The Post-Kappes Era of CIA Drone Strikes
Both Eli Lake and Greg Miller report that President Obama personally asked Steve Kappes last year to remain the CIA’s deputy director. Kappes’ boss, Leon Panetta, announced yesterday that Kappes will be retiring next month. Under the Kappes Continuity — he ascended to deputy director in 2007 — the CIA began increasing its drone strikes in Pakistan, accelerating them significantly in 2007 and expanding them to Yemen. It’s a tool the Obama administration has zealously defended.
No one should labor under the misconception that Kappes is the linchpin of the drone-strike effort, which has many authors and advocates and structural factors pushing it forward. (Simply put, it’s what you do when you perceive a terrorist threat in a place you can’t invade.) But now that Kappes is out and his replacement is a longtime CIA analyst, not an operative, named Michael Morrell, it’s an open question whether Panetta and Morrell will shift the agency’s focus at all. The smart early money is probably not, since Panetta believes the strikes to be a smashing success. But watch his next round of congressional testimony to see if any post-Kappes shift is underway.