Where Does This End?”: After Drone Papers Leaks, U.K. Gov’t Has a Kill List of Its Own
23 oktober 2015
Last week, The Intercept published the most in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program to date. “The Drone Papers” exposed the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We are joined by Clive Stafford Smith, founder and director of the international legal charity Reprieve, who says the British government also has a secret kill list in Afghanistan.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, The Intercept published this in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program, called “The Drone Papers,” exposing the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We spoke to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, one of the lead reporters on the series.
JEREMY SCAHILL: One of the most significant findings of this—and my colleague, Cora Currier, really dug deep into this—is we published for the first time the kill chain, what the bureaucracy of assassination looks like. And what you see is that all of these officials, including people like the treasury secretary, are part of signing off on all of this, where they have these secret meetings and they discuss who’s going to live and die around the world. And at the end of that process, it is the president of the United States who signs what amounts to a death warrant for whoever they’ve decided should die.
AMY GOODMAN: The kill list is what Jeremy Scahill is talking about. Clive Stafford Smith, as we wrap up, your response?
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, it’s something that just horrifies me, that, you know, I voted for President Obama, twice, and yet every Tuesday they have “Terror Tuesday,” where there’s a PowerPoint display in the White House, and they decide, much like Nero did back in the Colosseum in Rome, whether to give the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down for human beings who we’re just going to murder around the world. And, you know, it begins with terrorism, but it will move on. The British, horrifyingly, have already got a list of people on their list in Afghanistan, where they’re saying they’re going to kill pedophiles, for goodness’ sake. I mean, where does this end, that we just murder people worldwide? I mean, we plan to do a lot to publicize that in the upcoming months.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: When did you learn that Britain has a kill list, to begin with?
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: It was only a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I’m very pleased, because when both the Brits and the Americans are doing it, we can illustrate the folly of both instead of just picking on the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Clive Stafford Smith has been Shaker Aamer’s attorney for 10 years at Guantánamo. He’s a human rights lawyer, founder and director of the international legal charity called Reprieve.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’re going to talk about Benghazi. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to testify today for up to 10 hours in Congress. We’re going to be talking about the four men who died—the ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three of the other Americans who died. We’ll be speaking with their friends. Stay with us.
OCTOBER 22, 2015STORY
Find this story at 22 October 2015
The Drone Papers” Reveals How Faulty Intel & Secret “Kill Chain” Mark Suspects, Civilians for Death
23 oktober 2015
The Intercept series “The Drone Papers” exposes the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They expose a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We speak to Intercept reporter Cora Currier, whose article “The Kill Chain,” reveals how the U.S. identifies and selects assassination targets, from the collection of data and human intelligence all the way to President Obama’s desk.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, today we are looking at “The Drone Papers,” an explosive new exposé by The Intercept based on a cache of secret documents that expose the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. It raises the question: Is there a new Edward Snowden?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by three reporters who worked on “The Drone Papers.” Cora Currier is staff reporter for The Intercept. Her contributions to the “Drone Papers” series include the pieces “The Kill Chain” and “Firing Blind.” Ryan Devereaux, also a staff reporter at The Intercept, wrote “Manhunting in the Hindu Kush.” Also still with us for the hour, Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the The Intercept, author of—is also author on this series.
Cora Currier, I wanted to turn to your piece, “The Kill [Chain].” How do the targets get chosen?
CORA CURRIER: So this is the first time that we’ve seen documentary evidence of how the Obama White House picks and chooses targets for—to kill them by drone or any other—or other kinds of airstrikes. And this is for operations in Yemen and Somalia. And the slide that we have shows how task force personnel, so people working on the ground in Yemen or Somalia, JSOC task force personnel, working with other intelligence community members, establish—make a package on a target, on a potential target, collecting intelligence, doing reconnaissance. So these people are already under surveillance of various types. And then they put them together, they package them in what they call a “baseball card” on the target, and that passes up the ranks of the military, up the chain of command. It goes through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of defense, then sends them to the White House.
And there, they’re examined by counsels of senior administration officials, known as the Principals Committee, which is—of the National Security Council, which is basically sort of all the top Cabinet heads of the Obama administration, all his closest advisers, and their deputies, which is called the Deputies Committee. And that’s reportedly where actually a lot of the work gets done, where they really pour over the targets and they think about sort of the—both the legal cases and also the sort of political ramifications and reasons to kill or not to kill somebody. So this is all happening in—this sort of really interagency process happens at the White House. And then, we know from outside reporting that this is the time when, during the period of this study in 2012, 2013, John Brennan, who then became CIA director, was super influential in these discussions. And it was often him that was bringing the baseball cards to the president to finally sign off on giving JSOC operatives then a 60-day window to go after the target.
AMY GOODMAN: The baseball cards?
CORA CURRIER: Mm-hmm, so they would sign off on a “package,” what they called it, a targeting—an operations package, which would have the baseball card, which was all the intelligence on the target, and then a sort of concept of operations about how they might go about getting them. And then they’d have a 60-day window in which they could take a strike against the target. And that is counter to some previous reporting about whether or not the president sort of—you hear this rhetoric that the president personally signs off on each drone strike. It’s not clear that that’s exactly what was meant by that. It seems more likely that he signs off on these packages, and then the actual decision to take a strike goes through the military chain of command.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And a key part of these baseball cards are the SIM cards and the cellphone numbers and—in other words, the signals intelligence attached to each of these individuals?
CORA CURRIER: Right. It’s going to have, you know, everything that they know about them, so from a variety of sources. And one thing that we learned in the documents is that they are heavily reliant on signals intelligence, heavily reliant on communications intelligence, to build a picture of who they think this person is and why they think he’s important.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, in your piece, “The Kill Chain: The Lethal Bureaucracy Behind Obama’s Drone War,” you talk about the different officials who sign off. Jeremy mentioned earlier, for example, the treasury secretary. Why would the treasury secretary be involved with naming who should be killed?
CORA CURRIER: Well, I think, in practice—I mean, by the letter, the Principals Committee of the National Security Council includes all of these—all of these top officials, like the treasury secretary, like the secretary of energy. Is the secretary of energy actually really, you know, a deciding factor in who gets killed in Yemen? No. It’s going to be the—you know, Hillary Clinton at the time of this study was secretary of state, and she would sort of represent the State Department’s opinions about this. Again, would she actually probably have all the background on these individuals? No, it would have been prepared for her by, you know, her second-in-commands or whoever was below her, and they would sort of be representing the views of their agency. So, while all those Cabinet members are, on paper, in the—on the Principals Committee, in practice, it was a smaller circle of advisers.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Jeremy, so, the president is making these decisions on the others below him based on—I mean, it’s very much shaped on the information he’s getting on his desk.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And, I mean, you know, one of the things that we also see in the documents is that a great deal of the intelligence that they’re basing these packages on come from foreign intelligence sources. So it could be from the Saudis, it could be from Yemenis, it could be from another entity, from Qatar—
AMY GOODMAN: From the Saudis, for example, who want a protester, a pro-democracy protester, dead.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Right. And, I mean—well, yes, that’s part of it, but more specifically to this, there are cases where it seems as though the U.S. was intentionally fed bad intelligence to—in the effort to try to eliminate a domestic political opponent of the former dictator of Yemen, for instance, where someone that was actually trying to negotiate with al-Qaeda, but was a political opponent of the Yemeni dictator at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was killed in a U.S. drone strike, and it seems quite likely that it was—you know, Yemen had fed that intelligence to try to eliminate one of their opponents. I mean, the WikiLeaks cables were rife with examples of the Yemeni president trying to get the United States to take up his own political cause against the Houthis at the time, who are now controlling parts of Yemen. But the Saudis have a huge influence over who the U.S. targets in that region. And foreign intelligence—they have their own agenda. And if we’re basing a lot of our decision on who should sort of live or die in these cases on foreign intelligence and unreliable signals intelligence, it raises serious questions about who we’re actually killing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and it seems to me the other aspect of this, as your report shows, is that the government’s own reviews shows—states the unreliability of this information. So they’re not only making decisions without any kind of judicial process to kill people, the evidence that they’re using, they themselves acknowledge, is unreliable.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, remember, this task force, the ISR Task Force, that did these studies that are in the document—
AMY GOODMAN: And ISR stands for?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance. And so, this task force is basically an advocacy wing for more drones, more surveillance platforms, and so you have to view it in the context of this is the Pentagon trying to get all the toys and to make themselves, you know, the boss of everything—and they largely are the boss of everything, because they have the biggest budget and they have the most personnel. But what there—you know, what the point there is, is that there’s this not-so-subtle agitation to start being able to do a lot more capturing. I think it’s true what they’re saying about the unreliability of it. But there’s also—you know, there’s a turf war at play here with the CIA, so I think you have to take it with a grain of salt and read it in the context of that.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the issue of innocent civilians—I mean, there’s also an issue of the people who they believe are absolutely guilty, whether or not, Cora, the president should be the judge and the jury and the executioner. But this percentage that Juan raised earlier of 90 percent innocents killed in a drone strike, explain further what you learned on who lives and who dies.
CORA CURRIER: So what was actually striking about the Pentagon study, which was one of the documents that we had—Ryan looked in detail at these campaigns in Afghanistan, where that 90 percent figure comes from. In Yemen and Somalia, in this Pentagon study, they actually—it was pretty striking for how little they talk about civilian casualties, how little it seems to be an issue. The whole gist of the study was, “Give us”—as Jeremy was saying, “Give us more drones, give us better equipment, so that we can get these high-value targets.” And there was sort of little discussion of what the consequences are if you hit the—of hitting the wrong person. It was more about, like, “We’ve got to be more efficient at getting the people that we want,” and there was very little mention of civilian casualties.
There were a few times that it mentioned that low CDE, or collateral damage estimate, which is military speak for how many civilians might be harmed, was mentioned a few times as kind of a restraining factor on strikes and something that was explaining why they were moving more slowly, because they had these low CDE requirements. And that’s actually really—that word, that standard, low CDE, is interesting, because at the same time as this study was circulated in May 2013 was when the president gave his big speech about how, before the U.S. would take a strike, there had to be near certainty that no civilians would be harmed or injured. And near certainty is not the same as low CDE. And the White House told us that, you know, the standards of the May 2013 speech are still in place, but they wouldn’t explain that discrepancy as to why these internal documents at the same time had this different standard for civilian deaths.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy Scahill, what was the White House’s reaction to this explosive series?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, the White House was—you know, basically said, “We’re not going to comment on purported internal documents.” And, you know, I mean, Ryan had sort of a funny interaction with the Special Operations Command that he can explain. But at the end of the day, the Pentagon ended up being the one that kind of spoke for all of them and said, you know, “These are internal classified documents, and we’re not going to speak about it.” I mean, they’ll speak about classified material all the time when it benefits their position, like John Brennan leaking things after bin Laden, but, you know, they’re not going to address these things. Or even—I mean, Cora had very concrete questions: Is this still the case? Is this true? You know, they wouldn’t answer a single question.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and then come back, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about Afghanistan. And that’s where Ryan Devereaux comes in. With President Obama now reversing course, the longest war in U.S. history is about to get longer. How do “The Drone Papers” weigh in here? What do they tell us about Afghanistan? And much more. We’re speaking with three of the authors of this series, this stunning series at The Intercept: Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Devereaux and Cora Currier. Stay with us.
OCTOBER 16, 2015STORY
Find this story at 13 October 2015
FIRING BLIND FLAWED INTELLIGENCE AND THE LIMITS OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY (the drone papers)
23 oktober 2015
The Obama administration has portrayed drones as an effective and efficient weapon in the ongoing war with al Qaeda and other radical groups. Yet classified Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that the U.S. military has faced “critical shortfalls” in the technology and intelligence it uses to find and kill suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia.
THOSE SHORTFALLS STEM from the remote geography of Yemen and Somalia and the limited American presence there. As a result, the U.S. military has been overly reliant on signals intelligence from computers and cellphones, and the quality of those intercepts has been limited by constraints on surveillance flights in the region.
The documents are part of a study by a Pentagon Task Force on Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. They provide details about how targets were tracked for lethal missions carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, in Yemen and Somalia between January 2011 and summer 2012. When the study was circulated in 2013, the Obama administration was publicly floating the idea of moving the bulk of its drone program to the Pentagon from the CIA, and the military was eager to make the case for more bases, more drones, higher video quality, and better eavesdropping equipment.
Yet by identifying the challenges and limitations facing the military’s “find, fix, finish” operations in Somalia and Yemen — the cycle of gathering intelligence, locating, and attacking a target — the conclusions of the ISR study would seem to undermine the Obama administration’s claims of a precise and effective campaign, and lend support to critics who have questioned the quality of intelligence used in drone strikes.
The study made specific recommendations for improving operations in the Horn of Africa, but a Pentagon spokesperson, Cmdr. Linda Rojas, declined to explain what, if any, measures had been taken in response to the study’s findings, saying only that “as a matter of policy we don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”
THE TYRANNY OF DISTANCE
One of the most glaring problems identified in the ISR study was the U.S. military’s inability to carry out full-time surveillance of its targets in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Behind this problem lies the “tyranny of distance” — a reference to the great lengths that aircraft must fly to their targets from the main U.S. air base in Djibouti, the small East African nation that borders Somalia and sits just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.
Surveillance flights are limited by fuel — and, in the case of manned aircraft, the endurance of pilots. In contrast with Iraq, where more than 80 percent of “finishing operations” were conducted within 150 kilometers of an air base, the study notes that “most objectives in Yemen are ~ 500 km away” from Djibouti and “Somalia can be over 1,000 km.” The result is that drones and planes can spend half their air time in transit, and not enough time conducting actual surveillance.
A Pentagon chart showing that as of June 2012 manned spy planes accounted for the majority of flights over Yemen, even though drones were more efficient, since they could spend more time over a target. Over Somalia, the military used a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft. AP = Arabian Peninsula; EA = East Africa.
Compounding the tyranny of distance, the ISR study complained, was the fact that JSOC had too few drones in the region to meet the requirements mandated for carrying out a finishing operation. The military measures surveillance flights in orbits — meaning continuous, unbroken coverage of a target — and JSOC chronically failed to meet “minimum requirements” for orbits over Yemen, and in the case of Somalia had never met the minimum standards. On average, 15 flights a day, by multiple aircraft relieving or complementing one another, were needed to complete three orbits over Yemen.
The “sparse” available resources meant that aircraft had to “cover more potential leads — stretching coverage and leading to [surveillance] ‘blinks.’” Because multiple aircraft needed to be “massed” over one target before a strike, surveillance of other targets temporarily ceased, thus breaking the military’s ideal of a “persistent stare” or the “unblinking eye” of around-the-clock tracking.
When the military was focused on a “finish” — meaning kill — operation, drones were taken off the surveillance of other targets.
JSOC relied on manned spy planes to fill the orbit gap over Yemen. In June 2012 there were six U-28 spy planes in operation in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as several other types of manned aircraft. The U-28s in Djibouti were “referred to as the ‘Chiclet line,’” according to the ISR study, and “compounded Djiboutian air control issues” because of their frequent flights.
Only in the summer of 2012, with the addition of contractor-operated drones based in Ethiopia and Fire Scout unmanned helicopters, did Somalia have the minimum number of drones commanders wanted. The number of Predator drones stationed in Djibouti doubled over the course of the study, and in 2013, the fleet was moved from the main U.S. air base, Camp Lemonnier, to another Djibouti airstrip because of overcrowding and a string of crashes.
“Blinking” remained a concern, however, and the study recommended adding even more aircraft to the area of operations. Noting that political and developmental issues hampered the military’s ability to build new bases, it suggested expanding the use of aircraft launched from ships. JSOC already made use of Fire Scout helicopter drones and small Scan Eagle drones off the coast of Somalia, as well as “Armada Sweep,” which a 2011 document from the National Security Agency, provided by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes as a “ship-based collection system” for electronic communications data. (The NSA declined to comment on Armada Sweep.)
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 to August 2014, told The Intercept that the surveillance requirements he outlined for tracking al Qaeda while in office had never been met. “We end up spending money on other stupid things instead of actually the capabilities that we need,” he said. “This is not just about buying more drones, it’s a whole system that’s required.”
According to Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has closely studied the drone war, resource constraints in Africa “mean less time for the persistent stare that counterterrorism analysts and commanders want, and got used to in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.”
FIND, FIX, FINISH
The find, fix, finish cycle is known in the military as FFF, or F3. But just as critical are two other letters: E and A, for “exploit and analyze,” referring to the use of materials collected on the ground and in detainee interrogations.
F3EA became doctrine in counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his memoir that the simplicity of those “five words in a line … belied how profoundly it would drive our mission.” In 2008, Flynn, who worked closely with McChrystal before becoming head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote that “Exploit-Analyze starts the cycle over again by providing leads, or start points, into the network that could be observed and tracked using airborne ISR.”
Deadly strikes thus truncate the find, fix, finish cycle without exploitation and analysis — precisely the components that were lacking in the drone campaign waged in East Africa and Yemen. That shortfall points to one of the contradictions at the heart of the drone program in general: Assassinations are intelligence dead ends.
The ISR study shows that after a “kill operation” there is typically nobody on the ground to collect written material or laptops in the target’s house, or the phone on his body, or capture suspects and ask questions. Yet collection of on-the-ground intelligence of that sort — referred to as DOMEX, for “document and media exploitation,” and TIR, for “tactical interrogation report” — is invaluable for identifying future targets.
A slide from a Pentagon study notes that deadly strikes in Yemen and Somalia reduce the amount of intelligence for future operations. AUMF = 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force; FMV = Full Motion Video; F3EA = Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze; HOA = Horn of Africa
Stating that 75 percent of operations in the region were strikes, and noting that “kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available from detainees and captured material,” the study recommended an expansion of “capture finishes via host-nation partners for more ‘finish-derived’ intelligence.” One of the problems with that scenario, however, is that security forces in host nations like Yemen and Somalia are profoundly unreliable and have been linked to a wide variety of abuses, including the torture of prisoners.
A report last year by retired Gen. John Abizaid and former Defense Department official Rosa Brooks noted that the “enormous uncertainties” of drone warfare are “multiplied further when the United States relies on intelligence and other targeting information provided by a host nation government: How can we be sure we are not being drawn into a civil war or being used to target the domestic political enemies of the host state leadership?”
In 2011, for example, U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that they had killed a local governor because Yemeni officials didn’t tell them he was present at a gathering of al Qaeda figures. “We think we got played,” one official said. (The Yemeni government disputed the report.)
Despite such warnings, the drone program has relied heavily on intelligence from other countries. One slide describes signals intelligence, or SIGINT, as coming “often from foreign partners,” and another, titled “Alternatives to Exploit/Analyze,” states that “in the reduced access environment, national intelligence partners often have the best information and access.”
The military relies heavily on intelligence from electronic communications, much of it provided by foreign governments, but acknowledges that the information is “neither as timely nor as focused as tactical intelligence.”
One way to increase the reliability of host-nation intelligence is to be directly involved in its collection — but this can be risky for soldiers on the ground. The study called for “advance force operations,” including “small teams of special force advisors,” to work with foreign forces to capture combatants, interrogate them, and seize any written material or electronic devices they possess. According to public Special Operations guidelines, advance force operations “prepare for near-term” actions by planting tracking devices, conducting reconnaissance missions, and staging for attacks. The documents obtained by The Intercept did not specify an optimum number of advisors or where they should be based or how exactly they should be involved in capture or interrogation operations.
Although the study dates from 2013, current Special Operations Commander Joseph Votel echoed its findings in July 2015. Votel noted that his troops were working closely with African Union forces and the Somali government to battle al Shabaab. He added, “We get a lot more … when we actually capture somebody or we capture material than we do when we kill someone.”
A man walks past destroyed buildings in Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province in southern Yemen on Dec. 5, 2012. Photo: Sami-al-Ansi/AFP/Getty Images
THE POVERTY OF SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE
With limited ability to conduct raids or seize materials from targeted individuals in Yemen and Somalia, JSOC relied overwhelmingly on monitoring electronic communications to discover and ultimately locate targets.
The documents state bluntly that SIGINT is an inferior form of intelligence. Yet signals accounted for more than half the intelligence collected on targets, with much of it coming from foreign partners. The rest originated with human intelligence, primarily obtained by the CIA. “These sources,” the study notes, “are neither as timely nor as focused as tactical intelligence” from interrogations or seized materials.
Making matters worse, the documents refer to “poor” and “limited” capabilities for collecting SIGINT, implying a double bind in which kill operations were reliant on sparse amounts of inferior intelligence.
The disparity with other areas of operation was stark, as a chart contrasting cell data makes clear: In Afghanistan there were 8,900 cell data reports each month, versus 50 for Yemen and 160 for Somalia. Despite that, another chart shows SIGINT comprised more than half the data sources that went into developing targets in Somalia and Yemen in 2012.
Cellphone data was critical for finding and identifying targets, yet a chart from a Pentagon study shows that the military had far less information in Yemen and Somalia than it was accustomed to having in Afghanistan. DOMEX = Document and Media Exploitation; GSM = Global System for Mobile communication; HOA = Horn of Africa; IIRs = Intelligence Information Reports; SIGINT = Signals Intelligence; TIRs = Tactical Interrogation Reports.
Flynn told The Intercept there was “way too much reliance on technical aspects [of intelligence], like signals intelligence, or even just looking at somebody with unmanned aerial vehicles.”
“I could get on the telephone from somewhere in Somalia, and I know I’m a high-value target, and say in some coded language, ‘The wedding is about to occur in the next 24 hours,’” Flynn said. “That could put all of Europe and the United States on a high-level alert, and it may be just total bullshit. SIGINT is an easy system to fool and that’s why it has to be validated by other INTs — like HUMINT. You have to ensure that the person is actually there at that location because what you really intercepted was the phone.”
In addition to using SIGINT to identify and find new targets, the documents detail how military analysts also relied on such intelligence to make sure that they had the correct person in their sights and to estimate the harm to civilians before a strike. After locating a target, usually by his cellphone or other electronics, analysts would study video feeds from surveillance aircraft “to build near-certainty via identification of distinguishing physical characteristics.”
A British intelligence document on targeted killing in Afghanistan, which was among the Snowden files, describes a similar process of “monitoring a fixed location, and tracking any persons moving away from that location, and identifying if a similar pattern is experienced through SIGINT collect.” The document explains that “other visual indicators may be used to aid the establishment of [positive identification]” including “description of clothing” or “gait.” After a shot, according to the British document and case studies in the Pentagon’s ISR report, drones would hover to determine if their target had been hit, collecting video and evidence of whether the cellphone had been eliminated. (The British intelligence agency, GCHQ, declined to comment on the document.)
A chart comparing the surveillance capabilities of the various drones and aircraft flying over Yemen and Somalia in 2012. APG = Aerial Precision Geolocation; DNR COMINT = Dial Network Recognition Communications Intelligence; ISR = Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; FMV = Full Motion Video; PTT COMINT = Push-to-Talk Communications Intelligence.
Yet according to the ISR study, the military faced “critical shortfalls of capabilities” in the technologies enabling that kind of precise surveillance and post-strike assessment. At the time of the study, only some of the Reaper drones had high-definition video, and most of the aircraft over the region lacked the ability to collect “dial number recognition” data.
The study cites these shortcomings as an explanation for the low rate of successful strikes against the targets on the military’s kill list in Yemen and Somalia, especially in comparison with Iraq and Afghanistan. It presents the failings primarily as an issue of efficiency, with little mention of the possible consequence of bad intelligence leading to killing the wrong people.
THE DRONE PAPERS
Cora Currier, Peter Maass
Oct. 15 2015, 1:58 p.m.
Additional reporting: Jeremy Scahill
Find this story at 15 October 2015
THE DRONE PAPERS: THE ASSASSINATION COMPLEXSECRET MILITARY DOCUMENTS EXPOSE THE INNER WORKINGS OF OBAMA’S DRONE WARS
16 oktober 2015
From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.
DRONES ARE A TOOL, not a policy. The policy is assassination. While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, Congress has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” This has allowed proponents of the drone wars to rebrand assassinations with more palatable characterizations, such as the term du jour, “targeted killings.”
When the Obama administration has discussed drone strikes publicly, it has offered assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to boots on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be eliminated. Those terms, however, appear to have been bluntly redefined to bear almost no resemblance to their commonly understood meanings.
The first drone strike outside of a declared war zone was conducted more than 12 years ago, yet it was not until May 2013 that the White House released a set of standards and procedures for conducting such strikes. Those guidelines offered little specificity, asserting that the U.S. would only conduct a lethal strike outside of an “area of active hostilities” if a target represents a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons,” without providing any sense of the internal process used to determine whether a suspect should be killed without being indicted or tried. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been one of trust, but don’t verify.
Photo: The Intercept
SMALL FOOTPRINT OPERATIONS 2/13Document
SMALL FOOTPRINT OPERATIONS 5/13Document
GEOLOCATION-WATCHLISTThe Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.”
The source said he decided to provide these documents to The Intercept because he believes the public has a right to understand the process by which people are placed on kill lists and ultimately assassinated on orders from the highest echelons of the U.S. government. “This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.
“We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”
The Pentagon, White House, and Special Operations Command all declined to comment. A Defense Department spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on the details of classified reports.”
The CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operate parallel drone-based assassination programs, and the secret documents should be viewed in the context of an intense internal turf war over which entity should have supremacy in those operations. Two sets of slides focus on the military’s high-value targeting campaign in Somalia and Yemen as it existed between 2011 and 2013, specifically the operations of a secretive unit, Task Force 48-4.
Additional documents on high-value kill/capture operations in Afghanistan buttress previous accounts of how the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets. The slides also paint a picture of a campaign in Afghanistan aimed not only at eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, but also at taking out members of other local armed groups.
One top-secret document shows how the terror “watchlist” appears in the terminals of personnel conducting drone operations, linking unique codes associated with cellphone SIM cards and handsets to specific individuals in order to geolocate them.
A top-secret document shows how the watchlist looks on internal systems used by drone operators.
The costs to intelligence gathering when suspected terrorists are killed rather than captured are outlined in the slides pertaining to Yemen and Somalia, which are part of a 2013 study conducted by a Pentagon entity, the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. The ISR study lamented the limitations of the drone program, arguing for more advanced drones and other surveillance aircraft and the expanded use of naval vessels to extend the reach of surveillance operations necessary for targeted strikes. It also contemplated the establishment of new “politically challenging” airfields and recommended capturing and interrogating more suspected terrorists rather than killing them in drone strikes.
The ISR Task Force at the time was under the control of Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Vickers, a fierce proponent of drone strikes and a legendary paramilitary figure, had long pushed for a significant increase in the military’s use of special operations forces. The ISR Task Force is viewed by key lawmakers as an advocate for more surveillance platforms like drones.
The ISR study also reveals new details about the case of a British citizen, Bilal el-Berjawi, who was stripped of his citizenship before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012. British and American intelligence had Berjawi under surveillance for several years as he traveled back and forth between the U.K. and East Africa, yet did not capture him. Instead, the U.S. hunted him down and killed him in Somalia.
Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront.
FIND, FIX, FINISH These secret slides help provide historical context to Washington’s ongoing wars, and are especially relevant today as the U.S. military intensifies its drone strikes and covert actions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Those campaigns, like the ones detailed in these documents, are unconventional wars that employ special operations forces at the tip of the spear.
The “find, fix, finish” doctrine that has fueled America’s post-9/11 borderless war is being refined and institutionalized. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be unleashed, these documents lay bare the normalization of assassination as a central component of U.S. counterterrorism policy.
“The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan,” the source said. “But at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”
The articles in The Drone Papers were produced by a team of reporters and researchers from The Intercept that has spent months analyzing the documents. The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America’s assassination program. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy. The public has a right to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.
Among the key revelations in this series:
HOW THE PRESIDENT AUTHORIZES TARGETS FOR ASSASSINATION
KILL CHAINIt has been widely reported that President Obama directly approves high-value targets for inclusion on the kill list, but the secret ISR study provides new insight into the kill chain, including a detailed chart stretching from electronic and human intelligence gathering all the way to the president’s desk. The same month the ISR study was circulated — May 2013 — Obama signed the policy guidance on the use of force in counterterrorism operations overseas. A senior administration official, who declined to comment on the classified documents, told The Intercept that “those guidelines remain in effect today.”
