Terrorism by Drones – Predator Targeted Assassinations (with lots of Collateral Damage)

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Experts: Drones basis for new global arms race

Jim Michaels USA TODAY12:53a.m. EST January 9, 2013

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The success of U.S. drones has triggered a global arms race, military experts say.

The success of U.S. drones in Iraq and Afghanistan has triggered a global arms race, raising concerns the remotely piloted aircraft could fall into unfriendly hands, military experts say.

The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Iran and China are among the countries that have fielded their own systems.

“People have seen the successes we’ve had,” said Lt. Gen. Larry James, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The U.S. military has used drones extensively in Afghanistan, primarily to watch over enemy targets. Armed drones have been used to target terrorist leaders with missiles that are fired from miles away.

The United States is years ahead of the world in the technology of drones. Israel is also a leader in developing the unmanned aircraft.

American drones are equipped with sophisticated sensors and linked to a global network that allows their video feeds to be monitored from anywhere. Armed drones fire the latest in precision guided missiles.

Building an unmanned aircraft is only part of what is needed for a successful drone program.

“Just because you can build a remotely piloted aircraft doesn’t mean you can put all this together and do something with it,” James said.

Analysts warn that even a less-sophisticated drone can be dangerous. Such drones can be equipped with chemical or biological weapons or be used to provide intelligence about the location of American forces.

The GAO reports it is likely that foreign countries have used drones to spy on U.S. military activities overseas. The report did not provide specifics. “Even the less sophisticated technologies can provide useful tactical battlefield intelligence,” said Thomas Melito, a GAO official.

Israeli aircraft recently shot down an Iranian-made drone launched by Hezbollah that had penetrated Israeli airspace. Hezbollah is a U.S.-designated terror group supported by Iran that has fought wars with Israel and carried out attacks on U.S. personnel.

Pakistan is attempting to acquire an armed-drone system, apparently with help from China, according to IHS Jane’s, a security research firm.

Countries may be able to narrow the technology gap over the course of years. “We are dramatically ahead today, but people will look and learn,” James said. “Over time, they will build capacity.”

The U.S. State Department and Defense Department control exports of U.S. drone technology and equipment, and the United States has rejected requests from a growing number of countries seeking drone technology. Israel has sold drone equipment to India, Russia and Georgia, according to the GAO.

Some analysts contend that nations seek the drones as much for the clout they bring as any military utility they provide, since few countries have the sophisticated sensors or precision weapons that the United States employs.

“It’s a prestige thing,” said Micah Zenko, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t provide you with much additional combat capability.”

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US Drone Use Setting Off New Global Arms Race

The proliferation of drone technology is, justifiably but hypocritically, generating concern in Washington

by John Glaser, January 09, 2013

With the US’s dramatic expansion of drone use for both surveillance and targeted bombings, a veritable arms race in unmanned aerial vehicles has begun, prompting concern from some in Washington worried about international rivals using drones like the US does.

“The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress,” USA Today reports.

Both China and Japan are working on sophisticated drone technology as their territorial disputes get more intense. Pakistan is also attempting to acquire armed drone systems, apparently with help from China. And Iran is known to have fielded their own drones.

Even the United Nations has expressed interest in acquiring their own drones, reportedly for use in peacekeeping missions.

The proliferation of drone technology is justifiably generating some concern in Washington. The prospect of other countries using drones in the same lawless, lethal, unaccountable way the US has is unnerving to Americans, who have long believed they should not be subject to the rules everybody else must follow.

“When we possess such weaponry, it turns out there is nothing unnerving or disturbing, apocalyptic or dystopian about it,” Tom Engelhardt observes in Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

But “when the first Iranian or Russian or Chinese missile-armed drones start knocking off their chosen sets of ‘terrorists,’ we won’t like it one bit,” Engelhardt warns. “Then let’s see what we think about the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies—and anyone else in the vicinity—by drone.”

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Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones

The military says the nearly 7,500 robotic aircraft it has accrued for use overseas need to come home at some point. But the FAA doesn’t allow drones in U.S. airspace without a special certificate.

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RQ-4 Global HawkDrones such as the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman have been successful in providing aerial coverage of recent catastrophic events like the tsunami in Japan and earthquake in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force / January 25, 2012)
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles TimesFebruary 13, 2012, 9:57 p.m.
With a growing fleet of combat drones in its arsenal, the Pentagon is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace to its robotic aircraft.As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the military says the drones that it has spent the last decade accruing need to return to the United States. When the nation first went to war after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the military had around 50 drones. Now it owns nearly 7,500.These flying robots need to be shipped home at some point, and the military then hopes to station them at various military bases and use them for many purposes. But the FAA doesn’t allow drones in national airspace without a special certificate.These aircraft would be used to help train and retrain the pilots who fly the drones remotely, but they also are likely to find new roles at home in emergencies, helping firefighters see hot spots during wildfires or possibly even dropping water to combat the blaze.

At a recent conference about robotic technology in Washington, D.C., a number of military members spoke about the importance of integrating drones along with manned aircraft.

“The stuff from Afghanistan is going to come back,” Steve Pennington, the Air Force’s director of ranges, bases and airspace, said at the conference. The Department of Defense “doesn’t want a segregated environment. We want a fully integrated environment.”

That means the Pentagon wants the same rules for drones as any other military aircraft in the U.S. today.

Robotic technology was the focus of the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review conference in Washington last week. For three days, a crowd made up of more than 500 military contractors, military personnel and industry insiders packed the Omni Shoreham Hotel to listen to the foremost experts on robots in the air, on the ground and in the sea.

Once the stuff of science-fiction novels, robotic technology now plays a major role day-to-day life. Automated machines help farmers gather crops. Robotic submarines scour the ocean floor for signs of oil beds. Flying drones have become crucial in hunting suspected terrorists in the Middle East.

Drones such as the jet-powered, high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk made by Northrop Grumman Corp.have also been successful in providing aerial coverage of recent catastrophic events like the tsunamiin Japan and earthquake in Haiti.

The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren’t allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don’t have an adequate “detect, sense and avoid” technology to prevent midair collisions.

The FAA does allow exceptions. Unarmed Predator drones are used to patrol the nation’s borders through special certifications. The FAA said it issued 313 such certificates last year.

The vast majority of the military’s drones are small — similar to hobby aircraft. The FAA is working on proposed rules for integrating these drones, which are being eyed by law enforcement and private business to provide aerial surveillance. The FAA expects to release the proposal on small drones this spring.

But the Pentagon is concerned about flying hundreds of larger drones, including Global Hawks as well as MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers, both made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway.

And last week Congress approved legislation that requires the FAA to have a plan to integrate drones of all kinds into national airspace on a wide scale by 2015.

The Army will conduct a demonstration this summer at its Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, testing ground-based radars and other sense-and-avoid technology, Mary Ottman, deputy product director with the Army, said at the conference.

These first steps are crucial, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who co-chairs a bipartisan drone caucus with Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.

McKeon also said he was in favor of moving along the process of integrating drones into civil airspace. This came before he was abruptly interrupted by an anti-drone female protester during a speech.

“These drones are playing God,” she said, carrying a banner that read “Stop Killer Drones.” She was part of a group that wants the end of drone strikes.

Within seconds, hotel security personnel surrounded the woman. She was carried out chanting, “Stop killer drones.”

McKeon, who stood silent throughout the brief protest, went on with his speech.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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Joining the drones club

Aug 15th 2011, 11:20 by The Economist online

THE future of air power is likely to be unmanned. It may also be surprisingly small. Reapers and Predators grab the headlines, but these big, high-profile drones are already outnumbered by small and cheap but capable craft.

One good example is the RQ-11B Raven, made by AeroVironment of Monrovia, California, and widely used by America’s armed forces. It looks like a model aircraft. When disassembled it fits into a backpack. Launching it is just a matter of snapping the parts together and throwing it into the air, whence it is carried aloft by an electric propeller. It weighs just two kilograms. That means the American army’s entire annual purchase of almost 1,300 Ravens is lighter than a single fully armed Reaper. Pilots might dismiss Ravens as radio-controlled toys, but they are popular with soldiers and more are being rushed to Afghanistan.

At its simplest, a Raven acts as a flying pair of binoculars that can look over the next hill, or escort a convoy from above. Being small and quiet, it can get close to targets unobserved, for a good look. Unlike the bigger drones, whose limited numbers mean that officers in the field are in constant competition for their services, Ravens are abundant and thus generally available to provide instant video imagery, day or night. The global-positioning system tells it exactly where it is, and special display software means the images it sends back can be overlaid on a map to produce a moving picture of what is going on on the ground. A Raven’s operator can thus call down artillery fire with lethal precision without having to see the target directly. For extra accuracy, Raven can also mark targets with a laser illuminator.

Another reason for Raven’s popularity is that it is easy to use. The controlling hardware is a tablet computer with buttons on the side, something like a portable games machine, and most people can get the hang of it in a couple of days. Predators, by contrast, were originally flown by real, albeit ground-based, pilots—and, though high demand for operators has led to a new rapid-training course for groundlings, this course still takes 22 weeks to complete.

Ravens are now being upgraded to use a communications system that provides enough bandwidth for 40 of them to fly in the same area, instead of the current four. This digital upgrade also turns the drones into networked devices that can communicate with other robots and systems.

AeroVironment is collaborating with DARPA, America’s main weapons-research agency, to use this ability to network in a project called HART (Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team), which has a pool of drones including Ravens that fly autonomously over the battlefield. When a soldier wants to see a particular area or follow a specific vehicle, he just clicks on it on a map. The system selects a drone from those available in the area, flies it into position and sends back pictures with no need for human control.

Future Ravens may be able to strike as well as scout. The American army has experimented with turning the drones into miniature bombers, capable of delivering grenade-sized weapons. Such bombs would be enough to destroy a small vehicle or take out the occupants of a particular room with high precision and little collateral damage.

For greater punch, AeroVironment has a prototype version of a lethal drone called Switchblade. This resembles Raven, but is a flying bomb, packed with explosives. Its guidance software enables it to lock on to and follow a rapidly moving target, even if that target is trying to evade its attention. A mixture of Ravens and Switchblades could thus make an effective hunter-killer team.

As electronics get ever smaller, small drones get more capable. At the moment, Ravens cost around $56,000 each, and economies of scale should bring this down. By contrast, machines like the Predator cost at least $5m, and another $5,000 an hour to fly. That is how the Pentagon can afford to buy so many Ravens, compared with just a few dozen Predators and Reapers each year. From the army’s point of view, small is definitely beautiful.

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YuraGSeptember 6th 2011, 08:38

It’s good that the Economist doesn’t overlook the subject, hopefully the Taliban or traffickers don’t read it. Otherwise, ISAF, the customs and border guards must also look deep in the sky, for the drug dollars can fly quite far.

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A Brief History of Drones

John Sifton

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A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Portions of this article are adapted from The Violence All Around, forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

It was ten years ago this month, on February 4, 2002, that the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing. The strike was in Paktia province in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost. The intended target was Osama bin Laden, or at least someone in the CIA had thought so. Donald Rumsfeld later explained, using the passive voice of government: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.” The incident occurred during a brief period when the military, which assisted the CIA’s drone program by providing active service personnel as operators, still acknowledged the program’s existence. Within days of the strike, journalists on the ground were collecting accounts from local Afghans that the dead men were civilians gathering scrap metal. The Pentagon media pool began asking questions, and so the long decade of the drone began.

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John Sifton: Why Do Drones Disturb Us?

About the Author

John Sifton
John Sifton is the advocacy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.

Also by the Author

Low-ranking soldiers are taking the blame in the torture scandal while higher-ups get a pass.

Low-ranking soldiers are taking the blame in the torture scandal while higher-ups get a pass.

The CIA had been flying unarmed drones over Afghanistan since 2000. It began to fly armed drones after the September 11 attacks. Some were used during the air war against the Taliban in late 2001. But by February 2002 the CIA hadn’t yet used a drone for a strike outside military support. The February 2002 attack was a pure CIA kill operation, undertaken separately from any ongoing military operation. The drone operators were reported to have come across three people at a former mujahedeen base called Zhawar Kili—later, officials would never claim they were armed—including a “tall man” to whom the other men were “acting with reverence.” (On one previous occasion, a year before the September 11 attacks, CIA observers thought they’d seen bin Laden: a tall man with long robes near Tarnak Farm, bin Laden’s erstwhile home near Kandahar. This sighting by an unarmed drone was what had led to the first arguments among the White House and CIA about arming drones with missiles, a debate that simmered until it was snuffed out by the September 11 attacks.)

After the February 2002 strike, military officials quickly acknowledged that the “tall man” was not bin Laden. But they insisted the targets were “legitimate,” although they struggled to explain why, using vague and even coy language to cover up what appeared to be uncertainty. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark said, “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target.” But she added, “We do not know yet exactly who it was.” Gen. Tommy Franks told ABC News that he expected the identities of the three to prove “interesting.”

Pentagon spokesman John Stufflebeem spoke of the government’s being in the “comfort zone” of determining that the targets were “not innocent,” noting there were “no initial indications that these were innocent locals,” a curious phrase reflecting a presumption of guilt. “Indicators were there that there was something untoward that we needed to make go away…. Initial indications would seem to say that these are not peasant people up there farming.” Rumsfeld later chimed in, offering his signature pseudo-philosophical analysis to address the allegations that the dead were civilians. “We’ll just have to find out. There’s not much more anyone could add, except that there’s that one version, and there’s the other version.”

The government’s evasion was helped by the fact that Zhawar Kili, the site of the strike, was an infamous mujahedeen complex built with CIA and Saudi support by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the mujahedeen scion allied with the Taliban, then and now. In the 1980s CIA officers and journalists used to visit the base. It was the site of two major battles against Soviet forces in the mid-’80s. President Bill Clinton ordered a strike on the area with Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1998 after the two Africa embassy bombings, and the US military pummeled it with airstrikes beginning in late 2001. For a time the military thought that bin Laden and his Al Qaeda forces might have fled to Zhawar Kili after the battle of Tora Bora (a puzzling hypothesis because the area had already been hit by withering fire and was more exposed than Tora Bora). In January 2002 the military sent several search and demolition units there to gather leftover material with potential intelligence value and to blow up the caves.

By February 2002 the place had been deserted by militants for months. Several journalists headed to Zhawar Kili after the strike and spoke with local leaders and the families of the dead, who confirmed the identities of the men killed: Daraz Khan, the tall man, about 31, from the village of Lalazha, and two others, Jehangir Khan, about 28, and Mir Ahmed, about 30, from the village of Patalan. The New York Times’s John Burns was among those who spoke with the families, saw the men’s graves and confirmed their extreme poverty. The men had climbed to the mountainous area to forage for leftover metal from the US airstrikes, bits of shrapnel and bomb tail fins—scavengers could fetch about 50 cents per camel load. Although Daraz Khan was admittedly tall by Afghan standards—5 feet 11 inches—he was six inches shorter than bin Laden.

Reading about the strike later, I felt a slight connection with Daraz Khan. I am also 5 feet 11, and at around the same period I spent time foraging for bomb fragments in remote locations in Afghanistan. As a researcher for Human Rights Watch, working on an assessment of the US air war in the winter and spring of 2002, I had visited locations like Zhawar Kili. With colleagues I had climbed into craters, poked at the twisted tail fins of bombs, and interviewed witnesses and families of the dead. And I was the tallest among my colleagues. Perhaps I could have been mistaken for bin Laden too.

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Air warfare has been with us for a hundred years, since the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, and the development of drones was in the works from the start. The reason is simple: even with all the advantages offered by air power, humans still needed to strap themselves into the devices and fly them. There were limits to the risks that could be taken. Whatever an airplane was used for, it ultimately had to return to base with its pilot. Not surprisingly, from the start of the development of airplanes for use in war, engineers labored to circumvent this limitation.

During World War I, the Navy hired Elmer Ambrose Sperry, the inventor of the gyroscope, to develop a fleet of “air torpedoes,” unmanned Curtis biplanes designed to be launched by catapult and fly over enemy positions. A secret program was run out of a small outfield in central Long Island, New York. A New York Times report from 1926, when the secret was revealed, said that the planes were “automatically guided with a high degree of precision” and after a predetermined distance were supposed to suddenly turn and fly vertically downward, carrying enough TNT to “blow a small town inside out.” The program ran out of steam because the war ended in 1918. In reality, according to a Navy history, the planes rarely worked: they typically crashed after takeoff or flew away over the ocean, never to be seen again.

In World War II a different approach was taken: the Navy launched a new program, called Operation Anvil, to target deep German bunkers using refitted B-24 bombers filled to double capacity with explosives and guided by remote control devices to crash at selected targets in Germany and Nazi-controlled France. Remote control technology was still limited—involving crude radio-controlled devices linked to motors—so actual pilots were used for takeoff: they were supposed to guide the plane to a cruising altitude and then parachute to safety in England, after which a “mothership” would guide the plane to its target. In practice, the program was a disaster. Many planes crashed, or worse. John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, was one of the program’s first pilots: he was killed in August 1944 when a drone-to-be that he was piloting exploded prematurely over Suffolk, England.

And here lies a small irony in history. The target of that particular mission of Kennedy’s was a Nazi site where scientists were working on technology in the same vein, the remote delivery of explosives: the world’s first military rocket program. Indeed, German engineers had switched to rocketry, given the difficulties in building full-scale pilotless airplanes. They worked extensively on rockets during the war, and after the war US and Russian governments carried on their work. (In the late 1940s and ’50s, hundreds of former German rocket engineers and other Nazi scientists were brought to the United States and granted citizenship in exchange for their help on rocket engineering efforts—some despite clear ties to Holocaust-related atrocities. Stanley Kubrick’s character Dr. Strangelove was a caricature of an expatriate Nazi scientist.)

The development of drones stagnated for decades because there was little need for them, thanks to developments in rocketry. By the late 1950s, the US military had developed, in addition to many rockets, a slew of slower but more guidable “cruise missiles”—which, in their own way, were like little airplanes. Cruise missiles maintain airplanelike “lift” on stubby little wings, unlike ballistic missiles, which move through a long curve of flight comprising a launch and rise followed by a guided fall.

Cruise missiles were, in a sense, proto-drones, miniature versions of what the military had attempted as far back as 1917. They could be dispatched and guided in flight; some had cameras; and, in some incarnations, could even change target midflight. But cruise missiles could not linger over a battlefield in the manner of a holding pattern, nor could they return to base. And their weapons delivery was blunt and inflexible; the delivery was the missile itself, its single warhead. So in the 1960s and ’70s, Air Force engineers continued to tinker with unmanned aircraft—in particular for use in surveillance flights, which don’t engage in complex flight maneuvers and require less sophisticated piloting. Only with major improvements in computing and electronic controlling systems in the 1980s and ’90s were modern-day drones made possible. And it wasn’t until the late ’90s that the Air Force began working on the technical aspects of arming unmanned aircraft with missiles.

The CIA, which had been using the drones for surveillance, became involved with the military effort to arm them after September 11. Although the agency had been authorized to support military operations even before the attacks, the legal parameters governing its involvement in military or paramilitary operations were murky, then as now. There were questions about who was allowed to “pull the trigger” and in what settings. Outright assassinations were illegal under a presidential executive order in the wake of CIA scandals from the Nixon period, and the laws of armed conflict contained complicated provisions on the circumstances in which civilian personnel—CIA officers not in uniform—could use lethal force.

So government attorneys worried back in 2001. Ten years later, the CIA works side by side with the military, launching kinetic strikes from Pakistan to Somalia. Few concerns are raised anymore, except by a handful of academics and activists who worry that the CIA is less accountable than the military for its targetting (and, as we saw in Zhawar Kili, for its mistakes). Still, many people seem to be leery of drones in the abstract—whether they are used in armed conflict or in targeted killings.

* * *

What, in the final analysis, is troubling about the CIA’s use of drones? Drones are only one weapon system among many, and the CIA’s role, while disturbing, is not the primary cause for alarm. Certainly the legal identity of drone operators, CIA or military, matters little to the victims of a Hellfire strike. So what is it about the drone, really, that draws the attention of victims, insurgent propagandists, lawyers and journalists, more than other forms of kinetic violent force? Why do drones interest us, fascinate us or disturb us?

Perhaps one clue comes from the linguistics. The weapons’ names suggest ruthless and inhumane characteristics. The first drone aircraft deployed by the CIA and Air Force after 2001 was the Predator, a rather coarse name even for a weapons system, suggestive that the enemy was not human but merely prey, that military operations were not combat subject to the laws of war but a hunt. (Some of the computer software used by the military and the CIA to calculate expected civilian casualties during airstrikes is known in government circles as Bug Splat.) The Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper, a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones’ payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness.

But the real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones—and the names reinforce this—is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence. Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target—a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills Anwar al-Awlaki, or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence—the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination—while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.

This characteristic, the distance between targets and CIA executive officers at Langley, is the defining characteristic of drones. They are the zenith of the technological quest that runs back to the invention of slings and arrows thousands of years ago, efforts of the earliest perpetrators of violence to get away from their victims. That process, which brought catapults and later artillery, reached its first peak with the development of intercontinental nuclear missiles; but those are weapons of limited tactical use and have never been used. Drones allow all the alienation of long-range missions but with much more flexibility and capacity for everyday use. The net result is everyday violence with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs. This is disturbing perhaps because alienation is disturbing.

The work of animal behaviorists like Konrad Lorenz sheds some light on why. Lorenz—a onetime member of the Nazi party who later renounced his politics and won the Nobel Prize in the 1970s—spent much of his life studying violence in animals. His book On Aggression posited a theory whereby many animals, male and female, have a natural “drive” to be aggressive against opponents, including members of their own species.

The aggression drive, Lorenz posited, was often limited within species by a “submission” phenomenon, whereby potential victims turn off the aggressive drive in others by displaying signs of submission. In this way, most animal violence is checked before it occurs. Lorenz suggested that in humans, the submission safety valve was blunted by the technological creation of weapons, which emotionally “distanced” the killer from his victim. When a spear or sling is used to kill, victims lose the opportunity to engage in submission and trigger the aggression “off switch.” The drone represents an extreme extension of that process. Drones crossed into a new frontier in military affairs: an area of entirely risk-free, remote and even potentially automated killing detached from human behavioral cues.

Military research seems to back this up. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychologist and former professor at West Point, has written extensively on the natural human aversion to killing. His 1995 book On Killing contains a collection of accounts from his research and from military history demonstrating soldiers’ revulsion with killing—in particular, killing at close range. He tells the story of a Green Beret in Vietnam describing the killing of a young Vietnamese soldier: “I just opened up, fired the whole twenty rounds right at the kid, and he just laid there. I dropped my weapon and cried.” The most telling accounts are with the “close” kills of hand-to-hand combat. Grossman tells of a Special Forces sergeant from the Vietnam War describing a close kill: “‘When you get up close and personal,’ he drawled with a cud of chewing tobacco in his cheek, ‘where you can hear ‘em scream and see ‘em die,’ and here he spit tobacco for emphasis, ‘it’s a bitch.’”

Obviously the primary advantage of the drone is that it insulates its operators from risk. Yet one can’t help wondering whether aversion to the unpleasantness of violence is another factor making drones popular with the military and CIA. Drones make the nasty business of killing a little easier. Or do they?

There are reports of military drone operators suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and studies showing that those who conduct strikes or watch videos of strikes suffer from “operational stress,” which officials believe is the result of operators’ long hours and extended viewing of video feeds showing the results of military operations after they have occurred—i.e., dead bodies. Still, these reports pale in comparison with those of PTSD among combat veterans. And there is no public information about stress among those ordering the strikes—the CIA strike operators or the decision-makers at Langley.

A little-noticed 2011 British Defense Ministry study of unmanned drones discusses some of these points: from concerns about drone operators’ potential alienation from violence to the propaganda opportunities for enemies (noting that drones’ use “enables the insurgent to cast himself in the role of underdog and the West as a cowardly bully—that is unwilling to risk his own troops, but is happy to kill remotely”). The paper also discusses concerns raised by military analyst Peter Singer, who has written on “robot warfare” and the risk that drones might acquire the capacity to engage enemies autonomously. The report envisions a scenario where a drone fires on a target “based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.”

The authors note that in warfare, the risks of the battlefield and the horror that comes from carrying out violence can act as controls on brutality. Citing the oft-quoted adage of Gen. Robert E. Lee, reportedly uttered after the battle of Fredericksburg, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it,” the authors then ask:

If we remove the risk of loss from the decision-makers’ calculations when considering crisis management options, do we make the use of armed force more attractive? Will decision-makers resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously?

The issue is not that armed drones are more terrible or deadly than other weapons systems. On the contrary, the violence of drones today is more selective than many forms of military violence, and human rights groups recognize that drones, in comparison with less precise weapons, have the potential to minimize civilian casualties during legitimate military strikes.

Nor is the issue the remote delivery of weapons: alienation from the effects of violence reached a high-water mark in World War I. What makes drones disturbing is an unusual combination of characteristics: the distance between killer and killed, the asymmetry, the prospect of automation and, most of all, the minimization of pilot risk and political risk. It is the merging of these characteristics that draws the attention of journalists, military analysts, human rights researchers and Al Qaeda propagandists, suggesting something disturbing about what human violence may become. The unique technology allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion. Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.

In this sense, drones foretell a future that is very dark indeed.

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Drone Tax

[Image: An otherwise unrelated image of the unmanned Draganflyer X8 system, courtesy of Draganfly].A post on sUAS News—a blog tracking the “small unmanned aviation system industry”—we read about the possibility of drone aircraft being used to enforce residential property tax.Citing a recent court ruling in Arkansas that “has approved the use of aerial imagery to collect data on property sizes,” and making reference to the already-controversial state deployment of aerial surveillance tools, sUAS suggests that drones could someday be used to manage a near-realtime catalog of local property expansions, transfers, and other tax-relevant land alterations.Whether enforcing local building codes—keeping an eye, for instance, on illegally built structures such as the so-called Achill Henge in Ireland—or reconciling on-the-ground property lines with their administrative representations back in the city land archives, how soon will drones become a state tool for regional landscape management?[Images: Might semi-autonomous systems such as this someday track residential property lines? Images courtesy of Draganfly].“Imagine your local planning officer having access to your back garden at a moment’s notice!” sUAS writes with alarm. “With the pullback from Iraq and other spots under way, this scenario is much easier to imagine. Perhaps it’s already happening.”(Thanks to Ruth Lyons for the Achill Henge link).

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See also

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Hearing: Rise of the Drones II: Examining the Legality of Unmanned Targeting
April 28, 2010
Lawful Use of Combat Drones
Mary Ellen O’Connell∗

See HERE

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Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones: A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004-2009


Mary Ellen O’Connell


Notre Dame Law School

SHOOTING TO KILL: THE LAW GOVERNING LETHAL FORCE IN CONTEXT, Simon Bronitt, ed., Forthcoming
Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 09-43
Abstract: 
Within days of his inauguration as president, Barack Obama authorized the CIA to continue President Bush’s policy of attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) in Western Pakistan. In fact, President Obama authorized a significant increase in drone attacks. These attacks cannot be justified under international law for a number of reasons. First drones launch missiles or drop bombs, the kind of weapons that may only be used lawfully in armed conflict hostilities. Until the spring of 2009, there was no armed conflict on the territory of Pakistan because there was no intense armed fighting between organized armed groups. International law does not recognize the right to kill with battlefield weapons outside an actual armed conflict. The so-called “global war on terror” is not an armed conflict. In addition, members of the CIA are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing—even in an armed conflict—is a crime. Members of the United States armed forces could be lawful combatants in Pakistan if Pakistan expressly requested United States assistance in an armed conflict against insurgent forces. No express request of this nature has been made. Even if it were made, drone attacks may well be unlawful under the international law governing the conduct of conflict. The CIA’s intention in using drones is to target and kill individual leaders of al-Qaeda or Taliban militant groups. Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio was about 20 leaders killed for 750-1000 unintended victims, raising serious questions about compliance with the principle of proportionality. Even if the loss of civilian lives is not disproportionate, counter-terrorism studies show that military force is rarely effective against terrorism, making the use of drones difficult to justify under the principle of necessity.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 27

Keywords: drones, CIA, targeted killing, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Pakistan, war on terror, terrorism, armed conflict, combatant, civilian, necessity, proportionality, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, IHL, human rights law, HRL

Accepted Paper Series

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See nano quadcopter robots swarm (video)

CNET.comBy Martin LaMonica | CNET.com – 14 hrs ago

In the future, a swarm of flying robots may do the work now done by human search teams.A robotics research team at the University of Pennsylvania has designed a system to coordinate a number of small quadcopters, a step toward coordinating multiple robots for tasks such as surveillance or searching areas after a disaster.

The General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) lab at UPenn yesterday posted a video on You Tube with nano quadcopters showing remarkable agility and the ability to perform as a team.

The quadcopters are able to flip over and maintain flight. More amazing (unnerving?) is their operation in formation. Based on commands, 16 quadcopters change direction, land, navigate past obstacles, and even fly in a figure-eight formation.

Coordinating the action of multiple robots is one of the big technical challenges in robotics research now. Small robots, such as these nano quadcopters, could be well-suited for certain missions, but people need methods for programming small, inexpensive robots in large groups rather than manually configuring each one.

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New drone has no pilot anywhere, so who’s accountable?

The Navy is testing an autonomous plane that will land on an aircraft carrier. The prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.

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 The X-47B drone, above, marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently. (Chad Slattery, Northrop Grumman / January 25, 2012)
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles TimesJanuary 26, 2012
The Navy’s new drone being tested near Chesapeake Bay stretches the boundaries of technology: It’s designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, one of aviation’s most difficult maneuvers.What’s even more remarkable is that it will do that not only without a pilot in the cockpit, but without a pilot at all.The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently.GRAPHIC: How the X-47B landsAlthough humans would program an autonomous drone’s flight plan and could override its decisions, the prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.”Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability,” said Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and robotics expert. “This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?”Sharkey and others believe that autonomous armed robots should force the kind of dialogue that followed the introduction of mustard gas in World War I and the development of atomic weapons in World War II. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the group tasked by the Geneva Conventions to protect victims in armed conflict, is already examining the issue.”The deployment of such systems would reflect … a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities,” committee President Jakob Kellenberger said at a recent conference. “The capacity to discriminate, as required by [international humanitarian law], will depend entirely on the quality and variety of sensors and programming employed within the system.”Weapons specialists in the military and Congress acknowledge that policymakers must deal with these ethical questions long before these lethal autonomous drones go into active service, which may be a decade or more away.Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said policy probably will first be discussed with the bipartisan drone caucus that he co-chairs with Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.”It’s a different world from just a few years ago — we’ve entered the realm of science fiction in a lot of ways,” Cuellar said. “New rules have to be developed as new technology comes about, and this is a big step forward.”Aerial drones now piloted remotely have become a central weapon for the CIA and U.S. military in their campaign against terrorists in the Middle East. The Pentagon has gone from an inventory of a handful of drones before Sept. 11, 2001, to about 7,500 drones, about one-third of all military aircraft.

Despite looming military spending cuts, expenditures on drones are expected to take less of a hit, if any, because they are cheaper to build and operate than piloted aircraft.

All military services are moving toward greater automation with their robotic systems. Robotic armed submarines could one day stalk enemy waters, and automated tanks could engage soldiers on the battlefield.

“More aggressive robotry development could lead to deploying far fewer U.S. military personnel to other countries, achieving greater national security at a much lower cost and most importantly, greatly reduced casualties,” aerospace pioneer Simon Ramo, who helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, wrote in his new book, “Let Robots Do the Dying.”

The Air Force wrote in an 82-page report that outlines the future usage of drones, titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047,” that autonomous drone aircraft are key “to increasing effects while potentially reducing cost, forward footprint and risk.” Much like a chess master can outperform proficient chess players, future drones will be able to react faster than human pilots ever could, the report said.

And with that potential comes new concerns about how much control of the battlefield the U.S. is willing to turn over to computers.

There is no plan by the U.S. military — at least in the near term — to turn over the killing of enemy combatants to the X-47B or any other autonomous flying machine. But the Air Force said in the “Flight Plan” that it’s only a matter of time before drones have the capability to make life-or-death decisions as they circle the battlefield. Even so, the report notes that officials will still monitor how these drones are being used.

“Increasingly humans will no longer be ‘in the loop’ but rather ‘on the loop’ — monitoring the execution of certain decisions,” the report said. “Authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions.”

Peter W. Singer, author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said automated military targeting systems are under development. But before autonomous aerial drones are sent on seek-and-destroy missions, he said, the military must first prove that it can pull off simpler tasks, such as refueling and reconnaissance missions.

That’s where the X-47B comes in.

“Like it or not, autonomy is the future,” Singer said. “The X-47 is one of many programs that aim to perfect the technology.”

The X-47B is an experimental jet — that’s what the X stands for — and is designed to demonstrate new technology, such as automated takeoffs, landings and refueling. The drone also has a fully capable weapons bay with a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, but the Navy said it has no plans to arm it.

The Navy is now testing two of the aircraft, which were built behind razor-wire fences at Northrop Grumman Corp.‘s expansive complex in Palmdale, where the company manufactured the B-2 stealth bomber.

Funded under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program has grown in cost to an estimated $813 million.

Last February, the first X-47B had its maiden flight from Edwards Air Force Base, where it continued testing until last month when it was carried from the Mojave Desert to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. It is there that the next stage of the demonstration program begins.

The drone is slated to first land on a carrier by 2013, relying on pinpoint GPS coordinates and advanced avionics. The carrier’s computers digitally transmit the carrier’s speed, cross-winds and other data to the drone as it approaches from miles away.

The X-47B will not only land itself, but will also know what kind of weapons it is carrying, when and where it needs to refuel with an aerial tanker, and whether there’s a nearby threat, said Carl Johnson, Northrop’s X-47B program manager. “It will do its own math and decide what it should do next.”

william.hennigan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM EST

The Drone War Goes Global

U.S. airborne drones now striking in half-a-dozen countries. The world and future of drone warfare.

A U.S. Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan. (AP)

In the Hollywood version, the Star Wars version of war, the guys using drones to fire down on rebels are rarely the good guys.

Drones are too cold, faceless, lethal to win the crowd. But around the world, drones –- for reconnaissance and for lethal attack –- are increasingly the face of the U.S. military.

In half a dozen countries now, they can and do rain down sudden, devastating violence. They’re cheaper than “boots on the ground.” They’re easier and quieter to deploy. They’re the future, experts say.

And very busy right now. But where does drone war go?

This hour On Point: Drone war.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Peter Singer, senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. He is also the author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

John Arquilla, professor and director of the Information Operations Center, department of defense analysis, at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author of Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military.

Matt Martin, U.S. Air Force pilot, he ‘flew’ Predator combat and surveillance missions over Afghanistan and Iraq from 2004 to 2008. He now trains future UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] pilots for the Air Force. Author of “Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story.”

The New America Foundation keeps a running tall of reported drone strikes. You can see their work here.

Map of Af-Pak Drone strikes
View Map of Af-Pak Drone strikes in a larger map

From Tom’s Reading List:

More:

Here’s a report on drone technology from the Air Force.

Here’s a critical report on the nature of the drone campaign from Russian Television.

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  • If Americans don’t develop and use drones, the enemies of America will develop and use drones against us.  Do we really want a world controlled by Islamic fundamentalists who oppose freedom of religion.  Americans are the good guys because we support the rights of women, religion, speech, etc.  Anyone who wants Islamic law across the world should go ahead and denounce the drones.  To me, drone pilots are the best defense against a world where Islamic leaders run every country… a true nightmare scenario.

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The Legal Mess That Is Drone Warfare

PolicyMicAn MQM-107E Streaker in flight alongside an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Are U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan legal? This is a straightforward question that is far more likely to leave you with a headache than an answer. Nonetheless, the question stands, eliciting myriad legal arguments, for and against, that only experienced legal-scholars and practitioners may fully comprehend.

During a speech in 2010, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh defended U.S drone policy stressing that an armed conflict against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces is being waged. He cites the U.S.’s inherent right to self-defense following the 9/11 attacks as the legal underpinning for justifying hostilities.

He further argues that the principles of distinction and proportionality, implementing operations solely against enemy combatants and prohibiting attacks that produce excessive collateral damage in relation to their strategic objective i.e. civilian casualties, guide targeting procedures.

So which of Koh’s assertions fuel the legal debate? Pretty much all of them.

Koh’s logic assumes that operations in Pakistan are occurring within the context of an armed conflict, a highly contestable point.

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston differentiates between international and non-international armed conflict both of which theoretically allow drone warfare under particular circumstances. An international armed conflict is defined as hostilities between two states and is clearly governed by International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles. IHL also governs non-international armed conflict but adequately justifying the presence of one depends on a litmus test that includes the existence of an identifiable non-state “party,” threshold criteria for intensity and duration of hostilities, etc.

As Alston asserts, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to legally substantiate their actions under the framework governing a non-international armed conflict.

If it were decided that U.S. operations in Pakistan were implemented outside the context of an armed conflict, international or otherwise, the standards established under human rights law apply, drastically limiting the ability of the U.S to use lethal force and certainly prohibiting targeted killings.

The U.S. may utilize extraterritorial force in Pakistan by obtaining consent or by invoking their right to self-defense as a result of Pakistan’s inability to combat the sub-national groups operating in the tribal areas. The U.S. would need to demonstrate that their actions are in response to armed attacks in Afghanistan. These attacks must be of a certain intensity to validate a necessary use of force extraterritorially and U.S. retaliation would need to be proportionate. Simple enough on paper, yet its application, particularly since non-state actors are involved, is controversial.

CIA control of the drone program is another concern. Civilians are permitted to operate within a war, yet the distinction lies in the prosecutorial repercussions that may befall them. Since CIA civilian employees and those contracted by them are directly engaging in hostilities, they become legitimate targets for the other side. They, however, lack the immunity conferred, for the most part, upon members of the armed forces to domestic prosecution.

The real controversy surrounding C.I.A. involvement is the secrecy in which it conducts operations. Alston’s main point of contention regards the issues of transparency and accountability. Refusal by the C.I.A. to divulge information on the criteria utilized for determining legitimate targets and post-op evaluations, which speak to the principles of distinction and proportionality respectively, deems it near impossible to assess whether the program adheres to IHL laws governing conduct of hostilities.

This is especially significant due to the asymmetric nature of these non-state groups. They are distinct from one another and are not easily identifiable, further complicating intelligence gathering and verification procedures.

Koh explicitly acknowledges the principles of distinction and proportionality as major considerations, yet does not offer any insight into the specific guidelines employed or the process for prosecuting violators. This is certainly understandable from a strategic standpoint but frustrating from a legal one.

Strategically, as PolicyMic Contributing Writer Laura Hughes argues, drone technology may be the most effective weapon the U.S. has for tackling the obstacles posed by Pakistan and the sub-national groups operating in its tribal region.

Within this limited analysis, various questions emerge. Does international law adequately address the contemporary realities of the threat posed by non-state actors or should a new framework be formulated?  Why should the U.S. care about all this when they are clearly able to do as they please with impunity? For now, it seems, the debate persists.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Glenn GreenwaldTuesday, Dec 6, 2011 8:18 AM Eastern Standard Time

NPR’s domestic drone commercial

VIDEO

drone test

 (Credit: Viachaslau Kraskouski via Shutterstock/Salon)

(updated below)

Excitement over America’s use of drones in multiple Muslim countries is, predictably, causing those weapons to be imported onto U.S. soil. Federal law enforcement agencies and local police forces are buying more and more of them and putting them to increasingly diverse domestic uses, as well as patrolling the border, and even private corporations are now considering how to use them. One U.S. drone manufacturer advertises its product as ideal for “urban monitoring.” Orlando’s police department originally requested two drones to use for security at next year’s GOP convention, only to change their minds for budgetary reasons. One new type of drone already in use by the U.S. military in Afghanistan — the Gorgon Stare, named after the “mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them” — is “able to scan an area the size of a small town” and “the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence that [can] seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity”; boasted one U.S. General: “Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything.”

As of the 2010 year-end report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were already “more than 270 active authorizations for the use of dozens of kinds of drones” (35% held by the Pentagon, 5% by Homeland Security and others by the FBI). Employing them for domestic police actions is following the model quickly being implemented in surveillance-happy Britain, where drones are used for “the ­’routine’ monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.”

Even leaving aside the issue of weaponization (police officials now openly talk about equipping drones with “nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun”), the use of drones for domestic surveillance raises all sorts of extremely serious privacy concerns and other issues of potential abuse. Their ability to hover in the air undetected for long periods of time along with their comparatively cheap cost enables a type of broad, sustained societal surveillance that is now impractical, while equipping them with infra-red or heat-seeking detectors and high-powered cameras can provide extremely invasive imagery. The holes eaten into the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections by the Drug War and the War on Terror means there are few Constitutional limits on how this technology can be used, and there are no real statutory or regulatory restrictions limiting their use. In sum, the potential for abuse is vast, the escalation in surveillance they ensure is substantial, and the effect they have on the culture of personal privacy — having the state employ hovering, high-tech, stealth video cameras that invade homes and other private spaces — is simply creepy.

But listeners of NPR would know about virtually none of that. On its All Things Considered program yesterday, NPR broadcast a five-minute report (audio below) from Brian Naylor that purported to be a news story on the domestic use of drones but was, in fact, much more akin to a commercial for the drone industry. Naylor began by describing a video on the website of a drone manufacturer, AeroVironment, which names its drone “the Qube”; the video, gushed Naylor, shows police officers chasing a criminal who hides, only for the police to pull a drone out of their trunk, launch it airborne, receive images of where the criminal is hiding on their iPad, and then find and arrest the suspect, who was armed and dangerous. NPR listeners then heard from that corporation’s Vice President touting how much the Qube will help “public safety professionals like law enforcement, search and rescue, and first responders.”

Naylor then told NPR listeners that drones “have been a success with the military” — though he didn’t mention things like this, this or this — and then moved on to talk to an official in a Sheriff’s office in Colorado who uses the Dragonfly X6; in Naylor’s words, that police official explained how the drone product has “been especially useful in search operations.” The Sheriff official then hailed the drone’s low cost, light weight, and fantastic safety record.  Next up in NPR’s report was — seriously — an official with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which Naylor called “an industry trade group.” That’s the organization that represents the drone manufacturing industry, and NPR decided that this, too, was an important source for its story examining the domestic use of drones. That official touted all the fantastic private-sector uses for drones, including “Utility companies – so oil and gas – using a UAS to do surveillance over a pipeline; electrical companies that want to do surveillance over some of their electrical wires; the agriculture market. So, you can use UAS for crop testing. You could use UAS for tracking livestock. ”

With about 20 seconds left in the report, it came time to tack on a brief, cursory note about privacy and abuse issues. Said Naylor: “All that flying around of unmanned aircraft has some people a little wary.” A “privacy advocate” was put on the air for about ten seconds to note that “drones can easily be equipped with facial recognition cameras, infrared cameras, or open WiFi sniffers” and could also be used by “paparazzi, your homeowners’ association, your neighbor.” Naylor then noted that the FAA is working now on safety regulations, and with that, the report ended. So NPR listeners heard for 4 1/2 minutes about the wonderful, exciting uses of drones from an executive of a drone corporation, an official with the drone industry, and a sheriff’s spokesman using drones, and then for about 10 seconds at the end from someone who is “a little wary.” If the drone industry had purchased commercial time on NPR, how would this report have been any different?  (An industry commercial might have given more prominent play to the privacy advocate just to make it seem less one-sided).

There is no question that domestic political unrest is a major concern of law enforcement officials at every level. A new report released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development documents that “the gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years,” and, as an OECD official said, “the social contract is starting to unravel in many countries. . . Without a comprehensive strategy for inclusive growth, inequality will continue to rise.” As The Washington Post said today: the report “comes as rising dissatisfaction with economic inequality has spilled over into street protests in dozens of cities around the world.” Moreover, “the United States, Turkey and Israel have among the largest ratios between the incomes of those at the top and the bottom, roughly 14 to 1.”

Drone technology is but the latest War on Terror weapon to be imported onto U.S. soil, and the dangers should be manifest. One article prominently touted on AeroVironment’s website hails the “Switchblade,” which the author excitingly describes as “an ingenious, miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is also a weapon” and “the leading edge of what is likely to be the broader, even wholesale, weaponization of unmanned systems. ” The Switchblade drone is “a very short-range, low-altitude, lightweight, tube-fired UAV that is carried and deployed by individual warfighters.” It’s ideal for killing a person “behind barriers, around the corner of a building or in a cave.” Because of how small, light and easily deployable it is — it is meant to be used by a single individual on the ground, at the scene of the target — the article dubs this new product “the ultimate assassin bug.” I found that article because it was touted on the same website of the same drone company featured by NPR; that might have been an informative fact to include in the story.

As I’ve written about before, a prime aim of the sprawling Surveillance State — justified in the name of Terrorism — is to empower the government domestically. Indeed, the War on Terror now has a decidedly domestic flavor: with bin Laden dead and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan virtually nonexistent (i.e., with the original War on Terror justifications now gone), U.S. officials have been emphasizing that the leading threat is “homegrown Terrorists,” and the latest new War on Terror bill passed by the Senate focused on domestic powers and U.S. citizens as much as anything else. And, of course, the Obama administration has infamously asserted the power to target even U.S. citizens for assassination without a shred of due process. While one can certainly envision how drones could perform legitimate police functions, the importation of instruments like drone technology into domestic police activities raises a slew of profound questions, and there is one thing we can be certain of: establishment media outlets like NPR will do their best to obscure and belittle those questions while glorifying these weapons. That’s what it means to be the “establishment media.”

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Look, Up In The Sky! It’s A Drone, Looking At You

 A Predator drone takes off on a U.S. Customs Border Protection mission from Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

EnlargeRoss D. Franklin/APA Predator drone takes off on a U.S. Customs Border Protection mission from Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
text size A A A

December 5, 2011

Unmanned aircraft — or drones — are playing a large role in U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, but they’re starting to show up the the skies above the U.S. as well. Drones are already used to patrol the border with Mexico and now they may soon be coming to a police department near you.

Just consider a video on drone manufacturer AeroVironment’s website: Police officers chase a suspect to his home. The suspect runs behind the house, out of sight. The officers open the trunk of their patrol car and pull out what looks like a toy model aircraft with four rotors and a video camera. They launch the aircraft, which allows them to monitor their suspect’s movements through a video feed on an iPad-like tablet and, ultimately, to apprehend him.

AeroVironment calls its unmanned aircraft the Qube, and while it may look like something kids would look for under the Christmas tree, it’s no toy.

“The Qube is the first solution that AeroVironment has introduced specifically targeting what we identify as the public safety market, and that’s really public safety professionals like law enforcement, search and rescue, and first responders,” says company vice president Steve Gitlin.

Drones — or unmanned vehicles — have been a success with the military, and companies such as AeroVironment hope to make them an increasingly common sight in this country. Gitlin says the Qube costs just a bit more than a police patrol car, making it a much less expensive alternative to a manned helicopter.

A drone takes its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California in February. In the near future, drones could be used outside of the military for things like traffic helicopters or flying jumbo jets.

What Will We Watch As Drones Evolve?

Drone technology is advancing fast, with potential for everyday use — and new security concerns.

In Mesa County, Colo., the sheriff’s department is testing a drone called the Dragonfly X6. Ben Miller, unmanned systems coordinator for the sheriff’s office, says it’s been especially useful in search operations.

“We had a lost subject in a vegetated creek bed and we were given about a mile length of that creek to search,” Miller says. “We completed that search in just a little over an hour with two staff members.”

Miller says a typical search using volunteers marching shoulder-to-shoulder would have taken hours. On top of that, he says there have been no bugs with the drones and they’re easy to operate.

“At about 2 pounds, the safety risks to people on the ground are rather minimal,” he says. “In fact it weighs less than your common Canadian goose.”

While law enforcement is a big market for makers of unmanned aircraft systems — known as UAS’s — there are many other potential civilian users.

Gretchen West is with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group.

Drones aren't unlawful killing machines, but misunderstood and useful military tools, some say.

Foreign Policy: If Drones Had Feelings, They’d Be Hurt

Military drones have been misrepresented in the media but this list may set the record straight.

“Utility companies — so oil and gas — [are] using a UAS to do surveillance over a pipeline,” she says, as are electrical companies wanting to watch over their electrical wires. West says drones can be used for crop-dusting and tracking livestock. They’ve already been used for flood mapping in North Dakota, and they could also be used for weather research.

But all those unmanned aircraft have some people a little wary. Privacy advocate Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology says drones are basically flying video cameras.

“Drones can easily be equipped with facial recognition cameras, infrared cameras or open Wi-Fi sniffers,” Geiger says. “So when people think about drones they shouldn’t just think that a telephoto lens is the only feature that can raise a privacy issue.”

Nor, says Geiger, is it only law enforcement that could be watching: “The paparazzi, your homeowners’ association, your neighbor, a journalist can all sic drones on you as well.”

Geiger says people should watch the Federal Aviation Administration, which is currently working on rules to establish standards such as how high drones can fly and what kind of training operators need. He hopes the agency will also address privacy concerns in the proposed regulations that could be released next month.

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US steps outside the law as the war on terror drones on

Justin Randle

January 24, 2012

Opinion

Lessons from Three CEOs

www.fticonsulting.com

What three banking CEOs learned at the precipice of the banking crisis

‘Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are the new face of the war on terror.’ Photo: Reuters

The use of unmanned aircraft belies America’s rhetoric about its values.

The CIA recently launched its first drone attack of 2012. Three people in North Waziristan were killed. If you haven’t yet heard of these Terminator-style US drones, it is likely you will soon. Their usage in surveillance, modern warfare and covert ”counter-terrorism” measures is rapidly expanding.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are the new face of the war on terror and the latest attempt by the United States to circumvent international law in pursuit of its alleged enemies. After failing to fulfil his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama spent New Year’s Eve signing the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA). The NDAA codifies the indefinite detention, without trial, of US citizens. The third part of this trinity is the increase in a multi-agency network of drones carrying out secret extrajudicial assassinations of suspected militants. In his inauguration speech, Obama said: ”As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Yet these policies enshrine just such a false dichotomy.

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Equipped with Hellfire missiles, Predator drones operate mainly in north-west Pakistan. New America Foundation has attempted to map the strikes, which have hugely escalated under Obama’s presidency. Between 2004 and 2011, the foundation conservatively estimates 1717 deaths have resulted from drone strikes in Pakistan. It also estimates a 32 per cent civilian death rate.

New York Times reporter David Rohde, who was kidnapped and held in Pakistan for seven months, referred to the drones as a ”terrifying presence”. Pashtun tribal elders have also spoken of the ongoing drone presence and living with the constant fear of death.

At a meeting held in Waziristan, organised by the UK legal charity Reprieve, locals were encouraged to accumulate photographic evidence of the damage these strikes cause. Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old boy, offered to collect this information if it would help protect his family. Within 72 hours the car he was travelling in was blown up by a drone.

American officials have reportedly praised the precision of the drone attacks. According to The Guardian, ”the CIA does not comment on drones, but privately claims civilian casualties are rare”. Was Tariq Aziz a militant? Was his 12-year-old cousin – also killed – a militant? Was he involved in plotting attacks that may have jeopardised American lives? Here is the problem: amid official secrecy and in the absence of an allegation tried, tested and proven or disproven in an independent and transparent court, we can only guess. If Guantanamo and the NDAA represent an assault on the right to due process, drones dispense with the principle entirely.

The situation in Waziristan is further compounded by the absence of journalists who can refute claims that innocent people are killed or independently investigate them.

The targets of drones are not only ”unpeople” – people whose rights and lives are deemed expendable in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives. In September 2011, US citizen and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was extrajudicially assassinated in a US drone strike in Yemen. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old son was also killed in a drone strike. That the US government is practising a policy of death penalty without trial for US citizens should be alarming for both progressives and conservatives.

Howard Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, has stated drone strikes ”comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war”. But one can argue anything is legal if a ”self-defence” or ”for security reasons” is placed in front of it. That doesn’t necessarily make it just, right or wise.

Drone strikes rely on fallible intelligence from local informants, which leads to errors. The price is innocent people’s lives. It also sets a dangerous international precedent – that the secret extrajudicial execution by one country, to kill people in another country, with minimal oversight and no judicial process, is acceptable. This is the policy being carried out by drones.

At a very basic level, it is difficult to gauge whether the policy actually works. Supporters claim the policy has successfully disrupted terrorist networks. Yet suicide attacks in Pakistan and violence in Afghanistan and Iraq have often intensified following the drone deaths of senior al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives.

According to various sources, Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed multiple times, exposing both the imprecise nature of the policy and the prevalence of misinformation.

Drone strikes also fuel anti-American sentiment. Waziristan native Noor Behram has stated that typically after a drone strike the view is: ”America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims … hatred builds up.” As such, it is no surprise that the former director of US National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, has criticised the policy, saying: ”Drone strikes are no longer the most effective strategy for eliminating al-Qaeda’s ability to attack us.”

But any debate regarding merits, costs and legitimacy is obscured by the secrecy within which it is conducted. In the absence of information, the people in whose names these actions are committed are denied the opportunity to make an informed judgment. But perhaps that is the point.

Justin Randle is a former ministerial adviser working in public policy.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/us-steps-outside-the-law-as-the-war-on-terror-drones-on-20120123-1qdsu.html#ixzz1kUhmY53j

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Almost 1 In 3 U.S. Warplanes Is a Robot (ie a pilot-less DRONE)

Remember when the military actually put human beings in the cockpits of its planes? They still do, but in far fewer numbers. According to a new congressional report acquired by Danger Room, drones now account for 31 percent of all military aircraft.

To be fair, lots of those drones are tiny flying spies, like the Army’s Raven, that could never accommodate even the most diminutive pilot. (Specifically, the Army has 5,346 Ravens, making it the most numerous military drone by far.) But in 2005, only five percent of military aircraft were robots, a report by the Congressional Research Service notes. Barely seven years later, the military has 7,494 drones. Total number of old school, manned aircraft: 10,767 planes.

A small sliver of those nearly 7,500 drones gets all of the attention. The military owns 161 Predators — the iconic flying strike drone used over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere — and Reapers, the Predator’s bigger, better-armed brother.

But even as the military’s bought a ton of drones in the past few years, the Pentagon spends much, much more money on planes with people in them. Manned aircraft still get 92 percent of the Pentagon’s aircraft procurement money. Still, since 2001, the military has spent $26 billion on drones, the report — our Document of the Day — finds.

The drones are also getting safer. (To operate, that is; not for their targets below.) Drone crashes get a lot of attention; 38 Predators and Reapers have crashed in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far; most recently, Iran looks like it got ahold of an advanced, stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel. But the congressional report finds that the Predator, for instance, has only 7.5 accidents per 100,000 hours of flight, down from 20 accidents over that time in 2005 — meaning it’s now got an accident rate comparable to a (manned) F-16.

But the report doesn’t mention some of the unique vulnerabilities of the drones. There’s no mention of the malware infection that reached into the drone cockpits at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, a story Danger Room broke. Nor does it go into the workload problems for military imagery analysts caused by the proliferation of the drones full-motion video “Death TV,” which is pushing the military toward developing selective or “thinking” cameras. The ethical issues attendant to remote-control war also go unexplored.

Still, the report does explore the downsides of the Pentagon’s drone obsession. There are way too many redundant drones, it finds, and the expensive sensors they increasingly carry drive the costs of a supposedly cheap machine up. They’re also bandwidth hogs: a single Global Hawk drone requires 500 megabytes per second worth of bandwidth, the report finds, which is “500 percent of the total bandwidth of the entire U.S. military used during the 1991 Gulf War.” And it also notes that a lot of future spy missions might go not to drones, but to the increasing number of giant blimps and aerostats, some of which can carry way more sensors and cameras.

And the current fleet of flying robots is just the start. The Navy’s developing a next-gen drone that can take off and land from an aircraft carrier. Future missions, the report finds, include “stand-off jamming” of enemy electronics; “psychological operations, such as dropping leaflets” over an adversary population; and even measuring the amount of radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. The military’s working on increasingly autonomous drones — including tiny, suicidal killers — and on increasing the number of drones a single ground station can operate.

The Air Force even holds out hope for a “super/hyper-sonic” drone by 2034. It’s a good time to be a flying robot.

Congressional Research Service reports typically aren’t public. But we’re embedding it here, so you can read it in full for yourself. It compiles and updates a lot of useful information about military drones:

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Tribesmen fire at US drones in Miramshah

MIRAMSHAH: Annoyed with the silence of the government and others over the US drone intrusions, gun-totting tribesmen took things in their hands on Tuesday and fired at the drones that appeared over North Waziristan Agency.

Local people said that more than six unmanned planes were seen flying at low altitude over Miramshah, Razmak, Datakhel, Mirali, Shawal and other areas of North Waziristan throughout the day.Angry tribesmen in some areas started heavy firing on the drones.

Witnesses said that tribesmen used Kalashnikov rifles and heavy machineguns to shoot down the intruding
unmanned planes.

According to reports, drones also flew over Azam Warsak area of the adjacent South Waziristan Agency.

The government had shown strong reaction to Nato attack on Salala post in Mohmand Agency in November last, warning the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan of a tit-for-tat response. T

he attack by Nato forces had left 26 officers and soldiers dead.

According to reports the armed forces had upgraded their air defence system along the Afghan border to thwart violation of the country’s airspace. However, residents of Miramshah, the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, said that despite heavy presence of security forces in the region drones continued to hover over the area and fire missiles.

“The US drones have not only continued sorties but also resumed missile attacks in North Waziristan, but the government has adopted complete silence over the strikes,” they said.

Two missile attacks had been carried out in the area and nine suspected militants had been killed since January 11.

Infuriated tribal people said that like halting supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan, the government should also take serious measures to stop drone attacks.

Meanwhile, tribal people experienced a daylong curfew in several areas on Tuesday as all offices, educational institutions and bazaars remained closed. Markets in Miramshah, Mirali and others parts of the agency were closed because of the curfew.

Miramshah, Mirali, Dosali, Razmak, Datakhel and other areas remained under curfew from 6:30am to 5pm owing to movement of army convoys. Business outlets, schools and government offices were closed. The curfew brought life to a standstill in the area and even patients were not allowed to visit hospitals.

Officials said that troops had stopped movement in the volatile region owing to torrential rains and snowfall in some areas.

Political administration has made announcements that main roads would remain closed to traffic.

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Is Government Flying Spy Drones Over the United States?

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Submitted by Courthouse News on Jan 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — A civil liberties group says the federal government is illegally withholding information on its program authorizing public and private entities to fly drones in the United States.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the U.S. Department of Transportation in a federal AOIA complaint.

Public entities, including the government, must get a wavier from the FAA “to fly an unmanned aircraft in civil airspace,” the foundation says. It cites a January 2011 report from the Washington Post that said the FAA acknowledged “there were More than 270 active authorization of the use of dozens of kinds of drones.” Of those, 35 percent were held by the Department of Defense, 11 percent by NASA and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the domestic operation of drones, “has been studying ways to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, in part because ‘the Defense Department, state and local governments, industry and researchers are all pressuring the FFA to allow wider use of unmanned aircraft.’ Congress has also been pushing the FAA to expand authorizations for drones,” according to the complaint.

The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation.

“The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives,” the foundation’s attorney Jennifer Lynch in a statement.

“We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why.”

The foundation says U.S. Customs and Border Protection bought its ninth drone in December 2011.

“Drones are also increasingly being used for routine state and local law enforcement activities as well, from catching cattle rustlers and drug dealers to finding missing persons. Some within law enforcement have even proposed using drones for recording traffic violations,” the complaint states.

The foundation says the FAA is expected to start loosening rules for flying drones as early as this month. But, “there is currently no information available to the public on which specific public and civil entities have applied for, been granted or been denied certificates or authorizations to fly unmanned aircraft in the United States,” the foundation says.

It claims that Uncle Sam blew off the FOIA request the foundation submitted on April 13, 2011.

“Despite FAA’s acknowledgment, after nearly nine months the FAA has yet to process and release records responsive to EFF’s FOIA request. As such, the FAA has exceeded the generally applicable twenty-day deadline for the process of any FOIA request,” the complaint states.

The foundation wants to see the records.

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U.S. opened Pandora’s box with drones

Posted on on January 4, 2012 // Leave Your Comment

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by Darrell L. Shahan

Modern warfare has entered a new era. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can fly thousands of miles, conduct surveillance or target and kill individuals with precision. Unfortunately, this precision does not prevent collateral damage, the military term for unintended civilian deaths. Military experts predict this will be the pattern for future military conflicts.

Quite often, the drones are operated by personnel who are far removed from the conflict. They kill enemy combatants by day and go home at night to their families. A definite advantage is the fact that unmanned aircraft do not place any pilots at risk.

Now for the dark side. A disadvantage is that this type of warfare depersonalizes warfare and reduces it to just another video game. The warfare acquires an antiseptic quality that could make the decision to go to war more likely and acceptable. The popular perception is that, because of our advanced technology, the United States has a virtual monopoly on drones. According to CNN, nothing could be farther from the truth. Quoting the article, “As many as 50 countries are developing or purchasing these systems, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran.”

In Palestine, Hezbollah used a small drone for surveillance. It flew so slowly that the Israeli jets could not reduce their speed enough to shoot it down.

Drones are now available commercially. Farmers could use them for the purposes of dusting crops. This application would appear to lend itself to the distribution of biological weapons over a metropolitan area, by an enemy. Terrorists could conceivably buy a commercial version.

The Iranian capture of a U.S stealth spy drone over Iran, which was conducting surveillance of their nuclear program, undoubtedly will aid the drone development program of other countries.

There also are disturbing legal questions. Military personnel are authorized to operate drones during war, but it is reported that they also are operated by civilian CIA members under their covert programs. This dilutes responsibility and prevents scrutiny by the public.

The FAA is expected to issue rules allowing drones to be used by law enforcement in the U.S. The ACLU fears drones might be used indiscriminately, leading to constant monitoring of the public, in any outdoor location, instead of only gathering evidence in specific cases. The ACLU wants specific guidelines defining their use. Citizens now are under constant monitoring in many municipal settings. The only privacy left would be in your own home. Would invasion of the sanctity your home be next? Freedom usually is not lost in one fell swoop. It usually disappears piecemeal. When the public becomes accustomed to the newest incremental change, the next one is implemented.

By being the first to use drones, we have unleashed a Pandora’s box upon the world. Imagine a world where your every move outside your home is monitored. Drone warfare demands that we learn to settle conflicts without war.

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Livestreaming Journalists Want to Occupy the Skies With Cheap Drones

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It may not sound like much: A video blogger bought a toy helicopter.

But the blogger is 25-year-old Tim Pool — an internationally known journalist who attracts tens of thousands of viewers to his live-stream broadcasts from Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, DC, LA and other cities. (His feeds and archival footage are also aired on mainstream networks such as NBC.) He and his partners hope that the toy chopper — the $300 Parrot AR Drone — will be one step toward a citizen-driven alternative to mainstream news.

Along with “general assembly” and “99 percenters,” Occupy Wall Street has brought the phrase “livestreaming” to the forefront. Rising-star reporters — known best by their Twitter and Ustream handles — such as Pool (timcast) in New York City and Spencer Mills (oakfosho) in Oakland are passionate, deeply embedded correspondents who provide live video reporting — sometimes lasting a dozen hours or more — of protests, general assemblies and other Occupy events. Instead of using a satellite truck, they broadcast live “TV” coverage from 3G- and 4G-equipped smartphones over video networks such as Ustream.com and Livestream.com.

