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Stacking Up the Administration's Drone Claims

Administration officials—often unnamed—frequently seem to celebrate drone strikes that kill suspected militants. But the administration has also worked against disclosures of less positive aspects of the CIA's program, including how many civilians have been killed. We’ve laid out four years of statements by current and former officials discussing the CIA's drone program, both on and off the record. (Most of these stories also include a “no comment” from the CIA or the White House.) Highlighted in red are the CIA’s legal stances refusing to even acknowledge the program in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. | Related: How the Gov’t Talks About a Drone Program it Won’t Acknowledge Exists

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2009
2010
2011
2012
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In 2009 there are more than 50 strikes reported in Pakistan, an increase from previous years.
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Yearly drone strikes in Pakistan peak, with roughly 120 strikes reported in 2010.
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September 30, 2011
Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen on the CIA’s target list, is killed by CIA drone strike in Yemen. Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, is also killed.
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April 30, 2012
White House Counterterrorism adviser gives a speech about the use of drones for targeted killing, acknowledging some civilian casualties. He does not mention the CIA.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border. 'As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,' she said....Feinstein prefaced her comment about the Predator basing Thursday by noting that Holbrooke 'ran into considerable concern about the use of the Predator strikes in the FATA areas,' a reference to what Pakistan calls its Federally Administered Tribal Area along the border with Afghanistan


L.A. Times, February 13, 2009

The CIA declined to comment, but former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, confirmed that Feinstein's account was accurate.


L.A. Times, February 13, 2009

Obviously because these are covert and secret operations I can't go into particulars. I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective because they have been very precise in terms of the targeting and it involved a minimum of collateral damage. I know that some of the – sometimes the criticisms kind of sweep into other areas from either plane attacks or attacks from F-16s and others that go into these areas, which do involve a tremendous amount of collateral damage. And sometimes I've found in discussing this that all of this is kind of mixed together. But I can assure you that in terms of that particular area, it is very precise and it is very limited in terms of collateral damage and, very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaeda leadership.


Then-CIA director Leon Panetta, remarks at the Pacific Council on International Policy, May 18, 2009

At any given moment, a former White House counterterrorism official says, the C.I.A. has multiple drones flying over Pakistan, scouting for targets. According to the official, 'there are so many drones' in the air that arguments have erupted over which remote operators can claim which targets, provoking 'command-and-control issues.'"


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

The Predators in the C.I.A. program are 'flown' by civilians, both intelligence officers and private contractors. According to a former counterterrorism official, the contractors are 'seasoned professionals – often retired military and intelligence officials.'...Once the drones are aloft, the former counterterrorism official said, the controls are electronically 'slewed over' to a set of 'reachback operators,' in Langley."


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. 'You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,' a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan...says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.)"


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

Counterterrorism officials credit drones with having killed more than a dozen senior Al Qaeda leaders and their allies in the past year, eliminating more than half of the C.I.A.'s twenty most wanted 'high value' targets."


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

A lot of the targets are nominated by the Pakistanis – it's part of the bargain of getting Pakistani cooperation,' says Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who has served as an adviser to the Obama Administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan.... 'Is the drone program helping or hurting?' he asked. 'It's a tough question. These are not cost-free operations.' He likened the drone attacks to 'going after a beehive, one bee at a time.' The problem is that, inevitably, 'the hive will always produce more bees.' But, he said, 'the only pressure currently being put on Pakistan and Afghanistan is the drones.' He added, 'It's really all we've got to disrupt Al Qaeda. The reason the Administration continues to use it is obvious: it doesn't really have anything else."


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

Roger Cressey, the former National Security Council official, who remains a strong supporter of the drone program, says, 'The debate is that we've been doing this so long we're now bombing low-level guys who don't deserve a Hellfire missile up their ass.'"


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

A former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan...[said] an Afghan source had once sworn to him that one of Al Qaeda's top leaders was being treated in a nearby clinic. [H]e could barely hold off an air strike after he passed on the tip to his superiors."


New Yorker, October 26, 2009

The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.'s drone program in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, officials said this week.


N.Y. Times, December 3, 2009

[O]ne government official agreed to speak about the [CIA] program on the condition of anonymity. About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed Ômore than 400' enemy fighters, the official said. His account of collateral damage, however, was strikingly lower than many unofficial counts: 'We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.' .....which the official said reflected the Predators' ability to loiter over a target feeding video images for hours before and after a strike.


N.Y. Times, December 3, 2009

[T]he Pakistani prime minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, said the drone strikes 'do no good, because they boost anti-American resentment throughout the country.' American officials say that despite such public comments, Pakistan privately supplies crucial intelligence, proposes targets and allows the Predators to take off from a base in Baluchistan.


N.Y. Times, December 3, 2009

A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, defended the program without quite acknowledging its existence. 'While the C.I.A. does not comment on reports of Predator operations, the tools we use in the fight against Al Qaeda and its violent allies are exceptionally accurate, precise and effective,' he said.


N.Y. Times, December 3, 2009

Former C.I.A. officials say there is a rigorous protocol for identifying militants, using video from the Predators, intercepted cellphone calls and tips from Pakistani intelligence, often originating with militants' resentful neighbors. Operators at C.I.A. headquarters can use the drones' video feed to study a militant's identity and follow fighters to training areas or weapons caches, officials say. Targeters often can see where wives and children are located in a compound or wait until fighters drive away from a house or village before they are hit.


N.Y. Times, December 3, 2009

Awlaki's status as a U.S. citizen requires special consideration, according to former officials familiar with the criteria for the CIA's targeted killing program. But while Awlaki has not yet been placed on the CIA list, the officials said it is all but certain that he will be added because of the threat he poses....Other current and former U.S. officials agreed to discuss the outlines of the CIA's target selection procedures on the condition of anonymity because of their sensitive nature. Some wanted to defend a program that critics have accused of causing unnecessary civilian casualties.


L.A. Times, January 31, 2010

Decisions to add names to the CIA target list are 'all reviewed carefully, not just by policy people but by attorneys,' said the second U.S. official. 'Principles like necessity, proportionality, and the minimization of collateral damage -- to persons and property -- always apply.'