U.S. intelligence personnel collect information on potential targets, as The Intercept has previously reported, drawn from government watchlists and the work of intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies. At the time of the study, when someone was destined for the kill list, intelligence analysts created a portrait of a suspect and the threat that person posed, pulling it together “in a condensed format known as a ‘baseball card.’” That information was then bundled with operational information and packaged in a “target information folder” to be “staffed up to higher echelons” for action. On average, it took 58 days for the president to sign off on a target, one slide indicates. At that point, U.S. forces had 60 days to carry out the strike. The documents include two case studies that are partially based on information detailed on baseball cards.
The system for creating baseball cards and targeting packages, according to the source, depends largely on intelligence intercepts and a multi-layered system of fallible, human interpretation. “It isn’t a surefire method,” he said. “You’re relying on the fact that you do have all these very powerful machines, capable of collecting extraordinary amounts of data and information,” which can lead personnel involved in targeted killings to believe they have “godlike powers.”
ASSASSINATIONS DEPEND ON UNRELIABLE INTELLIGENCE AND HURT INTELLIGENCE GATHERING
FIRING BLINDIn undeclared war zones, the U.S. military has become overly reliant on signals intelligence, or SIGINT, to identify and ultimately hunt down and kill people. The documents acknowledge that using metadata from phones and computers, as well as communications intercepts, is an inferior method of finding and finishing targeted people. They described SIGINT capabilities in these unconventional battlefields as “poor” and “limited.” Yet such collection, much of it provided by foreign partners, accounted for more than half the intelligence used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia. The ISR study characterized these failings as a technical hindrance to efficient operations, omitting the fact that faulty intelligence has led to the killing of innocent people, including U.S. citizens, in drone strikes.
The source underscored the unreliability of metadata, most often from phone and computer communications intercepts. These sources of information, identified by so-called selectors such as a phone number or email address, are the primary tools used by the military to find, fix, and finish its targets. “It requires an enormous amount of faith in the technology that you’re using,” the source said. “There’s countless instances where I’ve come across intelligence that was faulty.” This, he said, is a primary factor in the killing of civilians. “It’s stunning the number of instances when selectors are misattributed to certain people. And it isn’t until several months or years later that you all of a sudden realize that the entire time you thought you were going after this really hot target, you wind up realizing it was his mother’s phone the whole time.”
Within the special operations community, the source said, the internal view of the people being hunted by the U.S. for possible death by drone strike is: “They have no rights. They have no dignity. They have no humanity to themselves. They’re just a ‘selector’ to an analyst. You eventually get to a point in the target’s life cycle that you are following them, you don’t even refer to them by their actual name.” This practice, he said, contributes to “dehumanizing the people before you’ve even encountered the moral question of ‘is this a legitimate kill or not?’”
By the ISR study’s own admission, killing suspected terrorists, even if they are “legitimate” targets, further hampers intelligence gathering. The secret study states bluntly: “Kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available.” A chart shows that special operations actions in the Horn of Africa resulted in captures just 25 percent of the time, indicating a heavy tilt toward lethal strikes.
STRIKES OFTEN KILL MANY MORE THAN THE INTENDED TARGET
MANHUNTING IN THE HINDU KUSH The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeted killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse.
“Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” the source said. When “a drone strike kills more than one person, there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate. … So it’s a phenomenal gamble.”
THE MILITARY LABELS UNKNOWN PEOPLE IT KILLS AS “ENEMIES KILLED IN ACTION”
MANHUNTING IN THE HINDU KUSH The documents show that the military designated people it killed in targeted strikes as EKIA — “enemy killed in action” — even if they were not the intended targets of the strike. Unless evidence posthumously emerged to prove the males killed were not terrorists or “unlawful enemy combatants,” EKIA remained their designation, according to the source. That process, he said, “is insane. But we’ve made ourselves comfortable with that. The intelligence community, JSOC, the CIA, and everybody that helps support and prop up these programs, they’re comfortable with that idea.”
The source described official U.S. government statements minimizing the number of civilian casualties inflicted by drone strikes as “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies.”
THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE TARGETED FOR DRONE STRIKES AND OTHER FINISHING OPERATIONS
KILL CHAINAccording to one secret slide, as of June 2012, there were 16 people in Yemen whom President Obama had authorized U.S. special operations forces to assassinate. In Somalia, there were four. The statistics contained in the documents appear to refer only to targets approved under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, not CIA operations. In 2012 alone, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there were more than 200 people killed in operations in Yemen and between four and eight in Somalia.
HOW GEOGRAPHY SHAPES THE ASSASSINATION CAMPAIGN
FIRING BLINDIn Afghanistan and Iraq, the pace of U.S. strikes was much quicker than in Yemen and Somalia. This appears due, in large part, to the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were declared war zones, and in Iraq the U.S. was able to launch attacks from bases closer to the targeted people. By contrast, in Somalia and Yemen, undeclared war zones where strikes were justified under tighter restrictions, U.S. attack planners described a serpentine bureaucracy for obtaining approval for assassination. The secret study states that the number of high-value targeting operations in these countries was “significantly lower than previously seen in Iraq and Afghanistan” because of these “constraining factors.”
Even after the president approved a target in Yemen or Somalia, the great distance between drone bases and targets created significant challenges for U.S. forces — a problem referred to in the documents as the “tyranny of distance.” In Iraq, more than 80 percent of “finishing operations” were conducted within 150 kilometers of an air base. In Yemen, the average distance was about 450 kilometers and in Somalia it was more than 1,000 kilometers. On average, one document states, it took the U.S. six years to develop a target in Somalia, but just 8.3 months to kill the target once the president had approved his addition to the kill list.
INCONSISTENCIES WITH WHITE HOUSE STATEMENTS ABOUT TARGETED KILLING
KILL CHAINThe White House’s publicly available policy standards state that lethal force will be launched only against targets who pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.” In the documents, however, there is only one explicit mention of a specific criterion: that a person “presents a threat to U.S. interest or personnel.” While such a rationale may make sense in the context of a declared war in which U.S. personnel are on the ground in large numbers, such as in Afghanistan, that standard is so vague as to be virtually meaningless in countries like Yemen and Somalia, where very few U.S. personnel operate.
While many of the documents provided to The Intercept contain explicit internal recommendations for improving unconventional U.S. warfare, the source said that what’s implicit is even more significant. The mentality reflected in the documents on the assassination programs is: “This process can work. We can work out the kinks. We can excuse the mistakes. And eventually we will get it down to the point where we don’t have to continuously come back … and explain why a bunch of innocent people got killed.”
The architects of what amounts to a global assassination campaign do not appear concerned with either its enduring impact or its moral implications. “All you have to do is take a look at the world and what it’s become, and the ineptitude of our Congress, the power grab of the executive branch over the past decade,” the source said. “It’s never considered: Is what we’re doing going to ensure the safety of our moral integrity? Of not just our moral integrity, but the lives and humanity of the people that are going to have to live with this the most?”
Oct. 15 2015, 1:57 p.m.
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Every Drone Mission the FBI Admits to Flying
30 april 2014
The FBI insists that it uses drone technology in the U.S. to conduct surveillance in “very limited circumstances.” What those particular circumstances are remain a mystery, because the Bureau refuses to identify instances where agents deployed unmanned aerial vehicles, even as far back as 2006.
The obscurity of the FBI drone missions, like that of other domestic law enforcement agencies, has frustrated advocates for transparency and privacy. In a letter to Senator Rand Paul in July 2013, the agency indicated that it had used drones a total of ten times since late 2006—eight criminal cases and two national security cases—and had authorized drone deployments in three additional cases, but did not actually fly them.
The only specific case where the FBI is willing to confirm using a drone was in February 2013, as surveillance support for a child kidnapping case in Alabama. After this and a previous flight in 2012, the agency found its drone missions “strikingly sucessful.”
But new documents obtained by MuckRock as part of the Drone Census flesh out the timeline of FBI drone deployments in detail that was previously unavailable. While heavily redacted—censors deemed even basic facts that were already public about the Alabama case to be too sensitive for release, apparently—these flight orders, after action reviews and mission reports contain new details of FBI drone flights.
New details, summarized in the timeline above, include FBI drone flights as part of investigations into dog fighting operations and drug trafficking rings in 2011, as well as to track a top ten most wanted fugitive in 2012. The documents confirm nine flown missions (ones with after action reports or actual flight orders), as well as five drone mission approvals and one mission proposal, without any confirmation that the FBI actually deployed the drone as proposed.
Previously, the FBI had acknowledged that its first operational deployment of drones took place in October 2006:
These new documents include confirmations of another eight drone operations between February 2011 and February 2013, plus an additional five drone mission approvals and one proposal without confirmation that the FBI actually deployed the drone as proposed.
There was also an instance in April 2011 where FBI aviation managers rejected a drone flight request based on safety concerns:
The FBI redacted location and case details from these operational documents save for the dates, even for operations now three year. This has been the normsince a judge ordered the release of thousands of pages of documents on FBI drone deployments last year. FBI records officers have tried redacting information from documents already published in full online, and withheldvirtually all UAV purchasing and invoice data.
But a handful of details escaped the censors in these latest documents.
In August 2011, the FBI’s Field Flight Operations Unit approved drone surveillance to investigate a “large-scale dog fighting operation” at a redacted location, based on “a review of the case Agent’s surveillance objectives and the nature of the terrain and airspace.”
While there are no after-action documents to confirm the mission took place, FBI aviation managers suggested that agents ask the Federal Aviation Administration for “as large a COA [Certificate of Authorization] as possible” for this mission, suggesting that the drone was meant to survey a wide region.
A few months later, in November 2011, the FBI held a meeting at Quantico to consider flying drones as part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigations of Mexican organizations:
Again, the FBI has not confirmed whether the proposed mission took place, or where.
In a mission hailed by agency officials as “a signal achievement in the history of the FBI,” the FBI drone team was deployed on short notice on May 9, 2012 as part of a kidnapping investigation. The mission was slated to “serve both as a tactical resource and a technology demonstration.”
The after-action report hails the operation as a “strikingly successful” milestone, in that it “marked the first use of a UAS [unmanned aerial system] to pursue a top ten fugitive.”
That same day, on May 9, 2012, the FBI added Adam Mayes to its Ten Most Wanted list. Mayes was wanted for the kidnap and murder of a Tennessee woman and one of her daughters, as well as for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The FBI and state investigators found Mayes and the two remaining young girls the next day—the day after its drone team was scrambled to a kidnap-murder-unlawful-flight investigation—in heavy woods a few miles from Mayes’s home in Mississippi.
Media reports indicate that the long search was brought to an end after a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer “spotted a small blonde child peeking over a ridge.” No outlets reported the involvement of a drone in the manhunt. When law enforcement closed in, Mayes reportedly shot himself in the head, and the two girls were recovered without serious injuries.
While report details point to the involvement of drones in this manhunt, the FBI has refused to confirm whether its “signal achievement” centered around Mayes.
“Other than the hostage crisis site in Alabama, involving a kidnapper who abducted a boy and held him hostage in a bunker,” wrote FBI Special Agent Ann Todd in response to our request for confirmation, “we have not publicly identified specific cases where we have used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).”
It’s not only the general public that the FBI keeps in the dark regarding drone deployments. Even the FAA and agency partners do not receive details.
An FBI dossier on drone use from April 2007 indicates that the FAA has urged the FBI to maintain “the same standards as manned fixed-wing aircraft.” But it says the FBI may forgo notifying the FAA in “exigent circumstances”:
In a July 30, 2012 email to the FAA and a redacted agency at the close of a drone operation at a redacted location for a redacted purpose, an FBI aviation administrator begged pardon for keeping its partners in the dark:
“While details of the mission intent must remained guarded for now,” the aviation manager wrote, “I hope to release full details in the future.” As with most of the FBI’s drone deployments, those details have yet to see the light.
April 16, 2014 // 04:30 PM EST
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CIA’s Pakistan drone strikes carried out by regular US air force personnel
30 april 2014
Former drone operators claim in new documentary that CIA missions flown by USAF’s 17th Reconnaissance Squadron
A regular US air force unit based in the Nevada desert is responsible for flying the CIA’s drone strike programme in Pakistan, according to a new documentary to be released on Tuesday.
The film – which has been three years in the making – identifies the unit conducting CIA strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates from a secure compound in a corner of Creech air force base, 45 miles from Las Vegas in the Mojave desert.
Several former drone operators have claimed that the unit’s conventional air force personnel – rather than civilian contractors – have been flying the CIA’s heavily armed Predator missions in Pakistan, a 10-year campaign which according to some estimates has killed more than 2,400 people.
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said this posed questions of legality and oversight. “A lethal force apparatus in which the CIA and regular military collaborate as they are reportedly doing risks upending the checks and balances that restrict where and when lethal force is used, and thwart democratic accountability, which cannot take place in secrecy.”
The Guardian approached the National Security Council, the CIA and the Pentagon for comment last week. The NSC and CIA declined to comment, while the Pentagon did not respond.
The role of the squadron, and the use of its regular air force personnel in the CIA’s targeted killing programme, first emerged during interviews with two former special forces drone operators for a new documentary film, Drone.
Brandon Bryant, a former US Predator operator, told the film he decided to speak out after senior officials in the Obama administration gave a briefing last year in which they said they wanted to “transfer” control of the CIA’s secret drones programme to the military.
Bryant said this was disingenuous because it was widely known in military circles that the US air force was already involved.
“There is a lie hidden within that truth. And the lie is that it’s always been the air force that has flown those missions. The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been.”
Referring to the 17th squadron, another former drone operator, Michael Haas, added: “It’s pretty widely known [among personnel] that the CIA controls their mission.”
Six other former drone operators who worked alongside the unit, and who have extensive knowledge of the drone programme, have since corroborated the claims. None of them were prepared to go on the record because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Bryant said public scrutiny of the programme had focused so far on the CIA rather than the military, and it was time to acknowledge the role of those who had been carrying out missions on behalf of the agency’s civilian analysts.
“Everyone talks about CIA over Pakistan, CIA double-tap, CIA over Yemen, CIA over Somalia. But I don’t believe that they deserve the entirety of all that credit for the drone programme,” he said. “They might drive the missions; they might say that these are the objectives – accomplish it. They don’t fly it.”
Another former drone operator based at Creech said members of the 17th were obsessively secretive.
“They don’t hang out with anyone else. Once they got into the 17th and got upgraded operationally, they pretty much stopped talking to us. They would only hang out among themselves like a high school clique, a gang or something.”
Shamsi said the revelations, if true, raised “a host of additional pressing questions about the legal framework under which the targeted killing programme is carried out and the basis for the secrecy that continues to shroud it.”
She added: “It will come as a surprise to most Americans if the CIA is directing the military to carry out warlike activities. The agency should be collecting and analysing foreign intelligence, not presiding over a massive killing apparatus.
“We don’t know precisely what rules the CIA is operating under, but what we do know makes clear that it’s not abiding by the laws that strictly limit extrajudicial killing both in and out of traditional battlefields. Now we have to ask whether the regular military is violating those laws as well, under the secrecy that the CIA wields as sword and shield over its killing activities.
“Congressional hearings in the last year have made it embarrassingly clear that Congress has not exercised much oversight over the lethal programme.”
In theory, the revelation could expose serving air force personnel to legal challenges based on their direct involvement in a programme that a UN special rapporteur and numerous other judicial experts are concerned may be wholly or partly in violation of international law.
Sitting 45 miles north-west of Las Vegas in the Mojave desert, Creech air force base has played a key role in the US drone programme since the 1990s.
The 432d wing oversees four conventional US air force Predator and Reaper squadrons, which carry out surveillance missions and air strikes in Afghanistan.
There is another, far more secretive cluster of units within the wing called the 732nd Operations Group, which states that it “employs remotely piloted aircraft in theatres across the globe year-round”.
This operations group has four drone squadrons, which all appear to be linked with the CIA.
The 30th Reconnaissance Squadron “test-flies” the RQ-170 Sentinel, the CIA’s stealth drone which made headlines after one was captured over Iran in December 2011.
The 22nd and 867th Reconnaissance Squadrons each fly Reaper drones, the more heavily armed successor to the Predator.
But it is the last of the four units – the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron – that is now under the most scrutiny.
It is understood to have 300 air crew and operates about 35 Predator drones – enough to provide five or six simultaneous missions during any 24-hour period.
It operates from within an inner compound at Creech, which even visiting military VIPs are unable to access, say former base personnel. Former workers at Creech say the unit was treated as the “crown jewels” of the drone programme.
“They wouldn’t even let us walk by it, they were just so protective of it,” said Haas, who for two years was a drone operator. He was also an operational trainer at Creech.
“From what I was able to gather, it was pretty much confirmed they were flying missions almost exclusively in Pakistan with the intent to strike.”
In the Operations Cell, which receives video feeds from every drone “line” in progress at Creech, mission co-ordinators from the 17th were kept segregated from all the others.
Established as a regular drone squadron in 2002, the unit transitioned to its new “customer” in 2004 at the same time that CIA drone strikes began in Pakistan, former personnel have said.
The operators receive their orders from civilian CIA analysts who ultimately decide whether – and against whom – to carry out a strike, according to one former mid-level drone commander.
Creech air force base would only confirm that the 17th squadron was engaged in “global operations”.
“The 732nd Operations Group oversees global operations of four squadrons – the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, 22nd Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Reconnaissance Squadron and the 867th Reconnaissance Squadron. These squadrons are all still active … their mission is to perform high-quality, persistent, multi-role intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of combatant commanders’ needs.”
Although the agency’s drone strikes have killed a number of senior figures in al-Qaida and the Taliban, the CIA also stands accused by two United Nations investigators of possible war crimes for some of its activities in Pakistan. They are probing the targeting of rescuers and the bombing of a public funeral.
• Tonje Schei’s film Drone premieres on Arte on 15 April.
• Chris Woods is the author of Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars, which is published next winter in the US and Europe.
The Guardian, Monday 14 April 2014 14.30 BST
Find this story at 14 April 2014
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‘Not bug splats’: Artists use poster-child in Pakistan drone protest
11 april 2014
A poster of a young child has appeared in north-west Pakistan to raise awareness of the numerous drone attacks the region suffered. Artists who created the image hope military commanders will think twice about shooting after seeing the portrait.
More than 200 children are believed to have died in the heavily-bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa according to the website notabugsplat.com. ‘Bug splat’ is the name given by the military to a person who has been killed by a drone. Viewing the body through a grainy computer image gives the impression that an insect has been crushed.
Now a giant portrait of a young child has been produced to try and raise awareness of civilian casualties in the region. The hope is now the drone operator will see a child’s face on his or her computer screen, rather than just a small white dot and may think twice before attacking indiscriminately.
The child featured in the poster is nameless, but according to the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, who helped to launch the project in collaboration with a number of artists, both parents were lost to a drone attack.
Drone raids in Pakistan started in 2004 under George W. Bush’s administration as part of the US War on Terror. The vast majority of strikes have focused on the Federally Administered Tribal Area’s and the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa area due to their proximity to Afghanistan, which the country invaded following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Image from notabugsplat.comImage from notabugsplat.com
The United States says drones, which have been continued under Barak Obama’s presidency are more accurate than any other weapon and a vital tool for killing Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. But Pakistani deaths from drone strikes are estimated at between 2,537 and 3,646 over the period from 2004 to 2013, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says, drawing on media reports.
Civilian deaths have long strained relations between the United States and Pakistan. The issue of drone strikes, while remaining largely out of US headlines, has become one of the most polarizing in Pakistan. While previous reports have made it clear that Pakistani leaders have authorized at least some drone strikes, they publicly maintain that that American unmanned aerial vehicles constantly buzzing in the skies undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Islamabad has tried to convince the United Nations Human Rights Council to pass a resolution that would force US drone strikes to adhere to international law. However, America has not been forthcoming and boycotted recent talks in Geneva.
The number of drone strikes in Pakistan has at least fallen over the last month as the Pakistani government asked the US to limit the number of attacks as they entered peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
Published time: April 07, 2014 13:29
Edited time: April 08, 2014 15:04 Get short URL
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Revealed: US drone attack in Pakistan killed German ‘security contact’
11 april 2014
A German national died in a US drone strike in Pakistan, a report revealed on Monday. The 27-year-old convert to Islam claimed to have close links with German authorities and even to be in contact with security officials.
The strike occurred on February 16, 2012, some 35 km south of the Pakistani town of Mir Ali, which itself is about 30 kilometers south east of the Afghan border.
However, it is only now that details have begun to emerge. The man in question has been identified as Patrick K., from Hesse, central Germany, according to the German paper, Süddeutsche Zeitung and the NDR broadcaster.
An entry at a jihadist forum, which also produced video evidence of his death, stated the man’s full name was Patrick Klaus. Two separate German-language video messages (Part one; Part two) posted by German Islamists show Klaus smiling at the camera as he calls on his compatriots with the same beliefs to: “Follow me”.
The German national apparently switched to Islam at the age of 14, reports Die Welt. In 2011, he moved to Waziristan, a mountainous region near Afghanistan’s border back in 2011 to live with his wife, who is thought to be a Pakistani national.
The reports state that at the time of the strike Patrick K. had been travelling in a pick-up truck alongside several Uzbek fighters. They were heading in the direction of South Waziristan when a MQ-1 Predator drone missile hit the vehicle. Nine others died alongside Patrick K., and the vehicle itself was left completely burnt out.
“He says that he was in close contact with an official from the BKA [Federal Criminal Police Office] in Hesse, who allegedly recruited him successfully,” claims the SZ paper, a link to which can be found in German.
It is also thought that an official from the domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – had made efforts to communicate with him.
Patrick KlausPatrick Klaus
Patrick K. had previously been arrested in Bonn in 2011, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, in the run-up to the Social Democrat’s German Festival to celebrate 150 years of the party’s existence. Security services were on high alert and feared a possible attack. However, suspicions about him were quickly dispelled and the possibility of an attack was dismissed.
Patrick K. travelled to Pakistan a few days afterwards, according to the paper, and subsequently lost contact with the officials that he had allegedly been in contact with. Whilst in Pakistan, he was in contact with the notorious Chouka brothers – Yassin and Mounir Chouka – two German militants of Moroccan descent, who are part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, deemed a terrorist organization by the UK, US and Russia.
At the time of the 2012 attack’s occurrence, there had been over 260 US drone strikes in the previous eight years. A week prior to the strike, several senior leaders were also killed in an attack in North Waziristan. The area is known for high militant activity, and the US government deems the strikes a necessary and carefully considered part of the struggle against militant groups in its “War against Terror” operation.
Pakistan has repeatedly condemned US drone strikes in the country, with a high court ruling in May last year that strikes in the tribal belt should be considered war crimes. Demonstrations against strikes have also taken place, with a former cricket star-turned politician, Imran Khan, leading a road block demonstration in November against the practice, of which he is a harsh critic.
Published time: January 13, 2014 17:12
Edited time: January 13, 2014 17:49 Get short URL
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Deutscher Konvertit bei Drohnenangriff getötet
11 april 2014
Deutscher Konvertit durch Drohne getötetBild vergrößern Patrick K. ist der erste deutsche Konvertit, der bei einem Drohnenangriff getötet worden ist. (Foto: OH)
Erstmals ist ein deutscher Konvertit bei einem Drohnenangriff im afghanisch-pakistanischen Grenzgebiet ums Leben gekommen. Der Angriff soll im Februar 2012 stattgefunden haben. Dies geht aus einer Videobotschaft deutscher Islamisten hervor. Der Offenbacher Patrick K. war den Behörden bekannt: Er soll vor Jahren in Hessen als Informant der islamistischen Szene angeworben worden sein.
Von Marie Delhaes
Erstmals ist ein deutscher Konvertit in Waziristan bei einem Drohnenangriff ums Leben gekommen. Dies geht aus einer Videobotschaft deutscher Islamisten hervor. Der Name des Toten wird mit Patrick K. aus Offenbach angegeben.
Angeblich soll er nach Informationen von SZ.de und des NDR bei einem Drohnenangriff am 16. Februar 2012 in der Nähe der Stadt Mir Ali getötet worden sein. Der 27-Jährige lebte zu diesem Zeitpunkt seit weniger als einem Jahr in Waziristan. Patrick K.s Ehefrau, wahrscheinlich eine Pakistanerin, reiste mit ihm ins afghanisch-pakistanische Grenzgebiet aus.
In der Videobotschaft, die in zwei Teilen in einem dschihadistischen Forum veröffentlicht wurde und der SZ vorliegt, ist Patrick K. einige Minuten lang zu sehen, er lächelt in die Kamera. In dem Video wird auch sein Leben in Deutschland geschildert. Demnach ist er bereits im Winter 2001 als 16-Jähriger zum Islam konvertiert. Angeblich war er von deutschen Sicherheitsbehörden als Informant der islamistischen Szene angeworben worden.
Nach eigenen Angaben stand er in engem Kontakt mit einem Beamten vom BKA in Hessen, der ihn erfolgreich angeworben haben soll. Auch der Verfassungsschutz soll ihn kontaktiert haben. Patrick K. war im Vorfeld des Bonner Deutschlandfestes 2011 in Offenbach festgenommen worden. Es hatte in der islamistischen Szene Gerüchte wegen eines möglichen Anschlags in Bonn gegeben. Der Verdächtige wurde aber bereits einige Stunden später wieder auf freien Fuß gesetzt, da es keine konkreten Hinweise auf einen angeblich geplanten Anschlag gab. Einige Tage später reiste K. nach Pakistan aus. Angeblich wollte er in Kontakt mit dem BKA bleiben, er setzte sich jedoch in die Stammesgebiete ab.
Bei dem Drohnenangriff am 16. Februar war er angeblich mit mehreren usbekischen Kämpfern in einem Pickup unterwegs. Sie fuhren rund 35 Kilometer südlich von Mir Ali in Richtung Südwaziristan, als Raketen der MQ-1 Predator Drohne ihr Fahrzeug trafen.
Augenzeugen berichteten, dass auch eine Stunde nach dem Angriff noch vier Drohnen über dem brennenden Autowrack kreisten. Das Fahrzeug war vollkommen ausgebrannt und keiner der Insassen überlebte. Bei dem Angriff starben insgesamt zehn Menschen.
Nach Zählungen des britischen Dokumentationszentrums “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism” steht die Attacke in einer langen Reihe von Drohnenangriffen. Es war der 263. Angriff seit 2004 und der neunte Drohnenangriff im Jahr 2012. Eine Woche zuvor, am 9. Februar, wurden bei einem Angriff, der ebenfalls in Nordwaziristan stattfand, mehrere hochrangige Führungspersonen getötet. Unter ihnen war Badar Mansoor, der Kommandeur der pakistanischen Taliban mit starken Verbindungen zu al-Qaida.
Die Brüder Chouka
Die Meldung vom Tod des deutschen Konvertiten kam von den Bonner Brüdern Mounir und Yassin Chouka. Die Choukas melden sich regelmäßig aus Waziristan. Sie sind 2008 über den Jemen ins afghanisch-pakistanische Grenzgebiet ausgereist. Seitdem sind sie die Nachrichtensprecher des Dschihads. Viele Jahre veröffentlichten sie ihre Videobotschaften unter dem Label “Studio Jundullah” (Armee Gottes) der Islamischen Bewegung Usbekistan (IBU). Seit einigen Monaten hat sich das geändert. Nun erscheint ihr zweites Video unter dem Namen “Al-Khandaq”, eine Anspielung auf eine historische Schlacht, bei der der Prophet gekämpft hat.
12. Januar 2014 12:24
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Turning a Wedding Into a Funeral: U.S. Drone Strike in Yemen Killed as Many as 12 Civilians
22 februari 2014
Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going toward the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen,” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A new report has revealed that a U.S. drone strike that killed at least a dozen people in Yemen in December failed to comply with rules imposed by President Obama last year to protect civilians. The strike was carried out by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command and targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to the Human Rights Watch investigation, quote, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men between the ages of 20 and 65 and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports.
