World Bulletin/News Desk
The CIA has boosted secret contingency planning regarding Syria as it collects intelligence for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials, LA Times reported.
President Obama has not yet authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are currently under consideration.
The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection, the officials said.
The CIA effort, which involves assembling detailed dossiers on potential threats with "alleged links to Al Qaeda", gives the White House both lethal and nonlethal options. The intelligence files also could be provided to the opposition figures favored by the United States.
The targeting is part of an array of CIA and Pentagon responses and contingency plans as the instability in the Syrian conflict persists.
The targeting officers focusing on Syria are based at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., officials said. The agency works closely with Saudi, Jordanian and other regional spy services active in Syria. CIA officers meet with some Syrian rebel leaders in Turkey and Jordan, current and former officials say.
The CIA and the White House declined requests for comment Friday on the targeting effort.
CIA targeting officers normally assemble bits of intelligence — including agent reports, cellphone intercepts, video footage, public records, tips from foreign spy services — to create folders known as "targeting packages," for a variety of uses.
They can be used if policymakers decide to pursue further surveillance, arrest or other action.
U.S. lethal action in Syria is not unprecedented.
Some former CIA officials expressed skepticism about the idea of using armed drones in Syria. There is no evidence, they said, that Syrian militants pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.
Meanwhile a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the CIA must give a fuller response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking CIA records about drone attacks.Last Mod: 16 Mart 2013, 11:43