaw.

  2. Arbusto says:

    While the White House is above domestic law and international treaties, I wonder how long it’ll take for some Spanish prosecutor or the International Criminal Court to investigate civilian killings via our drone strikes. Granted they’ll never serve time if convicted, but how many people of this administration will stay on shore like Henry the K, afraid of arrest on foreign soil?

  3. MadDog says:

    One additional item to add to your timeline EW was Sir John, Blabbermouth of Brennan’s galloping arrival on May 13th via his silvery flying steed to meet with Yemen President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi in order to inform him that Sir John was now in charge of the Yemen crusade, and that henceforth all would shudder before his steely gaze.

    And if President Hadi needed the services of Sir John, Blabbermouth of Brennan’s Special Operations knights to slay his dragons, why take his cell phone number and give him a jingle. Anytime, day or night. Really!

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