U.S. President Barack Obama has made a sharp U-turn on his two-year-old promise to move the CIA’s controversial drone program out of the “legal shadows,” according to new reporting by the Huffington Post.
In a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University, Obama vowed to move the “out of the covert shadows and into the relative sunlight of the Defense Department,” writes HuffPo reporter Ali Watkins, who notes that “[d]rone critics greeted the announcement with cautious optimism, hoping that a Pentagon-run drone program would be more transparent and allow more oversight of targeted killings.”
But sources tell Watkins that “[b]ehind closed doors, all of that has changed.”
On June 10, the HuffPo reports, administration officials gave a classified briefing to lawmakers laying out a blueprint for a new transition plan that would involve a dual command structure—giving the Defense Department and the CIA joint control of drone strikes. That blueprint, unnamed officials told Watkins, is close to complete.
The story continues:
The same factor that caused Obama to want to take the drone program away from the CIA may be part of the reason the agency is holding onto it: As covert operations, the agency’s drone strikes aren’t subject to the same international laws and domestic oversight as the Pentagon’s. The CIA can more easily operate in countries such as Pakistan, where local governments may not necessarily sign off on U.S. strikes.
But the demise of the president’s plan may have less to do with geopolitics and more to do with the government’s internal power struggles.
“This is the classic example of the bureaucracies resisting even the president of the United States,” the first official said. “They’ve reached some unholy Faustian bargain… it’s unworkable.”