Drone Strikes Mostly Transferred from CIA to DoD
May 28, 2013 6:27 PM
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Lawmakers are divided on whether transfer will improve reliability
As promised in his speech this week, the
U.S. Department of Defense
(DoD) is largely assuming control of the embattled
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) combat operations in the Middle East
. The program had been run over the past several years by the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
responsible for death strikes on four Americans
, only one of which was an
intended target for death
I. DoD Takes the Reins
Under the new plan the DoD will take over the
robotic warfare operations
in the twelfth year of the nation's "war" on the Islamic militant organization known as al-Qaeda in the Middle East. The CIA will, meanwhile, refocus on its original objective of foreign intelligence gathering.
In his speech President Barack Hussein Obama likened drone death strikes on Americans involved in "terrorism" as similar to bullets from a SWAT team sniper. He remarked, "When a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team."
In a post-speech briefing, a senior official
reporters, "There’s an indication of a preference for the Department of Defense to engage in the use of force outside of war zones."
The "preference" is the DoD to take the lead in drone killings. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a former Democratic senator, commented, "The president today presented a comprehensive vision for how we will continue to protect the nation from terrorism, especially from al-Qaida and its affiliates, while remaining true to our values and laws. I have directed the Department of Defense to work closely with our interagency partners [the CIA] and allies to implement the president’s guidance."
II. Good News?
A former CIA official told
The Defense News
the shift was a good thing, commenting, "Do you want the nation’s top espionage agency conducting a paramilitary mission or performing espionage? The agency, since 9/11, and it's understandable, has gotten away from its core missions. A lot of the collection and analysis really is now used for targeting."
The administration's new policy, signed by the President this week, gives the CIA wiggle room to continue to conduct death strikes of its own, if necessary, while emphasizing that most deathstrikes will be run by the military from here on out.
Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.), a former Republican presidential nominee and the ranking member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee
, agrees with his former rival's plan, commenting in March remarks, "I believe the majority of the responsibility for this should rest with the military. The majority of it can be conducted by the Department of Defense. It’s not the job of the Central Intelligence Agency. ... It’s the military’s job."
Some feel the CIA would do a better job managing the program. [Image Source: AP Photo]
But members of the
Senate Intelligence committees
have pushed back against the plan, including members of the President's own party.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.) suggests the President may be leaving the drone warfare campaign in less capable hands, remarking, "We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program: how they function. The quality of the intelligence. Watching the agency exercise patience and discretion. The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well. That causes me concern."
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