L.A. Times, January 31, 2010

The memos proposing new targets are drafted by analysts in the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center. Former officials said analysts typically submit several new names each month to high-level officials, including the CIA general counsel and sometimes Director Leon E. Panetta. Former officials involved in the program said it was handled with sober awareness of the stakes. All memos are circulated on paper, so those granting approval would "have to write their names in ink," said one former official. "It was a jarring thing, to sign off on people getting killed”…the list mainly comprises Al Qaeda leaders and those seen as playing a direct role in devising or executing attacks. Espousing violence or providing financial support to Al Qaeda would not meet the threshold, officials said. But providing training to would-be terrorists or helping them get to Al Qaeda camps probably would. The list is scrutinized every six months, officials said, and in some cases names are removed if the intelligence on them has grown stale. If someone hadn't popped on the screen for over a year, or there was no intelligence linking him to known terrorists or plans, we'd take him off," the former official said. The National Security Council oversees the program…but the CIA is given extensive latitude to execute the program, and generally does not need White House approval when adding names to the target list. The only exception, officials said, would be when the name is a U.S. citizen's. The CIA has at times considered adding Americans' names to the target list. None were ever approved, the officials said, not because their citizenship protected them but because they didn't meet the "continuing threat" threshold


L.A. Times, January 31, 2010

According to the U.S. official, there were 55 Predator drone strikes last year in the Pakistani tribal areas.


Wash. Post, February 17, 2010

All told, according to U.S. officials, since the beginning of 2009, the drone attacks have killed 'several hundred' named militants from al-Qaeda and its allies...On a typical day, there are roughly a half-dozen Predators in the air over the tribal areas of western Pakistan, looking for targets, sources say.


Wash. Post, February 17, 2010

U.S. officials also suggest the strike is an indication that the Pakistani military and its intelligence agency, while not totally turning their backs on their past support for the Haqqani network, are now Ôless and less inclined to care about the Haqqanis,' according to one U.S. official who spoke to ABC News in exchange for anonymity. Another official put it this way: 'They're letting us handle it,' a reference to a large increase in drone strikes aimed at the Haqqani network, which enjoys a safe haven in the North Waziristan tribal area inside Pakistan.


ABC News, February 25, 2010

This is a final response to your 13 January 2009 [sic] Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for "records pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly referred to as 'drones' and including the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper-by the CIA and the Armed Forces for the purpose of killing targeted individuals." In accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 12958, as amended, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure.


CIA response to ACLU FOIA request, March 9, 2010

Aggressive attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal region have driven Osama bin Laden and his top deputies deeper into hiding and disrupted their ability to plan sophisticated operations, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Wednesday...He credited improved coordination with Pakistan's government and what he called "the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history," offering a near-acknowledgment of what is officially a secret war. "Those operations are seriously disrupting al-Qaeda," Panetta said. "It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run...Reflecting on his 13 months at the helm of the CIA.... he said the combined U.S.-Pakistani campaign is taking a steady toll in terms of al-Qaeda leaders killed and captured, and is undercutting the group's ability to coordinate attacks outside its base along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.


Wash. Post, March 18, 2010

To illustrate that progress, U.S. intelligence officials revealed new details of a March 8 killing of a top al-Qaeda commander in the militant stronghold of Miram Shah in North Waziristan, in Pakistan's autonomous tribal region. The al-Qaeda official died in what local news reports described as a missile strike by an unmanned aerial vehicle. In keeping with long-standing practice, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the CIA formally declines to acknowledge U.S. participation in attacks inside Pakistani territory.


Wash. Post, March 18, 2010

A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the operation said the building that was targeted housed "a large number of al-Qaeda" fighters who were developing explosives. There were no other casualties, the official said.


Wash. Post, March 18, 2010

A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike last week killed a top al Qaeda trainer suspected of being involved in December's suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers at a base in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say.


Wall Street J., March 18, 2010

"We now believe that al-Yemeni, who was one of the top 20 [al Qaeda leaders], was one of those who was hit'....Killing Mr. al-Yemeni was very important to the CIA because of his status in al Qaeda and his involvement in the Khost attack, Mr. Panetta said. Mr. Panetta didn't speak directly to the circumstances of the death; the CIA doesn't discuss covert action. 'Anytime we get a high value target that is in the top leadership of al Qaeda, it seriously disrupts their operations,' Mr. Panetta said. 'It sent two important signals,' Mr. Panetta said. 'No. 1 that we are not going to hesitate to go after them wherever they try to hide, and No. 2 that we are continuing to target their leadership.'" (modification in the original)


Wall Street J., March 18, 2010

Panetta authorizes every strike, sometimes reversing his decision or reauthorizing a target if the situation on the ground changes, according to current and former senior intelligence officials.


Wash. Post, March 21, 2010

In an interview Wednesday at CIA headquarters, Panetta refused to directly address the matter of Predator strikes, in keeping with the agency's long-standing practice of shielding its actions in Pakistan from public view. But he said that U.S. counterterrorism policies in the country are legal and highly effective, and that he is acutely aware of the gravity of some of the decisions thrust upon him. 'Any time you make decisions on life and death, I don't take that lightly. That's a serious decision,' he said. 'And yet, I also feel very comfortable with making those decisions because I know I'm dealing with people who threaten the safety of this country and are prepared to attack us at any moment.'


Wash. Post, March 21, 2010

At the end of the George W. Bush administration, the CIA could keep seven Predators in the air round-the-clock, but the number will double by the end of this year, according to the senior intelligence official...This source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency does not acknowledge its actions in Pakistan.


Wash. Post, March 21, 2010

Panetta authorizes every strike, sometimes reversing his decision or reauthorizing a target if the situation on the ground changes, according to current and former senior intelligence officials. "He asks a lot of questions about the target, the intelligence picture, potential collateral damage, women and children in the vicinity," said the senior intelligence official.


Wash. Post, March 21, 2010

The plan was a standard one in the CIA's war against extremists in Pakistan: The agency was using a Predator drone to monitor a residential compound; a Taliban leader was expected to arrive shortly; a CIA missile would kill him. On the morning of Aug. 5, CIA Director Leon Panetta was informed that Baitullah Mehsud was about to reach his father-in-law's home. Mehsud would be in the open, minimizing the risk that civilians would be injured or killed. Panetta authorized the strike, according to a senior intelligence official who described the sequence of events.


Wash. Post, March 21, 2010

[T]he Obama administration has authorized the capture or killing of a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who is believed to be in Yemen, U.S. officials said. Anwar Awlaki, 38, who was born in New Mexico, recently was added to the CIA target list after a special government review of his activities, prompted by his status as a U.S. citizen, one of the officials said.


L.A. Times, April 6, 2010

A Muslim cleric tied to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner has become the first U.S. citizen added to a list of suspected terrorists the CIA is authorized to kill, a U.S. official said Tuesday.


