Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CIA Drone Campaign in Pakistan Started With Two Dead Children and a Favor

photo from cia not availableCIA Drone Campaign in Pakistan Started With Two Dead Children and a Favor:
An article in yesterday’s New
York Times
, adapted from an excerpt of the Times
national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti’s new book on the CIA
drone campaign in Pakistan,
“The Way of the Knife”
, provides details on how the campaign
started. With one targeted killing and at least three other
simultaneous kills, including two boys, aged 10 and 16.
From the Times
The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but
[Nek Muhammad,] a Pakistani ally of theTaliban who led a
tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the
state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in
exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use
drones to hunt down its own enemies.

That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in
interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the
United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert
drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced
and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce
debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about
abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for
the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing
them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war
espionage service into a paramilitary organization.
The deal with Pakistan, struck in 2004, limited CIA drones to
the tribal regions, along the Afghan borders,
away from
its own terror training camps. Since then, the CIA
has conducted at
least 366 strikes
, killing at least 2,537 people, including 168
children. While the program began under George W. Bush, the vast
majority of strikes (314 and counting) have occurred since
President Obama took office in 2009. Mazzetti reports that George
Tenet, the CIA director from 1997 to 2004, told the 9/11 commission
he wasn’t even sure the CIA should be operating weaponized drones.
A decade later, the
secret program is the most prominent activity
conducted by the CIA. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s
proposed rules for the use of drones,
brought up only after his entire first term had passed
, exempts
the CIA’s operations in Pakistan.