Conflict & Justice

CIA operating secret drone base in Saudi Arabia


A Pakistani demonstrator carries a burning US flag as others shout slogans during a protest against drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal region, in Multan on October 13, 2012.


S.S. Mirza

The CIA has been running a secret airbase in Saudi Arabia to launch deadly drone attacks against Al Qaeda in Yemen, various media outlets reported today.

The base was used to launch the drone that killed Anwar Awlaki, a US citizen who reportedly acted as Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula's external operations chief. Since then the drone base has killed three more US citizens and has been involved in various other drone strikes in Yemen.

According to the Washington Post, the base was established two years ago. Though US media outlets knew of the base, its location was not revealed at the request of the administration, who believed the disclosure could result in jeopardizing the US's relationship with Saudi Arabia.

However, a recently leaked Justice Department memo revealed that drones could be used to strike against a wider range of threats than was previously believed, leading some politicians in Congress to believe that the scope of the laws justifying drone warfare to be too bold.

Both the US military and the CIA are authorized to carry out drone strikes against terror suspects. However, while the Pentagon's drone strikes are vetted by a committee of national security analysts, and must be approved but the Yemeni government, the CIA's program has much fewer restrictions, the New York Times reported.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser and the nominee for CIA director, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over the drone base.

The New York Times reported that the revelation of the secret drone base as well as the leaked Justice Department memo have once again put drones front and center as Brennan gears up for his confirmation in the Senate, scheduled for Thursday. Brennan has defended the drone program over the years, and is expected to be put through the ringer over the issue.