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AMERICAS > White House takes lead in control of drone strikes

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press

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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.

Previous debates led by Pentagon

The move gives Brennan greater input earlier in the process, before senior officials make the final recommendation to President Barack Obama. Officials outside the White House expressed concern that drawing more of the decision-making process to Brennan’s office could turn it into a pseudo military headquarters, entrusting the fate of al-Qaeda targets to a small number of senior officials.

Previously, targets were first discussed in meetings run by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen at the time, with Brennan being just one of the voices in the debate. The new Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has been more focused on shrinking the U.S. military as the Afghan war winds down and less on the covert wars overseas.

May/23/2012

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