CIA to transfer drone program to Pentagon
President Barack Obama’s administration has decided to give the Pentagon control of some drone operations against terrorism suspects overseas that are currently run by the CIA, several US government sources said on Monday.
Obama has pledged more transparency on controversial counterterrorism programs, and giving the Pentagon the responsibility for part of the drone program could open it to greater congressional oversight.
Obama will make a speech on Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington that will include discussion of the government’s use of drones as a counterterrorism tool. It is unclear whether he will announce the drone program shift in that speech or separately.
Four US government sources told Reuters that the decision had been made to shift the CIA’s drone operations to the Pentagon, and some of them said it would occur in stages.
Drone strikes in Yemen, where the US military already conducts operations with Yemeni forces, would be run by the armed forces, officials said.
But for the time-being US drone strikes in Pakistan would continue to be conducted by the CIA to keep the program covert and maintain deniability for both the United States and Pakistan, several sources said.
Ultimately, however, the administration’s goal would be to transfer the Pakistan drone operations to the military, one US official said on condition of anonymity.
The internal debate within the administration about whether to switch control of drone strikes to the military has been going on for months. Obama is under heightened pressure to show that his administration is transparent, after a series of scandals about civil liberties and allegations of government overreach broke last week.
A White House National Security Council spokeswoman and a CIA spokeswoman each declined comment.
One of the reasons to make the shift is that it would help the CIA to return to more traditional spying operations and intelligence analysis, rather than paramilitary operations involving killing terrorism targets, officials have said.
The US military is not engaged in ground combat in Pakistan, where the population in tribal areas has been angered by drone strikes and governments do not want to acknowledge that they allow US unmanned aircraft to operate.
Source: WASHINGTON - Reuters News - 22 May 2013
Photo: The US Air Force X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft is launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, in this May 14, 2013 file photo. (Photo by Reuters)