Targeted Killing: Drones

Thoughts on Possible End to CIA Targeted Killing

By Matthew Waxman
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 6:53 PM

As Jack mentioned, Dan Klaidman of the Daily Beast reported today that “the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA’s lethal targeting program to the Defense Department."

Over at, I just published a brief essay on this matter.  In short:

Many critics of the government’s targeted killing policy have been calling for such a move, hoping that it would (in Klaidman’s words) “toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program’s accountability, and increase transparency.” That may be. But if what those critics really want is to end the practice of killing suspected al Qaeda fighters with unmanned aircraft far from active combat zones, they should be careful what they wish for.

That’s because “moving operations to the Pentagon may modestly improve transparency and compliance with the law but -- ironically for drone critics -- it may also entrench targeted-killing policy for the long term.”

That said, based on what I know, I think this would be a good move, and those modest improvements are still quite important if the U.S. government handles them well.