They are real-life embodiments of Jimmy Burns, of Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman’s 2006 online graphic novel The Shooting War about a video blogger made famous for being first to cover a major news event (a terrorist attack at a Brooklyn Starbucks).

Having thoroughly figured out how to cover giant events from ground level, they are now exploring ultra-cheap alternatives to the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollar news choppers used for aerial reporting of big events like protest marches and police clashes. In the process, the video bloggers are discovering both how far low-cost consumer technology has come and how much farther it needs to go.

Like the HD video cameras now included in the livestreamers’ cellphones, aerial surveillance drones have progressed from ultra-expensive professional gear to impulse-buy items. What was once in the Pentagon budget is now at Toys “R” Us – in a simple form, at least.

“The AR Drone is the first toy that came out,” said Sam Shapiro, a 24-year-old programmer from Brooklyn who’s helping Pool hack together an airborne news network.

While he supports their aims, Shapiro says that he doesn’t identify with the Occupy protesters. He does, however, want to use technology to keep them safe.

“The way I got involved in this originally is from watching the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said, referring to the October 1 march and arrests of more than 700 Occupy demonstrators on the iconic span. “While I can’t be involved in stuff like that, I don’t want to see my friends being beaten up because they don’t have tactical knowledge of what’s going on.”

He started, but didn’t finish, building a website that pulls together the live feeds from traffic cameras that New York City makes available to the public.”It kind of turned from that to how do you expand the coverage, how do you get cameras all over the place, how to allow people to pull this off so they can be predictive of what’s going on instead of responsive to it,” he said.

Like Pool, Shapiro saw the AR Drone as a good start for aerial surveillance. Each came to the same conclusion on his own, and they met when Pool posted a request on Twitter asking for help building a Web site.

Introduced in 2010, the one-pound styrofoam craft has four rotors and a plethora of sensors to keep it stable and navigable. In some ways, it resembles an iPhone, with accelerometers and a gyroscope to measure movement and location, for example. Parrot says that it can fly 50 feet high, up to 11 miles per hour and stay aloft for about 12 minutes on a charge.

Built-in Wi-Fi allows control from an iPhone or Android phone. The Wi-Fi also beams back moderate-resolution (640-by-480-pixel) video to the phone.

But the point of live-stream journalism is to broadcast from a smartphone not to it. What Pool and Shapiro thought would be a little software fix for that – using the company’s laptop software and a screen-capture program – turned into a nightmare.

In theory, Parrot encourages tinkerers with a software developers kit and sample programs for controlling the copter. But the one for Windows didn’t work at all, said Shapiro. The Linux program could pilot the craft but yielded crappy video. His efforts to fix the program got nowhere. “You need to be an experienced, serious Linux programmer to deal with this in any way, shape or form, and their [tech] support is terrible,” he said.

Finally, Shapiro tracked down a European hobbyist group that had written its own software, called Javadrone, from scratch “and did a much better job of it.”

Pool first used the AR Drone, which he’s dubbed the Occucopter, in December to cover a New York City rally for immigrant rights, but he said that the video from that attempt was unusable. He also made a test-run at Occupy Albany. Pool expects his first coverage with the new software and high-quality video will be at the Occupy Congress action on January 17 in Washington, DC.”  A live stream journalist out of California used an Occucopter to shoot on December 19th. (But not without crashing and cussing.)

But the AR Done isn’t in his long-term plans due to its clear limitations. “You need perfect weather. It just doesn’t weigh enough,” said Shapiro.

“I lost one in a tree in Albany. It’s still there,” said Pool. A mild wind nixed an outdoor demonstration for Wired. Instead, Pool and Shapiro flew it around the basement of a New York coworking center where Pool has a tiny office space. (See video.)

Still, the AR Drone is simple for people who aren’t hackers, and it’s cheap. “Right now it’s probably the best bet for the occupations,” said Pool. “They can go out and pick one up at the store, and we can email them the instructions.”

But Pool and Shapiro are already thinking bigger for their projects, and developing better tech to eventually provide to other live stream journalists.

“The most important thing is the zeppelin,” said Pool. Basically a big balloon, it will be able to lift a lot of gear with just a little power for the rotors that steer it. And the slow speed is a benefit: It holds the camera steady and won’t suddenly go out of control.

In fact, they are trying to build copters that work more like zeppelins.

“It doesn’t need to be doing aggressive dogfighting maneuvers,” said Shapiro. “All it needs to do is hover and take a proper picture.” Instead of relying on constant commands from the ground, the zeppelin and copter will dial in periodically for updates.

An example would be: ascend to an altitude of 40 feet, move to specific GPS coordinates, position the camera at a shot angle of 12 degrees down, face northwest, and pan back and forth 30 degrees at 12 degrees per second. It’s more like directing a camera operator than being a flyboy.

That mellow flight pace allows people to easily take turns with the craft –if they want to or if they need to.

“Even if one operator is compromised, another operator can spring right back up,” said Shapiro.

“There can be a chain of command,” added Pool. “People know what their number is. They can even get text alerts.”

In this case, “compromised” means getting nabbed by cops. That may not seem so far-fetched after a January 3 police raid and arrests – on vague charges — at OWS-focused live streaming organization Global Revolution in Brooklyn.

Equipped with a 3G or 4G wireless card, a copter or zeppelin could take commands over the Internet, from anywhere. One idea they have is a Facebook page where approved pilots can send commands to the drones.

“You’d have to take down all of Facebook to take out every operator,” Shapiro said. (It resembles the decentralized security strategy that’s driving a separate project to build an independent, decentralized social network for the occupations.)

But even with small, slow-moving craft, Shapiro and Pool have to deal with the prospect of crashes, which is new, unknown territory for any news organization. Till now, drones have been used over empty disaster areas or in acts of war, where public safety isn’t much of a concern.

“OK, we’re going to be flying over a friendly crowd,” Shapiro said. “What happens if we lose control of it, and the propellers go smashing into the crowd?” Even though a balloon and a styrofoam helicopter are unlikely to be very dangerous, they are a legal liability. And the two men are planning for bigger craft.

Newscorp’s The Daily has been experimenting with Parrot and larger drones, and Shapiro hopes that will resolve some questions. “So they are going to be our legal benchmark for what we can do. They are going to the government to get all these rules locked down for citizen drone usage.”

All their plans for zeppelins and steadycam choppers go well beyond what a toy copter can do. But Pool and Shapiro have been surprised to find many other options.

At the high end is Polish company RoboKopter. Its stunning video of clashing demonstrators in Warsaw in November prompted the New York Times to proclaim “Drone Journalism Arrives.” Shaprio hasn’t gotten pricing from them, but he priced out a similar craft from a company called Draganfly and got a quote close to $30,000.

Pool and Shapiro are instead going with a product called ArduPilot made by DIY Drones. It’s based on the Arduino board – microcontroller that’s a mainstay for robot builders. ArduPilot is a version equipped specifically to control aircraft. They will have to modify the open-source software to support their camera-operator maneuvers. (Full disclosure: Wired Magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson is the co-founder of DIY Drones.)

Pool and Shapiro are using ArduPilot to build both an Occu-Eye zeppelin and a next-gen Occucopter that they hope to have aloft in about six weeks. The cost for two high-end models will be close to $2,000 – too much for most citizen journalists, but doable for Pool. Just during his live streaming of the Occupy Wall Street New Years protests, he picked up $1,990 in donations from viewers.

They also aim to “mass-produce” cheaper versions for about $350 that they will sell to citizen journalists at cost and help them setup and maintain. (It will be part of an entire kit for aerial and on-foot reporting that will cost about $600.)

Pool is already thinking well beyond that. “We want to start playing with EEG controllers,” he said. “They sell them in children’s stores.” He meant the $60 Mattel Mindflex, which uses a simple headset to roughly measure the level of brain activity. By concentrating, kids control a fan that keeps a plastic ball suspended in the air.

“There’s no reason we can’t translate up and down of the ball to up and down of the drone,” he said. Considering all the projects that a toy helicopter has kicked off for them, maybe a mind-controlled aircraft, a la Clint Eastwood’s 1980s flick Firefox, isn’t so far fetched.

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OWS Fights Back Against Police Surveillance by Launching “Occucopter” Citizen Drone

In response to constant police surveillance, violence, and arrests, Occupy Wall Street protesters and legal observers have been turning their cameras back on the police.
December 22, 2011  |

Photo Credit: AFP
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The police may soon be watching you in your garden picking your vegetables or your bottom. As police plans for increasing unmanned aerial surveillance take shape, there is a new twist. Private citizens can now buy their own surveillance drones to watch the police.

This week in New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters have a new toy to help them expose potentially dubious actions of the New York police department. In response to constant police surveillance, police violence and thousands of arrests, Occupy Wall Street protesters and legal observers have been turning their cameras back on the police. But police have sometimes made filming difficult through physical obstruction and “frozen zones”. This occurred most notably during the eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, where police prevented even credentialed journalists from entering.

Now the protesters are fighting back with their own surveillance drone.Tim Pool, an Occupy Wall Street protester, has acquired a Parrot AR drone he amusingly calls the “occucopter”. It is a lightweight four-rotor helicopter that you can buy cheaply on Amazon and control with your iPhone. It has an onboard camera so that you can view everything on your phone that it points at. Pool has modified the software to stream live video to the internet so that we can watch the action as it unfolds. You can see video clips of his first experiments here. He told us that the reason he is doing this “comes back to giving ordinary people the same tools that these multimillion-dollar news corporations have. It provides a clever loophole around certain restrictions such as when the police block press from taking shots of an incident.”

Pool is attempting to police-proof the device: “We are trying to get a stable live feed so you can have 50 people controlling it in series. If the cops see you controlling it from a computer they can shut you down, but then control could automatically switch to someone else.”

This is clever stuff and it doesn’t stop there. He is also working on a 3G controller so that “you could even control the occucopter in New York from Sheffield in England”. We asked him if he was concerned about police shooting it down. “No,” he said firmly. “They can’t just fire a weapon in the air because it could seriously hurt someone. They would have no excuse because the occucopter is strictly not illegal. Their only recourse would be to make it illegal, but it is only a toy and so they might as well make the press illegal – they have already arrested 30 journalists here.”

Ordinary people having the technology to watch the watcher is not something George Orwell predicted in his futuristic vision of 1984. He introduced us to the idea of a totalitarian state using total surveillance to suppress the entire population. This is why CCTV cameras and police drones watching us unseen sends shivers down the spines of so many of us. We are not so much worried about the current political establishment than we are about the possibility of a technology that enables the creation of a repressive regime.

That might be less likely to happen when the same surveillance systems are turned back on the authorities. But it is not all good news. These devices could also extend the range of potential breaches of privacy. You could fly over your neighbour’s garden or up to their bedroom window. And drones could be a great asset for criminals to “case a joint” or to keep watch for the police.

There are also concerns that the roll-out of citizen drones might be disingenuously used by the police to justify and speed up police acquisition and use of drones for the surveillance of protests. Police departments in the UK and across the US are eager to use drones, but there has been little or no debate about the impacts on public safety, privacy and liberty. And there has certainly been no public engagement about this expansion of police surveillance.

It will probably not be long before there are test cases in court or before legislation is introduced to ground citizen drones. Our spirits were lifted talking to Pool about his occucopter, yet we feel uneasy about the ever-increasing use of drone surveillance. Like all tools they can be used for both good and bad, and for repression and resistance.

The question is, do we really want the paranoiac nightmare of our airspace being polluted by police and personal drones with all of us watching our watchers? We are not sure how this will unfold, but we are sure that the outcome will be as unpredictable as the technological developments themselves.

Noel Sharkey is professor of artificial intelligence and robots, and professor of public engagement, at the University of Sheffield.Sarah Knuckey is a Human rights lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at New York University and a frequent National Lawyers Guild legal observer in New York City.
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Livestreaming Journalists Want to Occupy the Skies With Cheap Drones

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    inShare

It may not sound like much: A video blogger bought a toy helicopter.

But the blogger is 25-year-old Tim Pool — an internationally known journalist who attracts tens of thousands of viewers to his live-stream broadcasts from Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, DC, LA and other cities. (His feeds and archival footage are also aired on mainstream networks such as NBC.) He and his partners hope that the toy chopper — the $300 Parrot AR Drone — will be one step toward a citizen-driven alternative to mainstream news.

Along with “general assembly” and “99 percenters,” Occupy Wall Street has brought the phrase “livestreaming” to the forefront. Rising-star reporters — known best by their Twitter and Ustream handles — such as Pool (timcast) in New York City and Spencer Mills (oakfosho) in Oakland are passionate, deeply embedded correspondents who provide live video reporting — sometimes lasting a dozen hours or more — of protests, general assemblies and other Occupy events. Instead of using a satellite truck, they broadcast live “TV” coverage from 3G- and 4G-equipped smartphones over video networks such as Ustream.com and Livestream.com.

They are real-life embodiments of Jimmy Burns, of Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman’s 2006 online graphic novel The Shooting War about a video blogger made famous for being first to cover a major news event (a terrorist attack at a Brooklyn Starbucks).

Having thoroughly figured out how to cover giant events from ground level, they are now exploring ultra-cheap alternatives to the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollar news choppers used for aerial reporting of big events like protest marches and police clashes. In the process, the video bloggers are discovering both how far low-cost consumer technology has come and how much farther it needs to go.

Like the HD video cameras now included in the livestreamers’ cellphones, aerial surveillance drones have progressed from ultra-expensive professional gear to impulse-buy items. What was once in the Pentagon budget is now at Toys “R” Us – in a simple form, at least.

“The AR Drone is the first toy that came out,” said Sam Shapiro, a 24-year-old programmer from Brooklyn who’s helping Pool hack together an airborne news network.

While he supports their aims, Shapiro says that he doesn’t identify with the Occupy protesters. He does, however, want to use technology to keep them safe.

“The way I got involved in this originally is from watching the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said, referring to the October 1 march and arrests of more than 700 Occupy demonstrators on the iconic span. “While I can’t be involved in stuff like that, I don’t want to see my friends being beaten up because they don’t have tactical knowledge of what’s going on.”

He started, but didn’t finish, building a website that pulls together the live feeds from traffic cameras that New York City makes available to the public.”It kind of turned from that to how do you expand the coverage, how do you get cameras all over the place, how to allow people to pull this off so they can be predictive of what’s going on instead of responsive to it,” he said.

Like Pool, Shapiro saw the AR Drone as a good start for aerial surveillance. Each came to the same conclusion on his own, and they met when Pool posted a request on Twitter asking for help building a Web site.

Introduced in 2010, the one-pound styrofoam craft has four rotors and a plethora of sensors to keep it stable and navigable. In some ways, it resembles an iPhone, with accelerometers and a gyroscope to measure movement and location, for example. Parrot says that it can fly 50 feet high, up to 11 miles per hour and stay aloft for about 12 minutes on a charge.

Built-in Wi-Fi allows control from an iPhone or Android phone. The Wi-Fi also beams back moderate-resolution (640-by-480-pixel) video to the phone.

But the point of live-stream journalism is to broadcast from a smartphone not to it. What Pool and Shapiro thought would be a little software fix for that – using the company’s laptop software and a screen-capture program – turned into a nightmare.

In theory, Parrot encourages tinkerers with a software developers kit and sample programs for controlling the copter. But the one for Windows didn’t work at all, said Shapiro. The Linux program could pilot the craft but yielded crappy video. His efforts to fix the program got nowhere. “You need to be an experienced, serious Linux programmer to deal with this in any way, shape or form, and their [tech] support is terrible,” he said.

Finally, Shapiro tracked down a European hobbyist group that had written its own software, called Javadrone, from scratch “and did a much better job of it.”

Pool first used the AR Drone, which he’s dubbed the Occucopter, in December to cover a New York City rally for immigrant rights, but he said that the video from that attempt was unusable. He also made a test-run at Occupy Albany. Pool expects his first coverage with the new software and high-quality video will be at the Occupy Congress action on January 17 in Washington, DC.”  A live stream journalist out of California used an Occucopter to shoot on December 19th. (But not without crashing and cussing.)

But the AR Done isn’t in his long-term plans due to its clear limitations. “You need perfect weather. It just doesn’t weigh enough,” said Shapiro.

“I lost one in a tree in Albany. It’s still there,” said Pool. A mild wind nixed an outdoor demonstration for Wired. Instead, Pool and Shapiro flew it around the basement of a New York coworking center where Pool has a tiny office space. (See video.)

Still, the AR Drone is simple for people who aren’t hackers, and it’s cheap. “Right now it’s probably the best bet for the occupations,” said Pool. “They can go out and pick one up at the store, and we can email them the instructions.”

But Pool and Shapiro are already thinking bigger for their projects, and developing better tech to eventually provide to other live stream journalists.

“The most important thing is the zeppelin,” said Pool. Basically a big balloon, it will be able to lift a lot of gear with just a little power for the rotors that steer it. And the slow speed is a benefit: It holds the camera steady and won’t suddenly go out of control.

In fact, they are trying to build copters that work more like zeppelins.

“It doesn’t need to be doing aggressive dogfighting maneuvers,” said Shapiro. “All it needs to do is hover and take a proper picture.” Instead of relying on constant commands from the ground, the zeppelin and copter will dial in periodically for updates.

An example would be: ascend to an altitude of 40 feet, move to specific GPS coordinates, position the camera at a shot angle of 12 degrees down, face northwest, and pan back and forth 30 degrees at 12 degrees per second. It’s more like directing a camera operator than being a flyboy.

That mellow flight pace allows people to easily take turns with the craft –if they want to or if they need to.

“Even if one operator is compromised, another operator can spring right back up,” said Shapiro.

“There can be a chain of command,” added Pool. “People know what their number is. They can even get text alerts.”

In this case, “compromised” means getting nabbed by cops. That may not seem so far-fetched after a January 3 police raid and arrests – on vague charges — at OWS-focused live streaming organization Global Revolution in Brooklyn.

Equipped with a 3G or 4G wireless card, a copter or zeppelin could take commands over the Internet, from anywhere. One idea they have is a Facebook page where approved pilots can send commands to the drones.

“You’d have to take down all of Facebook to take out every operator,” Shapiro said. (It resembles the decentralized security strategy that’s driving a separate project to build an independent, decentralized social network for the occupations.)

But even with small, slow-moving craft, Shapiro and Pool have to deal with the prospect of crashes, which is new, unknown territory for any news organization. Till now, drones have been used over empty disaster areas or in acts of war, where public safety isn’t much of a concern.

“OK, we’re going to be flying over a friendly crowd,” Shapiro said. “What happens if we lose control of it, and the propellers go smashing into the crowd?” Even though a balloon and a styrofoam helicopter are unlikely to be very dangerous, they are a legal liability. And the two men are planning for bigger craft.

Newscorp’s The Daily has been experimenting with Parrot and larger drones, and Shapiro hopes that will resolve some questions. “So they are going to be our legal benchmark for what we can do. They are going to the government to get all these rules locked down for citizen drone usage.”

All their plans for zeppelins and steadycam choppers go well beyond what a toy copter can do. But Pool and Shapiro have been surprised to find many other options.

At the high end is Polish company RoboKopter. Its stunning video of clashing demonstrators in Warsaw in November prompted the New York Times to proclaim “Drone Journalism Arrives.” Shaprio hasn’t gotten pricing from them, but he priced out a similar craft from a company called Draganfly and got a quote close to $30,000.

Pool and Shapiro are instead going with a product called ArduPilot made by DIY Drones. It’s based on the Arduino board – microcontroller that’s a mainstay for robot builders. ArduPilot is a version equipped specifically to control aircraft. They will have to modify the open-source software to support their camera-operator maneuvers. (Full disclosure: Wired Magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson is the co-founder of DIY Drones.)

Pool and Shapiro are using ArduPilot to build both an Occu-Eye zeppelin and a next-gen Occucopter that they hope to have aloft in about six weeks. The cost for two high-end models will be close to $2,000 – too much for most citizen journalists, but doable for Pool. Just during his live streaming of the Occupy Wall Street New Years protests, he picked up $1,990 in donations from viewers.

They also aim to “mass-produce” cheaper versions for about $350 that they will sell to citizen journalists at cost and help them setup and maintain. (It will be part of an entire kit for aerial and on-foot reporting that will cost about $600.)

Pool is already thinking well beyond that. “We want to start playing with EEG controllers,” he said. “They sell them in children’s stores.” He meant the $60 Mattel Mindflex, which uses a simple headset to roughly measure the level of brain activity. By concentrating, kids control a fan that keeps a plastic ball suspended in the air.

“There’s no reason we can’t translate up and down of the ball to up and down of the drone,” he said. Considering all the projects that a toy helicopter has kicked off for them, maybe a mind-controlled aircraft, a la Clint Eastwood’s 1980s flick Firefox, isn’t so far fetched.

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Tomgram: Nick Turse,

The Life and Death of American Drones

Posted by Nick Turse at 9:40am, December 20, 2011.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: ‘Tis the season, of course, and it’s clear that some of you feel in an end-of-the-year giving mood, which is wonderful for TomDispatch and our future operations.  If others among you are suddenly gripped by the giving spirit, do visit our donation page where, for $75 or more, you can get a signed copy of my new book, The United States of Fear.  By the way, for those of you who have written in and asked, it’s now available in e-book form.  Just click here to check it out.]

It’s 10 pm.  Do you know where your drone is?

Oh, the confusion of it all!  The U.S. military now insists it was deeply befuddled when it claimed that a super-secret advanced RQ-170 Sentinel drone (aka “the beast of Kandahar“) which fell into Iranian hands on December 4th — evidently while surveying suspected nuclear sites — was lost patrolling the Afghan border.  The military, said a spokesman, “did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission.”

Whatever happened, that lost drone story hit the headlines in a way that allowed everyone their Warholian 15 minutes of fame.  Dick Cheney went on the air to insist that President Obama should have sent Air Force planes into Iran to blow the grounded Sentinel to bits.  (Who cares about sparking off hostilities or sending global oil prices skyrocketing?)  President Obama formally asked for the plane’s return, but somehow didn’t have high hopes that the Iranians would comply.  (Check out Gary Powers and the downing of his U-2 spy plane over Russia in 1960 for a precedent.)  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta swore we would never stop our Afghan-based drone surveillance of Iran. Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked that his country be kept out of any “adversarial relations between Iran and the United States.”  (Fat chance!) The Iranians, who displayed the plane, insisted proudly that they had hacked into it, “spoofed” its navigational controls, and brought it in for a relatively soft landing.  And Kim Kardashian… oops, wrong story.

All in all, it was a little robotic circus.  All three rings’ worth.  Meanwhile, drones weren’t having such a good time of it elsewhere either, even if no one was paying much attention.  The half-hidden drone story of the week wasn’t on the Iranian side of the Afghan border, but on the Pakistani side.  There, in that country’s tribal borderlands, the CIA had for years been conducting an escalating drone air campaign, hundreds of strikes, often several a week, against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.  In the wake of an “incident” in which U.S. air strikes killed 24 Pakistani troops at two border posts, however, the Pakistanis closed the border to U.S. supplies for the Afghan war (significantly increasing the cost of that conflict), kicked the U.S. out of Shamsi air base, the CIA’s main drone facility in the country, and threatened to shoot down any U.S. drones over its territory.  In the process, they seem to have forced the Obama administration to shut down its covert drone air campaign.  At this point, there have been no drone attacks for almost a month.

When he was still CIA Director, Leon Panetta termed the Agency’s drone campaign the “only game in town.” Now it’s “on hold.”  (“There is concern that another hit [by the drones] will push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return,” one official told The Long War Journal. “We don’t know how far we can push them [Pakistan], how much more they are willing to tolerate.”)  After those hundreds of strikes and significant civilian casualties, which have helped turn the Pakistani public against the U.S. — according to a recent poll, a staggering 97% of Pakistanis oppose the attacks — it’s a stunning reversal, however temporary and little noted.

In other words, we’ve come a long way, baby, since the moment in 2001 when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly stormed into the office of Pakistan’s intelligence director and told him to either ally with Washington in the fight against al-Qaeda or prepare to be bombed “back to the Stone Age.”  As the U.S. leaves Iraq with its tail between its legs, the setback in Pakistan (as in Iran) should be considered a gauge of just how little Washington’s massive high-tech military edge, drones and otherwise, has been able to alter the shifting power equation on the planet.

In the latest piece in his new changing-face-of-empire series, TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse explores why, despite its advocates’ claims, America’s newest wonder weapon will never prove a game changer.  Tom

The Drone That Fell From the Sky
What a Busted Robot Airplane Tells Us About the American Empire in 2012 and Beyond
By Nick Turse

The drone had been in the air for close to five hours before its mission crew realized that something was wrong.  The oil temperature in the plane’s turbocharger, they noticed, had risen into the “cautionary” range. An hour later, it was worse, and it just kept rising as the minutes wore on.  While the crew desperately ran through its “engine overheat” checklist trying to figure out the problem, the engine oil temperature, too, began skyrocketing.

By now, they had a full-blown in-flight emergency on their hands.  “We still have control of the engine, but engine failure is imminent,” the pilot announced over the radio.

Almost two hours after the first signs of distress, the engine indeed failed.  Traveling at 712 feet per minute, the drone clipped a fence before crashing.

Land of the Lost Drones

The skies seem full of falling drones these days.  The most publicized of them made headlines when Iran announced that its military had taken possession of an advanced American remotely piloted spy aircraft, thought to be an RQ-170 Sentinel.

Questions about how the Iranians came to possess one of the U.S. military’s most sophisticated pieces of equipment abound.  Iran first claimed that its forces shot the drone down after it “briefly violated” the country’s eastern airspace near the Afghan border.  Later, the Islamic Republic insisted that the unmanned aerial vehicle had penetrated 150 miles before being felled by a sophisticated cyber-attack.  And just days ago, an Iranian engineer offered a more detailed, but as yet unsubstantiated, explanation of how a hack-attack hijacked the aircraft.

For its part, the United States initially claimed that its military had lost the drone while it was on a mission in western Afghanistan.  Later, unnamed officials admitted that the CIA had, in fact, been conducting a covert spy operation over Iran.

The drone crash that led this piece did occur in Afghanistan — Kandahar, to be precise — in May of this year.  It went unreported at the time and involved not a sleek, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, but the older, clunkier, if more famous, MQ-1 Predator, a workhorse hunter/killer machine of the Afghan war and the CIA’s drone assassination campaign in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.

A document detailing a U.S. Air Force investigation of that Predator crash, examined by TomDispatch, sheds light on the lifecycle and flaws of drones — just what can go wrong in unmanned air operations — as well as the shadowy system of bases and units scattered across the globe that keep those drones constantly in the skies as the U.S. becomes ever more reliant on remote-controlled warfare.

That report and striking new statistics obtained from the military offer insights into underexamined flaws in drone technology.  They are also a reminder of the failure of journalists to move beyond awe when it comes to high-tech warfare and America’s latest wonder weapons — their curious inability to examine the stark limitations of man and machine that can send even the most advanced military technology hurtling to Earth.

Numbers Game

According to statistics provided to TomDispatch by the Air Force, Predators have flown the lion’s share of hours in America’s drone wars.  As of October 1st, MQ-1’s had spent more than 1 million hours in the air, 965,000 of those in “combat,” since being introduced into military service.  The newer, more heavily armed MQ-9 Reaper, by comparison, has flown 215,000 hours, 180,000 of them in combat.  (The Air Force refuses to release information about the workload of the RQ-170 Sentinel.)  And these numbers continue to rise.  This year alone, Predators have logged 228,000 flight hours compared to 190,000 in 2010.

An analysis of official Air Force data conducted by TomDispatch indicates that its drones crashed in spectacular fashion no less than 13 times in 2011, including that May 5th crash in Kandahar.

About half of those mishaps, all resulting in the loss of an aircraft or property damage of $2 million or more, occurred in Afghanistan or in the tiny African nation of Djibouti, which serves as a base for drones involved in the U.S. secret wars in Somalia and Yemen.  All but two of the incidents involved the MQ-1 model, and four of them took place in May.

In 2010, there were seven major drone mishaps, all but one involving Predators; in 2009, there were 11.  In other words, there have been 31 drone losses in three years, none apparently shot down, all diving into the planet of their own mechanical accord or thanks to human error.

Other publicized drone crashes, like a remotely-operated Navy helicopter that went down in Libya in June and an unmanned aerial vehicle whose camera was reportedly taken by Afghan insurgents after a crash in August, as well as the December 4th loss of the RQ-180 in Iran and an even more recent crash of a MQ-9 in the Seychelles, are not included in the Air Force’s major accident statistics for the year.

Group Effort

The United States currently runs its drone war from 60 or more bases scattered across the globe.  They range from sites in the American southwest with lines of trailers where drone pilots “fly” such aircraft via computer to those far closer to the battlefield where other pilots — seated before a similar set up, including multiple computer monitors, keyboards, a joystick, a throttle, a rollerball, a mouse, and various switches — launch and land the drones.  On other bases, aspiring drone pilots are trained on simulators and the planes themselves are tested before being sent to distant battlefields.

The May 5th Predator crash about a half-mile short of a runway at Kandahar Air Field drives home just how diffuse drone operations have become, with multiple units and multiple bases playing a role in a single mission.

That Predator drone, for example, was an asset of the 3rd Special Operations Squadron, which operates out of Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, and ultimately is part of Air Force Special Operations Command, based at Hurlburt Field in Florida.  When it crashed, it was being flown by an in-country pilot from the 62nd Expeditionary Squadron at Kandahar Air Field, whose parent unit, the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron, makes its home at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, ground zero for the military’s drone operations.  The crewman operating the sensors on the drone, on the other hand, was a member of the Texas Air National Guard based at Ellington Field in Texas.

The final leg of the doomed mission — in support of elite special operations forces — was being carried out by a pilot who had been operating Predators for about 10 months and had flown drones for approximately 51 hours over the previous 90 days.  With less than 400 total hours under his belt, he was considered “inexperienced” by Air Force standards and, during his drone launch and recovery training, had failed two simulator sessions and one flying exercise.  He had, however, excelled academically, passed his evaluations, and was considered a qualified MQ-1 pilot, cleared to fly without supervision.

His sensor operator had been qualified by the Air Force for the better part of two years, with average or above average ratings in performance evaluations.  Having “flown” a total of 677 hours — close to 50 of them in the 90 days before the crash — he was considered “experienced.”

The fact that the duo were controlling a special operations drone highlights the increasingly strong and symbiotic relationship between America’s two recently ascendant forms of warfare: raids by small teams of elite forces and attacks by remote-controlled robots.

The Life and Death of American Drones

During the post-crash investigation, it was determined that the ground crew in Afghanistan had been regularly using an unauthorized method of draining engine coolant, though it was unclear whether this contributed to the crash.  Investigation documents further indicate that the drone’s engine had 851 hours of flight time and so was nearing the end of the line.  (The operational lifespan of a Predator drone engine is reportedly around 1,080 hours.)

Following the crash, the engine was shipped to a California test facility, where technicians from General Atomics, the maker of the Predator, carried out a forensic investigation.  Significant overheating had, it was discovered, warped and deformed the machinery.

Eventually, the Air Force ruled that a cooling system malfunction had led to engine failure.  An accident investigator also concluded that the pilot had not executed proper procedures after the engine failure, causing the craft to crash just short of the runway, slightly damaging the perimeter fence at Kandahar Air Field and destroying the drone.

The clear conclusion reached by accident investigators in this crash stands in stark contrast to the murkiness of what happened to the advanced drone now in Iranian hands.  Whether the latter crashed thanks to a malfunction, was shot down, felled by a cyber-attack, or ended up on the ground for some other reason entirely, its loss and that of the special ops drone are reminders of just how reliant the U.S. military has become on high-tech robot planes whose major accidents now exceed those of much more expensive fixed-wing aircraft.  (There were 10 major airborne mishaps involving such Air Force aircraft in 2011.)

Robot War: 2012 and Beyond

The failure to achieve victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with a perceived success in the Libyan war — significantly fought with airpower including drones — has convinced many in the military not to abandon foreign wars, but to change their approach.  Long-term occupations involving tens of thousands of troops and the use of counterinsurgency tactics are to be traded in for drone and special forces operations.

Remotely piloted aircraft have regularly been touted, in the press and the military, as wonder weapons, the way, not so long ago, counterinsurgency tactics were being promoted as an elixir for military failure.  Like the airplane, the tank, and nuclear weapons before it, the drone has been touted as a game-changer, destined to alter the very essence of warfare.

Instead, like the others, it has increasingly proven to be a non-game-changer of a weapon with ordinary vulnerabilities.  Its technology is fallible and its efforts have often been counterproductive in these last years.  For example, the inability of pilots watching computer monitors on the other side of the planet to discriminate between armed combatants and innocent civilians has proven a continuing problem for the military’s drone operations, while the CIA’s judge-jury-executioner assassination program is widely considered to have run afoul of international law — and, in the case of Pakistan, to be alienating an entire population.  The drone increasingly looks less like a winning weapon than a machine for generating opposition and enemies.

In addition, as flight hours rise year after year, the vulnerabilities of remotely piloted missions are ever more regularly coming to light.  These have included Iraqi insurgents hacking drone video feeds, a virulent computer virus infecting the Air Force’s unmanned fleet, large percentages of drone pilots suffering from “high operational stress,” increasing numbers of crashes, and the possibility of Iranian drone-hijacking.

While human and mechanical errors are inherent in the operation of any type of machinery, few commentators have focused significant attention on the full spectrum of drone flaws and limitations.  For more than a decade, remotely piloted aircraft have been a mainstay of U.S. military operations and the tempo of drone operations continues to rise yearly, but relatively little has been written about drone defects or the limits and hazards of drone operations.

Perhaps the Air Force is beginning to worry about when this will change.  After years of regularly ushering reporters through drone operations at Creech Air Force Base and getting a flood of glowing, even awestruck, publicity about the glories of drones and drone pilots, this year, without explanation, it shut down press access to the program, moving robotic warfare deeper into the shadows.

The recent losses of the Pentagon’s robot Sentinel in Iran, the Reaper in the Seychelles, and the Predator in Kandahar, however, offer a window into a future in which the global skies will be filled with drones that may prove far less wondrous than Americans have been led to believe.  The United States could turn out to be relying on a fleet of robots with wings of clay.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. This article is the fourth in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation.  You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.

Copyright 2011 Nick Turse

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Joshua Foust – Joshua Foust is a fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net.

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Unaccountable Killing Machines: The True Cost of U.S. Drones

By Joshua Foust

Dec 30 2011, 9:49 AM ET 27

Officials often portray the global expansion of deadly drone strikes as an unequivocal success. But are we really accounting for all the consequences?drones-body.jpg
ReutersA series of articles have been published recently about the extent and, in some cases, failures of the drone program so famously expanded under President Obama’s watch. The first, a blockbuster article by the Washington Post‘s Greg Miller, brings to light some truly worrying aspects of a policy that seems to have taken on a life of its own (emphasis mine):

In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t matchCIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives…

Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.

In other words, Jaffe is describing a system in which a decentralized apparatus carries out summary executions of people we’re assured are bad and who are sometimes U.S. citizens, and the president knows about this but chooses not to exercise oversight or control of the process.

The upside to this system of drones, administration officials insist, is that al Qaeda has been crippled, and that it has created an intense strain on the ability of terrorists to carry out plots. And this is undoubtedly true — the drone war has achieved its immediate purpose of thwacking bad people. But do we really understand the true cost of this form of warfare?

It is practically impossible for anyone to exercise proper oversight over the program

In the countries where the drone system is most active — Pakistan and Yemen — relations with local governments and communities are awful, and perceptions of the United States could barely be any worse. There is agreement seemingly only on the need for long distance killing, and even then — especially in Pakistan — there is a great deal of contention.

In fact, one could argue that the severe degradation of relations with Pakistan, which are driven to a large degree by popular anger over drone strikes (as well as a parallel perception among some Pakistani elites that the U.S. disregards Pakistani sovereignty at will), is driving the current U.S. push to ship supplies and, eventually, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, through Uzbekistan. While overall it might seem like a good trade to policymakers, engaging with the regime in Tashkent in this way nevertheless carries substantial reputational and moral costs, to say nothing of long term consequences we cannot predict.

In Yemen, the insistence on drone strikes in the absence of any broader (and more intensive) political engagement with the opposition political movements has created the mass perception that the U.S. is intimately tied to the oppression of the Yemeni people — a dangerous social meme that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula certainly tries to coopt for its own advancement. But focusing on AQAP like that opens the same trap that cripples U.S. policy in the country: the assumption that terrorism is the only consequence that matters. On a more practical level, the U.S. negligence of Yemeni politics in its pursuit of terrorists is making it more likely, not less, that the eventual Shah-like fall of President Saleh will result in a hostile or indifferent power in Sana’a — the opposite of what the current CT policy there requires.

Beyond the political consequences, the drone program also imposes severe bureaucratic costs. Within the U.S. Intelligence Community, various lethal targeting programs are heavily classified, compartmented, and SAPed — meaning, they are mostly closed off from each other. This is one reason why the CIA and JSOC maintain separate, non-overlapping kill lists in Yemen. It also means it is practically impossible for anyone, in any position including the top of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to exercise proper oversight over the program. In other words, we have created an unaccountable killing machine operating at an industrial scale, to borrow CNAS President John Nagl’s phrasing.

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama

Within the U.S. government bureaucracy this shift in priority has distorted staffing choices and led to a momentum that will be difficult to ever stop. When I testified about Intelligence contracting before the U.S. Senate earlier this year, I noted the problems with how these programs get staffed: often without regard to specific skill sets, and usually under the assumption that more staff means better results. Both assumptions lead to muddled results. In some targeting programs, staffers have review quotas — that is, they must review a certain number of possible targets per given length of time. Because they are contractors, their continued employment depends on their ability to satisfy the stated performance metrics. So they have a financial incentive to make life-or-death decisions about possible kill targets just to stay employed. This should be an intolerable situation, but because the system lacks transparency or outside review it is almost impossible to monitor or alter.

Furthermore, the Intelligence Community (IC) as a whole has been reoriented to support the killing machine. While that isn’t of itself a bad thing, we should be asking very probing questions about whether it is necessary and if it is accomplishing the goals it should. The IC already struggles with making useful predictive analysis (i.e. understanding threats to the country and thinking of ways to respond to them). By focusing the IC so strongly on the identification of individuals to kill, the drones program is distorting the collection and analysis priorities of the IC, and in a very real way restricting the resources available to responding to larger economic, military, and nuclear threats. Bureaucracy becomes its own force after a while, and the possibility of ever reassigning these analysts and decision makers becomes less and less realistic the longer the program exists.

A final, important consequence of the dramatic expansion of the drone program is the continued degradation of the IC’s Human Intelligence capabilities and the increasing reliance on liaising with “local partners.” In both Pakistan and Yemen this has led to severe consequences both for our reputation and for our relations with each government. In Afghanistan, poor HUMINT tradecraft has led to a lot of unnecessary deaths because we relied on sketchy local sources instead of doing the hard work to develop thorough human intelligence. The result, way too often, is firing blind based on “pattern of life” indicators without direct confirmation that the targets are, in fact, who we think they are — killing innocent people in the process. In Pakistan, the drones program has become so contentious that it’s inspired death squads that summarily execute people they suspect of participating in the targetting process. And in Yemen, we are now slowly realizing that our “local partners” are really anything but, and we face the very uncomfortable possibility of being used as pawns to violently resolve conflicts that have nothing to do with us.

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama. But, he has decided to both distance himself from it while also taking credit for its successes, even as it focuses on ever less important and marginal figures within the terrorist milieu.

The enormous expansion of drone operations has been a success in the narrowest sense of killing some bad guys. But it has come at an enormous cost: to our reputation, to our morals, to our relationship and status with countries we need to work with to contain and defuse terrorism, and in the lives of the many innocent people we’ve killed through either sloppiness or ignorance. Rather than asking the difficult questions of whether the success of the drone program has been worth it, though, President Obama has chosen instead to amplify its operations and thus claim victory in killing bad guys, even while he distances himself from the knowledge and personal responsibility for who these dead people are and what crimes they may have committed.

It is an absolute scandal. We owe ourselves better questions and more accountability of the drones we use to wantonly kill people around the planet.

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Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing

U.S. Air Force/GETTY IMAGES – A crew chief from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron completes post-flight inspections of the RQ-1 Predator after one of its sorties in Balad Air Base, Iraq. The RQ-1is a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.

By , Published: December 27

The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.
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Clandestine drones: Obama administration’s critical tool

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Clandestine drones: Obama administration’s critical tool

Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing

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The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.

Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.

The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.

In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

The convergence of military and intelligence resources has created blind spots in congressional oversight. Intelligence committees are briefed on CIA operations, and JSOC reports to armed services panels. As a result, no committee has a complete, unobstructed view.

With a year to go in President Obama’s first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al-Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints.

Those results, delivered with unprecedented precision from aircraft that put no American pilots at risk, may help explain why the drone campaign has never attracted as much scrutiny as the detention or interrogation programs of the George W. Bush era. Although human rights advocates and others are increasingly critical of the drone program, the level of public debate remains muted.

Senior Democrats barely blink at the idea that a president from their party has assembled such a highly efficient machine for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists. It is a measure of the extent to which the drone campaign has become an awkward open secret in Washington that even those inclined to express misgivings can only allude to a program that, officially, they are not allowed to discuss.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, described the program with a mixture of awe and concern. Its expansion under Obama was almost inevitable, she said, because of the technology’s growing sophistication. But the pace of its development, she said, makes it hard to predict how it might come to be used.

“What this does is it takes a lot of Americans out of harm’s way . . . without having to send in a special ops team or drop a 500-pound bomb,” Feinstein said in an interview in which she was careful to avoid explicit confirmation that the programs exist. “But I worry about how this develops. I’m worried because of what increased technology will make it capable of doing.”

Another reason for the lack of extensive debate is secrecy. The White House has refused to divulge details about the structure of the drone program or, with rare exceptions, who has been killed. White House and CIA officials declined to speak for attribution for this article.

Drone war’s evolution

Inside the White House, according to officials who would discuss the drone program only on the condition of anonymity, the drone is seen as a critical tool whose evolution was accelerating even before Obama was elected. Senior administration officials said the escalating number of strikes has created a perception that the drone is driving counterterrorism policy, when the reverse is true.

“People think we start with the drone and go from there, but that’s not it at all,” said a senior administration official involved with the program. “We’re not constructing a campaign around the drone. We’re not seeking to create some worldwide basing network so we have drone capabilities in every corner of the globe.”

Nevertheless, for a president who campaigned against the alleged counterterrorism excesses of his predecessor, Obama has emphatically embraced the post-Sept. 11 era’s signature counterterrorism tool.

When Obama was sworn into office in 2009, the nation’s clandestine drone war was confined to a single country, Pakistan, where 44 strikes over five years had left about 400 people dead, according to the New America Foundation. The number of strikes has since soared to nearly 240, and the number of those killed, according to conservative estimates, has more than quadrupled.

The number of strikes in Pakistan has declined this year, partly because the CIA has occasionally suspended them to ease tensions at moments of crisis. One lull followed the arrest of an American agency contractor who killed two Pakistani men; another came after the U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden. The CIA’s most recent period of restraint followed U.S. military airstrikes last month that inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. At the same time, U.S. officials have said that the number of “high-value” al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan has dwindled to two.

Administration officials said the expansion of the program under Obama has largely been driven by the timeline of the drone’s development. Remotely piloted aircraft were used during the Clinton and Bush administrations, but only in recent years have they become advanced and abundant enough to be deployed on such a large scale.

The number of drone aircraft has exploded in the past three years. A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office counted 775 Predators, Reapers and other medium- and long-range drones in the U.S. inventory, with hundreds more in the pipeline.

About 30 of those aircraft have been allocated to the CIA, officials said. But the agency has a separate category that doesn’t show up in any public accounting, a fleet of stealth drones that were developed and acquired under a highly compartmentalized CIA program created after the Sept. 11 attacks. The RQ-170 model that recently crashed in Iran exposed the agency’s use of stealth drones to spy on that country’s nuclear program, but the planes have also been used in other countries.

The escalation of the lethal drone campaign under Obama was driven to an extent by early counterterrorism decisions. Shuttering the CIA’s detention program and halting transfers to Guantanamo Bay left few options beyond drone strikes or detention by often unreliable allies.

Key members of Obama’s national security team came into office more inclined to endorse drone strikes than were their counterparts under Bush, current and former officials said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former CIA director and current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan seemed always ready to step on the accelerator, said a former official who served in both administrations and was supportive of the program. Current administration officials did not dispute the former official’s characterization of the internal dynamics.

The only member of Obama’s team known to have formally raised objections to the expanding drone campaign is Dennis Blair, who served as director of national intelligence.

During a National Security Council meeting in November 2009, Blair sought to override the agenda and force a debate on the use of drones, according to two participants.

Blair has since articulated his concerns publicly, calling for a suspension of unilateral drone strikes in Pakistan, which he argues damage relations with that country and kill mainly mid-level militants. But he now speaks as a private citizen. His opinion contributed to his isolation from Obama’s inner circle, and he was fired last year.

Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.

The senior administration official disputed that characterization, saying that Obama doesn’t weigh in on every operation but has been deeply involved in setting the criteria for strikes and emphasizing the need to minimize collateral damage.

“Everything about our counterterrorism operations is about carrying out the guidance that he’s given,” the official said. “I don’t think you could have the president any more involved.”

Yemen convergence

Yemen has emerged as a crucible of convergence, the only country where both the CIA and JSOC are known to fly armed drones and carry out strikes. The attacks are aimed at al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate that has eclipsed the terrorist network’s core as the most worrisome security threat.

From separate “ops centers” at Langley and Fort Bragg, N.C., the agency and JSOC share intelligence and coordinate attacks, even as operations unfold. U.S. officials said the CIA recently intervened in a planned JSOC strike in Yemen, urging its military counterpart to hold its fire because the intended target was not where the missile was aimed. Subsequent intelligence confirmed the agency’s concerns, officials said.

But seams in the collaboration still show.

After locating Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen this fall, the CIA quickly assembled a fleet of armed drones to track the alleged al-Qaeda leader until it could take a shot.

The agency moved armed Predators from Pakistan to Yemen temporarily, and assumed control of others from JSOC’s arsenal, to expand surveillance of Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric connected to terrorism plots, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The choreography of the strike, which involved four drones, was intricate. Two Predators pointed lasers at Awlaki’s vehicle, and a third circled to make sure that no civilians wandered into the cross hairs. Reaper drones, which are larger than Predators and can carry more missiles, have become the main shooters in most strikes.

On Sept. 30, Awlaki was killed in a missile strike carried out by the CIA under Title 50 authorities — which govern covert intelligence operations — even though officials said it was initially unclear whether an agency or JSOC drone had delivered the fatal blow. A second U.S. citizen, an al-Qaeda propagandist who had lived in North Carolina, was among those killed.

The execution was nearly flawless, officials said. Nevertheless, when a similar strike was conducted just two weeks later, the entire protocol had changed. The second attack, which killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, was carried out by JSOC under Title 10 authorities that apply to the use of military force.

When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, U.S. officials said it was because the main target of the Oct. 14 attack, an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list. The Awlaki teenager, a U.S. citizen with no history of involvement with al-Qaeda, was an unintended casualty.

In interviews, senior U.S. officials acknowledged that the two kill lists don’t match, but offered conflicting explanations as to why.

Three senior U.S. officials said the lists vary because of the divergent legal authorities. JSOC’s list is longer, the officials said, because the post-Sept. 11, 2001, Authorization for Use of Military Force, as well as a separate executive order, gave JSOC latitude to hunt broadly defined groups of al-Qaeda fighters, even outside conventional war zones. The CIA’s lethal-action authorities, based in a presidential “finding” that has been modified since Sept. 11, were described as more narrow.

But others directly involved in the drone campaign offered a simpler explanation: Because the CIA had only recently resumed armed drone flights over Yemen, the agency hadn’t had as much time as JSOC to compile its kill list. Over time, officials said, the agency would catch up.

The administration official who discussed the drone program declined to address the discrepancies in the kill lists, except to say: “We are aiming and striving for alignment. That is an ideal to be achieved.”

Divided oversight

Such disparities often elude Congress, where the structure of oversight committees has failed to keep pace with the way military and intelligence operations have converged.

Within 24 hours of every CIA drone strike, a classified fax machine lights up in the secure spaces of the Senate intelligence committee, spitting out a report on the location, target and result.

The outdated procedure reflects the agency’s effort to comply with Title 50 requirements that Congress be provided with timely, written notification of covert action overseas. There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.

Neither panel is in a position to compare the CIA and JSOC kill lists or even arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the rules by which each is assembled.

The senior administration official said the gap is inadvertent. “It’s certainly not something where the goal is to evade oversight,” the official said. A senior Senate aide involved in reviewing military drone strikes said that the blind spot reflects a failure by Congress to adapt but that “we will eventually catch up.”

The disclosure of these operations is generally limited to relevant committees in the House and Senate and sometimes only to their leaders. Those briefed must abide by restrictions that prevent them from discussing what they have learned with those who lack the requisite security clearances. The vast majority of lawmakers receive scant information about the administration’s drone program.

The Senate intelligence committee, which is wrapping up a years-long investigation of the Bush-era interrogation program, has not initiated such an examination of armed drones. But officials said their oversight of the program has been augmented significantly in the past couple of years, with senior staff members now making frequent and sometimes unannounced visits to the CIA “ops center,” reviewing the intelligence involved in errant strikes, and visiting counterterrorism operations sites overseas.

Feinstein acknowledged concern with emerging blind spots.

“Whenever this is used, particularly in a lethal manner, there ought to be careful oversight, and that ought to be by civilians,” Feinstein said. “What we have is a very unique battlefield weapon. You can’t stop the technology from improving, so you better start thinking about how you monitor it.”

Increasing reach

The return of armed CIA Predators to Yemen — after carrying out a single strike there in 2002 — was part of a significant expansion of the drones’ geographic reach.

Over the past year, the agency has erected a secret drone base on the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. military began flying Predators and Reapers from bases in Seychelles and Ethi­o­pia, in addition to JSOC’s long-standing drone base in Djibouti.

Senior administration officials said the sprawling program comprises distinct campaigns, each calibrated according to where and against whom the aircraft and other counterterrorism weapons are used.

In Pakistan, the CIA has carried out 239 strikes since Obama was sworn in, and the agency continues to have wide latitude to launch attacks.

In Yemen, there have been about 15 strikes since Obama took office, although it is not clear how many were carried out by drones because the U.S. military has also used conventional aircraft and cruise missiles.

Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab is based, is surrounded by American drone installations. And officials said that JSOC has repeatedly lobbied for authority to strike al-Shabab training camps that have attracted some Somali Americans.

But the administration has allowed only a handful of strikes, out of concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.

The plans are constantly being adjusted, officials said, with the White House holding strategy sessions on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia two or three times a month. Administration officials point to the varied approach as evidence of its restraint.

“Somalia would be the easiest place to go in in an undiscriminating way and do drone strikes because there’s no host government to get” angry, the senior administration official said. “But that’s certainly not the way we’re approaching it.”

Drone strikes could resume, however, if factions of al-Shabab’s leadership succeed in expanding the group’s agenda.

“That’s an ongoing calculation because there’s an ongoing debate inside the senior leadership of al-Shabab,” the senior administration official said. “It certainly would not bother us if potential terrorists took note of the fact that we tend to go after those who go after us.”

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

© The Washington Post Company

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One Nation Under The Drone: The Rising Number Of UAVs In American Skies

Jillian Rayfield
Talking Points Memo
Thu, 22 Dec 2011 15:54 CST
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Predator Drone

© Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.

Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.

News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.

The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.

Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear – and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons – in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.

Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years.

Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, says that there are currently two types of authorizations – one for public operations, as in state and local governments, and one for private entities. In each case, the application process involves telling the FAA what type and where and when aircraft will be flown, so the agency can determine if it can ensure the safety of other aircraft. Dorr said that next month the FAA hopes to propose new, looser rules for use of small unarmed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) because “that’s where the demand is.”

He told TPM that they’re hoping to publish the new regulations in January, which will be followed by a comment period for industry and other interested parties. That usually lasts 60 days, at which point the FAA will take the comments into consideration when drafting the final language of the rule.

So who would use these small drones?

Kevin Lauscher, a Grant Assistance Specialist for the Canada-based manufacturers of the Dragonfly drones, couldn’t say how many they’ve sold in the U.S. so far. But he said that aside from law enforcement agencies, they’ve sold drones to companies in real estate, manufacturing, academic institutions and even resorts. He described how some construction companies use drones for safety reasons, in place of a person on top of a crane or scaffolding.

But, the FAA said in a press release in October, though “interest is growing in civil (non-government) uses” for drones, “one of the most promising potential uses for sUAS is in law enforcement.”

“The FAA is working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft,” the release says, also noting that members of law enforcement agencies participated in the committee that is drafting the new sUAS rule.

So far, there is a handful of law enforcement agencies that already have authorization to use drones, like sheriff’s departments in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland and Lane County, Oregon and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Police in Arlington, Texas have a drone they acquired to help with security during the February, 2011 Superbowl. The Mayor of Ogden, Utah is working to get an “unmanned blimp” that would fly over the city and serve as “a deterrent to crime.”

But there are some cases that are particularly concerning for civil liberties advocates. In North Dakota, a family of “sovereign citizens” was arrested with the help of a Predator B drone, borrowed from border patrol agents by the local sheriff in an effort to avoid a standoff over missing cows. In the first reported case of a drone being used to aid in the arrest of a U.S. citizen, the drone was able to detect when the family was carrying weapons so officials could move in without fear of a firefight.

There’s also the Houston Police Department, which scrapped a plan to bring on a drone shortly after KPRC-TV filmed local officials participating in a secret air show for drones, about 70 miles outside of the city. The police chief mentioned in a press conference that the drones could be used for issuing traffic tickets, and the backlash was such that the Mayor put the kibosh on the program. But, according to KPRC-TV, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office near Houston still used $300,000 in federal grant money from the DHS to buy a ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter.

“We’re not going to use it to be invading somebody’s privacy. It’ll be used for situations we have with criminals,” Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage said.

Law enforcement officials agree with Gage, and emphasize that drone use is to protect officers and nothing more.

Ben Miller, the UAS Operations Manager at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, said his office primarily uses their two drones for search-and-rescue missions or taking aerial photos of potential crime scenes. He described how the UAS unit was tasked with searching a mile-long area for a man who went missing and was thought to be suicidal – a search they completed in an hour. Normally, he said, a search like that would be conducted with agents standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and would have taken much longer.

Miller told TPM that there have been concerns expressed about potential privacy violations, but the department is careful to get warrants when necessary. “That’s definitely a sensitive subject,” he said, but “probably 1% of the application potential is surveillance” for drones.

“Flying cameras are not a new thing. What’s new is doing it smaller and cheaper,” he added. “There probably are going to be some challenges in the future,” but for now there’s enough case law to keep law enforcement in check. “If we’re going to fly below 400 feet we’re going to get a search warrant,” Miller said.

Sgt. Andrew Cohen of the Miami-Dade Police Department says their two drones are still in testing and training, but would mostly be used to provide tactical air support to police units, such as in a hostage situation. He said that there is a “misconception” that drones will be used to infringe on people’s privacy – if for no other reason than because they’re very noisy. “This thing is not stealth technology,” Cohen said. “It’s being used on a police scene” where there are already a number of police units present. “We’re not going to see anything with this probably any more than if we had a helicopter up there.”

“Everything is a tool, it’s how you use it that makes it good or bad,” Cohen said.

But civil liberties advocates are worried that it’ll be a slippery slope as more and more law enforcement agencies acquire this type of technology under the potential new FAA regulations.

The ACLU put out a report this month analyzing the increase in domestic drones, noting that since 2005 the Customs and Border Protection agency has operated seven Predator B drones along the southern border, and it hopes to increase that number to 24 by 2016. “The prospect of cheap, small, portable flying video surveillance machines threatens to eradicate existing practical limits on aerial monitoring and allow for pervasive surveillance, police fishing expeditions, and abusive use of these tools in a way that could eventually eliminate the privacy Americans have traditionally enjoyed in their movements and activities,” the report says.

Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says that a big concern right now is how murky the statistics are on the number of domestic drones. “They’re concerning for the privacy of Americans, and we just don’t know at this point how the agencies are using them,” she said.

“The Department of Homeland Security is working with state and local law enforcement to use drones for basic criminal activity,” Lynch said. “And in my mind that type of activity hasn’t been approved for the use of these drones.”

“I don’t believe that law enforcement agencies have the proper standards in place for when using drones is appropriate,” she said.

Ryan Calo, the Director for Privacy and Robotics at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, wrote in a report that “these machines are disquieting. Virtually any robot can engender a certain amount of discomfort, let alone one associated in the mind of the average American with spy operations or targeted killing. If you will pardon the inevitable reference to 1984, George Orwell specifically describes small flying devices that roam neighborhoods and peer into windows.”

Calo told TPM that local sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies are using the smaller drones “more regularly,” though it’s still not routine. But Calo noted that under the possible new FAA regulations it’ll become much more common. “There’s a little bit of a trickle, but it would turn into a waterfall if they loosen their restrictions,” he said.

“You can imagine some pretty mischievous uses” for drones, Calo said. “The kind of privacy violations I’m worried about are from government and big corporations alike.” If the restrictions are loosened, he said, some estimates put the number of domestic drones at 15,000 by 2018. But he emphasized that if there is such a dramatic increase in the number of drones out there, there will likely be a reexamining of existing privacy laws. “I think we’re not going to be comfortable with some of the doctrine on the books for privacy law.”

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CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – From his apartment in Las Vegas, Sam Nelson drove to work through the desert along wind-whipped Highway 95 toward Indian Springs. Along the way, he tuned in to XM radio and tried to put aside the distractions of daily life – bills, rent, laundry – and get ready for work.

Nelson, an Air Force captain, was heading for his day shift on a new kind of job, one that could require him to kill another human being 7,500 miles away.

Seated in a padded chair inside a low, tan building, he controlled a heavily armed drone aircraft soaring over Afghanistan. When his shift ended, he drove 40 minutes back through the desert to the hustle and neon of Las Vegas.

Drone pilots and crews are the vanguards of a revolution in warfare, one the U.S. military and intelligence agencies have bet on heavily. The first Predator carrying weapons was rushed to Afghanistan just four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Today, the Air Force is spending nearly $3 billion a year buying and operating drones, and is training pilots to fly more unmanned than manned aircraft. Demand is so strong even non-pilots such as civil engineers and military police are being trained.

More than 7,000 drones of all types are in use over Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes have played an integral part in the offensive now being carried out in Marjah, Afghanistan, by Marines, British and Afghan troops.

The Pentagon has adapted consumer-driven technology such as satellite television and digital video to give pilots, combat troops and commanders at headquarters a real-time look at the enemy on computer screens. For the first time in warfare, troops on the ground can see the enemy miles away on live video feeds.

Drone strikes in Pakistan are part of a separate CIA program that has killed more than two dozen senior al-Qaida and Taliban figures, including two leaders of the Pakistani Taliban in the last six months.

But the attacks also kill civilians, inflaming the sentiment the United States is fighting an undeclared, illegal war from the skies over that country. Some critics say the problems are so serious the entire program is counterproductive and should be shut down.

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More Predator drones fly U.S.-Mexico border

View Photo Gallery —  Unmanned drones are patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in larger numbers in an effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

More Predator drones fly U.S.-Mexico border

By , Wednesday, December 21, 7:01 AM

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — In the dead of night, from a trailer humming with surveillance monitors, a pilot for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was remotely flying a Predator drone more than 1,000 miles away.

From an altitude of 15,000 feet, over the desert ranchlands of Arizona, the drone’s all-seeing eyeball swiveled and powerful night-vision infrared cameras zeroed in on a pickup truck rattling along a washboard road.

“Hey, where’s that guy going?” the mission controller asked the drone’s camera operator, who toggled his joystick, glued to the monitors like a teenager with a Christmas morning Xbox.

This is the semi-covert cutting edge of homeland security, where federal law enforcement authorities are rapidly expanding a military-style unmanned aerial reconnaissance operation along the U.S.-Mexico border — a region that privacy watchdogs say includes a lot of American back yards.

Fans of the Predators say the $20 million aircraft are a perfect platform to keep a watchful eye on America’s rugged borders, but critics say the drones are expensive, invasive and finicky toys that have done little — compared with what Border Patrol agents do on the ground — to stem the flow of illegal crossers, drug smugglers or terrorists.

Over Arizona, the Predator circled a ranch, as unseen and silent as a hunting owl. On a bank of computer screens, the team watched the truck, which appeared in ghostly infrared black and white, turn and pull up by a mobile home. In the yard, three sleeping dogs quickly woke up, their tails wagging.

“Welcome home,” one of the agents said.

A popular security solution

Eight Predators fly for the Customs and Border Protection agency — five, and soon to be six, along the southwestern border. After a slow rollout that began in 2005, government drones now patrol most of the southern boundary, from Yuma, Ariz., to Brownsville, Tex.

To hear their supporters, Predators are the new, sexy, futuristic fix for immigration control. They are irresistible to border hawks and the “Drone Caucus” in Congress, whose interests in homeland security and defense contractors neatly dovetail to produce a must-have technology to meet the still-unrealized threat of spillover violence from Mexican drug cartels.

Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Calif.) has said the drones are so popular that a Predator could be elected president. Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar pronounced domestic drones “invaluable.” Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer called them “ideal for border security and counter-drug missions.” GOP presidential contender Texas Gov. Rick Perry argues that the solution to security along the frontier is not a border fence but more Predators.

In his trips to testify on Capitol Hill, Michael Kostelnik, the retired U.S. Air Force general and former test pilot who runs the Office of Air and Marine for the Border Protection service, said that he’s never been challenged in Congress about the appropriate use of domestic drones. “Instead the question is: Why can’t we have more of them in my district?” Kostelnik said.

Planning documents for the CBP envision as many as 24 Predators and their maritime variants in the air by 2016, giving the Border Protection agency the ability to put a drone up anywhere in the continental United States within three hours.

The drones, though operated by Customs and Border Protection, have been deployed to assist sister law enforcement agencies. This month, the Los Angeles Times reported that domestic Predators were used in North Dakota to help local police run down a trio of ordinary crime suspects in a cow pasture.

These unarmed Predator-Bs are the same unmanned aircraft known for lethal hunter-killer missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, except they don’t carry the missile package.

One of the first Predators deployed by the border service crashed in 2006 when its remote pilot, a contractor for the plane manufacturer General Atomics, turned off the engine by mistake. The downed plane missed a residential area by 1,000 feet.

Current U.S. protocols require the drones to stay on the American side of the Rio Grande. “We don’t do Mexico,” said Lothar Eckardt, director of the Homeland Security’s National Air Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi.

But the aerial platforms do peer a little over the fence into Mexico.

What can they see? “We can see cows, pigs, coyotes, sometimes rabbits,” Lothar said. “At 20,000 feet you can see windshield wipers, you can see if a person is running or walking, you can see backpacks, sometimes. We can see Border Patrol, but not their uniforms, and so we can communicate with them and say wave your arms, and that way we can distinguish between our guys and the bad guys.”

Privacy and cost concerns

Privacy watchdogs are concerned about the use of drones over domestic airspace. “The loss of privacy is real. You want to sunbathe in the nude on your own property? Now you can’t be sure nobody is watching you,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Americans will have to wonder if our enthusiasm for catching illegal immigrants is worth the sacrificing our freedoms.”