One of the witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed in Yemen was Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi of Yakla. He described the scene on the day the wedding procession was attacked on December 12, 2013. His son, Ali Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi, was killed in that drone strike.
ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD AL-TISI: [translated] We were having a traditional marriage ceremony. According to our traditions, the whole tribe has to go to the bride’s tribe. We were in about 12 to 15 cars with 60 to 70 men on board. He had lunch at the bride’s village at Al Abu Saraimah. Then we left to head back to the groom’s village.
A drone was hovering overhead all morning. There were one or two of them. One of the missiles hit the car. The car was totally burned. Four other cars were also struck. When we stopped, we heard the drone fire. Blood was everywhere, and the people killed and injured were scattered everywhere. The area was full of blood, dead bodies and injured people. I was injured. I saw the missile hit the vehicle behind the car my son was driving.
INTERVIEWER: [translated] Was it your car?
ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD AL-TISI: [translated] It was my own car. I went there to check on my son. I found his body thrown from the car. I turned him over, and he was dead. He was already dead.
I didn’t see any al-Qaeda militants in the procession, and no one from the area is a member of al-Qaeda. The Yemeni government gave us 100 Kalashnikovs and 34 million Yemeni rials, nearly $159,000 U.S., according to tribal tradition. According to tribal tradition, this alone is an admission of guilt, and the money was an admission of guilt. The money was for the burial of the dead and the treatment of the injured. The U.S. government made a big mistake. They killed innocent people. This was a serious crime. They turned many kids into orphans, many wives into widows. Many were killed, and many others were injured, although everyone was innocent.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi talking about the U.S. drone strike in December that killed his son. All of this comes as the White House is reportedly considering using a drone to kill a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan who’s allegedly affiliated with al-Qaeda.
For more, we’re joined right now by Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. She wrote the new report titled “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen.”
We’re also joined by Democracy Now! video stream by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of TheIntercept.org, as well as the producer of and the co-writer of the documentary that’s been nominated for an Oscar, Dirty Wars.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Letta, you just recently came back from Yemen, came out with this report. Talk about its findings.
LETTA TAYLER: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here.
What we found is that this strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 12 people, injured 15, including the bride, who received a superficial face wound. And we have serious concerns that the strike not only may have violated international law, but also flies in the face of President Obama’s policies on targeted killings. The president has said the U.S. does not strike unless it has near certainty that no civilians were killed, yet the evidence strongly suggests that at least some of those killed in this strike, and possibly all of them, were civilians.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, could you talk to us about what your research involved in producing the report? And also, you seem to have found contradictions between what national Yemeni officials were saying and what local provincial or officials closer to the ground were saying.
LETTA TAYLER: Yes, indeed, there are a mind-boggling array of on, off and on-the-record comments about this strike, which really underscores the urgent need for the United States to come clean on what exactly happened. I researched this strike in Yemen. This is my seventh or eighth trip to Yemen in recent years, many of those trips to look at this particular issue of targeted killings. I met with relatives and family members there, as well as government officials, academics, journalists and so forth. The most compelling testimony, of course, was from the family members—as you’ve seen in the video, men holding tattered ID cards of their loved ones, in some cases the only remaining item that they had of these people who died, and saying to me, “Explain to me, explain to me why did the U.S. kill my son, why did the U.S. kill my nephew.” Even the—even the son of the groom from a previous marriage was killed in this strike. And these Yemenis deserve answers from the United States as to what happened.
AMY GOODMAN: What has the U.S. said?
LETTA TAYLER: The U.S. has responded to my report in a fashion that I find disappointing and disconcerting. We are getting more of the same obfuscation. We’re getting more off-the-record comments to media that, yes, this strike did hit, that the targets of the strike were militants. But where is the evidence? Show us the proof. Show us the findings of your reports. If indeed militants were killed, let us judge the facts. Let us see if you’re complying with law and with your own policy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, the government did claim that there was a particular militant that they were looking to kill, but then his name did not appear in the list of the dead, right?
LETTA TAYLER: Yes, Shawqi al-Badani. He was not among the 12 names that were given to me, the 12 bodies that were identified by relatives as well as other media in Yemen. And indeed, the relatives I spoke to said they never heard of this man.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, in Dirty Wars, you go to Yemen. You investigate a number of drone strikes. Talk about how this one fits in, the December attack that is now—we’re talking about, of the Human Rights Watch report.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, I mean, what I think is really key here that Letta and the team at Human Rights Watch have really zeroed in on is that when there are—when there’s these strikes and civilians are killed, the Obama administration has stated that they do a review, that they do an investigation. And indeed, these anonymous officials have been saying to major media outlets that they did an internal investigation and that the Department of Defense determined that the individuals that were killed were in fact legitimate combatants. And yet, those reports are never made public.
In the cases that I’ve investigated in Yemen, one of which was the al-Majalah bombing that you referenced, it was the first time that we know of that President Obama authorized a military-style attack inside of Yemen. And that wasn’t a drone attack; it was actually a cruise missile attack. And it killed three dozen—more than three dozen people, the overwhelming majority of whom were women and children. There supposedly was an internal investigation into that, and yet the White House won’t release it. The Pentagon will not release these investigations that they do. In the case of the drone bombings of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen, and then his 16-year-old son two weeks later in a separate drone strike, again they said that there was an internal investigation into the killing of this boy. The findings of it are not released.
And what we’re seeing right now, and we’ve talked about this a lot on the show, boils down to the Obama administration trying to wage what it perceives—what it believes is, you know, pre-emptive war or preventative strikes, where they’re killing people that they think may one day pose a threat, or they may have picked up chatter that they’ve been discussing some kind of a plot. And there’s no—not even a sort of vague idea that we should have any kind of a law enforcement approach to the crime of terrorism anymore. They’re just zapping people, you know, in acts of precrime. The idea of judicial process or legal process has been replaced by the National Security Agency tracking the metadata of individuals in various countries, building profiles of where—what telephones are in contact with other telephones, where particular SIM cards have been physically or geographically. And then you have a secret process in the White House on these so-called Terror Tuesday meetings where officials essentially condemn the users of these SIM cards or phones to death, and then President Obama signs off, and the drone serves as the executioner. That’s basically the judicial process that the U.S. now offers to people who are actually not even accused of the crime of terrorism, just perceived by the White House to be involved with it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Jeremy, you’ve mentioned President Obama’s direct involvement in—of this. I want to turn to him speaking about drone strikes during the first major counterterrorism address of his second term. His comments came one day after Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed U.S. drone strikes had killed four American citizens in Yemen and Pakistan.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set. Yes, the conflict with al-Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Obama. Letta?
LETTA TAYLER: I wanted to point out one thing in this speech. He said, “We’re targeting those who want to get us, not those they hide among.” There is one theory about this December 12th strike on the wedding convoy, that members of AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group, may have infiltrated the convoy. If this is true—and I have no idea that it is; we have no evidence one way or the other that AQAP was actually in this convoy, but let’s assume for the moment that this might be correct—that shielding—it’s called human shielding—for AQAP to go into the convoy, would not excuse or exonerate the—excuse the—would not give the United States the right to attack that convoy. The United States as an attacking force always has to distinguish between civilians and combatants. And by combatants, I mean lawful targets. We have a lot of questions as to whether many of the people being killed who the U.S. considers militants are actually lawful targets. So, even if AQAP was hiding among these forces, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that that strike was lawful.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Letta Tayler, Human Rights Watch senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, who just came out with this report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen.” What are the implications of this report? And what has the U.S. said to you? Have other countries gotten in touch with you?
LETTA TAYLER: Well, the implications of this report are first that we’re still operating in a vast accountability vacuum. The United States is saying, “Trust us,” yet they’re not giving us any information that would allow us to trust them. And this sets a very—not only does this mean that the U.S. may well be violating international law and President Obama’s own policy, but it sets a very dangerous precedent for countries around the world. I don’t find it surprising that journalists from Russia and China call us, frequently, when we come out with a report like this, because there are many leaders in many countries who are very happy to see the U.S. pave the way for taking out people without any justification, anytime, anywhere, and simply calling them terrorists or threats to national security.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jeremy, have we seen any movement at all on the part of the administration, given all of the—all of the publicity that has come out about these strikes now, or even in terms of Congress attempting to rein in the policies of the administration?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, Congress is almost entirely asleep at the wheel when it comes to oversight or raising serious questions about the drone program or the assassination policy in general. I mean, the most vocal critics of this program, who have raised some of the essential questions, are people like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who on many issues really sounds like a raving lunatic, but on this particular issue, when he filibustered the nomination of John Brennan, who really was the drone czar of the Obama administration’s first term, Rand Paul read into the congressional record human rights reports, media reports about civilians killed. It was the first time that there was discussion on the floor of the U.S. Senate of American citizens potentially being targeted for assassination in these drone strikes.
But, you know, polls indicate that a solid percentage of self-identified liberal Democrats support the White House on this, and that’s in part due to the fact that President Obama has projected—and it really boils down to propaganda—that this is somehow a cleaner way of waging war. I think also, politically, many Democrats would be opposing these policies or raising serious questions if their guy wasn’t in the White House. If McCain or Mitt Romney had won those elections, I think we would see a more robust discussion in Congress on this.
But President Obama said in his major address, and then his administration has released papers saying that among the standards is not just that mere certainty that civilians will not be killed, but also that the individuals that they’re targeting represent an imminent threat and that they—and that capture is not feasible. And I think that those two factors in this should also be investigated, because I don’t believe that the majority of the people that are killed in these drone strikes are engaged in an imminent plot that’s going to harm America’s national security or American interests, even as broadly as the Obama administration defines it.
I mean, we really—this should be brought up at an international level, because the U.S., as Letta says, is setting a standard. There are some 80 countries in the world that have weaponized drone technology. It’s just a matter of time before a Russia or a China says, “You know what? America does this. We have the right to do it, too,” and they start doing drone attacks to take out dissidents or people that they perceive to be terrorists.
Every nation around the world now claims that it’s in a war against terrorism. I was just in Egypt, where the U.S.-backed dictatorship of General Sisi is in power, and there are huge posters all over Egypt that talk about how the Egyptian government is in a war against terrorism. It’s really a cooptation of this Bush-Cheney idea, that Obama unfortunately has continued, that if you just label your enemies as terrorists, you can justify doing anything to them and justify denying them of any basic rights. You can’t surrender to a drone, and you can’t turn yourself in when you haven’t been charged with a crime. To what authority do you surrender?
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media, also the producer and writer of the documentary Dirty Wars , which has been nominated for an Oscar. Congratulations, Jeremy, and good luck on your road to the Oscars, which will be on March 2nd. And Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. Her report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen,” we’ll link to at democracynow.org.
This is the 18th birthday of Democracy Now!, and in our breaks, we are showing folks and encouraging people to go to our website at democracynow.org and submit pictures of yourself holding up signs that say, “I need Democracy Now! because…” and you fill in the rest or send us videos, as well. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Patti Smith, “People Have the Power,” and I thank all the people from all over the world who are sending in pictures and videos letting us know what you think. Again, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And I’m also thinking today about Julie Drizin, who was the first producer of Democracy Now!, and also our colleague Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is in Cairo, in Egypt, and our colleagues Anjali Kamat and Nicole Salazar and so many others who make—helped make this program great, as well as Kris Abrams out there in Colorado. Well, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’ve been with you for 18 years, as we turn to another story.
Friday, February 21, 2014
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Karim Khan, Anti-Drone Activist Who Lost Family Members to U.S. Strike, Goes Missing in Pakistan
22 februari 2014
An anti-drone activist and journalist has gone missing in Pakistan just days before he was due to travel to Europe to speak with Parliament members about the impact of the U.S. drone wars. The legal charity Reprieve says Karim Khan was seized in the early hours of February 5 by up to 20 men, some wearing police uniforms. He has not been seen since. Khan’s brother and son were both killed in a drone strike. In addition to public activism, Khan was also engaged in legal proceedings against the Pakistani government for their failure to investigate the killings of his loved ones. We are joined by filmmaker Madiha Tahir, who interviewed Khan for her documentary, “Wounds of Waziristan.”
“These are people seeking peaceful, legal routes for restitution for a great harm that been done to them,” Tahir says. Of drone victim’s families’ difficulty gaining legal traction, she says, “It speaks to the secretive nature of the American state.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show in Pakistan, where an anti-drone activist and journalist has gone missing just days before he was due to travel to Europe to speak with Parliament members about the impact of the U.S. drone wars. The legal charity Reprieve says Karim Khan was seized in the early hours of February 5th by up to 20 men, some wearing police uniforms. He has not been seen since. Karim Khan’s brother and son were both killed in a drone strike. He told his story in the recent documentary Wounds of Waziristan.
KARIM KHAN: [translated] In 2009, my home was attacked by a drone. My brother and son were martyred. My son’s name was Hafiz Zaenullah. My brother’s name was Asif Iqbal. There was a third person who was a stone mason. He was a Pakistani. His name was Khaliq Dad.
Their coffins were lying next to each other in the house. Their bodies were covered with wounds. Later, I found some of their fingers in the rubble.
As you know, my son had memorized the Qur’an. He was a security guard at the girls’ school, and he was studying for grade 10. My brother had a master’s degree in English. He was a government employee. He loved to debate, but he was so short, he didn’t reach the dais, so they wouldn’t give him many chances to make speeches.
AMY GOODMAN: Karim Khan speaking in the film Wounds of Waziristan. Since his son and brother were killed in 2009, Karim became a prominent anti-drone activist. He’s been missing since last week. The executive director of Reprieve, Clare Algar, said in a statement, quote, “We are very worried about Mr Khan’s safety. He is a crucial witness to the dangers of the CIA’s covert drone programme, and has simply sought justice for the death of his son and brother through peaceful, legal routes,” she said.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Madiha Tahir. She made the film Wounds of Waziristan. She is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Vice, BBC, PRI’s The World, Global Post and other outlets, co-editor of the anthology Dispatches from Pakistan.
Madiha Tahir, thanks so much for being here. We broadcast Wounds of Waziristan and got tremendous response to it. Now one of the key figures who you interview in it, Karim Khan, is gone, at least for the moment. Explain who he is, his significance.
MADIHA TAHIR: Karim Khan is actually one of the first people to bring a case in the Pakistani courts on—about drone attacks. So he’s the one who started to bring cases forward, and he has been working with a lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who has been fighting on behalf of drone survivors and families of the dead. And Karim was working with Shahzad to help, you know, not only in his own case, but also to help and assist in other cases that were being brought forward in Pakistani courts to demand restitution and demand transparency for—you know, for these attacks.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Madiha, can you give us a sense of how many such cases have been filed and whether other anti-drone activists in Pakistan have been targeted in any way or in fact picked up in the way that he was, Karim Khan?
MADIHA TAHIR: So, Karim is the first, that I know of, that has been picked up who is an anti-drone activist, but disappearances in Pakistan are very common. It’s a common state tactic. It has been happening in Balochistan, where there is a separatist movement, for a long time now. And, in fact, three are families protesting. There were mass graves found in Balochistan of missing people quite recently, only a few weeks ago. So this is a very common tactic by the state, and now, clearly, the Pakistani establishment, which is to say the intelligence agencies and the Pakistani army, want to send a message to the anti-drone movement to tell us to—you know, to tell the movement to shut up, basically.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to your film, Wounds of Waziristan. In this clip, Karim speaks to you, Madiha Tahir.
KARIM KHAN: [translated] You asked me a question about terrorism. Can I ask you one? What is the definition of “terrorism” or “terrorist”?
MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] I don’t know. What do you think it is?
KARIM KHAN: [translated] I think there is no bigger terrorist than Obama or Bush, those who have weaponry like drones, who drop bombs on us while we are in our homes. There are no greater terrorists than them.
AMY GOODMAN: There again, Karim Khan, who went missing last week. And the people who took him, how many people saw this go down?
MADIHA TAHIR: His family was at home. His wife and his children were at home when it happened, so they saw it, and there are other eyewitnesses who saw it. He was picked up by 15 to 20 people. It seems to be people who were dressed in plainclothes, as well as police officers, who picked him up and disappeared him. His whereabouts are unknown. His family has not been able to find out where he’s being kept. Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer, did file something on his behalf in the Lahore court, and the court has ordered the intelligence agencies now to produce him by February 20th before the court. So we have to wait for that date and see what happens. But the best scenario would be that he is released before then.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And Karim Khan moved from Waziristan to Rawalpindi. Can you talk about the significance of the area from which he was picked up and whether it’s significant that—or whether it ’ widely believed that the people who were responsible for picking him up were the ISI, the intelligence services, or the military, or a combination?
MADIHA TAHIR: I mean, I think it is significant. It speaks to the nature of—again, it speaks to the nature of state violence in Pakistan. I think the news media both in the United States and in Pakistan has been—and, you know, rightly so—discussing the attacks by militants that have happened in Pakistan, and those acts, you know, have been reprehensible. Just two days ago, there was a bomb blast in a Peshawar cinema that killed anywhere between 11 to 13 people. But it’s important to realize that that violence happens in a context, and that context is state violence, which has been brutal, in the sense of it’s very quiet, there are disappearances like this. In this case, it’s a high-profile activist, but there are many people who we don’t even know have been picked up and disappeared by the state. So it is—you know, there’s a cyclical pattern between state violence and the non-state violence that is happening in Pakistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Madiha, talk about what he would say if he did get out. Where was he going in Europe? Who was he going to be addressing?
MADIHA TAHIR: Karim Khan was actually slated to speak to several European parliaments next week, and he was going to talk about the drone attack that killed his son and his brother on New Year’s Eve in 2009. And he would have talked about the cost of these attacks on the people in the tribal areas in Pakistan, who are some of the most marginalized communities in Pakistan. For simply for wanting to speak out about what happened to him and what is happening and continues to happen in that area, he has been disappeared by the Pakistani state. And certainly, I think, you know, we shouldn’t forget that the United States has backed and funded the Pakistani military, and this is happening, so, in conjunction with these states working together, both Pakistan and the United States.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Madiha, you also spoke about the increasing cycle of violence in Pakistan, both state violence and anti-state violence. Could you draw the links between what you think is the correlation, or if there is any, between the increasing number of drone strikes and really the unprecedented number of suicide bombs that occur now in Pakistan, a place which never knew suicide bombs 10 years—you know, 10 years ago?
MADIHA TAHIR: Yes. I mean, I think it’s—we have to be wary of drawing simple causes. So it’s not that, you know, suicide bombings are happening because. You know, it’s not a straightforward cause; however, there is a linkage. And you’re right, there is a correlation. The suicide attacks have increased in the last decade as Pakistan has been attacked by drones and has participated in the war on terror. The violence in Pakistan has gotten so much worse, not just suicide bombings, but all sorts of blasts happening. So, certainly, the war on terror, if it was meant to protect Pakistanis, is not working at all. It has actually had an adverse effect. By some estimates, you know, anywhere—you know, something like 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in attacks by non-state actors. So, the war on terror is something that is something that the U.S. and the Pakistani government have been sort of working on together, but it’s certainly not had—it’s certainly not been to the—on behalf of Pakistanis.
AMY GOODMAN: Madiha, I want to go back to your film, Wounds of Waziristan, where you speak with Karim Khan’s lawyer, the man you just mentioned, Shahzad Akbar.
MADIHA TAHIR: This is Shahzad Akbar. He’s Karim’s lawyer. They’ve filed a case against drone attacks in Pakistani courts. He told me why it’s difficult to narrate his clients’ lives for the court and the media.
SHAHZAD AKBAR: For example, you know, when I have a client and we want—OK, this was a person who was killed, so we’d like to construct his life on photographs. You know, you have family photos and—of when he was young, when he was in school, when he was in teens and when he grew up—in all those photos. They’re missing. They’re not there, because, you know, you don’t have the culture of taking pictures for that matter.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2012, Democracy Now! spoke to Shahzad Akbar, the co-founder of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, an organization that represents victims of drone strikes in Pakistani courts. Again, he is Karim Khan’s lawyer. And Akbar explained why he decided to visit the United States at that time.
SHAHZAD AKBAR: I, on behalf of the victims in Pakistan, wanted to reach out to Americans so that they can make an informed judgment on drones. Their opinion matter, and it’s going to matter in next elections, as well. So they need to know what drones are doing to humans in Pakistan, many of them who are civilians. And it has been said by independent groups and journalists, as well, a bigger—higher number of civilian victims. And that has to be reported to the American public so they can make an informed judgment on drones, that if American government should let be killing people overseas in their names.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is Shahzad Akbar, who you’ve just watched and listened to. He was in the United States in 2012. But this past year, when some of his clients came to the United States, drone victims—the Rafiq Rehman family, little girl, little boy, both injured when their grandmother was blown up in a drone strike—he was not granted a visa to come to the United States. The significance of this, Madiha Tahir? Of course, it made it much more difficult. They didn’t speak English. He would have been as much their navigator and their comfort. They were in a strange land, in fact a land where the drone came from that killed their grandmother.
MADIHA TAHIR: I mean, these are people that are seeking peaceful, legal routes for restitution for something—for a great harm that has been done to them and for a loss they will suffer for the rest of their lives. And so, to not allow their lawyer is to say that the U.S. doesn’t care about legal—about the rule of law and about the legal process at all, to not allow their representatives to come to the United States and to speak, you know, to stand by his clients and to speak alongside them. I think it’s highly problematic, but I think it speaks to the secretive nature of the American state.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Madiha, can you give us a sense of how many victims or families of victims of drone strikes have attempted to bring their cases to the courts, either in Pakistan or indeed in the U.S.?
MADIHA TAHIR: I’m not sure exactly what the figures are at this point, because the cases are at different levels. Some of them are still—they’re—Shahzad and others are actually still in the process of gathering information in order to, you know, get the cases out there. So the most significant cases right now are—you know, there’s been the Karim Khan’s case and also Noor Khan, who is the son of the tribal—the mullah who was killed on March 17th in a drone attack on a jirga, a gathering, that killed upwards of 40, 50 people.
AMY GOODMAN: The Obama administration is facing criticism over reports it’s debating whether to kill a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan who’s allegedly plotting terror attacks. On Monday, I spoke with journalist Glenn Greenwald, who recently launched TheIntercept.org with Jimmy Scahill and Laura Poitras. I asked Glenn about the initial Associated Press article that broke the story. And folks can go to our website at democracynow.org to hear what Glenn responded. I think, actually, we have it for you right now.
GLENN GREENWALD: The very idea that the U.S. government suspects an American citizen, not of having already engaged in crimes, but of planning to do so, as Jeremy said, it’s like a pre-crime framework, where the U.S. government tries to guess at who will engage in crimes in the future and then treat them as a criminal—but then, not just treat them as a criminal, but declare them guilty in secret proceedings, not involving any court, but by the decree of the president of the United States to literally, A, declare the person guilty, B, impose the death penalty, and then, C, go out and carry out the execution—just like they did with Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan. And now they are obviously viewing it as a regular practice. I mean, no American, no matter your political affiliation or ideology, should accept the idea that the president of the United States has the power to order American citizens killed, not on a battlefield or anywhere else that is in a war zone, but simply on the suspicion that they intend to engage in future criminal behavior. To describe that power is to describe the most extremist and out-of-control government you can get.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept. Mahiha?
MADIHA TAHIR: Yes, I mean, I agree with Glenn Greenwald. It is—you know, it is a kind of pre-crime for which this American citizen is now going to be possibly attacked for by the United States. I think it’s important to remember that most of the people who are being attacked in exactly a similar way are not Americans, they are Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somali, etc. In Pakistan, as you know, there has been the tactic of what are called signature strikes, which are strikes that aren’t actually targeting a specific, named, high-value target or anything of that nature, but rather people whose behavioral patterns, for one reason or another, appear to trigger a suspicion in the U.S. intelligence apparatus that they may or may not be militants. We don’t actually know. But simply on that basis, on very faulty intelligence, much of which is happening through cellphone—unreliable cellphone data, you know, a lot of these attacks are carried out, and why we have the figures that we have of the numbers of people killed.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Find this story at 12 February 2014
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In the shadows of international law
4 december 2013
German intelligence services collect data from asylum seekers that could have security relevance and turn it over to the US. In some instances this could be a breach of international law.
In its ongoing “war on terror,” the United States, for years, has been carrying out so-called targeted killings of suspected terrorists with the help of unmanned drone aircraft. Information about possible targets is also passed on to the US intelligence services by their German counterparts, who have gleaned that information from asylum seekers.
Germany’s Central Survey Office (HBW) regularly conducts background checks on asylum seekers. The agency, like the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), answers directly to the chancellor, and is particularly interested in information about suspected terrorists in the asylum seeker’s country of origin.
Theoretically, as German media have pointed out, the transfer of this information could lead to the targeted killing of a person by the United States, making Germany an indirect participant in that action – and that could be a violation of international law, according to Robert Frau, an expert on the subject at Viadrina University in Frankfurt/Oder.
“If Germany were to hand over data to the Americans, which were then used for illegal actions, then Germany would be abetting a breach of international law,” said Frau.
Interpretations of international law
There is no consensus among law experts, however, whether or not drone attacks and targeted killings are a violation of international law, and as such, whether Germany, in passing on information, would be abetting a breach of the law.
This MQ-9 Reaper is one of the main drones used by the US for clandestine air operations
In armed conflicts, persons participating directly in combat operations are legitimate targets. “In such cases, a drone attack is no different than using a missile, or having soldiers fire their weapons,” said Frau.
A targeted killing in that scenario would not be a violation of international law. Both the United States and Germany, for example, are involved in an armed conflict in Afghanistan. Therefore, if Germany passes information to the US on German citizens in Afghanistan and the US uses that information for a targeted killing, that is not a breach of international law, Frau explained.
The situation would be different in Somalia, however. “Germany is not involved in armed conflict there and outside of an armed conflict there are other rules. That means, as a matter of principle, such killings are not legal,” Frau stressed.
No German collusion is known
Hans-Christian Ströbele admits that no German participation is known
It is next to impossible to prove whether or not Germany in the past ever provided information that led to a targeted killing. When asked, the German government points to the necessity of keeping sensitive information secret.
Even the highly critical Green politician, Hans-Christian Ströbele, who is a member of the Parliamentary Control Committee that oversees the intelligence services and has access to secret government files, has said that he has no knowledge of any such cases.
Ströbele did say, however, that there was also no way to totally exclude it either. Germany, he said, had no way of knowing what the US did with the information it received from Berlin.
Once data is passed on, one can assume the US intelligence services will use it as they see fit, agrees law expert Frau. Germany “cannot pass on data with the explicit request that they not be used for illegal acts,” he said.
Author Sven Pöhle / gb
Editor John Blau
Find this story at 26 November 2013
© 2013 Deutsche Welle |
German spies keep tabs on asylum-seekers
4 december 2013
German law promises refuge to those persecuted in their home countries. Now it has been revealed that German intelligence uses the asylum process to find out more about those coming here – and those who stay behind.
When refugees apply for asylum in Germany they have to go through a long process before their stay is approved. Employees of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ask them questions about the situation in their home country and whether they face political persecution.
They agency is also interested in finding out how refugees arrived in Germany, whether criminal smugglers helped them and whether applicants entered other European countries before arriving in Germany. If they did, international law says they must return to the country of entry.
Victor Pfaff says the HBW are not mysterious
But unknown to the public, there is another authority that can take charge of the process. The Berlin-based Office for Interrogation (HBW) is officially part of the chancellor’s office. Since 1958 if has gathered information to help Germany’s domestic Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Many observers believe it is in reality part of the BND.
Journalists from the daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and public broadcaster NDR reported that HBW employees ask whether asylum-seekers know specific people in their home countries who might belong to a terrorist organization or have information about weapons caches. In theory, this information could be used by intelligence services to find or kill terrorists.
A dangerous game?
Lawyers who advise asylum-seekers about their rights frequently encounter the HBW. Victor Pfaff has been working in Frankfurt as an asylum-rights lawyer for more than 40 years. He has met many HBW employees, finding them always to be very polite and happy to hand out their business cards. “We shouldn’t enshroud them in a fog of mystery,” he said.
Pfaff said the agency denies being part of the BND, even though both organizations report directly to the chancellor.
Asylum-seekers had never complained to him that this questioning caused them problems, Pfaff said. On the contrary, he sometimes approached the HBW for help in speeding up difficult asylum cases. He said if his clients are able to provide useful information, their residence permits can be issued in a matter of days.
But deals like this only happen rarely, Pfaff said, warning that information can also be gathered without consent. “It is problem if German intelligence is secretly present at a an asylum hearing and provides this information to foreign intelligence.” If this happened, asylum-seekers might feel they were being used. Pfaff said he had heard of such cases, and believed they posed a danger, because terrorists could take revenge and kill alleged traitors.
Refugees can spend years in camps such as this one in Friedland, Lower Saxony
Warnings for attempted spying
Claus-Ulrich Prössl heads the Cologne Refugee Council, an organization that assists asylum-seekers throughout the procedure. Prössl said he believes the BND and the HBW are closely connected, and had even heard of cases where people were questioned by BND employees. “A few refugees were hoping that their asylum process would go more quickly, while other refugees did not understand what was going on and were worried.”
Prössl warns asylum-seekers to be careful: “Unfortunately, after the NSA affair, we have to assume that all information will be passed on.” He said he did not see any data protection or confidentiality and worried that the information thus gathered would not stay within the borders of Germany. There must be a reason, he said, why the state of North Rhine-Westphalia had given up on its own security questioning.
Cologne-based lawyer Zaza Koschuaschwili also warns applicants about questions that have nothing to do with the actual asylum process. Sometimes the quality of the available simultaneous translators is poor:”It often happens that interpreters is add their own interpretations or opinions to a statement.” His clients would often complain that they had been musunderstood, he added.
As a lawyer and a native of Georgia, Koschuaschwili can speak both languages and knows his clients’ rights. But whenever the HBW gets involved, attorneys are frequently excluded from interviews.
Refugees give information to the HBW in the hope of gaining residency
Participation is not meant to have drawbacks
DW asked the HBW for an interview to shed light on the relationship between itself and the BND. Its director promised to provide the desired information once a series of questions had been discussed with the chancellor’s office. That process is still ongoing.
Six months ago, Sharmila H. came to Germany from Afganistan. Although she is still waiting for her interview, she says one thing is already clear to her: “I will not answer just any questions,” if intelligence agencies speak to her – just who she is and why she came here.
Pfaff and Koschuaschwili wish to reassure those who are unwilling to cooperate with German intelligence that they should have no fear about the regular procedure for granting asylum.
Sharmila H. hopes they are right.
Author Wolfgang Dick / ns
Editor Simon Bone
Find this story at 22 November 2013
© 2013 Deutsche Welle
Asylum Seekers in Germany Unwittingly Used As Intelligence Sources
3 december 2013
In Somalia, Yusuf A. owned two houses and several cars. He had money and power as a politician with a seat in parliament and occasionally even in the cabinet. Now he lives in a shabby apartment in a small industrial park in Munich. Yusuf hasn’t yet found work and frequently falls ill. He’s lost his wealth, but at least he’s safe. In Somalia, he was under threat from al-Shabaab Islamists. Then it went beyond threats. One day a grenade landed in his house, killing a colleague of his. Yusuf fled to Germany.
He was granted permanent residency with amazing swiftness and was allowed to send for his wife and seven children to join him. The German authorities—and they probably weren’t alone—showed great interest in Yusuf. In the span on seven weeks authorities called him in for questioning five times. The meetings lasted hours. Hearings conducted by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees usually aren’t that involved. But in the case of Yusuf A., another authority came into play: the Main Office for Questioning (the Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen, HBW for short), which was established in during Cold War times to interview refugees and immigrants.
The mysterious agency specializes in drawing on information it teases out of refugees. Just like the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, the BND, the counterpart to the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency), it falls under the purview of the Chancellor’s office. Even the federal government is tight-lipped about the intelligence operations conducted within the HBW. This is about secret intelligence, after all.
Old records at Berlin’s administrative court show, however, that the HBW (first created by Germany’s Western allies) has been under the control of the BND since the 1950s. One BND report from 1983 calls witnesses in the HBW asylum process an “opening in the shadows.” That would make the HBW an institution built on a shadow world.
The refugees are expected to give extensive testimony. Testimony about conditions back home, preferably about politicians, terrorists and their networks.
Yusuf won’t say exactly what he told the officers at the HBW. But he will give us one detail; during a meeting he gave up the telephone number of an al-Shabaab leader. He knew a woman who came from the same town and, at the urging of the German officers, coaxed the al-Shabaab leader’s number out of her. He also found out that the Islamist leader seldom used his cellphone and even then used it only briefly. He mostly let his associates speak for him, switching their phones often.
Yusuf now wonders if it was right to pass on the number to the Germans. Cellphone numbers help to locate people, and if the German authorities get a hold of important numbers, the BND can hand them over to the U.S.
The United States is leading a drone war in Somalia that is legally questionable and continually claims the lives of people who have nothing to do with terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab or Al-Qaida. Yusuf knows that.
He says, “You have to attack al-Shabaab. They are evil people.” But he doesn’t want innocent civilians to die in the name of shutting down al-Shabaab.
Refugees like Yusuf who are interviewed by the HBW aren’t told later what was done with the information they provided.
Immigrant as informant
Asylum seekers in Germany are unwittingly being used as intelligence sources. Not every immigrant is called for questioning, but some receive letters from the HBW. They read; “the security situation worldwide” makes it necessary that the government of the Federal Republic of Germany gain information “about the political and social issues in your home country.” The HBW is charged with “collecting reliable information.”
An HBW questionnaire for Afghanis reads: “The people in my hometown openly support the Taliban”—”yes” and “no”. The HBW wants to know how the supply of doctors and drinking water is, how foreign soldiers are perceived, and whether people believe that Afghanistan’s government can stabilize the situation. The questions are written in Afghanistan’s official language, Dari.
Once you’ve filled out the questionnaire, it’s not over. Sometimes two women from the HBW, accompanied by a translator, arrive for a more personal chat. One lawyer from northern Germany says her client was allowed to stay in Germany because of his work helping the U.S. Army in his home country of Afghanistan. Later she learned her client had been questioned by the HBW in a refugee camp. She calls the cooperation between refugees and the HBW a “balancing act”. It’s not yet clear, lawyers say, what’s done with the information from these surveys and interviews or what effect participation—or nonparticipation—has on the refugees’ fate.
The Germany government says participation in the surveys is voluntary and has no influence on the duration or success of the asylum process. But it’s striking how quickly refugees are taken in when they pique the interest of the HBW. Attorneys argue that their clients are especially vulnerable after such an HBW interview session if they are subsequently sent back to their home countries. In many of these refugees’ homelands, it’s not exactly seen as a good thing to be talking to a western intelligence agency.
The German government talks about “post-refuge rationale” that occurs after leaving one’s homeland. If such a “post-refuge rationale” is apparent during the HBW questioning, it will be considered as part of the asylum application. That sounds complicated, especially since the government says there’s no reward system at play.
In off-the-record interviews, several attorneys said clearly: refugees who cooperate with the HBW can expect a speedy process and permanent residency in Germany. Lawyers are mostly shut out of these interview sessions. The authorities explicitly advise the asylum seekers to come without legal representation.
One Somali interpreter who has translated for asylum seekers for many years is convinced that there’s a rewards system at play: “It’s made clear to these people that if they cooperate they will be accepted quicker.” The interpreter came to Germany more than 20 years ago and has assisted many asylum seekers over the years. He fears giving his name would put his work and himself at risk. He says sometimes strange people come to hearings at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees calling themselves interns. “The intern doesn’t come to simply any hearing, but rather just when he thinks someone knows something.” Then the refugee is asked about Islamist groups in great detail. Many refugees come from regions where the U.S. has dropped bombs using unmanned predator drones. Drones are a weapon against which you can’t protect yourself, says the interpreter. “People live in fear.”
Victor Pfaff, a lawyer from Frankfurt, witnessed in the 1970s how asylum seekers had to move through three rooms during an application procedure. One room where the German officials sat, one where representatives from the U.S. intelligence agencies awaited them. The sign read “Liaison Officer “. It was only later that Pfaff learned of the HBW. He considers the agency to be legitimate and thinks it’s in Germany’s interest to make sure no one who poses a security risk should be allowed to remain in the country. That’s one possible outcome of the HBW surveys. But when it comes to cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies, “it could be problematic,” Pfaff says.
The 1980s it came out that the information Turkish refugees had given the HBW/BND somehow landed at the Turkish intelligence agency. A BND officer at the time testified that it be “grave misconduct” if the authorities had been responsible for such a huge slip-up. But the agencies do work together with Turkish intelligence agencies on projects including those in the area of anti-terrorism.
The methods, explanation and assertions from that case sound oddly similar. Three years ago, an insider published an essay under the pseudonym Jack Dawson in the Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies. He wrote that the HBW was a part of a larger interrogation program in Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S. called the Tripartite Debriefing Programme. France is said to have taken part earlier in its existence.
British and U.S. intelligence officials celebrated the 50th anniversary of the HBW along with their German counterparts in Berlin in 2008.
After Dawson’s revelations British and American intelligence officers began questioning asylum seekers in Germany sometimes even without their German colleagues. Asked in late October, Dawson said that, to the best of his knowledge, the Tripartite program still runs strong. The goal remains the same: gain intelligence from the refugee questioning sessions.
You could even say: whoever wants German protection isn’t safe from American intelligence agencies.
Confronted with Dawson’s information, the German government seems struck by a telling silence. In stilted language, officials refer to rules of confidentiality. “An in-depth answer to the question would reveal details about methods, jeopardizing the future ability and performance of the HBW and BND.” Questions put to U.S. officials about HBW still remains unanswered.
It’s not very easy to pay a visit the HBW headquarters at 150 Hohenzollerndamm in Berlin’s Wilmersdorf district. Surely, that’s by design. In front of the building lies a well-maintained yard. The HBW offices are housed on the fourth floor, where officers can look down from a bay window. But getting up there isn’t simple. There are no stairs that lead to the HBW offices—only an elevator, which requires a key.
There are other HBW offices in Nuremberg, Maiz and Hanover and six refugee reception centers. The German government won’t say anything on the topic. It merely confirms that there is a duty station at the border transit camp in Friedland, in central Germany. In total, just 40 people work at the HBW.
Meanwhile the interviewers have switched their focus towards Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Syria. At the end of 2012, in response to questions posed by the Green Party, the German government said that since 2000, some 500 to 1,000 “briefings” with refugees and emigrants were conducted, each applicant enduring two to five question sessions each.
But not every asylum seeker is telling the truth. In 1999, the Iraqi Rafed Ahmed Alwan came to the refugee reception center in Zirndorf, near Nuremberg and was questioned there. He provided the BND with information about purported biochemical weapon laboratories in Iraq, which was forwarded to American officials. The C.I.A. gave him the codename Curveball. His statements were later used by the U.S. government to justify the invasion into Iraq.
But the alleged facts were wrong. There were no labs. Alwan, AKA Curveball, got a Germany passport and a contract at some sham offices at, of all places, the BND.
Coincidentally, the BND currently seeks “freelancers” who speak Somali. Applicants are asked to discreetly submit their letters of interest.
November 20, 2013 02:54 pm CET
By Christian Fuchs, John Goetz, Hans Leyendecker, Klaus Ott, Niklas Schenck, Tanjev Schultz
Find this story at 20 November 2013
© Süddeutsche Zeitung Digitale Medien GmbH / Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH
Geheimer Krieg BND will umstrittene Befragungsstelle auflösen
3 december 2013
Die sogenannte Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen ist wenig bekannt, aber sehr umstritten: Asylbewerber werden dort von deutschen und ausländischen Geheimdienstlern ausgehorcht. Die Bundesregierung bestätigt nun diese Praxis. Lange soll es die Stelle aber nicht mehr geben.
Die umstrittene “Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen”, die dem Bundesnachrichtendienst zugeordnet ist, soll aufgelöst werden. Das geht aus einer schriftlichen Antwort der Bundesregierung auf eine Frage von Linksfraktionsvize Jan Korte hervor, die der Nachrichtenagentur dpa vorliegt. Die personelle Ausstattung der Dienststelle sei bereits schrittweise reduziert worden, heißt es darin.
In der Antwort räumt die Regierung ein, dass in der Einrichtung Asylbewerber auch durch Vertreter “der alliierten Partnerdienste ohne deutsche Begleiter” befragt wurden. Es könne außerdem nicht ausgeschlossen werden, dass Informationen aus den Befragungen “auch zum militärischen Lagebild” der Partnerdienste beitragen könnten. Korte kritisierte die Praxis scharf.
500 bis 800 “Vorgespräche”
Nach Recherchen von NDR und Süddeutscher Zeitung im Rahmen des Projekts Geheimer Krieg horchten deutsche Geheimdienstler in der Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen Asylbewerber systematisch aus und gaben Hinweise aus diesen Befragungen an die USA weiter. Diese wiederum nutzen solche Informationen auch für den Einsatz von Kampfdrohnen. Es gibt zudem Hinweise, dass auch britische und amerikanische Nachrichtendienstler in Deutschland Asylbewerber befragen.
Geheime Außenstellen des BND Sie sind mitten unter uns
In der Antwort der Regierung heißt es, in den vergangenen zwei bis drei Jahren hätten durchschnittlich 500 bis 800 “Vorgespräche” pro Jahr stattgefunden. Im Anschluss seien etwa 200 bis 300 Personen befragt worden. Seit der Gründung der Dienststelle 1958 seien an den Befragungen alliierte Nachrichtendienste beteiligt.
Wenn ausländische Geheimdienstler alleine mit Asylbewerbern sprächen, habe der BND “im Vor- und Nachgang” die Aufsicht. Die Ergebnisse der Gespräche würden außerdem im “Meldungssystem” des BND erfasst, bei Bedarf “bereinigt” – etwa im Hinblick auf Datenschutz – und erst dann an die ausländischen Partner weitergegeben. 60 Prozent der erhobenen Informationen der Dienststelle gingen auf diesem Wege an ausländische Geheimdienste.
Korte bezeichnete dies als “absurd”. “Wir sollen mal wieder für dumm verkauft werden”, sagte er der dpa. “Befragungen finden auch durch US-Geheimdienstler statt, aber die Befragungsergebnisse werden angeblich nur nach Prüfung und Freigabe an die USA weitergereicht – und die Befrager haben natürlich alles sofort wieder vergessen und erzählen ihren Dienststellen nichts.”
Zur Nutzung der Informationen aus den Gesprächen mit Asylbewerbern schreibt die Regierung: “Zielsetzung der Befragungen war und ist zu keiner Zeit die Gewinnung von Informationen zur Vorbereitung von Drohneneinsätzen.” Es sei aber nicht auszuschließen, dass die Erkenntnisse auch zum militärischen Lagebild der ausländischen Partner beitragen könnten.
Geheimer Krieg Deutschlands Rolle im “Kampf gegen den Terror”
Eine Serie der Süddeutschen Zeitung und des NDR +++ Panorama-Film “Geheimer Krieg” +++ interaktive Datenbank: Spionen auf der Spur +++ Sonderseite zum Projekt: geheimerkrieg.de +++ alle Artikel finden Sie hier: sz.de/GeheimerKrieg +++ englische Version hier +++
Personal soll reduziert werden
Korte reagierte empört: “Erschreckend ist, dass die Regierung die Berichterstattung der letzten Wochen komplett bestätigen muss, aber scheinbar keinerlei Problem erkennen kann”, sagte er. Niemand könne ausschließen, dass Erkenntnisse aus den Befragungen auch für das gezielte Töten durch Drohnen benutzt würden. “Das ohnehin fragwürdige geheimdienstliche Abschöpfen von Asylsuchenden muss sofort ersatzlos beendet werden”, forderte er.
Die geplante Auflösung der Hauptstelle zeige, dass die derzeitige Praxis offenbar ohnehin entbehrlich sei. Der BND habe die Dienststelle “seit längerem einer Effizienzkontrolle unterzogen” und das Personal dort reduziert, heißt es weiter in der Antwort der Regierung. Ziel sei, die Befragungen direkt in den Krisenregionen im Ausland zu verstärken.
29. November 2013 20:24
Find this story at 29 November 2013
© Süddeutsche Zeitung Digitale Medien GmbH / Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH
Geheimer Krieg Deutsche Behörde horcht Asylbewerber aus
3 december 2013
Wer Informationen über mutmaßliche islamistische Terrorgruppen hat, soll schneller als Asylbewerber anerkannt werden: Die geheime “Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen” befragt Flüchtlinge – das Wissen könnten die USA beim Einsatz von Kampf-Drohnen nutzen.
Beim Einsatz von Kampf-Drohnen greifen US-Geheimdienste auch auf Informationen zurück, die von Asylbewerbern in Deutschland stammen. Nach Angaben eines früheren hochrangigen Pentagon-Mitarbeiters fließen solche Erkenntnisse in das “Zielerfassungssystem” der US-Dienste ein. Selbst scheinbar banale Informationen könnten manchmal reichen, “ein Ziel zu bestätigen – und vielleicht auch dafür, einen Tötungsbefehl auszulösen”. Deutsche Behörden würden angeblich die USA systematisch mit Hinweisen versorgen, die von Flüchtlingen stammen. Dazu können auch die Handydaten von Terrorverdächtigen gehören.
Nach Recherchen der Süddeutschen Zeitung und des Norddeutschen Rundfunks spielt dabei die geheimnisumwitterte “Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen” (HBW), die dem Kanzleramt untersteht, eine zentrale Rolle. Die Bundesregierung macht über die Struktur des HBW selbst bei Anfragen im Parlament keine genauen Angaben. Die Behörde war ursprünglich von den Westalliierten eingerichtet und dann 1958 von der damaligen Bundesregierung übernommen worden. Sie wurde dem Bundesnachrichtendienst zugeordnet.
Wie Geheimdienste Asylbewerber benutzen
Yusuf A. war in Somalia ein Mann mit Macht, ein Politiker mit Geld und mehreren Autos. Dann muss er nach Deutschland fliehen. Bei Gesprächen über seinen Asylantrag sind nicht nur Beamte vom Bundesamt für Flüchtlinge anwesend. geheimerkrieg.de
Es gibt Hinweise, dass auch britische und amerikanische Nachrichtendienstler in Deutschland Asylbewerber befragen. Manchmal angeblich sogar allein, ohne deutsche Kollegen. In einer internationalen Fachzeitschrift berichtete ein Insider, die Hauptstelle sei Teil eines gemeinsamen Befragungsprogramms von Deutschland, Großbritannien und den USA.
Die HBW führt heute nach amtlichen Angaben jährlich 500 bis 1000 Vorgespräche mit Flüchtlingen und befragt anschließend 50 bis 100 von ihnen intensiv. Ein Schwerpunkt der Befragungen liegt derzeit offenbar bei Flüchtlingen aus Somalia, Afghanistan und Syrien.
Das Bundesinnenministerium teilte jüngst auf eine Anfrage der Linken zur Aufnahme von Syrern mit, dass derzeit jeden Monat etwa zehn Flüchtlinge von der HBW “kontaktiert” würden.
Dolmetschern und Anwälten zufolge, die Asylbewerber betreuen, interessiert sich die Hauptstelle vor allem für Flüchtlinge, die Angaben über mutmaßliche islamistische Terrorgruppen machen können. Wer mit der Hauptstelle kooperiere, werde oft mit einer schnellen Anerkennung als Asylbewerber belohnt und dürfe in der Bundesrepublik bleiben.
Die Bundesregierung bestreitet, dass es solche Belohnungen gibt und betont, zudem seien die Befragungen freiwillig. Über eine Zusammenarbeit von HBW und BND äußert sich die Regierung nicht. Sie ließ eine umfassende Anfrage zu der Behörde weitgehend unbeantwortet. Detaillierte Angaben würden die “weitere Arbeitsfähigkeit und Aufgabenerfüllung von HBW und BND gefährden”, erklärte die Regierung.
Die HBW, die im Kalten Krieg viele Hundert Mitarbeiter hatte, soll heute nur noch knapp vierzig Mitarbeiter beschäftigen. Die Zentrale der Behörde liegt in Berlin. Weitere Büros soll sie in insgesamt sechs Aufnahmelagern für Flüchtlinge haben.
19. November 2013 18:59
Von John Goetz und Hans Leyendecker
Find this story at 19 November 2013
© Süddeutsche Zeitung Digitale Medien GmbH / Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH
Die Operationen der US-Dienste in Deutschland
3 december 2013
Drohnen kommen heute immer häufiger zum Einsatz – auch, um damit Menschen zu töten.
Alles begann mit einem Anruf aus Somalia: Ein Mann aus Mogadischu berichtete dem Panorama Team von einem amerikanischen Drohnenangriff. Das Ziel war ein Terrorist der Terrorgruppe al-Shabaab. Aber wie so häufig in diesem Krieg starb nicht nur der Terrorist, sondern auch Zivilisten. An einem Tag im Oktober vor zwei Jahren wurde der Vater des Anrufers durch US-Kampfdrohnen getötet. Er war ein unschuldiger Kamelbauer, der zur falschen Zeit am falschen Ort war.
Der Film “Geheimer Krieg”, für den Panorama Reporter zwei Jahre recherchiert haben, erzählt die Geschichte des Mannes, der sterben musste, weil die USA ihren Krieg gegen den Terror fast weltweit führen. Im Jemen, in Pakistan und in Afrika bringen sie Verdächtige aus der Luft um – ohne Anklage, ohne Anwalt, ohne Gerichtsurteil.
Panorama: Geheimer Krieg
Sehen Sie hier das gesamte Video der Panorama Sendung von 28. November 2013.
Systematische Einbindung Deutschlands
John Goetz vor der amerikanischen Botschaft in Berlin: Wird von hier das Regierungsviertel abgehört?
John Goetz und sein Team zeigen, wie vor allem Deutschland in diesen leisen und versteckten Krieg eingebunden ist: Der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) befragt systematisch Flüchtlinge aus Krisenregionen, um deren Informationen – auch über mögliche Ziele – an die Amerikaner weiterzugeben.
Das Afrika-Kommando der US-Streitkräfte sitzt in Stuttgart. Von hier kommen die Befehle für Drohnenangriffe auf Menschen in Afrika. Über die Airbase in Ramstein läuft die Kommunikation der Drohnenpiloten mit den fliegenden Kampfrobotern über Somalia. Und eine Firma, die Terrorverdächtige für die CIA entführt hat, bekommt seit Jahren Millionenaufträge von der Bundesregierung in sensiblen Bereichen.
Bundesregierung und US-Botschaft wiegeln ab
Auf Anfrage wiegelt die Bundesregierung ab: Es würden nur Informationen an US-Dienste weitergegeben, mit denen keine Drohnenangriffe geplant werden könnten. Außerdem lägen “der Bundesregierung keine eigenen gesicherten Erkenntnisse zu von US-Streitkräften in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland angeblich geplanten oder geführten Einsätzen vor”. Auch die amerikanische Botschaft in Berlin widerspricht den Rechercheergebnissen. Es seien “Halbwahrheiten, Spekulationen und Unterstellungen”, sowie “ungeheuerliche Behauptungen”.
Am Beispiel des ermordeten Kamelbauern aus Somalia und anderen konkreten Fällen zeigt die Dokumentation erstmals, wie deutsche Dienste und US-Einrichtungen in Deutschland an der Ermordung von unschuldigen Zivilisten durch Drohnen in Afrika beteiligt sind. Dafür haben die Reporter in Afrika, den USA, in der Türkei, Deutschland und in Moskau bei Edward Snowden recherchiert.
Die Ausstrahlung des Films ist der Höhepunkt der Serie “Geheimer Krieg”, in der der Norddeutsche Rundfunk und die “Süddeutsche Zeitung” seit gut zwei Wochen darüber berichten, wie das US-Militär und die amerikanischen und britischen Geheimdienste den Kampf gegen den Terrorismus aus Deutschland steuern und kontrollieren.
28.11.13 | 21:45 Uhr
von John Goetz & Niklas Schenck
Find this story at 28 November 2013
© Norddeutscher Rundfunk
Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program
20 november 2013
It was an innocuous e-mail, one of millions sent every day by spouses with updates on the situation at home. But this one was of particular interest to the National Security Agency and contained clues that put the sender’s husband in the crosshairs of a CIA drone.
Days later, Hassan Ghul — an associate of Osama bin Laden who provided a critical piece of intelligence that helped the CIA find the al-Qaeda leader — was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
The U.S. government has never publicly acknowledged killing Ghul. But documents provided to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirm his demise in October 2012 and reveal the agency’s extensive involvement in the targeted killing program that has served as a centerpiece of President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy.
An al-Qaeda operative who had a knack for surfacing at dramatic moments in the post-Sept. 11 story line, Ghul was an emissary to Iraq for the terrorist group at the height of that war. He was captured in 2004 and helped expose bin Laden’s courier network before spending two years at a secret CIA prison. Then, in 2006, the United States delivered him to his native Pakistan, where he was released and returned to the al-Qaeda fold.
But beyond filling in gaps about Ghul, the documents provide the most detailed account of the intricate collaboration between the CIA and the NSA in the drone campaign.
The Post is withholding many details about those missions, at the request of U.S. intelligence officials who cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security.
The NSA is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets,” an NSA spokeswoman said in a statement provided to The Post on Wednesday, adding that the agency’s operations “protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
In the search for targets, the NSA has draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan. In Ghul’s case, the agency deployed an arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions to determine where Ghul might “bed down.”
The e-mail from Ghul’s wife “about her current living conditions” contained enough detail to confirm the coordinates of that household, according to a document summarizing the mission. “This information enabled a capture/kill operation against an individual believed to be Hassan Ghul on October 1,” it said.
The file is part of a collection of records in the Snowden trove that make clear that the drone campaign — often depicted as the CIA’s exclusive domain — relies heavily on the NSA’s ability to vacuum up enormous quantities of e-mail, phone calls and other fragments of signals intelligence, or SIGINT.
To handle the expanding workload, the NSA created a secret unit known as the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell, or CT MAC, to concentrate the agency’s vast resources on hard-to-find terrorism targets. The unit spent a year tracking Ghul and his courier network, tunneling into an array of systems and devices, before he was killed. Without those penetrations, the document concluded, “this opportunity would not have been possible.”
At a time when the NSA is facing intense criticism for gathering data on Americans, the drone files may bolster the agency’s case that its resources are focused on fighting terrorism and supporting U.S. operations overseas.
“Ours is a noble cause,” NSA Director Keith B. Alexander said during a public event last month. “Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy.”
The documents do not explain how the Ghul e-mail was obtained or whether it was intercepted using legal authorities that have emerged as a source of controversy in recent months and enable the NSA to compel technology giants including Microsoft and Google to turn over information about their users. Nor is there a reference to another NSA program facing scrutiny after Snowden’s leaks, its metadata collection of numbers dialed by nearly every person in the United States.
To the contrary, the records indicate that the agency depends heavily on highly targeted network penetrations to gather information that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped in surveillance nets that it has set at key Internet gateways.
The new documents are self-congratulatory in tone, drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities. One is titled “CT MAC Hassan Gul Success.” The files make no mention of other agencies’ roles in a drone program that escalated dramatically in 2009 and 2010 before tapering off in recent years.
Even so, former CIA officials said the files are an accurate reflection of the NSA’s contribution to finding targets in a campaign that has killed more than 3,000 people, including thousands of alleged militants and hundreds of civilians, in Pakistan, according to independent surveys. The officials said the agency has assigned senior analysts to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and deployed others to work alongside CIA counterparts at almost every major U.S. embassy or military base overseas.
“NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA,” said a former U.S. intelligence official with experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the region in northwest Pakistan where al-Qaeda’s leadership is based.
NSA employees rarely ventured beyond the security gates of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, officials said. Surveillance operations that required placing a device or sensor near an al-Qaeda compound were handled by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which specializes in high-tech devices and “close-in” surveillance work.
