Amazon Prime Air

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Prime_Air http://www.amazon.com/b?node=8037720011 Amazon Prime Air is a conceptual drone-based delivery system currently in development by Amazon.com. On December 1, 2013, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans for Amazon Prime Air in an interview on 60 Minutes. Amazon Prime Air will use multirotor Miniature Unmanned Air Vehicle (Miniature UAV, otherwise known as drone) technology to autonomously … Continue reading «Amazon Prime Air»

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Prime_Air

http://www.amazon.com/b?node=8037720011

Amazon Prime Air is a conceptual drone-based delivery system currently in development by Amazon.com.

On December 1, 2013, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans for Amazon Prime Air in an interview on 60 Minutes. Amazon Prime Air will use multirotor Miniature Unmanned Air Vehicle (Miniature UAV, otherwise known as drone) technology to autonomously fly individual packages to customers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes of ordering.[1]To qualify for 30 minute delivery, the order must be less than five pounds (2.26 kg), must be small enough to fit in the cargo box that the craft will carry, and must have a delivery location within a ten-mile radius of a participating Amazon order fulfillment center.[1] 86% of packages sold by Amazon fit the weight qualification of the program.

Regulations

Presently, the biggest hurdle facing Amazon Prime Air is that commercial use of UAV technology is not yet legal in the United States.[2] In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress issued the Federal Aviation Administration a deadline of September 30, 2015 to accomplish a “safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”[3]

In March 2015 the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Amazon permission to begin US testing of a prototype. The company responded by claiming that the vehicle cleared for use was obsolete. In April 2015, the agency allowed the company to begin testing its current models. In the interim, the company had begun testing at a secret Canadian site 2,000 ft (610 m) from the US border.[4]

The agency mandated that Amazon’s drones fly no higher than 400 ft (122 m), no faster than 100 mph (161 km/h), and remain within the pilot’s line of sight. These rules are consistent with a proposed set of FAA guidelines. Ultimately, Amazon hopes to operate in a slice of airspace above 200 ft (61 m) and beneath 500 ft (152 m), with 500 ft being where general aviation begins. It plans to fly drones weighing a maximum of 55 lb (25 kg) within a 10 mi (16 km) radius of its warehouses, at speeds of up to 50 mph (80.5 km/h) with packages weighing up to 5 lb (2.26 kg) in tow.[5]

Public concerns

Public concerns regarding this technology include public safety, privacy, and package security issues.[2] Amazon states that “Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards.”[6] However, while privacy and security remain concerns, the FAA’s recently proposed rules for small UAS operations and certifications only provides provisions on its technical and functional aspects.[7]

The fact that the drone’s navigational airspace exists below 500 feet is a big step toward safety management.[8]

Privacy

Concerns over the constant connection of the drones to the internet raises concerns over personal privacy. The primary purpose of drone internet connection will be to manage flight controls and communication between drones.[9] However, the extent of Amazon’s data collection from the drones is unclear.[10] Some proposed data inputs include automated object detection, GPS surveillance, gigapixel cameras, and enhanced image resolution.[11] Because of this, Amazon’s operating center will collect unknown amounts of information, both intentionally and unintentionally, throughout the delivery process. Neither Amazon or the FAA has formed a clear policy on the management of this data.

the Disposition Matrix

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
  1. «Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,» ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. «The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,» Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


Oct 27 2013, 9:55 AM ET

(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its «no-fly list», which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. «My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,» Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

«I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,» he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. «If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.»

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. «I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,» he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that «the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.»

Worse, the Obama administration «lowered the bar for being added to the list». As a result, reported AP, «now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list» but can be included if they «are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security», a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. «Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,» said Long. «Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.»

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

«What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

«It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.»

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

«The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

«None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.»

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

«It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?», he asked. «If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.»

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. «After many follow-up calls to the embassy,» he recounted, «they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.» On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called «redress control number» with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: «It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.» Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: «there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.»

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

«Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,» said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. «If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,» said Abbas, «we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.»

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with «current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies», Miller reports that as «the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down», the Obama administration «expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years» (the «capture» part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the «kill» part). Specifically, «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»
In pursuit of this goal, «White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.» All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates «the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.»
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that «CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones», which «reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.» The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

«JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.»

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: «disposition matrix». Writes Miller:

«Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
«The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.»

The «disposition matrix» has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is «to augment» the «separate but overlapping kill lists» maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s «matrix». As Miller describes it, it is «a single, continually evolving database» which includes «biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations» as well as «strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols». This analytical system that determines people’s «disposition» will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was «looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA».
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes «a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix» as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: «We had a disposition problem.»
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – «It is the keeper of the criteria,» says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the «massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States».
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes «records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records» – «literally anything the government collects would be fair game». In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper «disposition» of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which «meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans» – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC «to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years».
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

«All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
«All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.»

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a «matrix» that determines the «disposition» of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be «disposed» of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: «The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.» As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: «The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.»
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, «officials said no clear end is in sight» when it comes to the war against «terrorists» because, said one official, «we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us» but trying is «a necessary part of what we do». Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who «want to harm us». That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: «No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.» You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a «disposition matrix» to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: «If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?» The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

«It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.»

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade» – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the «end of hostilities» – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic «war on terror» proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, «missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman» and added: «the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.» Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he «should have a far more responsible father».
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out «that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.» Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

«Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'»

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is «bug splat». This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled «President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List». Here is his concluding paragraph:

«Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.»

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point's graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn't yet matched the president's words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
Add your name:
Sign the petition ?
  1. "Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes," ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. "The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead," Huffington Post, January 23, 2014




(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.



The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war


By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013


It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.


The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:
“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”
That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.




In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its "no-fly list", which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother's health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. "My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances," Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America's close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

"I don't understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me," he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. "If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing."

As compelling as Long's story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. "I'm scared that if I do, it'll only get worse," he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that "the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans."

Worse, the Obama administration "lowered the bar for being added to the list". As a result, reported AP, "now a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list" but can be included if they "are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security", a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long's: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. "Obviously, I can't get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can't fly," said Long. "Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it's not affordable. If I can't fly, then I can't go back home."

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long's case, told me:

"What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

"It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors - being Muslim seems to be one of them - trigger one's placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process."

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

"The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

"None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names."

Long's case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

"It makes no sense, so it's obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?", he asked. "If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home."

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. "After many follow-up calls to the embassy," he recounted, "they finally gave me 'assistance' in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint." On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called "redress control number" with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: "It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel." Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: "there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer."

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed - who, to date, has never been charged with any crime - faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

"Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed's case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen's movement into the US from abroad," said Abbas. As modest - and self-evident - a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. "If he isn't allowed to fly home on the 8th," said Abbas, "we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq's predicament."

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.



Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty



The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
In pursuit of this goal, "White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration's approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced." All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates "the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war."
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."
The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch's "matrix". As Miller describes it, it is "a single, continually evolving database" which includes "biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations" as well as "strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols". This analytical system that determines people's "disposition" will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was "looking forward to the government's arguments explaining why it won't release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA".
This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States".
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" – "literally anything the government collects would be fair game". In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU's legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which "meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans" – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC "to collect and 'continually assess' information on innocent Americans for up to five years".
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:
"All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI's office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board aren't notified even of 'significant' failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
"All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11."
It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, "officials said no clear end is in sight" when it comes to the war against "terrorists" because, said one official, "we can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us" but trying is "a necessary part of what we do". Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:
"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."
In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes' question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post's estimates are correct – that "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade" – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the "end of hostilities" – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment - permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic "war on terror" proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, "missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people - including one woman" and added: "the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children." Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he "should have a far more responsible father".
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out "that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause." Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:
"Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: 'It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'"
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military's term for drone victims is "bug splat". This - this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset - is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:
"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix."
It's worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

drone safety

Until now, drones have been largely free to operate in public places as long as they stay below 400 feet in relatively unpopulated areas and avoid full scale aircraft. Recent headlines tout a National Park Service temporary ban on drones … Continue reading

Until now, drones have been largely free to operate in public places as long as they stay below 400 feet in relatively unpopulated areas and avoid full scale aircraft. Recent headlines tout a National Park Service temporary ban on drones but a lawyer who represents drone proponents says he expects that the ban will be “greatly narrowed” through the federal rule-making process and drones will be given free range in some national park-controlled locations “including things like beaches and forests.”2

Private drone operators are clearly a danger to the public. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, since November 2009, law enforcement agencies, universities and other registered drone users have reported 23 accidents and 236 unsafe incidents. And that doesn’t even count drones flown by amateur hobbyists, who have repeatedly crashed drones into skyscrapers and caused dozens of terrifying near-collisions with commercial airplanes.3

Even military-grade drones have an appalling safety record. According to a Washington Post investigation, military drones, more than 400 of which have crashed in major accidents since 2001, “have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. No one has died in a drone accident, but…many catastrophes have been narrowly averted, often by a few feet, or a few seconds, or pure luck.”4

1. Mark Berman, “National Park Service bans drone use in all national parks,” The Washington Post, June 20, 2014
2. Mike M. Ahlers, ”National Park Service bans drones over safety, noise worries,” CNN, June 21, 2014
3. Craig Whitlock, “Close encounters on rise as small drones gain in popularity,” The Washington Post, June 23, 2014
4. Craig Whitlock, “When drones fall from the sky,” The Washington Post, June 20, 2014


Barry O’Bomber

Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

«I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,» she said in the statement. «I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.»

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html


The ‘war on terror’ – by design – can never end

In October, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a «disposition matrix» to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: «President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.»
There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the «War on Terror» will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:


By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.


By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. . . . We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.


By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm

This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).


From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.


By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the «worst of the worst,» only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that «people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.» Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was «easy.» Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of «internal deliberations in the executive branch.» No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the «testimony of two witnesses» or a «confession in open court,» not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using «signature strikes,» i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA’s criteria for identifying a terrorist «signature» were too lax. «The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.»

Obama’s top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It’s true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don’t-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an «enemy combatant» and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign «dangerously seductive» because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. «It plays well domestically,» he said, «and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.»

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled «Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen,» shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. «The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders,» said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, «but they are also turning them into heroes.»

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama’s leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don’t agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. «Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?,» he asks. «When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, ‘Do you?'»


Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader

The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

– The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

– Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

– Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?


Posted by Lesley Clark on October 11, 2013

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/11/205176/obama-and-first-lady-meet-with.html





The 'war on terror' - by design - can never end


In October, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a "disposition matrix" to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."