U.S. courts allow law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance from helicopters and airplanes, and privacy protections end when the public goes outside. The domestic Predator’s surveillance cameras do not allow them to see through windows.

Despite its initial reluctance, the Federal Aviation Administration allows the drones to fly a high-altitude corridor along the Mexican and Canadian borders but still forbids them over congested urban areas — for safety, not privacy, concerns. Because of the orientation of the runway at the Corpus Christi naval base, the Predators are grounded when the wind direction requires them to pass over a neighboring suburb.

The mission over the Arizona ranch lands last month was typical. The Predator was searching for scouts who hide in the brush and signal with a cellphone when smugglers can attempt to cross with a load of marijuana or humans. The drone did not find any scouts on this night. The night before, however, they helped the Border Patrol in Texas capture a dozen illegal migrants.

The Predators reached a milestone in June, having flown 10,000 hours. The Homeland Security Department reported their drone operations led to the apprehension of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers since the program began six years ago.

Those numbers are not very impressive. Some 327,577 illegal migrants were caught at the southwest border in fiscal 2011, meaning the drones have contributed to tiny fraction of arrests.

With an hour of flight time costing $3,600, it costs about $7,054 for each illegal immigrant or smuggler caught, based on numbers calculated from a recent Government Accountability Office report to Congress. The government has spent $240 million buying and maintaining its domestic drones, which does not include their operation.

It is hard to put a dollar value on the services that the Predators can supply, Kostelnik said, citing as an example, a scenario in which a nuclear reactor, like the one in Japan damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, needed to be inspected from the air.

“What is the value of a ‘can’t be seen, can’t be heard’ technology, when you absolutely, really need it?” Kostelnik said. “The unmanned aircraft does things nothing else can do.”

The authors of the GAO report were not so sure.

They highlighted an obscure program called “Big Miguel” run by the Joint Task Force North out of the U.S. Army’s Biggs Field in El Paso that leased a piloted Cessna with an infrared sensor that cost $1.2 million for the year and assisted in the apprehension of 6,500 to 8,000 undocumented immigrants and seizure of $54 million in pot, according to defense officials. That would make the Big Miguel cost per undocumented immigrant caught about $230.

“Congress and the taxpayers ought to demand some kind of real cost-benefit analysis of drones,” said Tom Barry, trans-border project director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank, who has studied the domestic Predator program. “My sense is that they would conclude these aircraft aren’t worth the money.”

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USA Domestic drones:

Coming soon over a home near you?

Eric Gay / AP

A Predator B unmanned aircraft lands after a mission at the Naval Air Station, Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Corpus Christi, Texas.

By Sylvia Wood, msnbc.com

The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing new rules that could make it easier for law enforcement agencies to use drone aircraft in the U.S., raising concerns about privacy at a time when the aircraft are already conducting surveillance missions in some parts of the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a report Thursday demanding better protections against a surveillance society, “in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.”

“Our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values,” warns the ACLU report, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft.”

The report follows a weekend story by the Los Angeles Times that detailed how the unmanned aircraft are being used in domestic law enforcement cases, and not just along the country’s borders to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers as was originally authorized by Congress in 2005.

The Times said a North Dakota county sheriff asked federal authorities to employ a drone for surveillance in a standoff with three men on a farm June 23, resulting in the first known arrest of U.S. citizens involving the spy planes in a domestic case.

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Since then, the Times said, two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base have flown at least two dozen surveillance flights for local police. The Times reported the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration have also used drones in domestic investigations.

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Next month, the FAA is expected to issue proposed rules that the ACLU warns could expand their use by domestic law enforcement agencies.

The FAA declined comment for this story but in a recent fact sheet acknowledged the growing interest by law enforcement in unmanned aircraft.

“The FAA is working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft,” the FAA statement said. “The goal is to help identify the challenges that UAS (umanned aircraft systems) will bring into this environment and what type of operations law enforcement can safely perform.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has supported expanding the use of domestic drones along the border with Mexico. In October, the Sheriff’s Department in Montgomery County, north of Houston, bought a $300,000 ShadowHawk drone from Vanguard Defense industries using federal homeland security grant funds.

“It’s an exciting piece of equipment for us,” Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the sheriff’s office told the Houston Chronicle at the time. “We envision a lot of its uses primarily in the realm of public safety — looking at recovery of lost individuals and being able to utilize it for fire issues.”

McDaniel said the aircraft would not be used to track suspects’ vehicles but may provide surveillance for officers serving warrants.

M. Ryan Calo, director for privacy and robotics at the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, says widespread use of drones domestically seems inevitable, particularly since they are an efficient and cost-effective alternative to helicopter and airplanes.

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“Drones are capable of finding or following a specific person,” he writes in a recent article in the Stanford Law Review. “They can fly patterns in search of suspicious activities or hover over a location in wait. Some are as small as birds or insects, others as big as blimps. In addition to high-resolution cameras and microphones, drones can be equipped with thermal imaging and the capacity to intercept wireless communications.”

In addition to privacy concerns, Calo said, drones also raise safety and security issues, particularly because they can crash and their guidance systems can be hacked. He cited the case of the CIA drone recently lost in Iran. The Christian Science Monitor on Thursday reported a claim by an Iranian engineer that the Iranians were able to exploit a navigational weakness in the drone’s technology to make it land in Iran.

Catherine Crump, the ACLU report’s co-author and staff attorney with the Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, said the organization isn’t against the use of all domestic drones but rather wants to make privacy a central issue as the technology becomes more available.

“We have a clear opportunity to get ahead of the game,” she said.

Some of the ACLU’s recommendations include not deploying drones unless there is certainty that they will collect evidence of a specific crime. If a drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant should be required, the ACLU said. The report also calls for restrictions on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process for developing policies on how drones will be used.

“Historically, the fact that manned helicopters and airplanes are expensive has imposed a natural limit on aerial surveillance. But the prospect of cheap, flying video surveillance cameras will likely open the floodgates,” said Jay Stanley, the report’s other co-author and senior policy analyst with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

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dec 4 2011

Iran shoots down US drone

Iranian military official quoted as warning of crushing response after unmanned spy plane is shot down

US drone aircraft

Iran’s military said it had shot down the US drone near the country’s eastern border. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Iran‘s armed forces have shot down an unmanned US spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along its eastern border.

An unidentified military official quoted by the official Irna news agency on Sunday warned of a crushing response to any violations of Iranian airspace by US drone aircraft.

“An advanced RQ170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s armed forces,” Irna quoted the official as saying.

No further details were given.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the US and its allies over Tehran’s alleged nuclear programme, which the west believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying the programme is designed to generate electricity and produce isotopes for medical use.

Tehran said in January it had shot down two other unmanned spy planes over its airspace which were operated by the US.

Iran itself has focused part of its military strategy on producing drones, both for reconnaissance and offensive purposes.

It announced three years ago that it had built an unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles, far enough to reach Israel.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unveiled Iran’s first domestically built unmanned bomber in August 2010, calling it an “ambassador of death” to Iran’s enemies.

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April 23, 2011

Anti-drone Walk of Transformation, Syracuse, NY, April 22nd


Posted by Russell at 11:48 PM 0 comments

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Also called blowback- just search it

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April 10, 2011

‘Creechers’ from Nevada murder 23 innocent Afghanis, including 2 little boys, with their Predator ‘toys’. They kill them with Reapers from Syracuse.


COMBAT BY CAMERA
Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy

U.S. Predator teams and a special operations unit on the ground studying a suspicious convoy make a series of fateful missteps as they try to distinguish friend from foe.”No way to tell from here,” the camera operator added.
At 9:30 a.m., the pilot came back on the radio.

“Since the engagement,” he said, “we have not been able to PID [positively identify] any weapons.”

U.S. and Afghan forces reached the scene 2 1/2 hours after the attack to provide medical assistance. After 20 minutes more, medevac helicopters began taking the wounded to a hospital in Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan. More serious cases were later transferred to Kabul.

“They asked us who we were, and we told them we were civilians from Kijran district,” said Qudratullah, who lost a leg.

By the U.S. count, 15 or 16 men were killed and 12 people were wounded, including a woman and three children. Elders from the Afghans’ home villages said in interviews that 23 had been killed, including two boys, Daoud, 3, and Murtaza, 4.



You need to take the time to read this article. It is the direction war-fighting is taking. People from halfway around the world are executing people with their video machines. It’s popular with politicians because they falsely believe that their constituency won’t care if they don’t have a lot of our soldiers coming home in body bags.

After they track and kill all day at the ‘office’, they go home and play with their kids. Weird, but true. Some of the war resisters tell us that they couldn’t do it to the children over their any more when they thought about their kids back home – so they left the military.

If we can accidentally kill innocent people from a few hundred feet away, I can’t begin to imagine us being more accurate from the other side of the world.

If you are on the west coast mid-April, you can join the Sacred Peace Walk and make a statement opposing nuclear weapons and/or the drones at Creech AFB (north of Las Vegas)

If you are on the east coast join us on at theGround the Drones / End the Warsprotest on April 22nd in Syracuse and at Hancock Airbase. They just eased up on FAA regulations that allow the stealth drones to fly and ‘play’ over the Adirondacks and commercial airspace around Syracuse, NY.

Posted by Russell at 11:32 PM 0 comments

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June 08, 2011

Remote-Control Assassins

Ground the Drones

by DOUG NOBLE

With my involvement in ongoing protests at Hancock Field near Syracuse, a base for Reaper drones remotely “piloted” over Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have been trying to achieve greater clarity about my objections to weaponized (“killer”) drones. A new children’s book on Predator Drones explains their significance, “The US military is always looking for ways to reduce risks for soldiers and to keep pilots safe. This is why unmanned drones are important.” This seems reasonable, but consider that, due to overwhelming US air power superiority, there hasn’t been a US Air Force plane lost in combat in nearly 40 years, and so there is negligible difference in risk between piloting a drone aircraft and flying a fighter jet. Add to this the fact that killer (Predator or Reaper) drones are used most frequently in sovereign nations ? Pakistan, Yemen, Libya – with which the US is neither at war nor has any official boots on the ground. So there are no US soldiers to keep safe in these places. It seems that neither US pilots nor soldiers are made safer by most drone deployments. And still their use has skyrocketed.

What is different about this latest weapon of war that we oppose so strenuously? True, they are remotely controlled by a risk-free videogame mentality that makes killing easy, even fun, with the trigger as far away our very backyard here in Upstate New York. But anyone who has viewed the Wikileaks footage of young helicopter gunship pilots picking off unarmed civilians, following orders issued in real time from afar, will recognize that this is not unique to drone pilots. Many of us cry out about the horrendous “collateral damage” of drones – the devastating civilian casualties and misidentified targets and technical disasters resulting in countless (because uncounted) innocent deaths. The targeted killing of Al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud, for example, took 16 missile strikes over 14 months, with well over two hundred mistaken deaths.

But if the drones were made more precise and effective, with fewer casualties and more accurate target identification, would we then find them more acceptable? Would drones simply be seen as another weapon of war, whose casualties are not inherently different from such deaths caused by other horrendous weapons of war? Why do we focus on drones as somehow uniquely diabolical?

The answer is this: Killer drones are not primarily weapons of war, as usually defined, but instead are automated technologies designed for convenient, targeted killing or assassination outside of war zones. As mentioned, the usual targets are in countries we aren’t at war with, far from usual areas of armed conflict. And killer drones in these countries are not even operated by the US military, but rather by the CIA and its private contractors like Blackwater, acting covertly, without uniforms or legal code and beyond any accountability. The US military has its drones, too, of course, for surveillance and some bombing in Afghanistan, but the real show, now and in the future, is the covert use of killer drones for large-scale extrajudicial assassination and targeted killing, under the cover of a global war on terror.

Drones, with their low cost and low risk, make targeted killing more convenient and more likely. The recent assassination of Osama bin Laden was carried out by elite special forces instead of drones in order to avoid collateral damage in a heavily populated area and to ensure positive evidence that bin Laden had been killed. But such elaborately orchestrated killings, without the host country’s knowledge, are not feasible for the CIA’s campaign of large-scale targeted killings. That is why drones are uniquely worthy of our attention, because their use has reconfigured war into a worldwide landscape of silent, targeted killings from above, whose victims could be anyone the CIA adds to its hit list of potential threats or terrorists.

There has been an unprecedented increase in CIA assassinations. Under president Obama the use of drones in Pakistan has escalated dramatically, from once a week to every other day. Drones are now labeled the weapon of choice, “the only game in town.” And demand for drone technology has been called “insatiable.”

The US keeps widening the definition of acceptable targets for drone killings. Though the CIA’s methodology is secret and remains unknown, the Pentagon maintains a complex taxonomy of targets and elaborate formulas to determine its kill list, which includes mere foot soldiers, ordinary fighters as well as top commanders. Drone consultant Bruce Riedel likened the drone attacks to “going after a beehive, one bee at a time.” A former National Security Council official has stated, “Not every target has to be a rock star.”The Pentagon’s list of approved targets in 2009 was even expanded to include Afghan drug lords funding the Taliban. More sobering still, the CIA requested and was given permission in 2008 to target not just individuals but also entire locations linked to al Qaeda, turning targeted killings into mass killings of suspected militants in an area.

Is any of this legal? Kill lists maintained both by the CIA and the covert military unit Joint Special Operations Command, using secret criteria, condemn even US citizens to summary execution – without charge, trial or conviction. No standards are disclosed under which someone becomes targeted for death, as the ACLU has found in trying unsuccessfully to obtain this information. Such killing violates US Constitution due process protections as well as international law, which labels premeditated killing of an individual by a government a homicide unless it takes place within an armed conflict. The UN Charter requires there be evident self-defense, Security Council authorization, or invitation by the sovereign host country, clearly missing in the case of Pakistan.

Prior to 9/11, CIA director George Tenet argued that it would be “a terrible mistake” for the CIA to use a weapon like killer drones. But after 9/11, Bush’s legal advisers modeled a new rationale on Israel’s use of drones against terrorists in Gaza and elsewhere, arguing that the US had the right to use lethal force against suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in what it called “anticipatory self-defense.” Gary Solis, former director of the law program at US Military Academy, describes the Predator targeted killing program as a “sea change,” a policy that the US had only recently abhorred in Israel. Of course, Israel’s use of targeted assassination goes back at least as far as the 1970s, when it systematically went after and assassinated all the suspects behind the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes, reenacted in the film Munich.

Israel claimed implausibly back then that its post-Munich assassinations were not for revenge but only for deterrence, as “pre-emptive self-defense.” The US claims, too, that assassinations and targeted killings are very different acts. Assassination is defined as murder and is prohibited by US law. But targeted killing in self-defense is different. The killing of an al Qaeda member is technically not a revenge killing or an assassination, which applies only to politically inspired killings of people who are not combatants. Gary Solis of the US Military Academy says, “Nobody in the US government calls it assassination.” It’s all in the name of deterrence or self-defense.

Journalist Jane Mayer, who has studied the use of Predator drones extensively, insists they represent not just an extension of conventional warfare, but instead “a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force.” Noam Chomsky, in a recent talk in Syracuse, reminded us that US leaders during World War II identified what they called a “Grand Area,” spanning the entire Western Hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British Empire (including the Middle East), all of which the U.S. would dominate in perpetuity. Within this Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain unquestioned power, enabling US military intervention at will to ensure unimpeded access to key resources and to shape events that affect US security. The unbounded use of killer drones for targeted killing in the manner of Rambo, justified as self-defense and deterrence in the so-called war on terror, carries this global strategy of world domination with impunity into the present moment.

The Center for Constitutional Rights warns the killer drones usher in a “boundless war without end.” But this is no longer war at all, as typically defined. And it will not just be perpetrated by the US. More than 40 countries currently fly drone aircraft, and within 20 years there will be swarms of bug-sized drones and many autonomous fighters and bombers in use around the globe.

A UN Human Rights report conceded in 2010 that “a missile fired from a drone is no different from any other commonly used weapon, legal so long as it complies with international law requiring discrimination, proportionality, necessity and precaution.” But the report also states that drones are unique because of their “playstation mentality to killing” that makes “it easier to kill without risk” and so tempts commanders “to interpret who can be killed and under what circumstances, too expansively.” Drone weapon systems, especially as they become increasingly autonomous to the point of making life and death decisions themselves, may well be uniquely dangerous. In fact the UN report concludes that drones might, like cluster bombs and landmines, be banned for being “so cruel as to be beyond the pale of human tolerance.” We are absolutely correct to focus our energies opposing killer drones, and I hope it’s now clearer why.

Doug Noble is an activist with the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones.

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Peaceniks Target Killer Drones

For nearly 30 years, Father Louie Vitale — a 76-year-old former Air Force navigator turned Franciscan monk and peace activist — has traveled to the remote deserts of the Southwest to demonstrate against … well, just about everything involving America’s military. He’s been thrown in jail for protesting the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, the wars in Iraq and the military’s interrogation procedures, to name just a few of his more than 200 arrests. But these days, Vitale (pictured, fourth from left) and his fellow activists have a new target in the mountains and deserts north of Las Vegas: America’s fleet of killer drones.

“We’ve been out there in that very desert, stopping nuclear testing, for over 30 years now,” he tells Democracy Now. “All of a sudden, we noticed down the street … all of these drones.” At first, he thought they were just practice drones. “Then we find out that they’re bombing and bombing and bombing in Afghanistan.”

In Central Asia, the unmanned strikes on suspected militants have become one of the most controversial elements of the eight-year campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Late last week, Pakistan’s prime minister demanded that America hand over control of the drones operating in his country to the Islamabad government. The News of Pakistan accused the tele-operated aircraft of “perishing 687 innocent
Pakistani civilians
” in 60 separate strikes, while only “killing 14 wanted al Qaeda leaders.”

But here in America, the unmanned attacks have gone on largely without protest. Even the professional activist types have largely ignored the robots and their military masters.

Last Thursday afternoon, however, Vitale and 13 other demonstrators marched into Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base, where the military remotely pilots the unmanned aircraft that fly over Afghanistan and Iraq. They sat down, and began to sing and pray — part of a 10-day vigil dubbed “Ground the Drones.”

About an hour later, they were arrested by the State Police. At the activists’ behest, the cops then drove them to Las Veags for booking. “When we were released on Good Friday morning, we did what any normal Christian would do,” Vitale’s compatriot, John Dear, writes. “We went back to the scene of the crime and continued to pray and speak out for an end to U.S. warmaking.”

Dear then launches into a rather purple account about his detention, release and return to Creech — just in time for a “Stations of the
Cross” demonstration, he notes.

With 60 folks, we read and prayed through each modern-day station, learning how Jesus is condemned and crucified all over again in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan because of our weapons and wars. We prayed, sang and reflected along the towering chain fence of the military base — and were interrupted repeatedly by the drones flying overhead.

We saw with our own eyes that these drones are real, that our country is dead set on killing, that these weapons are no joke. We tried to take action, to say as Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemani, “Stop, no more of this!” Tomorrow on
Easter Sunday morning, we will gather for mass at the Nevada test site, then walk on to that military base to offer the risen Jesus’ gift of resurrection peace and get arrested all over again. So it goes.

[Photo: Pace e Bene]

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Air Force Completes Killer Micro-Drone Project

070820-N-4774B-052

The Air Force Research Laboratory set out in 2008 to build the ultimate assassination robot: a tiny, armed drone for U.S. special forces to employ in terminating “high-value targets.” The military won’t say exactly what happened to this Project Anubis, named after a jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. But military budget documents note that Air Force engineers were successful in “develop[ing] a Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV) with innovative seeker/tracking sensor algorithms that can engage maneuvering high-value targets.”

We have seen in recent years increased strikes by larger Predator and Reaper drones using Hellfire missiles against terrorist-leadership targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But these have three significant drawbacks.

First, you can never be quite sure of what you hit. In 2002’s notorious “Tall Man incident,” CIA operatives unleashed a Hellfire at an individual near Zhawar Kili in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. His unusual height convinced the drone controllers that the man was Bin Laden (who stands 6 feet, 5 inches). In fact, he was merely an innocent (if overgrown) Afghan peasant.

A second problem is that the Hellfire isn’t exactly the right weapon for the mission. Originally designed as an anti-tank missile, it’s not especially agile, nor is it designed to cope with a target that might swerve or dodge at the last second (like cars and motorbikes).

And thirdly, such strikes tend to affect a number of others, as well as the intended target. It raises the risk of killing or injuring innocent bystanders.

This was the rationale for Project Anubis. Special Forces already make extensive use of the Wasp drone made by AeroVironment. This is the smallest drone in service, weighing less than a pound. It has an endurance of around 45 minutes, and line-of-sight control extends to 3 miles.

It might seem limited compared to larger craft, but the Wasp excels at close-in reconnaissance. Its quiet electric motor means it can get near to targets without their ever being aware of its presence.

The Air Force’s 2008 budget plans described the planned Project Anubis as “a small UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that carries sensors, data links, and a munitions payload to engage time-sensitive fleeting targets in complex environments.” It noted that after it was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Anubis would be used by Air Force Special Operations Command. The total cost was to be just over half a million dollars.

No official announcements have been made since then, and the Air Force did not return a request to comment on this story (hardly surprising for a weapon so likely to be used covertly). But the current Air Force R&D budget does mention the effort, briefly. This newer document refers to Project Anubis as a development that has already been carried out. According to the budget, $1.75 million was spent to reach the goal.

The current state of Project Anubis is unknown. It could be one of tens of thousands of military research efforts that started, made some progress and ended without a conclusion. Or Anubis could now be in the hands of Air Force Special Operations Command.

If so, Anubis would solve both of the problems associated with the Predator-Hellfire combination. It would follow and catch the most elusive target, and its ability to take a video sensor close to the target should mean it can be positively identified before the operator has to make a go or no-go decision.

(There may be a classical reference here: The god Anubis was responsible for weighing the hearts of the dead to judge whether they would have eternal life. The Project Anubis MAV will have to make similarly fine judgments.)

A tiny warhead, weighing a fraction of a pound, could mean extremely little collateral damage, compared to the 20-pound warhead on a Hellfire.

I reported in 2007 on a rumor that the miniature Wasp drone (photo at top) might get a lethal “sting.” It now appears that word of this new weaponry was more than idle talk.

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

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U.S. Troops Will Soon Get Tiny Kamikaze Drone

AeroVironment calls its teeny-tiny killer drone the Switchblade. Essentially a guided missile small enough to fit in a backback and fire at a single foe, it might be the kind of blade U.S. troops soon bring to a gunfight with Afghan insurgents.

Most tiny drones the military uses, like the Puma or the Raven, are snoopers, not killers. Missiles are too heavy for those unmanned planes to carry, which is why the killer drones are usually the big boys like Predators or Reapers. That’s starting to change: a Northern California company called Arcturus has a drone with a mere 17-foot wingspan that totes a 10-pound missile.

AeroVironment, manufacturer of many tiny drones, is offering a different paradigm. Instead of carrying a missile, the drone is the missile. Unfolded from a size small enough to fit in a soldier’s rucksack — like a Switchblade; get it? — and launched from a tube, the spy cameras on board the drone scout an enemy position before the soldier controlling it sends it barreling into the target. It’s a strictly one-way mission.

The video above, which AeroVironment showed at the August drone expo known as AUVSI, shows the problem that the Switchblade could solve. Troops on patrol come under sustained, accurate insurgent fire and get pinned behind their truck. Close air support could strafe the insurgents, but will take time to arrive. Mini-drones can spot the insurgent’s position, but can’t kill him. Boom: Switchblade marries those solutions together. And according to AFP, it’s “coming soon” to U.S. troops.

This isn’t the first attempt to miniaturize killer drones. In addition to the Arcturus drone, a few years ago, enterprising engineers put a rifle on a Vigilante unmanned helicopter for something they called the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System. It’s nowhere near as small as a Switchblade, but nowhere near as big as a Predator, either. In 2008, the Air Force tested out tiny killer drones in a mysterious experiment called Project Anubis.

And soon, the Switchblade won’t be the only Kamikaze drone out there. The spinning circles of death known as the Quadrocopter Microdrone is a homebrew combining tiny guns, laser targeting systems and an Xbox Kinect-style camera to hunt prey, with an optional iPad hookup for remote control.

But it appears the Switchblade is the first tiny kamikaze drone the U.S. military actually bought. On July 29, the Army gave AeroVironment a $4.9 million contract for “rapid fielding” of an unspecified number of Switchblades to “deployed combat forces.” That probably means Afghanistan, if AFP’s right.

$4.9 million isn’t a lot of money when annual defense budgets reach $700 billion. But experience has shown that troops in warzones are cautious about using even tiny drones, for fear that they’ll misuse a robot that their individual units might consider costly. That’s what happened when Marines in Iraq got the Raven in 2008. A drone that they don’t have to worry about using a second time, though, might be a different story.

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Video: Hummingbird Drone Does Loop-de-Loop » AeroVironment Nano Hummingbird

Nano Hummingbird performing a loop.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 18, 2011 at 2:09 am and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Tiny Drone = Ethernet Hub

  • By David Axe Email Author
  • September 25, 2007  |
  • 10:30 am  |
  • Categories: Uncategorized

raven.jpgHand-held drones aren’t just for spying, any more.  Soon, they’ll be used as “ethernet hub[s] in the sky,”   according to robo-plane maker AeroVironment.  The company is testing a new digital datalink for its family of small UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], including Wasp, Raven and Puma. In addition to improving the performance and security of traditional line-of-sight control, the datalink will serve as flying hubs, according to marketing director Steven Gitlin. That’ll allow an operator to relay control signals via one drone to reach other drones that otherwise might be blocked by obstacles or terrain -– and to bounce video from distant drones back the operator. The net effect is that the new link digital “will allow a customer to operate more aircraft in a piece of airspace than today,” Gitlin says, adding that the datalink has been demonstrated using U.S. government funding.

AeroVironment’s small UAVs make up the bulk of the world’s unmanned air forces, with more than 5,000 airframes flying with the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and the Australian, Italian and Singaporean militaries. Two years ago the Army selected the second-generation Raven B for its newest tactical UAV, aiming to buy as many as 6,000 aircraft plus handheld control consoles and spares; the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command followed suit. The Marines want as many as 500 Raven Bs to replace their Dragon Eye “Tier I” drones that have seen hard use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gitlin says the firm has already delivered around a third of the Army’s Raven Bs. Now the firm is trying to expand into the civil and non-military sectors. Gitlin confirms interest from the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and private companies involved in infrastructure security.

(Check out Defense Technology International for more news.)

Army Tests Flying Robo-Sniper

Arss_dr_2

Stopping the pirates of Somalia hasn’t been easy. But when the navies of the world have repelled or killed the hijackers, it’s often involved three elements: helicopters, drones and trained snipers. The U.S. Army is working on a weapon which combines all three.

It’s called the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System. It mounts a powerful rifle onto highly stabilized turret, and fixes the package on board a Vigilante unmanned helicopter. I describe the system in this month’s Popular Mechanics.

The system is intended for the urban battlefield — an eye in the sky that can stare down concrete canyons, and blink out targets with extreme precision. Attempting to return fire against the ARSS is liable to be a near-suicidal act: ARSS is described as being able to fire seven to 10 aimed shots per minute, and it’s unlikely to miss.

Recent events off Somalia, however, may have suggested other uses for this technology. Last week’s standoff between pirates and the
U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean ended famously with three sniper shots, as a drone watched overhead. In 2008, French special forces captured six pirates on land after ransom had been paid. “There were four helicopters involved,” The Independent
reported at the time. “A sniper [in a Puma helicopter] shot out the motor of the pirates’ four-wheel drive vehicle. A second helicopter [a
Gazelle] then landed nearby, allowing the six pirates to be arrested” — without any casualties.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) uses helicopter-borne snipers to take out drug-running boats. They are accurate enough to knock out engines without harming the crew or damaging fuel tanks. “The driver just threw his hands up,” concludes the description of one such action in Men’s Vogue, after all three engines were disabled with three shots.

And because the Vigilante is smaller, lighter and cheaper than a manned combat helicopter, it can be supplied in greater numbers, and without the need for those elite, highly-trained snipers.

Sniping from a chopper currently takes tons of skill and training.
But ARSS is literally point-and-shoot for the operator on the ground, using a videogame-type controller. The software makes all the necessary corrections, and the system should ensure first-round kills at several hundred yards. The secret is in the control system and stabilized turret (on the right in the picture above), which is currently fitted with a powerful RND Manufacturing Edge 2000 rifle specifically designed for sniping work, using the heavyweight .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge.

The stabilized turret could be fitted to a variety of other vehicles — including a a small blimp, or a fixed-wing unmanned plane, like the Predator. Compared to the
Predator’s array of Hellfire missiles, the ARSS’ lone gun would be much less likely to hit civilians. It would also give a far deeper magazine:
dozens of shots instead of a handful of missiles, and at a cost of around $4 per trigger pull rather than about $100,000 for a Hellfire.
But the turret doesn’t need such a big craft to carry it, as the complete turret assembly weighs less than a single Hellfire.

The name needs changing. But the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System looks like it may have a big future — maybe on land, or maybe at sea.

[Photo: U.S. Army]

Tags:

The DIY-Drone of the Future Is … a Flying Pogo Stick

Darpa is holding a contest to design the military’s next spy mini-drone. So far, the entrants include a flying pogo stick, a sail that lands on mosques, and an unmanned laser shooter.

Those are some of concept videos submitted to UAV Forge, a Pentagon experiment to crowdsource the development of unmanned aerial vehicles. DIY-drone hobbyists are encouraged to work together to create the flying spy-bot of the future. It has to fit in a rucksack and be operated by just one person without any help, guidelines say.

This isn’t the first time that the Pentagon’s done crowdsourcing exercises. There was the “Network Challenge,” which sent people scrambling around the country for 10 big red balloons in an attempt to “explore the roles the internet and social networking play [in] timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization.” And Darpa also announced this year that it would give $10,000 for the best design for new “Combat Reconnaissance and Combat Delivery & Evacuation” vehicles.

Everyone taking part in the UAV contest have to post videos of their designs, so other hardware tinkerers can vote on and critique their ideas. After that, they’ll have to demonstrate that their design can actually fly. From a live video demo, 10 teams will be picked — and given up to $15,000 each — to take part in a “fly-off.” The winning team gets $100,000 of prize money, a subcontract with a manufacturer, and the chance to see to their project in use in a military operational demo. UAV Forge has been talking to Google, which is considering using UAVs to capture Google Earth images, according to PC Magazine.

Here are the ideas you get when you tap into the wisdom of the DIY-drone hackers.

The XL-161 Trinity (above) is a solar- and fuel-powered unmanned airborne laser system that can “destroy any aircraft or ballistic missile within a wide range.” It stores solar energy in batteries for nighttime use. A laser turret, which contains an infrared camera and rangefinder, has “all-angle turning capability” to target shots in any direction below the aircraft.

The Falcon is a camo-printed, modular three-part drone that’s decked out with a super-camera that moves “like the head of a bird of prey.” With thrust vector control, it’s able to carry out a vertical takeoff, and then switch to horizontal flight. It purports to have a battery that’s part of its lifting surface — as opposed to dead weight. In this video, it makes a landing on a mosque to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

The Quadrocopter Microdrone is a kamikaze drone equipped with miniguns, an infrared laser beam, and Xbox Kinect-style cameras to map out the landscape. It will self-destruct if compromised. It aspires to be able to get close enough to a terrorist to spray a substance and then be able to track the sprayed target with a special camera. There’s an app for it. It’s controlled by a remote control that can be hooked up to an iPad.

The Pogo 2100 UAV is a flying pogo stick that can be configured with explosives and sensors. It is launched over long ranges by a rocket, and released in a capsule. Then it drifts around like a spying seed, hovering with the help of blade-like propellers.

And for kicks, someone seems to have submitted a preview for the videogame “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.” Of course.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 View All

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Hippo-drone

Huge blimp-like spy craft will hover over Afghanistan

Seth Millstein Sunday, October 30, 2011

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

    The biggest spy drone to date goes by the name Blue Devil Block 2.

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

  • Image

    Photo: Blue Devils Block 2

    The biggest spy drone to date goes by the name Blue Devil Block 2.

1 2
The Goodyear blimp has nothing on this.The Blue Devil Block 2, the biggest spy drone ever made, will hover over Afghanistan by mid-2012, Wired reports. The 370-foot-long craft, now in a North Carolina airplane hangar, will dock 20,000 feet up in the air for five days at a time, monitoring an area of 36 square miles below.The $211 million (optionally manned) blimp will house a supercomputer, audio and video surveillance gear, an infrared lens and targeting radar so that it can transmit information to ground troops within 15 seconds of capture.Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former intelligence chief for the Air Force and head of Mav 6, the company in charge of making the craft, said the drone “could change the nature of overhead surveillance.”

>

Photos From an Anti-War Rally,

speak millions & common sense

Terrorism by Drones

Predator Targeted Assassinations

(with lots of Collateral Damage)

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Predator Drones

– two words for you –

no joke

(they provoke counter attacks

seen as legitimate defense)

Obama was joking when he said:

“….boys, don’t get any ideas, I have two words for you —

predator drones.

You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking…”

Thus were the words  spoken by President Obama joking around about a highly controversial targeted killing program which eerily recalled the the worst  of the Phoenix Program, read on…

Predator Drones:

no joke for the thousands upon thousands killed by this

modern,

robotic,

electronically laser guided,

unmanned aircraft missile weapon system,

fired thousands of miles away in Nevada in impersonal chambers.

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

This is not a video game, but real kill,

with lots of “Collateral Damage,”

provoking moral outrage, anger

and counter attacks seen as legitimate defense)

> Some recent articles

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U.S. departs Pakistan base, source says

By Nick Paton Walsh and Nasir Habib, CNN
April 22, 2011 — Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration Friday in Multan following a suspected drone strike.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. military personnel depart a Pakistan base, a Pakistani official says
  • The location is a hub of drone activity, another official says
  • The news comes amid public furor over civilians killed in drone strikes

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — U.S. military personnel have left a southern base in Pakistan said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN on Friday.

Drones are said to take off and get refueled for operations against Islamic militants from the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

News of a possible U.S. departure comes amid a public furor over American drone attacks, which have killed civilians.

A suspected U.S. drone strike Friday in the Pakistani tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, a Pakistani intelligence source said. Another one on March 17 killed 44, mostly civilians.

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Another senior Pakistani intelligence official, who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue, confirmed Americans had been using the base as a center of operations for launching drone strikes. He was not able to confirm if the Americans had left.

The first official said that American personnel were no longer operating out of the base, but he could not say whether they had left voluntarily or at the request of the Pakistani government.

The operation of the base — which the U.S. government has not publicly acknowledged — has always been presumed to have occurred with tacit Pakistani military consent.

It was not clear from the Pakistani officials when the presence there began or when it ended.

A U.S. military official who did not want to be identified told CNN: “There are no U.S. forces at Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan.” He did not respond at the time or in writing to queries as to whether U.S. personnel had been based there in the past.

The departure of American personnel — if confirmed — would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the drone attacks and the Raymond Davis affair in which a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in a Lahore neighborhood.

It has always been unclear how many drone bases the United States operates in or near Pakistan. But Friday’s attack in North Waziristan that killed 25 people would indicate the United States maintains the capability to strike tribal areas with drones.

Carl Forsberg, research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, said he doesn’t think such a move would affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.

Many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said Pakistanis could be making such a move to appease a populace angry at the United States.

The southern air base, he said, doesn’t appear to be integral to the tribal area fight and is probably a supporting base.

“It’s not like the Pakistanis shut down the program,” he said. “It’s possible they want to do this as a means of pre-empting drone strikes in Balochistan,” where there is a Taliban presence.

“The United States has an interest in going after the Taliban in Balochistan,” he said, and in an ideal world the United States would like to target Taliban sanctuaries in that region with drones.

Also, he said, it’s possible the Pakistanis are using pressure on the United States to offset any U.S. pressure on them.

He said it’s no coincidence that the development emerged after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pakistan’s Geo TV, Mullen spoke forcefully about the Haqqani Network, saying it “specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they’re killing Americans.”

“I can’t accept that and I will do everything I possibly can to prevent that specifically,” he said.

Mullen said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence “has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani Network. That doesn’t mean everybody in the ISI, but it’s there.”

“I also have an understanding that the ISI and the (Pakistani military) exist to protect their own citizens, and there’s a way they have done that for a long period of time,” Mullen said. “I believe that over time, that’s got to change.”

A senior Pakistani intelligence official responded by saying, “We do have a relationship: that of an adversary.”

“We have made our resolve very clear that (the Haqqani Network) is an enemy we need to fight together,” said the official, who did not want to be identified discussing intelligence matters.

The Pakistani intelligence official told CNN that “we have our hands full” fighting other Islamist militant groups along the border with Afghanistan, notably those under the umbrella of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, “and once we are through with them we can turn on the other (the Haqqanis). We do not have the capacity to undertake simultaneous operations.”

The official said the “onus of providing proof of this” relationship was on the Americans and it was not up to the ISI “to start providing clarification.”

Asked if offense was taken from Mullen’s remarks, the intelligence official said: “Not personally, no.”

In Friday’s attack, a drone fired five missiles on a hideout in Mir Ali of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan, two intelligence officials said.

The officials said the militants, who were staying in the hideout, were planning to move into Afghanistan for an attack against coalition forces.

The militants were local Taliban members from Orakzai agency, another district of Pakistan’s tribal region, who were trained for war, the officials said. The intelligence officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

But the attack also killed at least three women when one of the missiles hit a house next to the targeted compound, officials said. The Pakistani intelligence source identified the slain civilians as five women and three children.

Friday’s drone strike was the 20th this year, compared with 111 in all of 2010, based on a CNN tally.

The strike comes two days after Pakistan issued a strongly worded statement condemning deadly suspected U.S. drone strikes in the country’s tribal region.

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counterterror campaign,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday. “We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists.”

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/22/pakistan.drone.strike/?hpt=T2

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Pakistan drone victim demands damages from CIA

By CHRIS BRUMMITT
Associated Press
2010-11-29 07:59 PM
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A Pakistani man who says he lost his son and brother in an American missile attack in the northwest threatened Monday to sue the CIA unless he receives compensation, a move that will draw attention to civilian casualties in such strikes.

Kareem Khan and his lawyers said they were seeking $500 million in two weeks or they would sue CIA director Leon Panetta, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a man they said was the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad for “wrongful death” in a Pakistani court.

The United States does not publicly admit to firing missiles into northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border, much less say who they are targeting or whether civilians are also being killed. Privately, officials say they are taking out al-Qaida and Taliban militants and dispute accounts that innocents often die.

Pakistani officials, who face criticism from their own people for allowing the attacks, rarely discuss them.

Khan said his 18-year-old son, Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were killed on Dec. 31 last year in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The third victim was a mason who was staying at the house, he said. Khan said his son and Iqbal were teachers.

“The people who were martyred were innocent,” Khan told a media conference in Islamabad alongside his lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar. “They did not have links with any terrorist group, nor they were wanted.”

The Associated Press and other media organizations reported that three people were killed on Dec. 31 in a missile attack in Mir Ali. Pakistani intelligence officials said then that the men were militants, but offered no proof.

Khan, who was working as a journalist, was in Islamabad at the time of the attack.

Any legal action stands no chance of success unless U.S. officials cooperate with the court, something highly unlikely given the secretive nature of the missile strike program. The most Khan and Akbar can hope for is to bring attention to the issue.

There have been more than 100 such attacks this year, more than twice than in 2009. The attacks began in 2005, but picked up pace in 2007 and have increased ever since. The border region is out of bounds for non-locals and much of it is under the control of militants, meaning independent reporting on who is being killed is nearly impossible.

Most of the missiles are believed to be fired from unmanned planes launched from Afghanistan or from secret bases in Pakistan.

Human rights groups have called on the United States to provide greater transparency about who is being targeted and publicly investigate allegations of civilian deaths. Without knowing, they say it is impossible to judge whether such attacks are legal.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the American military compensates the families of innocents killed once it carries out an investigation.

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=1446680&lang=eng_news&cate_img=1037.jpg&cate_rss=General

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Terrorism Why They Want to Kill Us

By Doug Bandow

July 02, 2010 “Huffington Post” — The horrid attacks of 9/11 led to the cry: Why do they hate us? Most Americans seemed to believe that it was because we are such nice people. But the Times Square bomber reminds us that terrorism is mostly a response to U.S. government policies.

After 9/11 President George W. Bush reassured Americans: we were attacked because we are beautiful people, spreading freedom around the world. But often the actions of our government are seen by others as less than beautiful. To seek an explanation for terrorism is not to excuse monstrous attacks on civilians. But understanding what motivates people to kill could help reduce terrorism in the future.

Terrorism is not new. It was used against Russian Tsars, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and British colonial officials. Algerians employed terrorism against the French and later Algerian governments. Basque and Irish separatists freely relied on terrorism. Until Iraq, the most promiscuous suicide bombers were Tamils in Sri Lanka. In none of these cases did the killing occur in response to freedom, whether in America or elsewhere.

Robert Pape of the University of Chicago studied the most recent cases: “The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign–over 95 percent of all the incidents–has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.”

Consider Chechnya. Both suicide bombers in the recent Moscow subway attacks apparently were “Black Widows,” whose militant husbands had been killed by Russian security forces. Even some conservatives, who typically decry discussion of “root causes” of terrorism, pointed to Russian brutality in Chechnya.

Pape, along with Lindsey O’Rourke and Jenna McDermit, also of the University of Chicago, studied 63 Chechen suicide terrorists and found that few had religious motives. Rather: “As we have discovered in our research on Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, suicide terrorist campaigns are almost always a last resort against foreign military occupation. Chechnya is a powerful demonstration of this phenomenon at work.”

As for America, the Defense Science Board Task Force reported in 2004: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” What might those be? Unseating democratically elected leaders, supporting dictatorships, backing Israel’s Apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians, and promiscuously waging war in Muslim lands. America is constantly “over there,” as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) put it.

Nearly three decades ago President Ronald Reagan inserted U.S. forces into a multi-sided civil war in Lebanon to aid the minority Christian government which controlled little more than the capital of Beirut. Once Washington joined the conflict, the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks became natural targets.

In 1996 United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright was asked to justify sanctions against Iraq which, the questioner charged, had killed a half million children. Amb. Albright did not contest the claim. Instead, she responded chillingly: “we think the price is worth it.” Muslims did not view as beautiful the assertion that Washington had the unilateral right to kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children for its own purposes.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war, said of America’s presence in Saudi Arabia: “It’s been a huge recruiting device for al-Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina.”

In Iraq both invasion and occupation have fomented terrorism. Daniel Benjamin, now the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator, observed while at the Brookings Institution that “the invasion of Iraq gave the jihadists an unmistakable boost. Terrorism is about advancing a narrative and persuading a targeted audience to believe it.”

London’s Chatham House reported that Iraq “gave a boost to the al-Qaeda network’s propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.” Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee studied the July 2005 London attacks and concluded: “Iraq continues to act as a motivation and focus for terrorist activity.”

Many Islamists say the same thing. For instance, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, spoke of “aggression against Iraq.” Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah stated that “the occupation of Iraq has increased acts of terrorism against the U.S. and everyone going along with it, including the Iraqis themselves.”

U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to be having a similar effect. Before being relieved as Afghanistan commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal admitted: “We’ve shot an amazing number of people [at checkpoints] and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”

Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized American citizen who recently pled guilty after attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square, was a troubled fellow, but there is no evidence that he disliked the liberties of the society which he chose to join. Instead, he grew to hate the policies carried out by the U.S. government.

During his court hearing Shahzad said: “until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S.”

When the judge objected that people walking in Times Square had not attacked Muslims, Shahzad responded: “the people select the government; we consider them the same.” As for children, he said: “the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children. They kill everybody.” Thus his resort to terrorism: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attacks.”

Unfortunately, Shahzad is not alone. He spent 40 days with Pakistani Taliban/jihadist forces, most notably the Tehrik-e-Taliban, from which he received money and explosives training. Which means the group has turned its attention from Pakistan, which has been conducting military operations against its strongholds, to the U.S. Wrote Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution: “This means the United States is facing a larger pool of terrorists in Pakistan committed to attacking al-Qaeda’s target set than ever before.”

No doubt, some terrorists hope to reestablish the caliphate or knock Madonna off of television. But most anti-American terrorists appear to be motivated by something much more mundane: responding to U.S. government depredations in their own nations and other Muslim lands.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration appears to be as clueless as its predecessor. After Shahzad’s arrest U.S. officials raced to Islamabad to urge Pakistan to do more to stop terrorism. But Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said simply: “This is a blowback. This is a reaction. And you could expect that.”

The administration seems likely to increase its use of drones. However, Shahzad cited drone strikes. So did former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith, who in 2002 warned that they could “create more martyrs.”

The moral issues are daunting enough even if the intelligence is faultless, and it rarely is. Americans should consider how they would react if a more powerful nation was slaughtering their relatives and friends–and even entire families–in an attempt to kill a few targeted individuals alleged to be terrorists.

There’s also the problem of blowback. David Kilcullen, who advised Gen. David Petraeus on terrorism, and Andrew McDonald Exum, of the Center for a New American Security, recently argued: “on balance, the costs outweigh these benefits.” By their count, drones have killed 700 civilians and just 14 terrorist leaders, a 50-to-1 ratio. Writing in the New Yorker Jane Mayer contended that the campaign to get one particular terrorist killed between 207 and 321 other people along the way. Even if the ratios are not so unbalanced, as claimed by U.S. officials, Kilcullen and Exum warned that “every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a military movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”

Pakistanis believe the drones kill far more civilians than terrorists. Polls show enormous popular hostility towards America. Moreover, the U.S. has begun targeting Pakistani Taliban leaders. One U.S. official told the New York Times: “The Pakistani Taliban gets treated like al-Qaeda.” However, that encourages the Pakistan Taliban to treat the U.S. like al-Qaeda treats the U.S. One intelligence officer said: “Those [drone] attacks have made it personal for the Pakistani Taliban–so it’s no wonder they are beginning to think about how they can strike back at targets here.” Jeffrey Addicott, a former legal adviser to U.S. Special Forces, said: “Some of the CIA operators are concerned that, because of its blowback effect, it is doing more harm than good.”

The same appears to be the case in Afghanistan, where civilians are dying in air strikes, at checkpoints, and from drone attacks. Afghan Najibullah Zazi, arrested last fall for planning a suicide bombing in the New York subway, explained: “I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the United States military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan by sacrificing my soul for the sake of saving other souls.”

Certainly civilian casualties have spurred more mundane guerrilla opposition to U.S. forces. New York Times reporter David Rohde was held captive for seven months by the Taliban. After he escaped he wrote that he “saw how some of the consequences of Washington’s antiterrorism policies had galvanized the Taliban.” For instance, “They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings.” To his complaint that he was a civilian, they said the U.S. “had held and tortured Muslims in secret detention centers for years,” so why “should they treat me differently?”

The point is not that there is never a legitimate case for military intervention or use of drones. However, the high costs of these tactics must be recognized and weighed. To reduce terrorism, Washington should do less, not more, abroad.

September 11 demonstrated that America is not invulnerable. Washington no longer can expect to invade, bomb, and intervene in other nations without consequence. Policymakers should consider all the costs, including terrorism, before they casually thrust the U.S. into foreign controversies and conflicts. As Glenn Greenwald put it, “if we continue to bring violence to that part of the world, then that part of the world–and those who sympathize with it–will continue to want to bring violence to the U.S.” That’s why many people in other nations not only hate us, but are trying to kill us.

Doug Bandow – Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25857.htm

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As one of the remote warriors  said about a similar robotic system:

“Great! That means we can kill Jihadonazis by day, and head off to Sin City Las Vegas for a night of debauchery.”

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Drone Revenge is seen as Blowback effect, by many experts and analysts: the natural outcome of many civilian deaths, indiscriminate impersonal bombing from afar.

Indeed violence breeds violence, and the cycle continues….

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UN expert: ‘Targeted killings’ may be war crimes

By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans, Associated Press Writer – 45 mins ago

GENEVA – Governments must come clean on their methods for killing suspected terrorists and insurgents — especially when using unmanned drones — because they may be committing war crimes, a U.N. human rights expert said Wednesday.

Philip Alston, the independent U.N. investigator on extrajudicial killings, called on countries to lay out the rules and safeguards they use when carrying out so-called targeted killings, publish figures on civilian casualties and prove they have attempted to capture or incapacitate suspects without killing them.

His 29-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council will put unwanted scrutiny on intelligence operations of the United States, Israel and Russia, who Alston says are all credibly reported to have used drones to kill alleged terrorists and insurgents.

Alston, a New York University law professor, said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by intelligence agencies such as the CIA to carry out targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is particularly fraught because of the secrecy surrounding such operations.

“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” Alston said.

Although not illegal as such, CIA drone strikes are also more likely to breach the rules of war than similar operations carried out by armed forces, who are more familiar with international law and can resort to non-lethal means because they have troops on the ground, Alston said.

“Unlike a state’s armed forces, its intelligence agents do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, rendering violations more likely and causing a higher risk of prosecution both for war crimes and for violations of the laws of the state in which any killing occurs,” he wrote.

In a March speech, U.S. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said the administration’s procedures for identifying lawful targets were “extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise.”

The CIA, which refuses to discuss specific activities, claims all of its operations are lawful and subject to government oversight.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of intelligence matters, said lethal drones were an effective and legal means to target members of al-Qaida and the Taliban in far-flung areas where the United States or its allies have no military presence.

The U.S. official cited Pakistan, which officially condemns drone strikes on its territory but is widely believed to share intelligence with Washington for at least some of the attacks, especially those that target Pakistani Taliban militants blamed for numerous attacks in the country.

There was no evidence to prove large numbers of innocent lives have been lost due to drone strikes, the U.S. official said.

This view has been challenged by human rights groups and independent observers, who say remotely operated drones risk ingraining a video game mentality about war and can never be as accurate as eyewitness confirmation of targets from the ground.

“The point is that innocent people have been killed, this has been proved over and over again,” said Louise Doswald-Beck, a professor of international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

“If you don’t have enough personnel on the ground, the chances of your having false information is actually quite huge,” she told The Associated Press.

Among the most sensitive recommendations in Alston’s report is that governments should disclose “the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective, independent and public investigations of alleged violations of law.”

Doing so could threatened counter-terror operations in countries such as Pakistan, said Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

“The drones program is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high,” he said.

Alston’s report also warns that CIA personnel could be extradited to those countries where the targeted killing takes place and wouldn’t have the same immunity from prosecution as regular soldiers.

Alston claims more than 40 countries now have drone technology, with several seeking to equip them with lethal weapons.

Doswald-Beck said the next step could be the development of fully autonomous drones and battlefield robots programed to identify and kill enemy fighters — but without human controllers to ensure targets are legitimate.

“If that’s the case you’ve got a major problem,” she said.

____

Online:

Alston report: http://bit.ly/TargetKillReport

____

Associated Press Writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100602/ap_on_re_eu/un_un_taking_out_terrorists

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UN official criticises US over drone attacks

cites “… extrajudicial killings  …’Playstation’ mentality”

Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 19:22 UK

US use of Predator drones is singled out for particular criticism

The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says.

Philip Alston said that the US in particular was doing damage to rules designed to protect the right of life.

Mr Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, feared a “Playstation” mentality could develop.

His report to the UN Human Rights Council also brings renewed scrutiny of Israel and Russia.

Both nations are also reported to have carried out targeted killings of alleged militants and insurgents. President Barack Obama has increased the use of Predator drones to attack militants in Pakistan.

‘Hundreds of killings’

The UN report comes days after the US hailed news of the death of Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s third in command in Pakistan, who was reportedly killed by a drone strike in May, along with his family.

Mr Alston reserves particular criticism for CIA-directed drone attacks, which he said had resulted in the deaths of “many hundreds” of civilians.

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” the report says.

Mr Alston also suggests that the drone killings carry a significant risk of becoming war crimes because intelligence agencies “do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law”.

And he adds: “Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.”

‘Law of 9/11′

In Mr Alston’s view, there are circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal.

But his report also expresses concern that the US has put forward what hedescribes as “a novel theory that there is a law of 9/11″, enabling it to legally use force in the territory of other states as part of its inherent right to self-defence.

This interpretation of the right to self-defence, he says, would “cause chaos” if invoked by other nations.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that Mr Alston clearly believes that the rules of conflict need updating to encompass weapons that may strike a long way away from any traditional definition of the battlefield.

However, some security analysts are concerned that this could jeopardise highly sensitive counter-terrorism operations.

Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying: “The drones programme is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10219962.stm

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US missile used in Yemen raid

Page last updated at 3:01 GMT, Monday, 7 June 2010 4:01 UK

Amnesty says the images show pieces of cruise missiles

American missiles were used in a raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen in which women and children died in December, rights group Amnesty International says.

Amnesty has released images taken after the raid that it says show remnants of a US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.

Cluster bombs were also apparently used in the attack, which Amnesty described as “grossly irresponsible”.

The US has said its troops gave support for the raid, in Abyan province.

But Yemeni officials have denied any US involvement.

Obama congratulates

At the end of 2009 Yemen suddenly stepped up its offensive against al-Qaeda militants.

The authorities launched a number of raids, saying intelligence showed that Western targets were in imminent danger.

On 17 December two attacks on militant targets were said to have killed more than 30 militants The raids were hailed as a big success in Yemen.

US President Barack Obama telephoned his Yemeni counterpart, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to offer his congratulations.

But Amnesty now says the US in fact supported the raid with cruise missiles.

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.”

Unnamed US officials have said that elite US troops provided essential support, contradicting Yemeni government claims that it was entirely their operation, says the BBC’s Sebastian Usher.

But the US has refused to confirm reports that it had fired cruise missiles – the crux of Amnesty’s new allegations.

Analysts say the US is deeply involved in the country’s drive against al-Qaeda.

But Yemen’s leaders are keen not to appear too closely bound to American interests – one reason why the US has been keeping the extent of its military role in the country under wraps, our correspondents adds.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10251954.stm

US cluster bombs killed Yemen civilians: Amnesty

Posted 4 hours 41 minutes ago

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was behind a December attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International says.

The London-based rights group released photographs that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the December 17, 2009 attack on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen,” said Mike Lewis, the group’s arms control researcher.

“Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards.”

“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Philip Luther, the deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Yemen’s defence ministry had claimed responsibility for the attack without mentioning a US role, saying between 24 and 30 militants had been killed at an alleged Al Qaeda training camp.

But a local official said 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed “indiscriminately”.

Amnesty said a Yemeni parliamentary committee reported in February that in addition to 14 alleged Al Qaeda militants, 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, were killed in the attack.

“The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions,” Mr Luther said.

Amnesty said photographs it had obtained showed damaged remains of the BGM-109D Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

“This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry a payload of 166 cluster sub-munitions which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150 metres away,” an Amnesty statement said.

“An incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.”

The Yemen parliamentary committee had said when it visited the site that “all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it had requested information about the attack from the Pentagon, but had not yet received a response.

Amnesty said it had obtained the photographs from its own sources, but had not released them earlier in order to ascertain their authenticity and give the United States time to respond.

The United States and Yemen have not yet signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty designed to comprehensively ban such weapons which is due to enter into force on August 1, 2010.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/07/2919991.htm?section=justin

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Afghanistan’s Operation Phoenix

Stephen Lendman
Global Research
June 17, 2009

On June 15, AP reported that “Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a four-star American general with a long history in special operations, took charge of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (today), a change in command the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent eight-year war.”

One person involved called Operation Phoenix a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

McChrystal is a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon’s infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – established in 1980 and comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads writer Seymour Hersh described post-9/11 as an “executive assassination wing” operating out of Dick Cheney’s office.

A 2006 Newsweek profile called JSOC “part of what Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to ‘work on the dark side’ after 9/11.” It called McChrystal then “an affable but tough Army Ranger” with no elaboration of his “dark side” mission.

In his May 17 article titled “Obama’s Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice,” James Petras called him a “notorious psychopath” in describing him this way:

His rise through the ranks was “marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building.”

His resume shows contempt for human life and the rule of law – a depravity Conrad described in his classic work, “Heart of Darkness:” the notion of “exterminat(ing) all the brutes” to civilize them, and removing lesser people to colonize and dominate them by devising battle plans amounting to genocide.

In June 2001, McChrystal became Chief of Staff, XVIII Airborne Corp. After the Afghanistan invasion, he was appointed Chief of Staff, Combined Joint Task Force 180, Operation Enduring Freedom. In September 2003, he was Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In February 2006, he became Commander, Joint Special Operations – Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, United States Special Operations, then in August 2008 General Director, the Joint Staff until his current appointment as US/NATO Afghanistan commander.

Detailed information of his role in these capacities is classified and unacknowledged, but Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed some of what he directed in its July 22, 2006 report titled “No Blood, No Foul” – meaning short of drawing blood, all abuses were acceptable and wouldn’t result in investigations or prosecution.

HRW reported soldiers’ firsthand accounts of detainee abuse by Task Force 20/121/6-26/145 at Baghdad’s Camp Nama (an acronym for Nasty-Ass Military Area) and elsewhere in Iraq.

JSOC’s assignment was (and still is) to capture or kill “high-value” combatants, including Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, and many hundreds of Iraqis targeted in sweeping capture and extermination missions that include lots of collateral killings and destruction.

Through most of 2003 and 2004, detainees were held at interrogation facilities like Camp Nama at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). With good reason, it was off-limits to the ICRC and most US military personnel. In summer 2004, it was moved to a new location near Balad and also had facilities in Fallujah, Ramadi and Kirkuk.

US personnel and former detainees reported torture and abuse as common practice, including beatings, confinement in shipping containers for 24 hours in extreme heat, exposure to extreme cold, death threats, humiliation, psychological stress, and much more.

Sergeant Jeff Perry (a pseudonym he requested to avoid recrimination) was a Camp Nama special interrogator during the first half of 2004. He said task force members were military special forces and CIA personnel, none of whom revealed ranks or last names to maintain secrecy.

Five interrogation rooms were used, the harshest called the “black room” where everything was black with speakers in the corners and on the ceiling. A table and chairs were in one corner for a boom box and computer.

Detainees were stripped naked and subjected to stress standing, sleep deprivation, loud noise, strobe lights, beatings, dousing with cold water, and other abuses.

Harshness levels were less severe in other rooms, the “soft room” being least extreme and used for cooperating detainees. However, throughout interrogations, they were shifted from one room to another, but those put in the “black room” were considered the most high-value.

Treatment authorization in writing or by computer came from the camp’s command structure – signed by “whoever was in charge at the time” reporting to McChrystal or one of his subordinates.

Sergeant Perry saw him visit Camp Nama several times, and said its commanding officer told interrogators that the White House or Donald Rumsfeld were briefed on the information they obtained. He also learned that the facility was “completely closed off” and secret, and that ICRC, other investigators, and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) were forbidden access to it.

In March 2006, The New York Times published a feature article based on interviews with over a dozen US personnel who served at Camp Nama or were familiar with its operations. Their accounts corroborated Perry’s and included details of other abuses. Much of the same information came out about torture at Guantanamo and other overseas US prisons, including Camp Cropper, Iraq (near Baghdad Airport) now expanded to hold up to 2000 detainees.

HRW reviewed hundreds of “credible allegations of serious mistreatment and torture (as) standard operation procedure” at locations throughout Iraq involving special forces, CIA, and others. Its report is based on firsthand accounts from three locations between 2003 – 2005 when McChrystal was in charge of Special Ops.

On March 31, 2009 on Democracy Now, Seymour Hersh said US forces conducted assassinations in a dozen or more countries, including in Latin and Central America. “And it’s been going on and on and on,” he said. George Bush “authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle East” and elsewhere….” Now Obama’s doing the same thing.

“And the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional power or the legal right to tell soldiers….to go out and find people based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me….”

During his tenure, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) authority to carry out killings anywhere on the globe. Hersh said “it operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings.” One is “the Joint Special Op – JSOC. It’s a special (Navy Seals and Delta Force) unit….black units, the commando units….And they promote from within. It’s a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the elements….about getting ahead….is the number of kills you have,” especially high-value targets. Cheney was deeply involved. Robert Gates likely is now.

Targeting goes on in a lot of countries besides Iraq and Afghanistan, including Colombia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Kenya, or anywhere to “kill people who are believed….to be Al Qaeda….Al Qaeda-linked or anti-American” – fictitious outside enemies without which Obama’s wars can’t continue nor could they under George Bush..

In his book “America’s War on Terrorism,” Michel Chossudovsky uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation from the Soviet-Afghan 1980s war, and in the 1990s Washington “consciously supported Osama bin Laden, while at the same time placing him on the FBI’s ‘most wanted list’ as the World’s foremost terrorist.”

He remains so today, even though David Ray Griffin’s new book (“Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?”) provides convincing evidence that he died in late 2001, a conclusion many US counterterrorism experts support and believe his conveniently timed video messages are fakes.

Capturing or Killing Bin Laden

In a January 2009 CBS television interview, Obama suggested that he’s dead by saying “whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference (is) to capture of kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America.”

Nonetheless, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to the latest purported bin Laden statement that it’s “consistent with messages we’ve seen in the past from al Qaeda threatening the US and other countries that are involved in counterterrorism efforts.”

So it’s no surprise that top administration orders reach field commanders like McChrystal to capture or kill the usual suspects. From known reports about him, he carries them out with relish.

The Obama administration gave him carte blanche authority to choose his staff for their assigned mission – expand the Af-Pak war with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and secret drone and other attacks against any targets he chooses in either country. He’ll also have more political control, possibly with a Washington-appointed civilian authority to run the Afghanistan government day to day, making Hamid Karzai more of a figurehead than currently.

Obama’s war aims to pacify the country and Afghan/Pakistan border areas through scorched earth terror, targeted assassinations, and as much mass killing as it takes to prevail. McChrystal has the job, a man one observer said “comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of government secrecy provides the necessary protection.” All the greater with Obama’s endorsement.

Former 82nd Airborne Division commander General David Rodriquez, Defense Secretary Gates’ top military aide, will be his deputy. Gates praised McChrystal for his “unique skill set in counterinsurgency” and said the mission of both men and their team “requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders.” Clearly implied are the Special Ops skills they possess in what an unnamed Defense Department official called “unconventional warfare….to track and kill insurgents.”

These tactics kill many hundreds, displace hundreds of thousands, and enrage civilians on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Yet pursuing them is Obama’s top war strategy priority that may include Iraq as violence there heats up.

Operation Phoenix

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran or was involved in the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces and its own Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG) involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NLF resistance called the Viet Cong or VC). One person involved called the operation a “depersonalized murder program” to remove opposition and terrorize the population into submission.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine said it was “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” It even targeted certain US military personnel considered security risks and members of the South Vietnamese government.

In simple terms, the program conducted mass killings and seizures of suspected NLF members and collaborators with special emphasis on high-value targets – by some estimates around 80,000 or more before it ended.

Wayne Cooper was a Foreign Service officer at the time. He spent 18 months in Vietnam, most of it as a Phoenix advisor at Cantho in the Mekong Delta. He called the operation a “disreputable, CIA-inspired effort, often deplored as a bloody-handed assassination program (and) a failure.”

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA “Counter Terror (CT) program “never recognized by the South Vietnamese government.” It “recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation – against the Vietcong leadership.”

By 1968, the program was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix. From General William Westmoreland and “Ambassador-for-pacification Robert Komer” on down, “neutralizing” the VC was top priority.

