I am a fan of the Central Intelligence Agency. More precisely, I am a fan of the officers and analysts who, along with uniformed service members and Foreign Service Officers, are at the dangerous, too often deadly, pointy end of the sword in promoting American foreign policy as enunciated by the President.
Whomever the President happens to be.
A book about the CIA's drone program will be published tomorrow and a harrowing excerpt was published over the weekend in the New York Times.
According to the New York Times correspondent (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Mark Mazzetti, the mechanism by which the U.S. got permission to overfly Pakistan territory back in 2004 with drones was a deal to use one to kill a Pashtun tribal leader named Nek Muhammad on behalf of the Pakistani government.
Muhammad was not a good guy. He was an ally of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and, according to the article, had been "marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state."
The deal was a simple one: If the CIA would use one of its predator drones to kill Muhammad, they could have access to Pakistani airspace to kill the people the U.S. wanted dead.
Under the deal:
"[The] CIA agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the C.I.A.'s covert action authority--meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent."
Indeed the Pakistani military immediately took credit/responsibility for the death of Nek Muhammad "saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound."
This is not the particular issue that Sen. Rand Paul was seeking clarity on during this 13+ hour filibuster last month - that had to do with using drones to kill Americans on American soil, not tribal chieftains in Pakistan.
Nevertheless the whole thing leaves a sulfur-like smell behind. How different, for instance, was this contract killing of Ned Muhammad from the work of Murder, Inc. back in the hey-day of the Mafia in New York?
In another article, this one from 2012, the New York Times suggested the enforcement arm of the Mafia was responsible for between 400 and 1,000 murders.
The story gets worse. The Mazzetti article claims that the death-by-Predator program was switched into high gear after the CIAs own Inspector General wrote a report saying officers,
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