Obama Gave CIA Waiver on Drone Strike Rules for Attacks in Pakistan

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto (AP photos)

When President Barack Obama created a new set of rules for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone strikes in an effort to reduce the killing of innocent people, he exempted the agency’s operations in Pakistan from the new restrictions.


The Wall Street Journal has reported Obama “secretly approved a waiver” that gave the CIA “more flexibility in Pakistan than anywhere else to strike suspected militants.”

Under the 2013 rules the president created, the CIA was required to show that the proposed target of a drone strike represented “an imminent threat to the U.S.” This standard, however, was not imposed when it came to Pakistan.


That may have cost two hostages, American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, their lives. Both were killed in a CIA drone attack on January 15 that was based on intelligence that did not specify exactly who was expected to be in the building when the American missile slammed into it. Instead, it was a signature strike, in which the decision to attack was made based on the behavior of those observed near the target. In this case, intelligence drones observed a subject in the compound that fit the profile of an al-Qaeda leader.


“If the exemption had not been in place for Pakistan, the CIA might have been required to gather more intelligence before that strike,” Adam Entous reported in the Journal. In Pakistan, the CIA still has to find to a near-certainty that no civilians will be killed in an operation, just as it must everywhere else.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Obama Kept Looser Rules for Drones in Pakistan (by Adam Entous, Wall Street Journal)

When CIA Drone Strikes Kill Innocent Westerners (by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic)

Do We Still Think Drones are a Good Idea? (by Eugene Robinson, Washington Post)

Did Obama Pledge to Stop using ‘Signature Strikes?’ (by Lauren Carroll, PolitiFact)

It Looks like Obama is Still Using “Signature Strikes” Aimed at Unnamed People After All (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment