CIA agrees to new restrictions on its covert drone program

The Takeaway

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The CIA will consult with the State Department more often as it conducts covert drone strikes, especially in Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal revealed today.

The new regulations were put in place in an effort to lessen some of the tension between Pakistan and the U.S. over the program, which has outraged many Pakistanis. Among the new policies put in place by the CIA are an agreement not to conduct drone strikes while Pakistani officials are visiting the United States, said Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, and one of the authors of the piece.

“Though, “I imagine if you had the top al-Qaeda leader, they’d go ahead and take the strike,” she added.

The biggest shift though is the consultation with the State Department, which had objected to some of the strikes and their locations. A new program will institutionalize consultation and a process for the State Department to appeal a CIA decision that they think isn’t in the American best interest. It represents a big shift from the previous policy, that gave the CIA authority to conduct strikes, essentially, wherever and whenever they want.

“It’s a shift within the Obama administration. The problem started coming to a head because there were a couple times when the CIA went ahead with strikes even though the State Department was objecting,” Gorman said.

The changes come on the heels of former Gen. David Petraeus taking the reins at the CIA, though the changes were in the works before that transition.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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