“But if you wanted huge coverage of the FATA, NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget and 100 times the brainpower,” the former intelligence official said, comparing the surveillance resources of the NSA to the smaller capabilities of the agency’s IOC. The two agencies are the largest in the U.S. intelligence community, with budgets last year of $14.7 billion for the CIA and $10.8 billion for the NSA. “We provided the map,” the former official said, “and they just filled in the pieces.”
In broad terms, the NSA relies on increasingly sophisticated versions of online attacks that are well-known among security experts. Many rely on software implants developed by the agency’s Tailored Access Operations division with code-names such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR. In other cases, the agency runs “man-in-the-middle” attacks in which it positions itself unnoticed midstream between computers communicating with one another, diverting files for real-time alerts and longer-term analysis in data repositories.
Through these and other tactics, the NSA is able to extract vast quantities of digital information, including audio files, imagery and keystroke logs. The operations amount to silent raids on suspected safe houses and often are carried out by experts sitting behind desks thousands of miles from their targets.
The reach of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations division extends far beyond Pakistan. Other documents describe efforts to tunnel into systems used by al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Africa, each breach exposing other corridors.
An operation against a suspected facilitator for al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen led to a trove of files that could be used to “help NSA map out the movement of terrorists and aspiring extremists between Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Iran,” according to the documents. “This may enable NSA to better flag the movement of these individuals” to allied security services that “can put individuals on no-fly lists or monitor them once in country.”
A single penetration yielded 90 encrypted al-Qaeda documents, 16 encryption keys, 30 unencrypted messages as well as “thousands” of chat logs, according to an inventory described in one of the Snowden documents.
The operations are so easy, in some cases, that the NSA is able to start downloading data in less time than it takes the targeted machine to boot up. Last year, a user account on a social media Web site provided an instant portal to an al-Qaeda operative’s hard drive. “Within minutes, we successfully exploited the target,” the document said.
The hunt for Ghul followed a more elaborate path.
Ghul, who is listed in other documents as Mustafa Haji Muhammad Khan, had surfaced on U.S. radar as early as 2003, when an al-Qaeda detainee disclosed that Ghul escorted one of the intended hijackers to a Pakistani safe house a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
A trusted facilitator and courier, Ghul was dispatched to Iraq in 2003 to deliver a message to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda firebrand who angered the network’s leaders in Pakistan by launching attacks that often slaughtered innocent Muslims.
When Ghul made another attempt to enter Iraq in 2004, he was detained by Kurdish authorities in an operation directed by the CIA. Almost immediately, Ghul provided a piece of intelligence that would prove more consequential than he may have anticipated: He disclosed that bin Laden relied on a trusted courier known as al-Kuwaiti.
The ripples from that revelation wouldn’t subside for years. The CIA went on to determine the true identity of al-Kuwaiti and followed him to a heavily fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Because of the courier tip, Ghul became an unwitting figure in the contentious debate over CIA interrogation measures. He was held at a CIA black site in Eastern Europe, according to declassified Justice Department memos, where he was slapped and subjected to stress positions and sleep deprivation to break his will.
Defenders of the interrogation program have cited Ghul’s courier disclosure as evidence that the agency’s interrogation program was crucial to getting bin Laden. But others, including former CIA operatives directly involved in Ghul’s case, said that he identified the courier while he was being interrogated by Kurdish authorities, who posed questions scripted by CIA analysts in the background.
The debate resurfaced amid the release of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” last year, in which a detainee’s slip after a brutal interrogation sequence is depicted as a breakthrough in the bin Laden hunt. Ghul’s case also has been explored in detail in a 6,000-page investigation of the CIA interrogation program by the Senate Intelligence Committee that has yet to be released.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman of the panel, sought to settle the Ghul debate in a statement last year that alluded to his role but didn’t mention him by name.
“The CIA detainee who provided the most significant information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques,” Feinstein said in the statement, which was signed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
The George W. Bush administration’s decision to close the secret CIA prisons in 2006 set off a scramble to place prisoners whom the agency did not regard as dangerous or valuable enough to transfer to Guantanamo Bay. Ghul was not among the original 14 high-value CIA detainees sent to the U.S. installation in Cuba. Instead, he was turned over to the CIA’s counterpart in Pakistan, with ostensible assurances that he would remain in custody.
A year later, Ghul was released. There was no public explanation from Pakistani authorities. CIA officials have noted that Ghul had ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group supported by Pakistan’s intelligence service. By 2007, he had returned to al-Qaeda’s stronghold in Waziristan.
In 2011, the Treasury Department named Ghul a target of U.S. counterterrorism sanctions. Since his release, the department said, he had helped al-Qaeda reestablish logistics networks, enabling al-Qaeda to move people and money in and out of the country. The NSA document described Ghul as al-Qaeda’s chief of military operations and detailed a broad surveillance effort to find him.
“The most critical piece” came with a discovery that “provided a vector” for compounds used by Ghul, the document said. After months of investigation, and surveillance by CIA drones, the e-mail from his wife erased any remaining doubt.
Even after Ghul was killed in Mir Ali, the NSA’s role in the drone strike wasn’t done. Although the attack was aimed at “an individual believed to be” the correct target, the outcome wasn’t certain until later when, “through SIGINT, it was confirmed that Hassan Ghul was in fact killed.”
By Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Barton Gellman, Published: October 17
Find this story at 17 October 2013
© The Washington Post Company
‘Back in the business of killing’
13 november 2013
Ever since September 11, the US – with the help of the CIA – has been carrying out a secret war that defies imagination, says New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti. And it’s not just Washington giving the green light.
The campaign against America’s enemies is silent and precise. Commanders fight without troops. They operate from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia – their “troops” in front of computer screens in Nevada or New Mexico. Their weapons are unmanned drones.
“The CIA, over the last 12 years, has very much been back in the business of killing,” said Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Mazzetti in an interview with DW. “Since the September 11 attacks, the CIA has gradually transformed into very much of a paramilitary organization.”
Mark Mazzetti also broke news of the CIA’s destruction of interrogation tapes in 2007
Just released in Germany, “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” contains evidence gathered by the New York Times journalist via interviews with intelligence operatives and politicians. Mazzetti speaks of a military complex catalysed by developments in drone technology.
“It’s the military, it’s the spy services, it’s private companies that have in many ways created this new state where they can carry out these secret missions and secret eavesdropping,” he said.
The new procedural structures followed in the wake of the terror attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and Pentagon which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Anti-terrorism legislation enacted under President George W. Bush, Mazzetti says, circumvented earlier prohibitions on targeted killings.
“There’s a whole new world that has emerged since the Spetember 11 attacks,” he said.
Borders between the army and secret service became blurred. Roughly 60 percent of the CIA’s current staff was hired after the 2001 terror attacks. Many of those hires have a simple task: hunting and killing people.
Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, further pursued that policy – with the help of, among other things, a secret agreement with the Pakistani government. Local tribal areas in Pakistan were considered sanctuaries for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Since 2004, drones have been flying over such areas and firing rockets at the homes, vehicles and territories of supposed Islamists. Publicly, the Pakistani government has reacted with protests to violations of its sovereign territory. Quietly, Mazzetti says, Pakistan might have endorsed them.
“There are suspicions that privately, they have been giving their approval for the strikes,” he said, “because the US has also gone after enemies of Pakistan.” One example was Taliban leader Nek Mohammed. He became the first official target of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and his death, Mazzetti says, was a precondition for the US to receive flyover rights for further strikes.
In Yemen, August 2013 saw four strikes in three days, leaving fifteen dead
Drone missions were then expanded – to Yemen as well as Somalia. Resulting mishaps are greeted by silence in Washington. Its successes are celebrated in the media.
Carte blanche from Washington
In certain countries, Washington has given the CIA complete control over drone operations.
“In Pakistan, for instance, the CIA really has the authority to target individuals or groups of individuals without asking the White House’s permission,” Mazzetti said. In countries like Yemen, he added, President Obama has insisted that the White House have more control over the kill list. Those operations are first reviewed by task forces within the White House.
Less controversial are attacks on individuals who have been clearly identified. In “signature attacks,” however, that is not the case.
“Signature strikes are based on patterns of activities. In other words, they look on the ground. They don’t know specifically who these people are, but they suspect they’re doing suspicious activities – they might be trying to cross the border into Afghanistan,” Mazzetti said. “[The CIA] has the authority to carry out a strike.”
Such attacks are controversial – particularly due to the increase in civilian casualties. One of the more notorious cases occurred in March 2011 in Pakistan. More than 40 civilians were killed during a drone attack on a suspected Taliban meeting in North Waziristan, an area considered by the Pakistani government to have been “Talibanized.” The meeting turned out to be an open-air tribal gathering.
Over time, Pakistan’s government began turning away from the attacks it once invited. Protests against America’s “killer drones” took place both outside the government and within it.
Only in Pakistan did Obama score lower than presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a pre-election, worldwide survey
Pakistani authorities refer to the latest UN figures citing 330 drone attacks. Approximately 2,200 people are thought to have been killed in those attacks, but according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent journalist network based in London, the figures are far higher. Among those killed, 400 were civilians, according to official statements from Pakistan. Another 200 were considered “non-combatants.” The UN has called on the US to release its own statistics on civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes.
“President Obama has indicated, although he doesn’t say it publicly, that these strikes in Pakistan will continue as long as there are American troops in Afghanistan. So that should be at least another year,” Mazzetti said.
It’s a policy Obama will have to clarify with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who will be visiting the White House on Wednesday (23.10.2013). It will be equally difficult, Mazzetti says, for the US government to justify arguments against other countries’ use of military drones. In China or Russia, for example, the technology for unmanned warfare is already readily available.
Soon to be weaponized?
For Mazzetti, the idea of the world turning into a “silent battlefield” is as frightening as the role drones might play in day-to-day America in the future.
With police already utilizing drones for criminal investigations, the journalist and author believes that in just five-to-10 years, weaponized drones will be used for domestic crime-fighting.
Author Antje Passenheim, Washington / cd
Editor Rob Mudge
Find this story at 22 October 2013
© 2013 Deutsche Welle
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan
16 augustus 2013
This report is the result of nine months of research by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law (NYU Clinic). Professor James Cavallaro and Clinical Lecturer Stephan Sonnenberg led the Stanford Clinic team; Professor Sarah Knuckey led the NYU Clinic team. Adelina Acuña, Mohammad M. Ali, Anjali Deshmukh, Jennifer Gibson, Jennifer Ingram, Dimitri Phillips, Wendy Salkin, and Omar Shakir were the student research team at Stanford; Christopher Holland was the student researcher from NYU. Supervisors Cavallaro, Sonnenberg, and Knuckey, as well as student researchers Acuña, Ali, Deshmukh, Gibson, Salkin, and Shakir participated in the fact-finding investigations to Pakistan.
In December 2011, Reprieve, a charity based in the United Kingdom, contacted the Stanford Clinic to ask whether it would be interested in conducting independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians. The Stanford Clinic agreed to undertake independent fact-finding and analysis on these questions, as well as others related to drone strikes and targeted killings in Pakistan, beginning in December 2011. Later, the NYU Clinic agreed to join the research project and participated in the second research trip to Pakistan, as well as in additional research, writing, and editing of this report.
In the course of the research, the Stanford and NYU Clinics have exchanged information and logistical support with Reprieve and its partner organization in Pakistan, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR). The latter organization assisted in contacting many of the potential interviewees, particularly those who reside in North Waziristan, and in the difficult work of arranging interviews. The Stanford and NYU Clinics designed the research project, analyzed information, and drafted and edited the report independently from Reprieve and FFR.
Cavallaro, Knuckey, and Sonnenberg supervised and directed the preparation of the report, oversaw the writing, and served as the final editors of this publication. Students Acuña, Ali, Deshmukh, Gibson, and Shakir drafted initial sections of the report. Acuña, Ali, Gibson and Shakir synthesized and restructured the initial draft sections. Holland from the NYU Clinic also assisted with research for the report. Firas Abuzeid, Jennifer Ingram, Usman Liaqat, Clara Long, Waqas Mustafeez, Ada Sheng, and Zade Shakir assisted the research team in the review and fact-checking of the final version.
Abdulrasheed Alabi, Danny Auron, Dr. Rajaie Batniji, Kristen DeRemer, Aisha Ghani, Emi MacLean, Veerle Opgenhaffen, Professor Margaret Satterthwaite, Dr. Saad Shakir, Hina Shamsi, Professor Shirin Sinnar, Professor Allen Weiner, and Nate Wessler reviewed and commented on this report or some part thereof. The Stanford and NYU Clinics would like to thank these scholars and practitioners for volunteering their time and expertise. The opinions and positions articulated in this report are the exclusive responsibility of the research team and not of these external reviewers.
The Clinics also extend our appreciation to the Brave New Foundation, in particular its president, Robert Greenwald, as well as Josh Busch, Aminta Goyel, Jeff Cole, David Fisher, Joseph Suzuki, and John Amick for preparing a short video to accompany the report.
The Stanford and NYU Clinics express our sincere thanks to our translators in Islamabad and Peshawar. In particular, we would like to thank Muhammad Abdullah Ather, Rascim Khan Khattak, Muzafar Mohiuddin, Obaid Khan, Adnan Wazir, Usama Khilji, and Amna Bilal.
A particular debt of gratitude is owed to those who agreed to be interviewed for this report, often at risk to themselves. This includes in particular the Waziris who traveled long distances and faced significant risks to share their accounts of living under drones with our research team.
Executive Summary and Recommendations
In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.
This narrative is false.
Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.
Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.
It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.
First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.” It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.
Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.
Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%. Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.” Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani relations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.
Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US. The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase.
In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits. A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.
This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:
The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly requested by various groups and officials: the targeting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;
Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;
In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.
The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.
Find this story at September 2012
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© Copyright 2012 Living Under Drones by Stanford Law School
EU planning to ‘own and operate’ spy drones and an air force
16 augustus 2013
The European Union is planning to “own and operate” spy drones, surveillance satellites and aircraft as part of a new intelligence and security agency under the control of Baroness Ashton.
The controversial proposals are a major move towards creating an independent EU military body with its own equipment and operations, and will be strongly opposed by Britain.
Officials told the Daily Telegraph that the European Commission and Lady Ashton’s European External Action Service want to create military command and communication systems to be used by the EU for internal security and defence purposes. Under the proposals, purchasing plans will be drawn up by autumn.
The use of the new spy drones and satellites for “internal and external security policies”, which will include police intelligence, the internet, protection of external borders and maritime surveillance, will raise concerns that the EU is creating its own version of the US National Security Agency.
Senior European officials regard the plan as an urgent response to the recent scandal over American and British communications surveillance by creating EU’s own security and spying agency.
“The Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities, this proposal is one step further towards European defence integration,” said a senior EU official.
The proposal said “the commission will work with the EEAS on a joint assessment of dual-use capability needs for EU security and defence policies”.
It continued: “On the basis of this assessment, it will come up with a proposal for which capability needs, if any, could best be fulfilled by assets directly purchased, owned and operated by the Union.” A commission official confirmed the proposal.
“Looking at the current gaps, possibilities could be from surveillance Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems to airlift and command and communication facilities,” said the official.
There is a already an intense behind-the-scenes battle pitting London against the rest over plans to create an EU military operations headquarters in Brussels.
Lady Ashton, the European foreign minister, the commission and France – backed by Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland – all support the plans. Both sets of proposals are likely to come to a head at an EU summit fight in December.
“We would not support any activity that would mean the Commission owning or controlling specific defence research assets or capabilities,” said a British government spokesman.
Britain has a veto but the group of countries have threatened to use a legal mechanism, created by the Lisbon Treaty, to bypass the British and create a major rift in Nato.
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative European defence and security spokesman, accused the commission of being “obsessed” with promoting the “EU’s military ambitions”.
“It would be alarming if the EU – opaque, unaccountable, bureaucratic and desperately trying to turn itself into a federal state – were to try and create an intelligence gathering capability of its own. This is something that we need to stop in its tracks before it is too late,” he said.
Nigel Farage MEP, the leader of Ukip, described the plans for EU spy drones and satellites as “a deeply sinister development”.
“These are very scary people, and these revelations should give any lover of liberty pause for thought over the ambitions of the EU elite.”
The Open Europe think tank has warned that the EU “has absolutely no democratic mandate for actively controlling and operating military and security capabilities”.
“The fact is European countries have different views on defence and this is best served by intergovernmental cooperation, not by European Commission attempts at nation-building,” said Pawel Swidlicki, a research analyst at Open Europe.
The spy drones and secure command systems would be linked to a £3.5 billion spy satellite project known as Copernicus which will be used to provide “imaging capabilities to support Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations”. Currently Copernicus is due to be operated by the European Space Agency.
It is part of the Sentinel system of satellites, which is costing British taxpayers £434 million. Previously known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security project, which is due to become operational next year.
By Bruno Waterfield Last updated: July 26th, 2013
Find this story at 26 July 2013
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013
US drone strikes guided from outback
16 augustus 2013
Central Australia’s Pine Gap spy base played a key role in the United States’ controversial drone strikes involving the ”targeted killing” of al-Qaeda and Taliban chiefs, Fairfax Media can reveal.
Former personnel at the Australian-American base have described the facility’s success in locating and tracking al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders – and other insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan – as ”outstanding”.
A Fairfax Media investigation has now confirmed a primary function of the top-secret signals intelligence base near Alice Springs is to track the precise ”geolocation” of radio signals, including those of hand-held radios and mobile phones, in the eastern hemisphere, from the Middle East across Asia to China, North Korea and the Russian far east.
This information has been used to identify the location of terrorist suspects, which is then fed into the United States drone strike program and other military operations.
The drone program, which has involved more than 370 attacks in Pakistan since 2004, is reported to have killed between 2500 and 3500 al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, including many top commanders.
But hundreds of civilians have been also killed, causing anti-American protests in Pakistan, diplomatic tensions between Washington and Islamabad and accusations the ”drone war” has amounted to a program of ”targeted killing” outside a battlefield. This year, the Obama administration acknowledged four American citizens had been killed by strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 2009.
”The [Taliban] know we’re listening but they still have to use radios and phones to conduct their operations; they can’t avoid that,” one former Pine Gap operator said. ”We track them, we combine the signals intelligence with imagery and, once we’ve passed the geolocation [intelligence] on, our job is done. When drones do their job we don’t need to track that target any more.”
The base’s direct support of US military operations is much greater than admitted by Defence Minister Stephen Smith and previous Australian governments, new disclosures by former Pine Gap personnel and little-noticed public statements by US government officials have shown.
Australian Defence intelligence sources have confirmed that finding targets is critically dependent on intelligence gathered and processed through the Pine Gap facility, which has seen ”a massive, quantitative and qualitative transformation” over the past decade, and especially the past three years.
”The US will never fight another war in the eastern hemisphere without the direct involvement of Pine Gap,” one official said.
Last week, secret documents leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden indicated Pine Gap also contributes to a broad US National Security Agency collection program codenamed ”X-Keyscore”.
Pine Gap controls a set of geostationary satellites positioned above the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. These orbit the earth at fixed points and are able to locate the origin of radio signals to within 10 metres. Pine Gap processes the data and can provide targeting information to US and allied military units within minutes.
Former US National Security Agency personnel who served at Pine Gap in the past two years have described their duties in unguarded career summaries and employment records as including ”signals intelligence collection, geolocation … and reporting of high-priority target signals” including ”real time tracking”.
US Army personnel working at Pine Gap use systems codenamed ”Whami, SSEXTANT, and other geolocation tools” to provide targeting information, warnings about the location of radio-triggered improvised explosive devices, and for combat and non-combat search and rescue missions.
Pine Gap’s operations often involve sifting through vast quantities of ”noise” to find elusive and infrequent signals. One former US Army signals intelligence analyst describes the ”collection and geolocation of an extremely hard to find target” as a task that included ”manually sifting through hundreds of hours of collection”.
Last month Mr Smith assured Parliament that Pine Gap operates with the ”full knowledge and concurrence” of the government.
He provided no details other than to say the facility ”delivers information on intelligence priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and military and weapons developments” and ”contributes to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements”.
The government is required by a number of agreements to consult with the US government before the public release of any new information about Pine Gap.
The federal government maintains a long-standing policy of not commenting on operational intelligence matters.
Published: July 21, 2013 – 3:00AM
Find this story at 21 July 2013
Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media
Obama’s secret kill list – the disposition matrix
16 augustus 2013
The disposition matrix is a complex grid of suspected terrorists to be traced then targeted in drone strikes or captured and interrogated. And the British government appears to be colluding in it
Barack Obama, chairing the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings, agrees the final schedule of names on the disposition matrix. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
When Bilal Berjawi spoke to his wife for the last time, he had no way of being certain that he was about to die. But he should have had his suspicions.
A short, dumpy Londoner who was not, in the words of some who knew him, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Berjawi had been fighting for months in Somalia with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. His wife was 4,400 miles away, at home in west London. In June 2011, Berjawi had almost been killed in a US drone strike on an al-Shabaab camp on the coast. After that he became wary of telephones. But in January last year, when his wife went into labour and was admitted to St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, he decided to risk a quick phone conversation.
A few hours after the call ended Berjawi was targeted in a fresh drone strike. Perhaps the telephone contact triggered alerts all the way from Camp Lemmonier, the US military’s enormous home-from-home at Djibouti, to the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Maryland. Perhaps a few screens also lit up at GCHQ in Cheltenham? This time the drone attack was successful, from the US perspective, and al-Shabaab issued a terse statement: “The martyr received what he wished for and what he went out for.”
The following month, Berjawi’s former next-door neighbour, who was also in Somalia, was similarly “martyred”. Like Berjawi, Mohamed Sakr had just turned 27 when he was killed in an air strike.
Four months later, the FBI in Manhattan announced that a third man from London, a Vietnamese-born convert to Islam, had been charged with a series of terrorism offences, and that if convicted he would face a mandatory 40-year sentence. This man was promptly arrested by Scotland Yard and is now fighting extradition to the US. And a few weeks after that, another of Berjawi’s mates from London was detained after travelling from Somalia to Djibouti, where he was interrogated for months by US intelligence officers before being hooded and put aboard an aircraft. When 23-year-old Mahdi Hashi next saw daylight, he was being led into a courtroom in Brooklyn.
That these four men had something in common is clear enough: they were all Muslims, all accused of terrorism offences, and all British (or they were British: curiously, all of them unexpectedly lost their British citizenship just as they were about to become unstuck). There is, however, a common theme that is less obvious: it appears that all of them had found their way on to the “disposition matrix”.
The euphemisms of counter-terrorism
When contemplating the euphemisms that have slipped into the lexicon since 9/11, the adjective Orwellian is difficult to avoid. But while such terms as extraordinary rendition, targeted killing and enhanced interrogation are universally known, and their true meanings – kidnap, assassination, torture – widely understood, the disposition matrix has not yet gained such traction.
Since the Obama administration largely shut down the CIA’s rendition programme, choosing instead to dispose of its enemies in drone attacks, those individuals who are being nominated for killing have been discussed at a weekly counter-terrorism meeting at the White House situation room that has become known as Terror Tuesday. Barack Obama, in the chair and wishing to be seen as a restraining influence, agrees the final schedule of names. Once details of these meetings began to emerge it was not long before the media began talking of “kill lists”. More double-speak was required, it seemed, and before long the term disposition matrix was born.
In truth, the matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.
It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.
The background to its creation was the growing realisation in Washington that the drone programme could be creating more enemies than it was destroying. In Pakistan, for example, where the government estimates that more than 400 people have been killed in around 330 drone strikes since 9/11, the US has arguably outstripped even India as the most reviled foreign country. At one point, Admiral Mike Mullen, when chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was repo rted to be having furious rows over the issue with his opposite number in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani.
Admiral Mike Mullen (left), when chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was reported to have furious rows over the drone programme with his opposite number in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani (right). Photograph: Javier Diaz/Reuters
The term entered the public domain following a briefing given to the Washington Post before last year’s presidential election. “We had a disposition problem,” one former counter-terrorism official involved in the development of the Matrix told the Post. Expanding on the nature of that problem, a second administration official added that while “we’re not going to end up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying ‘we love America'”, there needed to be a recognition that “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us”.
Drawing upon legal advice that has remained largely secret, senior officials at the US Counter-Terrorism Center designed a grid that incorporated the existing kill lists of the CIA and the US military’s special forces, but which also offered some new rules and restraints.
Some individuals whose names were entered into the matrix, and who were roaming around Somalia or Yemen, would continue to face drone attack when their whereabouts become known. Others could be targeted and killed by special forces. In a speech in May, Obama suggested that a special court could be given oversight of these targeted killings.
An unknown number would end up in the so-called black sites that the US still quietly operates in east Africa, or in prisons run by US allies in the Middle East or Central Asia. But for others, who for political reasons could not be summarily dispatched or secretly imprisoned, there would be a secret grand jury investigation, followed in some cases by formal arrest and extradition, and in others by “rendition to justice”: they would be grabbed, interrogated without being read their rights, then flown to the US and put on trial with a publicly funded defence lawyer.
Orwell once wrote about political language being “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. As far as the White House is concerned, however, the term disposition matrix describes a continually evolving blueprint not for murder, but for a defence against a threat that continues to change shape and seek out new havens.
As the Obama administration’s tactics became more variegated, the British authorities co-operated, of course, but also ensured that the new rules of the game helped to serve their own counter-terrorism objectives.
Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years, including a period as the agency’s senior counter-terrorism analyst, says the British, when grappling with what he describes as a sticky case – “someone who is a violence-prone anti-western jihadi”, for example – would welcome a chance to pass on that case to the US. It would be a matter, as he puts it, of allowing someone else to have their headache.
“They might think, if it’s going to be a headache for someone, let the Americans have the headache,” says Pillar. “That’s what the United States has done. The US would drop cases if they were going to be sticky, and let someone else take over. We would let the Egyptians or the Jordanians or whoever take over a very sticky one. From the United Kingdom point of view, if it is going to be a headache for anyone: let the Americans have the headache.”
The four young Londoners – Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and the Vietnamese-born convert – were certainly considered by MI5 and MI6 to be something of a headache. But could they have been seen so problematic – so sticky – that the US would be encouraged to enter their names into the Matrix?
The home secretary’s special power
Berjawi and Sakr were members of a looseknit group of young Muslims who were on nodding terms with each other, having attended the same mosques and schools and having played in the same five-a-side football matches in west London.
A few members of this group came to be closely scrutinised by MI5 when it emerged that they had links with the men who attempted to carry out a wave of bombings on London’s underground train network on 21 July 2005. Others came to the attention of the authorities as a result of their own conduct. Mohammed Ezzouek, for example, who attended North Westminster community school with Berjawi, was abducted in Kenya and interrogated by British intelligence officers after a trip to Somalia in 2006; another schoolmate, Tariq al-Daour, has recently been released from jail after serving a sentence for inciting terrorism.
As well as sharing their faith and, according to the UK authorities, jihadist intent, these young men had something else in common: they were all dual nationals. Berjawi was born in Lebanon and moved to London with his parents as an infant. Sakr was born in London, but was deemed to be a British-Egyptian dual national because his parents were born in Egypt. Ezzouek is British-Moroccan, while al-Daour is British-Palestinian.
This left them vulnerable to a little-known weapon in the government’s counter-terrorism armoury, one that Theresa May has been deploying with increasing frequency since she became home secretary three years ago. Under the terms of a piece of the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, and a previous piece of legislation dating to 1981, May has the power to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship if she is “satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.
The Home Office is extraordinarily sensitive about its use of the power, but it is known that Theresa May has deprived at least 17 people of their British citizenship. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
This power can be applied only to dual nationals, and those who lose their citizenship can appeal. The government appears usually to wait until the individual has left the country before moving to deprive them of their citizenship, however, and appeals are heard at the highly secretive special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), where the government can submit evidence that cannot be seen or challenged by the appellant.
