The CIA is now permitted to intensify the drone war: suspicious individuals can be killed without being identified by name. Human rights activists are frustrated.

Barack Obama is escalating the undeclared war in Yemen: In the future, the CIA will be permitted to intensify their drone attacks. After permitting drone attacks against individuals identified by name up to now, the White House is also permitting “signature strikes” in the future: strikes against individuals who are not necessarily identified by name in Washington, but have the suspicious appearance of being involved in “plots against the interests of the U.S.”

Right away, in the first week of the new regulation, the U.S. used drones to kill several insurgents who supposedly belonged to al-Qaida. With that, the number of drone attacks in Yemen rose to 13 in the first four months of this year. After 10 drone attacks in the country during the past year.

Several U.S. media outlets — first of all the Wall Street Journal — have reported that Obama has accommodated the demands of CIA Director David Petraeus with the new regulation for “signature strikes.” There has not been an official confirmation from the White House or the CIA about the intensification of the drone war. It is part of the peculiarity of the drone operations that the discussion of them is nowhere open to scrutiny.

Andrea Prasow, from the group Human Rights Watch in the U.S., speaks of a “frustrating lack of transparency.” She says the U.S. public has a right to know what is happening in their name. She complains that Obama “has never defined the legal framework for these drone operations.” Just as the CIA basically shares no information.

U.S. Confirmed Attack Only After Yemenis Reported It

The first drone strike of this week was announced Tuesday by the Yemeni embassy in Washington. Only after they stated that a “military convoy” had been attacked from the air by the CIA, and that top al-Qaida man, Mohammed Al-Umda, as well as two other individuals, had been killed, did U.S. officials confirm that it concerned a drone operation.

The drone strikes are agreed upon in advance by U.S. and Yemeni authorities. They can also be directed against U.S. citizens. This occurred for the first time at the end of September last year when the U.S.-Yemeni Imam Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone. A few days later, another U.S. drone operation killed his 16-year-old son Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki.

In the U.S., drone strikes are only news flashes as a rule. As a rule, not even the names of the victims appear. The permission for such “signature strikes” didn’t make big headlines either. But among the left, the “clean” war by drones is controversial. On the one hand, critics argue that the air strikes kill innocents as well. And that they help the terror organization al-Qaida gain new sympathy from the affected population and a new influx of recruits.

On the other hand, they dispute that President Obama had the right to order drone operations without consulting the U.S. Congress. “[He is] breaking the legal barrier that Congress erected to prevent the White House from waging an endless war on terrorism,“ writes Yale professor Bruce Ackerman in the Washington Post.