The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.
Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU's Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: "President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended."
There's a good reason US officials are assuming the "War on Terror" will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:



By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM

President Obama, today, on the possibility of leaks from the White House:

The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office . . . . We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.

This is not a credible statement.

With regard to drones and the Bin Laden attack: It has been obvious for years that senior national security officials, including White House officials, regularly and opportunistically leak details to the press (or urge subordinate agencies to do so). Dan Klaidman’s new book confirms this. In connection with the CIA killing of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009, Klaidman reports, in direct contradiction of the President:

Though the program was covert, [White House Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel pushed the CIA to publicize its covert successes. When Mehsud was killed, agency public affairs officers anonymously trumpeted their triumph, leaking colorful tidbits to trusted reporters on the intelligence beat. (emphasis added)

With regard to “Olympic Games,” the cyber-operation against Iran, the Sanger NYT story is based on “officials involved in the program.” And Sanger’s book from which the story is drawn was based on interviews with “senior administration officials,” including White House officials. The book has quotations from many Obama-era briefings about Olympic Games with the president (including quotations attributed to the president himself). And it contains many intimate details about the program – details that Sanger says “were known only by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials.” (Some of the early details of Olympic Games appear to be drawn from Bush-era officials.)

It is of course possible, consistent with these points, that the White House did not (as the President guardedly said) “purposely release” classified information about Olympic Games. Journalists have many tricks for building up insider accounts of White House conversations without the participants in those conversations being the original or main or purposeful source. Many elements of the leaks to Sanger (and to Klaidman, and to Becker and Shane) no doubt came from civil servants and political appointees around the government who spoke to reporters, without White House authorization, in order to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important. The White House may have been involved, if at all, only in correcting inaccuracies or seeking to suppress facts in the Sanger story.

With regard to Olympic Games, in short, I am prepared to believe that President Obama and his White House advisors are genuinely angry about the leak. It is nonetheless remarkable that President’s Obama takes “offense” at the charge that his White House might have leaked Olympic Games. It is perfectly natural, in light of the massive White House (or White House-induced) national security leaks of the last few years, especially on drones, to attribute leaks about Olympic Games to someone in the White House. The President says that the public “need[s] to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” presumably with regard to classified information. But he has only his administration to blame for the understandable public sense that the White House leaks national security secrets. His failure to understand this is an indication of a White House bubble on the issue.



By Glenn Garvin
ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering words of a constitutional law professor who promised us he was going to put an end to the callous disregard for the law of that bring-‘em-dead-or-alive cowboy George W. Bush.

“We’re going to close Guantánamo!” shouted Barack Obama to the San Antonio crowd that day in 2007. “And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. .?.?. We’re going to lead by example, by not just word but by deed.”

The deed, as it has turned out, included not very much habeas but a lot of corpus. Obama’s alternative to sending suspected terrorists to the federal prison at Guantánamo Bay has been to kill them, by the hundreds and perhaps thousands.

The death toll in Pakistan alone, by the count of the New America Foundation, last week stood somewhere between 1,456 and 2,372 since Obama took office.

The vast majority of those killings were done by aptly named Predator drones, which — piloted by remote control from CIA and Pentagon command rooms back in the United States — slowly cruise the skies of the Middle East looking for targets to attack with their even more aptly named Hellfire missiles. (Though former CIA attorney John Rizzo helpfully explained in an interview last week that the Obama White House sometimes likes to keep things old school: “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.)

Obama has launched over 250 drone attacks during his three years in office, more than six times as many as the lawless yahoo Bush ordered during his entire presidency. And to say Obama launched them is not merely a figure of speech; a lengthy New York Times story last week detailed how the president personally approves the target of every attack at cozy little White House meetings known as Terror Tuesdays.

The president shuffles a stack of biographies and photos that some participants in the meeting compare to baseball trading cards, bringing to bear not only his mighty intellect but his refined moral sensibilities (“a student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” the awed New York Times reporters wrote) before deciding who goes onto what’s known, with chilling lack of euphemism, as the “kill list.”

There are actually two separate kill lists, one compiled by the Pentagon and another by the CIA, using different legal criteria, which conveniently allows administration officials to shop around for the best forum in which to get their targets approved. And what are those differing criteria? In fact, just where in the U.S. Constitution or legal code is the authority that allows the president to appoint himself judge, jury and executioner?

Well, nobody knows. The Obama administration has classified all its legal memos and opinions used to justify the killings and has successfully beaten back every attempt to force their disclosure. Curiously, Obama had a very different perspective on the Bush administration’s legal opinions on interrogation techniques that looked a lot like torture: He quickly declassified them, even though six former CIA directors begged him not to.

After two decades as a foreign correspondent, much of it spent covering nations that bore the United States ill will, I’m no utopian when it comes to American self-defense or compliance with international law. There are people out there who mean to do us harm, operating from countries that cannot or will not do anything about them. I didn’t get too weepy about the death of Osama bin Laden, and I’m sure a lot of the people to whom Obama has sent Hellfire greeting cards richly deserved them.

But is this really the world we want, one where murderous drones orbit the skies over a big chunk of the earth, periodically blowing somebody’s head off? Of course we wanted to kill Osama and a few of his top lieutenants. But were there really 2,372 of them?

The answer is unequivocally no. Already the president has moved beyond “targeted strikes” — that is, attacks on specific individuals against whom we have some evidence of terrorist activities — to “signature strikes,” in which we obliterate people who look like they might be terrorists, with heavy emphasis on the might.

The White House policy “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” reported The New York Times. And no, it didn’t mention any posthumous CIA techniques for bringing the innocent back to life. I guess Augustine and Thomas Aquinas didn’t cover that.



By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday June 2, 2012 5:24 pm


This morning, Chris Hayes did a segment on his show on MSNBC called “Up with Chris” that examined President Barack Obama’s reported “kill list,” whether the number of civilians being killed by drones is being hidden from the American public and whether the program is, in fact, legal as the Obama administration claims. The segment aired just days after a major story by the New York Times on the “kill list” catapulted US drone policy into the national conversation. It also was one of the few segments that MSNBC aired on the Obama administration’s drone program all week.

Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Hina Shamsi from the ACLU’s National Security Project, Jeremy Scahill of The Nation magazine and Josh Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation appeared on the program for the discussion.

Hayes set up the segment by mentioning that a policy of kill or capture of terror suspects has largely transformed into a policy of just killing the suspects. The issue had been “bubbling a bit” but just this week, Hayes said, it “felt like it really kind of entered the national conversation assertively for the first time this week.”

“Up with Chris” is a progressive show. Many of the viewers carry an expectation—albeit an unreasonable one—that Hayes will not wholly criticize Obama because there is a Republican presidential candidate named Mitt Romney out there trying to defeat Obama in the presidential election. There also are Republicans running to defeat Democrats, voters are being suppressed in states to help Republicans win and discussion of Obama and drones is destructive to the progressive cause. And that is why the segment got under the skin of many liberals and also why it was so critical that Hayes did this segment on his show.

Shamsi made a key point:

We have had a program that was begun under the Bush administration but vastly expanded under the Obama administration and this is a program in which the Executive Branch – the president claims the authority to unilaterally declare people enemies of the state including US citizens and order their killing based on secret legal criteria, secret process and secret evidence. There is no national security policy that poses a graver threat to human rights law and civil liberties than this policy today.

Scahill explained how Obama has been “out-Cheneying Cheney” by “running an assassination program where in a two week span in Yemen he killed three US citizens, none of whom had been charged or indicted or charged with any crime.” Two of the victims, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, were clearly innocent. The FBI told Khan’s family that his speech—the propaganda he was writing and his work as editor of the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Inspire, was protected First Amendment speech and he had broken no US laws. In the case of Awlaki, a 16-year-old US citizen “whose only crime appears to be that his last name was Awlaki, he was “murdered in a US strike.” No explanation, Scahill said, has been given as to why he was killed.

“There is no indication that any suspected militants were killed. There is no indication that any known al Qaeda figures were killed. That family deserves an explanation. The American people deserve an explanation.” Scahill continued: “”People talked about Cheney running an executive assassination ring. What’s President Obama’s policy? This would have sparked outrage among liberals and they are deafeningly silent on this issue.”

Then, Hayes had Scahill address what really upset liberals the most: the fact that Scahill would say with a straight face Obama was a murderer for killing innocent people with drone strikes.

Scahill stated “the most dangerous thing” the US is doing “besides murdering innocent people in many cases is giving people in Yemen or Somalia or Pakistan a non-ideological reason to hate the United States, to want to fight the United States.” Hayes told Scahill calling it murder is a “provocative” way of describing what is happening and he wanted Scahill to defend using the word murder.

HAYES: Jeremy, you used the word “murder” before when you talked about the people who have killed by these strikes who are not combatants we can establish? And obviously that’s al oaded word because it carries certain legal and moral ramifications. Why do you use that word?

SCAHILL: If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a green light to drop missiles on people or to use to send in AC-130s to spray them down —

JACOBS: That isn’t the case here (cross-talk)

SCAHILL: If you go to the village of al Majala in Yemen where I was and you see the unexploded cluster bombs and you have the list and photographic evidence as I do of the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by President Obama on his orders because there was believed to be someone from al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to al Qaeda there and twenty-one women and fourteen children were killed in that strike and the US tried to cover it up and say it was a Yemeni strike and we know from the WikiLeaks that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder. It’s mass murder when you say we are going to bomb this area because we believe a terrorist there and you know women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe women and children are there.

Trevino responded to Scahill by raising a historical example of US armed forces killing French civilians during World War II. He argued that America knew there were innocent people where they were bombing and then essentially asked if the people who carried out those attacks were murderers. Scahill said yes, which led Trevino to suggest that people should be arguing Dwight D. Eisenhower should have been prosecuted. It was a poor strawman that Trevino tried to construct to get Scahill to back down from arguing that the US government has killed people it has known to be innocent and this should not have happened.

From this point, Scahill and Trevino went back and forth with each other throughout the rest of the segment. Trevino contended there was a long history of dealing with Americans who have decided to make war on the United States and that it was not reasonable to expect Lincoln to have handled the Confederacy in the way that people are suggesting Obama should handle US-born terror suspects. Trevino said Obama is “part of a continuum.” That was not something of which Scahill disagreed.

“We have a dictatorship of the Executive Branch of government when it comes to foreign policy,” said Scahill.

Later in the show, Trevino attempted to shut down a lot of what had been said by Shamsi on the legal issues posed by the drone program and what Scahill had said about Obama murdering people. He argued, “Part of the reason there isn’t an outcry over this is that the American people really are getting the policy that they want. It’s not that controversial.”