Wash. Post, April 7, 2010

Because he is a U.S. citizen, adding Aulaqi to the CIA list required special approval from the White House, officials said. The move means that Aulaqi would be considered a legitimate target not only for a military strike carried out by U.S. and Yemeni forces, but also for lethal CIA operations.


Wash. Post, April 7, 2010

U.S. estimates show CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas over the last two years have killed more than 500 militants -- a fraction of whom are considered top-tier leaders -- and fewer than 30 civilians, officials said on Monday....Officials said U.S. civilian death toll estimates included some people who were traveling with or living with wanted militants, such as the second wife of the Pakistani Taliban's top leader. Both were killed in August by a CIA drone.


Reuters, May 3, 2010

[I]t is unclear what criteria the CIA uses to pick its targets and to determine who constitutes a combatant. A U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the estimate was compiled using available intelligence as well as visual images – presumably from the unmanned aerial drones which can circle overhead for hours after they strike to assess the damage.....The official said the CIA strikes were not 'random' and are based on 'information and observation, gathered over time.'


Reuters, May 3, 2010

The CIA received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known, as part of a dramatic expansion of its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan's border region, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials. The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the Bush administration and continued by President Obama, permits the agency to rely on what officials describe as "pattern of life" analysis, using evidence collected by surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft ...The information then is used to target suspected militants, even when their full identities are not known, the officials said....The new rules have transformed the program from a narrow effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into a large-scale campaign of airstrikes in which few militants are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to the U.S., the officials said.


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

As a matter of policy, CIA officials refuse to comment on the covert drone program. Those who are willing to discuss it on condition of anonymity refuse to describe in detail the standards of evidence they use for drone strikes, saying only that strict procedures are in place to ensure that militants are being targeted. But officials say their surveillance yields so much detail that they can watch for the routine arrival of particular vehicles or the characteristics of individual people....In some cases, drones conduct surveillance for days to establish the evidence that justifies firing a missile, the officials said. Even then, a strike can be delayed or canceled if the chance of civilian casualties is too great, they said.


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

U.S. officials say the strikes have caused fewer than 30 civilian casualties since the drone program was expanded in Pakistan."


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

President Bush secretly decided in his last year in office to expand the program. Obama has continued and even streamlined the process, so that CIA Director Leon E. Panetta can sign off on many attacks without notifying the White House beforehand, an official said.


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

The number of Predator and Reaper drones in the region is classified, but one former official estimated that the size of the fleet has at least doubled in the last year. The increased numbers improve the CIA's ability to conduct continual surveillance against multiple targets in North Waziristan and other militant strongholds, the officials said.


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

Former officials who were involved in the program said that many of the groups were found to be working together, and thus were considered legitimate targets. One former official directly involved in the program said many locations were watched so closely that the CIA could predict daily routines....Officials say some decisions are straightforward...In one case cited by officials, a missile was fired at a compound where unknown individuals were seen assembling a car bomb.


L.A. Times, May 5, 2010

U.S. official: 'Those who think we strike at terrorists over the objections of the Pakistani government are mistaken.'


Nat'l Pub. Radio, May 28, 2010

We are engaged in the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world, and the result is that we are disrupting their leadership. We've taken down more than half of their Taliban leadership, of their Al Qaida leadership. We just took down number three in their leadership a few weeks ago.'


then-CIA director Leon Panetta, in an interview with ABC News, June 27, 2010

His early statements led almost immediately to successful drone strikes in the tribal areas, several officials have said.


N.Y. Times, July 6, 2010

Both Mr. Rauf and Mr. al-Somali have since been killed in United States drone strikes in the tribal areas, according to officials.


N.Y. Times, July 7, 2010

The plotters all had ties to Saleh al-Somali, a Qaeda leader who was killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in Pakistan last year, the official said.


N.Y. Times, July 8, 2010

American officials cited strained resources for decisions about some of the Yemen strikes. With the C.I.A.'s armed drones tied up with the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the officials said, cruise missiles were all that was available at the time.


N.Y. Times, August 15, 2010

The strikes have been 'conducted very methodically,' and claims of innocent civilians being killed are 'very much exaggerated,' said a senior counterterrorism official. He added that comparing the nascent Yemen campaign with American drone strikes in Pakistan was unfair, since the United States has had a decade to build an intelligence network in Pakistan that feeds the drone program.


N.Y. Times, August 15, 2010

Obama administration officials...emphasized that the core of the American effort was not the strikes but training for elite Yemeni units.


N.Y. Times, August 15, 2010

The sober new assessment of al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has helped prompt senior Obama administration officials to call for an escalation of U.S. operations there - including a proposal to add armed CIA drones to a clandestine campaign of U.S. military strikes, the officials said. ÔWe are looking to draw on all of the capabilities at our disposal,' said a senior Obama administration official, who described plans for 'a ramp-up over a period of months.'


Wash. Post, August 25, 2010

Indeed, officials said it was largely because al-Qaeda has been decimated by Predator strikes in Pakistan that the franchise in Yemen has emerged as a more potent threat.


Wash. Post, August 25, 2010

You're not going to find bomb parts with USA markings on them," the senior U.S. official said. Even so, the official said, the administration is considering sending CIA drones to the Arabian Peninsula "not because they require the deniability but because they desire the capability.


Wash. Post, August 25, 2010

Since the beginning of the Obama administration the strikes have killed at least 650 militants, according to a U.S. official.


Wall Street J., August 25, 2010

Earlier this year, a U.S. counterterrorism official said around 20 noncombatants have been killed in the CIA campaign in Pakistan, and the number isn't believed to have grown much since then.


Wall Street J., August 25, 2010

The CIA base that was attacked in December 2009 was at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by the agency's missile-firing Predator drones, U.S. officials said.


Wash. Post, September 1, 2010

A drone strike killed at least six people in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday...intelligence officials said.


Assoc. Press, September 9, 2010

The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said....One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to 'keep the pressure on as long as we can.'


N.Y. Times, September 27, 2010

In an effort to foil a suspected terrorist plot against European targets, the Central Intelligence Agency has ramped up missile strikes against militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, current and former officials say.


Wall Street J., September 27, 2010

The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of responsive records because the existence or nonexistence of any such records is a currently and properly classified fact that is exempt from release.


CIA Information Review Officer Mary Cole,in a declaration filed in response to the ACLU's suit over its FOIA request for documents relating to the CIA's use of drones for targeted killing, October 1, 2010

U.S. officials say the CIA's targeting of militants is precise, and that there have been a limited number of civilian casualties....In addition to drone aircraft, officials said the military was sharing targeting information with the CIA.


