This is a pretty amazing story in the NYTimes this morning, detailing the Drone usage in Pakistan, and documenting both the offical acknowledgement of its existence, and the official government approval of its expansion:
From 2004 to 2007, the C.I.A. carried out only a handful of strikes. But pressure from the Congressional intelligence committees, greater confidence in the technology and reduced resistance from Pakistan led to a sharp increase starting in the summer of 2008. One of Washingtons worst-kept secrets, the drone program is quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials...
It is basically an expansion of the Bush Doctrine, that of of preemptive war or military strikes within a country within we are not at war, through the CIA with US military drones in Pakistan
About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed "more than 400" enemy fighters... That claim, which the official said reflected the Predators' ability to loiter over a target feeding video images for hours before and after a strike...
...with few other tools to use against Al Qaeda, the drone program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and was escalated by the Obama administration in January. More C.I.A. drone attacks have been conducted under President Obama than under President George W. Bush. The political consensus in support of the drone program, its antiseptic, high-tech appeal and its secrecy have obscured just how radical it is. For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war.
In the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, C.I.A. officials were not eager to embrace killing terrorists from afar with video-game controls, said one former intelligence official. "There was also a lot of reluctance at Langley to get into a lethal program like this," the official said. But officers grew comfortable with the program as they checked off their hit list more than a dozen notorious figures...
The drone warfare pioneered by the C.I.A. in Pakistan and the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan is the leading edge of a wave of push-button combat that will raise legal, moral and political questions around the world, said P. W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and author of the book "Wired for War."
Forty-four countries have unmanned aircraft for surveillance, Mr. Singer said. So far, only the United States and Israel have used the planes for strikes, but that number will grow.
"We're talking about a technology that's not going away," he said.
The Bush Doctrine, perhaps the most radical un-American legacy of George Bush, is not going away. Yea, right now, its pretty easy to celebrate that the "warheads on foreheads" is military technology which only the CIA holds, and is only being used by the US against terrorists in Pakistan.
But how long do you think it will be until that utopian use of military technology is bought or attained by aggressive military forces which have their own design on using the Drone technology toward their own ends?
Though Pakistanis in the regions of the strikes are more supportive of the drones, overall:
...the drones are unpopular with many Pakistanis, who see them as a violation of their country's sovereignty -- one reason the United States refuses to officially acknowledge the attacks. A poll by Gallup Pakistan last summer found only 9 percent of Pakistanis in favor of the attacks and 67 percent against, with a majority ranking the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than its archrival, India, or the Pakistani Taliban.
There's no question that it works, and that its effective, but you really have to wonder about what's been unleashed with such a preemptive doctrine.
Then there is the whole legal front which is quite sketchy, to put it kindly:
Philip Alston, the United Nations' special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions and a prominent critic of the program, has said it is impossible to judge whether the program violates international law without knowing whether Pakistan permits the incursions, how targets are selected and what is done to minimize civilian casualties.
The CIA-led Drone war in Pakistan broke new ground for the Bush Doctrine, by extending pre-emptive war strikes into nonconfirmation of its existence-- even after more than 80 strikes had occurred. That's all changing this week though:
The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.s drone program in Pakistans lawless tribal areas, officials said this week.
Update [2009-12-4 11:11:57 by Jerome Armstrong]: I came across this New Yorker article on drones from October, which details some of the likely expansion referred to above, being that of going after drug lords in Afghanistan:
The Obama Administration has also widened the scope of authorized drone attacks in Afghanistan. An August report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee disclosed that the Joint Integrated Prioritized Target Listthe Pentagons roster of approved terrorist targets, containing three hundred and sixty-seven nameswas recently expanded to include some fifty Afghan drug lords who are suspected of giving money to help finance the Taliban. These new targets are a step removed from Al Qaeda. According to the Senate report, There is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds goes to Al Qaeda. The inclusion of Afghan narcotics traffickers on the U.S. target list could prove awkward, some observers say, given that President Hamid Karzais running mate, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and the Presidents brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are strongly suspected of involvement in narcotics.
...A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, defended the program without quite acknowledging its existence.