CIA Director David Petraeus asked for authority to conduct "signature strikes" against al-Qaida targets in Yemen, The Washington Post reports.
A senior administration official told the newspaper, on condition of anonymity, that "there is still a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States."
A CIA drone last year was suspected of launching a missile that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born spiritual leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
AQAP activity in Yemen has escalated since President Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi came to power following a one-man election in February.
In early April, a member of the ruling General People's Congress survived an assassination attempt north of Sanaa and AQAP was accused of bombing an oil pipeline in Shabwa province in southern Yemen.
Yemeni authorities had warned that AQAP was planning an assault on the nation's capital. The group was allegedly responding to increased CIA drone activity over southern Yemen.