The bulk of CIA strikes are now signature strikes? i.e. we don’t know who the people being killed by the CIA are. And will we use the same standard for drone strikes inside America?
Don’t you think we should know who is being killed.
The expansion of the CIA’s undeclared drone war in the tribal areas of Pakistan required a big expansion of who can be marked for death. Once the standard for targeted killing was top-level leadership in al-Qaeda or one of its allies. That’s long gone, especially as the number of people targeted at once has grown.
This is the new standard, according to a blockbuster piece in the Wall Street Journal: “men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups.
The article does not define the standards are for “suspicion” and “association.”
Strikes targeting those people — usually “groups” of such people — are called “signature” strikes. “The bulk of CIA’s drone strikes are signature strikes,” the Journal‘s Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes report.
And bulk really means bulk. The Journal reports that the growth in clusters of people targeted by the CIA has required the agency to tell its Pakistani counterparts about mass attacks. When the agency expects to kill 20 or more people at once, then it’s got to give the Pakistanis notice.
Determining who is a target not a question of intelligence collection. The cameras on the CIA fleet of Predators and Reapers work just fine. It’s a question of intelligence analysis — interpreting the imagery collected from the drones, and from the spies and spotters below, to understand who’s a terrorist and who, say, drops off the terrorists’ laundry. Admittedly, in a war with a shadowy enemy, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Fundamentally, though, it’s a question of policy: whether it’s acceptable for the CIA to kill someone without truly knowing if he’s the bombsmith or the laundry guy.
The Journal reports that the CIA’s willingness to strike without such knowledge — sanctioned, in full, by President Barack Obama — is causing problems for the State Department and the military.