The secret list, called the "disposition matrix," contains terrorism suspect names laid out against resources available to track them down, the Post said in a report published Tuesday.
The report, the first of three on changing U.S. counterterrorism policies, is based on interviews with current and former White House, Pentagon, intelligence and counterterrorism officials, the Post said.
The White House, National Counterterrorism Center, CIA and other agencies declined to comment on the matrix or other counterterrorism programs.
The National Counterterrorism Center is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which integrates intelligence information, and draws on CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other experts who seek to ensure all potential terrorist-attack clues are detected and acted on when necessary.
The matrix -- designed to go beyond existing kill lists -- is a continually evolving database cataloging terror suspects' biographies, locations, acquaintances and alliances, the Post said. Strategies for taking targets down are also spelled out, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols, the newspaper said.
The database, which officials said was not in operation, is designed to map out contingencies, creating a ready menu for multiple agencies' roles in case a suspect surfaces in an unexpected spot, the Post said.
"If he's in Saudi Arabia, pick up with the Saudis," a former official said. "If traveling overseas to al-Shabaab [a fundamentalist militia in Somalia], we can pick him up by ship. If in Yemen, kill or have the Yemenis pick him up."
Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix.
The database also reflects a change in Washington's worldview about terrorism, officials said, reflecting its evolution from finite emergency measures after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States to institutionalized fixtures of the national security apparatus.
Senior Obama administration officials agree such counterterrorism operations are likely to extend at least another decade, with some saying they saw no end in sight as al-Qaida continues to metastasize, the Post said.
"We can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us," a senior administration official told the newspaper. "It's a necessary part of what we do. ... We're not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, 'We love America.'"
Although the matrix is still in development, some officials -- including those from the White House, Congress and intelligence agencies -- described it as a blueprint that could help Washington adapt to al-Qaida's morphing structure and its increasing efforts to exploit turmoil across North Africa and the Middle East.
The report follows news Friday the CIA has urged the White House to increase the agency's armed drone fleet to fight new North Africa al-Qaida threats. The request by CIA Director David Petraeus for up to 10 remotely piloted aircraft would strengthen Washington's ability to stop the growth of an increasingly aggressive al-Qaida affiliate known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, White House officials cited by the Post Friday said.
The request to expand the CIA's arsenal and growing involvement in lethal paramilitary operations reflects the agency's transition into a paramilitary force, the Post said. It also makes clear the CIA does not intend to return to its pre-Sept. 11, 2001, focus on gathering intelligence.
The CIA started out as a civilian intelligence agency in September 1947.
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