By, Congress has moved to block President Obama’s plan to shift control of the U.S. drone campaign from the CIA to the Defense Department, inserting a secret provision in the massive government spending bill introduced this week that would preserve the spy agency’s role in lethal counterterrorism operations, U.S. officials said.
The measure, included in a classified annex to the $1.1 trillion federal budget plan, would restrict the use of any funding to transfer unmanned aircraft or the authority to carry out drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon, officials said.
The move also reflects some lawmakers’ lingering doubts about the U.S. military’s ability to conduct strikes against al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates without hitting the wrong targets and killing civilians.
Those apprehensions were amplified after a U.S. military strike in Yemen last month killed a dozen people, including as many as six civilians, in an 11-vehicle convoy that tribal leaders said was part of a wedding procession. U.S. officials said that the strike was aimed at a senior al-Qaeda operative but that reviews of the operation have raised concern that it failed to comply with White House guidelines requiring “near certainty” that no civilians would be harmed.
On Wednesday, there were reports that another U.S. strike had killed a farmer in Yemen.
The extent of the restrictions contained in the drone provision remained unclear. The measure was included by members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the legislation. Other senior lawmakers and congressional officials declined to comment on the contents of the classified annex, which details funding for U.S. spy agencies.
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