Wall Street J., October 2, 2010

The CIA is using an arsenal of armed drones and other equipment provided by the U.S. military to secretly escalate its operations in Pakistan by striking targets beyond the reach of American forces based in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.


Wash. Post, October 3, 2010

The U.S. military quietly has been providing Predator and Reaper drones, as well as other weaponry, to the CIA in an effort to give the agency more capacity to carry out lethal strikes in Pakistan, American officials said.


Wash. Post, October 3, 2010

Increasing the operational tempo against terrorists in Pakistan has been in the works since last year,' a U.S. official said. 'The CIA sought more resources to go after terrorists in Pakistan, which the White House strongly supported.' The official added that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta 'worked closely together to expand the effort. The foundation for the latest intensification of strikes was laid then, and the results speak for themselves.'


Wash. Post, October 3, 2010

The risk that we run here is that at some point we're going to overload the circuit in Pakistan and they're going to say, 'too much,' Riedel, said, adding that the new use of CIA drones to strike targets on behalf of the American military alters the scale of an operation that depends on permission and cooperation from Pakistan.


Wash. Post, October 3, 2010

It was unclear whether the drones lent to the CIA by the military are being flown by CIA personnel, but officials said the aircraft now operate under the agency's authorities as part of a program under broad agency control.


Wash. Post, October 3, 2010

Drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency killed several militants with German citizenship in the mountains of Pakistan on Monday, according to Pakistani and American officials.


N.Y. Times, October 4, 2010

The official acknowledged that some parts of the U.S. government are eager to use in Yemen a tool that has been so successfully employed in Pakistan.


Wash. Post, November 7, 2010

There is no official information in the public sphere that confirms or denies the alleged involvement of the CIA in drone strikes.


Justice Department lawyer Amy Powell, in a motion filed in the ACLU suit over its CIA drone program FOIA request, November 30, 2010

A moment later, an explosion filled the screen, and the man was dead. 'It was very businesslike,' says Rizzo. An aerial drone had killed the man, a high-level terrorism suspect, after he had gotten out of the vehicle, while members of his family were spared. 'The agency was very punctilious about this,' Rizzo says. 'They tried to minimize collateral damage, especially women and children'...More than a year after leaving the government, Rizzo, a bearded, elegant 63-year-old who wears cuff links and pale yellow ties, discussed his role in the CIA's 'lethal operations' with me over C™tes du Rhone and steak in a Washington restaurant. At times, Rizzo sounded cavalier. 'It's basically a hit list,' he said. Then he pointed a finger at my forehead and pretended to pull a trigger. 'The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.


Newsweek, February 13, 2011

Former CIA officials who describe the drone program as essential said they have noted how infrequently they recognized the names of those killed during the barrage of strikes in the past year.


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

U.S. officials familiar with drone operations said the strikes are hitting important al-Qaeda operatives and are critical to keeping the United States safe.


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

'This effort has evolved because our intelligence has improved greatly over the years, and we're able to identify not just senior terrorists, but also al-Qaeda foot soldiers who are planning attacks on our homeland and our troops in Afghanistan,' said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. 'We would be remiss if we didn't go after people who have American blood on their hands,' the official said. 'To use a military analogy, if you're only going after the generals, you're likely to be run over by tanks.'


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

U.S. officials cite multiple reasons for the change in scope, including a proliferation in the number of drones and CIA informants providing intelligence on potential targets....Officials cite other factors as well, including a shift in CIA targeting procedures, moving beyond the pursuit of specific individuals to militants who meet secret criteria the agency refers to as 'pattern of life.'


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

In recent weeks, the drone campaign has fallen strangely silent....Speculation in that country has centered on the possibility that the CIA is holding fire until a U.S. security contractor accused of fatally shooting two Pakistani men last month is released from a jail in Lahore. U.S. officials deny that has been a factor and describe the lull as a seasonal slowdown in a program expected to resume its accelerated pace.


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

The former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official said the drone campaign has degraded not only al-Qaeda's leadership, but also the caliber of the organization's plots.


Wash. Post, February 20, 2011

The CIA passed up a chance last year to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of an anti-American insurgent network in Pakistan that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, when it chose not to fire a missile at him from a Predator drone because women and children were nearby, U.S and Pakistani officials say.


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

U.S. officials said there had been no policy change and that there always have been occasions when the CIA decided not to fire at a target in the midst of civilians. Those officials would confirm only the Haqqani incident. But they cited two other occasions in the last year when missiles that had already been fired from drones were diverted off target to avoid killing civilians.


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

Another factor driving the change, according to a former CIA official, is that the U.S. can afford to forgo an opportunity to kill a senior militant because intelligence and technology improvements to drone operations give the CIA confidence it will get the chance for a clearer shot.


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

One of the U.S. officials also asserted that no civilian has been killed in more than 75 strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas since the Aug. 22 strike, suggesting that the CIA, which runs the drone program in Pakistan, has been more judicious in its attacks.


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

CIA Director Leon Panetta and his designee have authority to approve the strikes, U.S. officials say....U.S. officials say that by the CIA's count, a total of 30 civilians have been killed since the program was expanded in July 2008, including the wives and children of militants. Officials say that tally is based on video and images of each attack and its aftermath, along with other intelligence.


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who was a close advisor to Obama on his Pakistan strategy, said the drone videos don't always offer a clear picture of casualties. A few Al Qaeda figures believed killed in drone attacks have later turned up alive, he noted. 'Since you can't be 100% sure about the hard target that you're trying to kill, I'm not so confident in anyone's expertise on the soft targets,' said Riedel... 'You can only see so much from 20,000 feet.'


L.A. Times, February 22, 2011

American and Pakistani officials said that Pakistan's request for advance notice of C.I.A. missile strikes, for fewer strikes over all, and for a fuller accounting of C.I.A. officers and contractors working in Pakistan 'is being talked about.' A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.


N.Y. Times, April 13, 2011

But an American official familiar with the operations defended the timing and targets, which came after a 27-day gap since the last strike on March 17, the day after Mr. Davis was released from Pakistani custody. 'These operations are consistent with the U.S.-Pakistan agreements that have been in place for some time,' said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the drone program. 'This was about protecting Americans in the region. This is not about sending a signal to Pakistan.


