Numerous unnamed U.S. officials are alluded to in press coverage, but all official U.S. sources (the CIA, the Pentagon) decline comment. Reports are full of red herrings - references to Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen (who were not the targets of these particular attacks, however); mention of past attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen (which the U.S. does not connect with the events of the weekend, however); Barack Obama's May, 2013, speech on national security (but what relevance could that have to the past weekend's anonymous strikes?); etc.
Nonetheless, the New York Times account can assert that the strikes hit "militants" linked to Al Qaeda -- or rather, "linked to Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen."
What is new is that one government -- the Yemeni one -- did state affirmatively that they killed people: "55 militants" -- "militants whowereplanningto attack civilian and military facilities."
The U.S. government's scarecrow act -- pointing the finger at the Yemeni government -- is completely unconvincing, and the Yemeni government's statements are completely unsatisfying.
Luckily, a drumbeat is growing in U.S. courts and in the U.S. Congress to force the U.S. Executive branch to come clean on its drone killings.
(See October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)
(See What if a Yemeni Sued the U.S. Government? (What if 56 of them did?) )
A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people - including Sangeen Zadran -- a "senior militant commander" who was "implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier."
(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have now submitted a bill calling for drone transparency -- the "Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act" (otherwise known as the "come clean on drone killing" bill). Many groups are calling for its passage, including Amnesty International, Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, National Security Network, Open Society Policy Center, Peace Action West, Reprieve, and Win Without War.
(See REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings )