The US kill list

The US government, through its various agencies like the CIA, murders people on a regular basis. The government actually has what is known as a secret ‘kill list’ of people it seeks to murder. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has any idea of the history of US government actions. What may surprise people is how easy it is to get on the kill list and how hard it is to get off it once you are on because the criteria used are secret and amorphous.

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.

Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US 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.

So the US has a system that uses shaky algorithmic tools to help put people on lists to be murdered by its agents. And yet, the US government feels free to protest loudly when other governments also murder their opponents.


  1. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    A program that targets people for death, and they called it SKYNET. Do you want Judgement Day? Because that’s how you get Judgement Day!

  2. says

    Hey, this is specifically what Hydra was trying to do -- albeit more ambitiously -- in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Wish we had an IRL Steve Rogers to fuck up the program.

  3. komarov says

    Amazon and google have shaky algorithms that, after one brief search, are trying to sell me anything and everything loosely associated with bicycles. Apparently the NSA uses the same cutting-edge, high-precision technology.

    Bilal Abdul Kareem, a US citizen and freelance journalist, has survived five attempts on his life from targeted air-strikes.

    If this wasn’t absolutely terrifying, sick and twisted, one might be tempted to laugh at how the entire imperial might of (ahem) the US is unable to kill someone. Well, someone specific at any rate. It’s one of those rare occasions where the US is unable to commit a warcrime, though not for lack of trying. It’s also the epitome of US militarism.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 komarov
    We might ask how many innocent bystanders were killed. It still could be a war crime by incompetence.

  5. komarov says

    You’re right. It should have been “unable to commit a specific warcrime.”

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