On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has granted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) broad powers to conduct lethal drone strikes.
The CIA's new authority, which was reportedly provided by Trump shortly after his inauguration, was used in February in a strike against a senior al Qaeda leader in Syria, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.
That jump in use of armed drones resulted from the authorization to use "signature" strikes, which allowed targeting terrorism suspects based on behavior and other characteristics without knowing their actual identity, a US official said on condition of anonymity. According to state-run newspaper Global Times, China had considered conducting its first drone strike to kill a suspect in the 2011 murder of 13 Chinese sailors, but authorities decided they wanted the man alive so they could put him on trial.
Reports state that the drone strikes in Pakistan resulted in the death of at least 1,904 people.
The new authority, which is expected to be accompanied by further changes to relax drone war rules, according to a report by the Washington Post, has raised alarm about the potential for even further abuse through the controversial program. "The CIA should be a foreign intelligence gathering and analysis organization, not a paramilitary one".
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Under the Obama administration, the military was in charge of promoting transparency and accountability.
Speaking with senior USA officials, Jaffe and DeYoung report that the proposed changes to counter-terrorism strategy "would empower the Pentagon to make decisions on targets without approval from the White House and potentially scrap the "near-certainty" standard of no civilian deaths for strikes outside war zones". "The president believes too much has been centralized in the White House, and he wants to push decisions down to the agencies".
The aerial attacks, initiated by former US President George W. Bush in 2004, were escalated under the Obama administration. Despite this, the former POTUS allegedly had intentions of putting policies in place that would curtail abuse by future administrations. But Trump is on course to reverse many of this.
The White House is considering relaxing this standard, which now "demands near- certainty that no civilians are killed or injured in USA raids or drone strikes outside conflict zones".