Following up on a the story broken yesterday by The Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal reported on the Obama administration’s dictate to place the Central Intelligence Agency’s targeted killing program under military control:
The new directive is intended to shift the covert drone program to one that is subject to international laws of war and undertaken with the consent of host governments.
The draft document reflects a growing consensus within the Obama administration that the long-term future of the program lies with the military, where U.S. officials say it will be on firmer legal footing and be more transparent. The drone program has drawn fire from both Democrats and Republicans who say it is secretive and unpredictable.
Even under military control, however, the campaign is likely to remain relatively secretive, current and former officials said.
The shift remains controversial on Capitol Hill, within the CIA and in some military circles among people who think the program is more effective under the agency’s control.
One senior defense official warned that putting the program under military control could impose operational limitations. Human rights groups consider a shift in authority inadequate and want it to meet the demands of international law.
Under President Obama, the CIA has directed drone strikes outside of the nations where the United States had official military involvement, i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan. CIA strikes have been reported in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Persistent reports of innocent casualties, particularly in Pakistan, and the deaths of three U.S. citizens in Yemen (two accidentally, one a child) have fueled a controversy that climaxed with Rand Paul’s epic filibuster of Obama drone program architect John Brennan’s nomination to direct the CIA.
The agency also conducts reconnaissance using unmanned platforms, as illustrated by the Iranian autocracy’s recovery of a stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, but it is unclear whether these programs will be affected by the change.
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