Tags: Afghanistan | Al-Qaida | Barack Obama | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | War on Terrorism | Hostage

Hostage Deaths Rekindle Debate on Shifting Drones From CIA to DOD

By    |   Thursday, 23 Apr 2015 11:27 PM

The deaths of American and Italian hostages during a January drone strike along the Afghan-Pakistan border has revived a contentious debate over whether the secret CIA missions should be transferred to the Defense Department, Politico reports.

President Barack Obama had suggested the move two years ago to give the controversial drone war greater oversight, Politico reports, but then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein had concerns.

Politico reports the California Democrat inserted a classified amendment in a spending bill last year requiring assurances that giving the Pentagon a greater role wouldn't hurt the war on terror.

Feinstein’s office declined to comment.

"Having separate programs hurts oversight," Rachel Stohl, a senior associate at The Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, told Politico.

"Who do you look to to get information from? It makes it far more challenging for a congressional committee, or the Justice Department or the public to know what is happening and where."

"I don’t think the CIA should be in the business of carrying out wars," Stohl added. "The military should be well-equipped and well-positioned to do these kinds of strikes."

The deaths of the American and Italian hostages "could be the tragic event that forces a reassessment of this policy," she said.

Politico notes the CIA's covert missions are so secret that officials are barred by law from talking about them, yet moves to give the Department of Defense (DOD) a bigger operational role in the drone war have apparently bogged down.

"The transition has stalled," a government official told Politico.

"Part of it is that confidence in DOD is not as strong. There may be places where DOD can’t operate. There is a deniability that may not apply in a DOD operation. It helps both us and possibly any country that might not want to cooperate" to keep knowledge of operations as limited as possible.

Still, a task force convened on drone policy last year by The Stimson Center concluded that "while rare exceptions may be warranted, as a general principle, the military should be the entity responsible for the use of lethal force outside the United States, while the CIA should focus on intelligence collection and analysis," Politico reports.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the leading proponents in the past for giving the Pentagon greater oversight of the drone missions, is now calling for a new examination of a transfer of responsibility.

"The American public has a right to know about actions taken on its behalf even — and sometimes especially — when those operations go wrong," he told Politico.

"In the weeks ahead, we will be examining this operation to make sure that the high standards that have been set were, in fact, met, and whether there are any other steps that can be taken to further reduce the risk of loss of innocent life."

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The deaths of American and Italian hostages during a January drone strike along the Afghan-Pakistan border has revived a contentious debate over whether the secret CIA missions should be transferred to the Defense Department, Politico reports.
Hostage, deaths, American, drone, strikes, debate, CIA, Defense Department, DOD
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2015-27-23
Thursday, 23 Apr 2015 11:27 PM
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