N.Y. Times, April 13, 2011

The Central Intelligence Agency is preparing to launch a secret program to kill al Qaeda militants in Yemen, where months of antigovernment protests, an armed revolt and the attempted assassination of the president have left a power vacuum, U.S. officials say....The Yemen program had been slated to begin in July, but the launch time may be moved back a few weeks to accommodate planning and logistical needs, U.S. officials said....The new CIA drone program will initially focus on collecting intelligence to share with the military, officials said. As the intelligence base for the program grows, it will expand into a targeted killing program like the current operation in Pakistan.


Wall Street J., June 14, 2011

Munter must sign off on every planned drone attack in Pakistan, although he rarely voices an objection, said a former aide to the ambassador. If Munter disagrees with a planned strike, the CIA director can appeal to him, said two U.S. officials, providing the most detailed description of the process to date. Clinton can also weigh in, and has done so at least once, one U.S. official said....Munter's request went to the State Department and was forwarded to then-CIA director Panetta, now secretary of defense, who insisted on going ahead, said the officials....The former aide said the strike reflected the CIA's anger at the ISI. 'It was in retaliation for Davis,' the aide said. 'The CIA was angry.' A U.S. official said all decisions on strikes are driven only by intelligence....The prevailing view at the State Department and the White House is that CIA strikes are motivated by a drive to kill as many militants as possible in what the U.S. sees as a window of opportunity that might soon close, rather than a deliberate attempt to torpedo diplomacy, said the official.


Assoc. Press, August 2, 2011

Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan because the strikes damage the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida.


Assoc. Press, August 2, 2011

Obama administration officials say the Central Intelligence Agency's drone program in Pakistan has killed about 600 militants and no civilians since May 2010.


N.Y. Times, August 11, 2011

American officials, who will speak about the classified drone program only on the condition of anonymity, say it has killed more than 2,000 militants and about 50 noncombatants since 2001...The officials say C.I.A. drone operators view their targets for hours or days beforehand, analyzing what they call a 'pattern of life' and distinguishing militants from others.


N.Y. Times, August 11, 2011

Because our coverage has improved so much since the beginning of this program, it really defies logic that now we would start missing all these alleged noncombatant casualties,' said an American official familiar with the program. In one recent strike, the official said, after the drone operator fired a missile at militants in a car and a noncombatant suddenly appeared nearby, the operator was able to divert the missile harmlessly into open territory, hitting the car minutes later when the civilian was gone. 'Nobody is arguing that this weapon is perfect, but it remains the most precise system we've ever had in our arsenal,' the official said.


N.Y. Times, August 11, 2011

According to the senior U.S. official, an estimated 2,000 militants and 50 civilians have been killed in strikes since 2001. Since May 2010, the strikes have killed 600 militants, the official said"In that same period of time, we can't confirm any noncombatant casualties," the official said.


CNN, August 12, 2011

CIA officials insist that drone strikes are among the least common outcomes in its counter-terrorism campaign. ÔOf all the intelligence work on counterterrorism, only a sliver goes into Predator operations,' a senior U.S. official said.


Wash. Post, September 1, 2011

U.S. intelligence and congressional officials insist that the number of people killed in CIA operations outside the drone campaign is negligible, but say they have never seen an agency-produced casualty count that includes other categories of operations.


Wash. Post, September 1, 2011

An armed drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency this week killed a top Qaeda operative responsible for plotting terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, two American officials said on Thursday....A second American official called Sunday's strike 'another blow at the core of Al Qaeda.


N.Y. Times, September 15, 2011

The Central Intelligence Agency has ramped up missile strikes against militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, current and former officials say.


Wall Street J., September 27, 2011

The death of al-Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates...this success is a tribute to our intelligence community.''


President Obama, in a speech at a military ceremony, September 30, 2011

A former senior intelligence official said that the CIA would not have killed an American without such a written opinion.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

An administration official said the CIA did not know Khan was with Aulaqi, but they also considered Khan a belligerent whose presence near the target would not have stopped the attack.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

The former senior intelligence official said the CIA did reviews every six months to ensure that those targeted for possible killing remained threats as defined by law and presidential findings.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

US officials said the CIA was in control of all the aircraft, as well as the decisions to fire, and that the operation was so seamless that even hours later, it remained unclear whether a drone supplied by the CIA or the military fired the missile that ended the al-Qaeda leader's life.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

U.S. officials said that CIA drones involved in the strike took off from an agency base in the Arabian peninsula so new that it had become operational only in recent weeks.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

The Post has agreed not to disclose the exact location of the new CIA drone base at the request of the Obama administration.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

A senior U.S. official briefed on Friday's operation said that the CIA and JSOC had Aulaqi under intermittent surveillance for roughly two weeks before the strike. It was unclear what caused the delay in firing the missiles, but the officials cited concerns about civilian casualties and collateral damage in Yemen.


Wash. Post, September 30, 2011

US and Yemeni officials say Samir Khan and al-Awlaki were killed early Friday in a strike on a convoy in Yemen. The strike was carried out by the CIA and US Joint Special Operations Command....The US official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.


Assoc. Press, September 30, 2011

'It was a joint U.S. military-intelligence operation,' a U.S. official said, adding that the U.S. military helped target al-Awlaki and that manned American military aircraft were flying overhead ready to offer assistance. The drone was operated by the CIA, officials said.


CNN, September 30, 2011

The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command had al-Awlaki under surveillance for at least two weeks, but were awaiting an opportunity to kill him without causing civilian casualties or damage, an administration official said.


CNN, September 30, 2011

According to a senior U.S. official, the operation was carried out by Joint Special Operations Command, under the direction of the CIA.


Fox News, September 30, 2011

The agency began constructing the base this year, officials said, when it became apparent to intelligence and counterterrorism officials that the threat from Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen had eclipsed that coming from its core group of operatives hiding in Pakistan.


N.Y. Times, October 1, 2011

Fresh information about Mr. Awlaki's location surfaced about three weeks ago, allowing the C.I.A. to track him in earnest, waiting for an opportunity to strike with minimal risks to civilians, American officials said.


N.Y. Times, October 1, 2011

Administration officials said the drones are an especially delicate subject today because they are entangled with the United States' complex relations with the governments of Pakistan and Yemen.


N.Y. Times, October 4, 2011

'Having moved from the CIA to the Pentagon, obviously I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me in this job than I had at the CIA, although the Predators aren't bad.'....Panetta's thoughts again turned to the CIA drones as he praised the Libya operation. 'This was a complicated mission, there's no question about it,' he said, noting that it involved 'the use of Predators, which is something I was very familiar with in my past job'... Panetta stopped short of confirming that CIA Predators were conducting airstrikes.


