If Barack Obama is moving the CIA’s drone program to the Pentagon, as Newsweek’s Daniel Klaidman reports, he has yet to convince senior Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein that it’s a good idea.
On Capitol Hill yesterday, Feinstein cast doubt on the prospect of transferring the targeted killing program to the Defense Department, where it would presumably come under stricter oversight. Her remarks, largely overlooked in yesterday’s news, were picked up by John Bennett at Defense News:
Feinstein told reporters her "mind, certainly, is not made up." But she quickly added she has reservations about turning over to the military the CIA’s armed drone fleet and the missions they conduct.
During the last few years, she said, "We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program: how they function. The quality of the intelligence. Watching the agency exercise patience and discretion," Feinstein said.
"The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well," she said. "That causes me concern. This is a discipline that is learned, that is carried out without infractions…. It’s not a hasty decision that’s made. And I would really have to be convinced that the military would carry it out that way."
If the Pentagon does take over the program, as "three senior U.S. officials" say it will, Feinstein will lose her current oversight access of it as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Interestingly, transferring the program to the Pentagon would likely put it under the auspices of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. And Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican of the Armed Services Committee, just so happens to support the idea of the Pentagon taking it over. "The majority of it can be conducted by the Department of Defense," McCain said yesterday. "It’s not the job of the Central Intelligence Agency…. It’s the military’s job."
As both McCain’s and Feinstein’s remarks indicate, the decision about which agency should control the drone program is not one that falls reliably along partisan lines, or even divides doves and hawks. (Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KT) have each called for greater openness in how the drone war is conducted.)
So what’s the substantive difference between a CIA drone program and a Pentagon drone program? It depends who you ask.
Dan Metcalfe, the former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, told Foreign Policy that a Pentagon takeover would inevitably mean greater oversight and transparency. "This shift bodes well for both congressional oversight and greater public disclosure through targeted FOIA requests," he said. "It’s clear that the CIA’s unprecedented regime of drone secrecy has hit an indefensible peak."
But Klaidman, in a somewhat counterintuitive take, says the Pentagon takeover could actually mean less oversight. "There’s nothing in the law that says the military has to brief congressional committees about its lethal activities," he writes. "The CIA, on the other hand, is compelled under Title 50 to notify Congress of its intelligence activities."
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| Report |
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |