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Foreign Policy: Exclusive: The CIA, Not the Pentagon, Will Keep Running Obama's Drone War

Author: Gordon Lubold
November 5, 2013

"There remain distinctly different approaches to 'finding, fixing and finishing' terrorist targets. The two organizations also use different approaches to producing the 'intelligence feeds' upon which drone operations rely. Perhaps more importantly, after years of conducting drone strikes, the CIA has developed an expertise and a taste for them. The DOD's appetite to take over that mission may not run very deep."

In May, the White House leaked word that it would start shifting drone operations from the shadows of the CIA to the relative sunlight of the Defense Department in an effort to be more transparent about the controversial targeted killing program. But six months later, the so-called migration of those operations has stalled, and it is now unlikely to happen anytime soon, Foreign Policy has learned.

The anonymous series of announcements coincided with remarks President Obama made on counterterrorism policy at National Defense University in which he called for "transparency and debate on this issue." A classified Presidential Policy Guidance on the matter, issued at the same time, caught some in government by surprise, triggering a scramble at the Pentagon and at CIA to achieve a White House objective. The transfer was never expected to happen overnight. But it is now clear the complexity of the issue, the distinct operational and cultural differences between the Pentagon and CIA and the bureaucratic politics of it all has forced officials on all sides to recognize transferring drone operations from the Agency to the Defense Department represents, for now, an unattainable goal.

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