Westmoreland took charge. A Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established, under which Phoenix was run. Cooper cited numerous problems for its failure and criticized experts sifting through them to get it right next time. He called the program a “gimmick” unable to “compensate for South Vietnam’s” popular opposition to the war and concluded that no counterinsurgency can succeed under those circumstances.

Certainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries historically opposed to foreign occupations with a record of brave resistance to end them. They represent what the CIA called Vietnam during that earlier era – “the grand illusion of the American cause;” the latest Washington misadventures no matter how long they go on, whatever amounts are spent on them, or how much mass killing and destruction persist under any command. America hasn’t won a war (or fought a legal one) since WW II, something Obama might consider as he plans his next move.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13999

http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman170609.htm

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Afghanistan-s-Operation-Ph-by-Stephen-Lendman-090617-710.html

http://atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/10187-afghanistans-operation-phoenix.html

http://www.infowars.com/afghanistans-operation-phoenix/

US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan

Posted: 2010/05/02
From: Mathaba
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US-Committed Atrocities in Afghanistan – by Stephen LendmanAfter General Stanley McChrystal took charge of US/NATO Afghan forces last June, systematic atrocities escalated sharply after promises of kinder, gentler killing (an oxymoron), winning hearts and minds, and fewer civilian casualties as a “paramount” objective – now much higher the result of more than a fourfold increase in night raids, targeting civilians, including children, while they sleep.McChrystal’s resume exposed his history – death squad terror, mostly against civilians, the same counterinsurgency he waged throughout Iraq as Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), especially in Al-Anbar Province that increased violence to curb it.It’s no surprise for a man this writer earlier called “a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as (JSOC) head” – since 1980 comprised of Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units, killers to reign terror on vulnerable targets, mainly civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and earlier in Vietnam as part of Operation Phoenix. More on that below.

Rare On-the-Ground Reports

The London Times Kabul-based Jerome Starkey reports what major US media accounts suppress. For example, his March 15 commentary headlined, “Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks.”

The incident involved the February 12 killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a policeman and his brother. “No one has claimed responsibility (and) A US official in Kabul refused to” say for reasons of national security, the usual cover-up for high crimes and misdemeanors prohibited for any reason.

This time, survivors were paid off for their loss, but family head Haji Sharabuddin wants justice, not money, and to get it “will….do suicide attacks and (the whole province) will support us.”

Starkey debunked the official story about the raid being a mistake. These were targeted assassinations, the same kinds rampant daily on the ground and by drone-launched missiles, mostly against civilians called Taliban or Al Qaeda militants.

Sayed Mohammed Mal, Gardez University’s vice-chancellor, told Starkey that he once thought these type raids safeguarded Afghans, what he now knows isn’t so after members of his own family were killed. “I realize I was wrong,” he said. “Now I accept the things (other) people told me. I hate (foreign forces). I hate the Government” that tolerates them.

According to the dead policeman’s son, Abdul Ghafar, “My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him….I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice.” Another victim’s father, Mohammed Tahir, said “They teach us human rights, then they kill a load of civilians. They didn’t come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists.”

A March 8 Starkey article titled, “Karzai offers families ‘blood money’ for sons killed in raid” told a similar story about other victims – “nine children killed (aged 12 – 18) in a brutal night raid” called a mistake – a cold-blooded one murdering children while they slept, shot in their beds, or dragged to another room and killed. Also, Abdul Khaliq, a neighboring farmer, was gunned down when he ran out of his house during the raid.

During the February Marja campaign, Operation Moshtarak killed 19 civilians. US Special Forces bombed three minibuses in Oruzgan province, killing at least 27 more, at times apologizing when victims are revealed as noncombatants.

As for the reported successful US offensive, New York Times writer Richard Oppel’s April 3 article headlined otherwise, saying: “Violence Helps Taliban Undo Afghan Gains,” explaining “how little (control) Marines (have) outside their own outposts,” the Taliban as dominant as ever. So much so that “Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed,” Brig. General Larry Nicholson saying “Most people here identify themselves as Taliban,” stopping short of acknowledging widespread hostility to occupation.

Starkey’s April 19, 2009 article headlined “Botched Afghan raid kills mother and (her brother-in-law and three) children (one a new-born)” in Khost province – another “mistake” the Pentagon conceded, the same kind made daily, always against civilians, admitted only as damage control, the official lie, when cover-up doesn’t work.

A late December Kunar province massacre killed 8 children, dragged from their beds and shot in cold blood, some of them handcuffed. The Pentagon called them terrorists, making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They were kids, students, in grades six through 10 (aged 11 – 17), eight from the same family. After speaking to their school headmaster, a government investigator said:

“It’s impossible they were Al Qaeda. They were children. They were civilians. They were innocent. I condemn this attack.”

In late February, nine more children were killed, aged 12 – 18. Most were “shot at close range while they slept,” another dragged from his bed and murdered, NATO initially alleging their involvement in IED making, then saying they entered a village and took fire so returned it, and finally admitting they were civilians saying:

“Knowing what we know now, it would probably not have been a justifiable attack. We don’t now believe that we busted a major ring,” something known all along but only acknowledged as damage control.

On March 22, Starkey headlined “US-led forces in Afghanistan are committing atrocities, lying, and getting away with it,” saying McChrystal-led forces “are rarely called to account because most reporters are too dependent on access, security and the ‘embed culture’ to venture out” and learn the truth. Worse still, they’re paid to lie, cover up, or be fired.

For example, New York Times writers CJ Chivers and Rod Nordland’s February 14 article headlined “Errant US Rocket Strike Kills Civilians in Afghanistan.” It quoted Hamid Karzai expressing “regret (for) this tragic loss of life.” Neither he or the writers acknowledged the cold-blooded murder of 10 Helmand province civilians, including five children, verboten admissions in major US media reports.

Nor by a puppet leader. Yet fearing national opposition to his regime, he’s begun openly criticizing Washington saying, “They wanted to have a puppet government,” virtually admitting that US/NATO forces are invaders.

Paid Lying – What Major US and Western Media Do

Like in America, the entire Western media, including BBC and so-called National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting scrupulously suppress the truth. They rarely mention “embarrassing” incidents, and when they do it’s dismissively. They won’t say raids terrorize, bomb homes and wedding parties, massacre civilians, their wives and children, noncombatants called Taliban or Al Qaeda, to save villages by destroying them, to pacify Afghans by killing them, to bring tyranny papered over as democracy. If reporters did, they’d be fired.

What they suppress, Starkey reports, his latest April 5 article headlined, “US special forces ‘tried to cover-up’ botched Khataba raid in Afghanistan,” saying:

“US special forces dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened….”

The victims – two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother, those killed in the above mentioned February 12 raid. After initial lies and cover-up, NATO finally “admitted responsibility for all the deaths for the first time last night,” yet continuing to deny a cover-up and saying no evidence showed inappropriate conduct. In other words, murdering civilians in cold blood is acceptable and appropriate. Apparently so as it’s ongoing daily.

Extrajudicial Killings – Predator Drones Target Civilians

On March 16, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit:

“demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and the other basis information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.”

At issue is using them against civilians, Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), saying US citizens will be targeted.

The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments after each provided no requested information “nor have they given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU’s request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents.” CIA wasn’t sued because the ACLU will first appeal its non-response to the Agency Release Panel.

Killer drones were used in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, perhaps elsewhere, and virtually anywhere targeted attacks are planned globally.

Officially know as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remote piloted vehicles (RPVs), they’re used, among other purposes, for surveillance and combat equipped with Hellfire or other missiles for targeted killings.

At issue is their legality, given their use outside traditional battlefields for extrajudicial assassinations, a practice US and international laws prohibit. Yet reports confirm the Obama administration ramping up their use – why the ACLU and other human rights groups express concern.

A December 2009 Social Science Research Network-published Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper titled, “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones: A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004 – 2009″ said the following:

“First drones launch missiles or drop bombs, the kind of weapons that may only be used lawfully in an armed conflict. Until the spring of 2009, there was no armed conflict (in Pakistan). International law does not recognize the right to kill without warning outside an actual armed conflict. Killing without warning is only tolerated during the hostilities of an armed conflict, and, then, only lawful combatants may lawfully carry” them out.

CIA members “are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing persons – even in an armed conflict – is a crime.” US military forces may be “lawful combatants in Pakistan” only if its government requested them. It did not.

Further, beyond targeted individuals, collateral killing is commonplace. “Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been up to” 50 civilians for each militant. As a result, drone use violates “the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity.”

Yet they happen daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have escalated dramatically under General McChrystal for extrajudicial killings. Along with bombers and helicopter gunships, their use in Afghanistan (and North Waziristan, Pakistan) is so pervasive that anyone in the open or near targeted sites risks being killed – civilians, including women and children, most vulnerable.

Spiegel online (spiegel.de March 13, 2010) calls killer drones the “Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror….the weapon of choice….But the political, military and moral consequences are incalculable.”

One report said in the past two years the Air Force Research Laboratory embarked on a program to “build the ultimate assassination robot (described as) a tiny, armed drone for the US special forces to employ in terminating ‘high-value targets’ ” that most often are noncombatants.

On April 4, New York Times writers Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah headlined, “Drones Batter Qaeda and Allies Within (North Waziristan) Pakistan,” referring to a “stepped-up campaign….over the past three months (casting) a pall of fear over an area (by) fly(ing) overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry….” The ferocity of strikes got one “militant” to say, “It seems they really want to kill everyone….,” civilians, of course, most vulnerable.

Vietnam’s Operation Phoenix – Prototype for McChrystal’s War

From 1968 – 1973, the CIA ran the Phoenix Program with US Special Forces’ Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG), involving covert missions to crush the National Liberation Front (NFL resistance Viet Cong or VC).

It was a depersonalized murder program to remove opposition elements and terrorize people into submission – now used against Iraq, Afghanistan, North Waziristan, Pakistan, elsewhere, and perhaps one day coming to a neighborhood near you.

In 1975, Counterspy magazine called Phoenix “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of world war two.” Included were security-risk US military personnel and members of the South Vietnamese government. Before it ended, around 80,000 people were killed, yet it failed.

In the mid-1960s, it began as a CIA Counter Terror (CT) program that recruited, organized, supplied and directly paid CT teams whose function was to use Vietcong techniques, kidnappings and intimidation against the Vietcong leadership.

By 1968, it was expanded and called Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation (ICEX), then Phoenix, to neutralize the VC as top priority, much like McChrystal’s counterterrorism in Afghanistan and North Waziristan, and earlier in Iraq.

In Vietnam, a Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) organization was established overseeing Phoenix. It was a gimmick doomed to fail, much like current Iraq and Afghanistan occupations aren’t sustainable in countries known historically as foreign occupier graveyards.

Phoenix was called Vietnam’s “grand illusion of the American cause,” the same miscalculation today no matter how long current wars continue, whatever amounts are spent, or how much more terror, mass killings and destruction lie ahead for people determined to resist and prevail. Given their past successes, odds are they’ll do it again, no matter the price.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

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http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=623212

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New US Commander in Afghanistan Assembles

Team of Assassins

By Bill Van Auken

June 12, 2009 “WSW” — Confirmed Wednesday as President Barack Obama’s new commander for the widening war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Stanley McChrystal has been given extraordinary powers to assemble his own staff.

According to press reports published Thursday, in forming a permanent war council-dubbed the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell-McChrystal is drawing heavily from a super-secret assassination squad that he commanded under the Bush administration.

That unit, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was formed in December 1980 in the wake of the military’s abortive operation to free US hostages in Iran. Comprised of the Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALs, the command directs Special Mission Units that carry out classified operations, often in collaboration with CIA squads.

Commanded by McChrystal between 2003 and 2008, JSOC has been linked to assassinations in over a dozen countries as well as abduction and torture. Under the Bush administration, it was reportedly used to carry out covert operations inside Iran, which included the abduction and assassination of officials suspected of aiding Iraqi militia groups.

Earlier this year, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who is writing a book on the subject, termed the command “an executive assassination wing.” He said that it was tasked with “going into countries…finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.” Hersh added that, under the Bush administration, the unit reported to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

According to the New York Times, McChrystal “has been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans.” The newspaper attributed the “extraordinary leeway” granted to the general to the Obama administration’s concern over the war, which over the past year has registered the highest levels of violence since the US invasion of the country in October 2001 and has seen the Taliban and other insurgent elements gain control over much of the country.

Citing Pentagon figures, McClatchy News reported, “The first five months of this year have seen a 59 percent increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, a 62 percent increase in coalition deaths and a 64 percent increase in the use of improvised explosives compared to the same period last year.”

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the sudden ouster of Gen. David McKiernan and his replacement by McChrystal, a move that reflected increasing desperation in Washington. The shakeup followed the findings of a Pentagon task force headed by McChrystal in May that reported in relation to Afghanistan that the “security situation in key areas is poor, stalemated or deteriorating.”

Tapped to serve as McChrystal’s deputy and assigned to oversee day-to-day operations in Afghanistan is Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was chosen last year by Defense Secretary Gates as his personal military assistant. Rodriguez is reportedly a longtime friend and protégé of McChrystal.

McChrystal has selected Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as his intelligence advisor for Afghanistan, the Times reported. Flynn, who is currently director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, had previously served as McChrystal’s intelligence chief in the shadowy operations of JSOC.

Chosen as commander of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell is the longtime special operations officer Gen. Scott Miller, who as a captain commanded Delta Force troops in the US military’s “Blackhawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the so-called coordination cell is “modeled on a system Gen. McChrystal put in place in Iraq, when he commanded the Navy Seals and other Special Operations personnel.”

The units that he commanded in Iraq are reported to have carried out an assassination program in that country aimed at eliminating suspected leaders of Iraqi insurgent groups hostile to the US occupation. Personnel under his command also ran a detention and interrogation center near the Baghdad airport known as Camp Nama, where prisoners were subjected to systematic abuse amounting to torture. The motto of the unit running the camp was “No Blood, No Foul,” meaning that any form of abuse that did not draw blood was acceptable and would not result in investigations or prosecution. Soldiers assigned to the facility have reported that McChrystal was a regular visitor.

Given this background, it is noteworthy that the Democratic-led Senate Armed Services Committee subjected McChrystal to no serious or sustained questioning during his confirmation hearing last week. The committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, disposed of the torture issue at the outset by helping McChrystal to lay the blame on then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and on orders from Washington.

The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal gloated over the Democrats’ failure to make an issue out of torture, writing on June 4 that it assumed this was the case “because General McChrystal happens to have been nominated by President Obama, not President Bush.”

In the end, the only obstacle placed in the way of McChrystal’s nomination was general procedural foot-dragging by the Republicans.

To break the logjam, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the Senate floor Wednesday and made a dramatic announcement that he had received a telephone call from Adm. Mike Mullen. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman had told him, Reid said, that McChrystal had to fly to Afghanistan that very night and was “literally waiting by an airplane,” because there was no commander on the ground in Afghanistan.

“Let’s get the man approved tonight so he can go,” Reid said. Senate Republicans responded by moving to confirm McChrystal and two other military nominees.

Media coverage of McChrystal’s confirmation and the changes in war strategy surrounding the creation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell has centered on innocuous suggestions that the planned rotation of this core group of 400 between the war in Afghanistan and Afghanistan-related planning in Washington would allow these personnel to “accumulate expertise.”

McChrystal’s military career and those of the chief officers he is selecting as his aides, however, suggest that what is being prepared is a dramatic escalation of the killing in Afghanistan, through the utilization of the type of methods employed during Operation Phoenix in Vietnam or the death squad killings during the US intervention in El Salvador.

Speaking to reporters during a flight to a NATO meeting in Brussels, Defense Secretary Gates reiterated the repeated warnings from senior military officials that, as the US continues to build up its forces in Afghanistan to a target of nearly 70,000 troops by the end of the year, the bloodshed will grow accordingly.

“We’ve been very upfront about the fact that as we send in more troops, and go into areas that have not had an Afghan government or ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] presence yet, that there will be more combat and the result of that will be more casualties,” Gates said.

In its escalation of the US war in Afghanistan, and its increasing extension across the border into Pakistan, the Obama administration has chosen as its senior commander an officer who is among those most deeply implicated in the criminal operations carried out under Bush and Cheney. This appointment, and its confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate, is a clear warning that the ruling establishment in Washington is pursuing a consensus policy that will involve even greater war crimes against the Afghan people, as Washington continues its attempt to assert hegemony in Central Asia by military means.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article22812.htm

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Australian SAS Units Function

as Death Squads in Afghanistan

By James Cogan

December 11, 20008 “WSWS” — An Australian Defence Department (ADD) report published in October, and highlighted on November 26 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Lateline” program, provides a rare account of the shameful operations being performed by the Australian military as part of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

The units most involved are from the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and the Fourth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), the Army’s designated commando battalion. These are highly trained troops and their ostensible role in times of war is to carry out long range reconnaissance, surveillance, harassment or raids on enemy targets. In the so-called “war on terror”, they are being used as little more than death squads.

The ADD report presents the findings of an inquiry into a September 17 Australian operation that resulted in the mistaken killing of Rozi Khan, the pro-occupation governor of Chora district in Uruzgan province and a long-time colleague of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The intended target, codenamed “Musket” by the Australian military, was an alleged member of the Islamist Taliban movement. While much of the mission statement remains censored, it is apparent that a squad was sent out to storm into the man’s house in the dead of night and execute him in cold blood.

The possibility for things to go wrong is inherent in such operations in civilian areas, and on September 17, they went terribly wrong. Just days before the hit on “Musket” was ordered, the Taliban had issued threats against residents of a village, which lay on the route being taking by the Australians. Rozi Khan had encouraged the villagers to resist any attack and promised to come to their aid with his armed followers.

As the Australian troops moved close to the village, sentries atop houses spotted them and assumed they were Taliban intruders. Within minutes, dozens of villagers were firing on the Australians from the east, west and north. Khan and his men, alerted by the gunfire, began moving toward the fighting, as did local Afghan police.

Troops in an Australian back-up unit, who had manoeuvred to try and flank what they believed to be Taliban, engaged Khan’s group and, the inquiry found, most likely inflicted fatal wounds on the district governor. It was not until a police vehicle arrived that the Australians made efforts to communicate with the men they were attacking.

After realising their mistake, the Australian troops aborted their “Musket” mission—at the cost of two dead and five wounded Afghans. The Defence Department inquiry ruled: “That Rozi Khan was among the casualties is resultant of his unfortunate intervention into a complex situation, albeit with altruistic motives.”

The September 17 mission was no isolated incident. It was part of a broader and ongoing operation codenamed “Peeler” that tasks the Australian special forces with “disrupting [i.e., killing or capturing] Taliban leadership or improvised explosive device facilitators”.

Not all missions result in the target’s assassination. Last month, the alleged Taliban “shadow” governor of Uruzgan, Mullah Bari Ghul, was detained in a raid that was most likely conducted by Australians.

Other missions result in massacres. On November 23, 2007, Private Luke Worsley of 4RAR was killed during an assault on a residence in Chenartu village in Uruzgan. Because of the Australian fatality, details of the incident were made public. The target was Taliban leader Mullah Baz Mohammed, who was expected to be at the house that night.

Australian troops crept up under the cover of darkness, blew the outer doors off the housing compound and rushed in. They left the Daad family—three men, two women and one female child—dead on the floor. A neighbour, Faiz Mohammed, told Time magazine: “There was blood everywhere.” Worsley was shot as he entered the house. Mullah Baz Mohammed was not there.

“Lateline” commented that the Defence Department report “prompts questions about the legality and the ethics of targeted killings, even in the dusty and chaotic battleground of Afghanistan”.

Tim McCormack of Melbourne University, a professor of Humanitarian Law consulted by the program, provided reassurances. “International law is not pacifist law,” he said. “It does allow the killing of enemy combatants and civilians who take a direct part in hostilities—just as it’s also legal for the Taliban to hunt down an Australian SAS person or anybody on the Australian side or any of the allied side”.

McCormack’s remarks, however, serve only to obscure the essential issues. They ignore the thoroughly predatory and, therefore, criminal motives behind the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were utilised as the pretext to deploy military forces into the desperately impoverished country with the aim of securing long term bases in the very heart of Central Asia, a region rich in untapped resources. Over the past seven years, the Afghan war has evolved into a component of the struggle for regional dominance between the US—supported at present by its European NATO allies—and Russia and China.

The existence of Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the decision to send in troops. Not only did the Bush administration reject offers by the Taliban to hand Osama bin Laden over to a third country if evidence were presented of his involvement in 9/11, but virtually no steps were taken by the US military to prevent the bulk of Al Qaeda simply moving across the border into Pakistan’s tribal agencies—where it has largely operated ever since.

Australia’s involvement in the war was the result of the most cynical calculations. By sending troops to fight in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the former Howard government hoped to cement Washington’s backing for a series of military operations that would secure Australian strategic and economic interests in the South Pacific, as well as a free trade agreement with the United States. The Rudd Labor government is continuing the same policy.

There is a stark difference—both politically and morally—between the activities of citizens resisting the invasion of their country and those of the invading army. Afghans are fighting for the right to determine their own future free from foreign domination. The Australian military in Afghanistan is an instrument of imperialist aggression. It is conducting a campaign of terror throughout Uruzgan province to force the population to accept a US puppet government.

One obvious parallel to the Afghanistan operation is the Vietnam War’s Operation Phoenix. Over a five-year period, American and South Vietnamese death squads assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese on the grounds they were supporting the Viet Cong (VC) liberation movement. Only the most craven apologist for US imperialism would claim that such atrocities were “legal” on the basis that many of the victims belonged to the VC.

The Labor government repeatedly tries to ennoble the Afghan war with flowery descriptions of Australian soldiers as “heroes” who are “putting their lives on the line for the rest us”. The truth is they are killing and maiming people, including entirely innocent civilians, of an oppressed country for a thoroughly reactionary, neo-colonial cause.

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http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21430.htm

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Drone Wars


What was once the stuff of science fiction – remote controlled drones dropping bombs onto targets thousands of miles away – is now taking place on an almost daily basis. indeed it seems to have become the preferred method of attack by US and British forces. However one aspect of warfare has not changed.

According to the Washington-based think-tank, The Brooking Institution ,

for every ‘militant’ killed in a drone strike at least 10 civilians also die.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are small remotely-piloted aircraft controlled from the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. While there are literally dozens of different types of drones, they fall into two basic categories: those that are used purely for surveillance and intelligence purposes and those that are also armed with missiles and bombs and can be used for attack. Whilst armed drones were first used in the Balkans war, their use has escalated massively in Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently in the undeclared war in Pakistan.

Britain began using armed UAV’s in Afghanistan in Oct 2007 after purchasing three Reapers from General Atomics in 2007 at a cost of £6m each. One of these crashed in Afghanistan in April 2008 and was later replaced, leaving three in service. The UK has ordered a further two Reapers which are due to enter service in 2010.The UK is also developing its own “sovereign” armed UAVs under a £124m programme called Project Morrigan, which has resulted in an armed UAV, still under development by BAE Systems, called Taranis.

Whilst the British and US Reaper and Predator UAVs are in physically in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are actually operated via satellite communication from Nellis and Creech USAF base just outside Las Vegas in Nevada. Ground support troops launch the UAVs from Kandhar airbase and then, once they have reached several thousand feet, control of the drones is handed over to a crew of three operators sitting in front of video screens in specially designed trailers in the Nevada desert. One person ‘flies’ the drone, another controls and monitors the cameras and sensors, whilst a third person is in contact with the “customers”, ground troops and commanders in the war zone.

You can watch a 12 minute film by CBS about armed Reaper and Predator drones being operated from Creech here

Although the use of armed drones is still relatively new, FoR has a have a number of serious concerns not least because there is a picture beginning to emerge of high civilian casualties. In addition the use of armed drones to target specific individuals could amount to summary or arbitrary execution, and currently drone operators are making life and death decisions when they are emotionally and mentally exhausted by long hours and regular schedule changes.

Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth. FoR calls on the Government to make public the number of causalities resulting from British drone attacks and we urge that there is a serious, informed and open discussion about the use of armed drones by British forces in the very near future. We believe that there should be a ban on the use of armed unmanned drones.FoR advocates nonviolent conflict transformation in order to bring about genuine and lasting peace. Drones are the latest in a long line of new weapons used in the mistaken belief that they will provide a clean and tidy solution to a conflict – time and again history has proved that this is a myth.

FoR is developing information and campaigning resources on the use of armed drones.

If you would like to be notified when new resources are ready or informed about campaign events please contact dronecampaign@for.org.uk

http://www.for.org.uk/node/486

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Q&A: military drones explained

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 June 2009

In the skies of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, more and more missions are being carried out by unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

A predator control room

The drones, controlled 6,000 miles away in the Nevada desert, can carry up to 14 missiles.

The United States has the Reaper drone, the Chinese have the Invisible Sword. Robotics expert professor Noel Sharkey, from Sheffield university, explains where drones came from, and what they can do:

How long have these drones been around?
Unmanned drones have actually been used for about 30 years. They were first used for surveillance.

When did drones start to be used in attacks?
The first test of an armed drone was in 2001 by the CIA. They put hellfire missiles on what is known as a predator drone, which was previously used for spying. These are the missiles they still use today.

When was the armed drone first used on a ‘real’ target?
The first deployment was in the Yemen in 2002, again by the CIA. They used it to blow up a sports utility vehicle in the middle of the desert. They claimed it killed an al-Qaida member, and five of his associates.

How many armed drones are there?
There are about 200 of the armed Predator drones now; while it also has a bigger brother now called the Reaper – which can carry 14 missiles, there are about 30 of those now too.

Who ‘flies’ them?
At the moment the drones in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are controlled from Creech air force base in the Nevada desert. In the US you can just take a course to learn how to control these aircraft, while at the moment the British stipulate that you must have been a combat pilot to control them.

How are they controlled?
It’s a bit like a console games controller. These people are sat in front of a big screen. It is actually called a “man in the loop” system. It does an awful lot of things automatically. It has high resolution cameras and sensors – it sees things on the ground. It does have heat sensors to work out whether people are in a building or not.

Who makes the decision to fire the missiles, the drone or the human?
The pilot does, although on a lot of instances they won’t have that much time – the drone will identify a target and ask them whether to shoot: yes or no? A lot of the time the pilot is vetoing targets rather than finding them.

How long can the drones stay in the air for?
The predator can stay up for about 26 hours, whereas some of the unarmed drones can stay in the air for up to 72 hours.

Are other countries developing these armed drones?
Yes, at the moment there are 43 countries developing these programmes. Russia alone has 18 programmes, while the Chinese have a drone known as the Invisible Sword.

Why have they proved so popular with military forces?
Firstly you don’t have to worry about your pilot getting fatigued or shot down. If they want to go to the toilet during a shift they can and someone else can take over. After work than can go home and have a meal with the wife and kids. There’s also the cost: a drone can cost $40m, whereas a fighter plane can cost $350m

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Taking out the Taliban; Home for Dinner

For these Air Force pilots, the front line of the war in Afghanistan is right here, at a base less than an hour from Las Vegas.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/waging-war/remote-control-war/taking-out-the-taliban-home-for-dinner.html?play

WAR BY UAV

As you read this, the odds are good that there’s a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a mission somewhere over Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The MQ-1 Predator UAV used most commonly by the military and CIA is about the size of a small Cessna prop plane. It’s equipped with at least three different types of cameras that record full-motion video. It can fly up to 454 miles at a maximum height of 25,000 feet and at a speed up to 135 mph. Following the September 11th attacks and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Predator was equipped with two AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles.

Rudimentary pilotless flying machines were first attempted by soldiers in the Civil War, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used by the U.S. military as surveillance tools since the 1950s. Other types of U.S. UAVs include the MQ-9 Reaper, three times faster than the Predator and capable of carrying 15 times more firepower, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the first pilotless aircraft to fly non-stop across the Pacific. In the Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers allegedly surrendered to a unmanned aerial vehicle, marking perhaps the first time in history that man surrendered to a robot. Today, the Air Force has 195 Predators and 28 Reaper UAVs in its fleet.

The Predator and its cousins are controlled remotely by a two- or three-person teams: a pilot and one or two sensor operators. Most of the CIA’s Predators are flown by teams at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, while the Air Force’s UAVs are run out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where pilots hunker down in air-conditioned trailers in front of multiple screens streaming live video. Both locations are more than six thousand miles from their target zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the past year, under pressure from citizens, the Pakistani government has publicly protested the U.S. use of UAVs while simultaneously requesting control of the planes. Controversy surrounding the use of UAVs has mounted, with critics faulting the UAV campaign for alienating Pakistani citizens and providing recruitment propaganda for the Taliban. The tension has continued to build as the Pakistani Army begins to take on the Taliban near the capital, Islamabad. The CIA and the military do not confirm UAV missile strikes in Pakistan, but some reports claim that up to 370 people have been killed since UAV attacks intensified in August 2008. A recent LA Times Op-Ed quotes a counterinsurgency official claiming the elimination of 14 senior Al Qaeda operatives by UAV attacks since 2006. The official places the civilian death toll during this time at around 700.

Resources

The Future of War

As we speak, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used to carry out our wars remotely. P.W. Singer, the author of Wired for War, and an expert in military technology, looks at the benefits and the costs of using robots to fight for us.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/waging-war/remote-control-war/the-future-of-war.html?play

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Drone attacks provoke calls for revenge

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

In a report on the CIA’s campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan, the Los Angeles Times recounts the stories of some of the civilian victims of the attacks.

Many of the boys that Zaman Khan grew up with in the South Waziristan town of Shakai eventually joined the Taliban. He knew they had become militants, but he never thought it odd to have them over for tea.

Whether it was because of Taliban visits or the proximity of a regular Taliban meeting place 30 yards away, Khan’s house became a target March 15, 2008.

The missile struck while everyone slept, killing Khan’s brother, Wazir Khan, 40; Wazir’s wife, Zara Bibi, 30; and their 4-year-old son, Irshad. The left half of Wazir’s body had been sheared off. Zara’s and Irshad’s bodies were charred from head to toe.

Wazir’s two other children, Noor Rehman, 10 at the time, and Ishaq Khan, 3, survived. Physically, they recovered but suffer from psychological problems, Zaman Khan said.

“Ishaq doesn’t talk at all,” Khan said. “He can’t recognize his family, and he drinks only if someone helps him.”

Three weeks after that strike, a house full of civilians in the same neighborhood was struck, instantly killing cousins Sher Maan, 20, and Azeem Ullah, 30, and Azeem’s wife, Gul Anama, 25.

“It was a huge blast that shook the ground,” said Amin Ullah, 20, a Shakai farmer.

“I believe that most of the victims of these drone attacks are innocent people,” Ullah said. “Pakistan should be carrying out these attacks. Pakistan knows the terrain, knows its people and knows the militants.”

Andrew Exum, a former Army officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, has declared the drone program counterproductive and called for an end to it. In an analysis published last year, Exum and David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency advisor to the head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, dismissed drones as technology substituting for strategy.

“Every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement,” they wrote.

Drones have proved invaluable in Afghanistan, where they focus on surveillance, intelligence-gathering and watching over coalition troops, Exum said in an interview. But in Pakistan, the U.S. and the government in Islamabad need to make the case that the attacks are part of a joint strategy supporting Pakistani policy, he said.

“I’m not saying drones can’t be part of the solution, but right now I think they’re part of the problem,” Exum said.

Drone attacks have enraged men such as Momin Khan. On a September morning last year, Khan heard the thunderclap of a drone strike in Machis, his village in North Waziristan, and ran to see what had happened.

As he joined other villagers running down a dirt road, the 50-year-old unemployed teacher saw black smoke and flames curling out of a house about 60 yards away. The missile had killed two people there. As he ran closer, a second missile strike shook the ground.

Shrapnel from the blast cut into his shoulder and legs. He woke up in a hospital.

Four people were killed in the second strike, he said. Although Taliban militants have often used Machis as a haven, Khan said he was sure the house initially targeted had only civilians in it.

“These drones fly day and night, and we don’t know where to hide because we don’t know who they will target,” he said. “If I could, I would take revenge on America.”

Philip Alston, the United Nations special representative on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, said that without full disclosure of the CIA drone program, “the opportunities for abuse are immense.”

“The CIA is running a program that is killing a significant number of people, and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international law,” he said.

Scott Horton, while considering some of the legal issues surrounding the program notes:

No weapons system remains indefinitely the province of a single power. Drone technology is particularly striking in this regard, because it is not really all that sophisticated. It seems clear that other powers have this technology–Israel and Iran have each been reported to be working with it, Russia and China could obviously do so easily if they desired, and the same is probably true for Britain, France, and Germany, not to mention Japan and Taiwan, where many of the cutting-edge breakthroughs in robotics actually occur. The way America uses this technology is therefore effectively setting the rules for others. Put another way, if it’s lawful for America to employ a drone to take out an enemy in the desert of Yemen, on the coast of Somalia, in a village in Sudan or Mauretania, then it would be just as lawful for Russia, or China–or, for that matter, for Israel or Iran. What kind of world is this choice then creating? Doesn’t it invariably lead us closer to the situation in which a targeted killing will be carried out in a major metropolis of Europe or East Asia, or even the United States? And doesn’t that move us in the direction of a dark and increasingly lawless world?

This is not idle speculation. The choices the United States has made are being studied very closely in capitals around the world. In Russia, for instance, national-security analysts have noted the American drone strikes with a measure of approbation, because they see such strikes as justifying lethal countermeasures of their own against perceived terrorist enemies. A number of enemies of the Russian government who were critical of policies or actions connected with the Second Chechen War have recently met violent death, often after Russian authorities linked them to Chechen terrorist groups. The Polonium poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London, for instance, or the assassination of Umar Israilov in Vienna, which Austrian prosecutors linked earlier this week to a Putin-protégé, the president of Chechnya, are two examples that suggest that Europe may have been cleared as a theater for targeted killings by a great power. The 2004 killing of former Chechen President Zelimkhan in Qatar is an example of another Russian targeted killing in the Gulf. The recent likely Israeli assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai is another instance. Targeted killings of this sort have always been with us, of course, but with the Bush-era “War on Terror” they are making a strong comeback and are gaining in claims of legitimacy and legality. The drone technology promises to take targeted killings to a whole new level.

My point here is a simple one. The United States cannot assume exclusivity in this technology, and how it uses the technology will guide others. The United States has to decide now whether it wants to legitimize a broader right of sovereign states to assassinate their enemies using drones. The consequence of such a step to the world as a whole will be severe. This also points to the danger of the United States using drones for targeted killings and keeping silent about the process, which invites the view that the practice involves an arbitrary and capricious use of power. If the United States elects to continue on its current path, it also owes the world a clear accounting for its use of drones as a vehicle for targeted killings.

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Christopher Hoare May 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Sorry, Mr Horton, the barn door is already open and the horse has escaped. The US has no moral standing to issue any guidance on the use of targeted murder — in the same way that the owner of a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons is justly accused of hypocrisy when it seeks to prevent other states from having them.
The world looks fondly back at the good old days early in the 20th century when the US pursued an isolationist policy and didn’t try to mind everyone elses’ business. Almost everything they’ve done since 1945 has brought misery and suffering to millions — for no good end.

http://warincontext.org/2010/05/04/drone-attacks-provoke-calls-for-revenge/

Predator warfare blowback

by Paul Woodward on May 4, 2010

“Looks like you just lost that bet, Mr. Woodward. I’ll be waiting for your apology,” a reader said after I wrote on Sunday, “if I was to place a bet on who did this, I’d go with someone whose sympathies are probably more Tea Party than Taliban.”

Indeed I was wrong, though I’m not sure what I’m being asked to apologize for. Having engaged in premature speculation or having entertained the suspicion that there could be among the ranks of the Tea Party crowd anyone crazy enough to try and set off a bomb in Times Square?

Even if I and others were mistaken in suggesting that the Times Square incident might be connected to the Tea Party movement, the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem — not pretend it’s simply the victim of unfair criticism.

Moving on, Noah Shachtman reports:

Federal agents have made an arrest in the Times Square bombing attempt. And YouTube may have provided some clues to the investigators.

Faisal Shahzad was attempting to board a plane for Dubai when he was apprehended at New York’s JFK airport. Law enforcement officials believe the Connecticut resident recently bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged with explosives and fertilizer and left smoldering in Times Square.

One “clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are being sought by law enforcement,” ABC News reports.

The video (below), features the voice of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the “Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers,” according to the Long War Journal. The clip congratulates fellow Muslims for the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.” “The attack a revenge” for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan, the video continues, and is a response to “the recent rain of drone attacks.”

If Faisal Shahzad was the best recruit the Pakistani Taliban could find, the threat they pose to the United States is probably limited, but DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s initial assessment that this was a “one-off” operation is clearly premature. Indeed, if the intense campaign of drone warfare in Pakistan has triggered enough outrage among a few Pakistani Americans to seek revenge in Times Square, then there is one word that this administration should now be thinking about seriously: blowback.

President Obama seems to pride himself in having been less hesitant to take the war to Pakistan than was his predecessor, yet as the reappearance of Hakimullah Mehsud should make clear, the successes of the drone campaign have not been as great as the CIA has often claimed, while the costs have just as frequently been understated.

Killing innocent people “over there,” inevitably elevates the risk that innocent people will again end up dying here.

The bomb-making abilities on display in Times Square may have made some observers respond dismissively — and I am guilty of having done so — but the Taliban’s threat to bring the war to the United States can no longer be regarded as empty rhetoric.

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DE Teodoru May 4, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think– like our wooden headed military– we’re missing the point. I can understand Mr. Woodward’s error as no one would think that anyone but Tea Party would send out such incompetents. But so would alQaeda because they do the job: TERRORIZE US even as they fail. Look, Taliban gets one guy to buy an SUV with peanuts from their unlimited Gulf stocks of cash and tries something. Like a guerrilla soldier, let’s say, he dies or is captured. So what? What vital assets were invested in him? With that level of investment into his competence he’s no loss as he scares people even as he fails. Meanwhile, we talk about our “Special Forces” (SF) guys. It costs a fortune to train them and they are precious few. They’re more muscle trained than brain trained to observe and many seem to come up with magic formulas of their own:
http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-content/themes/stevenpressfield/one_tribe_at_a_time.pdf
WE can see the limits of their strategic thinking there!

Now I always admired soldiers who go native. But this is kind of native on amphetamines! Yet it is at least concrete compared to what the Pentagon guys write. Yet no one considers how expensive are our SF guys, how long and expensive the logistic trail for our expeditionary corps, and how disruptive to our society as they drain its assets. The Taliban, on the other hand, sends in some fool who either blows himself up or doesn’t. IN Mideast one way shahids are limitless, far more than our SFs. How little preparation they need (and get) indicates how little of terrorism’s unlimited assets it took to send him forth. He failed so what? As my dad used to say when other researchers stole his ideas: I’ve got millions!

Wunjo May 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm

“the movement itself needs to engage in a bit of self-examination if it wants to understand its image problem”

“If I were to place a bet”, I would say it would be more fruitful to psychoanalyze people like Paul Woodward in order to understand its image problem among people like Paul Woodward. When someone looks at the old ladies at Tea Parties and sees bomb planting extremists, I really don’t think the old ladies are the ones we should worry about.

Ian Arbuckle May 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Paul, you have nothing to apologise for. The muddy waters run deep and it is by design not accident. Taleban this, or the Al Qaeda that, these are words and names that are slung around like blankets to cover anything but have very little real meaning except on this side of the info-propaganda war divide. Western half baked intelligence seems more often wrong than not and has mostly been hell bent on identifying “the enemy” (or even finding one). Regularly they have fallen pray to false information often designed to lead them to commit unjustifiable atrocities like the bombing of weddings, stabbing of pregnant women in the night, shooting tied up children in the head or the old family members of Afghan-Canadian parliamentarians protecting their compound from apparent special forces marauders.

Yes there are extremists who see the Western aggression in the Middle East, East Africa, Iraq and South Asia as a war on Islam, and not without good reason, but on the other hand recruiting and organizing these extremists has not been the exclusive domain of other Middle Eastern, Arab, or South Asian zealots and their funds and complex organizations have been known to lead to agents and strings being pulled from Tel Aviv and Langley.

So because a south Asian or an Arab is arrested or even later proven to be involved in any of these attempted “shows” of potential violence does not preclude that the powers and motives behind them are not much more mundane and conventional.

Put more simply, the war on terror “must go on” and is just the latest manifestation of the military industrial complex’s innitiative and nobody is going to sustain those billions and trillions in wars and homeland defence against “imagined” enemies. Now and again they need something substantial to justify their efforts. Real, if difficult to accept in terms of pathetic, “terrorists” must be shown to the masses Just like the witches in the 16th and 17th century, we need the occasional inquisition and trial by fire too, with all the hocus-pocus of torture and state secrecy and all the self righteous political crowing of satisfaction from “leaders” too. They say truth is stranger than fiction even if it is as pathetic as an American Muslim preacher “wanted dead or alive”, apparently coordinating from his pulpit and hiding in Yemen the pathetic attempt by a Nigerian boy, known and advised repeatedly to authorities, including by his father a diplomat, and helped by other “authorities” seemingly to board a plane in Europe, to try and set off a very stupid and improbable devise on his leg just before landing in the US.

Now we have this pathetic attempt at igniting a car bomb in Time Square… Sorry but to me it all begs belief. I know terrorism when I see it and I have no doubt who is responsible for both sides of the coin. Cause and effect, smoke and mirrors, agent provocateurs, false flag events, all for what end? Now that is an important question mor people should ask.

DE Teodoru May 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hey Wujo, Mr. Woodward, from his perch on the American continent, gave us his personal suspicion and explained why, period. Do you recall after 9/11 the “teabagger types” insisting that there was a dark “Middle Eastern looking” guy with McVey because no on the Right believed that a Red Blooded American veteran would do such a thing on his own so must have been brainwashed by Muslim terrorists? But what’s not discussed is that, so far, the “training” these terrorists get must make the Unabomber laugh in his cell. What all this proves is that our PREVENTIVE security guys are the dummies, rather than alQaeda being the brilliant one. Had security insisted on airlines following the claw and maintaining the pilot’s cabin impenetrable in flight, four airliners would never have been seized in ten minutes each (I won’t mention how all these guys going to flight-school was disregarded by them). On the other hand, it is the “let’s find the guys that did it” gum-shoes who are the real heroes. Instead of beefing up our police detectives should we send drones over Connecticut and, from video consoles in Nevada, drop JDAMs on anything that looks like a mosque?

Please recall that Mr. Woodward’s hunch about “teabaggers” is based on the assumed competence of alQaeda trainers NOT sending from their terror school such bumbling “grads” against us. If anything, perhaps his problem is that he accepted too much of the Bush-it about what a danger is the alQaeda training camp, as fed to us by the last administration. But I don’t recall such assumption, per DSM VI being diagnostic reason to recommend psychotherapy; has taking your Gov’s words seriously become a mental disorder

http://warincontext.org/2010/05/04/predator-warfare-blowback/

Post: Would-be Times Square Bomber

Wanted Revenge

for U.S. Drone Attacks on Taliban

Photo: orkut.com

Thirty-year-old Faisal Shahzad said that even though he had traveled to Pakistan to receive terror training from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, it was what he witnessed while there that actually spurred him to load up a Nissan Pathfinder with propane and leave it to explode in Times Square. According to the Post, after drone attacks by the United States government wiped out the leadership of the group, Shahzad told authorities that he vowed revenge. Sources told the tabloid that during his months in Pakistan Shahzad witnessed many of the drone attacks, which have gone on for the past year. So far U.S. authorities have downplayed the Pakistani Taliban’s claims of credit for the attempted Times Square bombing, even though the group specifically mentioned it was revenge for drone attacks. But yesterday Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Qureshi told reporters, “This is a blowback. This is a reaction. This is retaliation. And you could expect that.”

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission [NYP]

By: Chris Rovzar

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/05/post_would-be_times_square_bom.html

Taliban lackey’s twisted mission

* Revenge for US drone slayings * Trained for terror in Pakistan * 8 Islamic cohorts rounded up

By BRUCE GOLDING, JOHN DOYLE and DAN MANGAN

Last Updated: 7:27 AM, May 5, 2010

Posted: 3:02 AM, May 5, 2010

Comments: 104

| More Print
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/taliban_lackey_Su3wybDRpAYfahVx03zskI#ixzz0na7qc1bS

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/taliban_lackey_Su3wybDRpAYfahVx03zskI

US drone bombing blowback in NYC bomb plot

Posted on May 6, 2010 by The Editors

NYC Bombing Retaliation for CIA Drone Strikes: U.S. officials

U.S. officials say they now believe the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) may have played a role in the failed car bombing of New York’s Times Square. The TTP which wages war on Pakistani citizens and the Pakistani government because it considers them allies of the US– has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has reportedly provided new information about his alleged contacts with Pakistani militants under continued interrogation.

A top Pakistani official meanwhile has echoed speculation the failed attack could have been retaliation for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with CBS News.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: “This is retaliation. Let’s not be naive. They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you to eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

In a video made before the bombing attempt, Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud called the attack “revenge” for drone attacks in Pakistan as well as the killings of militant leaders in Iraq. According to the New York Post, Faisal Shahzad told interrogators he witnessed several drone attacks during his recent eight-month stay in Pakistan.

Filed under: Current Affairs | Tagged: NYC bomb plot, US drone bombing

« Death Penalty: Shehzad should get same punishment as McVeigh Pressurizing Pakistan »

http://pakistanledger.com/2010/05/06/us-drone-bombing-blowback-in-nyc-bomb-plot/

Published on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 by Wired

Times Square Terror: Drone Payback?

by Noah Shachtman

Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb Times Square as payback for American drone attacks in Pakistan.

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a screen during a press conference at the US Justice Department in Washington. Outside his locked family homes, shocked Pakistanis remember Shahzad as a modern father of two from a good family who showed no hatred of America or sympathy with radical Islam. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

That’s what the New York Post is reporting, at least. The tabloid, relying on anonymous “law-enforcement sources,” says that Shahzad was an “eyewitness” to the unmanned “onslaught throughout the eight months he spent in Pakistan beginning last summer.”

In a video made prior to the attack, the Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud said “the attack is a revenge” for “the recent rain of drone attacks,” and for the slaying of extremist leaders in Iraq and Pakistan.

There have been an estimated 121 American drone strikes in Pakistan since early 2008. The death toll, by some calculations, is over 1,000 people.  Counterinsurgency and counterterror experts have warned that the drone strikes risked creating more enemies than they offed.

I’m skeptical of neat, tit-for-tat rationales, however. I’m guessing Shahzad was radicalized long before American drone war over Pakistan got into full swing in 2008. The robot attacks might have helped convince Shahzad to assemble his crappily-made, Rube Goldberg bomb. I’m sure there were other factors.

Shahzad remained attached to his native Pakistan; he bought a one-way ticket there after the failed bombing. But the Pakistani Army is publicly doubting whether their local militants had anything to do with the terror attempt.

“Anybody can claim anything, but whether the organization has that kind of reach is questionable,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military’s chief spokesman, said. “I don’t think they have the capacity to reach the next level.”

© 2010 Wired

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/05/05-4

Blowback On the Border: The Purpose of the Terror War System
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:37
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Let me say — or rather, reiterate — up front that it is my personal view that the form of vigorous activism known as non-violence is the only way, or the best way, that we can hope to even begin to address the inherent and intractable conflicts of human existence in a genuinely effective profound, sustainable and humane manner. That is the ideal I strive toward.

Of course, I also recognize that being what I am — a white man of Christian heritage living safely and comfortably under the penumbra of empire — it is easy for me to espouse this ideal. No drone fired in the distant black sky is going to kill my children tonight as they sleep warmly in their beds. No raiding party of assassins is going to tear down the door of my parents’ house tonight and shoot them at the dinner table. No one with a grudge against me — or simply in need of quick cash — is going to sell me into the captivity of a worldwide gulag. I’m not going to be caught in the crossfire of marauding mercenaries on my way to work. I’m not going to wake tomorrow in a refugee camp, my home and livelihood abandoned in the wake of a ravaging “counterterrorism” operation. No foreign soldier is going to shoot me, or abuse me, or humiliate me, or simply refuse to let me pass down the street of my own city. I’m not going to be stopped, “profiled,” or regarded with suspicion or hatred simply because of my skin color or the cultural or religious etymology of my name.

If I lived under the bootheel of such forces, I don’t how I would react, how firmly I could hold to my ideal. I don’t know if I would have the strength of mind and will, or the fortitude and wisdom it would take to resist our primal pull to violence — especially if I grew up in a culture that exalted certain forms of violence as cardinal virtues. (Of course, as an American, I did grow up in such a culture — and so has almost every other human being in history. To take the non-violent way is to appear — and yes, often feel – unnatural, deracinated, alien.)

Nonetheless, despite all these caveats and complexities, the ideal abides. I decry, denounce and mourn for the use of violence. Each act of violence — however understandable it might be in context — is a vast, ruinous defeat for our common humanity.

And of course many acts of violence are not “understandable” in any context, save that of our bestial desire to dominate others in one form or another. Here the defeat is even greater, its reverberations deeper, wider, longer-lasting: a degradation and degeneration that further brutalizes both the dispenser and victim of violence — especially the former, and especially when the dispensing culture comes to countenance an ever-widening array of violent acts as worthy, necessary, laudable, even honorable.

Each such act perpetuates the cycle of violence, the horrific dynamic of blowback: a self-perpetuating feedback loop that uses itself to engender more violence, in new and expanding forms. We are living today in the midst of a particularly virulent form of this dynamic, the so-called “War on Terror,” which I think has been designed — more or less deliberately so, although the obscene ignorance and arrogance of the powerful have also played their fateful part in unwittingly exacerbating these evils — to rage on without chronological end, without geographical, limits, and without any moral, social, legal or financial restraints. In his book X Films (reviewed here), Alex Cox uses an apt term borrowed from systems analysis — POSIWID: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.

The Terror War is not an event, or a campaign, or even a crusade; it is a system. Its purpose is not to eliminate “terrorism” (however this infinitely elastic term is defined) but to perpetuate itself, to do what it does: make war. This system can be immensely rewarding, in many different ways, for those who operate or assist it, whether in government, media, academia, or business. This too is a self-sustaining dynamic, a feedback loop that gives money, power and attention to those who serve the system; this elevated position then allows them to accrue even more money, power and attention, until in the end — as we can plainly see today — any alternative voices and viewpoints are relegated to the margins. They are “unserious.” They are unimportant. They are not allowed to penetrate or alter the operations of the system.

These reflections were prompted by last week’s attack on the CIA base near Khost, Afghanistan, and by the reaction to the attack among the operators and servants of the Terror War system. As the world knows, seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomber. (Two of the dead were actually Blackwater mercenaries, but as CNN solemnly informs us, the Agency considers such hired guns to be part of the family.) The officers were at a “forward operating base” near the Pakistan border. From this redoubt, they plotted and directed attacks by drone missiles and, if they were similar to other CIA teams, which seems likely, also helped run assassination squads, with bombs and ground raids launched against villages, private homes and other locations which allegedly contain alleged terrorists, both in Afghanistan, which American forces are now openly occupying, and in Pakistan, a sovereign, allied country where American military and security forces are carrying out a more and more open “secret war.”

The officers were killed when a suicide bomber — apparently a ‘native’ whom the CIA was grooming as a potential agent — walked into a gym and set off his hidden belt of explosives. Again, as noted above, I decry all deaths by violence, although I direct most of my attention to the violent deaths caused by the gargantuanly disproportionate infliction of state terrorism that characterizes our age, as opposed to the piecemeal pinpricks of small bands of extremists and isolated individuals — incidents which themselves often betray strong indications of the fomenting or facilitating hand of various operators in the Terror War system.

So it gave me no pleasure to note the grim truth that was confirmed, yet again, by the attack at Khost: Those who live by dirty war, die by dirty war. The CIA-mercenary squad at the base was a key part of what the New York Times rightly describes as the CIA’s evolution into a “paramilitary organization.” Like all terrorists, they operate outside the law, claiming moral superiority as their justification. And for this particular band, what they have dealt out to others — sudden death in a surprise attack with no possibility of defense –  they have now been dealt in turn.

Of course, the NYT seems to find no moral problem with the United States of America operating “paramilitary” squads of spies and mercenaries carrying out “extrajudicial assassinations” — or “murders,” as they once would have been called — in foreign lands occupied by American military forces slaughtering civilians on a regular basis. (We noted one such slaughter in Afghanistan last week; now yet another one is being reported.) The story which carried this description is concerned largely with describing the struggle of these noble bands as they struggle manfully on distant borders to keep us safe.

In this, the tone of the story strongly echoes the genuinely sick-making words of Barack Obama after the incident. From CNN:

“These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement Thursday.

“The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA.”
The CIA’s decades-long record of sickening crime, outright atrocity, constitutional subversion, bungling, near-unbelievable incompetence, and unrelenting exacerbation of hatred for and violence toward the United States is indisputable. (For just one egregious example, see  “The Secret Sharers.”) Few government organizations in world history have been so inimical to the national interests of the state they purport to serve. It was with very good reason that John F. Kennedy — to whom Obama’s sycophants often liken their hero — once declared his intention to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” (Nor can it be entirely coincidental that Kennedy was later murdered in a case that had innumerable ties to the security apparat.)

There is nothing further from the truth — nothing further from the established historical record — than Obama’s statement that the CIA has been absolutely indispensable in “maintaining the freedom and security” of the United States. On the contrary; the historical record clearly shows that the activities of the CIA have, time and again, reduced both the freedom and security of the people of the United States.

Yet here we have Obama, once again, groveling to this renegade, retrograde, criminal organization — much as he did early on in his presidency, when he  cravenly guaranteed the Agency’s thuggish torturers that they need never fear prosecution from his administration for the KGB-like, Stasi-like, Gestapo-like atrocities they had inflicted on their victims.

Instead of shattering the CIA, or even curtailing it, the NYT story confirms, yet again, that Obama is accelerating the militarization of the agency, and giving it broad new scope to deceive and murder. What’s more, as we noted here a few days ago, Obama’s handpicked “special envoy” for the “Af-Pak front,” Richard Holbrooke, admitted, in a little-noticed story last month, that the United States is carrying out covert operations in “every country in the world.” And all of this is accepted without debate, without demur, as a just, honorable and natural state of affairs.

And while Obama is praising the murderers, torturers and incompetents of the CIA, the Agency itself is plotting its revenge for the blowback against its own dirty war, as CNN reports, with an obvious frisson of titillation at the tough talk:

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” [an anonymous] intelligence official vowed. “There are some very bad people who eventually are going to have a very bad day,” the official promised Friday.

And so, as I wrote the day after 9/11 (and quoted again recently, in this piece about Obama’s surging Terror War): “Blood will have blood; that’s certain. But blood will not end it. For murder is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for generations?”

The cycle will go on — because that is what is wanted. The purpose of the system is what it does.

UPDATE: It turns out that the suicide bomber at the CIA center was not a native being groomed as an agent, as previously reported, but a Jordanian double agent pretending to be a “turned” and repentant extremist, hired, no doubt at great cost, by the CIA and its Jordanian offshoot to “penetrate” al Qaeda.

Once again, live by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder, die by dirty war, double dealing, deception and murder.  But it sure is great to see our Langley boys working cheek-by-jowl with yet another vicious security apparat of yet another dictator.


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Michael B said:

Counter-Violence
I think the discussion of violence versus non-violence misses the point entirely. The more important argument revolves around the discussion of “What works?”Violence and counter-violence are quite different things. It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance. I suspect you are admitting as much in your opening paragraphs.Let’s take this crude example:A man is walking around the neighborhood and you see him going from house to house shooting up the families in the neighboring homes. You see him approaching your home. You look over at your petrified children. What are you going to do? It is absurd at this point to even consider a response that is “non-violent.” What you will do is take him down. Once that is done it does not perpetuate the cycle of violence, it halts the violence.So let us examine all of the options and consider what is working, what has worked and what has the greatest likelihood of stopping the violence. Let us also be honest with ourselves and examine all that we have attempted and assess it’s efficacy.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

Grandma Jefferson said:

Sooner or Later, They Will Destroy Themselves
I’m convinced the cretinous citizens, so called, understand this on some fumbling subconscious level, that all the “wars” of the past 60 years have just been a complex, self-perpetuating scam of the plutocracy for their own eternal aggrandizement and enrichment, and don’t care. They are enamoured of their own “American exceptionalism” and xenophobia, and just love the idea of killin’ them some foreign butt, for any pretext, and the more elaborate the technology of massacre becomes, the better they love it, and will happily pay for it. They have ever preferred genocide, if it’s ‘Merkin induced, to caring for their own people. The success of the relentless media blitz of lying, war-mongering propaganda across the past decade couldn’t happen if the audience had the slightest flicker of rational intelligence, or moral sense.But the amoral cretins here would shred their pesky Constitution, rather than pull their troops out of these countries and deal with the lethal problems our murderous meddling has created. Americans have never believed “foreigners” to be entitled to any “rights” anyway, so it’s no big deal. Utterly incapable of rational thought, they don’t see the boot coming down on their own necks as a result.Indeed, we prefer global war everywhere, and a permanent police state in the sacred Homeland, to peace and caring for our own destitute people. We rejoice in the expansion of the patriotic CIA, unleashed like the Black Plague in every country on the globe, to “keep us safe”, because, you know, we’re Americans, and our safety must be preserved at all cost to the rest of the world. That’s just gawwwd’s will for its chosen people: their “safety” is paramount to any other consideration.We deserve everything that is coming to us. And the crushing accretion of monstrous war crimes and atrocities done by us across too many years guarantees a terrible retribution here, sooner or later. The CIA, with its track record of cosmic incompetence, corruption, and bungling, is just another step down that road.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +19

Harpfool said:


We’ve been taken over by the same sickness that swept Europe in the 1920s, came to fruition in the 1930s, and collapsed in world war in the 1940s. We know how that story ended for the citizens of countries like Germany, who had supported the rise of the dictators: in a nightmare of horrific dimensions. Our nightmare awaits.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Chris Floyd said:


I think you may be confusing non-violence as a philosophy of political action on a mass level with personal passivity on the individual level. States, organizations and ideologies, etc., are not individual perpetrators of violence who can be “taken down” with one shot, and that’s the end of it. The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.In any case, non-violent resistance to evil remains an ideal, as I noted in the piece. But an ideal cannot automatically be equated with fantasy. Fantasy is something that one simply sits back and pretends is real. An ideal is something that one feels is worthy of working toward, of attempting to make it a reality in the real world. For example, a person might have sexual fantasies that he or she would never try to put into practice; but one might also have an ideal of a love relationship with a particular person, and then try very hard to make that into a reality.But these examples are not very germane, because, as I said, I think there is a difference between the macro and micro level on this issue. If someone is shooting up my neighborhood, then yes, I am likely to take any measure possible to stop him. I would not, however, then go shoot up his neighborhood, or blow up his children, or hunt his blood kin down through the generations — even though this might well “work” in deterring anyone else in town from going on a shooting spree. What “works” can still be an evil and/or unproductive thing to do.And I imagine that both the inner circles of the imperial War Machine and those who direct bands of violent extremists take the same approach to violence as you mention. They too see the main argument as being “what works” when it comes to using violence as their tool. Is it time to back off the airstrikes for awhile? Should we avoid bombing sports events because of the bad PR? Or is now the time to “surge,” to lay some heavy hurt on the other side, come what may? What will “work” best today? I’m sure these kinds of interesting debates go on all the time. And I am also sure that both sides always see their violence as counter-violence, the “good” kind.I agree that we should take a cold, clear-eyed look at the efficacy of all means of resistance to organized violence. I have been trying to take just such a look for at least 35 years of study, investigation and reflection on this topic. That’s one reason I’ve come to regard non-violent resistance, as a philosophical and political approach on the mass scale, as perhaps the best way forward, not only toward stopping organized violence but also toward building a more humane and just civilization. But I do not pretend to have the final answer on this matter — or on any other — and remain always open to further investigation, analysis, new insights, new facts.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +10

Jimmy Montague said:

Nicely put, Chris!
“The purpose of the system is what it does.”We’ve all probably had the same thought many times but none of us has put it so succinctly. Brevity is the soul of rhetoric, as they say, and your one little sentence expresses the whole essay quite nicely. Good job.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +2

john kelley said:


Michael B said:“It is a liberal fantasy to think that any attempt to fight back against, or even mitigate, powerful forces of oppression and/or coercive state organized violence can be successful through exclusively non-violent resistance.”Well, it is a collective American fantasy to think that violence can be a solution at all. Organized, violent revolution in America is a macho pipe dream (much imbued with that “frisson of titillation”). In the unlikely event that it should come to pass, and in the even more unlikely event that it should be successful, …so what? What exactly are you planning to build with blood-stained hands on a blood-soaked foundation?Social justice through education is the first step to a collective higher consciousness. Clearly, it’s a long road. A hundred years at least. Probably two or three hundred. So, nourish the ideal and grit your teeth.

January 04, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:


Hopefully this will not sound foolish, but is there a consensus as to what one defines as violence? Because, in Iraq for instance, the number of dead is given as a range of numbers from as low as 100,000 which estimate might refer to dead by physical violence; shootings, bombs, etc by either side, on up to over a million which estimate might refer to people believed to have frozen from lack of shelter, starved from lack of nutritious food, died of illness they might have otherwise been hale enough to survive, etc resulting from the war, as well as those dead by violence.If one decides to perform an action against the war, there is obvious violence like a death by guillotine, and then there is the person who might freeze during the winter having lost her job because one blockaded and damaged a railway line to prevent military shipments… Is violence only the use of force or is it any action that results in readily foreseeable impairment to another’s ability to survive? Also, is one to use the same standard at home as one might apply in say, an illegitimate foreign war of aggression? If not, is violence then circumstantial?“The purpose of the system is what it does”. The system makes perpetual war directly, but it makes many things indirectly: money, power, death, cruelty; destruction. Is it possible to say which if any is/are the primary purpose(s)?
I have heard many people suggest that the primary goal is money or power. Yet I am not so sure that the cruelty, death, and destruction are not the primary goals: they are remarkably consistent byproducts.
This is why I am not anti-violence: because there is violence aimed at stopping evil, and then there is violence aimed at maintaining evil. I do think there is a difference.I am not btw disagreeing with the statement,”The use of violence as a tool of policy by an organized entity will invariably produce more violence in reaction by the entities being targeted.”
My contention is: any challenge to evil, whether it is a violent challenge or a nonviolent challenge, will be met ultimately with violence.