Scahill rightfully replied in agreement, “Obama has normalized assassination for a lot of liberals who would have been outraged if it was President McCain.” The nation has developed a “bloodthirst.” Citizens now “treat targeted killings like sporting events and dance in the streets” (e.g. what happened when Osama bin Laden was assassinated).

From statements made in February by the families of victims and survivors of a March 17, 2011, drone attack in the village of Datta Khel in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. The statements were collected by the British human rights group Reprieve and were included in their lawsuit challenging the legal right of the British government to aid the United States in its drone campaign. More than half of all deaths from U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have occurred in North Waziristan. Translated from the Pashto.

I am approximately forty-six years old, though I do not know the exact date of my birth. I am a malice of my tribe, meaning that I am a man of responsibility among my people. One of my brother’s sons, Din Mohammed, whom I was very fond of, was killed by a drone missile on March 17, 2011. He was one of about forty people who died in this strike. Din Mohammed was twenty-five years old when he died. These men were gathered together for a jirga, a gathering of tribal elders to solve disputes. This particular jirga was to solve a disagreement over chromite, a mineral mined in Waziristan. My nephew was attending the jirga because he was involved in the transport and sale of this mineral. My brother, Din Mohammed’s father, arrived at the scene of the strike shortly following the attack. He saw death all around him, and then he found his own son. My brother had to bring his son back home in pieces. That was all that remained of Din Mohammed.

I saw my father about three hours before the drone strike killed him. News of the strike didn’t reach me until later, and I arrived at the location in the evening. When I got off the bus near the bazaar, I immediately saw flames in and around the station. The fires burned for two days straight. I went to where the jirga had been held. There were still people lying around injured. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces of flesh that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.

The sudden loss of so many elders and leaders in my community has had a tremendous impact. Everyone is now afraid to gather together to hold jirgas and solve our problems. Even if we want to come together to protest the illegal drone strikes, we fear that meeting to discuss how to peacefully protest will put us at risk of being killed by drones.

The first time I saw a drone in the sky was about eight years ago, when I was thirteen. I have counted six or seven drone strikes in my village since the beginning of 2012. There were sixty or seventy primary schools in and around my village, but only a few remain today. Few children attend school because they fear for their lives walking to and from their homes. I am mostly illiterate. I stopped going to school because we were all very afraid that we would be killed. I am twenty-one years old. My time has passed. I cannot learn how to read or write so that I can better my life. But I very much wish my children to grow up without these killer drones hovering above, so that they may get the education and life I was denied.

The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.



By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK | Op-Ed 

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don't speak their language, don't know their culture, don't understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world's greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst," only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman's justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good." Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their lives were spared.

Referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the article reveals that for Obama, even ordering an American citizen to be assassinated by drone was "easy." Not so easy was twisting the Constitution to assert that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantees American citizens due process, this can simply consist of "internal deliberations in the executive branch." No need for the irksome interference of checks and balances.

Al-Awlaki might have been guilty of defecting to the enemy, but the Constitution requires that even traitors be convicted on the "testimony of two witnesses" or a "confession in open court," not the say-so of the executive branch.

In addition to hit lists, Obama has granted the CIA the authority to kill with even greater ease using "signature strikes," i.e. strikes based solely on suspicious behavior. The article reports State Department officials complained that the CIA's criteria for identifying a terrorist "signature" were too lax. "The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees 'three guys doing jumping jacks,' the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued."

Obama's top legal adviser Harold Koh insists that this killing spree is legal under international law because the US has the inherent right to self-defense. It's true that all nations possess the right to defend themselves, but the defense must be against an imminent attack that is overwhelming and leaves no moment of deliberation. When a nation is not in an armed conflict, the rules are even stricter. The killing must be necessary to protect life and there must be no other means, such as capture or nonlethal incapacitation, to prevent that threat to life. Outside of an active war zone, then, it is illegal to use weaponized drones, which are weapons of war incapable of taking a suspect alive.

Just think of the precedent the US is setting with its kill-don't-capture doctrine. Were the US rationale to be applied by other countries, China might declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an "enemy combatant" and send a missile into Manhattan; Russia could assert that it was legal to launch a drone attack against someone living in London whom they claim is linked to Chechen militants. Or consider the case of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban-American living in Miami who is a known terrorist convicted of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Given the failure of the US legal system to bring Posada to justice, the Cuban government could claim that it has the right to send a drone into downtown Miami to kill an admitted terrorist and sworn enemy.

Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, called the drone strike campaign "dangerously seductive" because it was low cost, entailed no casualties and gives the appearance of toughness. "It plays well domestically," he said, "and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."

But an article in the Washington Post the following day, May 30, entitled "Drone strikes spur backlash in Yemen," shows that the damage is not just long term but immediate. After interviewing more than 20 tribal leaders, victims' relatives, human rights activists and officials from southern Yemen, journalist Sudarsan Raghavan concluded that the escalating U.S. strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. "The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders," said legal coordinator of a local human rights group Mohammed al-Ahmadi, "but they are also turning them into heroes."

Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.

One frightening aspect of the Times piece is what it says about the American public. After all, this is an election-time piece about Obama's leadership style, told from the point of view of mostly Obama insiders bragging about how the president is no shrinking violent when it comes to killing. Implicit is the notion that Americans like tough leaders who don't agonize over civilian deaths—over there, of course.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer suing the CIA on behalf of drone victims, thinks its time for the American people to speak out. "Can you trust a program that has existed for eight years, picks its targets in secret, faces zero accountability and has killed almost 3,000 people in Pakistan alone whose identities are not known to their killers?," he asks. "When women and children in Waziristan are killed with Hellfire missiles, Pakistanis believe this is what the American people want. I would like to ask Americans, 'Do you?'"





Obama At Large: Where Are The Lawyers?

By Ralph Nader


The rule of law is rapidly breaking down at the top levels of our government. As officers of the court, we have sworn to “support the Constitution,” which clearly implies an affirmative commitment on our part.

Take the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The conservative American Bar Association sent three white papers to President Bush describing his continual unconstitutional policies. Then and now civil liberties groups and a few law professors, such as the stalwart David Cole of Georgetown University and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, have distinguished themselves in calling out both presidents for such violations and the necessity for enforcing the rule of law.

Sadly, the bulk of our profession, as individuals and through their bar associations, has remained quietly on the sidelines. They have turned away from their role as “first-responders” to protect the Constitution from its official violators.

As a youngster in Hawaii, basketball player Barack Obama was nicknamed by his schoolboy chums as “Barry O’Bomber,” according to the Washington Post. Tuesday’s (May 29) New York Times published a massive page-one feature article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, that demonstrated just how inadvertently prescient was this moniker. This was not an adversarial, leaked newspaper scoop. The article had all the signs of cooperation by the three dozen, interviewed current and former advisers to President Obama and his administration. The reporters wrote that a weekly role of the president is to personally select and order a “kill list” of suspected terrorists or militants via drone strikes or other means. The reporters wrote that this personal role of Obama’s is “without precedent in presidential history.” Adversaries are pulling him into more and more countries – Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other territories.

The drones have killed civilians, families with small children, and even allied soldiers in this undeclared war based on secret “facts” and grudges (getting even). These attacks are justified by secret legal memos claiming that the president, without any Congressional authorization, can without any limitations other that his say-so, target far and wide assassinations of any “suspected terrorist,” including American citizens.

The bombings by Mr. Obama, as secret prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, trample proper constitutional authority, separation of powers, and checks and balances and constitute repeated impeachable offenses. That is, if a pathetic Congress ever decided to uphold its constitutional responsibility, including and beyond Article I, section 8’s war-declaring powers.

As if lawyers needed any reminding, the Constitution is the foundation of our legal system and is based on declared, open boundaries of permissible government actions. That is what a government of law, not of men, means. Further our system is clearly demarked by independent review of executive branch decisions – by our courts and Congress.

What happens if Congress becomes, in constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein’s words, “an ink blot,” and the courts beg off with their wholesale dismissals of Constitutional matters based on claims and issue involves a “political question” or that parties have “no-standing-to-sue.” What happens is what is happening. The situation worsens every year, deepening dictatorial secretive decisions by the White House, and not just regarding foreign and military policies.

The value of The New York Times article is that it added ascribed commentary on what was reported. Here is a sample:

- The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, quoted by a colleague as complaining about the CIA’s strikes driving American policy commenting that he: “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.” Imagine what the sidelined Foreign Service is thinking about greater longer-range risks to our national security.

- Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, calls the strike campaign “dangerously seductive.” He said that Obama’s obsession with targeted killings is “the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” Blair, a retired admiral, has often noted that intense focus on strikes sidelines any long-term strategy against al-Qaeda which spreads wider with each drone that vaporizes civilians.

- Former CIA director Michael Hayden decries the secrecy: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president and that’s not sustainable,” he told the Times. “Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. [Department of Justice] safe.”

Consider this: an allegedly liberal former constitutional law lecturer is being cautioned about blowback, the erosion of democracy and the national security by former heads of super-secret spy agencies!

Secrecy-driven violence in government breeds fear and surrender of conscience. When Mr. Obama was campaigning for president in 2007, he was reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden Jr. and Mitt Romney – then presidential candidates – for declaring that even if Pakistan leaders objected, he would go after terrorist bases in Pakistan. Romney said he had “become Dr. Strangelove,” according to the Times. Today all three of candidate Obama’s critics have decided to go along with egregious violations of our Constitution.

The Times made the telling point that Obama’s orders now “can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know.” Such is the drift to one-man rule, consuming so much of his time in this way at the expense of addressing hundreds of thousands of preventable fatalities yearly here in the U.S. from occupational disease, environmental pollution, hospital infections and other documented dangerous conditions.

Based on deep reporting, Becker and Shane allowed that “both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Obama became president.”

In a world of lawlessness, force will beget force, which is what the CIA means by “blowback.” Our country has the most to lose when we abandon the rule of law and embrace lawless violence that is banking future revenge throughout the world.

The people in the countries we target know what we must remember. We are their occupiers, their invaders, the powerful supporters for decades of their own brutal tyrants. We’re in their backyard, which more than any other impetus spawned al-Qaeda in the first place.

So lawyers of America, apart from a few stalwarts among you, what is your breaking point? When will you uphold your oath of office and work to restore constitutional authorities and boundaries?

Someday, people will ask – where were the lawyers?

U.S. Drone Program

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58

 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

«Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. «All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

«As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

«As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. «I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream…I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”


Published on Oct 19, 2013

America’s deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That’s according to the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let’s get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.


Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones

Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole

The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):


Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program

nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA’s use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don’t always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA’s position that it can’t confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58
 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

"Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. "All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”



Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

"As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

"As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. "I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream...I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”





Published on Oct 19, 2013

America's deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That's according to the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let's get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.





Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones


Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole
The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):





Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program


nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA's use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don't always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA's position that it can't confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

Drones


By: Tuesday October 22, 2013 9:43 am

Family of Mamana Bibi, 68-year-old grandmother killed in US drone strike in Pakistan

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals.
Both of the drone strikes detailed in the report, “Will I Be Next?”, occurred in 2012 and were reported. In the aftermath of one of the strikes, there was particular focus on the fact that the US was deliberately attacking civilian rescuers after the first strike was launched against whomever had been targeted.
On July 6, 2012, laborers from the Zowi Sidgi village were gathered in a tent after working a long day in the summer heat. Residents nearby could clearly see four drones were flying overhead. Then, as the Amnesty International report describes, “the sound of multiple missiles” suddenly was heard “piercing the sky, hitting the tent and killing at least eight people instantly.”
Ahsan, a chromite miner who lives in Zowi Sidgi, said, “When we went to where the missiles hit to help people; we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. [I saw] bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces.”
There was panic, with people running to their homes, to trees, anywhere to escape. Some villagers chose to go see if there were any survivors.
One of the laborers, Junaid, recounted how people attempted to collect bodies. They carried stretchers, blankets and water. But, minutes later, another series of missiles were launched. They targeted those who had come to clean up the devastation and six people were instantly killed. Two others died from wounds.
In total, “18 people were killed in the drone strikes that evening and at least 22 others were injured, including an eight-year-old girl named Shehrbano who sustained shrapne linjuries to her leg.”
“Some people lost their hands,” Nabeel said of the second strike. “Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere on the ground. The bodies were burnt and it was not possible to recognize them.”
No more villagers went near where victims had been killed until the next morning. Just about everyone feared if they came close to the site they would be killed in another attack.
In another attack on October 24, 2012, which Amnesty International detailed in the organization’s report, a sixty-eight year-old grandmother named Mamana Bibi was killed instantly by two Hellfire missiles while she was gathering okra in the family fields for cooking that evening. Two grandchildren, Zuhair and Nabeela, witnessed the drone strike.
“There was a very bad smell and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes,” said Zubair.
Nabeela recalled the explosion had been “very close to us” and had been “very strong.” It took her into the air and pushed her to the ground. When she ventured to where her grandmother had been killed, Nabeela said, “I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” recalled Nabeela. “It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth.”
Following this attack, a “second volley of drone missiles” were fired. They hit a “vacant area of the field” nine feet from where their grandmother had been standing.
The report describes:

A few minutes after the first strike a second volley of drone missiles was fired, hitting a vacant area of the field around 9ft from where Mamana Bibi was killed. Mamana Bibi’s grandsons Kaleemul and Samadur Rehman were there, having rushed to the scene when the first volley struck. Kaleemul Rehman recalled: “I was sitting at my home drinking tea [when] suddenly I heard a sound of explosions. I ran outside and saw the rocket had left a big crater in the field and dead animals, and the area was full of smoke and dust. I could not see my grandmother anywhere.” As the two boys surveyed the area, they discovered their grandmother had been blown to pieces. Fearing further attacks, the two tried to flee the area when the second volley of missiles was fired. Kaleemul was hit by shrapnel, breaking his left leg and suffering a large, deep gash to that thigh. “This time I felt something hit my leg and the wave of the blast knocked me unconscious,” Kaleemul said. “Later I regained consciousness and noticed that my leg was wounded and my cousin was carrying me on his back to the main road, about 1.5 miles away.” From there a car drove Kaleemul to the Agency Headquarters Hospital.

Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, was not engaged in any fighting when she was hit. She may have been killed as a result of “faulty intelligence.” Or, perhaps, “drone operators deliberately targeted and killed” her. It is unknown what exactly happened because US officials refuse to provide additional information.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns has called this CIA tactic of targeting civilian rescuers a “war crime.”
“When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict,” he wrote in a recent UN report on drones.
Zalan, a resident of Mir Ali, which is a village in North Waziristan, told Amnesty International, “The people think that if we gather at the incident site after the drone attack there is a possibility of further attacks on them because the drones might think Taliban have gathered and fire again.”
Amnesty International contends that evidence of “follow-up attacks, possibly on the presumption that they too were members of the group being targeted by the USA,” makes it “virtually impossible for drone strikes to be surgically precise as claimed by US Administration officials, even if certain attacks comply with the necessary standards under international law.”
The report highlights two other attacks, which involved similar signature strikes, in less detail. On July 23, 2012, after targeting fighters from a group that is part of the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban, six were killed in a follow-up strike while trying to rescue those wounded. These people were not participating in “hostilities.”
On June 4, 2012, early in the morning, five men were killed in drone strike that hit a building in the village of Esso Khel. Locals arrived to assist victims. Those hit were likely Arabs or Central Asians that were members of al Qaeda. After this attack:

As one resident explained to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which also did research on this case, “They started rescue work and were collecting body pieces of the slain people and pulling out the injured from debris of the building when the drones started firing again.”

The use of drones has brought fear or terror to the innocent lives of Pakistanis. One resident said, “When the drone plane comes and we hear the sound of ‘ghommm’ people feel very scared. The drone plane can launch missiles at any time.”
But Pakistanis do not just have US drone strikes to fear. They have to fear attacks from Pakistani forces and other armed groups, particularly if they live in North Waziristan. Such armed groups have engaged in “unlawful killings” and committed war crimes. Pakistan has done a poor job of bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.
Each of the people who Amnesty International spoke to for the report “did so at great personal risk, knowing that they might face reprisals from US or Pakistani authorities, the Taliban, or other groups. They spoke out because they were anxious to make known the human cost of the drone program, and the impact on themselves and their communities of living in a state of fear.”
Chillingly, a person unnamed in the report who witnessed a drone strike, said, “It is difficult to trust anyone. I can’t even trust my own brother… After I spoke to you some men in plain clothes visited me [in North Waziristan]. I don’t know who they were, whether they were Taliban or someone else; they were not from our village.”
I was clearly warned not to give any more information about the victims of drone strikes. They told me it is fine if I continue to do my work but I should not share any information with the people who come here,” the person added.
To read the full report on drone strikes in Pakistan, go here.


Street Artist Behind Satirical NYPD “Drone” Posters Arrested

A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan, using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.

In a video interview with Animal New York prior to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identities on social networking sites.

The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the 29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.
It’s not the first time the NYPD has overreacted to unsanctioned public art. Earlier this year, the department arrested 50-year-old Takeshi Miyakawa after he illuminated the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with harmless LED lanterns made from plastic “I Heart NY” shopping bags. The crackdown in Attia’s case, however, seems to have more to do with the public embarrassment faced by the department as a result of the mock ads.

Attia now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property for his spree last September, with an additional charge of weapons possession after officers allegedly found an unloaded .22 caliber revolver under his bed during the raid. As for the drones themselves, the NYPD has still not revealed any plans to use aerial robotic enforcers. But if the expanding list of FAA authorizations and documented use of drones by local police in Texas and Miami, Florida are any indication, it may be only a matter of time.

(via thepeoplesrecord)


– Two top U.S. officials defended the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes in combating al Qaeda operatives. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called it a “targeted effort.”


» 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.»*

As it stands now, the Obama administration is without a solid codified system on using drone strikes, which are responsible for killing a disproportionately high number of «unknowns» and innocents. Cenk Uygur discusses the issue at length, explaining why solid, structured policy on drones is extremely necessary, but is only being reached as a «leisurely» pace.

*Read more from Scott Shane/ New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-bo…

Support The Young Turks by Subscribing http://bit.ly/TYTonYouTube

Why the Obama administration thought that Romney could not just issue new guidelines and ignore their new rules? If it is just a matter of administrative precedent, that can easily be overruled.

The US government should not be permitted to exercise violence abroad without a declaration of war and congressional approval and oversight. If it has to happen, it should be done by the Department of Defense, not the CIA or sub-contractors to the CIA, a civilian agency.

Cenk points out that ‘signature strikes,’ where the victims are unknown and the drone operators are just going by weapons going off, should be forbidden. (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. are places where celebratory fire is common).

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that US media consistently underestimate the number of non-combatant deaths that occur as a result of drone strikes.

With his usual erudition, Cenk cites the work of Gregory D. Johnsen on Yemen, who argues that al-Qaeda has tripled in size in the past few years there, in some large part because of US drone strikes.


Google Earth has published images of a secret US airfield in Nevada. The images indicate that the base is used to test and maintain unmanned drones. And now, the publication is fueling a debate about whether Google is compromising US security.

­Aviation website Flight Global found the Yucca Lake airfield image on Google Earth. The images allowed Flight Global to write a detailed description of site, claiming a 5,200 foot (1,580 meter) asphalt runway, with MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – also known as drones – being towed on the parking ramp. The image also shows four hangars, a parking lot and a security perimeter. Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Globalsecurity.org, said that the hangars could accommodate up to 10-15 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft. Flight Global estimates that the base can accommodate approximately 80 employees plus some specialized drone maintenance facilities.

One piece of evidence suggests that the airfield is used to test the new RQ-170 Sentinel, a drone nicknamed the «Beast of Kandahar»: a special clamshell hangar, used specifically to lodge the “Beasts,” can be seen at Yucca Lake.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the most sophisticated drones in the American arsenal. It features high-definition cameras, sensors that can scan for nuclear armaments, and an advanced stealth shell to hide it from radar detection. The Iranian government claims it recently captured an RQ-170 Sentinel it alleges was being used by the United States to spy on Iranian nuclear activities.

Earlier images of the airfield showed other aircraft on the site – the Pilatus PC-12 and the Beechcraft King Air, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin also manufactures some of the most advanced drones for the US military – the Polecat technology demonstrator and the RQ-170 Sentinel – which were tested at airfields on the same range.

It is not yet clear which US government agency uses the Yucca Lake airfield. The airfield is located on the heavily restricted Tonopah Test Range, which makes use of land formally belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the US Department of Energy. The airfield’s isolation from other sites on the range has prompted speculation that it may be a secret CIA testing spot for hardware and software for its own drone program. The Department of Energy also frequently leases its facilities to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

According to archive images, the Yucca airfield was constructed around 2002. Two reports by the Department of Energy indicate that the base operates 4-6 UAV flights and 2-3 manned flights, over the dry Yucca lakebed at altitudes under 12,000 feet (3,650 meters), every day.