From remarks Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered to two different gatherings of servicemembers in Italy, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2011

On Thursday, a CIA drone strike killed Janbaz Zadran, a trusted deputy of network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani and a 'close aide' to Haqqani's brother Badruddin, the group's top operational commander, a U.S. official said...U.S. officials confirmed that a second drone-fired missile Thursday struck a border town in neighboring South Waziristan....U.S. officials, who were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters, said later that Zadran was the target of the drone strike in North Waziristan and confirmed that he was killed.


Wash. Post, October 13, 2011

'[Anwar al-Awlaki] was probably the most important al Qaeda threat that was out there after Bin Laden was taken out, and it was important that working with the Yemenis, we were able to remove him from the field.


President Obama, speaking on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, October 26, 2011

The review ultimately affirmed support for the underlying CIA program. But a senior official said: 'The bar has been raised. Inside CIA, there is a recognition you need to be damn sure it's worth it.'


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

Even if there are added considerations, the program – which still has strong support in Washington – remains as aggressive as ever,' said a U.S. official.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

The campaign has killed more than 1,500 suspected militants on Pakistani soil since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, according to government officials.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

Officials at the Pentagon and State Department privately argued the CIA pays too little attention to the diplomatic costs of air strikes that kill large groups of low-level fighters....A senior intelligence official said Gen. Petraeus voiced 'caution against strikes on large groups of fighters.'


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

Initially, the CIA was skeptical of the value of expending resources on lower-level operatives through signature strikes, a former senior intelligence official said. Military officials, however, favored the idea. The debate eventually would lead to the CIA and the military reversing their initial positions.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

The CIA has had freedom to decide who to target and when to strike. The White House usually is notified immediately after signature strikes take place, not beforehand, a senior U.S. official said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

Dennis Blair, Mr. Obama's first director of national intelligence, recommended that the CIA measure the program's effectiveness beyond numbers of dead militants, U.S. officials said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

On at least two occasions, Leon Panetta, then the CIA director, ignored Mr. Munter's objections to planned strikes, a senior official said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

A senior Obama administration official declined to comment on Mr. Donilon's closed-door discussions but said that he wasn't second-guessing the CIA's targeting methodology and pointed to his long-standing support for the program. The official said the White House wanted to use the drone program smartly to pick off al Qaeda leaders and the Haqqanis. 'It's about keeping our eyes on the ball,' the official said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

'Whenever they got a shot [for a drone attack], they just took it, regardless of what else was happening in the world,' a senior official said." (alteration in the original).


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

[Panetta] told Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha that the U.S. would tell the Pakistanis ahead of time about strikes expected to kill more than 20 militants, officials said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

CIA officials defended the signature strikes by saying they frequently netted top terrorists, not just foot soldiers. Twice as many wanted terrorists have been killed in signature strikes than in personality strikes, a U.S. counterterrorism official said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

Though Mr. Petraeus voiced a preference for smaller drone strikes, officials said the agency has the leeway to carry out large-scale strikes and hasn't been formally directed to go after only higher-value targets and avoid foot soldiers. Since Mr. Petraeus's arrival at CIA, some strikes on larger groups have taken place, the senior intelligence official said.


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

'It's not like they took the car keys away from the CIA,' a senior official said. 'There are just more people in the car.'


Wall Street J., November 4, 2011

The White House over the summer put new restrictions on CIA drone strikes in the wake of concerns that the program was primarily targeting lower-level militants while provoking anger in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.


L.A. Times, November 7, 2011

CIA classifies its drone strikes into two categories. In one type, known as "personality strikes," the agency tracks and targets a specific person who has been placed on a "kill list" because he has been deemed a threat to the United States.The other type, known as "signature strikes," is the one primarily affected by the new rules. In those attacks, the CIA watches a group of suspected militants through drone surveillance video and other means until officials are satisfied that the targets are plotting or carrying out attacks against U.S. troops or American interests, officials have said. The names of those militants are not necessarily known. On numerous occasions, senior militant figures on target lists were killed in signature strikes, U.S. officials say, and their identities were discovered only afterward.....Signature strikes are not allowed in Yemen, U.S. officials say, even though some U.S. counter-terrorism officials say they believe such attacks would be legal and potentially effective.


L.A. Times, November 7, 2011

The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request.


CIA response to ACLU FOIA request for documents relating to the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki, November 17, 2011

Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who previously proposed scaling back the armed drone operation run in Pakistan by the Central Intelligence Agency, is now urging that program be publicly acknowledged and placed in the hands of the U.S. military. 'Covert action that goes on for years doesn't generally stay covert,' Blair said during a forum Monday... '[W]hen you are going to be using drones over a long period of time, I would say you ought to give strong consideration to running those as military operations.'


Politico, November 30, 2011

A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the drone operations at Shamsi were classified, said that vacating the base would not end American counterterrorism operations in Pakistan.


N.Y. Times, December 11, 2011

Everybody knows we're using drones,' said a senior U.S. official familiar with the program, one of several who agreed to discuss intelligence matters on the condition of anonymity. 'On the other hand, we're doing it on a pretty systematic and standardized basis. Why don't we just say what those standards are?


Wash. Post, December 19, 2011

Among other variables, according to one source briefed on the program, those selecting targets calculate how much potential collateral damage is acceptable relative to the value of the target. An insurgent leader aware of such logic, they said, could avoid an attack simply by positioning himself in the midst of enough civilians to make the strike too costly.


Wash. Post, December 19, 2011

No new legal opinions were sought, said a former Obama official involved in the process, and there was no challenge to the CIA's unilateral authority to choose targets and launch strikes in Pakistan. 'Nothing was changed in terms of the review process,' the former Obama official said.


Wash. Post, December 19, 2011

When civilian casualties in Pakistan spiked during the first half of 2010, a year in which drone strikes there averaged one nearly every three days, Obama and Brennan 'demanded that they keep tightening the procedures, so that if there were any doubt, they wouldn't take the shot,' an administration official said. 'There were flaws, and they fixed them.'


Wash. Post, December 19, 2011

Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, complained bitterly to Washington that the program was out of control, said a second former Obama administration official. As 'chief of mission,' it was Cameron's understanding that he was to be informed of attacks in advance and that he could veto them.


