In January, the U.S. drone program killed three American citizens in Pakistan, one of them Maryland doctor and al-Qaida hostage Warren Weinstein. After piecing together drone footage and intercepted jihadi communications, U.S. officials concluded that a “signature strike” killed hostages Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian. A signature strike is a drone attack where the CIA doesn’t know exactly who is on the ground, yet they take action based on suspicious activity.
Officially, Barack Obama apologized. “As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” he said. “I profoundly regret what happened.” But then Obama spokesman Josh Earnest and the CIA undermined the executive’s apology by insisting Obama didn’t sign off on this particular strike. What a stark contrast to Obama’s obnoxious victory laps after Navy SEALs dispatched Osama bin Laden.
The other two Americans killed in January strikes were al-Qaida jihadists — one of them the first American convicted of treason since World War II. Yet because the strike killed hostages it raises questions about Obama’s management of the U.S. drone program itself — his signature counter-terrorism strategy. That said, it’s an effective tool that’s far more precise than conventional World War II bombing raids or coating Vietnam forests with Agent Orange, though as long as jihadis hide among civilians, avoiding civilian casualties will be difficult. And Obama isn’t doing nearly so well at it as he claims. More…
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