For instance, according to the white paper, “imminent threat” does not mean a specific attack that “will take place in the immediate future.” Al Qaeda, by definition, is always planning attacks against the US. Therefore, US targeting officials can assume a long time frame when judging whether a terror suspect constitutes a near and present danger.

US officials had said that Thursday’s speech would say the Pentagon is assuming responsibility for most drone strikes from the Central Intelligence Agency, but it actually said nothing about that, Kaplan notes. Nor did it say anything about “signature strikes,” which are aimed at groups of people who are behaving in the manner of terrorists, not at particular individuals.

“In short, the speech heralded nothing new when it comes to drone strikes,” Kaplan writes.

The administration does appear to be trying to avoid civilian casualties. Nongovernmental estimates for the number of civilian deaths in drone strikes this year range from zero to 11, Kaplan notes.