Trump Gives CIA Authority to Conduct Drone Strikes

Posted March 15, 2017

And a senior White House official told The Washington Post that a review of drone policy was nearly complete and would roll back other constraints imposed by Barack Obama.

The move overhauls an Obama administration policy that required the military to carry out strikes on targets the Central Intelligence Agency indentified.

"Some of the Obama administration rules were getting in the way of good strikes", a U.S. official briefed on the matter told NBC News.

Separately, The New York Times this week reported that the Trump administration is also working to loosen Obama-era rules that aimed to limit civilian deaths in drone strikes.

The CIA has already gotten to work using its new power, given by Trump shortly after his inauguration.

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Trump chose to return the authority to the CIA after meeting with top agency officials on January 21, a day after taking office, TheWall Street Journal reported Monday, citing unnamed United States officials.

Trump wants to accelerate the fight against Islamic State group and other militant groups. As I noted back in November, an expansion of the use of drones seemed like a logical outcome given Trump's stated desires to focus on killing ISIS terrorists but not necessarily expand direct military engagement with troops on the ground.

During his presidential campaign, Trump said that he would continue drone use against terrorist targets and even their families.

The review of the policy on drone strikes will also allow the Pentagon to order strikes without checking with the White House, as had been mandated by President Obama, who had tried to bring transparency and accountability to the process, as he leaned on it heavily as a substitute for military deployment.

Perhaps "the most vulnerable standard", according to one USA counterterrorism official involved in the discussions, is that US officials must prove that a potential target outside of a war zone poses a "continuing and imminent threat to Americans" before action is taken. But "f$3 or Obama, the high standard ensured that local partner forces did not come to depend on American air support and that the US military did not inadvertently slide down a slippery slope into larger-scale combat operations or even war", WaPo observed.