America’s covert drone war targeting Islamic militants could get a major boost in President Barack Obama’s second term. Powerful new technological hardware is now in use. Most important, John Brennan, a strong advocate for drone use, could hold sway over a major expansion of the scope and intensity of robotic strikes.
The president has nominated Brennan, his White House counterterrorism adviser, to take over the Central Intelligence Agency. A top CIA official under President George W. Bush, Brennan, 57, has emerged as a major supporter of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Since 2001, missile and bomb attacks by the Air Force, Army and CIA drones have killed thousands of suspected militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other battlegrounds. Hundreds of innocent civilians have also died. In 2012, American drones killed 246 people in Pakistan and 185 in Yemen, according to a count by the U.K. Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The bureau did not provide a figure for other countries where unmanned strikes have taken place.
If confirmed, Brennan could expand the use of armed, unmanned aircraft. He suggested as much in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington in June 2011. “Going forward,” Brennan said, “we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad, but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”