Air Base In Saudi Arabia Is Latest Drone Secret To Be Revealed | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Air Base In Saudi Arabia Is Latest Drone Secret To Be Revealed

The Obama administration says lethal airstrikes, delivered stealthily by drones, have been a major success in its counterterrorism efforts. But the administration has been much less successful in keeping secret the details of the often controversial drone program.

Last May, Foreign Policy published this story providing details on 12 U.S. drone bases spread across three continents, from the Seychelles to the Philippines.

And Tuesday, The New York Times reported that a clandestine U.S. drone base was built in Saudi Arabia primarily to carry out strikes in neighboring Yemen, a stronghold for an al-Qaida affiliate, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Times and other news organizations say they knew about the base for some time. But the organizations had not revealed its existence at the request of U.S. officials, who wanted to keep it under wraps.

The managing editor of the Times, Dean Baquet, said the paper decided to reveal its existence now because of role played by John Brennan, the nominee to become CIA chief.

"It was central to the story because the architect of the base and drone program [Brennan] is nominated to head the C.I.A.," Baquet told the Times' public editor.

Brennan goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing.

Karen DeYoung, who covers national security for The Washington Post, told All Things Considered that the Saudi base was built in 2010 "specifically for the CIA to launch drones both for surveillance and for targeted killing strikes against [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula]."

She said the Obama administration wanted to keep the base secret "because of sensitivities in Saudi Arabia itself. Because of their internal politics and because of what they see as their position in the Islamic world, they didn't want it published that they were allowing the CIA to actually occupy real estate inside Saudi Arabia."

And speaking of Brennan, who has played a highly influential role as counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, DeYoung said:

"It was really Brennan who put this all together and made a strategy out of [various counterterrorism tactics] for the future that the administration hopes it can use when we're not going to have big armies on the ground."

Update at 6:41 p.m. ET. The Bases Were Previously Revealed?

Gawker's Adrian Chen points out that the drone base in Saudi Arabia had been previously reported by The Times of London in July 2011 and by FoxNews.com in September 2011.

Indeed, if you follow the links provided by Chen, you'll find stories that mention the bases. The Fox News story reported news of the base being built. It reported:

"In addition to Seychelles and Ethiopia, the senior U.S. military official said the United States got permission to fly armed drones from Djibouti, and confirmed the construction of a new airstrip in Saudi Arabia.

" 'Operations in Saudi are (the) only new expansion to this plan. The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP,' the official said, describing the process as a 'long-term deliberate effort where we used what we could (until) we got the locations we wanted.' "

AQAP refers to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which also tells you that the strip in Saudi Arabia was used for missions in Yemen. In other words, all of the information withheld by the Times and the Post.

Chen concludes:

"In cooperating with the blackout, news organizations weren't protecting a state secret: They were making the CIA's life easier by suppressing a story that was already out there."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Queen Of Crime' PD James Was A Master Of Her Craft

A remembrance of murder mystery writer PD James, who died Thursday at her home in Oxford, England.
NPR

For A Century, Thanksgiving's Must-Haves Were Celery And Olives

Ari Shapiro speaks with Boston Globe editor Hilary Sargent on the use of celery and olives as popular meal items during Thanksgivings of the past and their eventual fade from popularity.
NPR

EPA's Proposed Rules Add To Obama's Collision Course With GOP

The Environmental Protect Agency has drafted regulations on Ozone pollution. The latest move exposes divisions between the Obama administration and leading Republican lawmakers over the environment.
NPR

Millennial Doctors May Be More Tech-Savvy, But Is That Better?

Text messages from your doctor are just the start. Millennials are the next generation of doctors and they're not afraid to say "chillax" in a consultation or check Twitter to find medical research.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.