A big scoop from the Daily Beast: President Obama is set to eighty-six the CIA's drone program, per three senior US officials. Daniel Klaidman reports that the plan, which the White House is "poised to sign off on," would instead centralize the drone program under the Pentagon; up until now, the Defense Department and CIA have run parallel drone programs. Officials tell Klaidman the shift would take a minimum of a year to occur, but is expected to be completed during Obama's second term. The eventual outcome: a single set of rules and procedures governing targeted killings, with drones piloted only by the DOD; the CIA would continue to assist by providing intel.
"The move could potentially toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program’s accountability, and increase transparency," writes Klaidman. Whether those things come to pass remains to be seen, and one expert he spoke with noted that "DOD's lethal operations are no less secretive than the CIA's, and congressional oversight of DOD ops is significantly weaker." What is clear, however, is that the legal basis for the program will no longer rely on laws related to intelligence activities, but on the laws that govern military operations. It comes as part of a larger White House effort (championed by John Brennan) dubbed "institutionalization," which seeks to codify standards and procedures for lethal operations, explains Klaidman. Click to read the full report, in which Klaidman outlines the current differences between the two programs. One major one: The military operates under international law, "specifically the law of war," while the CIA "does not necessarily" feel bound to do so. (Read more drones stories.)