Trump may give the Pentagon more power to launch drone strikes

The president is bucking a structure set up by Obama late in the game to prevent exactly this type of policy

Published March 14, 2017 12:50PM (EDT)

 (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
(Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

President Barack Obama ordered 10 times as many drone strikes as his predecessor, President George W. Bush. President Donald Trump may be taking drone strikes to the next level by giving free rein to the intelligence communities to do them.

A new review being prepared by the Trump administration would allow the Pentagon and CIA to choose targets for drone strikes without White House approval and lower standards establishing acceptable numbers of civilian casualties as part of a rollback of restrictions on drone powers implemented by Obama near the end of his administration, according to The Washington Post. The policy changes may also eliminate the "near-certainty" standard for avoiding civilian deaths when strikes occur outside of officially designated war zones, and may loosen the rule that drone targets present a "continuing and imminent threat" to American personnel.

Overall, the changes would move critical decisions away from the Oval Office and put it in the hands of the military.

"We are seeking ways to accelerate our operations against terror groups, and be more nimble and agile in our speed of response," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told The Washington Post. "But we always will maintain a commitment to minimizing, avoiding civilian casualties."

"A big goal is getting the White House out of the way of itself," a staffer told the Post. "The president believes too much has been centralized in the White House, and he wants to push decisions down to the agencies."

The Trump administration insists that it is not being blase about civilian casualties. "We want to have a wise, moral standard that allows us to maintain the consent of the governed in these countries," a senior Trump administration official told The Post.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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