Spencer Ackerman from Wired‘s Danger Room thinks the new drone-warfare phase of the war in Libya necessitates spotters, and hence American agents in Libya:
Gates didn’t say — and he pointedly reiterated that no “boots on the ground” from the U.S. military will touch Libyan soil. So no one’s going to spot for the drones in Libya? That could lead to targeting inaccuracies. Unless — you don’t think –the CIA… ?
Ackerman links to his own previous post about the CIA being authorized to act in Libya before the air campaign began, and there’s certainly a valuable discussion to be had about the degree to which the intelligence agency has become, essentially, a permanent paramilitary force, with far less accountability than the real military.
On the other hand, it’s not clear he’s right on the technical point — i.e., it’s not certain that American CIA operatives must be spotting for our UAV pilots. After all, as Ackerman himself has previously reported, we’ve been using local snitches and homing beacons planted by snitches for a while now in Pakistan, and nobody’s complained about our accuracy there, right?
Bonus! From the above-linked story speculating about tiny RF chips being used as targeting beacons, some old-fashioned colonial racism from a well-known ex-CIA loudmouth:
“Transmitters make a lot of sense to me. It is simply not possible to train a Pashtun from Waziristan to go to a targeted site, case it, and come back to Peshawar or Islamabad with anything like an accurate report. The best you can hope for is they’re putting the transmitter on the right house,” says former CIA case officer Robert Baer.