US President Barack Obama tightened rules for the US drone programme in 2013, but he secretly approved a waiver giving the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) more flexibility in Pakistan than anywhere else to strike suspected militants, according to current and former US officials.
According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal, the US officials said the rules for US drone programme were made stricter in 2013, but special waiver was issued in connection with drone strikes for high-value targets in Pakistan.
It also said that recent deaths of two US hostages, Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto — killed in a drone strike targeting Al Qaeda militants — could have been avoided had the exemption not been in place.
The CIA would have been required to gather more intelligence before conducting the drone strikes in absence of the special exemption for Pakistan.
The killing of these hostages has renewed a debate in the Obama administration over whether the CIA should be required to adhere to the same regulations that are applicable on drone strikes outside of Pakistan, said the report.
The exemption for Pakistan means the CIA can do “signature strikes” and more “targeted drone attacks” on high-value targets identified without collecting specific evidence that the target poses an imminent threat to the US.
President Obama tendered an apology while taking responsibility for the deaths of the two US hostages. He also announced a review to ensure mistakes like the mentioned are not repeated in the future.