President Trump has given the CIA more authority to do drone strikes against people who are suspected of being terrorists, according to a WSJ article.
This is a change from the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the CIA’s powers. Previously the CIA would identify where suspected terrorists were and then work with the military (Pentagon) to do the strikes.
This is a transparent way of tracking how many strikes and puts accountability on the military, as they must publicly report airstrikes and reveal how many they killed. But the CIA doesn’t have to report it since their missions are secret.
It seems like the CIA used this new power to do a drone strike in February in Syria against an al-Qaeda leader and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden. It is not clear how many, if any, were were killed.
There might be more recent U.S. drone strikes that are not reported and more likely there will be many more strikes in the future as Trump has vowed to destroy ISIS and terrorist organizations. But we might not know when and where they occur, and how many terrorists or civilians were killed — we’ll have to depend on reporters and other eyewitness accounts.
The ACLU and other human rights groups have criticized this, saying the CIA should be a foregin intelligence gathering and analysis organization, not a paramilitary one. They have also raised concerns about transparency.
The WSJ says the CIA has had this authority since Trump visited the CIA headquarters the day after he was inaugurated. They also report that the White House is now in ongoing negotiations with the CIA and the Pentagon for long-term plans on who has the authority to do what with respect to drone strikes -- who's turf belongs to whom.