US secretly strikes Qaeda: report
Pentagon gave broad authority for attacks
Since 2004, the Pentagon has used broad, secret authority to carry out about 12 attacks against al-Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, the New York Times reported on its website Sunday.
Quoting what it said were more than six unnamed military and intelligence officials and senior Bush administration policy makers, the newspaper said the military operations were authorized by a classified order signed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the approval of President George W. Bush.
The order gave the military permission to attack al-Qaeda and other hostile targets anywhere in the world, even in countries not at war with the United States, without any additional approval, the report said.
Despite the order, each mission required high-level government approval, the Times reported.
The order identified 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior administration official told the newspaper.
A former top CIA official told the newspaper that one of the operations included the raid of a suspected militant compound in the Bajuar region of Pakistan.
What's more, military planners were able to watch the entire attack "live" at CIA headquarters in Virginia through a video camera installed on a Predator aircraft that was sent to the area, the paper said.
There is no information about the remaining secret military strikes, but officials made clear the list of targets did not include Iran, the Times pointed out.
The paper said, however, that U.S. forces had carried out reconnaissance missions in Iran using other classified directives.
Senior military officials told the paper that as many as a dozen additional missions were scrapped because senior administration officials decided they were too dangerous, diplomatically problematic or relied on insufficient evidence.
Before the 2004 order, the Pentagon needed to get approval for missions on a case-by-case basis, which could take days, the paper noted.
But Rumsfeld was not satisfied with the status-quo and pressed hard for permission to use military power automatically outside the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Times.