Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Arts | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up Next


History > 2012 > USA > C.I.A. (I)



U.S. Election Speeded Move

to Codify Policy on Drones


November 24, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.

Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.

More broadly, the administration’s legal reasoning has not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are acceptable under international law. For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.

But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.

Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes.

The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.

“There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an “amorphous” program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.

Mr. Obama himself, in little-noticed remarks, has acknowledged that the legal governance of drone strikes is still a work in progress.

“One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” Mr. Obama told Jon Stewart in an appearance on “The Daily Show” on Oct. 18.

In an interview with Mark Bowden for a new book on the killing of Osama bin Laden, “The Finish,” Mr. Obama said that “creating a legal structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we use unmanned weapons, is going to be a challenge for me and my successors for some time to come.”

The president expressed wariness of the powerful temptation drones pose to policy makers. “There’s a remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve vexing security problems,” he said.

Despite public remarks by Mr. Obama and his aides on the legal basis for targeted killing, the program remains officially classified. In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the government has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

But by many accounts, there has been a significant shift in the nature of the targets. In the early years, most strikes were aimed at ranking leaders of Al Qaeda thought to be plotting to attack the United States. That is the purpose Mr. Obama has emphasized, saying in a CNN interview in September that drones were used to prevent “an operational plot against the United States” and counter “terrorist networks that target the United States.”

But for at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.

In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.

“Unless they were about to get on a flight to New York to conduct an attack, they were not an imminent threat to the United States,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who is a critic of the strikes. “We don’t say that we’re the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but we are.”

Then there is the matter of strikes against people whose identities are unknown. In an online video chat in January, Mr. Obama spoke of the strikes in Pakistan as “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” But for several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to “personality strikes” against named terrorists, the C.I.A. and the military have carried out “signature strikes” against groups of suspected, unknown militants.

Originally that term was used to suggest the specific “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.

Many people inside and outside the government have argued for far greater candor about all of the strikes, saying excessive secrecy has prevented public debate in Congress or a full explanation of their rationale. Experts say the strikes are deeply unpopular both in Pakistan and Yemen, in part because of allegations of large numbers of civilian casualties, which American officials say are exaggerated.

Gregory D. Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia,” argues that the strike strategy is backfiring in Yemen. “In Yemen, Al Qaeda is actually expanding,” Mr. Johnsen said in a recent talk at the Brookings Institution, in part because of the backlash against the strikes.

Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistan-born analyst now at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the United States should start making public a detailed account of the results of each strike, including any collateral deaths, in part to counter propaganda from jihadist groups. “This is a grand opportunity for the Obama administration to take the drones out of the shadows and to be open about their objectives,” he said.

But the administration appears to be a long way from embracing such openness. The draft rule book for drone strikes that has been passed among agencies over the last several months is so highly classified, officials said, that it is hand-carried from office to office rather than sent by e-mail.

    U.S. Election Speeded Move to Codify Policy on Drones, NYT, 24.11.2012,






C.I.A. Investigates Petraeus Affair

as Lawmakers Press Libya Attack Inquiry


November 15, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general has started an investigation into the general conduct of David H. Petraeus, who resigned last week as the C.I.A.’s director after admitting to having an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The inquiry will focus largely on whether Mr. Petraeus misused the trappings and perquisites of his position, including security details, private jets and special accommodations, to facilitate the affair, a person familiar with the investigation said.

There is no evidence so far to suggest Mr. Petraeus did so, said agency officials, who notified the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of the matter on Thursday. But given the extraordinary circumstances, agency officials thought it prudent to have the inspector general review Mr. Petraeus’s conduct.

“An investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome,” said Preston Golson, a C.I.A. spokesman.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Thursday that the F.B.I. investigation into a cyberstalking case that revealed the affair concluded that e-mails Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell exchanged did not violate national security.

Speaking at a news conference in New Orleans to announce a settlement with the oil company BP, Mr. Holder said the White House and Congress were not notified about Mr. Petraeus’s situation until last week because the national security concerns had been allayed.

