When it comes to the War on Terror it can be forgiven if the average American gets confused as to which enforcement roles are assigned to the nation’s respective security services. As a point of clarification, generally the Central Intelligence Agency has been responsible for conducting the nation’s controversial unmanned drone programs, in which pilotless aircraft are deployed over the skies of Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere hunting those that wish to conduct attacks on U.S. interests. But a recent report says that the CIA has actually outsourced this program to the Air Force, causing some confusion as to just who is running the country’s drone program.
The reason this revelation could be very important is because the United States generally has a strict separation of powers policy, not allowing one agency or department to order another agency or department to conduct a particular task without following strict processes. This is of particular importance when one agency operates under the Department of Defense and the other is a civilian agency, as is the case with the CIA.
If proven true, the fact that the CIA has contracted the Air Force to pilot its unmanned drones would seem to indicate that the CIA has somehow gained the power to instruct the U.S. Air force as it relates to engaging in acts of war.
The drone program has reportedly been very successful in achieving its goals, which have been to target tough-to-reach enemy fighters behind enemy lines – on the Pakistani side of the border. But the program has also been highly controversial. With the revelation that the Air Force may be involved in actually operating the drones, additional questions immediately arise, questions about the extent of the Air Force’s involvement in the program and whether or not the CIA has ever actually flown the drones themselves.
For now, indications from the reports suggest that up to 300 Air Force pilots are involved in operating approximately 35 Reaper and Predator drones, at the CIA’s behest.