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In March 2013, long before the Yemen incident, she praised the CIA’s “patience and discretion” in carrying out drone strikes. “The military program has not done that nearly as well. That causes me concern,” she said.
The drones are controversial within the CIA, however. While many intelligence officers say the agency has decimated Al-Qaida with its drones, some CIA officials say the focus on killing and paramilitary operations since 2001 has diverted the spy agency from its traditional espionage mission.
The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House declined to comment for this story.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House intelligence committee, said he believes the military is as capable as “any other agency” in carrying out drone strikes as long as the attack is based on solid intelligence.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters who pulls the trigger,” he said.
For now, JSOC is sharing intelligence with the Yemenis and helping them with military logistics, officials said, amid an outbreak of heavy fighting between government forces and Al-Qaida fighters.
U.S. intelligence officials say the military and the CIA have cooperated in backing a Yemeni military offensive that has driven the militants from strongholds in the south.