Saturday, March 23, 2013

The more things change the more they stay the same

The CIA is set to reduce its involvement in America’s “drone war” and concentrate on spying against states such as China after advisers warned President Barack Obama of U.S. intelligence gaps.

John Brennan, the new CIA director and architect of Mr Obama’s expanded “targeted killing” campaign using unmanned aircraft, is believed to be preparing to transfer more control of the programme to the Pentagon. He is expected to oversee a redeployment of the spying agency’s resources towards traditional intelligence gathering following years of growth in its paramilitary role as part of the war on al-Qaeda.

The overhaul comes after Mr. Obama received a report from his intelligence advisory board. It found inadequate attention being paid to China and the Middle East, The Washington Post reported. During his confirmation process, Mr. Brennan told senators the CIA “should not be doing traditional military activities” and he would reconsider the agency’s “allocation of mission”.

Mr Brennan said: “There are things that the agency has been involved in since 9/11 that, in fact, have been an aberration from its traditional role.”

Lee Hamilton, one of 14 members of the intelligence advisory board, has urged Washington to pay more attention to a “long list of significant foreign policy issues confronting the White House.”

He wrote that these included “the rise of China, a war looming with Iran, increased tensions on the Korean peninsula, fragmentation of Syria, Libya, the spread of al-Qaeda to northern Africa.”

Although the CIA is not expected to stop using drones altogether, the shift towards the Pentagon may herald greater openness about the “targeted killing” campaign against terrorist suspects in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, which was only recently publicly acknowledged by senior officials.

Laura Pitter, a counter-terrorism adviser for Human Rights Watch, said: “Bringing these strikes under military control could bring greater transparency and accountability to the public.” More