Saturday, 19 August, 2017

Trump Loosens Obama's Lax Drone War Checks, Giving Power to Central Intelligence Agency

Getty Images              U.S. Air Force Predator drones are seen at an air base in the Persian Gulf region Getty Images U.S. Air Force Predator drones are seen at an air base in the Persian Gulf region
Saul Franklin | 15 March, 2017, 01:08

Under former President Barack Obama, covert operations flourished with the widely-adopted use of killer drones, though some internal policies sought to keep those potentially boundless war powers in check.

By allowing targeted drone strikes to be carried out without the approval of the Pentagon, Trump has essentially shielded these killings from public scrutiny.

The move would mark a departure from drone policies following during the administration of former President Barrack Obama and focused on limiting the spy agency's paramilitary role, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing USA officials.

President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, us officials said, changing the Obama administration's policy of limiting the spy agency's paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Obama used this structure to provide more transparency, so if true, Trump's new strategy would eliminate that benefit.

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Trump's order is meant to apply to operations against ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, but it could also allow the agency to conduct strikes in other countries.

The new authority represents a strong shift from the standard practice to date which was that the CIA could deploy drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists where-after the military would conduct the actual strike. This authority was apparently exercised in the targeted killing of al-Qaida commander Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Idlib province of Syria in late February.

"A big goal is getting the White House out of the way of itself", an anonymous senior US official, told The Washington Post.

Now, as many feared, it seems that his successor President Donald Trump is seeking to undo those restraints, making it easier to order attacks outside of war zones, without approval or oversight, and lowering the standard for what defines an "acceptable" civilian casualty. The CIA and USA military operate under different legal authorities. The distinction is important for transparency: the Pentagon reports most strikes, while the Central Intelligence Agency doesn't.

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