President Barack Obama and his 2008 campaign rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, are bitter rivals on almost every aspect of U.S. foreign policy. Yet they are allies on one particularly thorny subject — the use of armed drones.
On this highly effective and sometimes imperfect weapon in the war against terrorist groups, the White House wants the Pentagon, not the Central Intelligence Agency, to take the lead in these lethal operations.
The administration’s admission last week that two Western hostages, including American Warren Weinstein, were inadvertently killed in a CIA drone strike in January has prompted key members of Congress to urge a shift in control over the agency’s controversial drone program to the Defense Department.
“We will renew this discussion with the administration, within Congress as to who actually should be running the drone operation,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Asked whether the CIA should be conducting a drone program, McCain responded, “I do not think so. That’s why they are — that’s why they are called the intelligence agency and why we call the armed forces the — obviously, the people that are supposed to be carrying out military operations.”
In response to the accidental killings of Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni LoPorto, Obama ordered an internal review of the CIA’s drone operations.
A senior administration official indicated Monday the President plans to make a new push to move the CIA’s drone strikes against groups like al Qaeda to the Pentagon.
“The President has explained his belief that we must be more transparent about both the basis of our counterterrorism actions, including lethal operations, and the manner in which they are carried out,” a senior administration official said. “Because of this, he has indicated that he will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts. We continue to work diligently toward this goal,” the official added.
The White House attempted to transfer much of the CIA program over to the Defense Department two years ago, arguing the Defense Department already conducts its own drone strikes against more traditional military targets.
Read more: CNN