January 05, 2010
Votes: +3

scott douglas said:


The puppet government in Kabul has rather petulantly declared the killings in Khost province this week an atrocity, and has demanded that the ‘International Forces’ surrender the perpetrators to justice. Ho! The UN observer agrees: Atrocity. Ho Ho!Yes. Forces in the command of the U.S. corralled, handcuffed, and executed a passel of mere boys last week — as though they were tainted livestock.Funny. There is NO uproar in these United States, as I write. None; none at all! I don’t think there is anything cogent left to say about my personal contempt for this twisted perversion of a so-called ‘Nation’.Chris is absolutely correct that mass, non-violent public action is the only moral avenue to change. I have immense respect for this man: steadily articulating a non-doctrine of humane, rational, reality-based thought and action in response to the horrendous times in which we find ourselves.The relevant question for the domestic subject of this Empire remains: what is the optimum moral strategy in the struggle to remove the strangle-hold of the Plutocracy from around the necks of the average citizens of the Nation? Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action. The TeeVee tells all!Sad to say, the Plutocrats got there first; and they have got it covered, dude! Shoot-you anybody who advocates peaceful mass protest! The sheep only follow; they don’t spontaneously gather in the malls! With no Martin Luther King to follow? No Problema!So, my friends, there is no solution at hand. “Red Horse” is exactly what we’ve got coming. Soon, there will be war with Iran – and that will morph into World War. The United States of America will have been the catalyst for global catastrophe on a scale undreampt-of in either Nostradamus or St. John. This ride is almost over. Hope you got your affairs in order, Kids…

January 05, 2010
Votes: +4

NomNomNom said:


have y’all seen this article?http://trueslant.com/nealunger…-blogger/it contains link to Jordanian’s suicide bomber’s blog and a website he frequented; it is interesting.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

NomNomNom said:

oops that is not working
can just google “cia suicide bomber was a blogger”

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Rob Waller said:


“Well the average subject is just that; a wage-slave struggling to remain one step above the penal system and the gutter. That person could not care less about imperialism or collective action.”Either a wage-slave or a self-absorbed dickhead too busy slavering after the latest cell-phone and playing with it while watching American Idle (sic) or watching Pravda (AKA Fox Noise)or any other number of soporifics called “American TV”.Then we have the Republican Wurlitzer bellowing about the necessity of attacking everything that isn’t up to snuff with the American Way, whatever that is.American serfs are tied to their overlords as much as the Russian people were, which is where the similarity ends, the Russians had had enough of eating grass and the elitist blood flowed (along with many many peasants’ blood). I am flabbergasted as to what WILL IT TAKE to wake America up from being screwed, blued and tattooed.As that great American patriot George Carlin once said, “The American Dream, cause you’d have to be asleep to believe it”.I’m very fond of a great Beach Boys song… “Serfin’ USA”…Rant ends…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +2

Michael B said:

Misinterpretations or selective reading
Not saying “violence” is the or even ‘a’ solution. Again the point was missed. If someone is punching you in the face every day you better wise up and fight back by any means necessary.Chris got it wrong too by implying that there was any hint of continuing the killing against this hypothetical madman’s kin or “his” neighborhood. However what is actually happening via the imperial juggernaut is the continued killing of any and all neighborhoods and no passive resistance has proven to be able to halt this. Send me one example otherwise.For the record the highest rates of survival during the Nazi aggressions occurred from those who actively took up arms.Could Grandma Jefferson specify as to who she means when she says “we?” Does that include my children? Does that include all of us who have been resisting Empire actively in the streets through the years? Does that include…

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Bill Jones said:

The great Robert Higgs
Looked at the political system in the US and like Cox’s “The Purpose of a System is What It Does”, concluded that “There is no such thing as a persistently failed policy” If a policy overtly fails to achieve its stated goals then the real goals of the policy are different from those stated. The “War on Drugs” springs readily to mind.

January 06, 2010
Votes: +0

Grandma Jefferson said:

Michael…..
…The usage of “we” was sarcastic, a sort of antic Greek Chorus in the voice of the maniacs who run this place, and the bovine tea-bagging pizza-chompers who adore them, to sum up some of the more salient aspects of their psychotic ideology and actions, not literal. I sometimes forget that not all people recognize that sort of writing. I have no intention of changing my style, so take from it whatever you do.I console myself for this misapprehension on your part with the fact that you continue to misunderstand Chris also, no surprise. His citation of Ghandi and Martin Luther King as perfect examples of successful, organized, passive resistance on a national scale are certainly applicable here, and IMO the only moral way to combat the abominable depravity the plutocracy represents. Brutality breeds brutality, blood breeds blood, and “If you battle with monsters, have a care that you do not become a monster also”, as the philosopher warned us. You cannot fight evil with evil. But there is no organized passive resistance here to fight them, so one cannot claim, as you do, that it isn’t working. It isn’t being attempted. Endless bitching from one’s keyboard is not “passive resistance”.You falsely claim those who took up arms against the Nazis had higher survival rates. Please name who it is you’re talking about. Are you referring to Poland? Czechoslovakia? France? Russia? They died in the millions. If you mean the victims, random chance insured survival for some. They were certainly not armed, they didn’t allow guns in Auschwitz. If you mean the global alliance that levied world war against Germany and ultimately destroyed it, well yes, some soldiers, who were certainly armed, didn’t get killed, others did, war being what it is. But the assertion has no meaning in the context.But what you’re really talking about is another civil war, an armed revolution, and that will never succeed here, as the traitors of the Confederacy learned to their cost 150 years ago. This isn’t 1776. It is logistically impossible. The G is too physically and technologically entrenched, too thoroughly fused with the corporates who own it, and hold all necessary information on everyone, the nation is too vast, too populous, with too many state, county, and city governments (and enforcers), the surveillance too complete, and the weaponry too terrible, for any popular rising to go anywhere at all.Add to that formidable opposition the utter spinelessness, selfishness,and cowardice of the 300 million here, who do not dare attempt even “passive resistance” against the vampiric oligarchy that has bled them dry, for fear of losing whatever shreds are left to them. Forget about rousing such quaking, craven rabble to take their handguns into the streets.Anyone can foresee the outcome of any attempted revolt: a few hundred thousand jailed forever, a few thousand killed, and the rest groveling on their bellies, begging for “protection” from the revolutionaries.Sorry, it won’t happen.

January 07, 2010
Votes: +1

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http://www.chris-floyd.com/component/content/article/1-latest-news/1895-blowback-on-the-border-the-purpose-of-the-terror-war-system.html

Georgetown Professor:

‘Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians’ in Pakistan

REFUTED BY Jeremy Scahill

I’m not sure how many of you caught the segment last Friday on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC featuring Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a 25 year army veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Task Force STRATUS IVY and Georgetown University professor Christine Fair of the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). The two were discussing the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and potential connections to the Taliban in Pakistan. In the discussion, Lt. Col. Shaffer raised the issue of US drone strikes against Pakistan, which Shahzad reportedly has said were part of his motivation for the attempted bombing. “The Taliban are more motivated than ever to come at us,” said Shaffer, saying that “the Predator program is having the same effect in Afghanistan two years ago in killing innocents” that it is now having in Pakistan.

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Professor Fair, who has also worked for the RAND Corporation and as a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, acted dumbfounded at the idea that the US drone strikes kill any civilians. “I take extreme exception top the way my colleague characterized the drones,” Fair said. “Actually the drones are not killing innocent civilians. Many of those reports are coming from deeply unreliable and dubious Pakistani press reports, which no one takes credibly on any other issue except for some reason on this issue. There’ve actually been a number of surveys on the ground, in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. The residents of FATA generally welcome the drone strikes because they know actually who’s being killed. They’re very much aware and who’s being killed and who’s not.”

Here is video of the segment:

Some estimates, most of which are indeed Pakistani sources, suggest that the vast majority of Pakistanis killed are civilians. In an Op-Ed for The New York Times last year, David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, called for a moratorium on the strikes, saying they had “killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.” They relied on “Pakistani sources,” which are apparently offensive to Professor Fair. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation recently did a meticulous review of the strikes, citing the following methodology:

“Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks–the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC–and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan–The Daily Times, Dawn, and The News–as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.”

Bergen and Tiedemann concluded that “the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent.” They concluded that under President Obama Under President Obama, who has used the drones with much greater frequency than Bush, “about a quarter [of drone-inflicted deaths] appear to have been civilians.”

I expect that Professor Fair, if confronted on this, will have to retract her definitive statement “the drones are not killing innocent civilians.” It just simply is false.

Jeremy Scahill

May 10, 2010

http://www.thenation.com/blog/georgetown-professor-drones-are-not-killing-innocent-civilians-pakistan

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Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

By michael payne (about the author)     Page 1 of 1 page(s)

For OpEdNews: michael payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama �” Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage.

This appears to be one of those situations in which the use of napalm, white phosphorus weapons and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War enraged the population and resulted in a tremendous blowback. At that time, our military was under the impression that such shock and awe administered on the nation of Vietnam would bring them to their knees. In fact, the result was exactly the opposite when, after 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives, our military was forced to quickly exit that war when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.

You know, if drones were used properly, there could be a place for them around the world. It has been reported that the U.K., Australia, Germany and Italy have begun to experiment with drones for border patrols, to curtail illegal fishing, for illegal immigration and for drug enforcement. So more and more nations are beginning to acquire these drones for apparent peaceful uses. But just consider what might happen if, at some point in time, numerous nations with sizable fleets of drones might begin using them in military operations such as border disputes, typically such as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Where is our nation headed morally? Not long ago, the question of torture was all over the news and there was a furious debate going on about its moral implications. Then the issue just disappeared when Mr. Obama just looked away, with time to only look forward and not dwell on the past. And so, we Americans also let the matter drop.

Now we have another great moral issue with these deadly, lethal drones. Their use and the devastating impact on innocent civilians apparently doesn’t register with our president either as he remains completely silent on the entire matter. He is just looking away. And so, are we the people once again going to let the matter just drop?

When we Americans are witnesses to these extremely moral issues, will we simply look away? Is that what America has become?

Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author

and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Deadly-drones-immoral-wea-by-michael-payne-091021-444.html

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May 4th, 201006:34 PM ET
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U.S. official: Greater use of drones goes back to Bush era

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When the latest apparent U.S. drone strike was conducted this week against militants in Pakistan, the obvious question appeared to be: Did the United States get a “big fish” in the Taliban or al Qaeda organizations?

But a U.S. counterterrorism official says that’s now the wrong question to ask, and chances are those hit were not major players. He wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the latest strike, but with the official backing of his bosses, he sought to explain how U.S. strategy has changed in the crucial effort to attack targets inside Pakistan with missiles fired from drones.

The plan now is to attack a broader set of terrorist targets far beyond the original effort to strike and kill top al Qaeda leaders, the official said.

The strategy originated not with President Barak Obama, but with the previous administration, he said.

While the United States is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones – which are controlled remotely – U.S. officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes.

The more expansive target set was originally approved in the final months of the Bush administration in late 2008, but has been stepped up under the Obama White House, the official said. It is seen as a key strategy to help protect the growing number of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan from insurgents operating in Pakistan’s border region.

Drone-launched missiles are now hitting lower-level al Qaeda and Taliban personnel, camps, training areas, bomb makers, buildings and other targets in the remote region.

“You’ve had an expanded target set for time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” the official said.

“The enemy, to be sure, has lost commanders, operational planners, weapons specialists, facilitators, and more. But they’ve also lost fighters and trainers – the kinds of people who have killed American and allied forces in Afghanistan,” he said. “Just because they’re not big names doesn’t mean they don’t kill. They do. Their facilities – where they prepare, rest, and ready weapons – are legitimate targets, too.”

Success in using the drones depends on larger intelligence efforts, said Frances Fragos Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, and now a CNN intelligence analyst. Drones are just one tool in larger strategy, she said.

It requires other tools – intelligence, military and diplomatic – to support it, she said.

The administration has been sensitive to accusations that a large number of civilians have been killed since the stepped-up raids began. Statistics kept by the New America Foundation indicate that 30 percent of those who died in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004 were non-militants.

The U.S. counterterrorism official disputed that, saying, “We believe the number of non-combatant casualties since this campaign intensified is under 30 – those being people who were near terrorist targets, often by choice – while the total for militants taken off the battlefield exceeds 500.”

The official said those figures are based not only on intelligence but also on visual observations before and after strikes.

“The terrorists, who have a real incentive to spread stories of atrocities from the air, haven’t done so because they can’t do so,” the official said. “They’d have to produce names, dates, photos and witnesses – the kinds of things you see almost instantly if the coalition makes a mistake in Afghanistan. But you just don’t see that sort of thing coming out of the tribal areas. Instead, even press accounts from the area speak of militants cordoning off places that have been struck, and of local and foreign fighters being hit.”

Post by: CNN’s Barbara Starr
Filed under: Civilian deaths • Drone strikes • Obama • Taliban • al Qaeda

Displaying 38 Comments | Add comment

1May 4th, 20101:56 pm ET Unfortunately the extremely poor vetting being used in evidence of the large numbers of innocent civilians killed, unknown people being targeted and simply poor directional information makes me wonder if Dick Cheney’s old cronies are still pulling the puppet strings in the vetting conferences which green light the targets of the hell fire missiles.Blasting a innocent village family by mistake directly translates to 100 or more previously neutral residents to take up arms against America in revenge. And they’ll target any American tourist, journalist or soldier they can find. Time and time again there have been public apologies for poor vetting resulting in a wrongful hellfire missile attack. Such happens, however the unintended blow back can have long lasting regional problems which is seldom ever considered.Posted by: Smith in OregonFlag this comment
2May 4th, 20107:42 pm ET An excellent way to make more enemies.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
3May 4th, 20108:28 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,INFlag this comment
4May 4th, 201010:19 pm ET An excellent way to kill more enemies without putting our soldiers in harms way.
Posted by: Dan in Lafayette,IN———–Excellence is in truth, not in a reason or fabrication, No body excels more in criminality, than a criminal, pretending to be beneficent, but in reality a manipulating crook.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
5May 5th, 20102:05 am ET Remember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
6May 5th, 20102:17 am ET Are you sure you’re a paramedic, Iraq Paramedic? You sound more like a freaking chapalin to me.Posted by: Steven MacReadyFlag this comment
7May 5th, 20102:49 am ET Steven McReady, yes I am a paramedic & have been on the streets of large American cities on 911 ambulances, worked night shifts in emergency rooms of hospitals & been on offshore oil rigs as a paramedic & now over here. My personal experiances of having my hands on the newly dead, dieing & severly injuried have only strengthened my belief in GOD & his son JESUS CHRIST. It is quite comforting to know that after witnessing a mans brains all over the walls & cieling of his residence & then having to tell his family that GOD will listen to me & calm me so I can go on to the next call. It is hard some times to realize that it all is part of his ultimate plan but, that is a conversation for another forumn.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by: Iraq ParamedicFlag this comment
8May 5th, 201011:22 am ET Taking the human out of warfare, takes the possibility or demand for peace out of warfare as well.Also, I know this ‘protects Americans by taking them out of harms way’, but I feel that we are assuming such an enormous technological advantage that we will force the enemy to seek out non-conventional weapons like chemical, biological or God forbid; nuclear.Look at this from their perspective: it’s like War of the Worlds for them, and if we were in their shoes, you bet we’d be looking for the biggest, baddest weapon imaginable to try and level the playing field.Posted by: SteveFlag this comment
9May 5th, 201012:30 pm ET Steve – I am sure they would use chemical, biological, and nuclear if they could get ahold of those items. And an enormous technological advantage is what we are striving for. We do not intend to fight a fair or even fight.Posted by: HeuibFlag this comment
10May 5th, 20101:22 pm ET It is unfortunate that civilians get caught in a hostile environment but if the blame is to be set upon anyone it should be the antagonists. How do you do that when one side claims invasion and one claims self-defense? Islam claims persecution across the globe but at the same time, most of the countries tied up in a conflict with Islam is doing so out of retaliation for something the radicals initiated on them in the first place. Why is it that Islam feels the need to impose it’s will on the rest of the world? How many other religions use death and destruction as a platform to do that? One might argue that Christians do the same thing, but I have yet to hear even one claim that America is in the middle east in the name of God. On the contrary, America is more and more denouncing God and the leader is actually endorsed and supported by the same people who demand seperation of church and state, so, that seems illogical to me. Now if Obama was crying for the destruction of all Arabs or Muslims because God demands it (like the majority of Muslim leaders) then Yes I could catagorize Christians with Islamists but so far that hasn’t happened.Posted by: jcFlag this comment
11May 5th, 20103:16 pm ET “without putting our soldiers in harms way”Dude, that’s what we get paid for. That’s what we train for. That’s what we do!Predator’s… pffft.Posted by: Real soldierFlag this comment
12May 5th, 20103:42 pm ET Beware of making war too easy and less costly in terms of US human lives.Posted by: davecFlag this comment
13May 5th, 20103:49 pm ET Tracking, thats what you get paid for. I am right there with you. But if I can take you over and bring you back, that is even better. The UAVs are a great asset, but like you said this is what we get paid to do.Posted by: Real OfficerFlag this comment
14May 5th, 20104:35 pm ET I have to disagree Smith in Oregon. I would venture to say that there are very few if any innocent villages in the that area of Pakistan. I don’t think there are many people in that area who either have not already taken up arms against the west or support those who have taken up arms. I don’t agree with killing innocent people and I agree that when it happens it can create more problems. However, how would you have the military fight? Wait until they come over to Afganistan or America and shoot at someone or blow something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.Posted by: D in OregonFlag this comment
15May 5th, 20104:49 pm ET The difference is that the use of Drones shows just what a hypocrite Obama is. He uses them because they are out of sight and out of mind of the News Media. But he’s not really willing to do what it takes to win the war. And so soldiers die for nothing – and Afghanistan will fall back into medievalism.Posted by: jkantor267Flag this comment
16May 5th, 20105:04 pm ET May 5th, 2010
2:05 am ETRemember that Ishmael is Abraham’s 1st born son but, born of a handmaid not a Godl’y wife. Isacc was born of Abraham’s God given & lawfull wife. GOD did bless them both but, in differant ways. True we are half brothers & we have differant purposes here on earth according to GOD’s plan; it would do all involved some good to read about their/our history.
May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!———–Life begins with the man, not the woman. Masters Isacc and Ishmael were of the same seed. There is no difference in seed of one man. There is nothing more for one and there is nothing less for other. They were the children of our parents, Adam and Eve. They are our brother and of equal status as human being. They were chosen, we are not. Greatness is not in birth, but in obedience of God as was commanded by the masters, our master and our Imams., peace be upon them. Massage of obedience of the truth, not of the desires. May Allah the merciful, bless us to decide every thing by the Truth, not a reason, because every one of us is created equal. The day you are ready to implement the truth, Muslim will not be far behind. Ba Izan Allah. By the will of the limit most high. The Truth.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
17May 5th, 20105:19 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.Posted by: dr,vFlag this comment
18May 5th, 20105:30 pm ET something up in order to prove they are not innocent? It is guilt by association in my opinion. If they truely are innocent and don’t want to be guilty, then they should move to another area that isn’t filled with radical nuts. That is what I would do if the population of Oregon became 90% radical terrorists.
Posted by: D in Oregon—————–Do you mean, 9/11 and other attacks are justified. do you agree with them,presumption of guilt by association is justified. If this is the case, probably you have no case against them.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
19May 5th, 20105:40 pm ET i do not believe we started this terror war. if the terror stopped i bet the drone strikes would stop also. i am against all war and when i read history there always seems to be some force [ hitler ] that has to be stopped with force. i wish we had drones in WW11.
Posted by: dr,v————–No body else has to judge, if a person makes his choice in truth. 9/11 was not an action but a reaction, one has to remember the action he took to invite the reaction, It is forgivable, if person admits it and rectifies. but denial of it will not make the problem, go away. Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
20May 5th, 20107:12 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.Posted by: slozombyFlag this comment
21May 5th, 20108:13 pm ET perhaps drone use started during the bush administration because drones were invented during the bush administration………..wait that makes too much sense.
Posted by: slozomby————–Drones were invented before Bush time. Only thing, mushroomed was the conservative ignorance. A proud contribution of Bush, Chennai.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
22May 5th, 20108:45 pm ET Send in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.Posted by: censorshipFlag this comment
23May 5th, 201010:40 pm ET May 5th, 2010
8:45 pm ETSend in the drones. Send in the drones. They are already here.
Posted by: censorship
Flag this comment————–So now you wish to do, what Shazad failed to do, Collateral damage in USA besides Afghanistan and Pakistan..Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
24May 6th, 20102:18 am ET No matter what, better them than us. Anyone that writes about innocent people getting killed and that we cannot control the kills good enough are playing into the terrorists hands and,,,,,makes me wonder just who they are. Most of the negative remarks are terrrorists themselves or friends of them. Say what you want but, YOU idiots are playing into someones hands and are not protecting OUR soldiers by suggesting that we walk and shake their hands hoping that they’ll be better people. The only good ones are dead ones and anyone near them should consider that their lives might end very quick. Yes, I know that some have no choice but, You’ll never convince me that any ten or twenty or fifty of them is worth one of ours. My suggestion is get a life, get over it, stay away from the terroristsand their friends and when some get converted because of a loss of a loved one, prepare to die also. Once you convert, I really do want you in my crosshairs.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
25May 6th, 20102:25 am ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbyePosted by: ArmyFlag this comment
26May 6th, 20102:26 am ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
27May 6th, 20102:40 am ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?—–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.Posted by: DANFlag this comment
28May 6th, 20104:10 am ET If three men were standing in a field and one took out a hidden gun and shot a bystander,
Only one man is guilty of Murder. How ever it is known in law if you know who fired the gun and do not speak out or oiint out that person with the gun then you are aiding and abetting and felon. This makes you his accomplice. We apply this to bank robbers and the like but does it not also apply here? I think it does. In the Koran and the bible a lie by ommission is still a lie because you do not speak out the truth.Posted by: InterestingFlag this comment
29May 6th, 20106:46 am ET The US. military needs to steep up us of the use of drones in military defeance. I think it is the one od the best tech. advantages we have. Todays warfare is around the world and we can not maintain military bases around the world to defend our country. The us of a drone is no more deferant then cruster bomding and area killing many civilians, with the drone are target is normaly hit.
The use of Dones and more tech. in them is needed.Posted by: Scotch HollowFlag this comment
30May 6th, 20108:38 am ET The US Navy was using drones off destroyers in Vietnam in the sixties. Ballons were used to spot artrillery fire by our founding fathers. Did I see a funny bug the size of a golf ball floating around?Posted by: HereOneTimeFlag this comment
31May 6th, 201012:41 pm ET Complaining or treating the symptoms does no good, unless causes have been taken care of. Take care of the causes, symptoms and illness will go away., IS THAT WHAT YOU SAID?-–As with GANGRENE, You have to cut and remove more of the good before there is a chance of JUST the good remaining. My suggestion is do not convert ahead of time or you had better be known as a “BACK SLIDER”.
Posted by: DAN——-Call your self American brain less conservative Osma bin Ladin. He thinks the same way and sending human Drones to inflict civilian casualties like American Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not America or Good sensible Americans deserve it, but Blinded Goons like you. He claims to be taking GANGRENE off of the Worthless brains of self described ignorant conservatives. If there is any thing in there head,other than GANGRENE.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
32May 6th, 201012:52 pm ET Mahammad A Dar…your an idiot. To many people have died on each side. And yes Al Quiada attacked the US first, the reaction and reporcusions are on those who harbor them and are them. I have lost friends in this war and watched both sides die in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, far more terrorists have died and that will continue until we as a nation are secure in our freedom and not allow the beliefs of radical muslims, not normal, but radical muslims to be subjected on us which seems to be pretty clearly their goal. So have fun with that goat in whatever part of the world your from cause your not a good one. goodbye
Posted by: Army————-see, see they not, hear, hear they not, They just do not under stand. Mathew 13:13. The Ignorant conservative Genitals (Brian less slaves) of the Pharisees, The criminals. True one can not argue with an Ignorant, you and your kind, The slaves.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
33May 6th, 20101:01 pm ET Converts can die just as quick as a seasoned one. Remember one thing, “Excuses are like A_________’s, everybody has one. The ones left will eventually realize what happens to terrorists and what the USA is trying to do for them. S___ happens! Get real or send your first born over there to protect you,,,,,,surprise me and tell me not from us.
Posted by: DAN———–Pray left one will be you, there is no grantee, Match is still on, So for has been blow for a blow, Brainless elephant is loosing strength and Dancing on the tunes of Osama. Intelligent people have their own initiatives, not the ignorant followers of Pharisees (criminal) proud to be Genitals (slaves) not free people, like rest of the Americans.Posted by: Mohammad A DarFlag this comment
34May 6th, 20101:17 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes-precise and effective-have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: No-Name Terrorists Now C.I.A. Drone Targets as U.S. Set to Expand Airstrikes « Little Alex in WonderlandFlag this comment
35May 6th, 20103:31 pm ET […] Obama cannot waste time with those things either. As an always-unnamed official told CNN: […]Posted by: Bomb Faith « THE NEW TERRORISTFlag this comment
36May 6th, 201011:41 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: The Truth Or The Fight » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
37May 7th, 20103:03 am ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes — precise and effective — have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: Technofascism blog » Blog Archive » No-Name Terrorists Now CIA Drone TargetsFlag this comment
38May 8th, 20107:14 pm ET […] “You’ve had an expanded target set for [some] time now and, given the danger these groups pose and their relative inaccessibility, these kinds of strikes – precise and effective – have become almost like the cannon fire of this war. They’re no longer extraordinary or even unusual,” one American official tells CNN. […]Posted by: No-name terrorists now CIA drone targets | Live News Instant

http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/04/obama-administrations-greater-use-of-drones-goes-back-to-bush-era/

http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/04/obama-administrations-greater-use-of-drones-goes-back-to-bush-era/

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Local View: Drone warfare is inhumane

By TIM RINNE | Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm | (9) Comments

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Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (or drones) more and more are becoming the weapon of choice for America’s international War on Terror. The Predator and the Reaper models, in particular, have become so popular that, in its 2011 budget, the Air Force is requesting more drones than piloted combat aircraft.

Capable of staying aloft unobserved for 24 hours at time and conducting surveillance with spy cameras, at a moment’s notice, these hunter/killer drones abruptly can launch their Hellfire guided missiles and smart bombs at suspected terrorists. The missions for these robot warriors now range from standard military operations in Afghanistan, to targeted assassinations of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan coordinated by the CIA and even the notorious private security firm, Blackwater (now called Xe).

And though its name is almost never mentioned, U.S. Strategic Command here in Nebraska is an active accomplice in each and every one of these drone flights.

StratCom, with its Space, Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance and Global Strike missions, is integrally involved at every stage of these missions-from the intelligence-gathering to the targeting to the actual ‘flying’ of these satellite-controlled aircraft.

Before our very eyes, these airborne robots are changing the art and rules of warfare.

But the butchery that their space-directed missiles and bombs wreak down on the ground is as grisly and hideous ever.

In 2009, the CIA’s almost weekly clandestine drone attacks in Pakistan were credited with killing anywhere from 350 to 550 people-many of them innocent civilians, including children. The non-combatant death toll has fed anti-American sentiment in that country, threatening the stability of the 1-year-old elected government and its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

No less problematic is the fact that these deaths of innocent bystanders have served as a recruiting tool for both al-Qaida and the Taliban. As David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency warfare expert who advised Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, bluntly puts it, “Every one of these non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.”

War by robot may be reducing U.S. fatalities, which the folks here at home undoubtedly appreciate. The message it is sending to the developing world, though-of an imperial power that kills brutally, indiscriminately and impersonally-is arriving with the force of a Hellfire missile. And it’s creating serious political blowback for the Obama administration.

The ramifications of this drone warfare policy go even deeper, however-right to the core of our democratic system of governance. With the CIA and even mercenary outfits like Blackwater/Xe now regularly assassinating so-called high-value targets on the U.S. government’s behalf, where’s the accountability? Who exactly is drawing up these hit lists and on whose authority? Covert entities like the CIA whose disregard for legislative oversight is legendary? Soldiers for hire like Blackwater who kill in America’s name? Can our senators and representatives in Washington tell us? Do they even know?

And let’s not forget StratCom. With eight different military missions in its quiver (including combating weapons of mass destruction and cyberwarfare), StratCom today-in the words of its current commander, Gen. Kevin Chilton-is “the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.” Now charged with split second authority to engage and defeat terrorism, StratCom is routinely skating on the edges of national and international law, practicing what’s beginning to look worrisomely like vigilante justice.

Drone warfare is inhuman, inherently undemocratic and based right in Nebraskans’ backyard at U.S. Strategic Command. Our democratic system of checks and balances, however, was never designed to deal with a phenomenon like robot war and this dangerous drift in our nation’s military policy.

Legally and militarily, this is a spooky new world we are blundering into. And our elected officials need to know that we’re worried and we’re watching to see what they plan to do about it.

Tim Rinner is state coordinator for Nebraskans for Peace.

Posted in Columnists on Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:45 pm Updated: 8:05 pm.

http://journalstar.com/news/opinion/editorial/columnists/article_772483b6-190d-11df-9c1c-001cc4c03286.html

Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

October 25, 2009 by Infowars Ireland

For OpEdNews: Michael Payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama – Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage. Read full article…

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Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan–

the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

Posted on January 9, 2010 by Juan

I just saw a clip on Aljazeera Arabic of the “martyrdom tape” of Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian-Palestinian double agent who carried out a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan, last week, killing 7 Americans working for the Central Intelligence Agency along with his handler, a Jordanian intelligence operative. He said his action was a message to the enemies of the Muslim community in the Jordanian and US intelligence agencies. The tape began with him outside firing a weapon, then he was seated against a black backdrop in Afghan clothing. He said he would prove that religion could not be bought and sold (was the CIA offering him millions as a reward?) He said that his suicide operation would be revenge for the killing by CIA drone of Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Urdu acronym: TTP). He noted that Mahsud had said that Usama Bin Laden was not in South Waziristan, but that if he came there, he would be protected. Al-Balawi asserted that Baitullah Mahsud was killed for these words, which were right words. He spoke of the latter’s son and successor, Hakimu’llah Mahsud, as his ‘amir’ or leader, and wished him every success in his holy struggle. The Arabic print press is now picking up the story.

Although Pakistani troops fighting in South Waziristan had found Arab passports and other effects suggesting a small presence of Arab fighters with the TTP, al-Balawi had clearly joined the movement and given it his allegiance. It seems to me an alarming development, as the Aljazeera anchor also noted, that Arab jihadi volunteers might now be enlisting under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban rather than, as in the past, al-Qaeda or one of the Afghan insurgent groups. The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).

Many intelligence specialists had insisted that the Khost bombing was the work of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. But I read al-Balawi’s emotionalism about the Mahsuds as a clear indication that he was working for them rather than for the Haqqanis. He must have repeated seven or eight times that Baitullah Mahsud would be avenged. The militant founder of the TTTP was killed by a US drone strike in South Waziristan in August.

The Obama administration convinced the Pakistani military to launch an attack on the Taliban Movement of Pakistan in South Waziristan this fall, so that Hakimu’llah Mahsud is on the run.

The day before, Mustafa al-Yazid, the reputed head of ‘al-Qaeda in Afghanistan’ (which doesn’t really exist; there are only 100 al-Qaeda fighters in that country) said that the Khost operation was in revenge for US drone strikes on militants in the Federally Administered Tribal areas of Pakistan.

Two US drone strikes, on Wednesday and Friday, have killed an estimated 16 militants in North Waziristan.

Al-Balawi’s sad biography in fact ties together the whole history of Western, including Israeli, attacks on the Middle East. Al-Balawi’s family is Palestinians displaced from Beersheba by Zionist immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, who in 1948 ethnically cleansed about 700,000 Palestinians from what became Israel. Most Palestinians in Jordan are bitter about the loss of their homes, for which they never received compensation, and some still live in refugee camps. The British Empire and the United States supported this displacement of the Palestinians and to this day the US government often attempts to criminalize even charitable aid to the suffering Palestinian people.

AP has a video interview with al-Balawi’s Turkish wife, in which she traces his radicalization to the brutal US occupation of neighboring Iraq, including reports of the rape of Iraqi women by US troops at Abu Ghraib (where much of the torture had sexual overtones) and the US destruction of the city of Fallujah in November-December 2004.

The Arabic press is confirming that al-Balawi was further enraged by the Israeli war on poor little Gaza last winter. A physician, he volunteered to be part of a group that intended to go to Gaza to do relief work for the victims of Israel’s brutal targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. (The Israelis were trying to destroy the fundamentalist Hamas party, which rules Gaza, and gave as their pretext the occasional rockets Hamas fired into Israel, though in fact there had been a truce for much of 2008, a truce of which the Israelis coldly took advantage to plan their war.)

The Jordanian secret police arrested al-Balawi to prevent him from going to Gaza. It may be that he had to agree to work for it as a quid pro quo to regain his freedom.

After the vicious war on Gaza was over, and the schools and hospitals lay in ruin, Israel ratcheted up a siege of the small territory of 1.6 million persons, half of them children, denying them enough services, fuel and even food for a decent life. In some parts of Gaza, 10 percent of the children are stunted because of malnutrition. Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport and harbor and strictly controls what goes into the territory. Israel never says what its end game is here, and how long exactly they are going to keep the children of Gaza in what one Vatican official has called a ‘concentration camp.’

In the past couple of weeks (though you would not know it from American television), two separate civilian Western aid convoys were mounted to relieve the Gazans via Gaza’s small southwestern border with Egypt (the Israelis would never have allowed them to do this, and the Egyptian state wasn’t happy either). One was supported with a hunger strike by an elderly Holocaust survivor. Some of those in the second were assaulted by the Egyptian police. British MP George Galloway was deported and forbidden to return to Egypt. Egypt is dragooned into supporting the illegal blockade of Gaza by the US on behalf of Israel, and is also afraid of the fundamentalist Hamas, which has resorted to terrorism.

Collective punishment of a whole population, especially one still technically occupied, is illegal in international law.

What is fascinating is the way al-Balawi’s grievances tie together the Iraq War, the ongoing Gaza atrocity, and the Western military presence in the Pushtun regions– the geography of the Bush ‘war on terror’ was inscribed on his tortured mind.

Morally speaking, al-Qaeda is twisted and evil, and has committed mass murder. Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Al-Qaeda or a Taliban affiliate turned al-Balawi to the dark side. Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us the proper response to social injustice (and it should not be forgotten that Gandhi had a significant following among the Pashtuns). But from a social science, explanatory point of view, what we have to remember is that there can be a handful of al-Balawis, or there can be thousands or hundreds of thousands. It depends on how many Abu Ghraibs, Fallujahs, Lebanons and Gazas the United States initiates or supports to the hilt. Unjust wars and occupations radicalize people. The American Right wing secretly knows this, but likes the vicious circle it produces. Wars make profits for the military-industrial complex, and the resulting terrorism terrifies the clueless US public and helps hawks win elections, allowing them to pursue further wars. And so it goes, until the Republic is bankrupted and in ruins and its unemployed have to live in tent cities.

So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.

End/ (Not Continued)

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20 Responses to Iraq, Gaza, Drone Strikes in Pakistan– the Radicalization of CIA Assassin Humam al-Balawi

  1. gdamiani says:

January 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.

Then who is ?

Also with all the due respect Professor but mass murder are not social injustices…

Reply

  1. Jean-ollivier says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Excellent paper, though a saddening one. It is fascinating to note that Afghanistan remains the graveyard of empires (no quote unquote marks) after such a long time and so many experiences.

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Where do we go from here? To be safe are we yet wiling to board air planes naked? Are we yet willing to be handcuffed while in flight?

No, these are not the answer. The answer can only be found by first asking the question, why they hate us. No, they don’t hate us for our freedom – as suggested by our government, and propagated by our corporate owned media. (Unless the freedom we are talking about is our freedom to bomb and occupy their countries with impunity)

So, where do we go from here? It should be clear to everyone that Pres Obama is not the answer. Our government is run by a military-industrial-congress complex. Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy). Today, as voters, we do not have a choice – both major parties represent the same interests.

We need campaign finance reform and we need independent media. Come next election we should vote only for candidates who support the above two issues to start with. Unless we do so I see no hope of peace for the world an no hope for our country getting back on track.

Reply

  1. James-Speaks says:

January 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

“So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy.”

Now, now Juan. Donald Rumsfeld explained to us several years ago that al-Balawi is an “unknown unknown” upon which US policy is based, so you see, the system works.

Reply

  1. Scott Corey says:

January 9, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I very much agree with Prof. Cole’s identification of political benefit being derived from a vicious circle of violence.

This would be a good moment for readers to check the Wikipedia entry for German philosopher Carl Schmidt. The entry suffers from some spelling and grammar problems, but see if you do not recognize Dick Cheney’s “unitary executive” in Schmidt’s ideas about authority making a permanent exception for itself, and the role of enmity against guerrillas and other “partisans.”

This ideological connection has been openly discussed among political scientists for more than a decade. It is what distinguishes the unitarists from other neo-cons, and it is how we can realize that the political party of limited government has been infiltrated by a faction that believes in unlimited government.

I would leave out the connection to the military industrial complex. The Bush administration did not mind starving the traditional military industries that wanted to produce armor for the Iraq war. Money went instead to military “contractors” that were, for instance, given immunity from prosecution for any crime whatsoever in Iraq. It is not really about the money, it is about unrestrained power and violence.

What has been added to Schmidt is the realization that such a system of arbitrary, violent authority creates enemies and, as Prof. Cole points out, this feeds back to support further abuse of power.

Reply

  1. JamesL says:

January 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Dr. Cole,

You write that neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots. Then you continue with many reasons why US and Israeli policies create intolerable conditions which facilitate violence and increase despair, the continual combination of which is the best growth medium for violent crackpots. That the US and Israel are not responsible is only true within a thin theoretical slice.

The numbers of the radically disaffected are not as important as the trend, the dynamic, and the energy. Al-Balawi’s clearly stated reason was revenge for Mahsud’s death via a drone strike. The trend, dynamic, and energy of the conflict he describes are not simply those of Mahsud, Al-Balawi, and other disaffected people, but also of the US (and perhaps other unknown players). Focusing on the reactions of those labelled “terrorist” misdirects away from the reasons for the reactions. The US trend, dynamic, and energy are toward MORE drone attacks, MORE military intervention, more local covert activity, more intervention. Drone stikes didn’t even exist just a few years ago. They are the new baby of the CIA and US military about which every detail, including the dead, is “reported”. No proof means no oversight. And, in terms of care and feeding of continual war, as long as the dead are unidentified that identity can be used repeatedly. Who will run DNA checks on a mid level terrorist? Does Bin Laden lie crushed and buried in some collapsed cave while his legend marches on?

The log in America’s eye is that it choses not to comprehend that many actions such as those of Al-Balawi are merely blowback–payback– for US actions, made possible by technology and individual will. The choice to not comprehend is intentional ignorance, which Bush II enthusiastically endorsed and which has become increasingly popular. But intentional ignorance is unpleasant beyond the short term and suicidal in the long term. Actions such as Al-Balawi’s only rate in the short-term/unpleasant category. In the scope of time and with increasing US interventions, much uglier consequences await. America’s further dilemma is that the log in its eye is held there by continual constructs by the military and military industrialists–which before advertising were hated by Americans as blood sucking war profiteers–to whom the effective manipulations of social science upon the public mind are as critically important as a plump budget and a new upcoming war.

If the dynamic of the US is toward more and more violent intervention, by what equation does one believe that the reactions of ordinary people will not follow suit. By what equation does the US prove it can “win” by using one multi-million dollar missile to kill six people, half of them innocent, when ordinary people, motivated to suicide by a personal compulsion based on family, religion, and culture, can kill several people for a hundred dollars or less. How does the equation change if the number of missiles is 50, 100, or 500? This is America’s dilemma, not that of those affected by American policy, because Americans, placed in the same situation, would do the same thing. America’s dilemma is how to stop shooting itself.

Reply

  1. Emrys says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This mess is the result of policy decisions dating back to at least FDR. As unintended consequences from these policy decisions exploded in our faces, new decisions were made which also had unintended consequences. So like a person in a maze, we continue to blunder along looking for the exit, taking advice from whomever promises us an exit. The military/industrial complex tells us that the increased use of drones, along with increased intelligence, will suppress terrorist elements in the Middle East and East Africa. Is this without conseqences? And with every hurt inlicted on us, we react with outrage, demanding revenge. This all works to those elements that want our continued involvement in this region, and as near as I can tell, it is exceeding.

Reply

  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

>> So, yes, this al-Balawi person was going to help Jordan and the US find al-Qaeda leaders Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sure he was. Walmart does better background checks on its store clerks than the CIA and Jordanian intelligence did on this guy. <<

Say someone comes to the intelligence agencies and says “I’ve got a background with these jihadist groups, I’ve been involved with them for several years, I’ve got a history of expressing views that’ll give me credibility with them, if they check out my history and family background they’ll find it convincing, and I can use this to find some of their leaders for you.”

They check out his story and it’s all like he said. He does have that background and those connections and has expressed those views.

Now what do you make of this background check?

Reply

  1. cos says:

January 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Anonymous wrote:
>> Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back? <<

Wait, are you implying that this somehow shows Baitullah Mahsud’s threats “on the US homeland” are somehow bigger than they seemed? How so?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Dear Professor Cole :
You wrote ; “The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).” That is how I understood the origins – but I’ve just read Churchill’s tale of The Malakand Field Force . He wrote ;
” Their superstition exposes them to the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood–”Mullahs,” “Sahibzadas,” “Akhundzadas,” “Fakirs,”
–and a host of wandering Talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey, and live free at the expense of the
people. “
Young Winston was not the most unbiased reporter , and I doubt he knew more Pushtu than me , but … ” talib-ul-ilm ” ?
I suspect that there is more to the history of the talibs than we hear about . In a society that is mostly illiterate , those who are learning must have some status , so I suspect that there may be stories about ” students to the rescue ” which predate the present taliban .
Please shed some light on this – I suspect there is a story here .

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  1. jcc2455 says:

January 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

“Professor – was it not you who so belittled the late Baitullah Mahsud’s threats on the US homeland a few months back?”

And if he did, so what? Since when is Khost, Afghanistan part of the “US Homeland?” Did I miss a congressional annexation vote, and an application for statehood by the new US territory of Afghanistan?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

“Neither the US nor Israel is morally responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

Do you not believe in self defense?

Maybe your use of this phrase hinges on the word “crackpots”, because surely by invading and occupying a country you are responsible for the ensuing civil unrest. You can’t expect to illegally invade a country without encountering legitimate resistance.

Otherwise, for example, the Nazis would be blameless for the actions of the French Resistance. I wouldn’t call them crackpots. Would you have expected them to behave like MLK?

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  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:13 am

Cole: “Neither the US nor Israel is responsible for violent crackpots being violent crackpots.”

From Glen Greenwald’s piece “Helen Thomas Deviates From the Terrorism Script”:

“The evidence of what motivates Terrorism when directed at the U.S. is so overwhelming and undeniable that it takes an extreme propagandist to pretend it doesn’t exist.

What is (John) Brennan so afraid of? It’s true that religious fanaticism is a part of their collective motivation, but why can’t he just say what’s so obviously true: “they claim that the U.S. is interfering in, occupying and bringing violence to their part of the world, they cite things like civilian deaths and our support for Israel and Guantanamo and torture, and claim that their terrorism is in retaliation”? “

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  1. Arnold Evans says:

January 10, 2010 at 12:20 am

Following the link, the stunting rate in Gaza was 10% in 2006.

It is certainly higher now, as much less food is entering, unfortunately I don’t think a solid figure is available.

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 10, 2010 at 1:32 am

How this suicide bomber opened a new front in Al-Qaeda’s war

New details have emerged of the failures that led to the deaths of seven CIA agents and one Jordanian agent in Afghanistan

The Meaning of al Qaeda’s Double Agent

The jihadists are showing impressive counterintelligence ability that the CIA seems to have underestimated

Reply

  1. Peter Attwood says:

January 10, 2010 at 5:50 am

I’m not clear how blowing up seven CIA people in Afghanistan, while they are engaged in terrorizing that nation’s population with drones, is an act of terrorism. According to the US “Defense” Dept, terrorism is violence directed against a civilian population to further political goals.

Starving and bombing the civilians of Gaza falls under that definition, as does the regular murder of Afghan civilians being undertaken by those CIA people when they were blown up. But blowing up people engaged in such activity in someone else’s country is not terrorism by the Pentagon’s definition, no more than it would have been terrorism for one of Washington’s soldiers to set a match to some gunpowder to kill senior British officers at the cost of his own life.

And it must be said that although the British burned some American seaports, they never contemplated the sorts of atrocities that are routine in America’s colonial wars today.

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  1. MonsieurGonzo says:

January 10, 2010 at 7:53 am

i think it’s weird when Americans and their media talk about terrorist attacks on US = “people within the arbitrary border that is the U.S.A.” when the problem is Americans getting killed by terrorists ~ what, more or less every day? wherever in the world they happen to be. i think it’s weird that Americans put hundreds of thousands of their citizens in uniforms and say, “it’s OK to kill and maim THEM, bring it on,” and so thousands of them die and tens of thousands of them are grievously wounded ~ but somehow these “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over There are not the same as “terrorist attacks” on Americans Over Here. But most of all, i think it’s weird that Americans send hundreds of thousands of their citizens ~ soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines ~ over to places like IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN, obviously to serve as an Occupation Force: yet then, what ~ feel ashamed? by this Mission, apparent ~ the word “occupation” itself becomes media radioactive ~ ashamed to such an extent that they fail to Just DO It = OCCUPY the place; take control of it. “What strange occupiers not,” the peoples living under U.S. military occupation-not, must think of US, “that they would so enthusiastically send so many of their citizens over here to die and become wounded, mostly not in real combat, but in the act of just being here in the first place.” That some political leaders and corporations profit from this macabre enterprise is certainly true. but yeah, i think it’s weird that so many Americans hold the delusion that this ritual sacrifice (could future historians and cultural anthropologists reach any other conclusion?) of so many of their citizens somehow makes Americans feel, or will some day then make them real secure.

Reply

  1. Samson says:

January 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I found where you say this following quote to be interesting.

“The Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan is only about 7 years old, there never having been Pakistani Taliban until the early 21st century–it was a phenomenon of the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Afghans, which forced 3 million into refugee camps in Pakistan, where many became radicalized. (And were encouraged in that direction by the Reagan administration).”

But, when I think of the timelines, the events you site were basically back in the 1980′s. So, if they were the cause, you’d have expected the TTP to arise at around the same time. Yet, you point out that they only arose 7 years ago.

What happened 7 or 8 years ago? It was Bush and the Democrats both agreeing that launching a war on Afghanistan in the region was a great idea.

Doesn’t it seem much more likely that the rising of this new group in the last 7 years is much more to do with the US bipartisan war in the region that it had as anything to do with Charlie Wilson’s war of 20 years ago?

Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

January 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

“Our democracy is in shambles (it is the best democracy money can buy).” And the Israelis can attest to that. Regarding the use of crackpots being twisted and evil, I guess you must agree that the whole Israeli political elite were a bunch of crackpots and terrorists. Weren’t they the initiators of terrorism, the way we know in the Middle East, through Irgun and other terrorist groups?

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http://www.juancole.com/2010/01/i-just-saw-clip-on-aljazeera-arabic-of.html

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Shahzad saw hits in Pakistan; lost Conn. home to foreclosure

By Kevin Spak| Posted May 5, 10 11:14 AM CDT| // Share

// 4Share

(Newser) – A picture is starting to emerge of what drove Faisal Shahzad to attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square. The 31-year-old father of two lost his home to foreclosure last summer, unable to parlay his Master’s degree into success, the LA Times reports. Shortly thereafter he spent eight months in his native Pakistan, where he witnessed US drone strikes on Tehrik-i-Taliban leaders, sources tell the New York Post. Outraged, he signed up with the Taliban, and was trained to make explosives.

“This is blowback,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister said yesterday. “This is retaliation. And you could expect that. Let’s not be naïve, they’re going to fight back.” Officials had initially rejected the Taliban’s claims that the botched attack was retaliation for drone hits. But Post sources say Shahzad was on authorities’ radar before the attack. According to one report, investigators are looking into a possible connection between him and David Headley, a Pakistani-American involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

NYC Bomb Was Payback for Drone Strikes

Pakistani villagers gather in front of a locked house, owned by the family of Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, in his native village of Mohib Banda, May 5, 2010.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

http://www.newser.com/story/87850/revenge-motive-for-times-square-bomber-nypostcom.html

<>

High-Tech Death from Above: U.S. Drone Wars Fuel War Crimes

by Tom Burghardt / May 3rd, 2010

As America continues its uncontrolled flight towards disaster, Israeli-style “targeted killings” (assassinations) of alleged militants and unarmed civilians in the “Afpak theatre” are on the rise.

With indiscriminate attacks by armed drones soaring since President Obama was sworn into office, the Pentagon’s mad dash to achieve what it describes as “full-spectrum dominance” in this regional “battlespace,” has sought to leverage its dominant position as the world leader in robotized forms of state killing and obtain a decisive technological edge over their adversaries.

Judging by proverbial “facts on the ground,” they’ll need it. The World Socialist Web Site disclosed May 1, that a “semi-annual report released by the Pentagon on the Afghanistan war recorded a sharp increase in attacks on occupation troops and scarce support for the corrupt US-backed puppet regime of President Hamid Karzai.”

Despite Obama’s dispatch of 35,000 troops since his inauguration as imperial Consul, socialist critic Bill Van Auken writes that the congressionally-mandated progress report “presented a grim picture of the state of the nearly nine-year-old, US-led war,” and that “the country’s so-called insurgents considered 2009 their ‘most successful year’.”

That the drone wars will escalate is underscored by a piece in Air Force Times. Writing May 1, an anonymous correspondent reports that Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Glenn Walters, the deputy director for resources and acquisition for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said “the U.S. military has sent so many of its 6,500 UAVs to the Middle East that other operating theaters are going without.”

Speaking April 28 at an Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) conference in northern Virginia, Walters said that Obama’s Afghanistan “surge” has stripped other Pentagon commands of drones and that it “will likely be a year before U.S. planners have a better handle on how many UAVs will be needed there and how many can be spared for use outside of the Middle East.”

“By 2012,” Walters told the killer robot conclave, “we’ll have 8,000 UAVs that will have to fit into” the Defense Department’s global maintenance and basing structure.

All the more reason then, in keeping with the Pentagon’s twisted logic, to escalate attacks on Pakistan, raining high-tech death from above!

Remote-Controlled War Crimes

Since its inception under the criminal Bush regime, the administration’s robot assassination policy has been called into question by legal scholars and civil liberties’ advocates who charge that CIA, but also military pilots, waging America’s undeclared drone war on Pakistan may be liable for war crimes.

During hearings last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s National Security and Foreign Affairs panel, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the committee that “Combat drones are battlefield weapons. They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

The one caveat I would add to the professor’s statement are that “police” would be “proper law enforcement agents” outside combat zones were America a “normal” country that abides by the rule of law, including laws governing armed conflict. Clearly, a nation that squanders nearly $800B of it’s treasure in a single year on death and destruction is anything but normal.

O’Connell went on to say that “restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use. Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.” The Notre Dame law prof continued: “At the very time we are trying to win hearts and minds to respect the rule of law, we are ourselves failing to respect a very basic rule: remote weapons systems belong on the battlefield.”

In a sharply worded letter to President Obama, submitted as a statement for the record to the House panel, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero wrote, “I am writing to express our profound concern about recent reports indicating that you have authorized a program that contemplates the killing of suspected terrorists–including U.S. citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict. If accurately described, this program violates international law and, at least insofar as it affects U.S. citizens, it is also unconstitutional.”

Romero stated that the “U.S. is engaged in non-international armed conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq and the lawfulness of its actions must be judged in that context. … The entire world is not a war zone, and wartime tactics that may be permitted on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be deployed anywhere in the world where a terrorism suspect happens to be located.”

But as the imperial project goes to ground, we can expect that the administration’s policy of targeting its enemies for liquidation on the streets of Sana’a, Mogadishu or perhaps, even New York or Washington, will continue along on its merry way.

Last October, investigative journalist Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker that the Air Force UAV fleet “has grown from some fifty drones in 2001 to nearly two hundred; the C.I.A. will not divulge how many drones it operates. The government plans to commission hundreds more, including new generations of tiny ‘nano’ drones, which can fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.”

And given the classified rules governing the CIA’s “geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” the highly-compartmented program affords the President another plausibly deniable weapon in the Executive Branch arsenal. Because of this, Mayer writes, “there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

“Should something go wrong in the C.I.A.’s program,” Mayer reports, “it’s unclear what the consequences would be.”

Judging however, by the response of our “forward looking” President and his “liberal” acolytes in Congress, academia and the media to widespread constitutional abuses (warrantless wiretapping), the waging of preemptive, aggressive wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), and illegal detention and torture by the previous, and current, U.S. regimes, it’s pretty obvious what those “consequences” will be.

“The Predators in the C.I.A. program,” Mayer observes, “are ‘flown’ by civilians, both intelligence officers and private contractors.” Described as “seasoned professionals” by Mayer’s counterterrorism source, the CIA has outsourced “a significant portion of its work.” And “from their suburban redoubt,” we’re informed, “they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target.”

But therein lies the rub for the CIA.

During last week’s congressional hearings, Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, told the House panel that the CIA’s crew of killer drone pilots could, in theory at least, be prosecuted because they aren’t combatants in a legal sense.

“It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” Glazier said.

“Under this view” Glazier continued, “CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause.” Here’s where things get interesting. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.” (emphasis added)

There it is, plug-and-play state killing; but fear not.

As a top Bush administration aide told investigative journalist Ron Suskind in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

While the swagger and imperial hubris of the Bush regime may have been swapped for the vastly superior Obama (PR) product, the results are inevitably the same: death and destruction on a planetary scale and to hell with the law and human rights.

Drone Wars Escalate

As The Long War Journal noted in January, the American drone campaign “in Pakistan’s tribal areas remains the cornerstone of the effort to root out and decapitate the senior leadership of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other allied terror groups, and to disrupt both al Qaeda’s global and local operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

CNN reported that CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles last May that the American drone war is “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt” the leadership of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda.

But with civilian deaths spiking, the robot reign of terror has sparked widespread opposition across all political sectors in Pakistan, from far-right Islamist factions to the socialist left. While Pentagon and CIA officials claim that civilian deaths are “regrettable,” an unintended consequence of America’s global imperial project, facts on the ground tell a different tale.

Last year, investigative journalist Amir Mir reported in Lahore’s English-language newspaper, The News, that of 60 “cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.”

According to Mir, the “drone attacks went wrong due to faulty intelligence information, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children.” The Pentagon and CIA dispute these figures.

In February however, Mir disclosed that Afghanistan-based Predator drones “carried out a record number of 12 deadly missile strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan in January 2010, of which 10 went wrong and failed to hit their targets, killing 123 innocent Pakistanis. The remaining two successful drone strikes killed three al-Qaeda leaders, wanted by the Americans.”

According to the journalist, the spike in drone assaults indicated that “revenge is the major motive for these attacks,” and can be “attributed to December 30, 2009 suicide bombing in the Khost area of Afghanistan bordering North Waziristan, which killed seven CIA agents. US officials later identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian national linked to both al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

In other words, the slaughter of 123 civilians was viewed by the CIA and Pentagon as a splendid means “to avenge the loss of the seven CIA agents and to raise morale of its forces in Afghanistan.”

Sensitive as always to the suffering of others, The Washington Post reported April 26, that “CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimize civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to current and former officials in the United States and Pakistan.”

According to the Post, “technological improvements” in recent months “have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage,” the unnamed officials said.

Stung by the growing furor over civilian deaths, the Agency defensively claims their assassination program delivers “precision unsurpassed in the history of warfare.”

Chief among the “improvements” cited by the Post, CIA Predators are now fielding a Lockheed Martin-designed “Small Smart Weapon” called the Scorpion. Clocking-in at 21 inches, weighing 35 pounds and having the diameter of a “small coffee cup,” the Post reports that it causes far less damage than a Hellfire “and it can be fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person, in complete darkness.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the Scorpion “provides the warfighter with low cost lethality against a broad target set” and “ensures accuracy to less than one meter and dramatically reduces the possibility of collateral damage.”

I’m sure this comes as a comforting reassurance of America’s pure intentions, especially for “Afpak” women and children who’ve been turned into smoldering body parts scattered across the landscape of our latest “good war.”

An Evolving Marketplace…for High-Tech Death

As the United States continues its drive to dominate resource-rich, but politically unstable regions of the world, the Pentagon, in a throw-back to the “Camelot” era of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ have embraced the counterinsurgency doctrine of fighting multiple “brushfire” wars in inhospitable global hot-spots.

Increasingly, as the “battlespace” morphs from fighting in jungles, deserts or that former Cold War set-piece, the European plain, directly into large urban areas, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) takes center stage. While “situational awareness” of the hot zone has always been a preoccupation of Pentagon planners, the nature of urban combat places a premium on complex technological systems that gather intelligence–from low earth orbit to right outside your door.

Such preoccupations have been a boon for America’s defense and security grifters.

During 2010’s first quarter, Washington Technology reported, that “contracts announced during January, February and March had values that ranged from $266 million to $2.8 billion.”

According to reporter Nick Wakeman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., “secured” a $266 million contract from the Air Force for “program and technical support for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems.”

Work will include “program and configuration management, logistics, technical services, flight and operations, software maintenance and data collection.”

As investigative journalist Nick Turse reported for TomDispatch in January, the Pentagon “cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010.” In addition to the General Atomics deal, Turse reported that the Air Force inked a “$38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones.”

As combat operations across the “Afpak theatre” escalate, the use of drones by both the CIA and Air Force have sharply increased; indeed, the Pentagon is on a veritable shopping spree.

This is borne-out by the flight hours logged by unmanned systems. “In 2004″ Turse writes, “Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours.”

According to Air Force estimates Turse avers, “the combined flight hours of all its drones–Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks–will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.”

Such estimates can only be music to the ears of General Atomics’ shareholders.

While these systems are powerful reminders that being an Empire means never having to say you’re sorry to the victims, it seems they’re not quite good enough.

Air Force Times reported last May that the Air Force “is already looking at a third generation of armed remote-control planes even as it continues to build up its fleet of MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.”

Although General Atomics has the lock on providing the CIA and Pentagon with MQ-1 and MQ-9s, the “service has started an analysis” for a next gen killer drone, the MQ-X, “with the goal of choosing a plane in 2012, Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford told reporters.”

According to Air Force Times, “General Atomics has already unveiled a jet-powered UAV called the Avenger, able to fly at 460 mph–about twice as fast as the Reaper–and carry 3,000 pounds of weapons and sensors.”

Last week, Defense Systems reported that the Defense Department “is reassessing its view of unmanned aerial vehicles–a key component of modern combat operations–and deciding what the military needs from UAVs beyond their traditional use as a platform to gather intelligence and fire weapons.”

Defense Systems’ reporter Amber Corrin wrote that “next-generation UAVs will need to take on additional duties including cargo transport, refueling and possible medical applications, and they will need to be interoperable with different platforms, users and military services.”

One wag, Col. Dale Fridley, the Director of the Air Force Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force, said that the Air Force is looking for a “plug-and-play” approach and that “interoperable command and control, multi-access controls and enhanced human-system interfaces are among the most important short-term enablers in developing next-generation UAVs.”

Fridley described the proposed MQ-X as the “embodiment of the flight plan.”

According to General Atomics, the firm’s next-gen, jet-powered Predator C drone, the Avenger, can attain air speeds far greater than the lumbering systems currently operating. With a 41-foot long fuselage and 66-foot wingspan, the system can “can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B,” the MQ-9 Reaper. The company envisages the manufacture of both armed and unarmed reconnaissance models for the Defense Department and other willing customers.

And with Predators clocking more than 30,000 hours of flight time per month, and with more than 40 UAVs aloft “every second of every day,” as GA boosters put it, and with the Air Force and the CIA seeking the capability to fly anywhere from 50-75 daily “missions” above Afghanistan, Pakistan and who knows where else, the always-open wallet’s of the American people will continue feeding, and accelerating, the imperialist “kill chain.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles by Tom, or visit Tom’s website.

This article was posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2010 at 9:00am and is filed under Afghanistan, Anti-war, Assassinations, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Imperialism, Legal/Constitutional, Military/Militarism, Obama, Pakistan, War Crimes. // ShareThis

9 comments on this article so far …

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  1. mary said on May 3rd, 2010 at 9:25am #

This is Obomber’s idea of a joke when he was addressing the press.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7114565.ece

‘Hollywood figures including Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg were joined in the Washington Hilton on Saturday night by a new generation of entertainers, including the 16-year-old Canadian singer Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers. “Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere,” Mr Obama said. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but boys, don’t get any ideas. *Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming*.”

Is he as psychopathic as Bush and Blair? Is killing by remote control as nothing to him?

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 3rd, 2010 at 11:03am #

mary, he is, I think,far worse. Obummer is, in my opinion, a plausible,charming psychopath,by far the most dangerous type. A sort of political Ted Bundy, completely programmed and controlled by the Zionists, as they boasted after his election became certain.The murder of innocents is bi-partisan policy in Washington, because it reflects Zionist genocidal plans for the Islamic untermenschen and because killing is the highest good in Yankee psychology. That pathopsychology itself is based on Old Testament (ie Torah) injunctions to genocide, which were expressly appealed to by Yankee killers from the days of New England, through the various Indian Wars, always genocidal and continuing across much of the world up to the present day.
For the Yankee killing is religiously sanctified and redemptive. It gives the killer the delusion of control and mastery over death, that ultimate, terrifying, reality that the Yankee fears so viscerally. Apart from denying death and pretending it doesn’t exist, the act of murder produces a great psychic release and a sense of mastery over life and death.How else do you explain the relentless cruelty of the extermination of the Indians, the viciousness of slavery,the group ecstasies of lynching, the hideous massacres in the Philippines, the devastation of Korea and Indochina, the absolutely unnecessary obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Madeleine Albright’s insouciant observation that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were a price that was ‘worth it’.
It is plain that the US, under Zionist control and influence, has committed itself to a policy of state destruction and mass murder, without restraint or pity, in order to shore up the global empire of the Zioamerican Reich. That this slaughter is planned to be implemented by amoral and pitiless robopaths, sitting at computer consoles thousands of miles from their victims, simply reflects the growth amongst the US elite and their hired murderers of a pathopsychology of intense hatred and pitiless indifference to the fate of others seen as untermenschen. This psychology is absolutely congruent with that of the Nazi mass murderers, although they often suffered dreadful psychic angst at the loathsome duties expected of them. The US seems to have perfected the production of pitiless killers, trained in violent computer games, brainwashed by relentless Zionist agit-prop to hate their Islamic victims pitilessly and incapable of seeing their ‘targets’ as fellow human beings.Unless something opposes US/Israeli malevolence and death worship and lust for absolute global control, in perpetuity, then the horrors of the 20th century will soon pale into insignificance before the massacres to come. The whole planet will become a vast Auschwitz,and death will descend, in an instant, from the heavens sparing no-one.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 3:42am #

mm

like u say,
its in their culture
http://tinyurl.com/d6r2qf

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:18am #

Agree with you both Mulga and Denk.

I also see that Hatoyama isn’t able to get rid of the Yanks on Okinawa. Why is that I wonder? Boot on his neck?

  1. mary said on May 4th, 2010 at 5:19am #

Link – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8658901.stm

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 4th, 2010 at 8:09am #

Talk about synchronicity, mary. Just heard ‘jelly-back’ Hatoyama letting the Okinawans know that,in fact, he is not the Prime Minister of Japan.He is,in truth, a serf, tolerated by his Yankee masters only so long as he obeys orders. In Okinawa it’s Uncle Sam who calls the shots, not some jumped-up ‘Nips’ with ideas above their station. And they wonder why the world loathes them and looks forward to their coming collapse with eager anticipation.

  1. denk said on May 4th, 2010 at 7:53pm #

mary and mm,

here’s my cut n paste contribution…
**okinawa is a true crime story written and directed by the governments of both the United States and Japan.**

http://tinyurl.com/ccmhhp

  1. mary said on May 5th, 2010 at 1:03am #

The subject of the war on Afghanistan has been completely omitted from the UK election campaigns of the main parties.

