CIA Regains Authority To Drone Strike Terrorists Under Trump

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) can now launch drone strikes against terrorists without the U.S. military’s cooperation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

President Donald Trump approved the change in operation procedure on his first full day as commander in chief, in a marked change from the Obama administration. Former President Barack Obama insisted the CIA would be responsible for gathering intelligence on terrorist targets before the strike itself was carried out by the U.S. military for transparency’s sake.

Former CIA targeting officer Nada Bakos took to twitter to clarify that change in authority is not new but simply a reversion to Bush and Obama’s first-term era protocols. She clarified that the CIA and U.S. military use different standards of targeting. The CIA requires a target be certified with “near certainty” while the military uses the standard of “reasonable certainty.”

The CIA’s restored authority to launch strikes would no longer require the U.S. to disclose its strikes or number of civilians killed. The CIA and U.S. military operate under different legal authorities.

Trump is also mulling a change to the way the U.S. reviews drone strike targets in order to increase the number of strikes against the Islamic State. The center of Trump’s discussions revolve around U.S. acceptance of civilian casualties in counter-terrorism strikes and raids, and how to factor in that risk when weighing a strike against an active target. Obama’s rules stipulate that cabinet officers must agree on the threat posed by a target before a strike is approved, along with a broader inter-agency process.

The new rules would instead refine the targeting process to military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocols couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.

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