WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama’s administration has decided to give the Pentagon control of some drone operations against terrorism suspects overseas that are currently run by the CIA, several US government sources said on Monday.
Obama has pledged more transparency on controversial counter terrorism programs, and giving the Pentagon the responsibility for part of the drone program could open it to greater congressional oversight.
Obama will make a speech on Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington that will include discussion of the government’s use of drones as a counter terrorism tool. It is unclear whether he will announce the drone program shift in that speech or separately.
Four US government sources told Reuters that the decision had been made to shift the CIA’s drone operations to the Pentagon, and some of them said it would occur in stages.
Drone strikes in Yemen, where the US military already conducts operations with Yemeni forces, would be run by the armed forces, officials said.
But for the time-being US drone strikes in Pakistan would continue to be conducted by the CIA to keep the program covert, several sources said.
Ultimately, however, the administration’s goal would be to transfer the Pakistan drone operations to the military, one US official said on condition of anonymity.
The internal debate within the administration about whether to switch control of drone strikes to the military has been going on for months. Obama is under heightened pressure to show that his administration is transparent, after a series of scandals about civil liberties and allegations of government overreach broke last week.
A White House National Security Council spokeswoman and a CIA spokeswoman each declined comment.