Google has already been the subject of controversy for publishing air base images. In 2009, images of the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan (taken in 2006) showed the presence of Predator drones, although the Pakistani government had previously said that the US did not base its drone operations in the country.

Journalist Russ Baker believes a national and international conversation must be had about the importance of privacy and national security.

“Google’s function is to send satellites around the world – to map the world for us – and that’s what they’re doing,” he noted.

But with so many secret locations across the US and around the globe, Google simply has no way of knowing about all of them. “They have to tell Google all their secret facilities first, and then ask them to go to great measures to secure them,” Baker told RT.

“We see more and more conflict because governments … want to be able to essentially pry into everyone’s lives, and have no one prying into what they are doing.»


Chris Woods writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually gets all the credit for the first US drone targeted killing beyond the conventional battlefield.

But it was the military which gave the final go-ahead to kill on November 3 2002.

Lt General Michael DeLong was at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida when news came in that the CIA had found its target. The deputy commander made his way down to the UAV Room, showing live video feeds from a CIA Predator high above Marib province in Yemen.

The armed drone was tracking an SUV on the move. The six terrorist suspects inside were unaware that a decision had already been made to kill them.

Interviewed by PBS, DeLong later recalled speaking by phone with CIA Director George Tenet as he watched the video wall:

‘Tenet goes “You going to make the call?” And I said, “I’ll make the call.” He says, “This SUV over here is the one that has Ali in it.” I said, “OK, fine.” You know, “Shoot him.” They lined it up and shot it.’

Eight thousand miles away and moments later, six alleged terrorists were dead. Among them was a US citizen.

‘Orchestrator’ killed
The media carried detailed accounts of the ‘secret’ attack within days. Yemen’s government, which had co-operated on the strike, also released the names of the six men killed, including that of US citizen Kemal Darwish.

Concerns he had been deliberately targeted were dismissed, as it was reported the intended CIA target was Qa’id Salim Sinan al-Harithi, al Qaeda’s ‘orchestrator’ of the lethal attack on the USS Cole.

As the New York Times noted at the time, ‘Mr. Harethi was not on the FBI’s list of the 22-most-wanted terrorist fugitives in the world,’ and added that ’although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation.’

A secret US cable, dated a fortnight prior to the strike, also shows that Yemen’s government had already incarcerated more than a dozen men wanted in connection with the Cole bombing. At least one of them, Fahd al Quso, was killed in a subsequent US drone strike.

Although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation’
New York Times, November 2002

US citizen Darwish was simply in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ that November, it was said. Yet just six weeks beforehand, the Lackawanna terrorist plot in upstate New York had been exposed. Kemal Darwish was named as a key suspect, and a ‘massive worldwide manhunt‘ for him was underway.

Questions remain about how much the CIA and Centcom actually knew about the presence of a US citizen that day.

When assistant US defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz openly discussed the strike with CNN on November 5, he noted only that a ‘successful tactical operation [has] gotten rid of somebody dangerous.’ It would be many years before senior officials would again openly acknowledge the covert drones project.

No inevitability
The way had been cleared for the November 2002 killings months earlier, when President Bush lifted a 25-year ban on US assassinations just after 9/11.

He later wrote that ‘George [Tenet] proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for the CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.’

Since then, under both Bush and Obama, the US has carried out targeted killings (or extrajudicial executions according to UN experts) using conventional aircraft and helicopter strikes; cruise missiles; and even naval bombardments.

Yet the drone remains the US’s preferred method of killing. The Bureau has identified a minimum of 2,800 (and as many as 4,100) killed in covert US drone strikes over the past ten years. What began as an occasional tactic has, over time, morphed into an industrialised killing process.

There was no inevitability to this when the strikes began. Time magazine opined in 2002 that covert drone attacks were ‘unlikely to become a norm.’ And in the early years of the programme this was true. The next covert drone strike took place in Pakistan in June 2004, followed by a further strike 11 months later.

Yet slowly, surely, the United States has come to depend on its drone killing programme. By Obama’s presidency drone use against alleged militants was sometimes daily. Six times more covert strikes have hit Pakistan under Barack Obama than under George W Bush. And as the Bureau’s work shows, when known strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are added together, they reveal a growing dependence upon covert drone killings.

Recent reports show that the US is now formalising the drone killing project. Some insiders talk of a decade or more of killing to come, with Mitt Romney noting that he would continue the policy if elected.

In Washington at least, a decade of targeted killings of alleged terror suspects appears to have normalised the process.

Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Speaking of killing children, the Afghanistan government said this morning that a NATO operation on Saturday killed three more Afghan children, ones who were tending to livestock.

UPDATE

There’s one other vital point to be made here. Klein says that «there is a really major possibility of abuse [of drone power] if you have the wrong people running the government» – in other words, we can trust Obama with it, but not the big bad Republicans. This was precisely what Bush followers used to say about his claimed powers of due-process-free eavesdropping and detention: maybe this would be scary if Hillary Clinton could do this, but I trust Bush to use it only against the Bad Guys.
Leaving aside the authoritarian willingness to trust certain leaders with unchecked power, this is not how the US government works. Once a power is legitimized and institutionalized, then it is vested in all presidents, current and future, Democratic and Republican. That is whyThomas Jefferson warned: «In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.» Those who cheer for the unchecked power to assassinate in secret because it’s Obama who currently wields that power will be the ones fully responsible when some leader they don’t trust exercises it – abuses it – in the future.

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 OctoberImran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country’s next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month. On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was «interrogated on [his] views on drones» and then added: «My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop.» He then defiantly noted: «Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance.» The State Department acknowledged Khan’s detention and said: «The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States.» Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that «our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband,» and added that the burden is on the visitor «to demonstrate that they are admissible» and «the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.» There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan – the potential next Prime Minister – to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur. But the most important point here is that Khan’s detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, «this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics.» Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled «The Other Side», which «revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan.» As he put it, «the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks» by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes. Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US. The month prior, Shahzad Akbar – a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights – was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted. There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public – the domestic public, that is – from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, «Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?» This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films – one from Iraq and the other from Yemen – that showed the views and perspectives of America’s adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters’ notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published – demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it – that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work. That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration. Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration’s view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year – in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones – granted anonymity to a «senior American counterterrorism official» to smear the Bureau’s journalists and its sources as wanting to «help al-Qaida succeed». For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor. That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration’s use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US. What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how «those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind,» That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.


http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/drone_war_13672 http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/revenge_of_the_drones

As a result of the unprecedented 41 drone strikes into Pakistan authorized by the Obama administration, aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there, about a half-dozen leaders of militant organizations have been killed–including two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban–in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants and civilians, according to our analysis.[1]
The number of civilian deaths caused by the drones is an important issue because in the charged political atmosphere of today’s Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, the drone program is a particular cause of anger among those who see it as an infringement on Pakistan’s sovereignty. A Gallup poll in August found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis favored the strikes, while two-thirds opposed them.
An important factor in the controversy over the drones is the widespread perception that they kill large numbers of Pakistani civilians. Some commentators have asserted that the overwhelming majority of casualties are civilians. Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed «687 innocent Pakistani civilians.» A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had «killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.» In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the «public outrage» they arouse.
A very different picture was presented earlier this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.
Our analysis suggests quite different conclusions than those of either Kilcullen and Exum or theLong War Journal.





By: Tuesday October 22, 2013 9:43 am


Family of Mamana Bibi, 68-year-old grandmother killed in US drone strike in Pakistan




Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals.
Both of the drone strikes detailed in the report, “Will I Be Next?”, occurred in 2012 and were reported. In the aftermath of one of the strikes, there was particular focus on the fact that the US was deliberately attacking civilian rescuers after the first strike was launched against whomever had been targeted.
On July 6, 2012, laborers from the Zowi Sidgi village were gathered in a tent after working a long day in the summer heat. Residents nearby could clearly see four drones were flying overhead. Then, as the Amnesty International report describes, “the sound of multiple missiles” suddenly was heard “piercing the sky, hitting the tent and killing at least eight people instantly.”
Ahsan, a chromite miner who lives in Zowi Sidgi, said, “When we went to where the missiles hit to help people; we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. [I saw] bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces.”
There was panic, with people running to their homes, to trees, anywhere to escape. Some villagers chose to go see if there were any survivors.
One of the laborers, Junaid, recounted how people attempted to collect bodies. They carried stretchers, blankets and water. But, minutes later, another series of missiles were launched. They targeted those who had come to clean up the devastation and six people were instantly killed. Two others died from wounds.
In total, “18 people were killed in the drone strikes that evening and at least 22 others were injured, including an eight-year-old girl named Shehrbano who sustained shrapne linjuries to her leg.”
“Some people lost their hands,” Nabeel said of the second strike. “Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere on the ground. The bodies were burnt and it was not possible to recognize them.”
No more villagers went near where victims had been killed until the next morning. Just about everyone feared if they came close to the site they would be killed in another attack.
In another attack on October 24, 2012, which Amnesty International detailed in the organization’s report, a sixty-eight year-old grandmother named Mamana Bibi was killed instantly by two Hellfire missiles while she was gathering okra in the family fields for cooking that evening. Two grandchildren, Zuhair and Nabeela, witnessed the drone strike.
“There was a very bad smell and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes,” said Zubair.
Nabeela recalled the explosion had been “very close to us” and had been “very strong.” It took her into the air and pushed her to the ground. When she ventured to where her grandmother had been killed, Nabeela said, “I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” recalled Nabeela. “It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth.”
Following this attack, a “second volley of drone missiles” were fired. They hit a “vacant area of the field” nine feet from where their grandmother had been standing.
The report describes:
A few minutes after the first strike a second volley of drone missiles was fired, hitting a vacant area of the field around 9ft from where Mamana Bibi was killed. Mamana Bibi’s grandsons Kaleemul and Samadur Rehman were there, having rushed to the scene when the first volley struck. Kaleemul Rehman recalled: “I was sitting at my home drinking tea [when] suddenly I heard a sound of explosions. I ran outside and saw the rocket had left a big crater in the field and dead animals, and the area was full of smoke and dust. I could not see my grandmother anywhere.” As the two boys surveyed the area, they discovered their grandmother had been blown to pieces. Fearing further attacks, the two tried to flee the area when the second volley of missiles was fired. Kaleemul was hit by shrapnel, breaking his left leg and suffering a large, deep gash to that thigh. “This time I felt something hit my leg and the wave of the blast knocked me unconscious,” Kaleemul said. “Later I regained consciousness and noticed that my leg was wounded and my cousin was carrying me on his back to the main road, about 1.5 miles away.” From there a car drove Kaleemul to the Agency Headquarters Hospital.
Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, was not engaged in any fighting when she was hit. She may have been killed as a result of “faulty intelligence.” Or, perhaps, “drone operators deliberately targeted and killed” her. It is unknown what exactly happened because US officials refuse to provide additional information.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns has called this CIA tactic of targeting civilian rescuers a “war crime.”
“When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict,” he wrote in a recent UN report on drones.
Zalan, a resident of Mir Ali, which is a village in North Waziristan, told Amnesty International, “The people think that if we gather at the incident site after the drone attack there is a possibility of further attacks on them because the drones might think Taliban have gathered and fire again.”
Amnesty International contends that evidence of “follow-up attacks, possibly on the presumption that they too were members of the group being targeted by the USA,” makes it “virtually impossible for drone strikes to be surgically precise as claimed by US Administration officials, even if certain attacks comply with the necessary standards under international law.”
The report highlights two other attacks, which involved similar signature strikes, in less detail. On July 23, 2012, after targeting fighters from a group that is part of the Haqqani network of the Afghan Taliban, six were killed in a follow-up strike while trying to rescue those wounded. These people were not participating in “hostilities.”
On June 4, 2012, early in the morning, five men were killed in drone strike that hit a building in the village of Esso Khel. Locals arrived to assist victims. Those hit were likely Arabs or Central Asians that were members of al Qaeda. After this attack:
As one resident explained to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which also did research on this case, “They started rescue work and were collecting body pieces of the slain people and pulling out the injured from debris of the building when the drones started firing again.”
The use of drones has brought fear or terror to the innocent lives of Pakistanis. One resident said, “When the drone plane comes and we hear the sound of ‘ghommm’ people feel very scared. The drone plane can launch missiles at any time.”
But Pakistanis do not just have US drone strikes to fear. They have to fear attacks from Pakistani forces and other armed groups, particularly if they live in North Waziristan. Such armed groups have engaged in “unlawful killings” and committed war crimes. Pakistan has done a poor job of bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.
Each of the people who Amnesty International spoke to for the report “did so at great personal risk, knowing that they might face reprisals from US or Pakistani authorities, the Taliban, or other groups. They spoke out because they were anxious to make known the human cost of the drone program, and the impact on themselves and their communities of living in a state of fear.”
Chillingly, a person unnamed in the report who witnessed a drone strike, said, “It is difficult to trust anyone. I can’t even trust my own brother… After I spoke to you some men in plain clothes visited me [in North Waziristan]. I don’t know who they were, whether they were Taliban or someone else; they were not from our village.”
I was clearly warned not to give any more information about the victims of drone strikes. They told me it is fine if I continue to do my work but I should not share any information with the people who come here,” the person added.
To read the full report on drone strikes in Pakistan, go here.