Wash. Post, December 19, 2011

In an effort to mend badly frayed relations with Pakistan, the CIA has suspended drone missile strikes on gatherings of low-ranking militants believed to be involved in cross-border attacks on U.S. troops or facilities in Afghanistan, current and former U.S. officials say....U.S. and Pakistani officials said the CIA is still flying armed Predator and Reaper drones over Pakistan, and will kill an Al Qaeda leader if the aircraft find one.


L.A. Times, December 23, 2011

The CIA keeps a list of 20 top targets and 'there have been times where they've struggled a little bit coming up with names to fill that list,' said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who declined to be identified in discussing a classified program.The former official is among those urging the CIA to reconsider its approach, arguing that the agency can't kill all the fighters and that drones alone won't solve the challenge from Islamic militants.


L.A. Times, December 23, 2011

After the raid, Islamabad ordered the United States to vacate Shamsi air base in southwest Pakistan, which the CIA had used to stage lethal drone flights. U.S. officials say the agency now flies drones into Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan.


L.A. Times, December 23, 2011

Others directly involved in the drone campaign offered a simpler explanation: Because the CIA had only recently resumed armed drone flights over Yemen, the agency hadn't had as much time as JSOC to compile its kill list. Over time, officials said, the agency would catch up.


Wash. Post, December 27, 2011

A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area on Jan. 10 killed an operative of Al Qaeda who was believed to be planning attacks against the West, an American official confirmed on Thursday.


N.Y. Times, January 19, 2012

Interviewer Scott Pelley states to Mr. Panetta, "You killed al-Awlaki," to which Mr. Panetta nods in response.


CBS News - 60 Minutes, January 29, 2012

Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we are very careful in terms of how it's been applied. I think there's this perception somehow that we're just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly. This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on. It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash. It's not a bunch of folks in a room somewhere just making decisions, and it is also part and parcel of our overall authority when it comes to battling al Qaeda. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the ones we're already engaging in.... I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones. But understand that probably our ability to respect the sovereignty of other countries and to limit our incursions into somebody else's territory is enhanced by the fact that we are able to pinpoint-strike an al Qaeda operative in a place where the capacities of that military in that country may not be able to get them. So obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.'


President Obama, responding to questions in an online chat, January 30, 2012

Although the U.S. military took the lead in Tuesday's strike, the CIA, which is seen as more effective in building human intelligence networks, has taken a more prominent role in Yemen operations in recent months, said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the operations. In the wake of the Awlaki killing, there has been a significant slowing in drone strikes in Yemen, in part because AQAP leaders have become more disciplined in their actions – relying on couriers instead of cellphones, for example, and not returning to the same places, the former official said.


Wash. Post, January 31, 2012

American officials said that the number was much too high, though they acknowledged that at least several dozen civilians had been killed inadvertently in strikes aimed at militant suspects.


N.Y. Times, February 5, 2012

A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report's findings, saying 'targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.' The official added: 'One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let's be under no illusions – there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.


N.Y. Times, February 5, 2012

A prominent Pakistani militant commander was killed in an American drone strike at a house in Pakistan's lawless northwest tribal region of North Waziristan on Thursday, a senior security official said.


N.Y. Times, February 9, 2012

A senior American official in Washington said that the C.I.A. had consistently taken precautions to reduce the risk to civilians, and noted that some strikes had killed Pakistan's insurgent enemies, too. 'These efforts have been extremely precise and effective,' said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program's covert status.


N.Y. Times, March 18, 2012

Gen. John R. Allen, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, now receives more timely information about C.I.A. strikes in Pakistan than he did just a few months ago, an American military official said.


N.Y. Times, March 18, 2012

Patience with Pakistan in Washington has been so low since the Bin Laden raid in May that such changes could be a tough sell in Congress, said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a former member of the National Security Council. 'It's not in the U.S. interest to have a drone program with limits,' she said. 'The administration wants utmost flexibility.'


N.Y. Times, March 18, 2012

The White House has no intentions of ending CIA drone strikes against militant targets on Pakistani soil, U.S. officials say...U.S. officials say they will work in coming weeks and months to find common ground with Pakistan, but if a suspected terrorist target comes into the laser sights of a CIA drone's hellfire missiles, they will take the shot.


Assoc. Press, April 13, 2012

The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. . .CIA Director David H. Petraeus has requested permission to use the tactic against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which has emerged as the most pressing terrorism threat to the United States, officials said.... U.S. officials said that the CIA proposal has been presented to the National Security Council and that no decision has been reached. Officials from the White House and the CIA declined to comment. Proponents of the plan said improvements in U.S. intelligence collection in Yemen have made it possible to expand the drone campaign – and use signature strikes – while minimizing the risk of civilian casualties.They also pointed to the CIA's experience in Pakistan. U.S. officials said the agency killed more senior al-Qaeda operatives there with signature strikes than with those in which it had identified and located someone on its kill list.


Wash. Post, April 18, 2012

In Pakistan, the CIA 'killed most of their 'list people' when they didn't know they were there,' said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with drone operations.


Wash. Post, April 18, 2012

The White House has given the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon broader authority to carry out drone strikes in Yemen against terrorists who imperil the United States, reflecting rising concerns about the country as a safe haven for Al Qaeda, a senior administration official said Wednesday night.The policy shift, approved this month, allows the C.I.A. and the military's Joint Special Operations Command to strike militants in Yemen who may be plotting attacks against the United States, but whose identities might not be completely known, an authority that already exists in Pakistan, the official said.


N.Y. Times, April 25, 2012

The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said.


Wash. Post, April 25, 2012

Administration officials stressed that U.S. airstrikes in Yemen will still be under tighter restrictions than they have been in Pakistan. CIA drones flying over Pakistan's tribal belt are allowed to strike groups of armed militants traveling by truck toward the war in Afghanistan, for example, even when there is no indication of the presence of al-Qaeda operatives or a high-value terrorist.


Wash. Post, April 25, 2012

The drone strike that killed Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and U.S. military, two U.S. officials said.


Assoc. Press, May 6, 2012

The CIA's process is more insular. Only a select number of high-ranking staff can preside over the debates run by the agency's Covert Action Review Group, which then passes the list to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center to carry out the drone strikes. The Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, is briefed on those actions, one official said.


Assoc. Press, May 21, 2012

Even if there is speculation about a fact, unless an agency officially confirms that fact, the public does not know whether it is so....Notwithstanding widespread reports that drone strikes occur, the CIA has never confirmed or denied whether it has any involvement or intelligence interest in any of those drone strikes, or whether it maintains any records relating to those drone strikes...The Court should reject plaintiffs' attempt to cobble together an official CIA acknowledgment by combining together the substance of various news reports, unofficial statements, and imprecise statements by former CIA Director Panetta and President Obama.


