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Usama Bin Ladin

US policy makers had wanted Usama Bin Ladin killed as early as August 1998, and believed CIA personnel understood that. However, the government had not removed the ban on assassination and did not provide clear direction or authorization for CIA to kill Bin Ladin or make covert attacks against al-Qa'ida. The CIA was reluctant to seek authority to assassinate Bin Ladin and averse to taking advantage of ambiguities in the authorities it did receive that might have allowed it more flexibility.

These factors shaped the type of covert action the CIA undertook against Bin Ladin and before September 11, covert action had little impact on al­Qa'ida or Bin Ladin. The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to Bin Ladin, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations. Given the law, executive order, and past problems with covert action programs, CIA managers refused to take advantage of the ambiguities that did exist. This position was reasonable and correct.

Ultimately, the failure of the Agency'sc overt action against Bin Ladin lay not in the language and interpretation of its authorities, but in the limitations of its covert action capabilities; CIA's heavy reliance on a single group of assets, who were of questionable reliability and had limited capabilities, proved insufficient to mount a credible operation against Bin Ladin. Efforts to develop other options had limited potential prior to 9/11.

US military officials were reluctant to use military assets to conduct operations in Afghanistan or to support or participate in CIA operations against al­Qa'ida prior to 9/ 11. At least in part, this was a result of the Intelligence Community's inability to provide the necessary intelligence to support military operations. CIA was unable to satisfy the demands of the US military for the precise, actionable intelligence that the military leadership required in order to deploy US troops on the ground in Afghanistan or launch cruise missile attacks against UBL-related sites beyond the August 1998 retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan.

Differences between CIA and the Department of Defense over the cost of replacing lost Predators also hampered collaboration over the use of that platform in Afghanistan. Other impediments, including the slow-moving policy process, reduced the importance of these CIA­military differences. CIA handled its relationship with the US military responsibly and within the bounds of what was reasonable and possible.

The United States has used drones and air strikes for targeted killings in the armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the operations are conducted (to the extent publicly known) by the armed forces. The US also reportedly adopted a secret policy of targeted killings soon after the attacks of 11 September 2001, pursuant to which the Government has engaged in targeted killings in the territory of other States. The secret targeted killing program is onducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) using "Predator" or "Reaper" drones, although there have been reports of involvement by special operations forces, and of the assistance of civilian contractors with the implementation of the program.

The first credibly reported CIA drone killing occurred on 3 November 2002, when a Predator drone fired a missile at a car in Yemen, killing Qaed Senyan al-Harithi, an al-Qaeda leader allegedly responsible for the USS Cole bombing. By mid-2010 there had reportedly been over 120 drone strikes, although it is not possible to verify this number. The accuracy of drone strikes is heavily contested and also impossible for outsiders to verify. Reports of civilian casualties in Pakistan range from approximately 20 (according to anonymous US Government officials quoted in the media) to many hundreds.

CIA reportedly controls its fleet of drones from its headquarters in Langley,Virginia, in coordination with pilots near hidden airfields in Afghanistan and Pakistan who handle takeoffs and landings. CIA's fleet is reportedly flown by civilians, including both intelligence officers and private contractors (often retired military personnel}.

According to media accounts, the head of the CIA's clandestine services, or his deputy, generally gives the final approval for a strike. There is reportedly a list of targets approved by senior Government personnel, although the criteria for inclusion and all other aspects ofthe program are unknown. The CIA is not required to identify its target by name; rather, targeting decisions may be based on surveillance and "pattern of life" assessments. The military also has a target list for Afghanistan.

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report released on 10 August 2009 disclosed that the military's list included drug lords suspected of giving money to help finance the Taliban. According to the report, "[t]he military places no restrictions on the use of force with these selected targets, which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield . . . standards for getting on the list require two verifiable human sources and substantial additional evidence."

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 00:03:39 ZULU