Street Artist Behind Satirical NYPD “Drone” Posters Arrested

A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan, using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.
In a video interview with Animal New York prior to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identities on social networking sites.
The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the 29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.
It’s not the first time the NYPD has overreacted to unsanctioned public art. Earlier this year, the department arrested 50-year-old Takeshi Miyakawa after he illuminated the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with harmless LED lanterns made from plastic “I Heart NY” shopping bags. The crackdown in Attia’s case, however, seems to have more to do with the public embarrassment faced by the department as a result of the mock ads.
Attia now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property for his spree last September, with an additional charge of weapons possession after officers allegedly found an unloaded .22 caliber revolver under his bed during the raid. As for the drones themselves, the NYPD has still not revealed any plans to use aerial robotic enforcers. But if the expanding list of FAA authorizations and documented use of drones by local police in Texas and Miami, Florida are any indication, it may be only a matter of time.
(via thepeoplesrecord)






– Two top U.S. officials defended the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes in combating al Qaeda operatives. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called it a “targeted effort.”


" 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."*

As it stands now, the Obama administration is without a solid codified system on using drone strikes, which are responsible for killing a disproportionately high number of "unknowns" and innocents. Cenk Uygur discusses the issue at length, explaining why solid, structured policy on drones is extremely necessary, but is only being reached as a "leisurely" pace.







*Read more from Scott Shane/ New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-bo...

Support The Young Turks by Subscribing http://bit.ly/TYTonYouTube

Why the Obama administration thought that Romney could not just issue new guidelines and ignore their new rules? If it is just a matter of administrative precedent, that can easily be overruled.

The US government should not be permitted to exercise violence abroad without a declaration of war and congressional approval and oversight. If it has to happen, it should be done by the Department of Defense, not the CIA or sub-contractors to the CIA, a civilian agency.

Cenk points out that ‘signature strikes,’ where the victims are unknown and the drone operators are just going by weapons going off, should be forbidden. (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. are places where celebratory fire is common).

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that US media consistently underestimate the number of non-combatant deaths that occur as a result of drone strikes.

With his usual erudition, Cenk cites the work of Gregory D. Johnsen on Yemen, who argues that al-Qaeda has tripled in size in the past few years there, in some large part because of US drone strikes.





Google Earth has published images of a secret US airfield in Nevada. The images indicate that the base is used to test and maintain unmanned drones. And now, the publication is fueling a debate about whether Google is compromising US security.



­Aviation website Flight Global found the Yucca Lake airfield image on Google Earth. The images allowed Flight Global to write a detailed description of site, claiming a 5,200 foot (1,580 meter) asphalt runway, with MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – also known as drones – being towed on the parking ramp. The image also shows four hangars, a parking lot and a security perimeter. Tim Brown, an imagery analyst with Globalsecurity.org, said that the hangars could accommodate up to 10-15 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft. Flight Global estimates that the base can accommodate approximately 80 employees plus some specialized drone maintenance facilities.

One piece of evidence suggests that the airfield is used to test the new RQ-170 Sentinel, a drone nicknamed the "Beast of Kandahar": a special clamshell hangar, used specifically to lodge the “Beasts,” can be seen at Yucca Lake.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the most sophisticated drones in the American arsenal. It features high-definition cameras, sensors that can scan for nuclear armaments, and an advanced stealth shell to hide it from radar detection. The Iranian government claims it recently captured an RQ-170 Sentinel it alleges was being used by the United States to spy on Iranian nuclear activities.

Earlier images of the airfield showed other aircraft on the site – the Pilatus PC-12 and the Beechcraft King Air, both manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin also manufactures some of the most advanced drones for the US military – the Polecat technology demonstrator and the RQ-170 Sentinel – which were tested at airfields on the same range.

It is not yet clear which US government agency uses the Yucca Lake airfield. The airfield is located on the heavily restricted Tonopah Test Range, which makes use of land formally belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the US Department of Energy. The airfield’s isolation from other sites on the range has prompted speculation that it may be a secret CIA testing spot for hardware and software for its own drone program. The Department of Energy also frequently leases its facilities to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

According to archive images, the Yucca airfield was constructed around 2002. Two reports by the Department of Energy indicate that the base operates 4-6 UAV flights and 2-3 manned flights, over the dry Yucca lakebed at altitudes under 12,000 feet (3,650 meters), every day.

Google has already been the subject of controversy for publishing air base images. In 2009, images of the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan (taken in 2006) showed the presence of Predator drones, although the Pakistani government had previously said that the US did not base its drone operations in the country.

Journalist Russ Baker believes a national and international conversation must be had about the importance of privacy and national security.

“Google’s function is to send satellites around the world – to map the world for us – and that’s what they're doing,” he noted.

But with so many secret locations across the US and around the globe, Google simply has no way of knowing about all of them. “They have to tell Google all their secret facilities first, and then ask them to go to great measures to secure them,” Baker told RT.

“We see more and more conflict because governments … want to be able to essentially pry into everyone’s lives, and have no one prying into what they are doing."




Chris Woods writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually gets all the credit for the first US drone targeted killing beyond the conventional battlefield.

But it was the military which gave the final go-ahead to kill on November 3 2002.

Lt General Michael DeLong was at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida when news came in that the CIA had found its target. The deputy commander made his way down to the UAV Room, showing live video feeds from a CIA Predator high above Marib province in Yemen.

The armed drone was tracking an SUV on the move. The six terrorist suspects inside were unaware that a decision had already been made to kill them.

Interviewed by PBS, DeLong later recalled speaking by phone with CIA Director George Tenet as he watched the video wall:

‘Tenet goes “You going to make the call?” And I said, “I’ll make the call.” He says, “This SUV over here is the one that has Ali in it.” I said, “OK, fine.” You know, “Shoot him.” They lined it up and shot it.’

Eight thousand miles away and moments later, six alleged terrorists were dead. Among them was a US citizen.

‘Orchestrator’ killed
The media carried detailed accounts of the ‘secret’ attack within days. Yemen’s government, which had co-operated on the strike, also released the names of the six men killed, including that of US citizen Kemal Darwish.

Concerns he had been deliberately targeted were dismissed, as it was reported the intended CIA target was Qa’id Salim Sinan al-Harithi, al Qaeda’s ‘orchestrator’ of the lethal attack on the USS Cole.

As the New York Times noted at the time, ‘Mr. Harethi was not on the FBI’s list of the 22-most-wanted terrorist fugitives in the world,’ and added that ’although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation.’

A secret US cable, dated a fortnight prior to the strike, also shows that Yemen’s government had already incarcerated more than a dozen men wanted in connection with the Cole bombing. At least one of them, Fahd al Quso, was killed in a subsequent US drone strike.

Although investigators wanted to question Mr. Harethi about the Cole bombing, the CIA did not consult law enforcement officials before the Yemeni operation’
New York Times, November 2002

US citizen Darwish was simply in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ that November, it was said. Yet just six weeks beforehand, the Lackawanna terrorist plot in upstate New York had been exposed. Kemal Darwish was named as a key suspect, and a ‘massive worldwide manhunt‘ for him was underway.

Questions remain about how much the CIA and Centcom actually knew about the presence of a US citizen that day.

When assistant US defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz openly discussed the strike with CNN on November 5, he noted only that a ‘successful tactical operation [has] gotten rid of somebody dangerous.’ It would be many years before senior officials would again openly acknowledge the covert drones project.

No inevitability
The way had been cleared for the November 2002 killings months earlier, when President Bush lifted a 25-year ban on US assassinations just after 9/11.

He later wrote that ‘George [Tenet] proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for the CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.’

Since then, under both Bush and Obama, the US has carried out targeted killings (or extrajudicial executions according to UN experts) using conventional aircraft and helicopter strikes; cruise missiles; and even naval bombardments.

