CIA drone attacks will remain secret

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The CIA is not legally required to inform the public about the use of unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists, US District Judge Rosemary Collyer has ruled. The ruling was made on Friday in a case in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the CIA’s decision to reject a Freedom of Information Act request on the issue. The CIA had said anything about the relevant records was classified information.
The federal judge also rejected the ACLU’s argument that “former CIA director Leon Panetta had officially acknowledged the agency’s use of drones”. The ACLU noted that media outlets had been covering the use of drones by the US, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for years. The ACLU pointed out that when Panetta was asked about the credibility of such attacks, which also endanger many civilian lives, he said, “I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective because they have been very precise.”
Despite the ACLU’s argument, Judge Collyer ruled, “These comments by director Panetta did not officially disclose the CIA’s involvement in the drone strike programme. Panetta spoke generally of his knowledge of ‘covert and secret operations’ in Pakistan and his assessment that those operations had been precise with minimal collateral damage.” In an interview with the Washington Post in 2010, Panetta “appeared to speak to the joint efforts of the military and non-military agencies of the US government… director Panetta merely admitted that the CIA’s operations in Pakistan, left undefined, were the most aggressive ever undertaken by the CIA,” the judge said.