NEW YORK — President Trump has granted the CIA the authority to carry out drone attacks against suspected terrorists, according to the Wall Street Journal. The measure is a clear change from Obama’s strategy to curb the powers of military intelligence. Trump has ambitious plans to lower thresholds for anti-terrorist attacks around the world.
Donald Trump has quietly expanded the CIA’s military powers. According to Wall Steet Journal sources, the President has given the organization the power to single-handedly carry out drone attacks, which marks a definite shift in strategy from his predecessor Barack Obama. At the end of Obama’s presidency, the CIA used drones only for reconnaissance missions to locate suspected terrorists, after which the military conducted the actual attacks.
The reason behind Obama’s policy was to gain maximum transparency about drone strikes, as the Pentagon has to communicate all their actions and outcomes, including any civilian casualties. The CIA is not obliged to disclose any details of their overseas operations.
Allegedly, the agency used its new-gained powers in February, in a drone strike in Syria against high-ranking al-Qaeda member Abu al-Khayr al-Masri. The attack is already known, but it has previously not been official that the CIA was behind it. Both Pentagon and the CIA have declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is in the final stages of a presenting new legislation that will further enable Pentagon to carry out anti-terrorist attacks around the world. The new policy will specifically change how the US is allowed to operate in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. It includes, among other things:
- Giving Pentagon and the CIA the power to decide on attacks without approval from the White House
- Exclude the need for assurance that no civilians outside war zones risk being killed or injured
- Loosen requirements that valid targets must pose an imminent threat to American lives
During his final days in the White House, Obama significantly tightened the rules for drone attacks and other anti-terrorist operations, because of concerns about what future administrations, and foreign governments, might do.
In particular, the requirement that the President must approve each individual attack has met with severe criticism from the military, because it has made it harder to swiftly strike against terrorists who are not already on the White House list.
A key objective, moving forward, is to make it difficult for the White House to stand in its own way.