EU planning to ‘own and operate’ spy drones and an air force

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

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.

Philip Dorling
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

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.

Ian Cobain
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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

U.S. secret: CIA collaborated with Pakistan spy agency in drone war

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

© mcclatchydc.com

Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders

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

© McClatchyDC.com

Drone Strikes Don’t Just Target al-Qaida Leaders

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’

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.

Terri Judd
Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Find this story at 10 April 2013

© independent.co.uk

CIA must admit existence of drone programme, appeals court rules

US court rules that CIA must give fuller response to ACLU’s lawsuit seeking access to records on drone attacks
Reuters

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

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

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)

1 HoverCam

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

8 Qinetiq

9 Eye In The Sky

10 AngleCam

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

40 Re-use*

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

49 Re-use*

50 Dominic Blundell

51 Re-use*

52 Re-use*

53 Skylens Aerial Photography

54 Bonningtons Aerial Surveys

55 Small UAV Enterprises

56 British Technical Films

57 CARVEC Systems Ltd

58 Flying-Scots’Cam

59 Pulse Corporation Ltd (t/a Overshoot Photography)

60 Motor Bird Ltd

61 Advanced Aerial Imagery

62 AM-UAS Limited

63 Re-use*

64 Gatewing NV

65 Questuav Ltd

66 Advanced UAV Technology Ltd

67 Air 2 Air

68 MW Power Systems Limited

69 Re-use*

70 Roke Manor Research Ltd

71 Re-use*

72 NPIA

73 Pete Ulrick

74 Re-use*

75 SSE Power Distribution

76 University of Worcester

77 Re-use*

78 Rovision Ltd

79 Callen-Lenz Associates Ltd (Gubua Group)

80 SKM Studio

81 GWR Associates

82 Phoenix Model Aviation

83 Copycat

84 HD Skycam

85 Re-use*

86 Gary White

87 Aerial Target Systems Ltd

88 Aerial Target Systems

89 Re-use*

90 Video Golf Marketing Ltd

91 Re-use*

92 Helivisuals Ltd

93 Essex Police

94 Marlborough Comms Ltd

95 Re-use*

96 Siemans Wind Power A/S

97 Altimeter UK Ltd t/a Visionair

98 T/A Remote Imaging

99 Re-use*

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

111 EDF

112 Re-use*

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

126 Helipov

127 Costain Ltd

128 Sky-Futures

129 Jonathan Blaxill

130 Roke Manor Research Ltd

131 Colin Bailie

132 British Broadcasting Corp

133 Simon Hailey

134 Re-use*

135 Trimvale Aviation

136 PSH Skypower Ltd

137 Aerosight Ltd

171 Re-use*

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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

184 Helicammedia

185 Oculus Systems Ltd

186 MASA Ltd

187 Doozee Aerial Systems Ltd

188 Selex Galileo

189 Whisperdrone

190 Z-Axis

191 Rotarama Ltd

192 Re-use*

193 BBC (Natural History Unit)

194 Flying Camera Company

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Source: CAA

Nick Hopkins
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

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

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

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

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

(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