Rob Kall: You talk in the book and in the movie extensively about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki , the son of the leader in Yemen. He was killed by a drone strike a few weeks after his father was killed, and you say, "He was killed for what he may become." This is like the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report! Can you talk a little bit more about that whole mentality?
Jeremy Scahill: Yeah. First of all, Anwar al-Awlaki -- I mean, I won't get into the story of him. I think most people are familiar with the images of him in the camouflage jacket calling for armed Jihad against the United States. I'm willing for the sake of argument to concede that everything that the White House had leaked about him is true: that he directed the underwear bomb plot, that he was engaged in plots against the United States. For me the question with him is, "How do we handle citizens like that, that are reprehensible?" And the idea that we just sentence them to death without even presenting any evidence, just having assertions made by officials, is really disturbing and I think something that all of us should be looking at.
But then two weeks after they kill Anwar-Alaki in this drone strike, his son, [who] is sixteen years old, hadn't seen his father in years, is sitting in an outdoor restaurant with one of his cousins, another teenager, and some friends, and they get blown up by a drone; and the White House has never explained why he was killed. In the film, I say that maybe it was that he was killed for who he might one day become. What I meant by that is, I suspect that it's possible he was killed in what is called a "Signature Strike," where you have a group of military age males, and maybe someone within that group is being tracked by the US for some reason, and because this person has been determined to be dangerous, the mission planners decide that it's acceptable to take all of the people out if they're military age males. It is this grotesque form of pre-crime.
Whether he was specifically targeted in this operation or he was killed in some form of signature strike, I don't know; but I think that the answer to that question says a lot about who we are as a society, and I've continued to try to press the White House to be transparent. What they said, actually, was that "He was not specifically targeted." They didn't say he wasn't targeted, they said he was not specifically targeted - which raises questions for me, about "Who was the target, then?" Because the guy that they initially said they killed in that operation, a man named Ibrahim al Banna, to my knowledge is still alive. So who were they trying to kill there? Part of why we raised that question in the film is that, if you start killing people based on their associations with others, or because their father happened to be a guy that you believe was an enemy of the United States, then we're crossing into very dangerous territory.
Rob Kall: OK. Another question (we're down near the end of the interview here): You report in your discussion of Gardez that JSOC does twenty killing raids a night. That's thousands per year, and /
Jeremy Scahill: Yeah.
Rob Kall: I can't imagine how Obama could, as he claims, be personally making decisions on who to kill for each of these thousands of raids per year.
Jeremy Scahill: No. In Afghanistan, Obama is not signing off on each of the raids. Afghanistan is different than Yemen, for instance, or than drone strikes. The military is running an expansive kill campaign inside of Afghanistan, and they are engaged in a military operation, whereas many of the drone strikes [in countries we are not at war with] are CIA operations and the President is directly signing off on them, and they're taking out people away from the stated battlefield of Afghanistan. So the pace of the night raids there [in Afghanistan] is because it's a military operation.