Targeted Individuals

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The Disposition Matrix by Ian Cobain

"The disposition matrix is a complex grid of suspected terrorists to be traced then targeted in drone strikes or captured and interrogated. And the British government appears to be colluding in it".

The rule of 'imminent threat'

In the coffee shops of west London, old friends of Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and B2 are equally reluctant to talk, especially when questioned about the calamities that have befallen the four men. When they do, it is in a slightly furtive way, almost in whispers.

Ezzouek explains that he never leaves the country any more, fearing he too will be stripped of his British citizenship. Al-Daour is watched closely and says he faces recall to prison whenever he places a foot wrong. Failing even to tell his probation officer that he has bought a car, for example, is enough to see him back behind bars. A number of their associates claim to have learned of the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr from MI5 officers who approached them with the news, and suggested they forget about travelling to Somalia.

Last February, a 16-page US justice department memo, leaked to NBC News, disclosed something of the legal basis for the drone programme. Its authors asserted that the killing of US citizens is lawful if they pose an "imminent threat" of violent attack against the US, and capture is impossible. The document adopts a broad definition of imminence, saying no evidence of a specific plot is needed, and remains silent on the fate that faces enemies who are – or were – citizens of an allied nation, such as the UK.

But if the Obama administration is satisfied that the targeted killing of US citizens is lawful, there is little reason to doubt that young men who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and who take up arms in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere, will continue to find their way on to the disposition matrix, and continue to be killed by missiles fired from drones hovering high overhead, or rendered to courts in the US.

And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida's resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.

In 1998, extrajudicial executions were carried out in 47 countries, 'disappearances' occurred in 37 countries, torture occurred in 125 countries, prisoners of conscience were held in 78 countries, unfair trials for political prisoners occurred in 35 countries, detentions without charge or trial occurred in 66 countries, executions were carried out in 36 countries, and human rights abuses were committed by armed opposition groups in 37 countries.

The home secretary's special power

The case of 'B2'

The case of Mahdi Hashi