Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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Transferring CIA Drone Strikes to the Pentagon

by Micah Zenko
April 17, 2013


It has recently been reported that the Obama administration is seriously considering transferring the lead executive authority for targeted killings from the CIA to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). President Obama should commit to implementing this in his forthcoming promised reforms of U.S. targeted killing policies.

My new CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum, Transferring CIA Drone Strikes to the Pentagon, explains how this decision would enhance U.S. national security:

  • Improve the transparency and legitimacy of targeted killings, including what methods are used to prevent civilian harm.
  • Focus the finite resources of the CIA on its original core missions of intelligence collection, analysis, and early warning. (There is no reason for the CIA to maintain a redundant fleet of armed drones, or to conduct military operations that are inherently better suited to JSOC, the premier specialized military organization. As “traditional military activities” under U.S. law, these belong under Title 10 operations.)
  • Place all drone strikes under a single international legal framework, which would be clearly delineated for military operations and can therefore be articulated publicly.
  • Unify congressional oversight of specific operations under the armed services committee, which would end the current situation whereby there is confusion over who has oversight responsibility.
  • Allow U.S. government officials to counter myths and misinformation about targeted killings at home and abroad by acknowledging responsibility for its own strikes.
  • Increase pressure on other states to be more transparent in their own conduct of military and paramilitary operations in nonbattlefield settings by establishing the precedent that the Obama administration claims can have a normative influence on how others use drones.

To learn more, please read the full memo

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Dr. James Afshar

    The main reason two presidents decided to authorize CIA for targeted elimination of terrorist was to keep it highly classified and not like to have TV cameras follow the soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
    Killing terrorists who have been killing Americans contineously around the world, does not require transparency to please anti American Europeans, or those UN members who hate us. US military can and should assist CIA whenever necessary. This is the reason why senior national security committe members in congress are opposed to transfer these operations to Pentagon.

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