The Obama Administration has increased the scope of the U.S. government's two drone programs, writes Jane Mayer in an article in the New Yorker. "According to a new study by the New America Foundation," writes Mayer, "the number of drone strikes has gone up dramatically since Obama became President. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the defense contractor that manufactures the Predator and its more heavily armed sibling, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government's demand."
In an interview posted on the New Yorker's website, Mayer explains that the increase in covert Predator strikes might indicate more than an intensified effort to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. In order to mollify the anger in Pakistan over U.S. strikes on foreign soil, Mayer claims the Obama administration has quietly begun to include the Pakistani government in some of its operations.
What does Pakistan think of the drones?
Originally, the Pakistani people's reaction to the U.S. drone strikes in their country was incredibly negative. Pakistanis rose up and complained that the program violated their sovereignty. So, to obtain Pakistani support--or at least the support of the Zardari government--the Obama Administration quietly decided last March to allow the Pakistani government to nominate some of its own targets. The U.S. has been and is involved in killing not just Al Qaeda figures, but Pakistani targets--people like Taliban leader Beitullah Mehsud who are enemies of the Pakistani state.
Are there any safeguards that prevent the U.S. from carrying out political vendettas for top Pakistani officials?
Well, the problem with this program is that it's invisible; I would guess there must be all kinds of legal safeguards, and lawyers at the C.I.A. are discussing who we can kill and who we can't, but none of that is available to the American people. It's quite a contrast with the armed forces, because the use of lethal force in the military is a transparent process. There are after-action reports, and there's a very obvious chain of command. We know where the responsibility runs, straight on up to the top of the government. This system keeps checks on abuses of power. There is no such transparency at the C.I.A.