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U.S. Believes It Has Pakistan's 'Tacit Consent' For Drone Strikes, 'WSJ' Reports

February: A protest in Multan, Pakistan, over the drone attacks.
S.S. Mirza
AFP/Getty Images
February: A protest in Multan, Pakistan, over the drone attacks.

The CIA tells Pakistan in advance about "broad areas" where it intends to take aim at suspected terrorists with drone strikes and interprets the other government's silence and clearing of airspace as "tacit consent," The Wall Street Journal reports this morning.

Saying its sources are "U.S. officials" and "two senior [Obama] administration officials," the Journal adds that:

"The rationale used by the administration, interpreting Pakistan's acquiescence as a green light, has set off alarms among some administration legal officials. In particular, lawyers at the State Department, including top legal adviser Harold Koh, believe this rationale veers near the edge of what can be considered permission, though they still think the program is legal, officials say."

Officially, says the Journal, "representatives of the White House's National Security Council and CIA declined to discuss Pakistani consent, saying such information is classified."

Also officially, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the U.S. to end the drone strikes, as Pakistan's Dawn newspaper writes. Pakistan's people "hate the drone attacks," as NPR's Mike Shuster has reported.

The strikes are aimed at fighters from al-Qaida, the Taliban and other groups that use parts of Pakistan as a safe haven from which to launch attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, at the Stanford and New York University law schools alleges that the drone strikes in recent years have killed and injured many more Pakistani civilians — possibly close to 900 — than the U.S. has acknowledged.

The New York Times' AtWar blog says the report also concludes that the strikes have "alienated Pakistani public opinion and set a dangerous precedent under international law."

Back in June, as Eyder wrote, a U.N. investigator said the drone strikes may violate international law.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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