A Worrying Insight Into The CIA's Free Rein On Drones

obama shadow

Recently divulged plans to shift the drone program away from the CIA and solely into the hands of the defence Department (DoD) magnify a huge issue about targeted killings by the CIA.

Daniel Klaidman of the Daily Beast reports that the Obama administration is ready to begin integrating the CIA’s drone program into a stricter one run by the defence Department.

From the Daily Beast [emphasis ours]:

“CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles.”

“Since the inception of the drone program, targeting decisions have been made inside the CIA with little or no input from other agencies, though the White House sometimes weighs in … [but Obama] does not … sign off on all CIA strikes.”

The fact that the Agency carries out strikes without the White House’s explicit approval may go a long way in explaining how U.S. drones kill people whose identities aren’t confirmed.

These so-called “signature strikes” — in which targets are selected based on suspicious patterns of activity — reportedly make up most of the CIA’s targeted killings.

And Klaidman’s reporting highlights the fact that the CIA independently carries out these bombings on individuals who aren’t on the president’s kill list or even his “approved list in Pakistan.”

That raises serious questions about accountability over civilian casualties, especially since one senior official told The New York Times a government joke that the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks” and says it’s “a terrorist training camp.”

AP via DoDThe Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that American hellfire missiles have killed hundreds of civilians, some of whom died when drones targeted fired secondary missiles targeting first responders. That tactic, known as a “double tap,” is considered a war crime by the UN — so it might make sense to keep Obama out of the loop.

Then again, all civilian casualties aren’t covert strikes since the president surely gave the go ahead for the targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009. The New America Foundation estimates that drones missed the Mehsud at least 16 times — killing 280 to 410 people — before the Pakistani Taliban chief was killed.

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