WASHINGTON, D.C. — In yet another hit to the legacy of former president Barack Obama, president Donald Trump has again authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, a direct reversal to the policy once held under the Obama administration.
U.S. officials announced the change in policy on Tuesday in what the Trump administration says is a move to step up the fight against Islamic State and other militant groups.
Under the policies of the former Obama administration, the CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists but only military agents were authorized to carry out an actual strike.
According to the feds, the agency first utilized its new authority to strike in late February in an attack on a senior al Qaeda leader in Syria, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri. The strike in northern Syria on Mr. Masri, a son-in-law of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, had been reported, but the fact that the CIA was the agency behind the strike was not reported until this week.
Upon hearing the announcement, a spokesman for the ACLU was quick to criticize the president’s change in policy.
“There are a lot of problems with the drone program and the targeted killing program, but the CIA should be out of the business of ordering lethal strikes,” said Christopher Anders, deputy director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That decision on whether to strike or not to strike, and that order should be coming from through the military chain of command. The CIA should be a foreign intelligence gathering and analysis organization — not a paramilitary one,” he said.
Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the CIA declined to issue further comment.