“As we went through the investigation, we looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed,” Mr. Holder said. “We felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist that warranted the sharing of that information with the White House or with the Hill.”

The spotlight will turn to Mr. Petraeus on Friday, when he testifies in closed session to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — not about his affair, though that may well come up, but mainly about the attacks on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Mr. Petraeus gave his first interview since resigning, telling Kyra Phillips of CNN that he had never given classified information to Ms. Broadwell and that his resignation had been solely because of their relationship. He said it had nothing to do with disagreements over the attack on the American Mission and a C.I.A. safe house in Benghazi.

Leading administration officials, meanwhile, met privately with lawmakers for a third straight day to explain how the Petraeus investigation was handled and explore its national security implications. Among those appearing before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; Michael J. Morell, the acting C.I.A. director; and Sean Joyce, the deputy F.B.I. director.

After a four-hour closed hearing on Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee, said the panel had reviewed a detailed chronology of the attack on Sept. 11 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It included a video made from a composite of sources, including Predator drone video of the events that night.

Ms. Feinstein said that in addition to meeting with Mr. Petraeus on Friday to hear his account of the attack — as well as an assessment of a visit he made just two weeks ago to the C.I.A.’s station in Tripoli, Libya’s capital — the committee would hold at least three additional hearings on the matter.

“We are in effect fact-finding,” she said.

Ms. Feinstein and the panel’s senior Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, declined to tell reporters what questions they had asked the witnesses, but Mr. Chambliss and his colleagues said previously they would examine possible intelligence flaws, security lapses and the Obama administration’s handling of the issue.

“Were mistakes made?” Mr. Chambliss said. “We know mistakes were made, and we’ve got to learn from that.”

Earlier in the day, the same administration officials faced tough questioning from members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said after the hearing that he was satisfied the F.B.I. had behaved properly in not notifying the White House or lawmakers about the inquiry sooner, in keeping with post-Watergate rules set up to prevent interference in criminal investigations.

Leading Republicans, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, for suggesting that the siege in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest rather than an opportunistic terrorist attack.

But Mr. Ruppersberger said on Thursday that this criticism was unfair and that the intelligence community’s assessment of what had happened was now roughly what Ms. Rice recounted on several Sunday talk shows. “You had a group of extremists who took advantage of a situation, and unfortunately we lost four American lives,” he said.

Mr. Ruppersberger also underscored what intelligence officials have said for weeks: that the attack on the diplomatic mission seemed disorganized, and without good command and control, but that the second attack, a mortar strike on the C.I.A. base nearly eight hours later, was much more sophisticated. It was clearly the work of terrorists, he said.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat on the panel, said that Benghazi would be the main focus of Friday’s hearing, but that lawmakers still had many questions “with respect to the facts about the allegations against General Petraeus.”

While the intelligence committees questioned witnesses behind closed doors, Democrats and Republican sparred openly at a hearing on Benghazi by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which heard testimony from outside experts.

Michael J. Courts, a specialist from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, told lawmakers that his agency warned three years ago in a report that the State Department’s diplomatic security division had failed to devise an effective strategic plan to deal with a growing number of operational challenges in increasingly dangerous overseas posts like Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican on the committee, suggested that the United States had been ill-prepared to cope with the threats posed in eastern Libya on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, despite a string of assaults against the Red Cross and Western diplomats in the previous several months. “Somebody forgot to circle the calendar on 9/11,” he said.

Others, like Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who visited Libya in May, said that the Foreign Service was inherently dangerous in certain places, but that American diplomats needed to keep doing their jobs.

Libya was a case in point, Mr. Connolly said.

“When I landed at Tripoli, there was a militia, not the government, guarding the airport in Tripoli,” he said. “It’s an inherently unstable situation after 40 years of autocratic rule by Qaddafi. Tragedies happen.”

    C.I.A. Investigates Petraeus Affair as Lawmakers Press Libya Attack Inquiry, NYT, 15.11.2012,



home Up