Hmm. Reporters at the Wall Street Journal have an article claiming that President Trump has given the CIA “secret new authority” to conduct drone strikes against terrorists.
President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said, changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.
The language is breathless:
The new authority, which hadn’t been previously disclosed, represents a significant departure from a cooperative approach that had become standard practice by the end of former President Barack Obama’s tenure: The CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike.
“Hadn’t been previously disclosed”? Well! And to think we’re nearly eight weeks into the new administration.
But the larger point here is that Obama himself had the CIA conducting hundreds of anti-terrorist drone strikes outside of the ground-war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq up through at least 2015 (compared to the total of 57 similar drone strikes conducted by all agencies in the entire George W. Bush administration).
The WSJ report sort of alludes to that — obliquely, and down in paragraph 17 of the article. You wouldn’t know it unless you read all the way to that paragraph, but here’s what it says (along with paragraph 18):
Under pressure by the ACLU, other human rights groups and others, Mr. Obama in 2013 began to push for more drone operations to be conducted by the Defense Department.
But the efforts to move those operations to the Defense Department ran into problems—a combination of interagency squabbling, budgetary competition and bureaucratic inertia.
In other words, Obama had the CIA conduct drone strikes for at least four years before he even started talking about instituting his “standard practice.”