The Central Intelligence Agency kills more people with drones than the military does. This is a matter of expertise. So, as a cost-cutting measure, the CIA is going to retain control of its drones.
President Obama said earlier this year that he was ordering the CIA to transfer drone operations to the Department of Defense.
He also thought www.Healthcare.gov would work. He was out of the loop in both cases.
The CIA is not going to give up its drones.
The journal Foreign Policy reports.
The military operates its own drones, of course, and has launched hundreds of lethal strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the CIA is more “agile,” another former official said, and has a longer track record of being able to sending drones into places where U.S. combat forces cannot go.
“The agency can do it much more efficiently and at lower cost than the military can,” said one former intelligence official. Another former official with extensive experience in intelligence and military operations said it takes the military longer to deploy drones — in part because the military uses a larger support staff to operate the aircraft.
When it comes to efficiency in killing people suspected of being terrorists at Muslim wedding parties, the CIA has the edge. It does not intend to give up this edge without a fight.
The military also cannot conduct overt, hostile action in Pakistan, where the drones have been most active and are practically the only means the United States has to attack terrorists and militants in remote regions. Yes, the pace of strikes has significantly decreased since the 2010 peak of an estimated 122 unmanned attacks in Pakistan. But the drones are most certainly still flying. Last week, a drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head for his involvement in a 2009 attack in Afghanistan. Over the summer, a spate of drone strikes killed a dozen militants in Yemen.
The CIA offers legal cover for these strikes. The military is not supposed to kill people who are outside a declared battlefield. The CIA has no such geographical restriction. It can kill suspected terrorists anywhere it chooses. As soon as the suspected terrorists are dead, they move from being suspected terrorists to high-level Al Qaeda operatives. Who can prove otherwise?
It also sends a warning to Muslin wedding planners: Don’t include high-level Al Qaeda operatives on the invitation list.
It is important for allies to be able to blame the CIA. Otherwise, they would have to blame the U.S. military. To blame the military would imply that the allied nations are under siege by the U.S. government. They prefer not to admit this. “Blame the CIA — everyone knows it’s lawless” is a convenient approach. Example:
For years, the Pakistani government has given tacit approval to CIA-led strikes. But they were conducted as covert actions under U.S. law, meaning they were never officially acknowledged by U.S. officials. That gave the Pakistanis some wiggle room to tell an angry public, which would never tolerate American troops on the ground, that Pakistani leaders had nothing to do with the strikes on their territory.
From the point of view of politicians inside the USA and outside, it makes sense to let the CIA run the lion’s share of the drone program. It’s a matter of experience, cost savings, blame, and immunity from Congressional snooping — of snooping by the Commander in Chief.
Look, do we want efficiency or not? If the goal is to kill attendees at wedding parties, do we want this done by skilled experts who have done this many tines, or do we want amateurs?
I think the answer is clear.
So do senior officials in the Obama administration.