Revealed: CIA has secret drone base in Saudi Arabia
US newspaper ends 'self-censorship' to expose drone base CIA uses to kill al-Qaeda militants
THE CIA has been operating a drone base in Saudi Arabia for more than a year which it has used to attack and kill senior al-Qaeda operatives including at least one US citizen, the Washington Post has reported.
But in a graphic illustration of the difficulties faced by newspaper editors trying to balance national security issues with the public's right to know, it was revealed the newspaper has known about the base for some time, but did not write about it because it was asked not to by the Obama administration.
Writing in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade says the US government told the Post that releasing details of the drone base – opened two years ago to “intensify the hunt for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular" - would compromise the facility’s security.
The paper obliged, but decided to end its "self-censorship" last night when it discovered another news outlet was about to publish details of the base. The Post’s story "effectively ended an informal arrangement among several news organisations that had been aware of the location," Greenslade writes.
In its report, the Post says the publication of the drone base’s location comes at a difficult time for the Obama administration which wants to make its counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan the director of the CIA. The appointment – and Brennan’s appearance at a Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for tomorrow - opens the US government to scrutiny over its use of drones and the “targeted-killing” policies it has used to eliminate al-Qaeda terrorists and, "more controversially", US citizens implicated in such terrorism.
The Post points out that the only drone strike "intentionally targeting" a US citizen – the 2011 killing of the US-born cleric and senior al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki – was carried out by aircraft launched from the base in Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, NBC News released a Justice Department memo that justified the killing of Americans abroad if they posed an "imminent threat". It would be "lawful" to kill US citizens overseas if they were a "senior, operational leader" of al-Qaeda or an associated group and posed an imminent threat to the US, the memo said.