Power Players

The Secret Wars: The CIA’s covert mission to combat terrorism

Power Players

On the Radar

It’s common knowledge that the United States embarked on two wars following September 11: Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, can you name a third?

That’s the premise of Mark Mazzetti’s new book The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.

“There is war going on that really still is not acknowledged by the U.S., or the details certainly are not acknowledged by the US,” Mark Mazzetti tells on the Radar, referring to the CIA’s use of drones to kill individuals the U.S. government deems terrorists in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Mazzetti refers to the CIA’s drone program as the “wars away from the big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and the most concentrated theatre of that war is believed to be Pakistan, where just yesterday a suspected US drone strike killed four people in the northwest region of the country--an attack that the Pakistani government has condemned as an unauthorized unilateral action by the United States.

Despite Pakistan's condemnation of yesterday's attack, Mazzetti explains that the Pakistani government gave the U.S. permission to conduct secret strikes in 2004.

“The agreement was that the U.S. could start doing drone strikes in the tribal regions of Pakistan, but on the condition that either Pakistan takes credit for it or nobody talks about it,” Mazzetti says, going on to tell the story of former Pakistani president Perez Musharraf’s approving the use of drones.

“President Musharraf, at the time, said he didn't think it'd be a problem keeping up the ruse because his line was ‘things fall out of the sky all the time in Pakistan’,” Mazzetti recalls.

The drone war in Pakistan has become an open secret over the last several years, Mazzetti says there’s a lot the government has yet to be transparent about.

”There's been a lot of operations that have gone badly that have never been acknowledged,” says the author.

“A lot of this is still being done on the fly in terms of the procedures, the targeting rules, the lists of people, who get marked for death and whether the president has to sign off on them,” Mazzetti says.

To hear more about what Mazzetti uncovered about the CIA’s secret war, including how it has fundamentally altered the agency’s primary focus from spying to manhunting, check out this episode of On the Radar.

ABC News' Eric Wray, Betsy Klein, Freda Kahen Kashi, Dick Norling, and Shari Thomas contributed to this episode.

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