Based on the order that had been issued shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump but was kept secret until now, such drone attacks will get out of the hands of US military.
Under the drone policy of the Obama administration, the CIA could find a suspect, but the armed forces would carry out the actual strike.
Under the intelligence agency’s new powers, a high-level al-Qaeda leader in Syria, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was killed in Syria in February, unnamed officials told the Wall Street Journal.
They said the CIA’s new powers could likely be used outside of Syria as well. The CIA, the White House, and the US Department of Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There are a lot of problems with the drone program and the targeted killing program, but the CIA should be out of the business of ordering lethal strikes,” said the deputy director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Anders.
He said that while the CIA may have a role in determining the location of a strike, "that decision on whether to strike or not to strike and that order should be coming from through the military chain of command".
The United States was the first to use unmanned aircraft fitted with missiles to kill militant suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Strikes by missile-armed Predator and Reaper drones against targets overseas began under former President George W Bush and proliferated under Obama.
During the Obama administration 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, compared to 57 strikes under George W Bush, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.