Yet the drone remains the US’s preferred method of killing. The Bureau has identified a minimum of 2,800 (and as many as 4,100) killed in covert US drone strikes over the past ten years. What began as an occasional tactic has, over time, morphed into an industrialised killing process.


There was no inevitability to this when the strikes began. Time magazine opined in 2002 that covert drone attacks were ‘unlikely to become a norm.’ And in the early years of the programme this was true. The next covert drone strike took place in Pakistan in June 2004, followed by a further strike 11 months later.

Yet slowly, surely, the United States has come to depend on its drone killing programme. By Obama’s presidency drone use against alleged militants was sometimes daily. Six times more covert strikes have hit Pakistan under Barack Obama than under George W Bush. And as the Bureau’s work shows, when known strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are added together, they reveal a growing dependence upon covert drone killings.

Recent reports show that the US is now formalising the drone killing project. Some insiders talk of a decade or more of killing to come, with Mitt Romney noting that he would continue the policy if elected.

In Washington at least, a decade of targeted killings of alleged terror suspects appears to have normalised the process.

Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.



Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Speaking of killing children, the Afghanistan government said this morning that a NATO operation on Saturday killed three more Afghan children, ones who were tending to livestock.

UPDATE

There's one other vital point to be made here. Klein says that "there is a really major possibility of abuse [of drone power] if you have the wrong people running the government" - in other words, we can trust Obama with it, but not the big bad Republicans. This was precisely what Bush followers used to say about his claimed powers of due-process-free eavesdropping and detention: maybe this would be scary if Hillary Clinton could do this, but I trust Bush to use it only against the Bad Guys.
Leaving aside the authoritarian willingness to trust certain leaders with unchecked power, this is not how the US government works. Once a power is legitimized and institutionalized, then it is vested in all presidents, current and future, Democratic and Republican. That is whyThomas Jefferson warned: "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Those who cheer for the unchecked power to assassinate in secret because it's Obama who currently wields that power will be the ones fully responsible when some leader they don't trust exercises it - abuses it - in the future.
guardian.co.uk, Imran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country's next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month. On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was "interrogated on [his] views on drones" and then added: "My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop." He then defiantly noted: "Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance." The State Department acknowledged Khan's detention and said: "The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States." Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that "our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband," and added that the burden is on the visitor "to demonstrate that they are admissible" and "the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility." There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan - the potential next Prime Minister - to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur. But the most important point here is that Khan's detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, "this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics." Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled "The Other Side", which "revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan." As he put it, "the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks" by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes. Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US. The month prior, Shahzad Akbar - a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights - was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted. There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public - the domestic public, that is - from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, "Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?" This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films - one from Iraq and the other from Yemen - that showed the views and perspectives of America's adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters' notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published - demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it - that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work. That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration. Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration's view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year - in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones - granted anonymity to a "senior American counterterrorism official" to smear the Bureau's journalists and its sources as wanting to "help al-Qaida succeed". For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor. That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration's use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US. What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how "those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind," That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.

http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/drone_war_13672 http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/revenge_of_the_drones
As a result of the unprecedented 41 drone strikes into Pakistan authorized by the Obama administration, aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there, about a half-dozen leaders of militant organizations have been killed--including two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda, and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban--in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants and civilians, according to our analysis.[1]
The number of civilian deaths caused by the drones is an important issue because in the charged political atmosphere of today's Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, the drone program is a particular cause of anger among those who see it as an infringement on Pakistan's sovereignty. A Gallup poll in August found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis favored the strikes, while two-thirds opposed them.
An important factor in the controversy over the drones is the widespread perception that they kill large numbers of Pakistani civilians. Some commentators have asserted that the overwhelming majority of casualties are civilians. Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani journalist, wrote in The News in April that since January 2006, American drone attacks had killed "687 innocent Pakistani civilians." A month later, a similar claim was made in the New York Times by counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who wrote that drone strikes had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the "public outrage" they arouse.
A very different picture was presented earlier this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians.
Our analysis suggests quite different conclusions than those of either Kilcullen and Exum or theLong War Journal.

Autonomous Drones

Published on Apr 19, 2013 We chat with Kyle Moore, a member of the Stanford Robotics Club, about his project that converts cheap remote-controlled toy helicopters into autonomous drones that can map and navigate around environments. Published on Apr 13, 2013 Check out some Home security Drone Available In the Market you can buy http://www.dailysmartstuff.com/2013/0… […]

Published on Apr 19, 2013

We chat with Kyle Moore, a member of the Stanford Robotics Club, about his project that converts cheap remote-controlled toy helicopters into autonomous drones that can map and navigate around environments.



Published on Apr 13, 2013

Check out some Home security Drone Available In the Market you can buy

http://www.dailysmartstuff.com/2013/0…

Tens of thousands of domestic drones already in use nationwide, with more to come
Increase of use in drones by law enforcement, movie studios, environmental organizations and the news media, comes as the U.S. government prepares to issue commercial drone permits in 2015. Many of those already flying do so without the proper permits.

This video Uploaded for educational purposes only;

The Black Hornet Nano

Published on Oct 6, 2013 The PD-100 Black Hornet is a nano UAV developed by Prox Dynamics. The Black Hornet offers intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to armed forces in mission critical operations. The UAV gives access to remote locations and provides situational awareness on the battle field.The Black Hornet has been deployed in Afghanistan […]

Published on Oct 6, 2013

The PD-100 Black Hornet is a nano UAV developed by Prox Dynamics. The Black Hornet offers intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to armed forces in mission critical operations. The UAV gives access to remote locations and provides situational awareness on the battle field.The Black Hornet has been deployed in Afghanistan to meet the surveillance requirements of the UK Armed Forces. The UAV is also in service with the security forces of several other countries.

BRITISH ARMY $195,000 SPY DRONE That Fits in the PALM of Your HAND – Intro to the Black Hornet Nano

The Black Hornet Nano is a military micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway, and in use by the British Army.

The unit measures around 10 cm x 2.5 cm and provides troops on the ground with local situational awareness. They are small enough to fit in one hand and weigh just over half an ounce (including batteries). The UAV is equipped with a camera which gives the operator full-motion video and still images and were developed as part of a £20 million contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd.

The aircraft are being used by soldiers from the UK’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.[4] Operation Herrick personnel in Afghanistan deploy the Black Hornet from the front line to fly into enemy territory to take video and still images before returning to the operator.

Designed to blend in with the muddy grey walls in Afghanistan, it has been used to look around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers and enemy positions. The images are displayed on a small handheld terminal which can be used by the operator to control the UAV.

Sergeant Carl James Boyd of the 1st Royal Regiment of Fusiliers demonstrates how the Norwegian-designed Black Hornet Nano will be used by troops on the front line in Afghanistan.

The tiny handheld surveillance helicopters contains a camera that beams back video and still images to a handheld control terminal, allowing soldiers to see past obstacles to identify potential hidden dangers.

The remote-controlled drone measures about 4in by 1in and weighs 0.6oz

Black Hornet: British Army unveil latest weapon against the Taliban
Sergeant Carl Boyd shows off a remote controlled miniature helicopter with three cameras on-board.

British troops in Afghanistan are now using 10-centimeter-long 16-gram spy helicopters to survey Taliban firing spots. The UK Defense Ministry plans to buy 160 of the drones under a contract worth more than $31 million.

­The remote-controlled PD-100 PRS aircraft, dubbed the Black Hornet, is produced by Norwegian designer Prox Dynamics. The drone is a traditional single-rotor helicopter, scaled down to the size of a toy. British troops use the drones for reconnaissance missions, sending them ahead to inspect enemy positions.

Each drone is equipped with a tiny tillable camera, a GPS coordinate receiver and an onboard autopilot system complete with gyros, accelerometers and pressure sensors, which keeps it stable in flight against winds as strong as 10 knots, according to reviews. The tiny aircraft is agile enough to fly inside compounds, and is quiet enough not to attract unwanted attention. If detected, the drones are cheap enough to be considered expendable.

The auto-pilot either follows a preprogrammed flight plan or receives commands from a manual control station, which is about the size of a large smartphone. The drone’s camera can feed compressed video or still images to an operator up to a kilometer away, and its rechargeable battery provides power for about 30 minutes of flight.
“british army” army drone uav tech technology gadget spy secret forces “u.s. army” “great britain” british england “middle east” ww3 “world war 3″ war task patrol kit soldier compound “black hornet” hornet helicopter “dji phantom” “ar drone” “dji phantom vision” review flight “phantom vision” quiet “life saver” weapon equipment camera small toy 2013 2014 trends trendy trending latest mi5 sis mi6 troops trooper sheriff control freedom “big brother” spying 829speedy new world order agenda 21 population reduction oil gas russia china syria israel lindsey williams gerald celente alex jones infowars glenn beck wearechange farrakhan david icke

In addition to the drone and the controller, each system comes with a ground base station, which houses the operating system, main electronics, internal batteries and chargers. It also protects the drone while being transported. The weight of the entire kit is about a kilogram, easily portable in the field.

Prox Dynamics started working on the nano-drone in 2008, and released a video of the first prototype in flight a year later. The manufacturer initially planned for it to be put to civilian use, to scout sites of natural or man-made disasters for survivors and provide intel to rescue teams. A marketable version of the Black Hornet was first presented at the Counter Terrorist Expo in London in April 2012.

CIA drone strikes

3 November 2013 Last updated at 00:07 GMT

The US has responded to accusations from Pakistan that a drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had destroyed the country’s nascent peace process.

A state department official said talks with the Taliban were an internal matter for Pakistan.

The statement insisted Pakistan and the US had a «shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence».

It also said it could still not confirm that Mehsud had been killed on Friday.

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday’s drone strike that killed Mehsud.

Analysis

M Ilyas Khan 
BBC News, Islamabad

Hakimullah Mehsud was killed a day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to «sabotage» Pakistan’s peace talks with Taliban.

But many believe Mehsud’s death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.

One of these groups is headed by Khan Said Sajna, the successor of Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who favoured talks with Islamabad and once contested the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Rehman was killed in a drone strike in May.

What next for Pakistani Taliban?

The country’s foreign minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the strike on the local Taliban leader «is not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts.»


Friday, August 16, 2013

The United States was reportedly able to target an alleged al-Qaeda operative named Adnan al-Qadhi for a drone strike after U.S. allies in Yemen convinced an eight-year-old boy to place a tracking chip in the pocket of the man he considered to be his surrogate father. Shortly after the child planted the device, a U.S. drone tracked and killed al-Qadhi with a missile. He was killed last November, less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Gregory Johnsen writes about the case in his new article «Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?» published in The Atlantic.

By Sudarsan Raghavan,May 29, 2012

Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.


