As if the United States' drone program could not receive anymore bad PR, Foreign Policy Magazine came out with a piece yesterday affirming that the controversial program will not be shifting from the CIA to the Department of Defense as had originally been discussed by Director John Brennan and President Obama. On the surface, while this may not seem as bad as the human rights cases against the program recently, it has stark implications for the future of its existence as well as the Administration's stance on the program. As the FP piece notes, President Obama had called for greater transparency within the drone program which pushed him to shift the program from the CIA's control to that of the DOD. In leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, the CIA's nefarious "black budget" spent over $14 billion last year, twice the amount of the NSA.
Upon the CIA's inception in the aftermath of World War II, it was designed to be merely an intelligence gathering arm of the United States government. Today it has evolved into a billion dollar hole in our defense budget with its own paramilitary force. While the DOD does use drones in certain areas of the world, the CIA is in control of the covert action taken in Pakistan and other nations that is recently in question for potential human rights violations. Some may argue this is too much power for the intelligence agency. FP notes a reason for the drone program staying put is that the CIA is familiar with the program and in many cases spends less money in operating the strikes.
Another reason this is no small story, as the New York Times reported last month, is that the Obama Administration had decided months before the public was made aware that they would begin to arm and train Syrian rebels. According to the Times, the Administration did not want this information to go public for fear of appearing to be supporting the efforts of overthrowing another sovereign state so they used the CIA. If the Administration took measures through the DOD, they would have had to ask for appropriations from Congress and the program would have been under the public's scrutiny. Instead, they enlisted the resources of the CIA to arm and train small rebel battalions in nearby Jordan.
This is further evidence the Administration can continue to hide behind the secrecy of the CIA and continue covert action abroad rather than adhering to their promise of greater transparency. To the public, here and in nations such as Pakistan where reports came out that Pakistani intelligence received frequent briefings from US intelligence regarding drone strikes in their country allowing government officials to remain "clean" in the eyes of their citizens, President Obama and his Administration can continue to sweep the issue under the rug by first acknowledging the problem, addressing it through greater transparency, then simply allowing the public to forget about it. Unfortunately, it seems the drone program will continue to remain covert - meaning the strikes will continue to batter villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia to name a few. Despite the reports of potential war crimes against the United States for innocent civilians being killed or mounting "collateral damage," the drone war appears to be continuing unphased.