The Home Office is extraordinarily sensitive about the manner in which this power is being used. It has responded to Freedom of Information Act requests about May’s increased use of this power with delays and appeals; some information requested by the Guardian in June 2011 has still not been handed over. What is known is that at least 17 people have been deprived of their British citizenship at a stroke of May’s pen. In most cases, if not all, the home secretary has taken action on the recommendation of MI5. In each case, a warning notice was sent to the British home of the target, and the deprivation order signed a day or two later.
One person who lost their British citizenship in this way was Anna Chapman, a Russian spy, but the remainder are thought to all be Muslims. Several of them – including a British-Pakistani father and his three sons – were born in the UK, while most of the others arrived as children. And some have been deprived of their citizenship not because they were assessed to be involved in terrorism or any other criminal activity, but because of their alleged involvement in Islamist extremism.
Berjawi and Sakr both travelled to Somalia after claiming that they were being harassed by police in the UK, and were then stripped of their British citizenship. Several months later they were killed. The exact nature of any intelligence that the British government may have shared with Washington before their names were apparently entered into the disposition matrix is deeply secret: the UK has consistently refused to either confirm or deny that it shares intelligence in support of drone strikes, arguing that to do so would damage both national security and relations with the US government.
More than 12 months after Sakr’s death, his father, Gamal, a businessman who settled in London 37 years ago, still cannot talk about his loss without breaking down and weeping. He alleges that one of his two surviving sons has since been harassed by police, and suspects that this boy would also have been stripped of his citizenship had he left the country. “It’s madness,” he cries. “They’re driving these boys to Afghanistan. They’re making everything worse.”
Last year Gamal and his wife flew to Cairo, formally renounced their Egyptian citizenship, and on their return asked their lawyer to let it be known that their sons were no longer dual nationals. But while he wants his family to remain in Britain, the manner in which his son met his death has shattered his trust in the British government. “It was clearly directed from the UK,” he says. “He wasn’t just killed: he was assassinated.”
The case of Mahdi Hashi
Mahdi Hashi was five years old when his family moved to London from Somalia. He returned to the country in 2009, and took up arms for al-Shabaab in its civil war with government forces. A few months earlier he had complained to the Independent that he been under pressure to assist MI5, which he was refusing to do. Hashi was one of a few dozen young British men who have followed the same path: in one internet video clip, an al-Shabaab fighter with a cockney accent can be heard urging fellow Muslims “living in the lands of disbelief” to come and join him. It is thought that the identities of all these men are known to MI5.
After the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr, Hashi was detained by al-Shabaab, who suspected that he was a British spy, and that he was responsible for bringing the drones down on the heads of his brothers-in-arms. According to his US lawyer, Harry Batchelder, he was released in early June last year. The militants had identified three other men whom they believed were the culprits, executing them shortly afterwards.
Within a few days of Hashi’s release, May signed an order depriving him of his British citizenship. The warning notice that was sent to his family’s home read: “The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamist extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities.”
Hashi decided to leave Somalia, and travelled to Djibouti with two other fighters, both Somali-Swedish dual nationals. All three were arrested in a raid on a building, where they had been sleeping on the roof, and were taken to the local intelligence agency headquarters. Hashi says he was interrogated for several weeks by US intelligence officers who refused to identify themselves. These men then handed him over to a team of FBI interrogators, who took a lengthy statement. Hashi was then hooded, put aboard an aircraft, and flown to New York. On arrival he was charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.
Mahdi Hashi … arrested and taken to court in the US after having his British citizenship revoked. Photograph: Teri Pengilley
Hashi has since been quoted in a news report as saying he was tortured while in custody in Djibouti. There is reason to doubt that this happened, however: a number of sources familiar with his defence case say that the journalist who wrote the report may have been misled. And the line of defence that he relied upon while being interrogated – that Somalia’s civil war is no concern of the US or the UK – evaporated overnight when al-Shabaab threatened to launch attacks in Britain.
When Hashi was led into court in Brooklyn in January, handcuffed and dressed in a grey and orange prison uniform, he was relaxed and smiling. The 23-year-old had been warned that if he failed to co-operate with the US government, he would be likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But he appeared unconcerned.
At no point did the UK government intervene. Indeed, it cannot: he is no longer British.
When the Home Office was asked whether it knew Hashi was facing detention and forcible removal to the US at the point at which May revoked his citizenship, a spokesperson replied: “We do not routinely comment on individual deprivation cases, nor do we comment on intelligence issues.”
The Home Office is also refusing to say whether it is aware of other individuals being killed after losing their British citizenship. On one point it is unambiguous, however. “Citizenship,” it said in a statement, “is a privilege, not a right.”
The case of ‘B2′
A glimpse of even closer UK-US counter-terrorism co-operation can be seen in the case of the Vietnamese-born convert, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Born in 1983 in the far north of Vietnam, he was a month old when his family travelled by sea to Hong Kong, six when they moved to the UK and settled in London, and 12 when he became a British citizen.
While studying web design at a college in Greenwich, he converted to Islam. He later came into contact with the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, and was an associate of Richard Dart, a fellow convert who was the subject of a TV documentary entitled My Brother the Islamist, and who was jailed for six years in April after travelling to Pakistan to seek terrorism training. In December 2010, this man told his eight-months-pregnant wife that he was going to Ireland for a few weeks. Instead, he travelled to Yemen and stayed for seven months. MI5 believes he received terrorism training from al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula and worked on the group’s online magazine, Inspire.
He denies this. Much of the evidence against him comes from a man called Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali who once lived in the English midlands, and who was “rendered to justice” in much the same way as Hashi after being captured in the Gulf of Aden two years ago. Warsame is now co-operating with the US Justice Department.
On arrival back at Heathrow airport, the Vietnamese-born man was searched by police and arrested when a live bullet was found in his rucksack. A few months later, while he was free on bail, May signed an order revoking his British citizenship. Detained by immigration officials and facing deportation to Vietnam, he appealed to SIAC, where he was given the cipher B2. He won his case after the Vietnamese ambassador to London gave evidence in which he denied that he was one of their citizens. Depriving him of British citizenship at that point would have rendered him stateless, which would have been unlawful.
Within minutes of SIAC announcing its decision and granting B2 unconditional bail, he was rearrested while sitting in the cells at the SIAC building. The warrant had been issued by magistrates five weeks earlier, at the request of the US Justice Department. Moments after that, the FBI announced that B2 had been charged with five terrorism offences and faced up to 40 years in jail. He was driven straight from SIAC to Westminster magistrates’ court, where he faced extradition proceedings.
B2 continues to resist his removal to the US, with his lawyers arguing that he could have been charged in the UK. Indeed, the allegations made by the US authorities, if true, would appear to represent multiple breaches of several UK laws: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Firearms Act 1968. Asked why B2 was not being prosecuted in the English courts – why, in other words, the Americans were having this particular headache, and not the British – a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “As this is a live case and the issue of forum may be raised by the defence in court, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss this in advance of the extradition hearing.”
The rule of ‘imminent threat’
In the coffee shops of west London, old friends of Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and B2 are equally reluctant to talk, especially when questioned about the calamities that have befallen the four men. When they do, it is in a slightly furtive way, almost in whispers.
Ezzouek explains that he never leaves the country any more, fearing he too will be stripped of his British citizenship. Al-Daour is watched closely and says he faces recall to prison whenever he places a foot wrong. Failing even to tell his probation officer that he has bought a car, for example, is enough to see him back behind bars. A number of their associates claim to have learned of the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr from MI5 officers who approached them with the news, and suggested they forget about travelling to Somalia.
Last February, a 16-page US justice department memo, leaked to NBC News, disclosed something of the legal basis for the drone programme. Its authors asserted that the killing of US citizens is lawful if they pose an “imminent threat” of violent attack against the US, and capture is impossible. The document adopts a broad definition of imminence, saying no evidence of a specific plot is needed, and remains silent on the fate that faces enemies who are – or were – citizens of an allied nation, such as the UK.
Londoner Bilal Berjawi died in a drone strike. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
But if the Obama administration is satisfied that the targeted killing of US citizens is lawful, there is little reason to doubt that young men who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and who take up arms in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere, will continue to find their way on to the disposition matrix, and continue to be killed by missiles fired from drones hovering high overhead, or rendered to courts in the US.
And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida’s resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.
The Guardian, Sunday 14 July 2013 19.00 BST
Find this story at 14 July 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
U.S. military drone surveillance is expanding to hot spots beyond declared combat zones
16 augustus 2013
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator drone sits on the flightline at Incirlik… (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force/ )
The steel-gray U.S. Air Force Predator drone plunged from the sky, shattering on mountainous terrain near the Iraq-Turkey border. For Kurdish guerrillas hiding nearby, it was an unexpected gift from the propaganda gods.
Fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, filmed the charred wreckage on Sept. 18 and posted a video on YouTube. A narrator bragged unconvincingly that the group had shot down the drone. But for anyone who might doubt that the flying robot was really American, the video zoomed in on mangled parts stamped in English and bearing the label of the manufacturer, San Diego-based General Atomics.
For a brief moment, the crash drew back the curtain on Operation Nomad Shadow, a secretive U.S. military surveillance program. Since November 2011, the U.S. Air Force has been flying unarmed drones from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in an attempt to suppress a long-simmering regional conflict. The camera-equipped Predators hover above the rugged border with Iraq and beam high-resolution imagery to the Turkish armed forces, helping them pursue PKK rebels as they slip back and forth across the mountains.
As the Obama administration dials back the number of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. military is shifting its huge fleet of unmanned aircraft to other hot spots around the world. This next phase of drone warfare is focused more on spying than killing and will extend the Pentagon’s robust surveillance networks far beyond traditional, declared combat zones.
Over the past decade, the Pentagon has amassed more than 400 Predators, Reapers, Hunters, Gray Eagles and other high-altitude drones that have revolutionized counterterrorism operations. Some of the unmanned aircraft will return home with U.S. troops when they leave Afghanistan. But many of the drones will redeploy to fresh frontiers, where they will spy on a melange of armed groups, drug runners, pirates and other targets that worry U.S. officials.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the U.S. Air Force has drone hubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to conduct reconnaissance over the Persian Gulf. Twice since November, Iran has scrambled fighter jets to approach or fire on U.S. Predator drones that edged close to Iranian airspace.
In Africa, the U.S. Air Force began flying unarmed drones over the Sahara five months ago to track al-Qaeda fighters and rebels in northern Mali. The Pentagon has also set up drone bases in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Seychelles. Even so, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa told Congress in February that he needed a 15-fold increase in surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering on the continent.
In an April speech, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon is planning for the first time to send Reaper drones — a bigger, faster version of the Predator — to parts of Asia other than Afghanistan. He did not give details. A Defense Department spokeswoman said the military “hasn’t made any final decisions yet” but is “committed to increasing” its surveillance in Asia and the Pacific.
In South and Central America, U.S. military commanders have long pined for drones to aid counternarcotics operations. “Surveillance drones could really help us out and really take the heat and wear and tear off of some of our manned aviation assets,” Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, said in March.
One possible destination for more U.S. drones is Colombia. Last year, Colombian armed forces killed 32 “high-value narco-terrorists” after the U.S. military helped pinpoint the targets’ whereabouts with manned surveillance aircraft and other equipment, according to Jose A. Ruiz, a Southern Command spokesman.
The U.S. military has occasionally operated small drones — four-foot-long ScanEagles, which are launched by a catapult — in Colombia. But with larger drones such as Predators and Reapers, U.S. forces could greatly expand the range and duration of their airborne searches for drug smugglers.
An invitation from Turkey
In the fall of 2011, four disassembled Predator drones arrived in crates at Incirlik Air Base in southern Anatolia, a joint U.S.-Turkish military installation.
The drones came from Iraq, where for the previous four years they had been devoted to surveilling that country’s northern mountains. Along with manned U.S. aircraft, the Predators tracked the movements of PKK fighters, sharing video feeds and other intelligence with the Turkish armed forces.
The Kurdish group has long fought to create an autonomous enclave in Turkey, launching cross-border attacks from its hideouts in northern Iraq. Turkey has responded with airstrikes and artillery attacks but has also sent ground troops into Iraq, further destabilizing an already volatile area. The Turkish and U.S. governments both classify the PKK as a terrorist group.
Turkey’s leaders had feared that U.S. cooperation against the PKK would wither after the Americans left Iraq. So they invited them to re-base the drones on Turkish soil and continue the spying mission from there.
Neither side has been eager to publicize the arrangement. The Obama administration has imposed a broad cone of silence on its drone programs worldwide. Pentagon officials declined interview requests about Operation Nomad Shadow.
The Turkish government has acknowledged the presence of Predators on its territory, but the robotic planes are a sensitive subject. A global survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of Turks disapprove of the Obama administration’s international campaign of drone attacks against extremists.
Officials with the Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment for this report.
Pilots 6,000 miles away
The drones occupy a relatively tiny corner of the sprawling base at Incirlik, according to interviews with other officials and public documents that shed light on Nomad Shadow.
The operation is staffed by about three dozen personnel from the U.S. Air Force’s 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron and private contractor Battlespace Flight Services.
The drones, which began flying in November 2011, are sheltered in an unobtrusive hangar converted from an abandoned “hush house,” a jet-engine testing facility outfitted with noise suppression equipment.
“It was tight, but we could fit four aircraft inside the hangar and close the doors,” said a former Air Force official involved in Nomad Shadow who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
For most of their time aloft, the remote-control Predators are flown via satellite link by pilots and sensor operators stationed about 6,000 miles away, at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
While in Turkish airspace, the drones cannot spy and must turn off their high-tech cameras and sensors, according to rules set by the Turkish government. It takes the sluggish Predators, with a maximum air speed of 135 mph, about five hours to reach the Iraqi border.
The Iraqi government permits the overflights. Once in Iraq, the Predators usually fly a rectangular route known as “the box” for up to 12 hours each mission as they beam video and other intelligence to Missouri.
U.S. analysts view and evaluate the footage before transmitting it to a joint U.S.-Turkish intelligence “fusion cell” in Ankara, the capital. There’s usually a built-in delay of at least 15 to 20 minutes. That would give a drone enough time to leave the vicinity if Turkish authorities decided to launch artillery rounds or airstrikes against detected PKK targets, the former Air Force official said.
From the outset, some U.S. officials have worried about the potential for botched incidents.
In December 2011, Turkish jets bombed a caravan of suspected PKK fighters crossing from Iraq into Turkey, killing 34 people. The victims were smugglers, however, not terrorists — a blunder that ignited protests across Turkey.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that American drone operators had alerted the Turkish military after a Predator spotted the suspicious caravan. Rather than ask for a closer look, Turkish officials waved off the drone and launched the attack soon after, the paper said. Turkey’s leaders denied the report, saying they decided to attack based on their own intelligence.
The incident exacerbated simmering frustrations among officials in Ankara and Washington.
The Turkish government has long pressed the Obama administration to devote more flight hours to the operation and to sell Turkey a fleet of armed Reaper drones. But U.S. officials and lawmakers have resisted both requests.
The Pentagon has expressed concern that the Turkish military wants the fruits of the drone surveillance but has been unwilling to consult with Americans on the best ways to exploit it. “There have been a lot of U.S. attempts to help the Turks get better at fusing the intelligence with an operation,” said a former U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to give a candid assessment.
At the same time, the former U.S. official called Nomad Shadow an overall success. The constant stream of surveillance footage has prevented PKK attacks, he said, and has enabled the Turkish military to carry out more-limited, precise counterterrorism operations instead of sending large numbers of troops into northern Iraq.
“It’s been extremely effective in preventing cross-border operations by the Turks,” the former official said.
Clues in the crash report
On Sept. 17, 2012, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Ankara to see Gen. Necdet Özel, chief of the general staff of the Turkish armed forces.
As other Turkish officials had done in previous talks, Özel pressed Dempsey for more help against the PKK, including more drone flights, according to Turkish media accounts of the meeting.
The next day, in a fit of unlucky timing, a Predator on a routine patrol experienced a sudden and complete loss of power. Drone operators at Whiteman Air Force Base could not communicate with or control the aircraft.
The drone nose-dived, dropping 11,000 feet in about four minutes before crashing into an uninhabited region, according to a U.S. Air Force accident investigation report obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
Before releasing the report, the Air Force redacted all geographic references to the location of the crash or where the drone was based. But parts of the report contain clues that make clear that the drone was on a Nomad Shadow mission in northern Iraq.
Transcripts of interviews with the drone’s ground crew mention that they were deployed to Incirlik with the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. Another document identified the lost aircraft as NOMAD 01.
But the strongest evidence can be found in an appendix to the report with photographs of the accident site.
The images are outtakes from the propaganda video that the PKK posted on YouTube the day after the crash. The photos show several damaged Predator pieces. U.S. military censors carefully blocked out the faces of guerrillas posing with the wreckage.
By Craig Whitlock,July 20, 2013
Find this story at 20 July 2013
© 2013 The Washington Post
FBI admits to using surveillance drones over US soil
20 juni 2013
Robert Mueller tells Congress bureau uses drones in a ‘very, very minimal way’ as senators describe ‘burgeoning concern’
The FBI has admitted it sometimes uses aerial surveillance drones over US soil, and suggested further political debate and legislation to govern their domestic use may be necessary.
Speaking in a hearing mainly about telephone data collection, the bureau’s director, Robert Mueller, said it used drones to aid its investigations in a “very, very minimal way, very seldom”.
However, the potential for growing drone use either in the US, or involving US citizens abroad, is an increasingly charged issue in Congress, and the FBI acknowleged there may need to be legal restrictions placed on their use to protect privacy.
“It is still in nascent stages but it is worthy of debate and legislation down the road,” said Mueller, in response to questions from Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono.
Hirono said: “I think this is a burgeoning concern for many of us.”
Dianne Feinstein, who is also chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said the issue of drones worried her far more than telephone and internet surveillance, which she believes are subject to sufficient legal oversight.
“Our footprint is very small,” Mueller told the Senate judiciary committee. “We have very few and have limited use.”
He said the FBI was in “the initial stages” of developing privacy guidelines to balance security threats with civil liberty concerns.
It is known that drones are used by border control officials and have been used by some local law enforcement authorities and Department of Homeland Security in criminal cases.
Mueller said he wasn’t sure if there were official agreements with these other agencies.
“To the extent that it relates to the air space there would be some communication back and forth [between agencies],” Mueller said.
A Senate intelligence committee member, Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, later questioned whehter such use of drones was constitutional. “Unmanned aerial systems have the potential to more efficiently and effectively perform law enforcement duties, but the American people expect the FBI and other government agencies to first and foremost protect their constitutional rights,” Udall said in a prepared statement.
“I am concerned the FBI is deploying drone technology while only being in the ‘initial stages’ of developing guidelines to protect Americans’ privacy rights. I look forward to learning more about this program and will do everything in my power to hold the FBI accountable and ensure its actions respect the US constitution.”
Another senator, Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, also expressed concern. Asked whether the FBI drones were known about before the Mueller hearing, Grassley told CNN “absolutely not.” Grassley added the FBI was asked last year whether agents were using drones but the bureau never got back with an answer.
At the same hearing, Mueller urged Congress to move carefully before making any changes that might restrict the National Security Agency programs for mass collection of people’s phone records and information from the internet.
“If we are to prevent terrorist attacks, we have to know and be in their communications,” said Mueller. “Having the ability to identify a person in the United States, one telephone number with a telephone that the intelligence community is on in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan … may prevent that one attack, that Boston or that 9/11.”
The FBI director argued for the continued use of the NSA programs. “Are you going to take the dots off the table, make it unavailable to you when you’re trying to prevent the next terrorist attack? That’s a question for Congress,” said Mueller.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
20 Jun 2013
Robert Mueller says the use of unmanned drones for surveillance purposes in the US is ‘minimal’
19 Jun 2013
Immigration reform bill would boost economy and cut deficit, report says
16 Jun 2013
Blocking immigration bill would doom 2016 hopes, says leading Republican
13 Jun 2013
NSA to release more information on surveillance programs – as it happened
Dan Roberts in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19 June 2013 21.20 BST
Find this story at 19 June 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Transcript: Obama Addresses Counterterrorism, Drones
24 mei 2013
President Obama waves after addressing his administration’s drone and counterterrorism policies, as well as the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
President Obama’s remarks at the National Defense University on Thursday, as released by the White House:
Good afternoon, everybody. Please be seated.
It is a great honor to return to the National Defense University. Here, at Fort McNair, Americans have served in uniform since 1791 — standing guard in the earliest days of the Republic, and contemplating the future of warfare here in the 21st century.
For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass through every type of change. Matters of war and peace are no different. Americans are deeply ambivalent about war, but having fought for our independence, we know a price must be paid for freedom. From the Civil War to our struggle against fascism, on through the long twilight struggle of the Cold War, battlefields have changed and technology has evolved. But our commitment to constitutional principles has weathered every war, and every war has come to an end.
With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a new dawn of democracy took hold abroad, and a decade of peace and prosperity arrived here at home. And for a moment, it seemed the 21st century would be a tranquil time. And then, on September 11, 2001, we were shaken out of complacency. Thousands were taken from us, as clouds of fire and metal and ash descended upon a sun-filled morning. This was a different kind of war. No armies came to our shores, and our military was not the principal target. Instead, a group of terrorists came to kill as many civilians as they could.
And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won’t review the full history. What is clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. And this carried significant consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and — to this day — our interests in a vital region.
Meanwhile, we strengthened our defenses — hardening targets, tightening transportation security, giving law enforcement new tools to prevent terror. Most of these changes were sound. Some caused inconvenience. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult questions about the balance that we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy. And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values — by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.
So after I took office, we stepped up the war against al Qaeda but we also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.
Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts.
Now, make no mistake, our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. But we have to recognize that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience now to draw from, this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions — about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them.
And these questions matter to every American.
For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, helping to explode our deficits and constraining our ability to nation-build here at home. Our servicemembers and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation — and world — that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us. We have to be mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. But what we can do — what we must do — is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger to us, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all the while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. And to define that strategy, we have to make decisions based not on fear, but on hard-earned wisdom. That begins with understanding the current threat that we face.
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They’ve not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.
Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula — AQAP — the most active in plotting against our homeland. And while none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. But here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we continue to confront state-sponsored networks like Hezbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Other of these groups are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. And that means we’ll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives — perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks — launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.
And finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States. Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, a plane flying into a building in Texas, or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our history. Deranged or alienated individuals — often U.S. citizens or legal residents — can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. And that pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
So that’s the current threat — lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on a Pan Am flight — Flight 103 — over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all brutal; they were all deadly; and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
Moreover, we have to recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we faced is fueled by a common ideology — a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam. And this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist attacks.
Nevertheless, this ideology persists, and in an age when ideas and images can travel the globe in an instant, our response to terrorism can’t depend on military or law enforcement alone. We need all elements of national power to win a battle of wills, a battle of ideas. So what I want to discuss here today is the components of such a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy.
First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.
In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counterterrorism force, which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless “global war on terror,” but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Already, thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al-Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we’re providing military aid to French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.
Much of our best counterterrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence, the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. And that’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in a prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic. These partnerships work.
But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to gain foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions. They hide in caves and walled compounds. They train in empty deserts and rugged mountains.
In some of these places — such as parts of Somalia and Yemen — the state only has the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. And it’s also not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to capture every terrorist. Even when such an approach may be possible, there are places where it would pose profound risks to our troops and local civilians — where a terrorist compound cannot be breached without triggering a firefight with surrounding tribal communities, for example, that pose no threat to us; times when putting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a major international crisis.
To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm. The risks in that case were immense. The likelihood of capture, although that was our preference, was remote given the certainty that our folks would confront resistance. The fact that we did not find ourselves confronted with civilian casualties, or embroiled in an extended firefight, was a testament to the meticulous planning and professionalism of our Special Forces, but it also depended on some luck. And it was supported by massive infrastructure in Afghanistan.
And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan — and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory — was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership.
So it is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones.
As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions — about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality. So let me address these questions.
To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, “We could lose the reserves to enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.” Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this as well. Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.
Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war — a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.
And yet, as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it. And that’s why, over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists –- insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.
In the Afghan war theater, we must — and will — continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. And that means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. But by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.
Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.
America does not take strikes to punish individuals; we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.
Now, this last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes — both here at home and abroad — understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war. And for the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred throughout conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties — not just in our cities at home and our facilities abroad, but also in the very places like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu where terrorists seek a foothold. Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. So doing nothing is not an option.
Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted lethal action would be the use of conventional military options. As I’ve already said, even small special operations carry enormous risks. Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and are likely to cause more civilian casualties and more local outrage. And invasions of these territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies, unleash a torrent of unintended consequences, are difficult to contain, result in large numbers of civilian casualties and ultimately empower those who thrive on violent conflict.
So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths or less likely to create enemies in the Muslim world. The results would be more U.S. deaths, more Black Hawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars.
Yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.
Our efforts must be measured against the history of putting American troops in distant lands among hostile populations. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war where the boundaries of battle were blurred. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the extraordinary courage and discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed. So neither conventional military action nor waiting for attacks to occur offers moral safe harbor, and neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security services — and indeed, have no functioning law.
Now, this is not to say that the risks are not real. Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies and impacts public opinion overseas. Moreover, our laws constrain the power of the President even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.
And for this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that: Not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. Every strike. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen — Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.
This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims that have been made. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone, or with a shotgun — without due process, nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.
But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team.
That’s who Anwar Awlaki was — he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S.-bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab — the Christmas Day bomber — went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack, and his last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot, but we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out.
Of course, the targeting of any American raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes — which is why my administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before this strike as well. But the high threshold that we’ve set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life. Alongside the decision to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way, the decision to use force against individuals or groups — even against a sworn enemy of the United States — is the hardest thing I do as President. But these decisions must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people.
Going forward, I’ve asked my administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested — the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch — avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. But despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these and other options for increased oversight.
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion we need to have about a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy — because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism — from North Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep-rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and our values demand that we make the effort.
This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya — because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements — because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism. We are actively working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians — because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship — because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with people’s hopes, and not simply their fears.
And success on all these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures that there is. That’s true for Democrats and Republicans — I’ve seen the polling — even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. In fact, a lot of folks think it’s 25 percent, if you ask people on the streets. Less than one percent — still wildly unpopular. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security. And it’s fundamental to any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism.
Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists. That has to be part of our strategy.
Moreover, America cannot carry out this work if we don’t have diplomats serving in some very dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened security at our embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of the Accountability Review Board, which found unacceptable failures in Benghazi. I’ve called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to bolster security and harden facilities, improve intelligence, and facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis emerges.
But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world’s most powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab World. And in balancing the trade4offs between security and active diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers that we face in the long run. And that’s why we should be grateful to those diplomats who are willing to serve.
Targeted action against terrorists, effective partnerships, diplomatic engagement and assistance — through such a comprehensive strategy we can significantly reduce the chances of large-scale attacks on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. But as we guard against dangers from abroad, we cannot neglect the daunting challenge of terrorism from within our borders.
As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency and in some cases its lethality. Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat, two years ago my administration did a comprehensive review and engaged with law enforcement.
And the best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadists is to work with the Muslim American community — which has consistently rejected terrorism — to identify signs of radicalization and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. In fact, the success of American Muslims and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties is the ultimate rebuke to those who say that we’re at war with Islam.
Thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home. That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, but also build in privacy protections to prevent abuse.
That means that — even after Boston — we do not deport someone or throw somebody in prison in the absence of evidence. That means putting careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect sensitive information, such as the state secrets doctrine. And that means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to review those issues where our counterterrorism efforts and our values may come into tension.
The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in-Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. That’s who we are. And I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government overreach. And I’ve raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concerns. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and he’ll convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I’ve directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
Now, all these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact — in sometimes unintended ways — the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.
The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.
So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
And that brings me to my final topic: the detention of terrorist suspects. I’m going to repeat one more time: As a matter of policy, the preference of the United States is to capture terrorist suspects. When we do detain a suspect, we interrogate them. And if the suspect can be prosecuted, we decide whether to try him in a civilian court or a military commission.
