President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA signals that drone strikes will continue to be an important part of the CIA’s mission. Brennan began advising President Obama on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles after being named his counterterrorism adviser in 2009. Brennan’s nomination raises anew the controversies surrounding the targeted killings and the deliberate lack of institutional oversight of these methods.
Last fall, the Obama administration was reportedly hard at work codifying its rules for assassination by drone. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union had been pressing for such an effort, and it appeared that the administration was at last receptive to their arguments. However, the rules that administration officials were so busily drafting were meant for Mitt Romney, in case he won the election. Rather than leave the decision-making in the hands of a new president, Obama officials had suddenly become aware of the dangers of letting a single, in this case Republican, person make life-or-death decisions.