The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is preparing to launch a secret program to kill al Qaeda militants in Yemen, where months of antigovernment protests, an armed revolt and the attempted assassination of the president have left a power vacuum, U.S. officials say. The covert program that would give the U.S. greater latitude than the current military campaign is the latest step to combat the growing threat from al Qaeda's outpost in Yemen, which has been the source of several attempted attacks on the U.S. and is home to an American-born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who the U.S. sees as a significant militant threat. The CIA program will be a major expansion of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen. Since December 2009, U.S. strikes in Yemen have been carried out by the U.S. military with intelligence support from CIA. Now, the spy agency will carry out aggressive drone strikes itself alongside the military campaign, which has been stepped up in recent weeks after a nearly yearlong hiatus.