However, the CIA will continue to work with the military on the program in Yemen, and control it in Pakistan, given the concern that al-Qaida may return in greater numbers as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. The military and the CIA currently work side by side in Yemen, with the CIA flying its drones over the northern region out of a covert base in Saudi Arabia and the military flying its unmanned aerial vehicles from Djibouti.
Obama's advisers said the new guidelines would effectively limit the number of drone strikes in terror zones and pointed to a future decline of attacks against extremists in Afghanistan as the war ebbs. But strikes elsewhere will continue. The guidelines will apply to strikes against both foreigners and U.S. citizens abroad.
Though Obama sought to give more transparency to the drone program, the strikes will largely remain highly secret for the public. Congress has been briefed on every strike that U.S. drones have made outside Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama said, but those briefings are largely classified and held privately.
The president said he was open to additional measures to further regulate the drone program, including creating a special court system to regulate strikes, similar to one that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terror cases. Congress is already considering whether to set up a court to decide when drones overseas can target U.S. citizens linked to al-Qaida.
While civil rights groups welcomed some of Obama's steps, they appeared largely unappeased.
"The president still claims broad authority to carry out target killings far from any battlefield, and there is still insufficient transparency," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We continue to disagree fundamentally with the idea that due process requirements can be satisfied without any form of judicial oversight by regular federal courts."