WASHINGTON - White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan has assumed responsibility for choosing which suspects could be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for military and CIA targets.
The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal US force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.
The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan’s staff consults with the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the target list, making the Pentagon’s role less relevant, according to two current and three former US officials aware of the evolution in how the government goes after suspected terrorists.
In describing Brennan’s arrangement, the officials provided the first detailed description of the military’s previous review process that set a schedule for killing or capturing terror leaders. They spoke on condition of anonymity because US officials are not allowed to publicly describe the classified targeting program.
Previously, targets were first discussed in meetings run by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, with Brennan being one of the voices. Brennan would then make the case to the president.