The CIA’s secret drone program has been unmasked, leaving the Obama administration in the impossible position of having to justify its use of targeted killings while at the same time refusing to confirm that it engages in targeted killings. That’s why it’s good news that US officials are considering moving the bulk of the CIA’s drone program to the Pentagon. The CIA only has the legal authority to operate secret programs. The drone program is such an open secret that administration officials give speeches about it. For that reason alone, it is time for the program to leave the CIA.
There are other reasons as well. In terms of efficiency of operations, it doesn’t make sense for the CIA to operate its own fleet of drones, separately from the Defense Department. Twelve years ago, the Pentagon didn’t have its own drones. The military had been reluctant to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles in the 1990s. But today the military has more than 7,000 drones. It makes sense to merge the programs. The CIA should continue to play a role, but should not be the sole decision-maker.