Obama permits CIA to broaden UAV war target list in Pakistan

too great, they said.

Some analysts, however, said that permitting the CIA to kill individuals whose names are unknown creates a serious risk of killing innocent people. Civilian deaths caused by Western arms is a source of deep anger in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. “There are a lot of ethical questions here about whether we know who the targets are,” said Loch Johnson, an intelligence scholar at the University of Georgia and a former congressional aide. “The danger is that it could spawn new terrorists and increase resentment among the Pakistani public, in particular where these strikes are taking place.”

U.S. officials say the strikes have caused fewer than thirty civilian casualties since the drone program was expanded in Pakistan, a claim that is impossible to verify since the remote and lawless tribal belt is usually off-limits to Western reporters. Some estimates of civilian casualties by outside analysts are in the hundreds.

Of more than 500 people who U.S. officials say have been killed since the pace of strikes intensified, the vast majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or about whom the agency had only fragmentary information. In some cases, the CIA discovered only after an attack that the casualties included a suspected terrorist whom it had been seeking.

The CIA was directed by the Bush administration to begin using armed drones to track Osama bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda figures, as well as Taliban leaders who fled to Pakistan’s tribal areas after the 9/11 attacks. President Bush secretly decided in his last year in office to expand the program. Obama has continued and even streamlined the process, so that CIA Director Leon E. Panetta can sign off on many attacks without notifying the White House beforehand, an official said (see “U.S. widens UAV war over Pakistan,” 14 December 2009 HSNW; “UAV war in Pakistan expands,” 13 March 2009 HSNW; “Latest U.S. UAV strike in Pakistan signals change of strategy,” 19 February 2009 HSNW ).

Missile attacks have risen steeply since Obama took office. There were an estimated 53 drone strikes in 2009, up from just over 30 in Bush’s last year, according to a website run by the New America Foundation that tracks press reports of attacks in Pakistan. Through early this month, there had been 34 more strikes this year, an average of one every 3 1/2 days, according to the site’s figures

The 2010 attacks have killed