Justice Department lawyer Catherine Hancock, in a brief filed in response to the ACLU's appeal in its CIA drone FOIA suit, May 21, 2012

The president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a ‘near certainty' that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.


N.Y. Times, May 29, 2012

The president's directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program.


N.Y. Times, May 29, 2012

In a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the 'single digits' – and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low.


N.Y. Times, May 29, 2012

Mr. Obama, through Mr. Brennan, told the C.I.A. to take the shot, and Mr. Mehsud was killed, along with his wife and, by some reports, other family members as well, said a senior intelligence official.


N.Y. Times, May 29, 2012

Some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist Ôsignature' were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees Ôthree guys doing jumping jacks,' the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official.


N.Y. Times, May 29, 2012

The airstrikes in Yemen this year have been split fairly evenly between operations carried out by CIA Predators and those conducted by JSOC using Reapers and other drones as well as conventional aircraft, U.S. officials said.


Wash. Post, June 2, 2012

U.S. officials confirm that a drone strike early today in Pakistan targeted al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi.


CBS News, June 4, 2012

A CIA drone strike Monday targeted Abu Yahia al-Libi in Pakistan, but it was unclear whether he was among those hit, U.S. officials said.


Assoc. Press, June 5, 2012

This is one of the more prominent names' among the targets of drone strikes in Pakistan, which helps bolsters the CIA's push to continue the drone program despite the continued political resistance from Pakistan and collateral damage, added former CIA officer Paul Pillar.


Assoc. Press, June 5, 2012

Al-Libi's death would be 'another reason not to accept Pakistan's demand for an end to drone wars,' added Brookings Institute's Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to the White House on Afghanistan and Pakistan policy.


Assoc. Press, June 5, 2012

A U.S. official confirmed that a Monday drone strike in Pakistan killed al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi...


CBS News, June 5, 2012

A top al Qaeda leader and longtime Osama Bin Laden confidant Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in a U.S. drone strike Monday morning in Pakistan, according to several U.S. officials....Today U.S. officials confirmed that al-Libi had been killed but disputed the death toll in the Pakistani version of events, saying al-Libi was the only one killed in the strike that took his life. One of the officials said other, previous strikes had taken the lives of 'less than a handful' of militants in recent days.


ABC News, June 5, 2012

Senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on Monday, US officials say.


BBC News, June 5, 2012

The U.S. drone that spotted al- Qaeda's second-in-command getting into a car, followed him to a house in a North Waziristan tribal region and killed him on June 4 dealt another serious blow to the terrorist group's remaining core in Pakistan, administration officials said. Even with the success of an attack that the officials said was approved by President Barack Obama, ...Eleven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, the U.S. still has little human intelligence of its own from terrorist sanctuaries in northwestern Pakistan and only sporadic and selective intelligence from Afghan and Pakistani liaison officers, the officials said


Bloomberg News, June 5, 2012

The Predator drone's video camera and sensors spotted al- Libi getting into his car, and then followed the vehicle to the house, two U.S. officials said. While Pakistani sources reported that the subsequent attack had killed his driver and bodyguard, there was no confirmation of al-Libi's death until yesterday, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a covert operation.....In al-Libi's case, targeting the Libyan in the Pakistani village of Khassu Khel was worth the risk of missing him, perhaps killing innocent people, and further damaging the frayed U.S. relationship with Pakistan, which condemned the strike, the two U.S. officials said....the first two U.S. officials said, his death is unlikely to end the threat posed by al-Qaeda, especially considering that the group's regional affiliates and allies in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere in North Africa are increasingly self-reliant and independent. What's more, they said, most of the intelligence on which the stepped-up drone attacks are based is imperfect at best, so they risk killing innocent people, fueling anti-American sentiment, and even recruiting more terrorists -- though less experienced ones -- than they kill.


Bloomberg News, June 5, 2012

A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan's tribal belt killed Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, American officials said on Tuesday...Local tribesmen and American officials said that a C.I.A.-controlled drone fired on a compound early Monday morning.


N.Y. Times, June 5, 2012

I can tell you that our intelligence community has intelligence that leads them to believe that al Qaeda's number-two leader, al-Libi, is dead. I can't get into details about how his death was brought about... I don't have anything more for you except for the confirmation that they have that al-Libi is dead. Beyond that, I would refer you to other agencies....I can't get into details about al-Libi's death, the circumstances or the location. I would simply say that this President is firmly committed to carrying out his policy objective in Afghanistan and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, which is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. He is committed to disrupting, dismantling and ultimately defeating al Qaeda beyond that region, too. That's why we cooperate with countries around the world in efforts to counter al Qaeda and other extremists.


White House spokesman Jay Carney, responding to press questions about the killing of Al-Libi, June 5, 2012

A U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan has killed al-Qaida's second-in-command, officials from both countries have confirmed.


Assoc. Press, June 5, 2012

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. officials said that al-Libi was killed by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan launched Monday.


CNN, June 5, 2012

The CIA had targeted Libi with three separate drone-launched missile attacks over three days, finally succeeding early Monday in strikes that destroyed a house and a vehicle, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.


L.A. Times, June 5, 2012

'This fellow is close to being irreplaceable, in terms of longevity, expertise and religious legitimacy within the organization,' said Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan who later headed the agency's Counterterrorism Center. 'You could plausibly make the argument that his loss is more serious than that of bin Laden himself, given that al-Libi was a key operational commander and that bin Laden can continue to act as a symbol even in death. Whatever one may think of the drone program otherwise, this is the sort of target which justifies its use.'


Huff. Post, June 5, 2012

Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, was killed by a CIA drone strike, according to U.S. officials.


CNN, June 6, 2012

Whether or not the CIA has authority to or does in fact conduct targeted lethal operations, however, remain classified and protected from disclosure....To the extent the ACLU Request seeks records specifically about the CIA's use of unmanned aerial vehicles, to confirm or deny the existence of responsive records would also reveal whether the CIA possessed a particular 'advanced technological platform.'


From a motion filed by the Department of Justice in response to lawsuits from the ACLU and the New York Times over FOIA requests seeking information about the killing of Al-Awlaki, June 20, 2012

Sources: ACLU and ProPublica research. Statements are taken from national media outlets from early 2009 through early June, 2012. In some instances, multiple quotes are drawn from the same article, when the source differs. New America Foundation, The Long War Journal and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.