US President Barack Obama personally approves the names put on the "kill lists" used in the targeted killing operations carried out by American assassination drones, The New York Times reports.
According to the report published by the paper on Tuesday, every week or so, more than 100 members of the country’s national security team gather via secure video teleconference run by the Pentagon and go over the biographies of suspects in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, and "nominate" those who should be targeted in the attacks.
Obama is then provided with the identities of those put on the kill list and signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia as well as the risky strikes in Pakistan and decides when to attack a terror suspect.
The report highlights Obama’s role in overseeing the confidential war against al-Qaeda, including making final decisions whether to place individuals on a kill list.
National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said, "He (Obama) is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go."
"His view is that he's responsible for the position of the United States in the world... He's determined to keep the tether pretty short," he noted.
According to the report, no other US president in history has ever taken such a singular role in deciding such matters.
The White House has not yet commented on the report.
A US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaqi was killed in Yemen in an assassination drone attack approved by Obama last year. Critics have said that it set a worrying precedent that the president could single-handedly decide to be "judge, jury, and executioner" over an American.
In Pakistan, Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants crossing the border with Afghanistan, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.
The US military has also used the drones in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq.
On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the use of the drones as the "most precise weapon we have" in the campaign against al-Qaeda. At least 21 people were killed in US drone attacks across the world in less than 24 hours following his remarks.
Analysts say that as most of the victims of US assassination drone strikes are civilians, Obama could be regarded as war criminal in case he orders the bombardments.
The UN has denounced the attacks as targeted killings and said they pose a challenge to international law.