Following up on Wells’ post, I increasingly think that the shift in drone authorities from CIA to DOD first reported by Dan Klaidman might not amount to much in substance, and that any proposed changes face many hurdles in any event. In addition to the suggestions to this effect in the NYT story that Wells discusses, the WSJ reports that any CIA wind down in Yemen and especially Pakistan will be slow at best. It also notes that the possible shift from CIA to DOD “remains controversial on Capitol Hill, within the CIA and in some military circles among people who think the program is more effective under the agency’s control.” And it describes disagreements about the shift between Senator McCain, who is on the Arms Services Committee and who (unsurprisingly) favors the shift, and Senator Feinstein, who is on the Intelligence Committee and who (unsurprisingly) opposes it. This congressional jurisdictional battle (more details here) could have large consequences for the success of any shift.
Meanwhile, Michael Crowley has a very good piece Time that puts Klaidman’s story in broader perspective. Crowley begins the piece with Senator Jay Rockefeller’s complaints to President Obama about excessive secrecy re drones. “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” says President Obama, in his defense. Crowley then notes that “in political terms, it’s getting hard to tell the difference.” His piece traces in detail the erosion of political support for the administration’s drone program, and offers explanations (mostly grounded in excessive secrecy) for why this has happened. He also sketches the various ways that “Washington is rethinking some of its basic assumptions about the drone war.” And he describes how “Congress and the White House are discussing ways to bring new legal clarity to targeted killing.” Lots of interesting stuff here about drone courts, the pros and cons of a new AUMF, and the like.
PS: I just noticed, relatedly, that Spencer Ackerman has a good story from yesterday entitled: Little Will Change If the Military Takes Over CIA’s Drone Strikes.