President Personally Oversees Terrorist 'Kill List'15:17
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President Obama in the Oval Office with, on the left, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser. (Pete Souza/The White House)
President Obama in the Oval Office with, on the left, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser. (Pete Souza/The White House)

A NATO airstrike killed al-Qaida's second-in-command in Afghanistan on Sunday and a story in the New York Times Tuesday suggests who ordered the strike.

According to Scott Shane's reporting, President Obama has put himself at the head of a secret process to choose whether terrorists should be killed or captured, "of which the capture part has become largely theoretical," he reports.

When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises ... it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

Shane and his colleague Jo Becker interviewed dozens of former and current advisers who say the president "personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda" is unprecedented.

Guest:

  • Scott Shane, New York Times reporter

This segment aired on May 29, 2012.

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