Despite fierce criticism of the CIA led drone program after the recent killing of two innocent hostages, the success rate of drones in killing Al Qaeda terrorists has led to strong White House and Capitol Hill backing for the program.
Interestingly, some of the architects of this targeted killing program are veterans of the CIA’s black detention sites that drew worldwide condemnation. Stung by this criticism, they have made sure to keep Congress and the White House in the loop to mute calls for termination of the drone strikes.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, staff members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees go to Langley once a month to watch the videos of drone attacks. They also review a sample of the intelligence information that led to each strike, although they are not privy to the internal CIA cables about the attacks and their aftermath.
These screenings have led Congress to claim that they rigorously review the drone program. Thus, they defend it in public and authorize its budget each year.
Secret meetings on Capitol Hill have drawn the support of both Republicans and Democrats including former chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Diane Feinstein of California.
One strong factor of the drone program that buttresses its level of support is that it is an alternative to boots on the ground approaches such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is clear that these strikes have been effective in killing hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives along with those of other militant groups, so it is likely that the CIA’s drone program will continue to receive strong support from influential figures in DC.