WASHINGTON — The Obama administration today announced the completion of a detailed counterterrorism playbook establishing clear rules for drone operations. Among the major tenants of the manual is the fact that CIA targeted-killing drone operations in Pakistan will be exempt from these rules.
“War has changed and it’s vital that as we move forward, we follow rules of engagement that reflect our values as a society,” said White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, who has been nominated to serve as the new CIA director. “Almost as vital as it is that we ignore these rules in Pakistan.”
According to a senior U.S. official, among the subjects covered in the playbook are the process for adding names to kill lists, legal principles that govern when U.S. citizens can be targeted overseas, the sequences of approvals required when the CIA or U.S. military conducts drone strikes outside war zones, and why random, unauthorized drone strikes in Pakistan are good stress relievers.
“Look, nobody loves a good drone strike more than I do,” said a CIA official who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he was not authorized to acknowledge the existence of drones, drone strikes, civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes, international unrest caused by American drone policy, or that the word drone contains five letters. “But after a while, they can start to seem commonplace. The new playbook ensures that some bored intelligence officer doesn’t start bombing, say, France for the Hell of it. Now we have rules. If you want to bomb France, you have to go through proper channels.”
“Of course, if you want to bomb Pakistan” he added. “Knock yourself out.”
Human rights organizations reacted with horror at the creation of the playbook. “It is a sad day when the greatest power in the world codifies these unlawful drone attacks into law,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s National Security Project. “I shudder to think that the ways of war have reached a new normal. Except in Pakistan of course, where it’s business as usual.”
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani defended the U.S. decision to exempt drone strikes within the borders of his country from being in any way regulated. “The United States has a long and storied history of recklessly bombing hundreds of our people in the hopes of eliminating a single target who may or may not be connected with al-Qaeda,” he said. “To change the rules so late in the game by establishing rules for the game smacks of desperation. I’m glad they chose to exempt attacks on Pakistan from their new rules. It is comforting to know that they still see us as special.”