Johann Hari’s article on the STWC website –

The shameful, bloody silence at the heart of the election

Johann Hari says we are sending young people to kill and die in order to prop up a President who (like his people) opposes almost all our actions and is threatening to defect to The Enemy. You might think that is worth discussing. Yet when Afghanistan comes up in this election, the sole subject of complaint is that our helicopters don’t work as well as they should…..

http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1839/268/

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 5th, 2010 at 3:47am #

mary,I swear I read that Cameron, a phony up there with Obama (the laugh of ‘Red Toryism’ had me adjusting my surgical appliance) but, sadly, with a charisma by-pass, had stated that a Tory priority was to wage the bloodbath in Afghanistan with renewed vigour. I suppose that is evidence either of the innate bloodlust of the Right, a desire to ingratiate himself further with the ever generous Zionist Lobby, whose ‘Zionist Plan for the MiddleEast’ is going so well in terms of dead ‘two-legged animals’ amongst the Islamic populations or a desire for revenge over the unfortunate events in the 1840s, or all of the above. Either way,it is a real insight, amongst many others, of just what the true nature of a Cameron ascendancy would involve. I’d say that enthusiastic endorsement of the ‘obliteration’ of Iran can also be relied on.

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http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/05/high-tech-death-from-above-u-s-drone-wars-fuel-war-crimes/

Kucinich:

Policy of drone strikes helping stoke

‘fanaticism,’ ‘radicalism’

By Bridget Johnson – 04/24/10 12:20 PM ET

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told an India-based news agency that the Obama administration’s policy of unmanned drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda positions in Pakistan is leading the U.S. “into an area of unaccountability that leads to blowback, where we actually lose friends, where we help inspire anti-American sentiments and fanaticism and radicalism.”

Kucinich, speaking to Asian News International, stressed his opposition to the strikes, which began under the Bush administration, and branded them as counterproductive.

“Just as an occupation fuels an insurgency, these drones build feelings and resistance against the United States and help gain support for those elements who wish to do America harm,” Kucinich said, adding that Obama needs to “be careful not to inadvertently create the circumstances that push Pakistan into becoming a failed state.”

In 2008, Kucinich denounced the Bush policy — which has continued unabated under Obama — as “playing with fire” and “violating international law by invading yet another nation which has not attacked the United States.”

Pakistan has protested the drone strikes, saying that it supports the fight against terrorists but wants control over the U.S. drone technology.

Source:
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/94127-kucinich-obama-policy-of-drone-strikes-helping-inspire-fanatacism-and-radicalism

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Comments (22)

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does anyone ever listen to this mental case anymore? If Kucinich were any more nuts, they would haul him away in a coat with sleeves that tie in the back.BY Mad Mike on 04/24/2010 at 12:38

Kucinich has a point. Action, reaction, isn’t that how the inner city gang wars escalated to the point of being out of control? 5 people working for the CIA died in Afghanistan, was that a reaction? Just playing the devil’s advocate here. What is the exit strategy?BY Mark on 04/24/2010 at 12:51

No Dennis, you’re wrong. There is no way for Obama to stoke anti-America sentiment. Only Bush could do that. The election of Obama means there is no more terrorism. C’mon man. Get with the program.BY LIAMD2 on 04/24/2010 at 15:04

Dennis might be right. Military analysts attribute half our Iraq casualties to the illegal Bush invasion of that country and the torture he committed. Why aren’t Bush and Cheney locked up in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes? http://thinkprogress.org/why-enhanced-interrogation-failed/BY allen on 04/24/2010 at 16:43

I’m tired about Obama running around the world telling nations who have no use for us besides aid and technology that we were “bad boys’ and we promise to do better next time. I’d rather be respected than liked. If drones can save even one American life and perform the function it was constructed to do, then use them and keep on using them until we develope something better.BY Don Sampietro on 04/24/2010 at 18:04

Kucinich is a noise maker, nothing more. He receives attention only because the media bows respectively to whatever the far left says. The same foolishness was said before WWII and Hitler not only marched across Europe, pounding Britain in the process, but was stopped only after hundreds of thousands soldiers died BECAUSE the rest of the rest of the world couldn’t/wouldn’t stop him. Ignore Kucinich. He’s not worth time.BY Jim Bradley on 04/24/2010 at 18:11

Hey Allen, did you just try to pass off some left wing blog as “impartial”? hahahahahahahah ahaThe rest of us have google, too, you know.DK is just angling for another plane ride! Yippee!!!!!!!BY Rick H. on 04/24/2010 at 18:49

sure, Kucinich must be some kinda lefty wacko, because he talks about innocent people being killedBY sammy on 04/24/2010 at 18:56

I think we should make some “sweet bombs” out of all that sugar-like tobacco product Congress wants to get off the shelves. Drop them all over Afghanistan, that will build some good will toward our mission.BY BC on 04/24/2010 at 18:59

Americans are now respected and feared, but these drones are sickening me. If they were killing only bad guys, that would have been another story. Find another means of protecting civilians. Respect human blood, and yes, Kucinich has a point. Terrorism is evil, take them down.BY Kingstone on 04/24/2010 at 20:33

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Drone Pilots Could Be Tried for ‘War Crimes,’

Law Prof Says

The pilots waging America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan could be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes,” a prominent law professor told a Congressional panel Wednesday.

Harold Koh, the State Department’s top legal adviser, outlined the administration’s legal case for the robotic attacks last month. Now, some legal experts are taking turns to punch holes in Koh’s argument.

It’s part of an ongoing legal debate about the CIA and U.S. military’s lethal drone operations, which have escalated in recent months — and which have received some technological upgrades. Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued that the campaign amounts to a program of targeted killing that may violate the laws of war.

In a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s national security and foreign affairs panel, several professors of national security law seemed open to that argument. But there are still plenty of caveats, and the risks to U.S. drone operators are at this point theoretical: Unless a judge in, say, Pakistan, wanted to issue a warrant, it doesn’t seem likely. But that’s just one of the possible legal hazards of robotic warfare.

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

The drones themselves are a lawful tool of war; “In fact, the ability of the drones to engage in a higher level of precision and to discriminate more carefully between military and civilian targets than has existed in the past actually suggests that they’re preferable to many older weapons,” Glazier added. But employing CIA personnel to carry out those armed attacks, he concluded, “clearly fall outside the scope of permissible conduct and ought to be reconsidered, particularly as the United States seeks to prosecute members of its adversaries for generally similar conduct.”

Drone attacks haven’t just become the primary weapon in the American bid to wipe out Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks. “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” CIA director Leon Panetta said.

But that “embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radical new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently observed. Before 9/11, the American government regularly condemned Israel for taking out individual terrorists. “Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.”

The U.S. government has since defended the strikes as legitimate self-defense — without going into details about the operations. Kenneth Anderson, an American University law professor, said the government’s reluctance to talk about the missions — as well as its reliance on an intelligence agency to carry out military action — raises some serious questions.

In his prepared statement (.pdf), Anderson said Koh “nowhere mentions the CIA by name in his defense of drone operations. It is, of course, what is plainly intended when speaking of self-defense separate from armed conflict. One understands the hesitation of senior lawyers to name the CIA’s use of drones as lawful when the official position of the U.S. government, despite everything, is still not to confirm or deny the CIA’s operations.”

What’s more, Anderson argued, Congress has been reluctant to talk about the bigger policy issue: Why this is a CIA mission in the first place. “Why should the CIA, or any other civilian agency, ever use force (leaving aside conventional law enforcement)?” he said. “Even granting the existence of self-defense as a legal category, why ever have force used by anyone other than the uniformed military?”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, was much more blunt in her statement. “Combat drones are battlefield weapons,” she told the panel. “They fire missiles or drop bombs capable of inflicting very serious damage. Drones are not lawful for use outside combat zones. Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents, and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.”

“Restricting drones to the battlefield is the most important single rule governing their use, O’Connell continued. “Yet, the United States is failing to follow it more often than not.”

Not all of the law professors testifying today agreed. Syracuse University’s William Banks, for one, said that “the intelligence laws permit the president broad discretion to utilize the nation’s intelligence agencies to carry out national security operations, implicitly including targeted killing.” Current U.S. laws “supply adequate – albeit not well articulated or understood – legal authority for these drone strikes.”

But American laws may not be on the only ones applicable to drone strikes, critics contend. As Anderson argued, the United States may face legal challenges from what he called the “international-law community” – nongovernmental organizations, international bodies, U.N. agencies and others who view this as a program of targeted killing that falls outside the bounds of armed conflict.

Either way, this hearing will not end the controversy. As we’ve noted here before, the government has been less than forthcoming about who, exactly, authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are chosen and how many civilians may have been inadvertently killed.

– Nathan Hodge and Noah Shachtman

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense
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President Obama’s

Joke About Predator Drones Draws Fire

May 03, 2010 8:45 PM

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A famous British actor once observed that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

A corollary might be that comedy can be especially hard when it comes from commanders-in-chief joking about the deaths they’re responsible for at times of war.

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, President Obama noted that in the audience were the Jonas brothers.

“Sasha and Malia are huge fans,” he said, “but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

The audience laughed approvingly but in the following days the joke has been met with a rising chorus of criticism — mainly from the Left.

After all, unmanned predator drone strikes have killed innocent civilians in Pakistan.

How many civilians? Unclear. Since the CIA’s predator drone program is top secret, little is known about it.

But writing in Foreign Policy, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann have estimated that their data shows that from 2008 until December 2009, drone strikes have killed between 384 and 578 individuals, with most of them militants but between 35 and 40 percent of them innocent civilians. Senior administration officials contend that the number of civilian casualties is far fewer than that.

As the New Yorker reported last year, “the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the C.I.A. program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

So given all that, should President Obama have made a joke about this program?

“Let’s be honest, fellow progressives,” the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch tweeted, “we’d be all over Bush if he made the same ‘predator drone’ joke Obama told last night.”

President George W. Bush did, of course, make a joke about war at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. In 2004, infamously, he joked about his inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, showing slides of himself searching for WMD under Oval Office furniture.

“It’s inappropriate to the thousands of people obviously who have been wounded over there,” Terry McAuliffe, then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Good Morning America. “This is a very serious issue. We’ve lost hundreds of troops, as you know, over there. Let’s not be laughing about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction. … We certainly should not be making light of the situation.” Then-RNC chair Ed Gillespie responded that “the people in the room obviously saw the humor in it at that moment. And to play it back now in a different context is unfair, frankly, I have to say.”

So far the criticism against President Obama seems to have been confined to the internet.

Wrote Salon’s Alex Pareene: “It’s funny because predator drone strikes in Pakistan have killed literally hundreds of completely innocent civilians, and now the president is evincing a casual disregard for those lives he is responsible for ending by making a lighthearted joke about killing famous young celebrities for the crime of attempting to sleep with his young daughters.”

The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer, noted that the “Obama administration has spent a great deal of time on outreach to Muslims worldwide, and on dialing down the volume and rhetoric of the prior administration in order to defuse al-Qaeda’s narrative of a clash of civilizations between Muslims and non-Muslims. So you have to wonder why in the world the president’s speech writers would think it was a good idea to throw a joke about predator drones into the president’s speech during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, given that an estimated one-third of drone casualties, or between 289 and 378, have been civilians. It evinces a callous disregard for human life that is really inappropriate for a world leader, especially a president who is waging war against an enemy that deliberately targets civilians. It also helps undermine that outreach by making it look insincere.”

Serwer assessed that the relative lack of outrage, compared to the response to Bush’s joke, might have “to do with whose lives were the butt of the joke — we recognize the names and faces of the American service members who died because of Bush’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction as friends, relatives, and family members. The people who die in drone strikes are anonymous — they have no faces or names — except for the suspected terrorist targets the administration celebrates as being neutralized.”

The Atlantic’s Max Fisher has a round-up of some response HERE.

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Future police: Meet the UK’s armed robot drones

38

By David Hambling |10 February 2010 |Categories: PoliticsTechnology

Police forces all over the UK will soon be able to draw on unmanned aircraft from a national fleet, according to Home Office plans. Last month it was revealed that modified military aircraft drones will carry out surveillance on everyone from protesters and antisocial motorists to fly-tippers, and will be in place in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Surveillance is only the start, however. Military drones quickly moved from reconnaissance to strike, and if the British police follow suit, their drones could be armed — but with non-lethal weapons rather than Hellfire missiles.

The flying robot fleet will range from miniature tactical craft such as the miniature AirRobot being tested by Essex police, to BAE System’s new HERTI drone as flown in Afghanistan. The drones are cheaper than police helicopters — some of which will be retired — and are as wide as 12m in the case of HERTI.

Watching events on the ground without being able to act is frustrating. Targets often got away before an unarmed drone could summon assistance. In fact, in 2000 it was reported that an airborne drone spotted Osama bin Laden but could do nothing but watch him escape. So the RAF has been carrying out missions in Afghanistan with missile-armed Reapers since 2007. From the ground these just look like regular aircraft.

The police have already had a similar experience with CCTV. As well as observing, some of these are now equipped with speakers. Pioneered in Middleborough, the talking CCTV allows an operator to tell off anyone engaging in vandalism, graffiti or littering.

Unmanned aircraft can also be fitted with speakers, such as the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which could not only warn fly tippers that they were breaking the law but also be loud enough to drive them away.

The LRAD is a highly directional speaker made of a flat array of piezoelectric transducers, producing intense beam of sound in a 30-degree cone. It can be used as a loudhailer, or deafen the target with a jarring, discordant noise. Some ships now carry LRAD as an anti-pirate measure: It was used to drive off an attack on the Seabourn Spirit off Somalia in 2005.

LRAD makers American Technology prefer to call its product a device rather than a weapon, and use terms such as “deterrent tones” and “influencing behaviour.” Police in the US have already adopted a vehicle-mounted LRAD for crowd control, breaking up protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last year, although there have been warnings about the risk of hearing damage.

The LRAD has been tested on the Austrian S-100 unmanned helicopter, and the technology is ready if there is a police requirement.

But rather than just driving them away, a police drone should be able to stop fleeing criminals in their tracks. Helicopters already mount powerful searchlights, and strobe lighting capabilities can turn such systems into effective nonlethal weapons. High-intensity strobes can cause dizziness, disorientation and loss of balance making it virtually impossible to run away.

This effect was first harnessed in the “Photic Driver” made by British company Allen International in 1973. However, it has taken improvement in lighting technology (such as fast-switching Xenon lights) and an understanding of the physiology involved to make such weapons practical.

A “light based personnel immobilisation device” developed by Peak Beam Systems Inc has been successfully tested by the US military, and work to mount it on an unmanned helicopter in the States is under way.

This sort of light would be too dangerous for a manned aircraft because of the crew being affected. But an unmanned “strober” could be a literal crime stopper, and something we could see deployed within the next couple of years.

Even the smallest drones could be used for tactical police operations. As far back as 1972 the Home Office looked at model aircraft as an alternative to rubber bullets, literally flying them into rioters to knock them off their feet.

French company Tecknisolar Seni has demonstrated a portable drone armed with a double-barrelled 44mm Flash-Ball gun. Used by French special police units, the one-kilo Flash-Ball resembles a large calibre handgun and fires non-lethal rounds, including tear gas and rubber impact rounds to bring down a suspect without permanent damage — “the same effect as the punch of a champion boxer,” claim makers Verney-Carron.

However, last year there were questions over the use of Flash-Ball rounds by French police. Like other impact rounds, the Flash-Ball is meant to be aimed at the body — firing from a remote, flying platform is likely to increase the risk of head injury.

Another option is the taser. Taser stun guns are now so light (about 150 grams) that they could be mounted on the smaller drones. Antoine di Zazzo, head of SMP Technologies, which distributes tasers in France, says the company is fitting one to a small quad-rotor iDrone (another quad-rotor toy helicopter), which some have called a “flying saucer”.

Robots are already the preferred way of approaching possible bombs without putting officers lives at risk. In the future, police may prefer to deal with potentially dangerous suspects the same way, tackling them remotely using a taser if the situation requires it.

But tasers are controversial. In 2008 the Met rejected government plans for a wider issue of tasers to non-specialist officers because of the fear they could cause, and there have been numerous complaints of abuse. For some, the arrival of a hovering law-enforcement drone with a video eyes and a 50,000-volt taser at the ready might be a police technology too far.

Which leads Wired to ask you for your thoughts: Are tasers and armed robot drones the ideal next step for British law enforcement, or will it just make our police officers less capable of dealing with serious problems when they’re forced to intervene in person? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Flickr CC bixentro / Nate Lanxon (edited version)

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Online Editor: Nate Lanxon

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Americas Wars Provoking attacks and radicalism like blasphemous cartoons Provoking

How Iraq Afghanistan injustices create radical Muslim responses seen as legitimate defense

America’s Wars Provoke Attacks Like the One in NY

Still Fighting Them Here

Posted on May 11th, 2010 by Jack Hunter

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked my radio audience, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists. Given Shahzad’s current place of residence and following Lieberman’s logic, perhaps we should now start bombing Connecticut? If that terrorist-harboring state could be magically transplanted to a more oil-rich, defense contractor-benefitting and Israel-approximate location, no doubt Lieberman might consider it.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.” Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia. (Most of our victims are suspected terrorists, but we sometimes kill innocent civilians by mistake). Whether he was acting alone or in cahoots with Pakistani extremists, his abortive attack was probably a response to our efforts to eradicate terrorist groups in Pakistan via drone strikes and other special operations. In short, he decided to enlist in the ‘war on terror,’ but not on America’s side.” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quresh, who seems to be plagued by the same sort of pesky logic as Yemen’s president, told CBS News of the Pakistan-born Shahzad, “This is retaliation. And you could expect that … let’s not be naïve… They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you (to) sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

Shahzad’s alleged attempt was only one of many in Times Square since 9/11, and such incidents have not-so-coincidentally correlated with the further entrenchment of the United States in the Middle East, a phenomenon the CIA calls “blowback.” Mainstream media discussions that attempt to address Islamic terrorism while pretending “blowback” doesn’t exist, are about as useful as Obama officials who try to address the national deficit while pretending their own, expensive agenda doesn’t exist. Those who still naively contend that such terrorism has nothing to do with our foreign interventionism, but is exclusively due to some Islamic plan to dominate the world or “Caliphate,” should remember that New Yorkers attending the Broadway premiere of “My Fair Lady” in 1956 never had to worry about any car bombs bringing down the house, much less Times Square. Since Islam isn’t exactly a brand new religion, has the Koran been rewritten to be more intolerant of “freedom” than it was during Broadway’s golden age? Or could it possibly be something else?

With Shahzad, some military analysts are inclined to think it might be something else, or as The American Conservative’s Chase Madar writes: “David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, respectively a former adviser to General Petraeus and a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are both leading theorists of counterinsurgency warfare at the Center for a New American Security. They have testified before Congress that drone strikes are perceived to be wildly inaccurate—killing, they say, 700 people in attacks on 14 targets—and are undermining the ‘hearts and minds’ offensive that is central to the campaign. They recommend scrapping drone attacks. And then there is the American Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who happens to be a retired Army general. In leaked cables to the president, Eikenberry severely questioned the wisdom of the counterinsurgency campaign and the escalation… Is anyone listening to these well-informed skeptics?”

Obviously they’re not being listened to and worse, no one seems to be having similar conversations that actually address the root problem of why Islamic terrorists do what they do. In the minds of many Democrats, Obama’s Bush-style foreign policy is anything but, and too many Republicans believe we would be fighting even more terrorists on American soil if it were not for our wars overseas, with Shahzad only making it as far as he did because Obama is somehow wimpier than Dubya. It’s hard to imagine a more insane view of foreign policy. They fight us over here precisely because we are over there—and they will continue to do so until Americans find the will or the wisdom to finally question what their country is doing over there in the first place.

Filed under: war

13 Responses to “Still Fighting Them Here”

  1. Andy, on May 11th, 2010 at 8:03 am Said:

I agree they are fighting us here and there because we are over there, however it seems true to me that much of Islam today has been hijacked by radical elements that are seeking to dominate the world. Why are Islamists supporting terror in Europe when Europeans are not killing Muslims in Central Asia or the Middle East? When My Fair Lady opened in Times Square the world was much different. Radicals within Islam had neither the network or the funding they have today. In addition no Al Jazirah ,internet etc to easily radicalize the masses of Muslims with lies and staged propaganda when the inconvenient truths are much more complex

  1. Liam Register, on May 11th, 2010 at 10:30 am Said:

As a start how about some education for Americans. While Republicrats dream of blowing up Iran, little do they know, nor want to, that a few years before the Broadway opening of My Fair Lady of March 15, 1956, relations between the two countries were about as good as one could expect between any countries. In fact the prome minister, duly elected, was a fan of the US , especially its form of government which he held as a model in his hopes for Iran.

Then exactly 2 years 7 months before the Broadway opening, on August 15, 1953, following the withering campaign of Britain begging America to do so, the US executed a coup attempt against their ‘friend, the PM of Iran. The plot failed; US authorities wired instructions to their operative in charge of the overthrow to cease, but he (of an interesting American family) ignored the communique and proceeded with a second attempt, which succeeded, The PM, unmurdered, was thrown in prison for a few years, then to lifetime house arrest, The leader favored by America was installed; a handful of US companies got exclusive rights to oceans of Iranian oil. Gssoline was available @ 18cents/gallon, as ‘gas wars’ , price wars, were routine in America. The party lasted for a generation, whilst the Iranian secret police, installed as a ‘bonus’ of the coup, proceeded to do to Iranians what secret police forces usually do.

Then it ended with the sevevties. Was in all the papers.

Exactly a decade later our friend and ally in Vietnam was similarly dealt with. Unlike the Iranian PM he received the lead pellets in the rear of his skull. His brother too.

Those were the days.

But for heavens sake don’t tell the Americans.

  1. Jackie, on May 11th, 2010 at 5:12 pm Said:

Liam R.
I recognize the story of Mossadegh. Truman was against the Brits plan, but then Eisenhower was elected and Kermit Roosevelt carried off the whole thing.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am Said:

Hi Adam,
Actually, if you recall, there were Spanish troops in Iraq. What happened? The horrible train bombing in Madrid. There were Austrialin troops in Iraq. What happened? A deadly bombing in a Bali dance club, well-known as an Austrialian vacation destination. There were British troops in Iraq. What happened? The London train bombings.
One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 3:44 pm Said:

“One can try to obsfuscate the matter with talk of Caliphates and “hatin’ us fer our freedoms,” but the simple fact is that if we aren’t in their villages knocking down their doors and killing innocent citizens (even accidentally), it becomes exponentially more difficult to recruit people to give up their lives.”

Agreed, but in point of fact the al-Qaeda types are trying to establish a caliphate although not one that encompasses the world–a task far beyond their powers or inclinations. They are mostly concerned with overthrowing what they perceive as corrupt, apostate regimes in the Islamic world. As Michael Schueur has asserted, all of their terrorism is no more than the manifestation of an insurrection within Islam in which America is unfortunately meddling. This unavoidable contest between the Muslim states and insurrectionists would be quickly decided were America to withdraw considering that the regimes that have been labeled apostate would swiftly quash the jihadists before full-blown fitna could erupt. America remaining mired in the Middle East is Bin Laden’s most treasured hope.

Another point for consideration: assuming that the US does withdraw and adopts non-interventionism, what would be our policy concerning another jihadist grievance–namely, our support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants?

  1. cfountain72, on May 12th, 2010 at 6:56 pm Said:

Hi Pons,
Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement. Muslims, (both in and outside of Al Qaeda) have beefs with their local governments, and as such, they must determine how best to deal with them. By the United States avoiding taking sides on what are often internal matters, we avoid being caught in the collateral damage.
In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.
Peace be with you.

  1. Pons Seclorum, on May 12th, 2010 at 8:41 pm Said:

“Thanks, though I don’t think we are in any kind of disagreement…In the case of the BRIC countries you mention, I don’t think our support goes much beyond moral support. Certainly, we don’t have troops stationed in those three nations, nor are we sending military/financial support as we have done for Egypt, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. I think our support should only extend as far as apprehending terrorists if (irony of ironies) they were found to be somehow basing attacks on those countries from the US.”

No, there is no disagreement. All I am doing by bringing up these other jihadist grievances is to make more thorough the non-interventionist arguments. In this case, as you say, it is essential to ensure that those struggles remain local affairs with the US lending its moral support (surely al-Qaeda could not justify their attacks for merely offering moral support) and refuting any jihadist agitprop. Interference would be justified only if those resistance movements were being assisted by internationalist Islamists like al-Qaeda. Localist Muslim militants are no threat to America but it is imperative that internationalist Muslim militants
be prevented from linking with the natives as they did in Bosnia. This might be a surprisingly easy task, however, as localists like Hamas, for instance, loathe al-Qaeda and their fellow salafists. “We have no common enemy,” said a Hamas spokesman, “as long as they [al-Qaeda] wage a global struggle and we wage a local one.” Any additional thoughts?

  1. Erik Meyer, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:31 am Said:

Right, this is all quite obvious. It’s really rather remarkable that there aren’t more of these kinds of attacks, given how easy they are. They don’t seem to have much trouble setting off car bombs in Baghdad.

Of course, back in 1956, not only were we not bombing Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan ourselves, there were no Iraqis, Pakistanis, or Afghans (Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik, or whatever) in New York City to retaliate. (Old American Realism: Do nothing to provoke people, keep them far away…)

Nobody had to worry about the Viet Cong blowing up a bus in Times Square 1968 either (back then, at least we had the second part down, the part that really matters).

We could, in fact, bomb Pakistan until the end of time if that were our goal. If there weren’t any Pakistanis or other Muslims running around this country, what could they do about it? They’d have to blow something up in their own country… burn a big puppet, stone a rape victim, whatever it is they do when they’re upset… it wouldn’t be our problem.

Better still:
If we weren’t over there and they weren’t over here, we wouldn’t have to fight them at all.

  1. P Jerome, on May 13th, 2010 at 9:59 am Said:

This is all very interesting, and diverting. On what basis do we “know for a fact” that something called Al Queda (1) exists, and (2) wants to establish a medieval caliphate in all or part of the world? The short answer is we “know” no such thing because these are simply the fevered fantasies of war-related industrialists, being constructed and sold to the Western public by government intelligence agencies.

What we do know is that the US and its allies created the so-called “Muslim insurgency” in Afghanistan, and unleashed the fury of religious obscurantism throughout Central Asia. This continues to be the case as the CIA/DIA/MI6 continues to fund and mobilizes so-called fundamentalists in Chechnya, Turkey, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, of course, all the “–stans.” But we are to believe these same agencies are NOT funding the same strains of fundamentalism in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And even if they are not on the US/British payroll (which they almost certainly are), is it even conceivable that we need trillion dollar annual war budgets to fight these alleged rag-tag bands of angry Middle Easterners, more than were needed when we faced more than 10,000 Russian nukes? Please people, do not remain as ignorant, and stupid, as these tsars think we are.

  1. dickerson3870, on May 13th, 2010 at 11:46 am Said:

We are fighting “them” “over there”, so that we will not have to fight our innermost demons “over here” where it would make quite a bloody mess!
There Will Be Blood – Daniel’s Baptism [03:38] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwkP7Gnp7ek

  1. masmanz, on May 13th, 2010 at 12:18 pm Said:

Andy, it is only the war-mongers among the think tanks and news media who make us think that much of Islam has been hijacked by radical elements. If you leave aside the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and now the tribal area of Pakistan, the remaining 99.999% of Muslims don’t support any sort of terrorism. If they did we would have many many terrorist incidence. We need to get out of these senseless wars, not because of the fear of blowback but just because it would be the right thing to do.

If Muslims of the world wanted to establish a caliphate they can do it tomorrow, by just holding an OIC conference and choosing a caliph. But, even if they did that it should not be of any concern to us. Would they be foolish enough to attack the US?

  1. King of Holetown, on May 13th, 2010 at 6:15 pm Said:

You are over there because they have something that you want (oil, gold, water, lithium etc.)
Is there any one country that america is meddling in that has no resources that they want? NO!
The wars are driven by pure greed, nothing less.
There is NO al Qaeda and NO Osama bin Laden.
Anyone who believes otherwise is either plain naieve or totally brainwashed.
How can one man with a band of 200 followers at most, holed up in a cave in Pakistan elude, evade and resist the force of the greatest army on earth throwing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars a year at it?
What would happen if a real army were to face down the US then?
Give it a rest and get out of the peoples’ countries and leave them alone.
What they do is not your business.

  1. To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.? « Moral Outrage, on May 13th, 2010 at 7:00 pm Said:

[…] Full article […]

http://www.amconmag.com/tactv/2010/05/11/still-fighting-them-here/

http://www.amconmag.com/tactv/2010/05/11/still-fighting-them-here/

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Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

To what extent do U.S. wars in the Middle East inspire attacks on the U.S.?

Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?

In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists.

Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.”

Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia … via drone strikes and other special operations.”

http://moraloutrage.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/to-what-extent-do-u-s-wars-in-the-middle-east-inspire-attacks-on-the-u-s/

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Is the War Coming Home?

by Patrick J. Buchanan, May 11, 2010

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Faisal Shahzad sought to massacre scores of fellow Americans in Times Square with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive fertilizer, gasoline, and alarm clocks.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 29.

Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of American corpses?

Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.

The New York Times ties all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.

Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.

What do the four have in common?

All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring the war in the Af-Pak here to America.

But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?

Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, “We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make … this country so great.”

This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who love freedom and stand for women’s rights.

And that is why they hate us – and why they come to kill us.

In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens advances a parallel view. We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.

We are loathed in the Islamic world, Stephens writes, because of “Lady Gaga – or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker, or any other American woman who has … personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called ‘the American Temptress.’”

This hatred is at least 60 years old, says Stephens, for Qutb wrote even before “Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women’s lib, acid tabs, gay rights, Studio 54, Jersey Shore, and … Lady Gaga.”

Qutb’s revulsion at American degeneracy is why his legion of Islamic followers hate us.

Again, a comforting thought. For, if Lady Gaga is the problem, there is nothing we Americans can do about it.

Yet, this is as self-delusional as saying the FLN set off bombs in movie theaters and cafes in Algiers to kill the French because of what Brigitte Bardot was doing on screen in And God Created Woman.

American’s toxic culture may be a reason devout Muslims detest us. It is not why they come here to kill us. Mohammed Atta’s friends did not target Hollywood, but centers and symbols of U.S. military and political power.

U.S. Marines were not attacked by Hezbollah until we inserted those Marines into Lebanon’s civil war. No Iraqi committed an act of terror against us before we invaded Iraq. And if the Sept. 11 killers were motivated by hatred of the immorality of our society, what were they doing getting lap dances in Delray Beach?

Osama bin Laden declared war on us, first and foremost, to end the massive U.S. presence on sacred Saudi soil that is home to Mecca and Medina.

Some may insist this was not his real motive. But, apparently, the Saudis believed him, for they quickly kicked us out of Prince Sultan Air Base.

As for the Taliban, they would surely make short work of Lady Gaga. But their stated grievance is the same as Gen. Washington’s in our war with the British: If you want this war to end, get out of our country.

By Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Looking at America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Maj. Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and Shahzad decided that what we call the war on terror was in reality a war on Islam.

All decided to use their access to exact retribution for our killing of their fellow Muslims.

We are being attacked over here because we are over there.

Nor is it a good sign that U.S. intelligence is reporting that rising numbers of U.S. Muslims are making Internet inquiries about how and where to get training to bring the war home to America.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

Read more by Patrick J. Buchanan

http://original.antiwar.com/buchanan/2010/05/10/is-the-war-coming-home/

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Afghan prosecutor issues arrest warrant for US army officer over police killing

• Kabul prosecutor seeks ‘outlaw militia’ for killings
• Hamid Karzai’s brother denies link to accused group

Afghan soldiers patrol a Taliban stronghold in Kandahar. An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for a US special forces officer over the murder of a police chief by US-trained militia. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

An Afghan prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for an American special forces commander over allegations that a police chief was murdered by a US-trained militia.

Brigadier General Ghulam Ranjbar, the chief military prosecutor in Kabul, has accused the US of creating an outlaw militia which allegedly shot dead Matiullah Qateh, the chief of police in the city of Kandahar.

The militia, which Ranjbar claimed is armed and trained by US special forces, also allegedly killed Kandahar’s head of criminal investigations and two other officers, when they attempted to free one of their members from a courthouse.

“We lost one this country’s best law enforcement officers for the [attempted] release of a mercenary,” said Ranjbar, interviewed for a film to be shown on Channel 4 News tomorrow.

He accused American officials of refusing to hand over evidence or to permit his investigators to interview the special forces commander, known to Afghans only as “John or Johnny”, who he alleges sanctioned the raid.

The arrest warrant, which has been circulated to border posts and airports, is an embarrassment for the US military, which is facing growing criticism for links to militias controlled by warlords. In Kandahar, the militias have been accused of murder, rape and extortion.

Ranjbar said an investigation found that the force that killed Qateh operated from Camp Gecko, in the hills outside Kandahar, a base for both US special forces and the CIA.

Officials in Kandahar said the militia supplies guards and is trained to work alongside special forces and intelligence officials in raids against Taliban targets.

“If you go to Kandahar, people say these guys pretend to be interpreters but they carry out night raids and assassinations,” said Ranjbar. “We hear lots of strange and shocking stories.”

He claimed that suspects arrested for the courthouse raid had confessed to being part of a 300-strong militia unit run by “Johnny”. They said they “could not move a muscle and could not leave their base without Johnny’s orders” Ranjbar said. “He was the head of the group and they [the Americans] were the ones paying them.”

Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the US military, denied that any US or other coalition forces were involved in the attack, and said those involved “were not acting on behalf of US or international forces”.

But, according to the Afghan account, the militia known locally as the “Kandahar Strike Force”, or the “Kandahar Special Group”, arrived at the courthouse last June with US-supplied uniforms, vehicles and weapons. They demanded the release of a comrade held for a traffic offence. When police were called to the scene by terrified court officials, the militia opened fire, killing Qateh, and three other policemen.

“The police chief took two steps forward and that’s when they fired,” claimed a witness, who showed Channel 4 the crime scene, pockmarked with bullet holes. “Within a couple of seconds the chief was sprayed with bullets. Then the head of CID came over. He pulled out his pistol and prepared to fire, but he was shot from behind.”

The involvement of the Camp Gecko militia is politically sensitive because of its alleged close ties to Ahmed WaliKarzai, brother of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Militia members claim to have been recruited by associates of Ahmed Wali, who press reports have claimed is on the CIA payroll.

Interviewed by telephone, Ahmed Wali called for an amnesty for the 41 men convicted of Qateh’s murder, but denied he had any militia connections.

Local militias have also been linked to a raid on 10 November last year when US and Afghan troops allegedly burst into the home of Janan Abdullah, 23, riddled him with bullets, and left his wife paralysed and the rest of his family traumatised.

“Nothing was left undamaged, they shot at everything,” said one of Janan’s uncles. “He was just lying in bed. I’d say they fired 200 bullets at him.”

The family claimed it was Afghans who did the shooting and stole thousands of pounds in cash. “We were surprised,” said the uncle. “It was our own people – Pashtuns – doing this to us.”

A US military spokesman said they had “no record” of the raid. However, the family were given medical treatment at Camp Gecko, leading to suspicions that it was the same Afghan militia that allegedly killed the police chief.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/16/afghan-prosecutor-arrest-warrant-us-officer

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Iraq Soldiers joked about killing women and

Iraq: Soldiers ‘joked about killing women and children’

Gavin Dahl

Raw Story, May 13, 2010An Iraq War veteran who served with the company shown in the “Collateral Murder” video released by whistleblower web site Wikileaks says the military trained him to dehumanize Iraqis.In a videotaped interviewreleased Wednesday, Josh Stieber told The Real News Network things that troops did on a regular basis in basic training, including chanting during marches, were the start of his loss of faith in the US military.Josh Stieber enlisted in the army after graduating high school. He was deployed to Baghdad from February 2007 to April 2008 with the military company shown on the ground in the Collateral Murder video. He was granted conscientious objector status upon his return home from Baghdad.In an interview with Real News Network senior editor Paul Jay, Steiber said he was alarmed in basic training when the chants “even joked about killing women and children.”STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”JAY: That’s as you’re marching.STIEBER: Right.JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.The common mindset was that Iraqis were always referred to as “Hajis” in a pattern he said dehumanized people, making it more difficult for soldiers to empathize with civilians.“So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you,” he said.“You know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.”US military personnel apparently mistook the cameras slung over the backs of two Reuters journalists for weapons when they opened fire on them and a group of people in a Baghdad suburb in 2007, according to video footage released in April by whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.As RAWSTORY reportedat the time, the video showed the deaths of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22 and Saeed Chmagh, 40, along with six other people on a street corner. It also shows US forces firing on a minivan in which two injured children were found.Training that makes killing civilians acceptable Josh Stieber: In boot camp we trained with songs that joked about killing women and children TranscriptJosh Steiber Interview (Part 1 of 4)PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. A few weeks ago, some video of a shooting that took place in 2007 in Iraq—Apache helicopter shooting a group of men on the ground. And here’s some of that footage. I’m sure most people have seen it already.VIDEO, WIKILEAKS TRANSCRIPT: 01:09 Yeah roger. I just estimate there’s probably about twenty of them.01:13 There’s one, yeah.01:15 Oh yeah.01:18 I don’t know if that’s a…01:19 Hey Bushmaster element [ground forces control], copy on the one-six.01:21 That’s a weapon.01:22 Yeah.01:23 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight [second Apache helicopter].01:41 Yup. He’s got a weapon too.01:43 Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight. Have five to six individuals with AK47s [automatic rifles]. Request permission to engage [shoot].02:43 You’re clear.02:44 All right, firing.02:47 Let me know when you’ve got them.02:49 Lets shoot.02:50 Light ‘em all up.02:52 Come on, fire!02:57 Keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n.02:59 keep shoot’n.03:02 keep shoot’n.03:05 Hotel Bushmaster Two-Six, Bushmaster Two-Six, we need to move, time now!JAY: Now joining us to explain what we’re seeing and why this took place is Josh Stieber. He joined the armed forces in 2006, was in Iraq in 2007, and after 14 months applied for conscientious objector status, which he finally got. And here he is. Thanks for joining us, Josh.JOSH STIEBER: Sure. Thanks for having me.JAY: So you grew up in Maryland.STIEBER: Right. Not too far from here.JAY: And so before we get into your story, just tell us—let’s go back and look at some of the footage. And first of all, as—we’re going to start playing the footage now. So, as we’re seeing it, tell us, first of all, how atypical is this? Or is this happening all the time, this kind of instance?STIEBER: Incidents similar to this, I would say, are not altogether infrequent. I’m not as familiar with incidents with helicopters, because I was in an infantry unit, but that common mindset to shoot first and ask questions later is one that stems back as far as the very first days of training, and, yeah, that mindset and the things built on top of that throughout training have these results in combat.JAY: Now, you’re in the company that was on the ground that day. You weren’t there yourself that day. But when the guys came home that day, was there something remarkable for them that they talked about it? Or was it kind of just another day out in Baghdad?STIEBER: It was treated with a little more, you know, maybe, emotion than usual that—yeah, they came back and were talking about what had happened and that there was—what they said was an attack against them, and just, I guess, the number of people that were killed was maybe a little larger than usual. So a little bit more, but, you know, not something extremely irregular.JAY: Was there any sense that the guys in the Apache helicopters had done anything wrong? Or this was par for the course?STIEBER: The people in the video, you know, as you can see, weren’t actually on the scene as they saw what happened from the helicopter. So you just kind of trust what you’re told. If someone tells you, you know, this is what I saw and this is what I did, then you kind of take them at face value, ’cause there’s really no way to prove or to examine otherwise. So perspective from the helicopter, without this video or without other eyewitnesses, really couldn’t be verified.JAY: Now, it’s hard to tell from the video whether there were actually weapons in the guys’ hands or not. Apparently they found some later. I mean, when you watch the video, can you see weapons in the hands of some of the guys on the—people on the ground?STIEBER: I can see things that look like weapons enough that, based on the training that I went through, I know I would have been commanded to fire if I was in a position where I observed that. And then, also, in the 40 minute Wikileaks version of the video, the full video, the soldiers actually—you can hear them coming on the radio, saying they found weapons on the scene.JAY: So let’s go back to you. I don’t know whether this incident or incidents like this helped to form who you were or who you became, but start from the beginning. Why did you join? And you told me off-camera you joined knowing—hoping to be sent to Iraq. Why?STIEBER: I grew up very religiously and very patriotic, in a selective sense that, you know, I only wanted to hear things that I wanted to hear and only things that I thought would make my country look better and make my beliefs look better, and I wasn’t very interested in understanding other perspectives. And the vision I had of my country was that, you know, we were going all throughout the world doing, you know, all this great stuff and helping people in need. And, you know, after 9/11 I was obviously affected by that and wanted to protect the people that I cared about, and, from everyone I trusted, was told that the military would be a good way to do that, and then was also told, you know, there’s this country Iraq that’s getting oppressed by this horrible dictator who’s also a threat to us, and if we can get rid of him, not only will we be keeping ourselves safe, but we’ll also be helping this other country in the process.JAY: How interwoven were your beliefs in America and what America stands for and your religious beliefs?STIEBER: They were pretty closely intertwined. I went to a religious high school. And one example is, in a government class that I was in at this religious high school, we read a book called The Faith of George W. Bush. And people like that were held up as, you know, these—these are people that are fighting for God’s will here on Earth. So religion was very interwoven with a sense of nationalism.JAY: But by 2006, when you join, it’s already really clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Bush and Cheney had essentially lied to start a war. Like, that was—by 2006 that’s fairly acknowledged. Had that penetrated in to you, to your school?STIEBER: There, and just the—kind of the people I was listening to. And, again, I wasn’t making any kind of effort to really challenge my thinking. People were saying, you know, whoever it is, the media or other countries are out to make us look bad, and, you know, we did the right thing, and we’re doing the right thing. And I might have had a few doubts in my mind, but even I comforted the doubts by saying, you know, even if the reasons that we’re there weren’t completely justified, we’re there and we’re still in this position, since we’re there, that we can’t just pull out, and we need to help these people.JAY: So even if there were no weapons and even if the argument for weapons wasn’t legitimate, it’s still good versus evil, and they’re evil and we’re good, and we’ve got to fight it?STIEBER: Yeah. I bought into that lingo a lot.JAY: So you go to Iraq. You join, you go through boot camp, and you’re sent to Iraq, and you’re still more or less the same mindset. Tell us a little bit about boot camp and the kind of training that takes place to prepare you for war. I mean, your religious training is supposed to be about love thy neighbor, and then you’re sent to war. So how do they get you ready for that?STIEBER: Yeah, I guess that’s where I started to see, maybe, some of these contradictions, just by the kinds of things that we did on a regular basis in basic training, whether it was the cadences that we sang as we were marching around, some that even joked about killing women and children.JAY: Like what?STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”JAY: That’s as you’re marching.STIEBER: Right.JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.JAY: They would write back and defend a chant like that, that it’s okay to go down where the kids are playing and start to spray? They would defend that?STIEBER: They would either defend it or say that ends justify the means or say, you know, maybe you personally don’t say chants like that and just march silently, but you still go along with the whole system. And so I adopted that mindset that even if there were particular things that troubled me, which there definitely were, then you can calm that discomfort by saying, well, you know, even if I’m uncomfortable with these certain practices, in the long run we’re still getting rid of the bad guys, and we’re still keeping our country safe, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world, so you shouldn’t focus on the smaller things.JAY: So at this point, to what extent do you start to question your faith? ‘Cause it’s all about faith, and faith is about not questioning. So once you start to question, it leads you to places you haven’t been before. So does that—and does it begin in boot camp?

STIEBER: Yeah, I would say that it definitely did. And kind of the more I saw the things that seemed like they were in contradiction, I would kind of have less and less faith in my faith and just start doing things less—that—I guess that idealism or that religious motivation started to fall away, and it became more about doing things to either fit in with the crowd or to take on this nationalism that, yeah, we’re still a good country, you know, even if I don’t like these particular things, and we’re still spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

JAY: Now, I’ve been told by—I have never been in the military, but I’ve been told to get people ready to kill it’s quite an intense psychological process. Humans actually, apparently, don’t like killing each other. How did that—what was that for you, and what was the impact on you?

STIEBER: I would say it’s very calculated. It starts with bayonet training, even though bayonets haven’t been used in any war since, I believe, the Korean War. But, you know, they first start out by getting you used to stabbing a dummy with a bayonet, yelling “kill, kill, kill” as you do it. And if you can get comfortable with that, then it’s slightly more comfortable to shoot at a target from further away. And just the nature of the training, as the military’s gone on, as I’ve gone back and studied it, that has changed. Before, targets just used to be circles, and now the targets look like actual people. They just get you just to thinking in those dehumanizing terms that this is a target, and people that look like this are targets, rather than this is what a human looks like.

JAY: And to what extent was the actual politics of Iraq talked about, or what to make of Iraqis, what to think about Arabs? To be able to go and kill people, do they have to dehumanize all the people you’re about to meet?

STIEBER: The common mindset that I would say was coming towards Iraqis were, one, just kind of, you know, how they were referred to. They were always referred to “Hajis”, you know, similar to “Gooks” in Vietnam or other phrases and other words. So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you, or, you know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about you as you get to Iraq and how that helps to shape you. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Josh Stieber on The Real News Network.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy

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Gen. McChrystal Questioned About Secret Assassination Teams Jeremy Scahill

May 13, 2010Midway through Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s press conference at the Pentagon Thursday, the man referred to as “The Pope”was asked–in a rather innocuous way–about the role US special forces assassination teams are playing in Afghanistan ahead of the planned summer Kandahar offensive. A reporter raised the issue of “the role of your Special Mission Units in targeting Taliban hard-core insurgents:  Are they being used in Kandahar City to go after some of these assassination teams?”SMUs are direct action teams composed of all-star special forces teams, the elite of the elite drawn from the Navy SEALs, Delta Force and other “Tier One” special forces, working with the Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9-11, these teams have been the premiere force in capturing or killing “high-value targets” around the world.Before becoming commander of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal served as the head of JSOC, from 2003-2008. During his tenure, JSOC’s operations, once largely focused on discreetly assisting “friendly” foreign military forces or US-backed proxy forces, were greatly expanded. While JSOC has historically worked sensitive counter-terrorism operations, since 9-11, JSOC has run a parallel rendition program, secret prisons and drones. JSOC forces have operated in Pakistan and other “denied areas.” Its forces maintain classified “hit lists”and are at the center of US assassination operations. SMUs are used for the most sensitive of these operations.McChrystal would never wax on about SMUs at a press conference, but the mere mention of them in his presence is fascinating nonetheless. “All of our special operating forces are doing a lot of things right now,” McChrystal answered.  “What we’re trying to do is maintain pressure on the insurgency, on their networks and on their leaderships, while we do what is typically thought of as more traditional counterinsurgency.”McChrystal added: “It’s interesting. Some people think that it’s either/or, that in counterinsurgency you’re either handing out volleyballs or you’re doing conventional war with tanks. And that’s actually not the case. Counterinsurgency is a wide effort that’s as much civilian as it is military. In some cases, it’s targeted operations against enemy leaderships. In other cases, it’s protecting Afghan civilians in the street. And so we do have an ongoing effective effort.”In other words, “Yeah, we’re bumping people off in Kandahr.”“How successful has that ongoing effort been?” McChrystal was asked.“I’m satisfied with it so far,” he responded.Jeremy Scahill

:: Article nr. 65958 sent on 14-may-2010 01:22 ECT

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Link: www.thenation.com/blog/gen-mcchrystal-questioned-about-secret-assassination-team
s

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid

in Afghanistan that killed five

(including two pregnant women)

Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid in Afghanistan that killed five (including two pregnant women) Jerome Starkey, Khataba

Bibi Shirin and her daughter Tamana. The woman’s face has been blurred at the request of her familesMarch 12, 2010A night raid carried out by US and Afghan gunmen led to the deaths of two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials in an atrocity which Nato then tried to cover up, survivors have told The Times.The operation on Friday, February 12, was a botched pre-dawn assault on a policeman’s home a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, eastern Afghanistan. In a statement after the raid titled “Joint force operating in Gardez makes gruesome discovery”, Nato claimed that the force had found the women’s bodies “tied up, gagged and killed” in a room.A Times investigation suggests that Nato’s claims are either wilfully false or, at best, misleading. More than a dozen survivors, officials, police chiefs and a religious leader interviewed at and around the scene of the attack maintain that the perpetrators were US and Afghan gunmen. The identity and status of the soldiers is unknown.The raid came more than a fortnight after the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan issued new guidelines designed to limit the use of night raids. Special forces and Western intelligence agencies that run covert operations in Afghanistan have been criticised for night raids based on dubious or false intelligence leading to civilian casualties.The first person to die in the assault was Commander Dawood, 43, a long-serving, popular and highly-trained policeman who had recently been promoted to head of intelligence in one of Paktia’s most volatile districts. His brother, Saranwal Zahir, was a prosecutor in Ahmadabad district. He was killed while he stood in a doorway trying to protest their innocence.Three women crouching in a hallway behind him were hit by the same volley of fire. Bibi Shirin, 22, had four children under the age of 5. Bibi Saleha, 37, had 11 children. Both of them, according to their relatives, were pregnant. They were killed instantly.The men’s mother, Bibi Sabsparie, said that Shirin was four months pregnant and Saleha was five months. The other victim, Gulalai, 18, was engaged. She was wounded and later died. “We had already bought everything for the wedding,” her soon-to-be father-in-law, Sayed Mohammed Mal, the Vice-Chancellor of Gardez University, said.On the night of the attack about 25 male friends and relatives had gathered at Commander Dawood’s compound in Khataba, a small village, to celebrate the naming of a newborn boy. Sitting together along the walls of a guest room, the men had taken turns dancing while musicians played. Mohammed Sediq Mahmoudi, 24, the singer, said that at some time after 3am one of the musicians, Dur Mohammed, went outside to go to the toilet. “Someone shone a light on his face and he ran back inside and said the Taleban were outside,” Mr Sediq said.Lieutenant-Colonel Zamarud Zazai, the Gardez head of police intelligence, said: “Both sides thought the other group was Taleban.” Commander Dawood ran towards the family quarters with his son Sediqullah, 15. Halfway across the courtyard they were shot by a gunman on the roof. Commander Dawood was killed. Sediqullah, his uncles said, was hit twice but survived.The shooting stopped and the soldiers shouted in Pashto for everyone to come outside. Waheedullah, an ambulance driver, said that their accents sounded Kandahari.Nato said that the troops were part of a joint “Afghan-international” force but, despite new rules requiring them to leave leaflets identifying their unit, the family said they left nothing. US troops denied any involvement.In the hallway on the other side of the compound, women poured in to tend to the casualties. Commander Dawood’s mother said: “Zahir shouted, ‘don’t fire, we work for the Government’. But while he was talking they fired again. I saw him fall down. I turned around and saw my daughter-in-law and the other women were dead.”Mohammed Sabir, 26, the youngest brother of Commander Dawood and Zahir, was one of eight men arrested and flown to a base in neighbouring Paktika province. They were held for four days and interrogated by an American in civilian clothes who showed them pictures of their suspect. “I said, ‘Yes, it’s Shamsuddin. He was at the party. Why didn’t you arrest him?’ ” Sabir said. After they were released without charge Shamsuddin — who had spent five months fixing generators at the local American base — turned himself in for questioning. He, too, was released without charge.Nato’s original statement said: “Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a firefight and were killed.” The family maintain that no one threw so much as a stone. Rear Admiral Greg Smith, Nato’s director of communications in Kabul, denied that there had been any attempt at a cover-up.He said that both the men who were killed were armed and showing “hostile intent” but admitted “they were not the targets of this particular raid”.“I don’t know if they fired any rounds,” he said. “If you have got an individual stepping out of a compound, and if your assault force is there, that is often the trigger to neutralise the individual. You don’t have to be fired upon to fire back.”He admitted that the original statement had been “poorly worded” but said “to people who see a lot of dead bodies” the women had appeared at the time to have been dead for several hours.The family were offered, through local elders, American compensation — $2,000 (£1,300) for each of the victims.“There’s no value on human life,” Bibi Sabsparie said. “They killed our family, then they came and brought us money. Money won’t bring our family back.”

:: Article nr. 64126 sent on 13-mar-2010 12:50 ECT

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Link: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7060395.ece

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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<>


Special Report:

How the White House learned to love the drone

Adam Entous

WASHINGTON Tue May 18, 2010 5:03pm EDT Tue, May 4 2010

A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing is refueled during operations on the flight line of an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia, January 10, 2010.  Credit: REUTERS/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol-US Air Force/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – By all appearances, the Obama administration wanted him alive, not dead. It posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the “location, arrest, and/or conviction” of Baitullah Mehsud, the fierce leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a March 25, 2009 notice.

But delivering Mehsud alive for prosecution was never a serious option for the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military Special Operations teams that track such “high-value” targets. He was killed less than five months later in a CIA-directed drone strike.

In the rugged mountains of western Pakistan, missiles launched by unmanned Predator or Reaper drones have become so commonplace that some U.S. officials liken them to modern-day “cannon fire.” And they are no longer aimed solely at “high-value” targets like Mehsud, according to U.S. counterterrorism and defense officials.

Under a secret directive first issued by former President George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama, the CIA has broadly expanded the “target set” for drone strikes. As a result, what is still officially classified as a covert campaign on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan has in many ways morphed into a parallel conventional war, several experts say.

Killing wanted militants is simply “easier” than capturing them, said an official, who like most interviewed for this story support the stepped-up program and asked not to be identified. Another official added: “It is increasingly the preferred option.”

An analysis of data provided to Reuters by U.S. government sources shows that the CIA has killed around 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the drone strikes intensified in the summer of 2008.

Reuters has also learned that Pakistan, though officially opposed to the strikes, is providing more behind-the-scenes assistance than in the past.

Beyond the human intelligence that the CIA relies on to identify targets, Pakistani agents are sometimes present at U.S. bases, and are increasingly involved in target selection and strike coordination, current and former U.S. officials said.

Back in Washington, the technology is considered such a success that the U.S. military has been positioning Reaper drones at a base in the Horn of Africa.

The aircraft can be used against militants in Yemen and Somalia, and even potentially against pirates who attack commercial ships traversing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, officials said.

“Everyone has fallen in love with them,” a former U.S. intelligence official said of the drone strikes.

NOWHERE TO PUT THEM

By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad in the wake of Bush-era allegations of torture and secret detentions.

Besides putting an end to harsh interrogation methods, the president issued executive orders to ban secret CIA detention centers and close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: “There is nowhere to put them.”

A former U.S. intelligence official, who was involved in the process until recently, said: “I got the sense: ‘What the hell do we do with this guy if we get him?’ It’s not the primary consideration but it has to be a consideration.”

There are other reasons behind the expansion of the drone program, including improvements in drone technology.

“Many of the highest priority terrorists are in some of the remotest, most inaccessible, parts of our planet,” one U.S. official said of why targeted killing has gained favor. “Since they’re actively plotting against us and our allies, you’ve got two choices — kill or capture. When these people are where they are, and are doing what they’re doing, it’s just not a tough decision.”

The Obama White House chaffs at suggestions its policies could make it harder to capture wanted militants.

“Any comment along the lines of ‘there is nowhere to put captured militants’ would be flat wrong. Over the past 16 months, the U.S. has worked closely with its counterterrorism partners in South Asia and around the world to capture, detain, and interrogate hundreds of militants and terrorists,” a senior U.S. official said.

As the CIA program in Pakistan expands, the Pentagon’s own targeted killing programs, run by secretive Special Ops and intelligence units, have also been ramped up under Obama.

“There is little to no pushback” from the White House, according to one defense official who supports the policy. He said that when it came to adding wanted militants to top secret target lists, the Pentagon was getting “all the support it could want,” though some insiders think the military isn’t updating the lists fast enough.

For their part, U.S. officials say the targeted killing programs have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda and the Taliban, probably saving American lives in the process.

But as one former intelligence official, quoting Newton’s law of motion that every action has a reaction, said: there’s no way to know the consequences “upfront.”

There are signs that the drone strikes may have become a rallying cry for many militants and their supporters, including Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted car-bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1. U.S. investigators believe Shahzad received assistance from the Pakistani Taliban, which had vowed to avenge the killing of Mehsud.

Likewise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said its plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day was payback for what it called U.S. attacks on the group in Yemen.

COMMONPLACE KILLINGS

In a June 2007 debate with his Democratic rivals, then-candidate Obama spelled out why he believed it would be legal to use a Hellfire missile to take out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan even if some innocent civilians would be killed in the process.

“I don’t believe in assassinations, but Osama bin Laden has declared war on us, killed 3,000 people, and under existing law, including international law, when you’ve got a military target like bin Laden, you take him out. And if you have 20 minutes, you do it swiftly and surely,” Obama said.

Obama’s saber-rattling about using force in Pakistan was a way to “demonstrate his national security bona fides” in the middle of a tough campaign, said Richard Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who served as foreign policy adviser to Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 election.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, said the Obama administration ran with the drone program because, when it came to office, “it found itself with a real al Qaeda threat and one tool to work with.”

“I don’t think he (Obama) had really any alternatives. He seized the tool that was in front of him,” said Riedel, who chaired Obama’s strategic review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy that was completed in March 2009.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the strategy was “politically foolproof” because the mainstream candidates on both sides of the political spectrum “campaigned on who can kill more of these guys.”

Under Obama, the program has grown to such an extent that, according to a Reuters tally, the nearly 60 missiles fired from the CIA’s drones in Pakistan in the first four months of this year roughly matched the number fired by all of the drones piloted by the U.S. military in neighboring Afghanistan — the recognized war zone — during the same time period.

In Pakistan, the pace has jumped to two or three strikes a week, up roughly fourfold from the Bush years.

Of the 500 militants the agency believes the drones have killed since the summer of 2008, about 14 are widely considered to be top tier militant targets, while another 25 are considered mid-to-high-level organizers.

Independent tallies based on news accounts from the region put the deathtoll from drones since mid-2008 much higher — at anywhere from nearly 700 to around 1,200.

In addition to authorizing the CIA to strike fighters and leaders linked to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, Obama’s National Security Council recently took the program in a new direction by adding an American citizen to the CIA’s hit list — Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki of Yemen’s al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Obama administration says it has safeguards in place for identifying what it calls “lawful targets.” A U.S. counterterrorism official said: “Targets are chosen with extreme care… There’s no such thing as a random strike.”

But some human rights groups question how robust those safeguards could be if the CIA is killing hundreds of militants whose identities are largely unknown. They also worry about civilians.

A Pakistani intelligence official dealing with South Waziristan said the vast majority of the deaths were just foot soldiers. “They hit whoever they get,” another intelligence official in North Waziristan said.

A former U.S. intelligence official said it was unclear what protocols the CIA was following for targeting foot-soldiers: “If it becomes a more generalized ‘kill anybody’ (approach), it degrades the notion we’re going after serious threats to the United States. It’s a slippery slope.”

According to U.S. intelligence estimates, no more than 30 non-combatants were killed alongside the 500 militants — the equivalent of a little more than 5 percent, or about one out of every 20. These mainly included family members who live and travel with the CIA’s targets.

The CIA won’t disclose how it verifies who’s who among the casualties, but former officials say drones will linger overhead, in some cases for hours after each strike so the CIA can literally count the bodies.

To determine who is a civilian, the CIA looks at a number of indicators, including gender. As a general rule, a woman is counted as a non-combatant, former officials said.

The Pakistani intelligence officer in North Waziristan said 20 percent of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants, or one in five.

But others put the figure much higher. “The ratio is getting better but based on my military experience, there’s simply no way” so few civilians have been killed, Jeffrey Addicott, who served as the senior legal adviser to the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, said of the U.S. tally.

“For one bad guy you kill, you’d expect 1.5 civilian deaths” because no matter how good the technology, “killing from that high above, there’s always the ‘oops’ factor,” he said.

‘KILL THEM WHEN THEY’RE EATING’

To justify its extensive use of drones in targeted killings, Obama administration lawyers poured over reams of legal opinions and findings. They pointed to precedents as far back as World War Two, when a squadron of U.S. fighter planes tracked and shot down the airplane carrying the architect of Japan‘s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.

“In a different time and place, that action might have been seen as unchivalrous or unsportsmanlike,” Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, said of the 1943 targeted killing.

Like technology, battlefield norms “change by year, change by culture,” Crane said. “But taking out enemy leaders is an important part of warfare and has been going on for millennia.”

In a recent speech outlining the Obama administration’s position publicly, Harold Hongju Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, said: “The United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law.”

Scholars say Obama’s targeted killing doctrine appears to be little different from Bush’s: Once someone has been deemed a lawful target, the CIA has no obligation to warn or seek to detain that person before attacking, said Kenneth Anderson, professor of law at American University.

Other human rights lawyers argue that even in an armed conflict zone, individuals may be targeted only if they take a direct part in fighting. Outside armed conflict zones, they say, international law permits lethal force to be used only as a last resort, and only to prevent imminent attacks.

The United States officially bans “assassination” under Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, but Koh said “the use of lawful weapons systems … for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.’”

Mary Ellen O’Connell of the University of Notre Dame Law School said: “We just don’t have the right to bomb people where there’s no armed conflict,” drawing a contrast between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are waging a nearly nine-year-old war.

Even if militants use Pakistan as a staging ground for Afghan attacks, O’Connell said the sovereign boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan must be respected.

“The United States is not fighting in self-defense against Pakistan. We do not hold Pakistan responsible for cross-border incursions into Afghanistan and may not, lawfully, use military force in Pakistan in response to those incursions,” she said.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Forces, disagrees: “The battlefield in the ‘war on terror’ is global and not restricted to a particular nation. As in World War Two, there are no national limitations or boundaries. This is war and we are entitled to kill them anywhere we find them.”

“We can kill them when they’re eating, we can kill them when they’re sleeping. They are enemy combatants, and as long as they’re not surrendering, we can kill them.”

WEIGHING PROS-AND-CONS

Killing senior militants has its drawbacks. Chief among them is the loss of intelligence that could be gleaned by capturing and questioning them.

In secret documents from 2007 that were recently made public, then-CIA director Michael Hayden highlighted the value of capturing al Qaeda leaders. In an agency document, Hayden details how al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah became “one of our most important sources of intelligence on al Qaeda” after his March 2002 capture.

Among other things, he helped U.S. authorities identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, whose interrogation, in turn, led U.S. authorities to other high-value targets plotting attacks on U.S. soil.

“It is a balance, a difficult balance,” a U.S. military official said. “There’s no doubt about it, (targeted killing) impacts your ability to gather first person intelligence. But it has other beneficial effects like removing (leadership) capabilities.”

Riedel, the former CIA analyst now with the Brookings Institution, said drone strikes were effective at killing but “the real homerun is taking a senior leader prisoner who, in the course of debriefing, leads you to other senior people and opens the door to a greater insight into the enemy you’re facing.”

“It’s a Catch-22. What do you do with these guys? It’s a real policy dilemma which the Obama administration has yet to address,” a senior U.S. government official said.

In addition to the closing of Guantanamo, Obama has committed to transferring responsibility for detention facilities to the Afghan government.

Another senior U.S. government official cited the arrest in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as an example of the constraints on the CIA now that its secret “black site” prisons have been closed.

Though Baradar was nabbed in a joint operation with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, giving the CIA custody was never an option. Baradar has started talking but the U.S. government official said the information flow would be greater were he held in CIA custody.

