According to unnamed officials cited by the Washington Post, the CIA will not be subject to the rules outlined in the Obama administration’s still secret document that has been described as a “playbook” for the government’s drone assassination program.
While the Washington Post reports that the document is the result of a year-long effort by the White House to “codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama’s second term,” it must be noted that a federal judge ruled the Obama administration never has to explain the supposed legal basis for the assassination of Americans without charge or trial.
The most troubling aspect of this document, which is reportedly expected to be submitted to Obama for his approval within weeks, is that it will allow the CIA to continue their deadly drone operations for a year or more before having to comply with the “more stringent rules” outlined in the document.
While the Washington Post report focuses on the exemption for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, one must wonder if this would also cover the increasingly common drone strikes in Yemen (which reportedly resulted in at least eight or nine casualties on January 20).
Indeed, last year, the CIA sought the authority to carry out so-called signature strikes on targets in Yemen, showing the rapid expansion of the agency’s operations in that country and around the world including warzones that get very little coverage.
According to an unnamed former U.S. official cited by the Washington Post who is involved in the discussions surrounding the playbook, the exemption for the CIA’s operations is expected to be in place for “less than two years but more than one.”
However, this is hardly set in stone since the decision to close the exemption “will undoubtedly be predicated on facts on the ground.”
In other words, if the government thinks they need the exemption in place in two years’ time, it will be, despite the massive number of civilian casualties involved and disturbing practices like targeting first responders and funerals.
While many in the Obama administration obviously see the playbook as a good thing, others do not see it as such.
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s National Security Project told the Washington Post the playbook is “a step in exactly the wrong direction, a further bureaucratization of the CIA’s paramilitary killing program” without any regard for the legal and moral objections raised by multiple groups.
Even Jeh Johnson, in a speech before stepping down as Pentagon general counsel, warned that “we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’”
The officials cited by the Washington Post claimed that strikes are only permitted “in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans.”
These so-called specific threats could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” according to one unnamed senior administration official, or “intelligence that … [for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.”
The obvious problem is that these are nothing more than baseless claims. When the Obama administration is challenged to actually back up these claims in court, they claim that the program is so secret that they cannot discuss it.
According to the report, the playbook includes “requirements for White House approval of drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.”
Yet, unsurprisingly, none of these rules apply to the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan and according to officials cited in the report, the CIA will have “near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.”
The larger problem is that with signature strikes, a name does not even need to be on a list. So long as you fit a classified profile, you can be killed. The government doesn’t even need to know who the target actually is or if they are actually engaged in any terrorist activities.
While the Washington Post report claims that the signature strikes were not in fact expanded to Yemen, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported on May 29, 2012, “despite the errors, the president ultimately chose to keep in place the CIA’s controversial policy of using ‘signature strikes’ against unknown militants. That tactic has just been extended to Yemen.”
So long as the government continues to refuse to actually back up their claims in court and present the so-called playbook publicly, any claims to legitimacy will be completely and totally worthless.
By Madison Ruppert, Editor of End the Lie