Small Wars Journal

Don't Let the CIA Run Wars

Don't Let the CIA Run Wars by Stephen Kinzer - Boston Globe

Espionage is sometimes called the cloak-and-dagger business. That term no longer applies to the Central Intelligence Agency. It was established to collect and analyze information, and — at times — quietly subvert enemies. Now its main job is killing. Instead of running agents, it launches drone attacks. The CIA is becoming a war-fighting machine: no cloak, all dagger.

The latest step in this transformation came last month, when President Trump broadened the CIA’s authority to conduct drone strikes. In the past, many of these strikes have been hybrid operations in which the CIA tracks a target and turns details over to the military, which launches the attack. Now the CIA can launch more strikes on its own. Under newly loosened rules, it may also kill anyone it judges to be a fighter, rather than only leaders, and is no longer required to assert “near certainty” that the targeted person is actually guilty.

New rules will also allow the CIA to wage war in more countries. The first result will be an expanded CIA role in America’s semi-covert war in Syria. After that, CIA drones are likely to begin hitting targets in Yemen. Somalia and Libya would be next. This expansion reflects the steady militarization of American intelligence.

The traditional role of secret services is to find and interpret information. It is a vital part of statecraft. National leaders shape wiser policies when they know how others see the world and what plans they are hatching. Providing that insight was once the CIA’s main job…

Read on.