U.S. military officials also cite an attack in September 2009 by helicopter-borne Special Operations Forces on a car in which one of east Africa’s most wanted al Qaeda militants, Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, was a passenger.

“We may have been able to capture the guy but the decision was made to kill him,” a U.S. defense official said of the Somali operation. A factor in the decision, the official said, was uncertainty about “what would we do with him” if he was captured alive.

In many instances, operations never get off the ground because of the risks.

A former U.S. intelligence official said there were discussions late in the Bush administration about the possibility of using armed drones to help Mexican fight narco-traffickers. But the idea of “shooting missiles on the outskirts of Mexico City” ran into opposition, he said.

The Pentagon also considered taking military action in Somalia as intelligence poured in early last year about pirates establishing large camps from which they could launch attacks on commercial ships, counterterrorism and defense officials told Reuters.

The Navy had gone so far as to draw up plans for “lethal strikes” on the camps but the idea was nixed in part because of concerns about civilian casualties and what the U.S. military would do with those who are injured or captured given the country’s lawless state. Some of the beachfront camps were set up in densely populated areas.

“The rhetorical question was: Should we go after the base camps,” one official said. “We didn’t go to their camps because of concerns about civilian casualties and about there not being a government there to turn them over to or to deal with the aftermath.”

NATO’s top commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, told Reuters there were “active discussions” now about “taking actions ashore,” from promoting development to discourage pirating to “burning skiffs, taking out camps.” He said drones were “part of our operational footprint wherever we go.”

PAKISTAN’S DEEPENING ROLE

An American diplomat tells a story about a meeting he had with Pakistani parliamentarians that offers a window into the tough position that nation is in when it comes to the drone attacks.

The message from each lawmaker seemed straightforward: CIA drone strikes against militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan cause terrible damage and must stop.

Then, in the middle of the session, according to an account provided to Reuters, one of the parliamentarians slipped the American guest, who specializes in the region, a handwritten note: “The people in the tribal areas support the drones. They cause very little collateral damage. But we cannot say so publicly for reasons you understand.”

U.S. officials say they go along with this “game” understanding that public acknowledgment of any Pakistani role in the U.S. targeted killings could have major implications for the government in Islamabad, already struggling in the face of militant accusations it is an American puppet.

A former U.S. intelligence official said the CIA was conducting the drone strikes instead of the U.S. military because the covert nature of the program gives Islamabad the “fig leaf of deniability.”

“They can’t stand up to their own people and say they’re in league with the U.S.,” the official said.

Anecdotal evidence cited by U.S. officials suggests that opposition to the drone strikes is stronger in major population centers, where the Taliban have less of a presence, than in the tribal areas, where the Taliban hold sway and the missiles rain down.

Significantly, U.S. and Pakistani officials say, there have been no major public protests against them, not even among the tribes being targeted.

Most of these attacks have targeted militant hideouts in remote mountainous areas, where there are few if any civilians. A tribal elder from North Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters: “People have chosen silence. They want to get rid of the Taliban and if the (Pakistani) army cannot do it now, then it (drone attacks) is fine with them.”

“As long as things are moving forward, people’s minds are changing. There is no anger against the strikes as long as civilians are safe. There have been civilian deaths but not in big numbers,” the elder told Reuters.

Another tribesman, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said: “We prefer drone strikes than army operations because in such operations, we also suffer. But drones hit militants and it is good for us.”

Brigadier Asad Munir, a retired ISI officer, said the drone attacks have become “routine” in the tribal areas. “If they find 10 targets a day, they will do it. It will not spark any fresh anger,” Munir said. “People have gotten used to it.”

BEHIND THE FACADE

The truth is the CIA would not be able to find the militants in many cases without the help of Pakistan’s spies and informants, officials say.

“You need guys on the ground to tell you who they (the targets) are and that isn’t coming from some white guy running around the FATA. That’s coming from the Pakistanis,” a U.S. official said, referring to the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border.

A Pakistan security expert, Ikram Sehgal, agreed. He said the intelligence underpinning the drone strikes has improved precisely because of increased Pakistani cooperation.

“The drone attacks after May last year have been very targeted and they have done a lot of good in terms of taking out the bad guys. And I think that has been possible because of the fact of Pakistan Army officers being in American camps in Afghanistan giving that actionable intelligence which is required,” he said.

As the raw intelligence from the drones pours in, Pakistani intelligence liaisons work directly with CIA and military teams in Pakistan and Afghanistan to avoid miscommunication with agents and informants in the field. “We have Pakistanis around to help with coordination,” a U.S. military official said.

But tension remains beneath the surface. While their leaders cooperate, many in the Pakistani military deeply resent the drone strikes, complicating efforts to bring Pakistan wholeheartedly on board in the battle against Islamist militants.

“This is a proud military and many hate the drone program because it is a constant reminder that they’re not in control,” a former U.S. intelligence official said.

CAN DRONES WIN THE WAR?

U.S. intelligence officials proudly tout the drone campaign as the most precise and possibly humane targeted killing program in the “history of warfare.”

The target selection process is a secret but, according to the former intelligence official, individuals who are nominated to be “high-value targets” must be vetted by CIA lawyers to determine if they pose “a continuing and imminent threat.”

The agency often uses specially designed missiles that have a small blast field with minimal shrapnel to limit “collateral damage”, as unwanted casualties are known in military circles. Targets are often killed by the concussion created by the explosion.

Recent advances in drone technology also help to reduce civilian casualties. A U.S. official said: “Weapons can be steered away at the last moment if there’s any possibility whatsoever that a non-combatant may be at risk. That speaks to the extreme precision of this system.”

An official who has watched several drone strikes recalled the precision with which a CIA operator focused one of the drone’s cameras on its target, identifying the wanted man by his missing left arm. A lawyer is always present, he said.

A senior U.S. government official said the strikes themselves may be more precise than ever, but target selection was only as good as the underlying intelligence.

While improved, U.S. officials acknowledge their limited ability to get first-hand intelligence. They rely heavily on satellite and drone imagery, and cell phone intercepts.

Even the Pakistanis have had difficulties in the past ensuring a reliable supply of intelligence in a region where people are often executed as spies.

One intelligence official estimated that as many as 70 Pakistani agents had been killed in the tribal areas and, at one point, areas around Miranshah in North Waziristan, the main Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the area, had become a black hole in terms of intelligence collection.

For some, however, it’s not the technology or intelligence as much as the strategy that is flawed.

Addicott, the former legal adviser to Army Special Operations Forces, asks: “Are we creating more enemies than we’re killing or capturing by our activities? Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. These families have 10 sons each. You kill one son and you create 9 more enemies. You’re not winning over the population.”

“Drones don’t impress them,” Addicott added. “In the mind of the radicals we’re cowards, we won’t fight face-to-face. This is what they teach in the madrassas.”

He is referring to the pro-Taliban religious schools which help produce many of the movement’s anti-American foot-soldiers.

According to Sehgal, who is chairman of Pathfinder G4S, Pakistan’s largest private security firm, these madrassas turn out between 7,000 and 15,000 “hard-core” students each year, eclipsing the number being killed by CIA drones and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Within the intelligence community, the verdict is still out on whether the CIA’s targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud degraded the Pakistani Taliban’s capabilities — one of the main objectives in any targeted killing.

Since his death last August, there have been fewer attacks against civilians in Pakistan — 1,019 between August 6, 2009 and April 30, 2010, compared to 1,875 attacks between October 1, 2008 and August 5, 2009, according to a review of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s database.

But a U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the data said the change was likely the result of Pakistani military offensives against militants in the tribal areas, rather than Mehsud’s death, noting a downward trend in attacks prior to the August drone strike that killed him.

Baitullah’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, may be even more ruthless.

“Although the number of attacks is down compared to before his death, the lethality is higher resulting in more deaths than normal for that level of attacks. That might indicate the militants are trying to maximize causalities or have changed tactics,” the counterterrorism official said.

What is clear is that the issue of whether this military strategy is succeeding or not is not receiving very much attention in policy circles in Washington.

John Rizzo, who served as the CIA’s top lawyer during the Bush administration, said he found it odd that while Bush-era interrogation methods like waterboarding came under sharp scrutiny, “all the while, of course, there were lethal operations going on, and think about it, there was never, as far as I could discern, ever, any debate, discussion, questioning … the United States targeting and killing terrorists.”

American University’s Anderson said that could change if human rights group seize on the issue. “It could be the whole interrogation and detention thing all over again,” he said.

Because of the sensitivities involved, the president himself has not brought up the drone controversy in public, with the exception of a joke at a black-tie dinner on May 1 attended by Washington journalists, politicians and celebrities.

Calling his two young daughters Sasha and Malia “huge fans” of the Jonas Brothers band, Obama cautioned the young pop stars: “Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you — Predator drones,” the president said to laughter.

“You will never see it coming.”

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Kamran Haider in Islamabad, Myra MacDonald in London and Phil Stewart and Caren Bohan in Washington; editing by Jim Impoco and Claudia Parsons)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64H5SL20100518

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Predator War risks of the CIA covert drone program

The Predator War

What are the risks of the C.I.A.’s covert drone program?

by Jane Mayer October 26, 2009

Covert Drones;

C.I.A. (Central Intelligence Agency);

Predator Drones;

Terrorists;

Assassinations;

Air Strikes;

Robotic Warfare

On August 5th, officials at the Central Intelligence Agency, in Langley, Virginia, watched a live video feed relaying closeup footage of one of the most wanted terrorists in Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, could be seen reclining on the rooftop of his father-in-law’s house, in Zanghara, a hamlet in South Waziristan. It was a hot summer night, and he was joined outside by his wife and his uncle, a medic; at one point, the remarkably crisp images showed that Mehsud, who suffered from diabetes and a kidney ailment, was receiving an intravenous drip.

The video was being captured by the infrared camera of a Predator drone, a remotely controlled, unmanned plane that had been hovering, undetected, two miles or so above the house. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, A. Rehman Malik, told me recently that Mehsud was resting on his back. Malik, using his hands to make a picture frame, explained that the Predator’s targeters could see Mehsud’s entire body, not just the top of his head. “It was a perfect picture,” Malik, who watched the videotape later, said. “We used to see James Bond movies where he talked into his shoe or his watch. We thought it was a fairy tale. But this was fact!” The image remained just as stable when the C.I.A. remotely launched two Hellfire missiles from the Predator. Authorities watched the fiery blast in real time. After the dust cloud dissipated, all that remained of Mehsud was a detached torso. Eleven others died: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards.

Pakistan’s government considered Mehsud its top enemy, holding him responsible for the vast majority of recent terrorist attacks inside the country, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in December, 2007, and the bombing, last September, of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which killed more than fifty people. Mehsud was also thought to have helped his Afghan confederates attack American and coalition troops across the border. Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official on the National Security Council, who is now a partner at Good Harbor, a consulting firm, told me, “Mehsud was someone both we and Pakistan were happy to see go up in smoke.” Indeed, there was no controversy when, a few days after the missile strike, CNN reported that President Barack Obama had authorized it.

However, at about the same time, there was widespread anger after the Wall Street Journal revealed that during the Bush Administration the C.I.A. had considered setting up hit squads to capture or kill Al Qaeda operatives around the world. The furor grew when the Times reported that the C.I.A. had turned to a private contractor to help with this highly sensitive operation: the controversial firm Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. Members of the Senate and House intelligence committees demanded investigations of the program, which, they said, had been hidden from them. And many legal experts argued that, had the program become fully operational, it would have violated a 1976 executive order, signed by President Gerald R. Ford, banning American intelligence forces from engaging in assassination.

Hina Shamsi, a human-rights lawyer at the New York University School of Law, was struck by the inconsistency of the public’s responses. “We got so upset about a targeted-killing program that didn’t happen,” she told me. “But the drone program exists. ” She said of the Predator program, “These are targeted international killings by the state.” The program, as it happens, also uses private contractors for a variety of tasks, including flying the drones. Employees of Xe Services maintain and load the Hellfire missiles on the aircraft. Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer, who now teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, observed, “People are a lot more comfortable with a Predator strike that kills many people than with a throat-slitting that kills one.” But, she added, “mechanized killing is still killing.”

The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.

Nevertheless, reports of fatal air strikes in Pakistan emerge every few days. Such stories are often secondhand and difficult to confirm, as the Pakistani government and the military have tried to wall off the tribal areas from journalists. But, even if a precise account is elusive, the outlines are clear: the C.I.A. has joined the Pakistani intelligence service in an aggressive campaign to eradicate local and foreign militants, who have taken refuge in some of the most inaccessible parts of the country.

The first two C.I.A. air strikes of the Obama Administration took place on the morning of January 23rd—the President’s third day in office. Within hours, it was clear that the morning’s bombings, in Pakistan, had killed an estimated twenty people. In one strike, four Arabs, all likely affiliated with Al Qaeda, died. But in the second strike a drone targeted the wrong house, hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children, one of them five years old. In keeping with U.S. policy, there was no official acknowledgment of either strike.

Since then, the C.I.A. bombardments have continued at a rapid pace. According to a just completed study by the New America Foundation, the number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President. During his first nine and a half months in office, he has authorized as many C.I.A. aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W. Bush did in his final three years in office. The study’s authors, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, report that the Obama Administration has sanctioned at least forty-one C.I.A. missile strikes in Pakistan since taking office—a rate of approximately one bombing a week. So far this year, various estimates suggest, the C.I.A. attacks have killed between three hundred and twenty-six and five hundred and thirty-eight people. Critics say that many of the victims have been innocent bystanders, including children.

In the last week of September alone, there were reportedly four such attacks—three of them in one twenty-four-hour period. At any given moment, a former White House counterterrorism official says, the C.I.A. has multiple drones flying over Pakistan, scouting for targets. According to the official, “there are so many drones” in the air that arguments have erupted over which remote operators can claim which targets, provoking “command-and-control issues.”

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the defense contractor that manufactures the Predator and its more heavily armed sibling, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government’s demand. The Air Force’s fleet has grown from some fifty drones in 2001 to nearly two hundred; the C.I.A. will not divulge how many drones it operates. The government plans to commission hundreds more, including new generations of tiny “nano” drones, which can fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.

With public disenchantment mounting over the U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan, and the Obama Administration divided over whether to escalate the American military presence there, many in Washington support an even greater reliance on Predator strikes. In this view, the U.S., rather than trying to stabilize Afghanistan by waging a counter-insurgency operation against Taliban forces, should focus purely on counterterrorism, and use the latest technology to surgically eliminate Al Qaeda leaders and their allies. In September, the conservative pundit George Will published an influential column in the Washington Post, “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan,” arguing that “America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.” Vice-President Joseph Biden reportedly holds a similar view.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of a “push-button” approach to fighting Al Qaeda, but the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the C.I.A. program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war. Should something go wrong in the C.I.A.’s program—last month, the Air Force lost control of a drone and had to shoot it down over Afghanistan—it’s unclear what the consequences would be.

The Predators in the C.I.A. program are “flown” by civilians, both intelligence officers and private contractors. According to a former counterterrorism official, the contractors are “seasoned professionals—often retired military and intelligence officials.” (The intelligence agency outsources a significant portion of its work.) Within the C.I.A., control of the unmanned vehicles is split among several teams. One set of pilots and operators works abroad, near hidden airfields in Afghanistan and Pakistan, handling takeoffs and landings. Once the drones are aloft, the former counterterrorism official said, the controls are electronically “slewed over” to a set of “reachback operators,” in Langley. Using joysticks that resemble video-game controls, the reachback operators—who don’t need conventional flight training—sit next to intelligence officers and watch, on large flat-screen monitors, a live video feed from the drone’s camera. From their suburban redoubt, they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target. A stream of additional “signal” intelligence, sent to Langley by the National Security Agency,* provides electronic means of corroborating that a target has been correctly identified. The White House has delegated trigger authority to C.I.A. officials, including the head of the Counter-Terrorist Center, whose identity remains veiled from the public because the agency has placed him under cover.

People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. “You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,” a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) Human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: “squirters.”

Peter W. Singer, the author of “Wired for War,” a recent book about the robotics revolution in modern combat, argues that the drone technology is worryingly “seductive,” because it creates the perception that war can be “costless.” Cut off from the realities of the bombings in Pakistan, Americans have been insulated from the human toll, as well as from the political and the moral consequences. Nearly all the victims have remained faceless, and the damage caused by the bombings has remained unseen. In contrast to Gaza, where the targeted killing of Hamas fighters by the Israeli military has been extensively documented—making clear that the collateral damage, and the loss of civilian life, can be severe—Pakistan’s tribal areas have become largely forbidden territory for media organizations. As a result, no videos of a drone attack in progress have been released, and only a few photographs of the immediate aftermath of a Predator strike have been published.

The seeming unreality of the Predator enterprise is also felt by the pilots. Some of them reportedly wear flight suits when they operate a drone’s remote controls. When their shifts end, of course, these cubicle warriors can drive home to have dinner with their families. Critics have suggested that unmanned systems, by sparing these combatants from danger and sacrifice, are creating what Sir Brian Burridge, a former British Air Chief Marshal in Iraq, has called “a virtueless war,” requiring neither courage nor heroism. According to Singer, some Predator pilots suffer from combat stress that equals, or exceeds, that of pilots in the battlefield. This suggests that virtual killing, for all its sterile trappings, is a discomfiting form of warfare. Meanwhile, some social critics, such as Mary Dudziak, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, argue that the Predator strategy has a larger political cost. As she puts it, “Drones are a technological step that further isolates the American people from military action, undermining political checks on . . . endless war.”

The advent of the Predator targeted-killing program “is really a sea change,” says Gary Solis, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Law Center and recently retired from running the law program at the U.S. Military Academy. “Not only would we have expressed abhorrence of such a policy a few years ago; we did.” In July, 2001, two months before Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington profoundly altered America’s mind-set, the U.S. denounced Israel’s use of targeted killing against Palestinian terrorists. The American Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, said at the time, “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations. . . . They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

Before September 11th, the C.I.A., which had been chastened by past assassination scandals, refused to deploy the Predator for anything other than surveillance. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism director, and Steven Simon, a former counterterrorism adviser, report in their 2002 book “The Age of Sacred Terror” that the week before Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. George Tenet, then the agency’s director, argued that it would be “a terrible mistake” for “the Director of Central Intelligence to fire a weapon like this.”

Yet once America had suffered terrorist attacks on its own soil the agency’s posture changed, and it petitioned the White House for new authority. Within days, President Bush had signed a secret Memorandum of Notification, giving the C.I.A. the right to kill members of Al Qaeda and their confederates virtually anywhere in the world. Congress endorsed this policy, passing a bill called the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Bush’s legal advisers modelled their rationale on Israel’s position against terrorism, arguing that the U.S. government had the right to use lethal force against suspected terrorists in “anticipatory” self-defense. By classifying terrorism as an act of war, rather than as a crime, the Bush Administration reasoned that it was no longer bound by legal constraints requiring the government to give suspected terrorists due process.

In November, 2002, top Bush Administration officials publicly announced a successful Predator strike against an Al Qaeda target, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Harethi was killed after a Hellfire missile vaporized the car in which he and five other passengers were riding, on a desert road in Yemen. Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Defense Secretary, praised the new tactic, telling CNN, “One hopes each time that you get a success like that, not only to have gotten rid of somebody dangerous but to have imposed changes in their tactics, operations, and procedures.”

At first, some intelligence experts were uneasy about drone attacks. In 2002, Jeffrey Smith, a former C.I.A. general counsel, told Seymour M. Hersh, for an article in this magazine, “If they’re dead, they’re not talking to you, and you create more martyrs.” And, in an interview with the Washington Post, Smith said that ongoing drone attacks could “suggest that it’s acceptable behavior to assassinate people. . . . Assassination as a norm of international conduct exposes American leaders and Americans overseas.”

Seven years later, there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy. “The things we were complaining about from Israel a few years ago we now embrace,” Solis says. Now, he notes, nobody in the government calls it assassination.

The Predator program is described by many in the intelligence world as America’s single most effective weapon against Al Qaeda. In May, Leon Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, referred to the Predator program as “the only game in town” in an unguarded moment after a public lecture. Counterterrorism officials credit drones with having killed more than a dozen senior Al Qaeda leaders and their allies in the past year, eliminating more than half of the C.I.A.’s twenty most wanted “high value” targets. In addition to Baitullah Mehsud, the list includes Nazimuddin Zalalov, a former lieutenant of Osama bin Laden; Ilyas Kashmiri, Al Qaeda’s chief of paramilitary operations in Pakistan; Saad bin Laden, Osama’s eldest son; Abu Sulayman al-Jazairi, an Algerian Al Qaeda planner who is believed to have helped train operatives for attacks in Europe and the United States; and Osama al-Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, Al Qaeda operatives who are thought to have played central roles in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in East Africa.

Juan Zarate, the Bush counterterrorism adviser, believes that “Al Qaeda is on its heels” partly because “so many bigwigs” have been killed by drones. Though he acknowledges that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group’s top leaders, remain at large, he estimates that no more than fifty members of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership still exist, along with two to three hundred senior members outside the terror organization’s “inner core.”

Zarate and other supporters of the Predator program argue that it has had positive ripple effects. Surviving militants are forced to operate far more cautiously, which diverts their energy from planning new attacks. And there is evidence that the drone strikes, which depend on local informants for targeting information, have caused debilitating suspicion and discord within the ranks. Four Europeans who were captured last December after trying to join Al Qaeda in Pakistan described a life of constant fear and distrust among the militants, whose obsession with drone strikes had led them to communicate only with elaborate secrecy and to leave their squalid hideouts only at night. As the Times has reported, militants have been so unnerved by the drone program that they have released a video showing the execution of accused informants. Pakistanis have also been gripped by rumors that paid C.I.A. informants have been planting tiny silicon-chip homing devices for the drones in the tribal areas.

The drone program, for all its tactical successes, has stirred deep ethical concerns. Michael Walzer, a political philosopher and the author of the book “Just and Unjust Wars,” says that he is unsettled by the notion of an intelligence agency wielding such lethal power in secret. “Under what code does the C.I.A. operate?” he asks. “I don’t know. The military operates under a legal code, and it has judicial mechanisms.” He said of the C.I.A.’s drone program, “There should be a limited, finite group of people who are targets, and that list should be publicly defensible and available. Instead, it’s not being publicly defended. People are being killed, and we generally require some public justification when we go about killing people.”

Since 2004, Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, has repeatedly tried, but failed, to get a response to basic questions about the C.I.A.’s program—first from the Bush Administration, and now from Obama’s. When he asked, in formal correspondence, for the C.I.A.’s legal justifications for targeted killings, he says, “they blew me off.” (A C.I.A. spokesperson told me that the agency “uses lawful, highly accurate, and effective tools and tactics to take the fight to Al Qaeda and its violent allies. That careful, precise approach has brought major success against a very dangerous and deadly enemy.”) Alston then presented a critical report on the drone program to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but, he says, the U.S. representatives ignored his concerns.

Alston describes the C.I.A. program as operating in “an accountability void,” adding, “It’s a lot like the torture issue. You start by saying we’ll just go after the handful of 9/11 masterminds. But, once you’ve put the regimen for waterboarding and other techniques in place, you use it much more indiscriminately. It becomes standard operating procedure. It becomes all too easy. Planners start saying, ‘Let’s use drones in a broader context.’ Once you use targeting less stringently, it can become indiscriminate.”

Under international law, in order for the U.S. government to legally target civilian terror suspects abroad it has to define a terrorist group as one engaging in armed conflict, and the use of force must be a “military necessity.” There must be no reasonable alternative to killing, such as capture, and to warrant death the target must be “directly participating in hostilities.” The use of force has to be considered “proportionate” to the threat. Finally, the foreign nation in which such targeted killing takes place has to give its permission.

Many lawyers who have looked at America’s drone program in Pakistan believe that it meets these basic legal tests. But they are nevertheless troubled, as the U.S. government keeps broadening the definition of acceptable high-value targets. Last March, the Obama Administration made an unannounced decision to win support for the drone program inside Pakistan by giving President Asif Ali Zardari more control over whom to target. “A lot of the targets are nominated by the Pakistanis—it’s part of the bargain of getting Pakistani coöperation,” says Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who has served as an adviser to the Obama Administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the New America Foundation’s study, only six of the forty-one C.I.A. drone strikes conducted by the Obama Administration in Pakistan have targeted Al Qaeda members. Eighteen were directed at Taliban targets in Pakistan, and fifteen were aimed specifically at Baitullah Mehsud. Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general and an authority on security issues, says that the U.S.’s tactical shift, along with the elimination of Mehsud, has quieted some of the Pakistani criticism of the American air strikes, although the bombings are still seen as undercutting the country’s sovereignty. But, given that many of the targeted Pakistani Taliban figures were obscure in U.S. counterterrorism circles, some critics have wondered whether they were legitimate targets for a Predator strike. “These strikes are killing a lot of low-level militants, which raises the question of whether they are going beyond the authorization to kill leaders,” Peter Bergen told me. Roger Cressey, the former National Security Council official, who remains a strong supporter of the drone program, says, “The debate is that we’ve been doing this so long we’re now bombing low-level guys who don’t deserve a Hellfire missile up their ass.” (In his view, “Not every target has to be a rock star.”)

The Obama Administration has also widened the scope of authorized drone attacks in Afghanistan. An August report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee disclosed that the Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List—the Pentagon’s roster of approved terrorist targets, containing three hundred and sixty-seven names—was recently expanded to include some fifty Afghan drug lords who are suspected of giving money to help finance the Taliban. These new targets are a step removed from Al Qaeda. According to the Senate report, “There is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds goes to Al Qaeda.” The inclusion of Afghan narcotics traffickers on the U.S. target list could prove awkward, some observers say, given that President Hamid Karzai’s running mate, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and the President’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are strongly suspected of involvement in narcotics. Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, who has written extensively on military matters, said, “Are they going to target Karzai’s brother?” He went on, “We should be very careful about who we define as the enemy we have to kill. Leaders of Al Qaeda, of course. But you can’t kill people on Tuesday and negotiate with them on Wednesday.”

Defining who is and who is not too tangential for the U.S. to kill can be difficult. John Radsan, a former lawyer in the C.I.A.’s office of general counsel, who is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “You can’t target someone just because he visited an Al Qaeda Web site. But you also don’t want to wait until they’re about to detonate a bomb. It’s a sliding scale.” Equally fraught is the question of how many civilian deaths can be justified. “If it’s Osama bin Laden in a house with a four-year-old, most people will say go ahead,” Radsan says. “But if it’s three or four children? Some say that’s too many. And if he’s in a school? Many say don’t do it.” Such judgment calls are being made daily by the C.I.A., which, Radsan points out, “doesn’t have much experience with killing. Traditionally, the agency that does that is the Department of Defense.”

Though the C.I.A.’s methodology remains unknown, the Pentagon has created elaborate formulas to help the military make such lethal calculations. A top military expert, who declined to be named, spoke of the military’s system, saying, “There’s a whole taxonomy of targets.” Some people are approved for killing on sight. For others, additional permission is needed. A target’s location enters the equation, too. If a school, hospital, or mosque is within the likely blast radius of a missile, that, too, is weighed by a computer algorithm before a lethal strike is authorized. According to the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, the U.S. military places no name on its targeting list until there are “two verifiable human sources” and “substantial additional evidence” that the person is an enemy.

In Israel, which conducts unmanned air strikes in the Palestinian territories, the process of identifying targets, in theory at least, is even more exacting. Military lawyers have to be convinced that the target can’t reasonably be captured, and that he poses a threat to national security. Military specialists in Arab culture also have to be convinced that the hit will do more good than harm. “You have to be incredibly cautious,” Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah, says. From 1994 to 1997, he advised Israeli commanders on targeted killings in the Gaza Strip. “Not everyone is at the level appropriate for targeted killing,” he says. “You want a leader, the hub with many spokes.” Guiora, who follows the Predator program closely, fears that national-security officials here lack a clear policy and a firm definition of success. “Once you start targeted killing, you better make damn sure there’s a policy guiding it,” he says. “It can’t be just catch-as-catch-can.”

Daniel Byman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, argues that, when possible, “it’s almost always better to arrest terrorists than to kill them. You get intelligence then. Dead men tell no tales.” The C.I.A.’s killing of Saad bin Laden, Osama’s son, provides a case in point. By the time that Saad bin Laden had reached Pakistan’s tribal areas, late last year, there was little chance that any law-enforcement authority could capture him alive. But, according to Hillary Mann Leverett, an adviser to the National Security Council between 2001 and 2003, the Bush Administration would have had several opportunities to interrogate Saad bin Laden earlier, if it had been willing to make a deal with Iran, where, according to U.S. intelligence, he lived occasionally after September 11th. “The Iranians offered to work out an international framework for transferring terror suspects, but the Bush Administration refused,” she said. In December, 2008, Saad bin Laden left Iran for Pakistan; within months, according to NPR, a Predator missile had ended his life. “We absolutely did not get the most we could,” Leverett said. “Saad bin Laden would have been very, very valuable in terms of what he knew. He probably would have been a gold mine.”

Byman is working on a book about Israel’s experiences with counterterrorism, including targeted killing. Though the strikes there have weakened the Palestinian leadership, he said, “if you use these tools wrong, you can lose the moral high ground, which is going to hurt you. Inevitably, some of the intelligence is going to be wrong, so you’re always rolling the dice. That’s the reality of real-time intelligence.”

Indeed, the history of targeted killing is marked by errors. In 1973, for example, Israeli intelligence agents murdered a Moroccan waiter by mistake. They thought that he was a terrorist who had been involved in slaughtering Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, a year earlier. And in 1986 the Reagan Administration attempted to retaliate against the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for his suspected role in the deadly bombing of a disco frequented by American servicemen in Germany. The U.S. launched an air strike on Qaddafi’s household. The bombs missed him, but they did kill his fifteen-month-old daughter.

The C.I.A.’s early attempts at targeting Osama bin Laden were also problematic. After Al Qaeda blew up the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, in August, 1998, President Bill Clinton retaliated, by launching seventy-five Tomahawk cruise missiles at a site in Afghanistan where bin Laden was expected to attend a summit meeting. According to reports, the bombardment killed some twenty Pakistani militants but missed bin Laden, who had left the scene hours earlier.

The development of the Predator, in the early nineteen-nineties, was supposed to help eliminate such mistakes. The drones can hover above a target for up to forty hours before refuelling, and the precise video footage makes it much easier to identify targets. But the strikes are only as accurate as the intelligence that goes into them. Tips from informants on the ground are subject to error, as is the interpretation of video images. Not long before September 11, 2001, for instance, several U.S. counterterrorism officials became certain that a drone had captured footage of bin Laden in a locale he was known to frequent in Afghanistan. The video showed a tall man in robes, surrounded by armed bodyguards in a diamond formation. At that point, drones were unarmed, and were used only for surveillance. “The optics were not great, but it was him,” Henry Crumpton, then the C.I.A.’s top covert-operations officer for the region, told Time. But two other former C.I.A. officers, who also saw the footage, have doubts. “It’s like an urban legend,” one of them told me. “They just jumped to conclusions. You couldn’t see his face. It could have been Joe Schmo. Believe me, no tall man with a beard is safe anywhere in Southwest Asia.” In February, 2002, along the mountainous eastern border of Afghanistan, a Predator reportedly followed and killed three suspicious Afghans, including a tall man in robes who was thought to be bin Laden. The victims turned out to be innocent villagers, gathering scrap metal.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the local informants, who also serve as confirming witnesses for the air strikes, are notoriously unreliable. A former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th told me that an Afghan source had once sworn to him that one of Al Qaeda’s top leaders was being treated in a nearby clinic. The former officer said that he could barely hold off an air strike after he passed on the tip to his superiors. “They scrambled together an élite team,” he recalled. “We caught hell from headquarters. They said ‘Why aren’t you moving on it?’ when we insisted on checking it out first.” It turned out to be an intentionally false lead. “Sometimes you’re dealing with tribal chiefs,” the former officer said. “Often, they say an enemy of theirs is Al Qaeda because they just want to get rid of somebody. Or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable, so that they could make money. You couldn’t take their word.”

The consequences of bad ground intelligence can be tragic. In September, a NATO air strike in Afghanistan killed between seventy and a hundred and twenty-five people, many of them civilians, who were taking fuel from two stranded oil trucks; they had been mistaken for Taliban insurgents. (The incident is being investigated by NATO.) According to a reporter for the Guardian, the bomb strike, by an F-15E fighter plane, left such a tangle of body parts that village elders resorted to handing out pieces of unidentifiable corpses to the grieving families, so that they could have something to bury. One Afghan villager told the newspaper, “I took a piece of flesh with me home and I called it my son.”

Predator drones, with their superior surveillance abilities, have a better track record for accuracy than fighter jets, according to intelligence officials. Also, the drone’s smaller Hellfire missiles are said to cause far less collateral damage. Still, the recent campaign to kill Baitullah Mehsud offers a sobering case study of the hazards of robotic warfare. It appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes, and fourteen months, before the C.I.A. succeeded in killing him. During this hunt, between two hundred and seven and three hundred and twenty-one additional people were killed, depending on which news accounts you rely upon. It’s all but impossible to get a complete picture of whom the C.I.A. killed during this campaign, which took place largely in Waziristan. Not only has the Pakistani government closed off the region to the outside press; it has also shut out international humanitarian organizations like the International Committee for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. “We can’t get within a hundred kilometres of Waziristan,” Brice de la Vingne, the operational coördinator for Doctors Without Borders in Pakistan, told me. “We tried to set up an emergency room, but the authorities wouldn’t give us authorization.”

A few Pakistani and international news stories, most of which rely on secondhand sources rather than on eyewitness accounts, offer the basic details. On June 14, 2008, a C.I.A. drone strike on Mehsud’s home town, Makeen, killed an unidentified person. On January 2, 2009, four more unidentified people were killed. On February 14th, more than thirty people were killed, twenty-five of whom were apparently members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, though none were identified as major leaders. On April 1st, a drone attack on Mehsud’s deputy, Hakimullah Mehsud, killed ten to twelve of his followers instead. On April 29th, missiles fired from drones killed between six and ten more people, one of whom was believed to be an Al Qaeda leader. On May 9th, five to ten more unidentified people were killed; on May 12th, as many as eight people died. On June 14th, three to eight more people were killed by drone attacks. On June 23rd, the C.I.A. reportedly killed between two and six unidentified militants outside Makeen, and then killed dozens more people—possibly as many as eighty-six—during funeral prayers for the earlier casualties. An account in the Pakistani publication The News described ten of the dead as children. Four were identified as elderly tribal leaders. One eyewitness, who lost his right leg during the bombing, told Agence France-Presse that the mourners suspected what was coming: “After the prayers ended, people were asking each other to leave the area, as drones were hovering.” The drones, which make a buzzing noise, are nicknamed machay (“wasps”) by the Pashtun natives, and can sometimes be seen and heard, depending on weather conditions. Before the mourners could clear out, the eyewitness said, two drones started firing into the crowd. “It created havoc,” he said. “There was smoke and dust everywhere. Injured people were crying and asking for help.” Then a third missile hit. “I fell to the ground,” he said.

The local population was clearly angered by the Pakistani government for allowing the U.S. to target a funeral. (Intelligence had suggested that Mehsud would be among the mourners.) An editorial in The News denounced the strike as sinking to the level of the terrorists. The Urdu newspaper Jang declared that Obama was “shutting his ears to the screams of thousands of women whom your drones have turned into dust.” U.S. officials were undeterred, continuing drone strikes in the region until Mehsud was killed.

After such attacks, the Taliban, attempting to stir up anti-American sentiment in the region, routinely claims, falsely, that the victims are all innocent civilians. In several Pakistani cities, large protests have been held to decry the drone program. And, in the past year, perpetrators of terrorist bombings in Pakistan have begun presenting their acts as “revenge for the drone attacks.” In recent weeks, a rash of bloody assaults on Pakistani government strongholds has raised the spectre that formerly unaligned militant groups have joined together against the Zardari Administration.

David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency warfare expert who has advised General David Petraeus in Iraq, has said that the propaganda costs of drone attacks have been disastrously high. Militants have used the drone strikes to denounce the Zardari government—a shaky and unpopular regime—as little more than an American puppet. A study that Kilcullen co-wrote for the Center for New American Security, a think tank, argues, “Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new revenge feud, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.” His co-writer, Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger who has advised General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, told me, “Neither Kilcullen nor I is a fundamentalist—we’re not saying drones are not part of the strategy. But we are saying that right now they are part of the problem. If we use tactics that are killing people’s brothers and sons, not to mention their sisters and wives, we can work at cross-purposes with insuring that the tribal population doesn’t side with the militants. Using the Predator is a tactic, not a strategy.”

Exum says that he’s worried by the remote-control nature of Predator warfare. “As a military person, I put myself in the shoes of someone in FATA”—Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas—“and there’s something about pilotless drones that doesn’t strike me as an honorable way of warfare,” he said. “As a classics major, I have a classical sense of what it means to be a warrior.” An Iraq combat veteran who helped design much of the military’s doctrine for using unmanned drones also has qualms. He said, “There’s something important about putting your own sons and daughters at risk when you choose to wage war as a nation. We risk losing that flesh-and-blood investment if we go too far down this road.”

Bruce Riedel, who has been deeply involved in these debates during the past few years, sees the choices facing Obama as exceedingly hard. “Is the drone program helping or hurting?” he asked. “It’s a tough question. These are not cost-free operations.” He likened the drone attacks to “going after a beehive, one bee at a time.” The problem is that, inevitably, “the hive will always produce more bees.” But, he said, “the only pressure currently being put on Pakistan and Afghanistan is the drones.” He added, “It’s really all we’ve got to disrupt Al Qaeda. The reason the Administration continues to use it is obvious: it doesn’t really have anything else.” ♦

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer

*Correction, December 1, 2009: The original sentence said, incorrectly, “National Security Administration.”
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer#ixzz0rcNJ38jQ

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American Enterprise Institute article defending drone warfare

Wolves Circle the CIA’s Predator Program

By Marc Thiessen

June 7, 2010, 3:39 pm

In today’s Washington Post, I discuss how the political winds are already shifting when it comes to the CIA’s Predator program. Having brought down the agency’s high-value interrogation program, the Left has now begun agitating to stop the drone attacks that are taking out high-ranking al Qaeda leaders, and to lay the groundwork to prosecute those authorizing and conducting them.

For years, the drone program got a pass as critics lashed out at the agency’s interrogation program. In my book, Courting Disaster, I quote one former CIA official who regularly briefed Congress, and described how he would show members of Congress videos of Predator strikes, and they would cheer the scenes of destruction—and then moments later grill and berate him over the agency’s interrogation methods. Former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo pointed out in a recent speech that at the very same time the agency was waterboarding Abu Zubaydah and KSM, the CIA was also carrying out lethal operations against terrorists—yet “there was never, ever, as far as I could discern, any debate, discussion, questioning on moral or legal grounds about the efficacy of the United States targeting and killing terrorists.”

Now that questioning has begun. Last week, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, issued a report which says that CIA officials involved in the drone program may be in legal jeopardy. Why? Because outside of Afghanistan and Iraq we cannot use tools of war for what is essentially a law enforcement matter. Alston writes that the United States may have “unilaterally extend[ed] the law of armed conflict to situations that are essentially matters of law enforcement,” and says that “outside the context of armed conflict, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”

This is the crux of the Left’s case against the drones. Predator strikes may be lawful inside the confines of acknowledged war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. But beyond the borders of these countries, the war on terror is really not a war at all—it is a law enforcement operation. As the ACLU put it in a letter to President Obama, “The entire world is not a war zone, and wartime tactics that may be permitted on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be deployed anywhere in the world where a terrorism suspect happens to be located.” Note the law enforcement term “terrorism suspect.”

The distinction between war and law enforcement is important because in war we can target and kill the enemy without warning. But while law enforcement personnel can kill a “suspect” in the line of duty, they cannot set out to kill him in a premeditated fashion. As the UN special rapporteur notes, “it may be legal for law enforcement personnel to shoot to kill based on the imminence of the threat, but the goal of the operation, from its inception, should not be to kill.” Yet that is precisely the goal of Predator strikes. So if the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and North Africa is not part of a broader “war on terror,” then, the logic goes, Predators cannot be used to take out terrorist “suspects.”

The UN special rapporteur also lashes out against the secrecy of the drone program, declaring in his report that the U.S. refusal “to provide any transparency about their policies violates the international legal framework that limits the unlawful use of lethal force against individuals.” He says the United States must “disclose the measures in place to investigate alleged unlawful targeted killings and either to identify and prosecute perpetrators, or to extradite them to another state” as well as “the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective, independent, and public investigations of alleged violations of law.”

The first step to killing a covert program is to expose it, so expect to see increasing calls for “openness” and “transparency.”

The Obama administration has thus far adopted a strategy of defending the legality of the drone attacks without acknowledging the existence of the drone program or revealing the details of how it chooses targets or carries out attacks. In March, State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh declared that “all U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Good luck with that. This is exactly the approach the Bush administration took with the enhanced interrogation program. Such broad assertions did not work for Bush when it came to terrorist interrogation, and they won’t placate Obama’s Predator critics either.

CIA Director Leon Panetta has said of the drone attacks, “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.” Now that the CIA interrogation program is dead, that is true. But the Left will not rest until every effective tool we have to keep the country safe has been dismantled. The battle over the drones has only just begun.

http://blog.american.com/?p=15098

Deadly Drones: Immoral Weapons of Civilian Destruction

By michael payne (about the author)

opednews.com

For OpEdNews: michael payne – Writer

I call the drones being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan WCD’s, weapons of civilian destruction. Here we have a new generation of weapons designed to conduct military actions without exposing our troops to danger. The problem with that seemingly positive objective is that in the process of protecting our troops these new weapons have been raining indiscriminate death upon innocent civilians.

Most of America is still not aware of the rapidly escalating program for using these WCD’s in the war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But more and more writers are spreading the word about the use of these highly sophisticated drones, the Predator and the more heavily armed Reaper. The Air Force is said to have 200 drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with many more being manufactured.

There are two drone programs being run by the U.S. government. One operates in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military to go after the insurgents in support of our troops.

Air force operators control the drones from locations such as Creech Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The other program is operated by the C.I.A. and is designed to hunt down terrorists in various regions of the world. The C.I.A. drones use air bases in Afghanistan under the guidance of controllers located in Langley, Virginia.

Since he assumed the office of the U.S. presidency, President Obama has authorized many drone strikes in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes have targeted and killed any number of important Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to be sure. But in doing so they have also killed several hundred innocent civilians; men, women and children.

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker, “Seems like President Barack Obama �” Nobel Peace Laureate – has taken his predecessor’s predator drone program and jacked it up with steroids. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week that the number of Obama-authorized strikes in Pakistan equals the sum launched by the Bush Administration — in the last three years of his tenure. Wow. And the Republicans were worried that he wouldn’t be “man” enough”. Who says he hasn’t done anything?

President Obama and the military leaders see this new generation of weaponry as a very effective tool in the so-called War on Terror. But it is very difficult to understand why they cannot comprehend the massive blowback will come from enraged villagers who will become insurgents to get revenge. There is much evidence that for every drone strike that results in killing innocent civilians the insurgent forces are able to recruit scores of new recruits to aid their cause. There are reports that the drone war is bringing in hundreds of recruits from other nations in the region who are reacting to the carnage.

This appears to be one of those situations in which the use of napalm, white phosphorus weapons and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War enraged the population and resulted in a tremendous blowback. At that time, our military was under the impression that such shock and awe administered on the nation of Vietnam would bring them to their knees. In fact, the result was exactly the opposite when, after 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives, our military was forced to quickly exit that war when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.

You know, if drones were used properly, there could be a place for them around the world. It has been reported that the U.K., Australia, Germany and Italy have begun to experiment with drones for border patrols, to curtail illegal fishing, for illegal immigration and for drug enforcement. So more and more nations are beginning to acquire these drones for apparent peaceful uses. But just consider what might happen if, at some point in time, numerous nations with sizable fleets of drones might begin using them in military operations such as border disputes, typically such as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Where is our nation headed morally? Not long ago, the question of torture was all over the news and there was a furious debate going on about its moral implications. Then the issue just disappeared when Mr. Obama just looked away, with time to only look forward and not dwell on the past. And so, we Americans also let the matter drop.

Now we have another great moral issue with these deadly, lethal drones. Their use and the devastating impact on innocent civilians apparently doesn’t register with our president either as he remains completely silent on the entire matter. He is just looking away. And so, are we the people once again going to let the matter just drop?

When we Americans are witnesses to these extremely moral issues, will we simply look away? Is that what America has become?

Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Deadly-drones-immoral-wea-by-michael-payne-091021-444.html

US drone strikes are of limited value, says report

Saturday, February 27, 2010
WASHINGTON: The US drone program in Pakistan has probably reached the “outer limits of its utility” and robs intelligence forces of valuable information while angering Pakistanis, a new report said Thursday.

The United States has ramped up its use of the unmanned weapons, with President Barack Obama ordering more strikes in 2009 than were authorized in the eight years prior. But the report by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann at the New America Foundation, a Washington based think-tank, argues that the tactic is counterproductive.

“The drone program has probably reached the outer limit of its utility,” Bergen said in presenting the study. The weapons have reportedly killed some high-level militants in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), including Baitullah Mahsud — the most wanted militant and one-time leader of the Taliban.

But the report calculates that civilians account for 32 percent of the people killed in drone strikes from 2004 to today.The strikes also do not appear to have interrupted training programs in the tribal areas, where fighters are prepared for combat in Afghanistan or to launch attacks in the West.

The report cites the example of Najibullah Zazi, a naturalized American citizen who received explosives training in tribal area in preparation for a planned terror attack in the United States.

“He had picked up this technical knowledge in training camps in Pakistan’s Fata during the fall of 2008 when the drone program was going into full swing,” the report said.Meanwhile, suicide attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have increased alongside the rise in drone strikes.

“If the drone attacks are so successful, why is it that in 2009 you had more suicide attacks, almost all conducted by groups based in Fata than in any year previously?” Bergen said. Assassinating militants also robs US and Pakistani forces of potentially invaluable information that could be obtained during interrogations and evidence in the form of documents, cell phones or other materials captured along with detainees, the report said.

The US military has increasingly used drone strikes as an alternative to sending troops into Pakistan or relying on Pakistani forces who have at times appeared reluctant to target militants in their territory.

But Bergen said recent arrests of senior Taliban members, including the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi, suggested a Pakistan change of heart. “Pakistan’s a big country and Fata’s a tiny part of it, so the fact that they’re now picking people up in Karachi or other parts of the country is a major change,” he said.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=226455

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Predator adds to history of secret killings

Published: Monday, November 23, 2009

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By Nat Hentoff

EXCEPTIONALLY alert investigative reporter Ari Shapiro said in October that many national security experts he interviewed agree “it has become so hard for the U.S. to detain people that in many instances, the U.S. government is killing them instead.”

The CIA’s secret Predator drone attacks on suspected terrorists in Pakistan are doing just that.

Jane Mayer in The New Yorker wrote: “The embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion.

“It represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the CIA program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.”

I have an essential correction for her powerfully valuable article. These secret, U.S. targeted killings are not new. If history classes ever resume, it’s important — since global terrorism has no discernible end — for students to know and debate whether extra-judicial killings accompanying deaths of innocent civilians is at odds with America’s values and laws.

In 1977, an executive order by President Gerald Ford commanded that “no employee” of the federal government “shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” President Jimmy Carter expanded the Ford order to include all assassinations. President Ronald Reagan ordered “no person employed by or acting on behalf of” the United States shall engage in assassination.

Then, based on a classified legal memorandum that gave President Bill Clinton authority to sidestep the three previous presidential bans on targeted assassinations, President George W. Bush issued a “Memorandum of Notification” on Sept. 17, 2001, as reported by Bob Woodward.

This authorized the CIA to operate freely in Afghanistan with paramilitary teams and to go after al-Qaida “on a worldwide scale, using lethal covert action to keep the role of the United States hidden,” Woodward found.

President Barack Obama, as he has continued other Bush-Cheney legacies, is permitting the CIA to operate freely with its dread pilotless drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With regard to Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported that “although the U.N. says most civilian casualties have been at the hands of militants” — why doesn’t the AP say it like it is: terrorists? — “deaths of men, women and children in NATO airstrikes have raised tensions between (Hamid) Karzai’s government and the U.S.-led coalition.”

Again, say it plain that the U.S. is very much involved in the NATO airstrikes — in addition to drone planes — that murder children, women and men who are not even suspected to be “militants.”

Just as Mayer’s article generated little follow-up in the press, neither has the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock’s revelations on Obama-authorized extra-judicial killings of dealers in opium in Afghanistan.

Without any system of accountability in courts or Congress, “The U.S. military,” Whitlock writes, “and NATO officials have authorized their forces to kill or capture individuals on the list, which was drafted within the past year as part of NATO’s new strategy to combat drug operations that finance the Taliban.”

What’s wrong with that — aside from our Constitution’s separation of powers? Whitlock emphasizes there is “fierce opposition from Afghan officials, who say it could undermine their fragile justice system and trigger a backlash against foreign troops.”

The Afghan families of those inadvertently killed in implementing this hit list are deeply angry at this lethal operation.

Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister for counter-narcotics operations, Gen. Mohammad Daud Daud, said he’s grateful for NATO-U.S. help “in destroying drug labs and stashes of opium.” But about those killings, he adds, the names on the hit list are not told to Afghan officials.

Said Daud: “They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes. We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own.” Note: Arrest, not kill instantly.

But, these allies of Afghanistan don’t respect their own laws and legal codes.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Bush assured the world: “We will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms.”

Haven’t we changed our Constitution? Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Nat Hentoff is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He wrote this article for Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2009/11/23/opinion/doc4b0a00d707a1a162529657.txt

Illegal and ineffective?

Drone strikes and targetted killing in ‘the war on terror’

Federico Sperotto, 17 March 2010

Subjects:

The use of drone strikes in Pakistan and around the world has been attacked as counterproductive and ineffective but the question of whether such strikes are legal is less frequently raised. When and where does a drone strike contravene international law, and what are the implications of their illegal use for the hoped-for spread of the rule of law to the present battlegrounds of ‘the war on terror’?

In November 2002, a CIA drone armed with Hellfire missiles struck the car in which the mastermind of the attack against the USS Cole, affiliated to Al-Qaeda, was crossing the desert of Yemen.[i] Today the US is recognized to have two different targeted killing programs, one linked to operations in Afghanistan in support of US troops on the battlefield; the other, covert and managed by the Agency, in support of national foreign policy objectives abroad, focused on al-Qaeda elements in the tribal areas of Pakistan.[ii] Both are centred on drones.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones, i.e. powered aerial vehicles piloted remotely,[iii] well-known as means of battlefield surveillance, today can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload. They began to serve in Afghanistan by early October 2001, when Operation Enduring Freedom started. Coalition forces are today deploying Predator MQ-1, armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, for armed reconnaissance and engagement; And the MQ-9 Reaper, which can carry Hellfire anti-armour missiles and laser-guided bombs.[iv] Predators and Reapers are becoming essential resources in the counterinsurgency campaign.[v] They make possible unprecedented levels of surveillance and target acquisition, guaranteeing systematic and real time observation of the area of operations. Furthermore, they are successfully employed in support of ground troops who come under enemy fire and for the targeted killing of a specific individual. Equipped with precision ammunition, these platforms, lingering over targets for hours, unify the advantage of close air support conducted through conventional aircraft with a lower audible footprint.

The legality of drone strikes in the context of an armed conflict depends on interpretation of international humanitarian law, specifically those laws governing the conduct of hostilities. Unplanned and troops-in-contact interventions most risk contravening humanitarian law. To ensure legal conformity with the principles of discrimination, proportionality, necessity, and precaution, the rules of engagement require the positive identification of the target (PID). Although strikes on individuals carried out in self-defence, when troops come under attack or when terrorists are about to attack, are lawful, questions remain as to the use of excessive force and collateral damage, in terms of civilian casualties.

Drones have also successfully targeted senior terrorist figures in so-called “named killing” operations. In those cases, strikes require a vast work of intelligence for the identification of the target and its constant surveillance. Ground-level information has proved extremely important. Thus, in numerous cases there was time to elaborate a plan for the strike as well as plan a special operation to arrest the target. The targeted killing option prevails when the costs and benefits of a ground operation are considered unfavourable. That evaluation must stand the proportionality test, weighing anticipated military advantage against civilian deaths, as well as the principle of necessity and distinction. Violations of these standards make the operation illegal.

Collateral damage in the use of such sophisticated machines is one of their main constraints, even when their employment is formally consistent with international humanitarian law. Several reports have revealed a 1:50 casualties rate (for each targeted individual, there are 50 collateral casualties, not to speak of loss of property).[vi] Daniel Byman argued in Foreign Affairs that Predator attacks force the enemy to concentrate on defence rather than offense. Referring to operations conducted in the West Bank and Gaza, he observed that this positive outcome is confronted by the fact that Israel found it hard to kill terrorists only. [vii] According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, since the second Intifada (uprising) broke out in November 2000, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed more than 300 Palestinians in targeted operations, more than 130 of whom were bystanders. In 2004, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, was killed in Gaza by a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter, together with seven other persons. In the air strike against Salah Shehadeh, the leader of Hamas’ military wing Iz Adin al-Kassam, sixteen civilians died. Planners did not use feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians, violating combatant-civilian distinction, and/or considered the collateral damage an acceptable price for the killing of senior militants, violating the right to life of relatives, bystanders and neighbours.

The extension of the battlefield beyond the effective zone of operations, implying a right to kill without warning the enemies of a state anywhere, seems to the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions unjustified. In 2004, he defined the strike in Yemen as a clear case of extrajudicial killing.[viii] In the aftermath of the killing, The New York Times commented that “the missile strike represented a tougher phase of the campaign against terror and moved the Bush administration away from the law enforcement-based tactics of arrest and detention of al-Qaeda suspects that it had employed outside Afghanistan in the months since the fighting here ended.”[ix]

The use of force outside the real battlefield is regulated by human rights law and thus justified only if the targeted individual is about to kill someone. The terrorists killed in Yemen in 2002 were formally under the jurisdiction of Yemen, which had granted permission to the US operations. Formally, the suspects were not under US authority and control, since US representatives had not apprehended them. However, as Yemen did not have any control over the C.I.A.’s operation, they could be judged to be in the hands of the US, as a high–tech combat aircraft was tracking their car in order to assassinate them.[x] Since they were killed outside the zone of operation (Afghanistan), the employment of a lethal strike had to satisfy certain conditions. These were a threat to human life or integrity posed by the target, no reasonable alternative to the killing, and a use of force proportionate to the threat. At the time, these conditions were ignored.

In December 2009, the Obama administration authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, in parallel with the decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.[xi] The increase in the employment of this kind of weapon systems, considered as force multipliers in the zone of operations and actually stationed in Afghanistan, if used outside the battlefield, raises some questions.

In the Afghan war, the zone of operation coincides with the boundaries of that country, as US troops have a limited right to (hot) pursuit of the insurgents across its border and within Pakistan, where they may use only responsive force, as a form of self-defence, while ISAF cannot operate beyond the border. The use of drones within the zone of operation, by NATO-led ISAF or the US-led Enduring Freedom coalition, against those who directly participate in hostilities is legal. What the law does not permit is disproportionate force, and willful or reckless indiscriminate targeting.

In Pakistan, as well as in other hot spots of the globe outside the theatre of war, human rights should have primacy in regulating the employment of lethal weapons. In targeting al-Qaeda operatives, the US is exercising military force extraterritorially and outside the context of an armed conflict, and thus it has to implement the regime imposed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Thus, the US should follow a law enforcement model, which imposes first a less rapid and more risky effort to arrest terrorists, reserving lethal strike for extreme situations justified by self-defence.

In law enforcement, a targeted killing is a lethal strike to defend a victim who is at risk of death or grave bodily harm, in an in extremis situation, and after the escalation of force which has precluded the non-lethal resolution.[xii] The use of force must be reasonably necessary and proportional to protect human life, considering that the deprivation of life of the attacker is arbitrary when the force used is disproportionate to the actual danger.

Due to those numerous constraints, to engage in targeted killing outside an armed conflict often equates to murder. Outside of warfare and the confines of military necessity, a strike would be a violation of the right to life of the targeted individual, and consequently an arbitrary killing.

Chronicles report a significant aerial campaign, devoted to tracking and killing terrorist operatives, along the permeable frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan. Those in favour of the employment of precision weapons to kill named enemy fighters recovering far from the battlefield focus on the value of the target, considered a public enemy whose killing is indispensable, while little attention is placed on his/her human rights. Worse, the rights of his/her relatives are not considered at all. In northwest Pakistan, society has a tribal structure and families are extended. People live concentrated in hamlets and compounds. Predators and Reapers are precision weapons platforms, but the radius of the blast of a Hellfire missile always includes those who are relatively close to the target, and the hit is capable of destroying an entire neighbourhood. A strike against a tribal leader normally kills his entire family. This is unacceptable under the law of human rights. It is true that often, a warlord rests and recovers with his lieutenants and this circumstance increases the value of the target. However, troops are not allowed to engage an individual on the mere suspicion of his being a potential or actual unlawful combatant.

There are frequent episodes in which insurgents or criminals in the service of drug lords participate directly in hostilities in Afghanistan. The use of drones against those entities is legal, subject to the restrictions of international humanitarian law, so long as the conflict endures. But the issue becomes problematic in two circumstances: i) when the target is individualised in a situation other than a combat engagement; ii) when the strike violates the criteria of distinction and proportionality or, when innocent civilians are subjected to the strike. Targeting a civilian who is not directly involved in combat is a violation of humanitarian law. When the use of such weapons causes an excessive toll in human casualties, it is also illegal. Further considerations concern human rights, as targeted killings against non-combatants result in violation of the norm that prohibits extrajudicial or arbitrary killing. Targeted killing is thus illegal, except in the narrowest of war-like conditions.

Strictly applied, international constraints on the use of military force against individuals would forbid nearly all real-world targeted killings. For this reason, the use of drones cannot be more than a tactic. Turning it into a strategy or policy is illegal and counterproductive. Killing the targeted and his/her relatives fails to provide an enduring advantage. It alienates populations and erodes support for counterinsurgency operations. Thus, even when lawful, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to strike adversaries should be considered an extreme measure. It is necessary to refrain from the temptation of thinking that all is permitted in the ultimate war against terror, for reasons of humanity as well as efficiency.

Strikes conducted by the CIA have been openly publicized, as most of the world accepts as legitimate targeted killing of a terrorist.[xiii] However, the restraining effect of the principle of humanity becomes decisive where armed forces operate against selected individuals in situations comparable to peacetime policing,[xiv] or when they are trying to stabilize a country in order to create an endeavour in which the rule of law will flourish, such as in Afghanistan and, by connection, Pakistan.


[i] The Executive Order No. 12,333, (1981), reprinted in 50 U.S.C. § 401(2000), entitled ‘United States Intelligence Activities’, para. 2. 11 provides that No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

[ii] J. Mayer, The Predator War, What are the Risks of the C.I.A.’s Covert Drone Program?, The New Yorker, Oct. 26, 2009, at 36.

[iii] The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms 579, Joint Publication 1-02, April 12, 2001 (amended Oct. 17, 2008), cited in M. E. O’Connel, Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones  A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004-2009, Notre Dame Law School, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-43, at 3.

[iv] RQ-1 Predator is a long-endurance, medium-altitude unmanned aircraft system for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. See * URL http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/predator/

[v] Us Army, FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency (2006), at E-3.

[vi] M. E. O’Connell, Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones.  A Case Study of Pakistan, 2004-2009, Notre Dame Law School, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-43, at 10.

[vii] D. Byman, Taliban vs. Predator, available on Foreign Affairs, at URL http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61513/daniel-byman/do-targeted-killings-work

[viii] UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/3, 13 January 2003, at para. 39.

[ix] D. Johnston & D. E. Sanger, Fatal Strike in Yemen Was Based on Rules Set out by Bush, N.Y. Times, Nov. 6, 2002.

[x] According to Professor J. Paust, a person being targeted by a drone flying in the airspace of a foreign country is not within the jurisdiction, actual power, or effective control of the state using the drone. Therefore, human rights protections do not pertain. See J. J. Paust, Self-Defense Targeting of Non-State Actors and Permissibility of U.S. Use of Drones in Pakistan, J. Transnat’l L. & Pol’y, Vol. 19, 2010; U of Houston Law Center No. 2009-A-36. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1520717, at 27.

[xi] S. Shane, C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan, N. Y. Times, December 3, 2009. On the implementation of a new strategy in Afghanistan, E. Schmitt, Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan, N. Y. Times, 26 December 2009.

[xii] N. Melzer, Targeted Killing in International Law (OUP, New York 2008), at 59.

[xiii] M. Osiel, The End of Reciprocity (CUP, New York, 2009), at 387.

[xiv] International Committee of the Red Cross, Interpretative Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law, 27 (May 2009), at 80-81.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/federico-sperotto/illegal-and-ineffective-drone-strikes-and-targetted-killing-in-war-on

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US defends unmanned drone attacks after harsh UN report

UN special rapporteur Philip Alston on Wednesday called for a halt to US unmanned drone attacks, which he called a path to a ‘Playstation’ mentality towards killing.

Members of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron from Indian Springs, Nev., perform pre-flight checks on the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle prior to a mission, in this November 9, 2001 file photo shot at an undisclosed location. US officials defended the use of unmanned drones after a critical UN report was released. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Handout/Files

US officials and security analysts defended the use of unmanned drone attacks, after a UN official urged a halt to such killings in a strongly worded report released Wednesday.

The debate comes in the wake of reports that Al Qaeda’s No. 3 commander, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, was killed along with his wife, three daughters, and a grand-daughter in a US drone attack in Pakistan.

Since 2004, the US has conducted a covert assassination campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan, using unmanned drones often operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in control rooms thousands of miles away. Drone use has soared under President Barack Obama. (Agence France-Presse offers a graphic of a how a drone operates.)

IN PICTURES: Drone jockey: New Air Force poster boys

The campaign has included some 135 attacks in northwest Pakistan since 2004 which have killed between 944 and 1,398 individuals, about 30 percent of whom were “non-militants,” according to the New American Foundation, which derived its numbers from media reports.

The US has been cagey about publicly discussing its drone attacks, particularly those in Pakistan. But the assassination campaign has become such public knowledge that President Obama joked about drones during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, saying to a boy band in the audience: “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

Pakistan has publicly objected to the killings but its military has provided target information and approved of the attacks in at least some cases.

In his report (pdf) released Wednesday, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston criticized the secrecy of the CIA’s drone attacks, writing they had resulted in “the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum.” Remote attacks also led to a “risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing,” he wrote.

Alston urged US officials to “publicly identify the rules of international law they consider to provide a basis for any targeted killings they undertake” and to “specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture.”

In an Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio interview, Alston said the US was creating troubling precedents that might encourage other countries such as China to behave in the same fashion.

The Pakistani daily Dawn emphasized Alston’s claim that drone attacks violate international law:

Although not illegal as such, CIA drone strikes are more likely to breach the rules of war than similar operations carried out by armed forces, who are more familiar with international law and can resort to non-lethal means because they have troops on the ground, Alston said.

”Unlike a state’s armed forces, its intelligence agents do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, rendering violations more likely and causing a higher risk of prosecution both for war crimes and for violations of the laws of the state in which any killing occurs,” he wrote.

