CIA Drones Have Free Rein in Pakistan for the Next Year

Not like the spy agency’s hunter-killer drones weren’t already stalking Pakistan with near total autonomy from the US military, which maintains its own drone program throughout the Middle East. The Obama adminstration is reportedly close to wrapping up its so-called drone “playbook” and its most notable marker, for now, is not so much who the policy reins in but who it keeps just out of arm’s reach–and thus, hidden. The CIA, in what should do away with any sense that the traditionally all-spy unit isn’t going full-on paramilitary, can simply set aside the uncracked playbook for at least the next year.

It’s almost “beyond parody”, the sort of hand-wringing and head-butting that went into what’s ultimately a non-decision, or at the least a long punt. And it doesn’t help that the guy who designed the playbook doesn’t immediately have to adhere to it.

But the administration has been pressing to set some sort of guiding drone doctrine into law for some time. It felt spurred to codify policy during the home stretch of the recent election cycle–the prospect of Romney-helmed killer strikes not having to answer to an Obama precedent was just to much to bear. The heat was off after the president won, of course, but discussions between the State Department, CIA and Pentagon over the playbook’s standards seemed to have ground to a halt. So it was a move to resusciate talks: Granting the CIA a “temporary exemption” for its missions within Pakistan, the Washington Post reports, was apparently a compromise that freed up officials to forge ahead on other aspects of the playbook.

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