US President Barak Obama secretly approved a waiver for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone programme in Pakistan, doing away with certain requirements that were meant to reduce the risk of civilian deaths, the Wall Street Journal reported.
While Obama required the CIA to demonstrate that proposed targets posed an imminent threat to the US for drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Somalia, the US spy body was exempt from this rule for drone operations in Pakistan.
The revelations come to light after the recent admission and apology by the US president that American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto who were killed by a US drone strike. Had there been no exemption, the CIA would have been required to gather more intelligence before conducting the strike, the report noted.
“Our initial assessment indicates that this operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region,” Obama had said in his April 23 apology, but did not specify what the guidelines were or how they differed compared to drone strikes in other regions.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, current and former US officials have also noted that many of the changes regarding drone strikes that Obama called for in 2013, haven’t yet been implemented.
Some of the rules spelled out by Obama were that the US had to have “near-certainty” no civilians would be injured or killed and that the threat to the US needed to be imminent.
The CIA drone program in Pakistan was exempted from the “imminent threat” requirement, at least until US forces pulled out from Afghanistan, the report stated.
The exemption means that the CIA can conduct ‘signature strikes’ – a type of drone strike in which the US believes an individual is a militant, but does not know his identity – and more targeted attacks without collecting specific evidence that the target poses an imminent threat to the US. (Source)
This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal