The CIA under the direction of Director-to-be John Brennan have come up with a “playbook,” a sort of policy and procedures manual that lays out rules for killing people in drone strikes. But even after President Obama signs off on it, the playbook rules won’t apply to Pakistan. For the next 1 or 2 years, Pakistan strikes, which have been more numerous than in any other country, will be allowed to continue under the complete control of the CIA.
One of the things outlined in the playbook is how to add people to the “kill list”:
“Among the subjects covered in the playbook are the processes for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that govern when U.S. citizens can be targeted overseas, and the sequence of approvals required when the CIA or U.S. military conducts drone strikes outside war zones.”
For now, these rules don’t apply to Pakistan, which has seen a surge in strikes in recent weeks. They say that they want to take full advantage of the time they do have to kill as many suspects as possible because the window for weakening Al Qaeda is closing in the next couple years as troops will be withdrawing from neighboring Afghanistan.
Also, the CIA exempted Pakistan from their playbook because they credit their “signature strikes” in Pakistan as being the reason Al Qaeda’s ranks are decimated. The signature strike targets patterns of “suspicious behavior,” which can be anything from moving stockpiles of weapons to the existence of a crowd of people. The CIA claim that they have killed more Al Qaeda operatives this way when they don’t even know the identity of the people they’re killing than in other strikes where the identity of the person being targeted was known.
So they’d rather just be able to kill people based on “suspicious behavior” without even knowing who they’re killing because it yields better results. Invariably, they end up killing more terrorist suspects. Why not just nuke the entire country? They can nuke Afghanistan and Yemen while they’re at it. I’m sure that would kill at least some other terrorist operatives. Apparently to the CIA, wiping out a million people is worth it if it means they killed at least one bad person.
The fact that they have a rulebook for killing people outside a war zone is troubling at best. As long as they have a rulebook, they can do whatever they want. It’s almost worse than a completely autonomous CIA, which I guess we still have. The CIA’s autonomous drone killings were largely frowned upon by senior officials, but now that they’ve “wised up” and come up with a policy and procedures manual, everything’s fine now.
For now, the rules may apply to foreign countries, but how long before they devise rules for adding regular Americans to the kill list and ordering their death? But don’t worry, they’ll play by the book, and as soon as Obama signs off on that rulebook, killing Americans will be legal.