In the last post on this site it was reported that New York Times journalist Mark Mazzetti, author of a book on drones, wrote that a number of bungled drone strikes carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Yemen led the Yemeni government to issue a temporary ban on drones launched from an American base in Djibouti. Despite this, the C.I.A. has continued to launch unmanned planes from Saudi Arabia.
The BBC reports that – since the Yemeni army’s new campaign began several weeks ago, with a series of deadly drone strikes on AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) strongholds – militants have stepped up attacks on government and security personnel.
The army is continuing a major offensive against strongholds of AQAP and its allies in two provinces in the south and has regained control of several major towns but AQAP members were able to retreat to remote rural areas and regroup.
Jeremy Scahill, an American investigative journalist is said to have claimed that New Zealand spies are likely to have provided crucial information to the United States ahead of the November drone strike that killed al Qaeda suspect Daryl Jones, who had dual Australian New Zealand citizenship. His claim is based on the Edward Snowden files, to which he has had access.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that there is a debate about the country’s Drone program and a White House proposal for the CIA to eventually turn over its armed drones and targeted killing program to the military.
In March 2013 Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the CIA’s “patience and discretion” in carrying out drone strikes. “The military program has not done that nearly as well. That causes me concern,” she said. Other members of Congress also assert that the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command is not as careful as the CIA and shouldn’t be given responsibility for drone killings.
“The amount of time that goes into a strike package at CIA is longer and more detailed than a strike package put together at the Defense Department”, said a congressional aide. “Their standards of who is a combatant are different. Standards for collateral damage are different.” The disagreement among U.S. intelligence analysts — all of whom have access to aerial video, communications intercepts, tips from Yemenis and other intelligence — shows that drone targeting is sometimes based on shaky evidence.
Yemen’s government appears to agree. It has demanded that JSOC stop drone strikes in the country, but allowed the CIA to continue. From Saudi Arabia the CIA launched three strikes last month that killed 67 people.
The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House declined to comment.