During the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military were captured on the battlefield. In Iraq, we turned over thousands of prisoners as we ended the war. In Afghanistan, we have transitioned detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring Afghan sovereignty. So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we are committed to prosecuting terrorists wherever we can.
The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The original premise for opening GTMO — that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention — was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO.
During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people — almost $1 million per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we’re cutting investments in education and research here at home, and when the Pentagon is struggling with sequester and budget cuts.
As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries or imprisoning them here in the United States.
These restrictions make no sense. After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred from GTMO with Congress’s support. When I ran for President the first time, John McCain supported closing GTMO — this was a bipartisan issue. No person has ever escaped one of our super-max or military prisons here in the United States — ever. Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism or terrorism-related offenses, including some folks who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. They’re in our prisons.
And given my administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should have never have been opened. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Excuse me, President Obama —
THE PRESIDENT: So — let me finish, ma’am. So today, once again —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There are 102 people on a hunger strike. These are desperate people.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m about to address it, ma’am, but you’ve got to let me speak. I’m about to address it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You’re our Commander-In-Chief —
THE PRESIDENT: Let me address it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — you an close Guantanamo Bay.
THE PRESIDENT: Why don’t you let me address it, ma’am.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s still prisoners —
THE PRESIDENT: Why don’t you sit down and I will tell you exactly what I’m going to do.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That includes 57 Yemenis.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, ma’am. Thank you. (Applause.) Ma’am, thank you. You should let me finish my sentence.
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. (Applause.)
I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I’m appointing a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries.
I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen so we can review them on a case-by-case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — prisoners already. Release them today.
THE PRESIDENT: Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It needs to be —
THE PRESIDENT: Now, ma’am, let me finish. Let me finish, ma’am. Part of free speech is you being able to speak, but also, you listening and me being able to speak. (Applause.)
Now, even after we take these steps one issue will remain — just how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted, for example, because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future — 10 years from now or 20 years from now — when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.
We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our courts. That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square. It’s in a court of law that we will try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is, as we speak, serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison here in the United States. In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, “The way we treat you…is the measure of our own liberties.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How about Abdulmutallab — locking up a 16-year-old — is that the way we treat a 16-year old? (Inaudible) — can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re addressing that, ma’am.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — thousands of Muslims that got killed — will you compensate the innocent families — that will make us safer here at home. I love my country. I love (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: I think that — and I’m going off script, as you might expect here. (Laughter and applause.) The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. (Applause.) Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.
When that judge sentenced Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, he went on to point to the American flag that flew in the courtroom. “That flag,” he said, “will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom.”
So, America, we’ve faced down dangers far greater than al Qaeda. By staying true to the values of our founding, and by using our constitutional compass, we have overcome slavery and Civil War and fascism and communism. In just these last few years as President, I’ve watched the American people bounce back from painful recession, mass shootings, natural disasters like the recent tornados that devastated Oklahoma. These events were heartbreaking; they shook our communities to the core. But because of the resilience of the American people, these events could not come close to breaking us.
I think of Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who had severe burns over 80 percent of her body, who said, “That’s my reality. I put a Band-Aid on it, literally, and I move on.”
I think of the New Yorkers who filled Times Square the day after an attempted car bomb as if nothing had happened.
I think of the proud Pakistani parents who, after their daughter was invited to the White House, wrote to us, “We have raised an American Muslim daughter to dream big and never give up because it does pay off.”
I think of all the wounded warriors rebuilding their lives, and helping other vets to find jobs.
I think of the runner planning to do the 2014 Boston Marathon, who said, “Next year, you’re going to have more people than ever. Determination is not something to be messed with.”
That’s who the American people are — determined, and not to be messed with. And now we need a strategy and a politics that reflects this resilient spirit.
Our victory against terrorism won’t be measured in a surrender ceremony at a battleship, or a statue being pulled to the ground. Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street; a citizen shouting her concerns at a President.
The quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear — that is both our sword and our shield. And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, and deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history — the flag of the United States will still wave from small-town cemeteries to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.
Thank you very, everybody. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
May 23, 2013 3:29 PM
Find this story at 23 May 2013
Obama reframes counterterrorism policy with new rules on drones
24 mei 2013
In a major address Thursday President Barack Obama sought to reframe the nation’s counterterrorism strategy, saying, “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington Obama said, “America is at a crossroads. We must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”
In an attempt to define a new post-Sept. 11 era, Obama outlined new guidelines for the use of drones to kill terrorists overseas and pledged a
President Barack Obama discusses civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone strikes while speaking Thursday at the National Defense University
renewed effort to close the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay. In the speech, Obama argued that, “In the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaida will pose a credible threat to the United States.” He warned that “unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight.”
With efforts under way in Congress to redefine the 2001 authorization to use military force (AUMF) against al Qaida, Obama said he would work with Congress “in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.”
Toward the end of Obama’s address as he discussed the Guantanamo detainees, he was repeatedly interrupted by heckling from Medea Benjamin, founder of the antiwar group Code Pink, whose members have frequently been arrested for disrupting hearings on Capitol Hill – but Obama patiently said that Benjamin’s concerns are “something to be passionate about.”
“We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’ Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror,” he declared.
As part of his redefinition of counterterrorism, the president announced several initiatives:
Setting narrower parameters for the use of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, to kill terrorists overseas and to limit collateral casualties;
Renewing efforts to persuade Congress to agree to close the Guantanamo detention site in Cuba where 110 terrorist suspects are being held;
Appointing a new envoy at the State Department and an official at the Defense Department who will attempt to negotiate transfers of Guantanamo detainees to other countries.
Lifting the moratorium he imposed in 2010 on transferring some detainees at Guantanamo to Yemen. Obama imposed that moratorium after it was revealed that Detroit “underwear bomber” Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab was trained in Yemen.
Obama argued that when compared to the Sept. 11, 2001 attackers, “the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaida’s affiliates in the
President Barack Obama talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.
Arabian Peninsula – AQAP – the most active in plotting against our homeland. While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.”
So he said, “As we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”
He said that the current threat is often from “deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – (who) can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.”
In discussing his drone strategy he indicated his remorse over the innocent people who had been killed: “it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
There remains considerable doubt about Obama’s ability to persuade a majority in Congress to change the current law on releasing detainees held there.
Demonstrators stand near a mock drone at the gates of Fort McNair where President Barack Obama will speak at the National Defense University in Washington May 23, 2013.
The defense spending bill which Obama signed into law last year prohibits any transfers to the United States of any detainee at Guantanamo who was held there on or before Jan. 20, 2009, the day Obama became president.
And the law sets a very high legal bar for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to transfer a detainee to his country of origin or to any other foreign country.
Hagel would need to certify to Congress that the detainee will not be transferred to a country that is a designated state sponsor of terrorism. The country must have agreed to take steps to ensure that the detainee cannot take action to threaten the United States, U.S. citizens, or its allies in the future.
The law allows Hagel to use waivers in some cases to transfer detainees.
In a mostly skeptical and sometimes dismissive reaction to Obama’s speech, key Republican senators said at a press conference that he still had not offered a coherent plan for what to do with the different types of detainees held at Guantanamo, some of whom they said need to be held indefinitely, while others might be eligible for release.
Obama’s 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said that “to somehow argue that al Qaida is ‘on the run’ comes from a degree of unreality that to me is really incredible.” He argued that al Qaida is “expanding all over the Middle East” and in North Africa. He said repealing the congressional authorization to use military force “contradicts the reality of the facts on the ground.”
By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News
This story was originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 2:00 PM EDT
Find this story at 23 May 2013
© 2013 NBCNews.com
White House says drone strikes have killed four US citizens
24 mei 2013
Eric Holder acknowledges previously classified details of drone program and says US deliberately targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in Yemen in 2011
Holder claimed Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in Yemen in 2011, had been involved in plots to blow up planes over US soil. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA
The White House has launched a new effort to draw a line under its controversial drone strike policy by admitting for the first time that four American citizens were among those killed by its covert attacks in Yemen and Pakistan since 2009.
In a letter to congressional leaders sent on Wednesday, attorney general Eric Holder acknowledged previously classified details of the drone attacks and promised to brief them on a new US doctrine for sanctioning such targeted killings in future.
Holder claimed one of the US citizens killed, Anwar al-Awlaki, was chief of external operations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) and had been involved in plots to blow up airplanes over US soil. However, Holder said three others killed by drones – Samir Khan, Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki and Jude Kenan – were not “specifically targeted”. The second of these victims, Anwar al-Awlaki’s son, is said by campaigners to have been 16 when he died in Yemen in 2011.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 240 and 347 people have been killed in total by confirmed US drone strikes in Yemen since 2002, with a further 2,541 to 3,533 killed by CIA drones in Pakistan.
Amid mounting concern that the policy has harmed US interests overseas, President Obama is expected to give a major speech on his counter-terrorism strategy at the National Defense University in Washington on Thursday, marking the start of a concerted effort to better justify and explain the killings.
“The president will soon be speaking publicly in greater detail about our counterterrorism operations and the legal and policy framework,” Holder told 22 senior members of Congress in Wednesday’s letter.
“This week the president approved a document that institutionalises the administration’s exacting standards and processes for reviewing and approving operations to capture or use lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.”
The attorney general said this document would remain classified, but relevant congressional committees would be briefed on its contents. No further details were given of other killings in the five-page letter.
Earlier, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would also outline his renewed attempt to shut the Guantánamo Bay detention centre in the speech and seek to explain why previous efforts had failed.
After a week in which Obama has been accused of failing to deal openly with crises such as the the targeting of Tea Party activists by the Internal Revenue Service, the White House hope it can defuse concern over drones and Guantánamo by being more transparent about its objectives.
Dan Roberts in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 May 2013 14.20 BST
Find this story at 23 May 2013
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U.S. secret: CIA collaborated with Pakistan spy agency in drone war
19 april 2013
Even as its civilian leaders publicly decried U.S. drone attacks as breaches of sovereignty and international law, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency secretly worked for years with the CIA on strikes that killed Pakistani insurgent leaders and scores of suspected lower-level fighters, according to classified U.S. intelligence reports.
Dozens of civilians also reportedly died in the strikes in the semi-autonomous tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan that is a stronghold of al Qaida, Afghan militants, other foreign jihadists and a tangle of violent Pakistani Islamist groups.
Copies of top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy provide the first official confirmation of joint operations involving drones between the U.S. spy agency and Pakistan’s powerful army-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, as well as previously unknown details of that cooperation. The review takes on important significance as the administration reportedly is preparing to expand the use of drones in Afghanistan and North Africa amid a widespread debate over the legality of the strikes in Pakistan.
The documents show that while the ISI helped the CIA target al Qaida, the United States used drone strikes to aid the Pakistani military in its battle against the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, or TTP – assistance that the Obama and Bush administrations never explicitly acknowledged or legally justified.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for a comment on McClatchy’s findings. The Pakistani government denied there was ever any cooperation on drone strikes.
The partnership was so extensive during the Bush administration that the Pakistani intelligence agency selected its own targets for drone strikes. Until mid-2008, the CIA had to obtain advanced approval before each attack, and under both administrations, the Pakistanis received briefings and videos of the strikes.
The U.S. intelligence reports illustrate how the Pakistani army retained its grip on national security policy after 2008 elections ended the nation’s fourth bout of military rule and brought to power a civilian government, which condemned drone strikes as violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty and international law. The strikes killed hundreds of civilians and produced new recruits for Islamist extremist groups, charged the government, which resigned last month in advance of May 11 parliamentary voting.
What remains unclear is the degree to which the government under President Asif Ali Zardari, which tried unsuccessfully to wrest control of the ISI from the military, acquiesced in the CIA-ISI collaboration.
The ISI is a domestic and international spy and paramilitary service that officially reports to Pakistan’s prime minister. In reality, however, the agency answers to the chief of staff of the army, which has ruled Pakistan for most of its 66 years. Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2011 called the army a “state within a state.”
Traditionally commanded by an army general and mostly staffed by military officers, the ISI has an ominous reputation as the Pakistani army’s instrument for rigging elections and crushing internal dissent. It has been accused of directing proxy wars and terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists in India and on civilians and U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
The CIA-ISI cooperation on drones reflects one of the major contradictions that have long infected relations between the United States and Pakistan.
The United States has regularly praised the ISI for helping to capture and kill key al Qaida operatives, including those behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But senior U.S. officials also have charged that elements in the ISI support the Afghan Taliban and allied insurgents fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Neither the ISI nor the army high commander were told in advance of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, for fear he’d be tipped off and escape. At the same time, the U.S. has provided billions to Pakistan in military aid and assistance to stabilize democracy and help secure its nuclear weapons.
For their part, Pakistani officials deny that the ISI supports Afghan insurgents. For years, the Pakistani army has spurned U.S. demands that it close their sanctuaries, contending that its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States has cost the lives of tens of thousands of security forces and civilians. And the army has declared its support for the civilian leadership’s position on drone strikes.
“As far as drone attacks are concerned, (the) army has repeatedly conveyed to all concerned that these are not acceptable under any circumstances. There is no room for ambiguity in this regard,” the military’s top commanders said in a June 9, 2011, statement.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said, “We forcefully contest” that there was any collaboration between the ISI and CIA on drone strikes.
In its limited disclosures about the secret drone program, the Obama administration has said drones only are used to eliminate confirmed “senior operational leaders” of al Qaida and “associated groups” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans and can’t be captured.
The U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy covered most – though not all – of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011. Several listed casualty estimates as well as the names of targeted militant groups. Most were against al Qaida. But they also targeted the Haqqani network of Afghan insurgents, several factions of the Pakistani Taliban and groups identified only as “foreign fighters” and “other militants.”
While the Pakistani Taliban works closely with al Qaida, it wasn’t formed until 2007. Also, many U.S. officials never took seriously its occasional threats to stage attacks inside the United States, and the group is not known to have initiated any operations against the U.S. homeland. It did provide perfunctory training and funds to a Pakistani American who staged a failed car-bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 2, 2010, but he admitted seeking them out.
The Pakistani government, which resigned last month in advance of May 11 national elections, for years publicly insisted that it opposed U.S. drone strikes, and it frequently delivered official and unofficial protests to the United States.
In a statement after a March 11-13 visit to Pakistan, Ben Emmerson, a British lawyer who is leading a U.N. investigation into civilian casualties caused by drones, said that the Pakistani government “emphasized its consistently stated position that drone strikes on its territory are counterproductive, contrary to international law, a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that they should cease immediately.”
Emmerson, who didn’t meet military leaders, quoted Pakistani officials as saying there have been at least 330 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,200 people, including as many as 600 civilians.
On Feb. 5, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman, told reporters in Washington that drone strikes are “an anomaly that we are constantly addressing in all conversations with the United States, and it’s certainly not a part of our playbook to have drone operations carry on. It never was and we don’t see it as the future and we don’t want our engagement with the United States to be defined by that or our operations to devolve to this kind of low.”
According to two former U.S. officials, however, it was accepted in Washington and Islamabad that the Pakistani government publicly would denounce the strikes to hide the ISI’s role in order to shield civilian and military leaders from angry popular backlashes over the strikes and civilian casualties.
“There was an understanding on both sides of the kabuki dance that . . . the Pakistani military had to be perceived as not being a participant,” said one of the former U.S. officials. Both requested anonymity to discuss the issue because of its sensitivity.
Secret U.S. diplomatic cables made public by the Wikileaks online whistle-blowing group corroborate the former U.S. officials’ assertions. In an Aug. 23, 2008, cable, Anne Patterson, then the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, reported that in a meeting with former Prime Minister Gilani, Gilani “brushed aside” his interior minister’s suggestion that the strikes stop and told Patterson, “I don’t care if they (the CIA) do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
Finally, it was an open secret that the drones were launched from within Pakistan itself.
For years, CIA drones were based at Shamsi, a remote airfield in southwestern Baluchistan province once used by Gulf Arab sheikhs for hawking expeditions. They continued flying from there until December 2011, when the CIA was evicted after U.S. troops in Afghanistan, under fire from Pakistan’s side of the border, called in a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops. CIA drone strikes into Pakistan have since continued from bases in Afghanistan at a much lower rate.
Cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani spy agencies on drone strikes began in 2004 during the rule of the former dictator, retired Army Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and extended at least through June 2010, according to the U.S. intelligence reports.
The first confirmed CIA drone strike took place on June 17, 2004. It killed Nek Mohammad, a Pakistani Islamist who’d fought for the Afghan Taliban regime that was ousted by the 2001 U.S. invasion. At the time of his death, he was leading an uprising in the South Waziristan agency. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the strike was a joint CIA-ISI operation.
The documents that reveal the most about the CIA-ISI cooperation covered drone strikes that took place in 2006 to 2008 and in a 20-month period ending in September 2011. During that period, at least 50 strikes were launched against non-al Qaida targets.
The CIA sought ISI approval for seven strikes in 2006, according to the U.S. intelligence reports. The ISI approved four attacks and rejected three. But it eventually relented under CIA cajoling and agreed to one “forced approval.” The documents said that the ISI requested a single strike in 2006.
“We wouldn’t win every argument. But they would help us and support us,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The documents didn’t identify the 2006 targets, but Pakistani and international news media reported only two confirmed strikes that year. Several former U.S. officials, however, noted that in the early years, the Pakistani army took credit for attacks that actually were CIA strikes.
The 2006 strikes included a Jan. 13 attack on a compound in the Bajour agency that triggered what appears to have been Pakistan’s first official denunciation of the drone operations.
Al Qaida’s then-No. 2 leader, Ayman Zawahiri, was thought to have been in the compound, although U.S. officials later acknowledged that he wasn’t there. At least 18 civilians were killed, however, igniting violent protests around the country. The Foreign Ministry summoned then-U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker to deliver an official protest, and the Pakistani government vowed that it would “not allow such incidents to reoccur.”
In 2007, the CIA sought ISI approval for 15 strikes, received prompt approval for three and a single “forced approval,” according to the documents, which said that the ISI asked the CIA to strike five targets.
One ISI-requested strike occurred on May 22, 2007, and was against an insurgent training camp in the North Waziristan agency after a Pakistani army assault on the compound was repulsed, the documents said. The Pakistani army sought the strike even though it had been told that drones wouldn’t be used to support Pakistani troops in combat, said an individual familiar with the episode. He requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
Pakistani and international news media reported five drone strikes in 2007, but they didn’t include a May 22 attack.
The following year saw a major escalation in drone strikes, with 35 recorded in one U.S. intelligence report. Independent studies based almost exclusively on news media reports put the number at 38.
The increase came as the Bush administration began winding down the war in Iraq and redirecting U.S. funds, personnel and hardware to halting the expanding Pakistan-based insurgency in Afghanistan. It also sought to re-energize a flagging hunt for Osama bin Laden, who was believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal area, and U.S. officials were growing alarmed over the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan as the Pakistani Taliban insurgency exploded.
Another reason for the escalation, said a former administration official, was that U.S. officials worried about an increasing threat to the United States following a series of plots in Europe by al Qaida-linked extremists who’d been trained in Pakistan’s tribal area.
“There was a growing chorus of threat reporting to the homeland,” said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This was about European tracking of people migrating through Turkey (to Pakistan) and back to Europe and particularly to here (the United States). The agency (CIA) was tracking that down. They would not be left holding the bag if there was another 9/11.”
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Posted on Tue, Apr. 09, 2013
U.S. secret: CIA collaborated with Pakistan spy agency in drone war
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: April 10, 2013 05:09:02 AM
WASHINGTON — ]
Find this story at 9 April 2013
Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders
19 april 2013
Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.
The administration has said that strikes by the CIA’s missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans.
“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”
Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.
The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”
In a response to questions from McClatchy, the White House defended its targeting policies, pointing to previous public statements by senior administration officials that the missile strikes are aimed at al Qaida and associated forces.
Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”
The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”
McClatchy’s review is the first independent evaluation of internal U.S. intelligence accounting of drone attacks since the Bush administration launched America’s secret aerial warfare on Oct. 7, 2001, the day a missile-carrying Predator took off for Afghanistan from an airfield in Pakistan on the first operational flight of an armed U.S. drone.
The analysis takes on additional significance because of the domestic and international debate over the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan amid reports that the administration is planning to broaden its use of targeted killings in Afghanistan and North Africa.
The U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy covered most – although not all – of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011. In that later period, Obama oversaw a surge in drone operations against suspected Islamist sanctuaries on Pakistan’s side of the border that coincided with his buildup of 33,000 additional U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. Several documents listed casualty estimates as well as the identities of targeted groups.
McClatchy’s review found that:
– At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists. Drones killed only six top al Qaida leaders in those months, according to news media accounts.
Forty-three of 95 drone strikes reviewed for that period hit groups other than al Qaida, including the Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as “foreign fighters” and “other militants.”
During the same period, the reports estimated there was a single civilian casualty, an individual killed in an April 22, 2011, strike in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
– At other times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.
To date, the Obama administration has not disclosed the secret legal opinions and the detailed procedures buttressing drone killings, and it has never acknowledged the use of so-called “signature strikes,” in which unidentified individuals are killed after surveillance shows behavior the U.S. government associates with terrorists, such as visiting compounds linked to al Qaida leaders or carrying weapons. Nor has it disclosed an explicit list of al Qaida’s “associated forces” beyond the Afghan Taliban.
The little that is known about the opinions comes from a leaked Justice Department white paper, a half-dozen or so speeches, some public comments by Obama and several top lieutenants, and limited open testimony before Congress.
“The United States has gone far beyond what the U.S. public – and perhaps even Congress – understands the government has been doing and claiming they have a legal right to do,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame Law School professor who contends that CIA drone operations in Pakistan violate international law.
The documents McClatchy has reviewed do not reflect the entirety of the killings associated with U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, which independent reports estimate at between 1,990 and 3,581.
But the classified reports provide a view into how drone strikes were carried out during the most intense periods of drone warfare in Pakistan’s remote tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Specifically, the documents reveal estimates of deaths and injuries; locations of militant bases and compounds; the identities of some of those targeted or killed; the movements of targets from village to village or compound to compound; and, to a limited degree, the rationale for unleashing missiles.
The documents also reveal a breadth of targeting that is complicated by the culture in the restive region of Pakistan where militants and ordinary tribesmen dress the same, and carrying a weapon is part of the centuries-old tradition of the Pashtun ethnic group.
The Haqqani network, for example, cooperates closely with al Qaida for philosophical and tactical reasons, and it is blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks against civilians and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. But the Haqqani network wasn’t on the U.S. list of international terrorist groups at the time of the strikes covered by the U.S. intelligence reports, and it isn’t known to ever have been directly implicated in a plot against the U.S. homeland.
Other groups the documents said were targeted have parochial objectives: the Pakistani Taliban seeks to topple the Islamabad government; Lashkar i Jhangvi, or Army of Jhangvi, are outlawed Sunni Muslim terrorists who’ve slaughtered scores of Pakistan’s minority Shiites and were blamed for a series of attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including a 2006 bombing against the U.S. consulate in Karachi that killed a U.S. diplomat. Both groups are close to al Qaida, but neither is known to have initiated attacks on the U.S. homeland.
“I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban,” said Christopher Swift, a national security law expert who teaches national security affairs at Georgetown University and closely follows the targeted killing issue. “We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.”
The administration has declined to reveal other details of the program, such as the intelligence used to select targets and how much evidence is required for an individual to be placed on a CIA “kill list.” The administration also hasn’t even acknowledged the existence of so-called signature strikes, let alone discussed the legal and procedural foundations of the attacks.
Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees say they maintain robust oversight over the program. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., disclosed in a Feb. 13 statement that the panel is notified “with key details . . . shortly after” every drone strike. It also reviews videos of strikes and considers “their effectiveness as a counterterrorism tool, verifying the care taken to avoid deaths to non-combatants and understanding the intelligence collection and analysis that underpins these operations.”
But until last month, Obama had rebuffed lawmakers’ repeated requests to see all of the classified Justice Department legal opinions on the program, giving them access to only two dealing with the president’s powers to order targeted killings. It then allowed the Senate committee access to all opinions pertaining to the killing of U.S. citizens to clear the way for the panel’s March 7 confirmation of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief and the key architect of the targeted killings program, as the new CIA director. But it continues to deny access to other opinions on the grounds that they are privileged legal advice to the president.
Moreover, most of the debate in the United States has focused on the deaths of four Americans – all killed in drone strikes in Yemen, but only one intentionally targeted – and not the thousands of others who’ve been killed, the majority of whom have been hit in Pakistan.
Obama and his top aides say the United States is in an “armed conflict” with al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, and the targeted killing program complies with U.S. and international laws, including an “inherent” right to self-defense and the international laws of war. Obama also derives his authority to order targeted killings from the Constitution and a Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution empowering the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those who perpetrated 9/11 and those who aided them, they say.
Time and again, the administration has defined the drone targets as operational leaders of al Qaida, the Afghan Taliban and associated groups plotting imminent attacks on the American homeland. Occasionally, however, officials have made oblique references to undefined associated forces and threats against unidentified Americans and U.S. facilities.
On April 30, 2012, Brennan gave the most detailed explanation of Obama’s drone program. He referred to al Qaida 73 times, the Afghan Taliban three times and mentioned no other group by name.
“We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing,” Brennan said.
To be sure, America’s drone program has killed militants without risk to the nation’s armed forces.
The administration argues that drones – in Brennan’s words – are a “wise choice” for fighting terrorists. Over the years, the aircraft have battered al Qaida’s Pakistan-based core leadership and crippled its ability to stage complex attacks. And officials note it has been done without sending U.S. troops into hostile territory or causing civilian casualties “except in the rarest of circumstances.”
“Any actions we take fully comport to our law and meet the standards that I think . . . the American people expect of us as far as taking actions we need to protect the American people, but at the same time ensuring that we do everything possible before we need to resort to lethal force,” Brennan said at his Feb. 7 Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing.
Caitlin Hayden, national security spokeswoman for the White House, said late Tuesday that the Brennan speech is broad enough to cover strikes against others who are not al Qaida or the Afghan Taliban. While she did not cite any authority for broader targeting, Hayden said: “You should not assume he is only talking about al Qaida just because he doesn’t say ’al Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces’ at every reference.”
Some legal scholars and human rights organizations, however, dispute the program’s legality.
Obama, they think, is misinterpreting international law, including the laws of war, which they say apply only to the uniformed military, not the civilian CIA, and to traditional battlefields like those in Afghanistan, not to Pakistan’s tribal area, even though it may be a sanctuary for al Qaida and other violent groups. They argue that Obama also is strengthening his executive powers with an excessively broad application of the September 2001 use-of-force resolution.
The administration’s definition of “imminent threat” also is in dispute. The Justice Department’s leaked white paper argues the United States should be able “to act in self-defense in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.” Legal scholars counter that the administration is using an exaggerated definition of imminence that doesn’t exist in international law.
“I’m thankful that my doctors don’t use their (the administration’s) definition of imminence when looking at imminent death. A head cold could be enough to pull the plug on you,” said Morris Davis, a Howard University Law School professor and former Air Force lawyer who served as chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo Bay terrorism trials.
Since 2004, drone program critics say, the strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, fueling anti-U.S. outrage, boosting extremist recruiting, and helping to destabilize Pakistan’s U.S.-backed government. And some experts warn that the United States may be setting a new standard of international conduct that other countries will grasp to justify their own targeted killings and to evade accountability.
Other governments “won’t just emulate U.S. practice but (will adopt) America’s justification for targeted killings,” said Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When there is such a disconnect between who the administration says it kills and who it (actually) kills, that hypocrisy itself is a very dangerous precedent that other countries will emulate.”
A special U.N. human rights panel began a nine-month investigation in January into whether drone strikes, including the CIA operations in Pakistan, violate international law by causing disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties. The panel’s head, British lawyer Ben Emmerson, declared after a March 11-13 visit to Pakistan that the U.S. drone campaign “involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
The administration asserts that drones are used to hit specific individuals only after their names are added to a “list of active terrorists,” following a process of “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness” that confirms their identities as members of al Qaida or “associated forces” and weighs the strategic value of killing each one.