But on Thursday, the Associated Press reported that US officials took issue with Alston’s conclusions:

“Without discussing or confirming any specific action or program, this agency’s operations unfold within a framework of law and close government oversight,” said CIA spokesman George Little. “The accountability’s real, and it would be wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise.”

Administration officials have pointed to a carefully worded speech in March by State Department legal adviser Harold Koh, who said that “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” The Obama administration, he said, is committed to following the law in its operations against terrorists.

The Associated Press also quoted a former US intelligence official defending the use of drones. “Drone operations are essential,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Saban Center. “The drones are part of a much broader effort to put pressure on al-Qaida through the war in Afghanistan. They’re the cutting edge of the pressure, but they’re not the only pressure.”

Jane Mayer, in an October article for The New Yorker, wrote that the appeal of drones has increased as public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has waned:

It’s easy to understand the appeal of a “push-button” approach to fighting Al Qaeda, but the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And, because of the C.I.A. program’s secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war.

Council on Foreign Relations fellow for conflict prevention Micah Zenko says that insurgents appear to be adapting to drone attacks and their usefulness may be waning. But he also argues that drone attacks remain an “essential tool for killing terrorists” even if their use should be more carefully scrutinized:

Targeted Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents in northwest Pakistan have responded to the increasing efficiency of the drone strikes by developing standard defensive tactics. [They’ve begun] killing suspected informants who provide intelligence, destroying communication towers that can better intercept satellite and cell phone signals; they’ve dispersed into smaller cells; they’ve moved into heavily populated areas where it is very unlikely that the United States will attempt strikes. So they’ve adapted defensive strategies in response….

Predator strikes are the worst kept covert secret in the history of US foreign policy…. [S]ince they are such a significant part of US national security strategy, they should be debated, not simply applauded.

Source: CSM

http://afpakwar.com/blog/archives/5317

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Niass & Shahzad

Posted on May 8, 2010 by Juan

I received some snarky message after the Shahzad attempted bombing in Times Square, asking if I were still standing behind the idea of Islam as a religion of peace. It was a stupid comment. Classical Islamic law forbids murder and forbids terrorism, and it forbids aggression. Whether that makes it a religion of peace is a matter for debate; it isn’t my diction. Medieval Islam, like medieval and even modern Christianity (cf. the Portuguese and Spanish Empires’ ‘God, glory and gold’), was used as an imperial ideology, sometimes for conquest states– but that use of it was contrary to the verses of the Qur’an instructing believers not to commit aggression and to agree to peace treaties with others who seek them.

But in any case, no contemporary Muslim-majority country I can think of would launch a war of naked aggression purely on an Islamic basis. In fact, few wars of naked aggression have been initiated by Muslim-majority countries in the past few decades. Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980 was an act of aggression on a self-proclaimed Islamic state by a secular Arab nationalist one, and premised on Arab nationalism, not Islam. Violence in the Levant is usually at least framed as a response to Israeli aggression. The issue of Morocco in the Western Sahara is national and territorial, and both parties are Muslim.

That is, few self-consciously “Islamic” polities have behaved as illegally and wrongly as did George W. Bush when he invaded Iraq on false pretenses and in the absence of an attack by Iraq on the US.

The people who say that “Islam” authorizes aggressive violence are a fringe of cultists and typically non-state actors. Those kind of people, you have in any society. The Hutaree in Michigan are a Christian sect that allegedly makes similar assertions. And you have the Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

So the snarky question was a stupid and uninformed question. But it looks even stupider in the light of the revelation that it was a Senegalese Muslim, Alioune Niass, who discovered the smoking SUV in Times Square and urged a friend to call 911. That is, New Yorkers were saved from that bombing by a Muslim. See this MPAC article. (MPAC is a really great group and non-Muslims worried about bigotry against Muslims really should join it (membership link here).

Niass was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, which noted that he got no recognition for his heroism.

And, the snarky question would look even more stupid in light of the announcement by Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander in charge of the Greater Middle East and of the struggle against the Pakistani Taliban that Shahzad acted as a lone wolf, not as part of an organized plot. Shahzad is a Pashtun from an elite family (his father had been the equivalent of a two-star general in the Pakistani air force). He had not been a student activist of the Jamaat-i Islami, the fundamentalist party in Pakistan. If he did plot the bombing, he is as likely to have been motivated by Pashtun nationalism as Islam. Pashtuns are an ethnic group in northwest Pakistan, and often feel disadvantaged by the policies of the Punjabi-dominated central government in Islamabad. Even nationalist Pashtuns like the Awami National Party, which now rules the North-West Frontier Province (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) initially objected to Pakistani military attacks on Pashtun Pakistani Taliban because of ethnic solidarity, not religious.

And, everybody in Pakistan is upset by the continued US Predator drone strikes on Pakistani soil by covert operatives and sometimes by Blackwater-Xe contractors. (President Obama unwisely joked about the Predators last Saturday; it is not a joking matter in Pakistan). I have long worried about the unforeseen consequences of the Predator strikes, which are illegal in international law and done as a covert operation and so outside the US democratic framework. None of this in any way excuses the bloody-minded terrorism plot against civilians in Times Square. But to simple-mindedly equate such violence with “Islam,” the religion of 1.5 billion people or nearly a sixth of humankind, and to blame it on the Qur’an, is, well, I’ll say it again: uninformed and stupid.

http://www.juancole.com/2010/05/good-muslim-bad-muslim-niass-shahzad.html

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Targeted Killings

Author: Eben Kaplan

Updated: March 2, 2006


Introduction

A January 13 attack launched by a CIA-operated unmanned Predator aircraft against targets in the northern Pakistani village of Damadola has raised questions about the legal and policy aspects of such operations. In this case, U.S. officials say intelligence suggested al-Qaeda’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was meeting with a group of extremist associates. Pakistani officials say Zawahiri was not in the village and eighteen civilians were killed setting off angry demonstrations across Pakistan against the United States.

What are targeted killings?

Targeted killings are used by governments to eliminate individuals they view as a threat. Generally speaking, a nation’s intelligence, security, or military forces identify the individual in question and carry out an operation intended to kill him or her. Though questionable, the practice has been used by defense and intelligence operations by governments around the world and has been viewed with increased legitimacy since the start of the so-called war on terror. Gary Solis, visiting professor of law at West Point, says “targeted killings are no longer novel.”

Typically, targeted killings focus on high-profile suspects whose capture is deemed impossible or too great a risk. “It’s a pretty dicey proposition capturing somebody,” says William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at Tufts University. “You can’t do a snatch and grab casually.” An example of a targeted killing took place in November 2002 in Yemen, when a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile into the car carrying Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior al-Qaeda leader. Along with al-Harithi, five other men died, including one American who was traveling with him.

Are targeted killings legal?

In terms of domestic law, the main stumbling block to carrying out targeted killings is Executive Order 12333—issued in 1981 to protect both U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and constitutional rights—which states, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” However, “It is permissible to attack individuals who are heads of [either state or non-state] organizations in combat against the United States,” says Martel.

A separate question is the constitutional issues of limits to executive power and whether the president has the power to authorize targeted killings. In the case of the 2002 strike in Yemen, then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told reporters, “I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here. There are authorities that the president can give to officials [and] he’s well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority.” During peacetime this might be a more contentious issue, but former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb explains that in this case, “the congressional authorization of force gave [the president] the power to do this.”

The Bush administration is not the first to attempt this sort of operation. Experts say President Clinton relaxed the executive order banning assassinations to allow for targeted killings. In 1998, following evidence that al-Qaeda was behind twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Sudan and Tanzania, Clinton ordered a missile strike on an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan. Other similar attacks had occurred before 1998, but great care was taken to avoid the appearance of targeting a specific person to avoid violating Executive Order 12333. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. presidents launched a number of missions characterized as punitive air raids or efforts to disrupt enemy operational capacity. Some of these attacks employed bombing from aircraft (Panama 1991, Somalia 1993, Iraq 2003), some used naval gunfire (Lebanon 1984), others used Tomahawk cruise missiles (Iraq 1993 and 2003). In each case, the target was said to be a base or command and control center of a foreign enemy. Probably the most famous example occurred in 1986 after Ronald Reagan authorized the bombing of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s villa following evidence that Libya sponsored an attack on a Berlin disco that killed U.S. soldiers. Qaddafi’s infant daughter died in the attack.

While the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force…in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States,” is cited by the administration as the legal foundation for these actions, experts suggest such operations still raise several questions with regard to international law. One such issue is that of national sovereignty. Unless attacks are authorized by the nation in which the operations take place, they may well be considered a violation of sovereignty.

Two customary principles of the Law of Armed Conflict, which is derived from international law, also apply to targeted killings: distinction and proportionality. Distinction requires combatants “distinguish between combatants and non-combatants,” Solis says, while proportionality is the principle stipulating the “destruction of civilian property must be proportional to the military advantage gained.” These principles are intended to limit collateral damage, but targeted killings involving unreliable intelligence or the remote firing of missiles are at a greater risk of causing collateral damage.

What are some of the issues surrounding the attack on Damadola?

The attack raises a number of legal, political, and security issues. At least four al-Qaeda members were killed in the attack, according to U.S. and Pakistani government sources. Zawahiri, the principal target, was not present during the attack. Eighteen civilians—including five children—were reportedly killed in the strike, raising both questions of distinction and proportionality. “How many lives is the No. 2 of al-Qaeda worth?” asks Solis. Several policymakers, however, defended the attack. “It’s terrible when innocent people are killed; we regret that,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told CBS. “But we have to do what we think is necessary to take out al-Qaeda, particularly the top operatives. This guy has been more visible than Osama bin Laden lately.”

Another issue is Pakistani sovereignty. National security analyst William M. Arkin says “there is not a question in my mind that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was privy to [the CIA strike],” pointing out the Predator aircraft took off from Pakistani soil. Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, denied advance knowledge and said the U.S. did not have approval for such attacks.

How are targeted killings authorized?

Experts say a presidential “finding,” a declaration that a covert operation is in the national interest, gives the authority to carry out covert operations such as targeted killings. “It would require the president to say ‘OK,’” says Korb. Following the January 13 Damadola attack, some reports indicated the operation was authorized by CIA Director Porter Goss. Korb says this would only be possible if “the president has delegated authority to him.” Arkin concurs: “The CIA director has to pull the trigger,” he says, “but I think an attack of this type does get presidential approval as well.”

Is there a review process before authorizing a targeted attack?

Yes, but the type of review depends on what organization is carrying out the attack. If the U.S. military is involved, there is “a very sophisticated target-review process that checks and cross-checks any potential target with regard to constraints of international law, appropriateness of choice of munitions, blast effects as they relate to collateral damage, etc.” says Scott Silliman, executive director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security. This process is less clearly defined when the attack is carried out by the CIA, though Korb says “you’re going to have to get a lawyer to sign off before the director would sign off.” Likewise, experts say, there is a review process to ensure the accuracy of the intelligence prompting an attack.

Have recent U.S. attempts at targeted killings gone awry before?

Two instances are worth noting. The first, originally reported by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, occurred in Afghanistan in October 2001 when a CIA-operated Predator aircraft picked up the convoy carrying ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. At the time, the CIA did not have the authority to launch a missile and deferred the decision to Gen. Tommy Franks, then-commander of United States Central Command, who explained, “My JAG [military lawyer] doesn’t like this, so we’re not going to fire.” Omar escaped and remains at large.

The second example occurred on April of 2003, when U.S. intelligence suggested Saddam Hussein and his sons were dining in a Baghdad restaurant. U.S. forces rained scores of missiles down on the area, destroying the restaurant and a few nearby homes, only to discover Hussein was not present. The blasts did kill fourteen civilians. While U.S. officials likely knew the attack could harm some civilians, they clearly believed the military advantage gained by Hussein’s death would outweigh the civilian cost.

Have other nations carried out targeted killings?

Yes. During the Cold War, Soviet-bloc intelligence services regularly tracked down dissidents and, if they could not be kidnapped, they were often assassinated. One famous instance of this involved the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, killed by a poison-tipped umbrella in London by a suspected KGB agent. Iran, Syria, North Korea, and many other repressive nations  have allegedly offed dissidents on foreign soil, too. China and Taiwan have accused each other of assassinating rival activists, and Cuba also has tracked down dissidents thought to be involved in plotting against Fidel Castro.

More recently, the Israeli government has used targeted killings extensively in its fight against militant Islamic groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Gal Luft, an Arab Affairs expert at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in the Winter 2003 edition of Middle East Quarterly that there had been some eighty such attacks launched by Israel since 2001.

Another incident took place on March 6, 1988, in Gibraltar, Spain, where British intelligence officers shot and killed three members of the Irish Republican Army they believed had planted a bomb outside the British Governor’s residence. The incident prompted public outcry in Britain but an investigation cleared the British agents of wrongdoing. In 1995, the European Court of Justice overturned that finding, ruling the officers had used excessive force.

On July 10, 1985, French intelligence operatives detonated limpet mines attached to the side of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace-operated boat docked in New Zealand, whose multinational crew planned to interfere with French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. The mines were intended to cripple the ship without taking lives, but a photographer drowned when the boat sank. France initially denied involvement, but when local police arrested the French agents, a diplomatic crisis ensued between France and New Zealand, requiring UN mediation to resolve.

Weigh in on this issue by emailing CFR.org.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/9627/targeted_killings.html

Predator Strikes Raise Novel Moral, Legal Issues

0 comments

Posted by NSJ on Dec 2, 2009 in Current Events, Security Digest | 0 comments

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By Mat Trachok, NSJ Staff Editor –

In a recent article in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer considers the legal and moral implications of the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert drone program in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.  Under the Bush Administration, the CIA began using unmanned drone aircraft, most often Predators and more recently Reapers, to conduct targeted killings of terrorism suspects.  According to Mayer, President Obama has made very few changes to the program.  Indeed, the president has authorized forty-one strikes since taking office—as many as former President Bush authorized during his last three years in office.

Given plans to commission hundreds of new drones, it appears their use as part of the War on Terrorism will only increase.  Moreover, Vice President Biden has argued that the United States should focus less on counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and more on using Predators to eliminate al-Qaeda leaders; the recently announced decision by President Obama to pursue a more comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy, however, likely will not lead to a scaling back of these plans or of the program more generally.

The costs of the drone program are numerous, though not only in dollar terms.  According to one expert quoted in the article, using what are essentially robots to fight for us creates the perception that war is costless.  Soldiers are not put in harm’s way and the victims remain faceless.  As reported in numerous press outlets, Predator attacks, however, have led to the death of innocent bystanders, including children.  In addition, Predator pilots suffer from combat stress just as much as—and perhaps more than—pilots sitting in cockpits.  The perception that war is costless is itself a cost of the drone program, as it threatens to undermine political checks on what could become an endless war.

There are also policy costs.  First, terrorists killed by Predators cannot be mined for intelligence.  Second, and perhaps more controversial, is the notion that the targeted killing program amounts to assassination, which is forbidden by E.O. 12333, which governs the activities of the Intelligence Community.  Indeed, the use of drones in this manner may begin to erode the international norm against assassination.  By engaging in strikes that some believe to be assassination, the United States threatens to undermine its stance that it occupies the moral high ground in this war; the Obama Administration’s use of the program may also endanger the goodwill it has engendered abroad, especially in Pakistan.

Despite the costs involved, many believe that the drone program is the United States’ most effective weapon against terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda.  The drones have killed more than half of the CIA’s most wanted targets.  Fear of Predators has created debilitating suspicion within terrorist organizations and has driven terrorists to divert resources from planning attacks to operating more cautiously.

It may be that the benefits of the drone program outweigh the costs.  The problem, according to Mayer, is that there has been no public debate about its cost-effectiveness.  The CIA conducts the program secretly and it is unclear what code and methodology—if any—by which it operates.  This raises serious accountability questions.

At its conception, the drone program also raised novel legal questions.  According to Mayer, the United States initially openly opposed extrajudicial killings, which it equated with assassination, which originally was banned by a 1976 executive order signed by former President Gerald Ford.  However, after 9/11, former President Bush authorized the CIA to kill members of al-Qaeda anywhere in the world, a policy that Congress endorsed with the Authorization for Use of Military Force.  The Bush Administration argued that the assassination program was legal, as it was an act of anticipatory self-defense, and because terrorism is not a crime, but an act of war.  Therefore, the administration argued, it was no longer required to give terrorists due process.

According to Mayer, to be sanctioned under international law, a Predator killing must be (1) a military necessity that is (2) directed at a terrorist group engaging in armed conflict, (3) proportionate to the threat, and (4) permitted by the nation in which the assassination is to take place.  Many lawyers believe the drone program in Pakistan has thus far met these international law requirements.  However, there is concern that the United States is broadening the definition of who may be an acceptable high-value target.  There is also concern that the United States has given Pakistan control over choosing many of the program’s recent targets to gain the support of the Pakistani political elite.  It is unclear as to whether these trends threaten to make the program illegal under international law.

Whether one considers the drone program to be immoral, illegal, bad policy, or some combination of the above, it is unlikely to end any time soon.  According to one former CIA officer, the Predator attacks are the only tool the Obama Administration has to directly disrupt al-Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan.

http://www.harvardnsj.com/2009/12/predator-strikes-raise-novel-moral-legal-issues/

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18 March 2011 Last updated at 11:13 ET

Pakistan: Calls for revenge after US drones kill 40

In this picture taken on Monday, March 7, 2011, a Pakistan army soldier takes position in the Pakistani tribal area of Datta Khel in North Waziristan where the Pakistan army are fighting against militants and al-Qaida activists along the Afghanistan border. Pakistan may now find it easier to put off a full-blown assault in North Waziristan

Tribal leaders in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan have vowed revenge against the US after drones killed more than 40 people near the Afghan border.

“We are a people who wait 100 years to exact revenge. We never forgive our enemy,” the elders said in a statement.

Thursday’s attack has caused fury – most of the dead were tribal elders and police attending an open-air meeting.

Observers say anger over the botched drone raid may help Pakistan delay an assault on the Taliban in Waziristan.

The Pakistani military has so far resisted US pressure for such an assault. It is already fighting militants in a number of other parts of the country’s north-west.

Pakistani tribal elder Malik Jalal, center, flanked by newsmen addresses a news conference to condemn the recent U. S. drone attack in North Waziristan which killed many people, Friday, March 18, 2011 in Peshawar, Pakistan. Tribal leaders described the horror of the attack in Peshawar

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Thursday’s casualties will also add to pressure from Islamabad on the US to scale back drone strikes which regularly target Waziristan.

The area is an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold and a launch pad for frequent attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.

But the strikes are hugely unpopular in Pakistan. The latest one comes at a time of rising tension after the CIA contractor Raymond Davis was acquitted of murdering two men in Lahore.

‘Just a jirga’Thursday’s drone strike is thought to have killed more civilians than any other such attack since 2006.

Officials say two drones were involved. One missile was fired at a car carrying suspected militants. Three more missiles were then fired at the moving vehicle, hitting it and the nearby tribal meeting, or jirga.

Map

At least four militants in the vehicles were killed, local officials said. Most of the rest who died were elders, local traders and members of the tribal police.

“The world should try and find out how many of the 40-odd people killed in the drone attack were members of al-Qaeda,” the elders said in their statement following the attack near North Waziristan’s regional capital, Miranshah.

“It was just a jirga being held under local customs in which the prominent elders of Datta Khel sub-division, and common people were participating to resolve a dispute.

“But the Americans did not spare our elders even.

One of the elders, Malik Faridullah Wazir Khan, said he reached the scene 30 minutes after the missiles hit – four of his relatives were killed.

“The area was completely covered in blood,” he told the BBC.

“There were no bodies, only body parts – hands, legs and eyes scattered around. I could not recognise anyone. People carried away the body parts in shopping bags and clothing or with bits of wood, whatever they could find.”

He said 44 people died at the scene, including 13 children – one as young as seven.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s army chief condemned the raid by US unmanned drones in unusually strong terms, calling it “intolerable… and in complete violation of human rights”.

The Pakistani military often makes statements regretting the loss of life in such incidents, but rarely criticises the attacks themselves.

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, said such “acts of violence” make it harder to fight terrorism.

US missions closed

US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, file image Drones have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan in recent years

Drone strikes have stoked anti-US feeling in Pakistan.

The US embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar were all closed on Friday for security reasons following Thursday’s attack and the release of Mr Davis.

The US does not routinely confirm that it has launched drone operations, but analysts say only American forces have the capacity to deploy such aircraft in the region.

The Pakistani authorities deny secretly supporting drone attacks. Many militants, some of them senior, have been killed in the raids, but hundreds of civilians have also died.

Pakistan has troops stationed in North Waziristan but has resisted US calls for a wider operation there. The region is a stronghold of militants fighting US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe at some point Pakistan’s military will have to move in – if not for America’s sake, then for Pakistan’s. Militants attacking targets inside Pakistan also find sanctuary in North Waziristan.

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Predator Drones:

no joke for the thousands upon thousands killed by this

modern,

robotic,

electronically laser guided,

unmanned aircraft missile weapon system,

fired thousands of miles away in Nevada in impersonal chambers.

The “pilots” say that the greatest problem is stress from “detachment.”

This is not a video game, but real kill,

with lots of “Collateral Damage,”

provoking moral outrage, anger

and counter attacks seen as legitimate defense)

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As one of the remote warriors  said about a similar robotic system:

“Great! That means we can kill Jihadonazis by day, and head off to Sin City Las Vegas for a night of debauchery.”

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Dazzling new weapons require new rules for war

i.e. drone “assassination.”

By David Ignatius

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A new arsenal of drones and satellite-guided weapons is changing the nature of warfare. America and its NATO allies possess these high-tech weapons, but smaller countries want them, too. Here’s an inside glimpse of how the process of technology transfer works:

A year ago, Saudi Arabia was fighting a nasty border war against the Houthi rebels across its frontier with Yemen. The Saudis began bombing Houthi targets inside Yemen on Nov. 5, 2009, but the airstrikes were inaccurate, and there were reports of civilian casualties.

The Saudis appealed to America for imagery from U.S. surveillance satellites in space, so they could target more precisely. Gen. David Petraeus, who was Centcom commander at the time, is said to have backed the Saudi request, but it was opposed by the State Department and others. They warned that intervening in this border conflict, even if only by providing targeting information, could violate the laws of war.

So the Saudis turned elsewhere for help – to France, which has its own reconnaissance satellites. The French, who were worried that imprecise Saudi bombing was creating too many civilian casualties in Yemen, agreed to help. The necessary details were arranged within days.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Riyadh on Nov. 17, he was ready to open the new intelligence liaison channel. A Saudi official recalls that by the first night of Sarkozy’s visit, detailed pictures of the Yemeni battle space began to move electronically to the Saudis.

Using this precise satellite intelligence, the Saudis were able to monitor the Houthis’ hideouts, equipment dumps and training sites. Saudi warplanes then attacked with devastating effectiveness. Within a few weeks, the Houthis were requesting a truce, and by February this chapter of the border war was over.

For the Saudis, this was an important military success. “The French were extremely helpful” and their assistance “was a key reason we were able to force the Houthis to capitulate,” says a Saudi official.

But the Saudi incident raises larger questions about the transfer of technologies that have demonstrated their deadly effectiveness during the past decade in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. These weapons are seductively attractive; they offer the promise of destroying an enemy from a safe distance of 10,000 or 20,000 feet in the air.

The lid on Pandora’s box is coming open: The Saudis, understandably, now want their own satellite capability, and they will soon request bids from Western companies for such a system. Riyadh also wants drones that can see and attack enemy targets in remote places. Washington has been weighing whether to include versions of its Predator drones in an arms sale to the kingdom. Such weapons would boost Saudi ability to deter Iran, but they could also threaten Israel.

Consider the case of Turkey: For years, Ankara has sought U.S. technology to fight what it sees as an insurgency by Kurdish rebel groups, especially the “PKK” that hides in northern Iraq. Now, that high-tech help has arrived.

The United States has quietly created a joint “centralized command center” with Turkey for surveillance drones flying over northern Iraq. Turkish officers look over the shoulders of their U.S. counterparts at the imagery and are free to target suspicious activity when they see it. The United States doesn’t pull the triggers; it just shows the pictures.

The fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen illustrates the complicated legal issues that intersect the use of technology. A year ago, U.S. Special Forces held back from using advanced technology to locate Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen; that’s because he wasn’t yet on a formal “capture or kill” list of terrorists who threatened the United States. He is now, so the Obama administration has decided to bring its Predator drones into the hunt over Yemen, with quiet endorsement from the Yemeni government.

These weapons are so good they can become addictive. They make possible precise acts of war that, in another time, would be called “assassination.” Other countries want to protect themselves from terrorist rebels just as much as the United States does. This means the demand for such weapons will grow.

The “laws of war” may sound like an antiquated concept in this age of robo-weapons. But, in truth, a clear international legal regime has never been more needed: It is a fact of modern life that people in conflict zones live in the perpetual cross hairs of deadly weapons. Rules are needed for targets and targeters alike.

davidignatius@washpost.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/10/AR2010111005500.html

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Drone Revenge is seen as Blowback effect, by many experts and analysts: the natural outcome of many civilian deaths, indiscriminate impersonal bombing from afar.

Indeed violence breeds violence, and the cycle continues….

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and more

Campaigners seek arrest of former CIA legal chief over Pakistan drone attacks

UK human rights lawyer leads bid to have John Rizzo arrested over claims he approved attacks that killed hundreds of people

cia headquarters

The CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Photograph: Danita Delimont/Getty Images/Gallo Images

Campaigners against US drone strikes in Pakistan are calling for the CIA‘s former legal chief to be arrested and charged with murder for approving attacks that killed hundreds of people.

Amid growing concern around the world over the use of drones, lawyers and relatives of some of those killed are seeking an international arrest warrant for John Rizzo, until recently acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency.

Opponents of drones say the unmanned aircraft are responsible for the deaths of up to 2,500 Pakistanis in 260 attacks since 2004. US officials say the vast majority of those killed are “militants”. Earlier this week 48 people were killed in two strikes on tribal regions of Pakistan. The American definition of “militant” has been disputed by relatives and campaigners.

The attempt to seek an international arrest warrant for Rizzo is being led by the British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of the campaign group Reprieve, and lawyers in Pakistan. The lawyers are also building cases against other individuals, including drone operators interviewed or photographed during organised press facilities.

A first information report, the first step in seeking a prosecution of Rizzo in Pakistan, will be formally lodged early next week at a police station in the capital, Islamabad, on behalf of relatives of two people killed in drone strikes in 2009. The report will also allege Rizzo should be charged with conspiracy to murder a large number of Pakistani citizens.

Now retired, Rizzo, 63, is being pursued after admitting in an interview with the magazine Newsweek that since 2004 he had approved one drone attack order a month on targets in Pakistan, even though the US is not at war with the country.

Rizzo, who was by his own admission “up to my eyeballs” in approving CIA use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, said in the interview that the CIA operated “a hit list”. He also asked: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?”

Rizzo has also admitted being present while civilian operators conducted drone strikes from their terminals at the CIA headquarters in Virginia.

Although US government lawyers have tried to argue that drone strikes are conducted on a “solid legal basis”, some believe the civilians who operate the drones could be classified as “unlawful combatants”.

US drone strikes were first launched on Pakistan by George Bush and have been accelerated by Barack Obama.

Much of the intelligence for the attacks is supplied either by the Pakistani military or the ISI, the country’s controversial intelligence agency.

Both have blocked journalists and human rights investigators from visiting the tribal areas targeted, preventing independent verification of the numbers killed and their status.

While Stafford Smith of Reprieve estimates around 2,500 civilian deaths, others say the number is closer to 1,000. US sources deny large numbers of civilian deaths and say only a few dozen “non-combatants” have been killed.

While killing civilians in military operations is not illegal under international law unless it is proved to be deliberate, disproportionate or reckless, Stafford Smith believes the nature of the US drone campaign puts it on a different legal footing.

“The US has to follow the laws of war,” he said. “The issue here is that this is not a war. There is zero chance, given the current political situation in Pakistan, that we will not get a warrant for Rizzo. The question is what happens next. We can try for extradition and the US will refuse.

“Interpol, I believe, will have to issue a warrant because there is no question that it is a legitimate complaint.”

The warrant will be sought on the basis of two test cases. The first centres on an incident on 7 September 2009 when a drone strike hit a compound during Ramadan, brought by a man named Sadaullah who lost both his legs and three relatives in the attack.

The second complaint was brought by Kareem Khan over a strike on 31 December 2009 in the village of Machi Khel in North Waziristan which killed his son and brother.

Both men allege Rizzo was involved in authorising the attack. The CIA refused to comment on the allegations.

The pursuit of Rizzo will further damage US-Pakistani relations, which are already under severe strain following years of drone attacks and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May. Last week the US suspended $800m (£495m) in military aid to Pakistan.

The US launch its first drone strike against a target in Pakistan in 2004, the only one for that year. Last year there were 118 attacks after Obama expanded their use in 2009, while 2011 has so far seen 42.

The use of drones has been sharply criticised both by Pakistani officials as well as international investigators including the UN’s special rapporteur Philip Alston who demanded in late 2009 that the US demonstrate that it was not simply running a programme with no accountability that is killing innocent people.

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The Obama Af-Pak war is illegal.

Brandon : Canada | Dec 23, 2009
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Views: 1,555

That the Afghan war was illegal has long been argued by many. Michael Mandel the Canadian law professor has argued for its illegality from the beginning and also at later stages. Although Mandel’s argument is more extensive this article points out the illegality of drone attacks and also of ofther types of extra-judicial killings such as those carried out by special forces.

Bush adopted a much broader notion of self-defence than exists within the framework of international law one that in effect would justify pre-emptive war and which is either invoked unilaterally by the US or with the co-operation of a coalition of the willing(or billing at times). Of course this defence is useful only as a fig leaf to cover actions that are against international law and are only useful to countries with such overwhelming might that no one will challenge them. The doctrine is useful only against countries who are likely to be overwhelmed by that might. The doctrine will not be used against China or Russia! Obama has never rejected the expanded pre-emptive war doctrine as far as I know. In fact the issue is hardly ever discussed as far as I can see. In practice Obama is carrying on the Bush tradition and in the Af-Pakwar is being even more aggressive.

Notice that the legality of the war never even comes up in most discourse about it. It is as if this is not an issue. It isn’t because no one wants to make it an issue. If it ever does come up reference will be made to UN resolutions but these are always as in Iraq resolutions that in effect justify roles after the invasion not of the original act of occupation. The UN is powerless to enforce its own Charter absent the agreement of the great powers.

Share Obama’s Af-Pak War Is Illegal
by: Marjorie Cohn, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
In 1945, in the wake of two wars that claimed millions of lives, the nations of the world created the United Nations system to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The UN Charter is based on the principles of international peace and security as well as the protection of human rights. But the United States, one of the founding members of the UN, has often flouted the commands of the charter, which is part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
Although the US invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans saw it as a justifiable response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The cover of Time magazine called it “The Right War.” Obamacampaigned on endingthe Iraq war but escalating the war in Afghanistan. But a majority of Americans now oppose that war as well.
The UN Charter provides that all member states must settle their international disputes by peaceful means, and no nation can use military force except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. After the 9/11 attacks, the council passed two resolutions, neither of which authorized the use of military force in Afghanistan.
“Operation Enduring Freedom” was not legitimate self-defense under the charter because the 9/11 attacks were crimes against humanity, not “armed attacks” by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. In fact, 15 of the 19 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, there was not an imminent threat of an armed attack on the United States after 9/11, or President Bush would not have waited three weeks before initiating his October 2001 bombing campaign. The necessity for self-defense must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” This classic principle of self-defense in international law has been affirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN General Assembly.
Bush’s justification for attackingAfghanistan was that it was harboring Osamabin Laden and trainingterrorists, even though bin Laden did not claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks until 2004. After Bush demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden to the United States, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan said his government wanted proof that bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks before decidingwhether to extradite him, accordingto The Washington Post. That proof was not forthcoming; the Taliban did not deliver bin Laden, and Bush began bombing Afghanistan.
Bush’s rationale for attacking Afghanistan was spurious. Iranians could have made the same argument to attack the United States after they overthrew the vicious Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979 and the US gave him safe haven. If the new Iranian government had demanded that the US turn over the Shah and we refused, would it have been lawful for Iran to invade the United States? Of course not.
When he announced his troop “surge” in Afghanistan, Obamainvoked the 9/11 attacks. By continuingand escalating Bush’s war in Afghanistan, Obama, too, is violatingthe UN Charter. In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama declared that he has the “right” to wage wars “unilaterally.” The unilateral use of military force, however, is illegal unless undertaken in self-defense.
In his declaration that he would send 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, Obama made scant reference to Pakistan. But his CIA has used more unmanned Predator drones against Pakistan than Bush. There are estimates that these robots have killed several hundred civilians. Most Pakistanis oppose them. A Gallup poll conducted in Pakistan last summer found 67 percent opposed and only 9 percent in favor. Notably, a majority of Pakistanis ranked the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than the Taliban or Pakistan’s archrival India.
Many countries use drones for surveillance, but only the United States and Israel have used them for strikes. Scott Shane wrote in The New York Times, “For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for targeted killings in a country where the United States is not officially at war.”
The use of these drones in Pakistan violates both the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit willful killing. Targeted or political assassinations – sometimes called extrajudicial executions – are carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework. As a 1998 report from the UN special rapporteur noted, “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any circumstances, not even in time of war.” Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, punishable as a war crime under the US War Crimes Act. Extrajudicial executions also violate a longstanding US policy. In the 1970s, after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed that the CIA had been involved in several murders or attempted murders of foreign leaders, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations. Although there have been exceptions to this policy, every succeeding president until George W. Bush reaffirmed that order.
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northsunm32 is based in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and is Anchor for Allvoices

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US Ramp Up Illegal Drone Wars – Stirring Hornet’s Nest

by Morpheus on June 21, 2011 · 1 comment

Sentinel (drone) activity is not only increasing in the US, but the never-ending “wars against terror” are actually killing up to 140x as many times civilians as terrorists, and undoubtedly cause such extremes of anger in local peoples that many more join up with every new civilian outrage, than the US ever manages to eliminate.  More, and transcript from video below

RedPill.org wonders..

If US military industrial command strategy is to now to try to stir up more “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” (your definition depends wholly on whether you are a drone bomber, or bombee, each thinks of the other as the terrorist) to attempt to justify the $trillions spent so far, and the $billions that still rain down on brown people daily, along with future military budget under pressure as the USA’s bankruptcy progresses.

Video Report Transcript – http://rt.com/news/us-drone-war-al-qaeda/

The US has stepped up its drone attacks against militants in the Middle East, but the growing number of civilian deaths in the strikes has sparked public anger, with concern the action is driving up the number of extremist recruits.

In Pakistan, CIA drone strikes aim at terrorists but end up killing mostly civilians. Public outrage is growing. Hatred and anger foster more terror.

“If you push them against the wall, then this militancy and terrorism is going to increase. It’s not the solution. If you are attacking them with drones and they are not part of the war, they have the Taliban on the other side, which they are going to join,” explains Mirza Shakhzad Akhtar, a Pakistani lawyer for drone attack victims.

In Pakistan in one year, US strikes killed 700 civilians, but only five actual militant leaders.

Many Pakistanis are furious at their government for helping the Americans kill their own people. They accuse their leaders of doing that in exchange for billions of dollars from Washington.

Americans, on the other hand, are not too happy with what they get in return for their billions.

In the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination in Pakistan, the US all but accused the country’s military intelligence agency of sheltering the Al-Qaeda leader.

“How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say enough is enough?” Senator Patrick Leahy asked at hearings before the Senate Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ position was:

“Most of the governments lied to each other. That’s how the business gets done.”

Amid all the cheerleading about Bin Laden’s killing, the US has stepped up drone strikes in Pakistan.

“Drone strikes in Pakistan and the number of civilian casualties that result because of those drone strikes are allowing extremists like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other groups present in Pakistan to recruit new members. They are doing it at an accelerating pace,” believes writer Matthew Alexander.

Washington now sees Yemen as the most dangerous Al-Qaeda outpost, and is planning to step up drone attacks on the country, establishing a base in the Persian Gulf specifically for that purpose. Especially now Bin Laden’s replacement, Ayman Al-Zawahri, is thought to be building up Al-Qaeda’s already significant presence in Yemen.

The US had been co-operating with Yemeni counter-terrorism forces in targeting Al-Qaeda, but they have since left the field, preoccupied instead with the nationwide turmoil against the Ali Saleh regime.

That means the Americans are likely to have a freer hand going it alone, with the CIA to take a central role. As the agency is not subject to the accountability the US military is legally under, one can expect more bombs to fall on Yemen.

“When the US starts hitting people who are members of Al-Qaeda in the Iranian Peninsula, then I think the real worry is that it expands this war to the point where so many people will join Al-Qaeda,” Gregory Johnsen, Near East studies scholar at Princeton University, said.

There is fury in Yemen over the killing of scores of civilians by the drone strikes. In one attack there, the American military presumably aiming at an Al-Qaeda training camp ended up killing dozens of women and children.

In another strike a year ago, a drone mistakenly killed a deputy governor in Yemen, his family and aides.

With the expansion of the drone war it seems the US is seeking only a missile solution to fighting Al-Qaeda. Analysts say that some of the main features of this global chase are not having to take into account the voice of the nation that they are bombing and the lack of accountability when it comes to civilian deaths.

These features add more paradox to the US strategy, with many asking whether America is fighting and fostering terror at the same time.

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U.N. May Declare Use Of Drones Illegal

So much for the Biden plan (BTW, did you know Biden is polling way lower than Cheney did?), because the United Nations has no other areas around the world where human rights are violated

A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.

Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”

Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.

We know how Progressives like Obama love kowtowing to folks at the UN (witness the allowing of human rights inspectors in our major cities regarding housing), so, what will Dear Leader do? This might give him the out it seems to desperately want, after all his campaign promises, without appearing weak (too late!) In fact, it might give him the out he probably wants to abandon the War on Terrorism, er, excuse me, Operation Overseas Contingency. The far left Progressives who form the base of the Democrat Party, and are, one could argue, the actual middle point for the Party, mostly want to abandon Afghanistan and the WoT, and have for a long time.

So, this is a test for the Bamster. Despite the reticence to commit to the troop surge in Afghanistan and renaming the WoT, as well as some pretty speeches, he has actually done a decent job, mostly out of the public eye. He escalated drone strikes not only in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. He has stuck with the Bush plan to leave Iraq. He has kept rendition. Gitmo is nowhere close to being closed. Will he listen to the UN, or tell them to go fly a metal kite in a thunderstorm?

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Posted by William Teach on October 28, 2009 8:11 am

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Drone Terrorism

by Ghali Hassan
Published: Aug. 06, 2011 – Axis of Logic

The use of unmanned drones by the U.S. to attack civilian population with Hellfire missiles is a form of state terrorism. It is designed not to assassinate individuals (extrajudicial killing), but to instil fear and terrorise the entire population.

We all know the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan is an illegal act of aggression, and there are no legal or legitimate grounds to justify the ongoing aggression. According to countless international law experts, the war on Afghanistan is an unlawful act of aggression. It “violates[s] international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter”. Article 51 only “gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security”, he added. [1]. Indeed, all current U.S.-led wars on Muslim nations are acts of illegal aggression against sovereign nations. The use of armed drones, also known as pilotless planes or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to attack defenceless people and assassinate individuals is criminal.

According to a new report by The Fellowship for Reconciliation, “Armed drones have been used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan (since 2001), Iraq (since 2002), and Yemen (since 2002), by the CIA in Pakistan (since 2004), by the UK military in Afghanistan (since 2007) and by Israel in Gaza (since 2008). It is estimated that drones are being used or developed by over forty countries”. The majority of armed drones are produced and used by the U.S. and Israel, the inventors of terrorism. [2].

While Afghanistan and Pakistan bear the brunt of U.S. violence, U.S. drone attacks have also taken place in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Somalia. In all cases, the violent attacks are illegal and in flagrant violation of international law. Terrorism is the illegitimate use of violent aggression against innocent people to achieve political objectives. With complete media complicity, drone terrorism is shrouded in secrecy and is leading to “boundless war without end”.

In its decade-long war on Afghanistan and now Pakistan, the U.S. has amassed the largest and most technologically advanced war machine in history against an entirely defenceless population. More than forty countries are participating in the bloodbath, although many of them are there just by name.

Recent U.S. media reports reveal that the U.S. has established a new drone base in the Arabian Peninsula, possibly in Qatar or Bahrain, where the U.S. has large military bases. Moreover, the U.S. has just hastily completed a “secret” drone base in Yemen. The locations will provide safe routes for U.S. drones to attack targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and soon Iran.

In addition to using drones for surveillance and intelligence purposes, increasingly the U.S. military and the C.I.A. are using drones controlled via satellite communication to launch missiles and bombs on population centres indiscriminately, often at distances of many thousands of miles. The outcomes of these terror strikes are countless massacres of innocent civilians. These atrocities are ignored by the capitalist media and major Western “humanitarian” organisations that provide a formidable cover-up for U.S. crimes.

On July 06, 2011, a U.S. airstrike in Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan killed eight children and two women. That attack ignited outrage among the population in neighbouring villages. The attack forced the puppet government to acknowledge U.S. crimes of terrorising the entire population were premeditated and “have to stop”. However, U.S.-led NATO’s response to “president” Hamid Karzai’s “warning” has been to increase the airstrikes to 12 per a day.

On August 01, 2011, the German Press Agency (DPA) reported that U.S. drones fired missiles at a vehicle in the Barmal area in South Waziristan, Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border killing at least four civilians and injuring scores others. The identities of those killed are still unknown.

In Afghanistan, “U.S. drones, attack planes and gunships have killed innocent Afghan civilians in homes and wedding parties. They have killed civilians trying to flee dangerous areas, men collecting scrap metal for sale, and boys gathering firewood for their families. In Nangarhar province in 2008, a U.S. plane bombed a bridal procession three times, killing the bride and 46 other people. Hajj Khan, an elderly man who survived, had been holding his grandson’s hand as they walked toward the groom’s village. According to a British paper, the Guardian, a bomb strike threw Mr. Khan to the ground. When he opened his eyes, he said, ‘I was still holding my grandson’s hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere’”. (Mary Meehan, Baltimoresun.com). These are not mistakes; they are deliberate acts of terrorism aimed at terrorising the population.

The ongoing U.S. terror war on Afghanistan has inflicted great suffering on the Afghan people. Refugees International reports (Report) recently that more than 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their towns and villages in the last two years. “Since January 1 [2011], more than 91,000 Afghans have fled their villages – compared with 42,000 over the same time period last year … Not only have NATO-led troops and Afghan forces failed to protect Afghans, but U.S.-led airstrikes and night raids by U.S. Special Forces were destroying homes, crops and infrastructure, traumatising civilians and displacing tens of thousands of people. In the north alone, nearly 30,000 individuals have been displaced, a more than seven-fold increase compared to last year”. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, 3.5 million Afghan refugees have fled their homes because of U.S. war. The overwhelming majority of them took shelter in neighbouring Pakistan.

According to a new study by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, the Obama Administration has dramatically escalated drone attacks on Pakistan. In his first year in office, Obama authorised at least forty-one drone attacks, killing between 326 and 538 civilians, many of them women and children. There are multiple drones flying over Pakistan scouting for targets, i.e., people to kill. [3].

Drone attacks are act of terrorism. Scores of innocent civilians are killed every time a drone fires a missile to assassinate a targeted individual. For example, the assassination of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, the alleged leader of the Taliban Resistance in Pakistan, caused the death of between 250 and 300 innocent civilians over a 14-month operation [4]. Assassination is illegal, under both international and national law.


Predator drone attacks in northwest Pakistan have increased sharply

In 2010, the C.I.A. carried out 132 drone attacks in Pakistan. ”It was the deadliest year in terms of strikes and resultant fatalities since launching of the drone attack campaign in 2004”, according to Conflict Monitoring Centre, an independent research centre based in Islamabad, Pakistan. At least 938 people have been assassinated in these attacks. There have been 9 drone attacks during the month of May 2011, resulting in at least 62 innocent deaths and 17 injured. [5].

Since June 18, 2004, the start of C.I.A. drone attacks on Pakistan, at least 2,500 innocent civilians have been killed in more than 250 drone attacks. The C.I.A. admits that only 35 of those were resistance fighters. While Pakistan has always protested the attacks, it has recently asked the U.S. to stop drone attacks.

On July 11, 2011, multiple strikes by U.S. drones on villages in northwest Pakistan killed at least 45 people. It was the second-largest death toll in a single day since the U.S. drone terror attacks began on Pakistan in 2004. According to Western capitalist media, the criminal attacks came just a day after the Obama Administration cancelled $800 million in military “aid” to Pakistan in order to put pressure on the Pakistani military to participate in U.S. terror.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) in London analysed 116 drone strikes on Pakistan between August 2010 and June 29, 2011. In its ‘conservative estimate’, TBIJ reveals that in 10 drone strikes at least 45 civilians have been killed, including six named children. At least 15 additional strikes are likely to have killed at least 65 more civilians. While the investigation is a rare glimpse into a big atrocity, it might have underestimated civilian deaths. The atrocity is being replicated in Yemen and Libya, the “Pakistanisation” of Yemen and Libya.

On Monday August 01, 2011, the Yemen Post reported that two U.S. drone attacks in the village of Al-Khamila outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan Province in southern Yemen, killed 15 people and more than a dozen people were injured in the attacks. It alleges that the attacks were coordinated with the Yemeni dictatorship regime (propped-up by the U.S.) which is facing mounting pressure from the anti-imperialist opposition. “At least 35 U.S drone attacks were reported in Yemen over the last two months”, added the Yemen Post.

On June 15, 2011, The National  (United Arab Emirates) reported on the escalation of U.S. drone attacks in Yemen. According to The National, an official with the Yemeni Ministry of Defence claims that the U.S. had launched over 15 drone strikes in the country in the first two weeks of June. The newspaper also quoted the deputy governor of Abyan province, Abdullah Luqman, condemning the attacks and stating: “These are the lives of innocent people being killed. At least 130 people have been killed in the last two weeks by U.S. drones”, Mr Luqman said.

The use of armed drones by the U.S. to attack defenceless civilians and assassinate individuals is a form of terrorism designed to terrorise the population to achieve political objectives. It is the worst terrorism ever hurled on defenceless population and must be condemned.

Footnotes:

[1]. Michael Mandel, “This War is Illegal,” CounterPunch, 09 October 2001.

[2]. Cole, C., Dobbing, M. & Hailwood, A. (2011). Convenient Killing: Armed Drones and the ‘Playstation’ Mentality: The Fellowship of Reconciliation, England.

[3]. Bergen, P. & Tiedemann K. (2010). The year of the Drone. New America Foundation.

[4]. Mayer, J. (2009). The Predator war. The New Yorker, 26 October 2009.

[5]. Conflict Monitoring Centre (2010, January). 2010, The Year of Assassination by Drones. Islamabad, Pakistan.

*Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.

Source: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_63504.shtml

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Drones: Tyranny of flying terror

Dr Jassim Taqui
Sat 13 Aug 2011

The CIA resumed the drone attacks against FATA during the holy month of Ramadan even as people are fasting and facing immense economic, social and security difficulties. Hundreds of thousand of the civilians have been compelled to leave their homes because of twin terror: the terror of TTP on one side, and the terror of CIA drones on the other. Yet, the morally bankrupt Obama administration insists on using brutal and massive force against unarmed and hapless civilians in gross violation of international law and in flagrant breach of basic human rights.

The Obama administration claims that, no civilian was targeted during the drone attacks in Pakistan in 11 months, despite 116 attacks that have killed 740 people. The figures speak for themselves. According to the administration, the drones are hunting 100 remnants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Who are, then, the 640 additional people killed?

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has just published a detailed report that challenged the CIA’s claims. The report listed the names of hundreds civilians including women and children who were brutally killed by the CIA’s drones.

Killing civilians with Helfire missiles is the worst form of state terrorism. The drones have become absolute terror to the people. They instill fear and terrorize the civilians in total abuse of international law and UN Charter. Killing defenseless people and assassinating individuals randomly is the worst kind of terror.

Fearing human losses, the US military introduced the drones in Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2002) and Pakistan (2004). The British followed by introducing drone in Afghanistan (2007), and the Israelis introduced drones in Gaza, occupied Palestine (2008). It is estimated that drones are being used or developed by over 40 countries. The United States and Israel who accuse other nations of involvement in terrorism produce the majority of armed drones.

Recent media reports reveal that the US established new drones bases in Qatar, Bahrain and Yemen. These locations provide safe routes for US drones to attack targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and soon Iran.

Increasingly, the US military and CIA are using drones controlled via satellite communication to launch missiles and bombs on population centers indiscriminately, often at distances of many thousands of miles.

Barak Obama should surrender his Nobel Prize for peace, since he is acting as a warmonger. His black terror has indeed blackened the White House.

August 13, 2011, Pak Observer

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and the bombs keep falling

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Fighting back against the CIA drone war

By: Muhammad Idrees Ahmad | Published: July 31, 2011

Fighting back against the CIA drone war

However, as the Bureau notes, its figures for civilian casualties are a “conservative estimate”. It has only included those in its list whose civilian status it can confirm through multiple sources. The actual figures are likely much higher. But given the restrictions on travel to the region, a more comprehensive assessment of the war’s human cost remains impossible.

The respected Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai told me that it is no longer possible for journalists from outside to travel to the tribal region and, as a result, most of the reporting comes from a handful of stringers based in Miranshah and Mir Ali.

Confined to the environs of the region’s two main cities, even the journalists based in FATA have to call up the military’s press office for information on all strikes that occur beyond those limits. The kind of courage exhibited by 39-year-old Noor Behram, who photographed the aftermath of 27 drone attacks in North and South Waziristan between November 29, 2008, and June 15, 2011, is rare. The photos are currently on display at London’s Beaconsfield gallery. Unsurprisingly, the picture that emerges does not quite jibe with the CIA’s claims. “For every ten to 15 people killed,” he told the Guardian, “maybe they get one militant”.

The CIA claims that of the nearly 2,500 Pakistanis killed in the drone attacks, 35 were “high value targets” – that is, people it actually intended to kill. The rest it claims were mostly “suspected militants”. The world of think-tankery is even more linguistically challenged – in the New America Foundation’s database there is no category for “civilian” – there are only “militants” and “others”. Given the history of both the US and Pakistani spy organisations there is ample ground for scepticism, but in the light of the Bureau’s investigation, the public would be wise to treat all future victims of the drone war as civilians unless proven otherwise.

But even where guilt is established, the killings would still constitute extra-judicial murder since no declared state of hostilities exists between the US and Pakistan. Things have come a long way since July 2001, when following Israel’s “targeted killing” of Palestinians, the then US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk declared: “The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations … They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

Under Obama, extrajudicial killings have been adopted as a less complicated alternative to detention. Earlier in the year, Newsweek quoted one of Obama’s legal svengalis – American University’s Kenneth Anderson, author of an essay on the subject that was read widely by Obama White House officials – as saying: “Since the US political and legal situation has made aggressive interrogation a questionable activity anyway, there is less reason to seek to capture rather than kill.”

“And if one intends to kill, the incentive is to do so from a standoff position because it removes potentially messy questions of surrender.”

DEFERRED RECKONING

So far, the drones policy has been an unmitigated disaster. The handful of Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders killed have been replaced by a more ruthless leadership which has progressively expanded its operational ambit into the Pakistani mainland. To the extent that “militants” are killed, they are mostly foot soldiers whose death has no discernible impact on the outcome of the insurgency; indeed, it merely helps deepen resentment and broaden the militants’ support base. The CIA practice of bombing funerals and rescuers has ensured that even those who might otherwise disdain the Taliban identify with them as common victims of a uniquely barbarous adversary. Unable to strike back at the US, the Taliban instead revenge themselves on Pakistani soldiers and civilians in attacks that are no less brutal.

Two years ago, when I spoke to Yusufzai amid one of the most ferocious wave of terrorist attacks on Peshawar, he remained optimistic that, once the US withdrew from Afghanistan the militancy would recede. Events of the past two years have tempered his optimism. Last week when I spoke to him again, he told me that conditions have deteriorated so much that Pakistan will have to live with the consequences of America’s reckless war long after it has withdrawn.

The drone attacks are merely compounding the mess.

Campaigners in Britain and Pakistan are determined to bring transparency to Obama’s secretive war and justice to its victims.

Barrister Akbar told me in an email that with his team of researchers, he is “working to dig out information beyond the news reports, trying to find out the identities of individuals killed in drone strikes”. He is now representing a growing number of individuals who have lost family members to the CIA drones, and many more are coming forward.

“This is only the start of a long, long, peaceful battle to stop this kind of ‘murder by videogame’,” says Smith. “What we most need are allies willing to work with us, and help provide truthful information about what is really happening on the ground in Pakistan’s border regions.”  –Aljazeera

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Extrajudicial murder by CIA drones

The slap on the wrist delivered to Israel yesterday by foreign secretary David Miliband over the use of fake British passport in the murder of a leading member of Hamas in Dubai should not obscure the fact that “targeted assassination” is a policy that Washington carries out in Afghanistan and Pakistan with London’s blessing.

Miliband had nothing to say about the actual killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by agents of the Israeli secret service Mossad, not even in a roundabout way that covered all eventualities. That’s because in private, New Labour and the US government support so-called “targeted assassinations” themselves – a policy that clearly violates international laws and could be considered a war crime.

Most days, for example, pilotless drones unleash a deadly attack on targets in Pakistan which, it should be remembered, is a sovereign state that has not given permission for its airspace to be violated by the United States in this way. This morning the BBC reported that missiles fired by a suspected US drone killed at least five people in north-west Pakistan’s tribal region.

The missiles hit an area near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district, bordering Afghanistan, officials said. The identity of those killed is not yet known. Hundreds of people, including a number of militants, have been killed in scores of drone strikes since August 2008.

For every Taliban fighter or Al-Qaeda leader killed, many more civilians perish as the missiles come out of a clear blue sky to hit their village. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s leading newspaperDawn reported:

Of the 44 predator strikes carried out by US drones in the tribal areas of Pakistan over the past 12 months, only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at the cost of over 700 innocent civilians. According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009. For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

The drone attacks were sanctioned by George W. Bush in 2008 and have actually been stepped up by his successor. More attacks have occurred in the first year of the Obama presidency than all years of his predecessor.

The programme is operated by the CIA spy agency and the targets selected by agents in front of computer screens at the agency’s HQ in Langley, Virginia, half a world away. No doubt it’s like a video game for the operatives while the CIA officially denies the very existence of drone killings because it’s a “covert” operation. New York University law professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions since 2004, says his requests for US legal justification for what are effectively extrajudicial executions are always denied.

In August last year, Khaista Khan, saw 12 charred bodies after US missiles struck a small hamlet in North Waziristan. He said:

Americans are cowards. They are afraid of fighting man-to-man in a battlefield and that is why they hit from the sky and run away. Many people who did not support the Taliban previously support them now because the Americans are killing innocent people.

Apparently, 44 countries have unmanned aircraft for surveillance. There are only two countries that use the drones for killing people. One is the United States. The other is, naturally enough, Israel.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
24 March 2010

Your Say

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North Waziristan tribes declare war against US
By ATS– March 22, 2011The Express Tribune3/19/11By Manzoor AliPESHAWAR: A grand jirga of tribal elders from North Waziristan Agency on Friday said that they would wage jihad against America to avenge those killed in drone attacks.A US drone attack killed at least 40 people, most of them tribal elders, in Datta Khel tehsil, North Waziristan on Thursday. Pakistan’s top leadership, including the army chief, have already condemned the attack.Malik Jalal Sarhadi Qatkhel, head of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the tribes would wage a jihad against the US as well as Pakistanis who are helping them carry out the Predator drone strikes. He said that they had allowed their youths to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans.The tribal elder claimed that there were no al Qaeda or Taliban members in North Waziristan, or the rest of the tribal areas, and that children, women and the elderly were being massacred instead.“There is no al Qaeda and Taliban presence in North Waziristan, while the Americans themselves have acknowledged that around 70 per cent of Afghanistan is under the control of militants,” Qatkhel said.“Unlike [those] who pardoned the killer of two Pakistanis for dollars, we will take revenge for our dead and the world will see it.”He said that they would avenge the killing “even if it takes a hundred years” and so they were announcing jihad against America and its allies in Pakistan.He said the media had been presenting the wrong information about militants. He said reports of foreign militants dying in Predator strikes were false and mostly innocent tribesmen were being killed in such attacks.Read Entire Articlehttp://tribune.com.pk/story/134864/north-waziristan-tribes-declare-war-against-us/*****US Military decides that Afghan lives are worth up to $2,500By Andrew Steele2/23/10http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/US-Military-decides-that-A-by-America-20xy-100220-624.htmlHow much money is a human life worth? In Afghanistan it can range from $1500-$2500, the value of a few paychecks for the average worker here in the United States.According to The Washington Post, US Army units now fighting in the Helmand province have instituted a “compensation” system that callously tries to make up for the continuing bloodshed and occupation of Afghanistan by throwing money, (what amounts to very little when compared to most wrongful death lawsuit settlements in the US) at local family members of civilian victims of NATO strikes and to owners of damaged property.The article states:The death of a child or adult is worth $1,500-$2,500, loss of limb and other injuries $600-$1,500, a damaged or destroyed vehicle $500-$2,500, and damage to a farmer’s fields $50-$250.The system is also useful for gathering intelligence on insurgents, says 1st Sgt. Gene Hicks of Tacoma, Washington.The military pays villagers in local currency for information about the location of roadside bombs as well as “where they’ve seen people at, where they’ve seen people moving, where they’ve seen people shooting from,” Hicks said.What’s remarkable, other than the amounts paid and the fact that a vehicle could be priced the same as a human life, is how ripe for abuse such a strategy is.The article mentions very little of what safeguards are put in place to keep locals with personal axes to grind against their own enemies, or just for financial gain, from falsely turning each other in for “aiding the Taliban.” Nor does it explain how claims are investigated to prevent locals from committing fraud by destroying their own property for profit or placing bombs themselves on roadsides in order to report the location to the military and collect the money.The article continues…”It’s not an exact science, but some Afghan civilians in the area of Badula Qulp, northeast of the contested Taliban stronghold of Marjah, have been quick to exploit it. In any casualty case, the Americans are mindful that they might be asked to compensate for the death of an insurgent, rather than a civilian.”Another article from The Nation in November of 2009 titled, “How the US Funds the Taliban,” revealed how the US Military pays money to former Taliban members to “protect” American supply routes:”In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban.”It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts hundreds of millions of dollars consists of payments to insurgents.”All of this money being thrown around Afghanistan, along with the troop surge and the installment of around 700 bases paints a sobering picture of what the motivation behind the Afghan War continues to be under Obama — not liberation, but occupation. Caught in a quagmire and unable to force the population into an unconditional surrender, US dollars are being dumped into the country to temporarily buy-off the opposition while the US seizes control of the natural resources and creates a long-term presence there, all the while quietly expanding its war into Pakistan.Paying locals to tattle on each other allows a constant conflict to ensue as new enemies are created, and even possibly fabricated, to justify the military’s presence in Afghanistan. Bestowing a pittance to the families of civilians killed conjures the illusion of compensation for the lives cut short to concerned Americans at home, many of whom are becoming increasingly resigned to the United States’ execution of perpetual war.In reality, civilian deaths stir up hatred in Afghanistan from the friends and families of the victims, some of whom take revenge and become “the enemy,”, thus strategically prolonging the stay of our soldiers who are caught in the middle of Washington’s geopolitical chess game.*****

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North Waziristan tribes declare war against US
By ATS– March 22, 2011The Express Tribune3/19/11By Manzoor AliPESHAWAR: A grand jirga of tribal elders from North Waziristan Agency on Friday said that they would wage jihad against America to avenge those killed in drone attacks.A US drone attack killed at least 40 people, most of them tribal elders, in Datta Khel tehsil, North Waziristan on Thursday. Pakistan’s top leadership, including the army chief, have already condemned the attack.Malik Jalal Sarhadi Qatkhel, head of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, told reporters at the Peshawar Press Club that the tribes would wage a jihad against the US as well as Pakistanis who are helping them carry out the Predator drone strikes. He said that they had allowed their youths to carry out suicide attacks against the Americans.The tribal elder claimed that there were no al Qaeda or Taliban members in North Waziristan, or the rest of the tribal areas, and that children, women and the elderly were being massacred instead.“There is no al Qaeda and Taliban presence in North Waziristan, while the Americans themselves have acknowledged that around 70 per cent of Afghanistan is under the control of militants,” Qatkhel said.“Unlike [those] who pardoned the killer of two Pakistanis for dollars, we will take revenge for our dead and the world will see it.”He said that they would avenge the killing “even if it takes a hundred years” and so they were announcing jihad against America and its allies in Pakistan.He said the media had been presenting the wrong information about militants. He said reports of foreign militants dying in Predator strikes were false and mostly innocent tribesmen were being killed in such attacks.Read Entire Articlehttp://tribune.com.pk/story/134864/north-waziristan-tribes-declare-war-against-us/*****US Military decides that Afghan lives are worth up to $2,500By Andrew Steele2/23/10http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/US-Military-decides-that-A-by-America-20xy-100220-624.htmlHow much money is a human life worth? In Afghanistan it can range from $1500-$2500, the value of a few paychecks for the average worker here in the United States.According to The Washington Post, US Army units now fighting in the Helmand province have instituted a “compensation” system that callously tries to make up for the continuing bloodshed and occupation of Afghanistan by throwing money, (what amounts to very little when compared to most wrongful death lawsuit settlements in the US) at local family members of civilian victims of NATO strikes and to owners of damaged property.The article states:The death of a child or adult is worth $1,500-$2,500, loss of limb and other injuries $600-$1,500, a damaged or destroyed vehicle $500-$2,500, and damage to a farmer’s fields $50-$250.The system is also useful for gathering intelligence on insurgents, says 1st Sgt. Gene Hicks of Tacoma, Washington.The military pays villagers in local currency for information about the location of roadside bombs as well as “where they’ve seen people at, where they’ve seen people moving, where they’ve seen people shooting from,” Hicks said.What’s remarkable, other than the amounts paid and the fact that a vehicle could be priced the same as a human life, is how ripe for abuse such a strategy is.The article mentions very little of what safeguards are put in place to keep locals with personal axes to grind against their own enemies, or just for financial gain, from falsely turning each other in for “aiding the Taliban.” Nor does it explain how claims are investigated to prevent locals from committing fraud by destroying their own property for profit or placing bombs themselves on roadsides in order to report the location to the military and collect the money.The article continues…”It’s not an exact science, but some Afghan civilians in the area of Badula Qulp, northeast of the contested Taliban stronghold of Marjah, have been quick to exploit it. In any casualty case, the Americans are mindful that they might be asked to compensate for the death of an insurgent, rather than a civilian.”Another article from The Nation in November of 2009 titled, “How the US Funds the Taliban,” revealed how the US Military pays money to former Taliban members to “protect” American supply routes:”In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban.”It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts hundreds of millions of dollars consists of payments to insurgents.”All of this money being thrown around Afghanistan, along with the troop surge and the installment of around 700 bases paints a sobering picture of what the motivation behind the Afghan War continues to be under Obama — not liberation, but occupation. Caught in a quagmire and unable to force the population into an unconditional surrender, US dollars are being dumped into the country to temporarily buy-off the opposition while the US seizes control of the natural resources and creates a long-term presence there, all the while quietly expanding its war into Pakistan.Paying locals to tattle on each other al