Yet the U.S. intelligence reports show that 43 out of the 95 strikes recorded in reports for the year ending in September 2011 were launched against groups other than al Qaida. Prominent among them were the Haqqani network and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan.
The Haqqani network is an Afghan Taliban-allied organization that operates in eastern Afghanistan and whose leaders are based in Pakistan’s adjacent North Waziristan tribal agency. The United States accuses the group of staging some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Kabul, including on the Indian and U.S. embassies, killing civilians, and attacking U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. But the Obama administration didn’t officially designate the network as a terrorist group until September 2012.
Its titular head is Jalaluddin Haqqani, an aging former anti-Soviet guerrilla who served as a minor minister and top military commander in the Taliban regime that sheltered al Qaida until both were driven into Pakistan by the 2001 U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. U.S. officials allege that the group, whose operational chief is Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, closely works with al Qaida and is backed by elements of the Pakistani army-led Inter-Services Intelligence spy service, a charge denied by Islamabad.
At least 15 drone strikes were launched against the Haqqani network or locations where its fighters were present during the one-year period ending in September 2011, according to the U.S. intelligence reports. They estimated that up to 96 people – or about 20 percent of the total for that period – were killed.
One report also makes clear that during the Bush administration, the agency killed Haqqani family women and children.
According to the report, an undisclosed number of Haqqani subcommanders, unnamed Arabs and unnamed “members of the extended Haqqani family” died in a Sept. 8, 2008, strike. News reports on the attack in the North Waziristan village of Dandey Darapakhel said that among as many as 25 dead were an Arab who was chief of al Qaida’s operations in Pakistan, and eight of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s grandchildren, one of his wives, two nieces and a sister.
The U.S. intelligence reports estimated that as many as 31 people were killed in at least nine strikes on the Pakistani Taliban or on locations that the group shared with others between January 2010 and September 2011. While U.S. officials say the Taliban Movement of Pakistan works closely with al Qaida, its goal is to topple the Pakistani government through suicide bombings, assaults and assassinations, not attacking the United States. The group wasn’t founded until 2007, and some of the strikes in the U.S. intelligence reports occurred before the administration designated it a terrorist organization in September 2010.
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Posted on Tue, Apr. 09, 2013
Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: April 10, 2013 05:09:02 AM
WASHINGTON — ]
Find this story at 10 April 2013
Drone Strikes Don’t Just Target al-Qaida Leaders
19 april 2013
Members of Grandmothers Against the War, Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and other groups hoist a model of a drone in the air as they protest the U.S. military’s use of drones during an “April Days of Action” demonstration, April 3, 2013, in New York. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
According to a new investigative report by McClatchy, the Obama administration doesn’t stick to their own standards on drone use in the Middle East.
The news may not come as a surprise to some, given the number of deaths attributed to drones since 9/11. Those numbers—as many as 3,581 killed in Pakistan, including as many as 884 civilians and 197 children, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism—stand in contrast to the administration’s very strict official standards for drone attacks. The administration, as a refresher, has previously said that the CIA’s Predator and Reaper drones are only used against “specific senior operational leaders of al-Qaida and associated forces” involved in 9/11, and currently plotting attacks on Americans.
“Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy … list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as ‘other militants’ and ‘foreign fighters.’ ”
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 10:40 AM Slate.com
Find this story at 11 April 2013
© 2013 The Slate Group, LLC.
US drones target low-level militants who pose no threat: Top secret documents show that half of those killed in a year were ‘unknown extremists’
19 april 2013
The US government was accused of hiding the truth about its drone programme after leaked intelligence files revealed that it was targeting unidentified militants who posed no immediate threat to the United States.
Despite President Barack Obama’s public promise that the CIA’s armed Predators and Reapers were only firing on those suspected of plotting against America, top-secret documents show that in one year alone almost half of those killed were simply listed as “unknown extremists”.
The documents, obtained by US news agency McClatchy, also reveal Pakistan’s intelligence agency was co-operating with the US at the same time as its government was condemning drone strikes on its soil.
“There is now mounting evidence that the Obama administration is misleading the American public – and the world at large – about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan,” said Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer working with the British human rights charity Reprieve.
“The reports show a significant number of the strikes have nothing to do with al-Qa’ida. Instead, they may have been a quid pro quo exchange between two countries’ spy agencies. The result is that the US often doesn’t know who it is killing.”
The US has come under increasing international pressure to open up its decision-making process to scrutiny following claims that the drone programme has killed hundreds of civilians among an estimated death toll of 2,500, predominantly in Pakistan and Yemen. Preparations are in place to transfer more control of the programme from the CIA to the Pentagon, in a move said to herald greater transparency.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Find this story at 10 April 2013
CIA must admit existence of drone programme, appeals court rules
10 april 2013
US court rules that CIA must give fuller response to ACLU’s lawsuit seeking access to records on drone attacks
The civil liberties group brought its suit under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP
In a rebuke of government secrecy, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the CIA must give a fuller response to a lawsuit seeking the spy agency’s records on drone attacks.
The CIA’s claim that it could neither confirm nor deny whether it has any drone records was inadequate, because the government, including Barack Obama himself, has clearly acknowledged a drone programme, the court said.
The ruling was unanimous from a three-judge panel of the court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union is likely a long way from getting access to CIA records. Its lawsuit now heads back to a trial court, where the CIA could invoke other defenses against the records request.
The civil liberties group brought its suit under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act.
Obama and his senior advisers call the aerial drone programme essential to US attacks on al-Qaida militants in countries such as Yemen. The strikes have at times ignited local anger and frayed diplomatic relations.
Initially, the CIA said security concerns prevented it from even acknowledging the existence of records. The ACLU countered that government officials had already acknowledged the drone programme in public statements from 2009 to 2012.
The question became whether the statements by Obama, former CIA director Leon Panetta and former counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, now the CIA chief, amounted to an official acknowledgment.
Judge Merrick Garland wrote for the appeals court that it would be a fiction to pretend otherwise.
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 March 2013 16.56 GMT
Find this story at 15 March 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
U.S. Weighs Base for Spy Drones in North Africa
4 februari 2013
WASHINGTON — The United States military is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.
For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.
The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali.
A new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft.
If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali. The American military’s Africa Command, or Africom, is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said.
The immediate impetus for a drone base in the region is to provide surveillance assistance to the French-led operation in Mali. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for I.S.R.,” one American military official said Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
A handful of unarmed Predator drones would carry out surveillance missions in the region and fill a desperate need for more detailed information on a range of regional threats, including militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya. American military commanders and intelligence analysts complain that such information has been sorely lacking.
The Africa Command’s plan still needs approval from the Pentagon and eventually from the White House, as well as from officials in Niger. American military officials said that they were still working out some details, and that no final decision had been made. But in Niger on Monday, the two countries reached a status-of-forces agreement that clears the way for greater American military involvement in the country and provides legal protection to American troops there, including any who might deploy to a new drone base.
The plan could face resistance from some in the White House who are wary of committing any additional American forces to a fight against a poorly understood web of extremist groups in North Africa.
If approved, the base could ultimately have as many as 300 United States military and contractor personnel, but it would probably begin with far fewer people than that, military officials said.
Some Africa specialists expressed concern that setting up a drone base in Niger or in a neighboring country, even if only to fly surveillance missions, could alienate local people who may associate the distinctive aircraft with deadly attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Officials from Niger did not respond to e-mails over the weekend about the plan, but its president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has expressed a willingness to establish what he called in a recent interview “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.”
“What’s happening in northern Mali is a big concern for us because what’s happening in northern Mali can also happen to us,” Mr. Issoufou said in an interview at the presidential palace in Niamey, Niger’s capital, on Jan. 10, the day before French troops swept into Mali to blunt the militant advance.
Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the Africa Command, who visited Niger this month to discuss expanding the country’s security cooperation with the United States, declined to comment on the proposed drone base, saying in an e-mail that the subject was “too operational for me to confirm or deny.”
Discussions about the drone base come at a time when the French operation in Mali and a militant attack on a remote gas field in the Algerian desert that left at least 37 foreign hostages, including 3 Americans, dead have thrown a spotlight on Al Qaeda’s franchise in the region, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and forced Western governments and their allies in the region to accelerate efforts to combat it.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, there was “an effort to establish a beachhead for terrorism, a joining together of terrorist organizations.”
According to current and former American government officials, as well as classified government cables made public by the group WikiLeaks, the surveillance missions flown by American turboprop planes in northern Mali have had only a limited effect.
Flown mainly from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, the missions have faced stiff challenges as militant leaders have taken greater precautions in using electronic communications and have taken more care not to disclose delicate information that could be monitored, like their precise locations.
General Ham said in an interview on his visit to Niger that it had been difficult for American intelligence agencies to collect consistent, reliable intelligence about what was going on in northern Mali, as well as in other largely ungoverned parts of the sub-Saharan region.
“It’s tough to penetrate,” he said. “It’s tough to get access for platforms that can collect. It’s an extraordinarily tough environment for human intelligence, not just ours but the neighboring countries as well.”
January 28, 2013
By ERIC SCHMITT
Find this story at 28 January 2013
© 2013 The New York Times Company
Revealed: who can fly drones in UK airspace
4 februari 2013
Missile manufacturer, police forces and golf video company among more than 130 groups licensed to use technology
A surveillance drone used by Merseyside police, one of three forces that have permission to use UAVs. Photograph: John Giles/PA
Defence firms, police forces and fire services are among more than 130 organisations that have permission to fly small drones in UK airspace, the Guardian can reveal.
The Civil Aviation Authority list of companies and groups that have sought approval for the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, has not been published before – and it reflects the way the technology is now being used. The BBC, the National Grid and several universities are now certified to use them – as is Video Golf Marketing, which provides fly-over videos of golf courses.
Including multiple or expired licences, the CAA has granted approval to fly small UAVs more than 160 times.
“People are going to see more and more of these small vehicles operating around the country,” said John Moreland, general secretary of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVS), a trade body with more than 100 members. “There are any number of uses for them, and the technology is getting easier to use and cheaper all the time. These vehicles can operate anywhere in the UK, within reason.”
However, privacy campaigners have grave concerns about the proliferation of the technology and want an urgent review of regulations. “The increasing use of drones by private companies and government bodies poses a unique set of problems,” said Eric King, head of research at campaign group Privacy International.
“The CAA considers health and safety issues when deciding whether or not to grant licences to operate drone technology, but this is a very low bar. We need new regulation to ensure privacy and other civil liberties are also taken into account during the decision-making process.”
In the last two years the CAA has required anyone who wants to fly a small UAV in British airspace to apply for permission. The aircraft must weigh less than 20kg and operators have to abide by certain rules. These include not flying them higher than 122 metres (400ft), or further away from the operator than 500 metres – this is deemed the pilot’s “line of sight”.
The CAA list shows that three police forces, Merseyside, Staffordshire and Essex, have permission to use UAVs, as do three fire services, Dorset, West Midlands and Hampshire.
Some of Europe’s biggest defence companies can also fly them, including BAE Systems, Qinetiq and missile manufacturer MBDA. A company that supplies UAVs and other equipment to the Ministry of Defence, Marlborough Communications, is also registered, along with crime-scene and counter-terrorism specialist GWR & Associates.
Shane Knight, a spokesman for Marlborough, said: “If you can put these systems up in the sky, and they are safe, then they have many uses. If you are a police force, a fire or ambulance service, and, for instance, you are responding to a large fire, then you have a choice of sending out your people to do reconnaissance of an area, or you could use one of these small UAVs. Why put people in danger when you can use one of these systems? These UAVs are getting much better, and much smaller.”
The National Grid uses them to inspect power lines, while the Scottish Environment Protection Agency wants one to patrol and photograph remote areas, said Susan Stevens, a scientist in the agency’s marine ecology department. “The UAV equipment is currently being trialled,” she said.
“As an operational service it will have many uses, such as capturing aerial imagery of estuaries, wetlands and riverbanks, and to provide a snapshot of the environment before and after development work,” she said.
Moreland said the unmanned systems suffered from the perception that they were all “killer robots” flying in the sky, but he thought this would diminish as the public got used to seeing them.
“We are going to see all sorts of systems coming out over the years,” he said. “The operating bubble is going to expand like mad. Some of these systems will be able to look after themselves, and others will rely on the quality of the operators.
“You don’t have to be a qualified pilot … The person could come from a modelling background, or he may be a video game player. There are plenty of people you could imagine being able to control these systems in a delicate way.”
Gordon Slack, who owns Video Golf Marketing, said he had taught himself to use his UAV. “Once you know how to operate it, it is not too complicated. We’ve done six videos for golf courses, with a few more in the pipeline.”
(Owner ID number/Company name)
2 Meggitt Defence Systems
3 EagleEye (Aerial Photography) Ltd
4 Remote Services Limited
5 High Spy RC Aerial Photography
6 Magsurvey Limited
7 Pi In The Sky
9 Eye In The Sky
11 Helicam Ltd
12 Flying Minicameras Ltd
13 S & C Thermofluids Ltd
14 Remote Airworks (pty) Ltd
15 National Grid
16 Dragonfly Aerial Photography
17 BlueBear Systems Research
18 William Walker
19 European UAV Systems Centre Ltd
20 In-House Films Ltd
21 MBDA UK Ltd
22 European UAV Systems Centre
23 Dorset Fire & Rescue Service
24 Conocophillips Limited
25 Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service
26 West Midlands Fire Service
27 Advanced Ceramics Research
28 UA Systems Ltd (Swisscopter)
29 Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd
30 Flight Refuelling Limited
31 BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd
32 Lindstrand Technologies Ltd
33 Upper Cut Productions
34 Cranfield University
35 Peregrine Media Ltd
36 Horizon Aerial Photography
37 Rory Game
38 Alan Stevens
39 Helipix LLP
41 Mike Garner
42 Cyberhawk Innovations Ltd
43 Staffordshire Police TPU
44 Merseyside Police
45 Health and Safety Laboratory
46 David Hogg
47 MRL Ltd
48 MRL Ltd
50 Dominic Blundell
53 Skylens Aerial Photography
54 Bonningtons Aerial Surveys
55 Small UAV Enterprises
56 British Technical Films
57 CARVEC Systems Ltd
59 Pulse Corporation Ltd (t/a Overshoot Photography)
60 Motor Bird Ltd
61 Advanced Aerial Imagery
62 AM-UAS Limited
64 Gatewing NV
65 Questuav Ltd
66 Advanced UAV Technology Ltd
67 Air 2 Air
68 MW Power Systems Limited
70 Roke Manor Research Ltd
73 Pete Ulrick
75 SSE Power Distribution
76 University of Worcester
78 Rovision Ltd
79 Callen-Lenz Associates Ltd (Gubua Group)
80 SKM Studio
81 GWR Associates
82 Phoenix Model Aviation
84 HD Skycam
86 Gary White
87 Aerial Target Systems Ltd
88 Aerial Target Systems
90 Video Golf Marketing Ltd
92 Helivisuals Ltd
93 Essex Police
94 Marlborough Comms Ltd
96 Siemans Wind Power A/S
97 Altimeter UK Ltd t/a Visionair
98 T/A Remote Imaging
100 Daniel Baker
101 Sky Futures
102 Aerovironment Inc
103 Spherical Images Ltd
104 Flying Camera Systems
105 Highviz Photography
106 ESDM Ltd
107 Flying Camera Systems Limited
108 Edward Martin
109 Digital Mapping and Survey Ltd
110 EDF NNB GenCo Ltd
113 AerialVue Ltd
114 Minerva NI Limited
115 Flying Fern Films Ltd
116 Out Filming Ltd
117 Hexcam Ltd
118 McKenzie Geospatial Surveys Ltd
119 Resource UAS
120 Plum Pictures
121 Jonathan Malory
122 Mas-UK Ltd
123 Bailey Balloons Ltd
124 David Bush
125 Southampton University
127 Costain Ltd
129 Jonathan Blaxill
130 Roke Manor Research Ltd
131 Colin Bailie
132 British Broadcasting Corp
133 Simon Hailey
135 Trimvale Aviation
136 PSH Skypower Ltd
137 Aerosight Ltd
173 Colin Bailie
174 Simon Field
176 Aerial Graphical Services
177 Think Aerial Photography
178 Hedge Air Limited
179 Scottish Environment Protection Agency
180 Skypower Limited
181 Elevation Images
182 Universal Sky Pictures
183 MBDA UK Ltd
185 Oculus Systems Ltd
186 MASA Ltd
187 Doozee Aerial Systems Ltd
188 Selex Galileo
191 Rotarama Ltd
193 BBC (Natural History Unit)
194 Flying Camera Company
195 Flying Camera Company
* Short-term approval that was granted, but now no longer applies
The Guardian, Friday 25 January 2013 20.02 GMT
Find this story at 25 January 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
The incredible U.S. military spy drone that’s so powerful it can see what type of phone you’re carrying from 17,500ft
4 februari 2013
The ARGUS-IS can view an area of 15 sq/miles in a single image
Its zoom capability can detect an object as small as 6in on the ground
Developed by BAE as part of a $18million DARPA project
System works by stringing together 368 digital camera chips
A sinister airborne surveillance camera gives the U.S. military the ability to track movements in an entire city like a real-time Google Street View.
The ARGUS-IS array can be mounted on unmanned drones to capture an area of 15 sq/miles in an incredible 1,800MP – that’s 225 times more sensitive than an iPhone camera.
From 17,500ft the remarkable surveillance system can capture objects as small as 6in on the ground and allows commanders to track movements across an entire battlefield in real time.
Scroll down for video
Beat that, Google: An image taken from 17,500ft by the U.S. military’s ARGUS-IS array, which can capture 1,800MP zoomable video feeds of an entire medium-sized city in real time
‘It is important for the public to know that some of these capabilities exist,’ said Yiannis Antoniades, the BAE engineer who designed the system, in a recent PBS broadcast.
The aerospace and weapons company developed the ARGUS-IS array as part of a $18.5million project funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).
In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, was a primordial giant whose epithet, ‘Panoptes’, ‘all-seeing’, led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes.
Like the Titan of myth, the Pentagon’s ARGUS-IS (a backronym standing for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System) works by stringing together an array of 368 digital camera imaging chips.
An airborne processor combines the video from these chips to create a single ultra-high definition mosaic video image which updates at up to 15 frames a second.
All-seeing: This graphic illustrates how the U.S. military’s ARGUS-IS array links together images streamed from hundreds of digital camera sensors to watch over a huge expanse of terrain in real time
What it looks like: The ARGUS-IS (a backronym standing for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System) strings together an array of 368 digital camera imaging chips into a single unit
That tremendous level of detail makes it sensitive enough to not only track people moving around on the ground thousands of feet below, but even to see what they are doing or carrying.
The ARGUS array sends its live feed to the ground where it connects to a touch-screen command room interface.
Using this, operators can zoom in to any area within the camera’s field of view, with up to 65 zoom windows open at once.
Each video window is electronically steerable independent of the others, and can either provide continuous imagery of a fixed area on the ground or be designated to automatically keep a specified target in the window.
Sinister: The system tracks all moving objects in its field of view, highlighting them with coloured boxes, allowing operators to track movements across an area as and when they happen
The system automatically tracks any moving object it can see, including both vehicles and individuals on foot, highlighting them with coloured boxes so they can be easily identified.
It also records everything, storing an approximate million terabytes of data a day – the equivalent of 5,000 hours of high-definition video footage.
‘So you can go back and say I’d like to see what happened at this particular location three days, two hours [and] four minutes ago, and it will actually show you what happened as if you were watching it live,’ said Mr Antoniades.
iPad next? The feed from the ARGUS is transmitted to a touch-screen command and control interface
Windows: Operators can open a window to zoom in to any area within the camera’s field of view, with up to 65 open and running at once
Total surveillance: The view of Quantico, Virginia, highlighted in the PBS film
For the PBS programme reporting the technology, Mr Antoniades showed reporters a feed over the city of Quantico, Virginia, that was recorded in 2009.
By Damien Gayle
PUBLISHED: 14:56 GMT, 28 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:56 GMT, 28 January 2013
Find this story at 28 January 2013
© Associated Newspapers Ltd
Drones zijn inbreuk op privacy
4 februari 2013
ALMERE / JITSKE BOKHOVEN – D66 Almere vindt het gebruik van de Raven, onbemande vliegtuigjes (drones) die sinds enige tijd worden ingezet om inbrekers te pakken, een vergaande inbreuk op de privacy van Almeerders. Fractievoorzitter Jan Lems heeft dan ook schriftelijke vragen aan het college van burgemeester en wethouders gesteld om erachter te komen wat hier de argumenten voor zijn.
De drones zijn door Defensie beschikbaar gesteld. Met behulp van de vliegtuigjes kunnen agenten live beelden van een hoogte van 300 meter bekijken. ,,Ik vind het op z’n zachts gezegd opmerkelijk dat je hier ineens vliegtuigjes ziet vliegen die je boven Afghanistan verwacht’’, reageert Lems. ,,Ik vraag me af wat hier de argumenten voor zijn.’’
Lems vindt het ook opmerkelijk of Almeerders niet vooraf geïnformeerd hadden moeten worden. ,,Dat moest bij het cameratoezicht wel, vanwege de wet op de privacy. Had dat niet hier ook gemoeten? Ik hoor het graag’’
Gepubliceerd op 01 februari 13, 12:00 Laatst bijgewerkt op 01 februari 13, 20:42
Find this story at 01 February 2013
© 2013 Almere Vandaag
Japan and China step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands
14 januari 2013
Both countries claim drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn of future skirmishes in region’s airspace
The row between China and Japan over the disputed islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – has escalated recently. Photograph: AP
Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.
Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.
Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.
Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.
China appears unbowed. “Japan has continued to ignore our warnings that their vessels and aircraft have infringed our sovereignty,” top-level marine surveillance official Sun Shuxian said in an interview posted to the State Oceanic Administration’s website, according to Reuters. “This behaviour may result in the further escalation of the situation at sea and has prompted China to pay great attention and vigilance.”
China announced late last month that the People’s Liberation Army was preparing to test-fly a domestically developed drone, which analysts say is likely a clone of the US’s carrier-based X-47B. “Key attack technologies will be tested,” reported the state-owned China Daily, without disclosing further details.
Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, said China might be attempting to develop drones that can perform reconnaissance missions as far away as Guam, where the US is building a military presence as part of its “Asia Pivot” strategy.
China unveiled eight new models in November at an annual air show on the southern coastal city Zhuhai, photographs of which appeared prominently in the state-owned press. Yet the images may better indicate China’s ambitions than its abilities, according to Chang: “We’ve seen these planes on the ground only — if they work or not, that’s difficult to explain.”
Japanese media reports said the defence ministry hopes to introduce Global Hawk unmanned aircraft near the disputed islands by 2015 at the earliest in an attempt to counter Beijing’s increasingly assertive naval activity in the area.
Chinese surveillance vessels have made repeated intrusions into Japanese waters since the government in Tokyo in effect nationalised the Senkakus in the summer, sparking riots in Chinese cities and damaging trade ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.
The need for Japan to improve its surveillance capability was underlined late last year when Japanese radar failed to pick up a low-flying Chinese aircraft as it flew over the islands.
The Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed defence ministry official as saying the drones would be used “to counter China’s growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku islands”.
China’s defence budget has exploded over the past decade, from about £12.4bn in 2002 to almost £75bn in 2011, and its military spending could surpass the US’s by 2035. The country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet model called the Liaoning, completed its first sea trials in August.
A 2012 report by the Pentagon acknowledged long-standing rumours that China was developing a new generation of stealth drones, called Anjian, or Dark Sword, whose capabilities could surpass those of the US’s fleet.
China’s state media reported in October that the country would build 11 drone bases along the coastline by 2015. “Over disputed islands, such as the Diaoyu Islands, we do not lag behind in terms of the number of patrol vessels or the frequency of patrolling,” said Senior Colonel Du Wenlong, according to China Radio International. “The problem lies in our surveillance capabilities.”
Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing and Justin McCurry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Wednesday 9 January 2013
Find this story at 9 January 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy
14 januari 2013
WASHINGTON — Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.
The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.
Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.
Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.
More broadly, the administration’s legal reasoning has not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are acceptable under international law. For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.
But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.
Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes.
The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.
“There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an “amorphous” program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.
Mr. Obama himself, in little-noticed remarks, has acknowledged that the legal governance of drone strikes is still a work in progress.
“One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” Mr. Obama told Jon Stewart in an appearance on “The Daily Show” on Oct. 18.
In an interview with Mark Bowden for a new book on the killing of Osama bin Laden, “The Finish,” Mr. Obama said that “creating a legal structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we use unmanned weapons, is going to be a challenge for me and my successors for some time to come.”
The president expressed wariness of the powerful temptation drones pose to policy makers. “There’s a remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve vexing security problems,” he said.
Despite public remarks by Mr. Obama and his aides on the legal basis for targeted killing, the program remains officially classified. In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the government has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.
But by many accounts, there has been a significant shift in the nature of the targets. In the early years, most strikes were aimed at ranking leaders of Al Qaeda thought to be plotting to attack the United States. That is the purpose Mr. Obama has emphasized, saying in a CNN interview in September that drones were used to prevent “an operational plot against the United States” and counter “terrorist networks that target the United States.”
But for at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.
In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.
“Unless they were about to get on a flight to New York to conduct an attack, they were not an imminent threat to the United States,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who is a critic of the strikes. “We don’t say that we’re the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but we are.”
Then there is the matter of strikes against people whose identities are unknown. In an online video chat in January, Mr. Obama spoke of the strikes in Pakistan as “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” But for several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to “personality strikes” against named terrorists, the C.I.A. and the military have carried out “signature strikes” against groups of suspected, unknown militants.
Originally that term was used to suggest the specific “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.
Many people inside and outside the government have argued for far greater candor about all of the strikes, saying excessive secrecy has prevented public debate in Congress or a full explanation of their rationale. Experts say the strikes are deeply unpopular both in Pakistan and Yemen, in part because of allegations of large numbers of civilian casualties, which American officials say are exaggerated.
November 24, 2012
By SCOTT SHANE
Find this story at 24 November 2012
© 2013 The New York Times Company
Ban ‘Killer Robots’ Before It’s Too Late; Fully Autonomous Weapons Would Increase Danger to Civilians<< oudere artikelen
14 januari 2013
(Washington, DC) – Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. These future weapons, sometimes called “killer robots,” would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention.
The 50-page report, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” outlines concerns about these fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons would weaken the law’s power to deter future violations.
“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”
“Losing Humanity” is the first major publication about fully autonomous weapons by a nongovernmental organization and is based on extensive research into the law, technology, and ethics of these proposed weapons. It is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.
Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.
Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, and major powers, including the United States, have not made a decision to deploy them. But high-tech militaries are developing or have already deployed precursors that illustrate the push toward greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield. The United States is a leader in this technological development. Several other countries – including China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom – have also been involved. Many experts predict that full autonomy for weapons could be achieved in 20 to 30 years, and some think even sooner.
“It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals,” Goose said. “As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up.”
Fully autonomous weapons could not meet the requirements of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. They would be unable to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians on the battlefield or apply the human judgment necessary to evaluate the proportionality of an attack – whether civilian harm outweighs military advantage.
These robots would also undermine non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. Fully autonomous weapons could not show human compassion for their victims, and autocrats could abuse them by directing them against their own people. While replacing human troops with machines could save military lives, it could also make going to war easier, which would shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians.
Finally, the use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap. Trying to hold the commander, programmer, or manufacturer legally responsible for a robot’s actions presents significant challenges. The lack of accountability would undercut the ability to deter violations of international law and to provide victims meaningful retributive justice.
While most militaries maintain that for the immediate future humans will retain some oversight over the actions of weaponized robots, the effectiveness of that oversight is questionable, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. Moreover, military statements have left the door open to full autonomy in the future.
“Action is needed now, before killer robots cross the line from science fiction to feasibility,” Goose said.
November 19, 2012
Find this story at 19 November 2012
© Copyright 2012, Human Rights Watch