When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.

A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.

Four days later the 16-year-old was dead – killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.

In his final days, Tariq was living in fear, according to Neil Williams from the British legal charity, Reprieve, who met him at the Jirga.

«He was really really petrified,» said Mr Williams, «and so were his friends. He didn’t want to go home because of the drones. They were all scared.»

Tariq carried with him the identity card of his teenage cousin, Asmar Ullah, who was killed by a drone. On Monday he shared his fate.

Tariq’s family say he was hit by two missiles as he was driving near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The shy teenager, who was good with computers, was decapitated in the strike. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him.

The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Tariq’s uncle, Noor Kalam, who we reached by phone.

He denied that Tariq had any link to militant groups. «We condemn this very strongly,» he said. «He was just a normal boy who loved football.»

The CIA’s drone campaign is a covert war, conducted in remote terrain, where the facts are often in dispute.

The tribal belt is off limits to foreign journalists. Militants often seal off the locations where drone strikes take place. The truth can be buried with the dead.

After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.

If the strike actually killed two young boys – as appears to be the case – it’s unlikely anyone will ever be held to account.
Tariq Khan Tariq Khan’s family insist that he had no militant connections (Photo: Neil Williams, Reprieve)

There are no confirmed death tolls but several independent organisations estimate that drones have killed more than 2,000 people since 2004. Most are suspected to be militants.

Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.

A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.

«I wanted to be a doctor,» he told me, «but I can’t walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them.»

Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week’s jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.

«None of these were harmful people,» he said. «Two were still in school and one was in college.»

Asghar Khan, a tribal elder in a cream turban, said three of his relatives paid with their lives for visiting a sick neighbour.

«My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008,» he said. «They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban.»
Legal challenges

Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
A drone aircraft of the kind used by the US military The use of drone missiles has soared

«A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way,» he said. «Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target.»

Mr Akbar is suing the CIA for compensation in the Islamabad High Court, and plans to file a Supreme Court action.

He claims the US is getting away with murder in North Waziristan.

It’s a view shared by Reprieve, whose Director Clive Stafford Smith has been meeting drone victims in Pakistan.

«What’s going on here, unfortunately, is murder,» he said.

«There’s a war going on in Afghanistan, but none here in Pakistan, so what the CIA is doing here is illegal.»

The CIA would doubtless say otherwise, if it were prepared to discuss the drone programme, but US officials are usually silent on the issue.

In a rare public comment two years ago, the then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, defended the use of drones.

«We have targeted those who are enemies of the United States,» he said. » When we use it, it is very precise and it limits collateral damage.»

But the damage is not limited enough, say opponents like Mr Stafford Smith, who is gathering evidence about civilian deaths. From a shopping bag he produced a jagged chunk of metal – a missile fragment – believed to have killed a child in Waziristan in August of last year.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, holding the fragment of a missile Campaigners like Clive Stafford Smith say drones are resulting in murder

«I have a three-year-old son myself, and the idea that this thing killed someone very much like my little Wilf really tugs at your heart strings,» he said.

Mr Stafford Smith says drones are changing the nature of modern warfare.

«If you are trying to surrender and you put your hands up to a drone, what happens?» he asks.

«They just fire the missile, so there are all sorts of Geneva Conventions issues which are not being discussed.»

Campaigners also warn that drone strikes are counter-productive, generating more radicalism and more hatred of the West. They say the drone strikes are a Taliban recruiting tool.

At Tariq Khan’s funeral, many mourners spoke out against the US, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

But Washington is unlikely to heed the anger here. Under President Barack Obama, the use of drone missiles has soared – there’s an attack on average every four days.

Increasingly, these remote-controlled killers are Washington’s weapon of choice.

3 November 2013 Last updated at 00:07 GMT

The US has responded to accusations from Pakistan that a drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had destroyed the country's nascent peace process.

A state department official said talks with the Taliban were an internal matter for Pakistan.

The statement insisted Pakistan and the US had a "shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence".

It also said it could still not confirm that Mehsud had been killed on Friday.

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday's drone strike that killed Mehsud.


Analysis

M Ilyas Khan 
BBC News, Islamabad

Hakimullah Mehsud was killed a day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to "sabotage" Pakistan's peace talks with Taliban.

But many believe Mehsud's death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.

One of these groups is headed by Khan Said Sajna, the successor of Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who favoured talks with Islamabad and once contested the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Rehman was killed in a drone strike in May.

What next for Pakistani Taliban?


The country's foreign minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the strike on the local Taliban leader "is not just the killing of one person, it's the death of all peace efforts."





Friday, August 16, 2013

The United States was reportedly able to target an alleged al-Qaeda operative named Adnan al-Qadhi for a drone strike after U.S. allies in Yemen convinced an eight-year-old boy to place a tracking chip in the pocket of the man he considered to be his surrogate father. Shortly after the child planted the device, a U.S. drone tracked and killed al-Qadhi with a missile. He was killed last November, less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Gregory Johnsen writes about the case in his new article "Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?" published in The Atlantic.



By Sudarsan Raghavan,May 29, 2012

Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.






When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.

A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.

Four days later the 16-year-old was dead - killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.

In his final days, Tariq was living in fear, according to Neil Williams from the British legal charity, Reprieve, who met him at the Jirga.

"He was really really petrified," said Mr Williams, "and so were his friends. He didn't want to go home because of the drones. They were all scared."

Tariq carried with him the identity card of his teenage cousin, Asmar Ullah, who was killed by a drone. On Monday he shared his fate.

Tariq's family say he was hit by two missiles as he was driving near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The shy teenager, who was good with computers, was decapitated in the strike. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him.

The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Tariq's uncle, Noor Kalam, who we reached by phone.

He denied that Tariq had any link to militant groups. "We condemn this very strongly," he said. "He was just a normal boy who loved football."

The CIA's drone campaign is a covert war, conducted in remote terrain, where the facts are often in dispute.

The tribal belt is off limits to foreign journalists. Militants often seal off the locations where drone strikes take place. The truth can be buried with the dead.

After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.

If the strike actually killed two young boys - as appears to be the case - it's unlikely anyone will ever be held to account.
Tariq Khan Tariq Khan's family insist that he had no militant connections (Photo: Neil Williams, Reprieve)

There are no confirmed death tolls but several independent organisations estimate that drones have killed more than 2,000 people since 2004. Most are suspected to be militants.

Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.

A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.

"I wanted to be a doctor," he told me, "but I can't walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them."

Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week's jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.

"None of these were harmful people," he said. "Two were still in school and one was in college."

Asghar Khan, a tribal elder in a cream turban, said three of his relatives paid with their lives for visiting a sick neighbour.

"My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008," he said. "They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban."
Legal challenges

Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
A drone aircraft of the kind used by the US military The use of drone missiles has soared

"A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way," he said. "Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target."

Mr Akbar is suing the CIA for compensation in the Islamabad High Court, and plans to file a Supreme Court action.

He claims the US is getting away with murder in North Waziristan.

It's a view shared by Reprieve, whose Director Clive Stafford Smith has been meeting drone victims in Pakistan.

"What's going on here, unfortunately, is murder," he said.

"There's a war going on in Afghanistan, but none here in Pakistan, so what the CIA is doing here is illegal."

The CIA would doubtless say otherwise, if it were prepared to discuss the drone programme, but US officials are usually silent on the issue.

In a rare public comment two years ago, the then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, defended the use of drones.

"We have targeted those who are enemies of the United States," he said. " When we use it, it is very precise and it limits collateral damage."

But the damage is not limited enough, say opponents like Mr Stafford Smith, who is gathering evidence about civilian deaths. From a shopping bag he produced a jagged chunk of metal - a missile fragment - believed to have killed a child in Waziristan in August of last year.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, holding the fragment of a missile Campaigners like Clive Stafford Smith say drones are resulting in murder

"I have a three-year-old son myself, and the idea that this thing killed someone very much like my little Wilf really tugs at your heart strings," he said.

Mr Stafford Smith says drones are changing the nature of modern warfare.

"If you are trying to surrender and you put your hands up to a drone, what happens?" he asks.

"They just fire the missile, so there are all sorts of Geneva Conventions issues which are not being discussed."

Campaigners also warn that drone strikes are counter-productive, generating more radicalism and more hatred of the West. They say the drone strikes are a Taliban recruiting tool.

At Tariq Khan's funeral, many mourners spoke out against the US, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

But Washington is unlikely to heed the anger here. Under President Barack Obama, the use of drone missiles has soared - there's an attack on average every four days.

Increasingly, these remote-controlled killers are Washington's weapon of choice.

war in Afghanistan

KABUL | Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:38am EDT

(Reuters) – An Afghan man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least one serviceman on Sunday, local officials and the NATO-led coalition said.

The so-called «insider attack» in Paktika province is the fourth in less than a month and is likely to strain already tense ties between coalition troops and their allies, with most foreign troops scheduled to withdraw by the end of next year.

A Reuters tally shows Sunday’s incident was the tenth this year, and took the death toll of foreign personnel to 15.

«A man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at Americans in Sharana city (the provincial capital) near the governor’s office,» said an Afghan official, adding that two soldiers had been hit by the gunfire.

The NATO-led coalition confirmed one soldier had been shot by a man in security forces uniform, but did not comment on his nationality or whether the Afghan was wearing a army uniform.

Insider attacks threaten to further undermine waning support for the war among Western nations sending troops to Afghanistan.


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry extended talks Saturday with President Hamid Karzai on a bilateral security agreement with the United States, and while work remains to be done a deal could be struck by the end of the day, a presidential spokesman said.

Aimal Faizi said some contentious issues remain to be finalized. Talks that began a year ago have been deadlocked over sovereignty issues and the safety of Afghan citizens at the hands of American and allied troops.

«There is still some work to do on the document. Things are not yet finalized. It will be concluded hopefully this evening. Although it is not certain,» Faizi said.

U.S. officials said it was hoped that the talks will reach an agreement in principle whose details can be finalized later.

«Secretary Kerry sees an opening to continue making headway on issues including security and sovereignty this evening and wants to leave Kabul with as many issues resolved as possible to set up conditions for finalizing an agreement,» said one U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the negotiations so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff after the meetings recessed that «we’ve had a terrific day.»

«We’re going back to the palace to enjoy dinner with the president and more importantly we’re going to see if we can make a little more progress, which is what we have been trying to do all day long,» he added.

«If this thing can come together, this will put the Taliban on their heels,» he added. «This will send a message to the community of nations that Afghanistan’s future is being defined in a way that is achievable.»

Kerry began negotiations with Karzai in the morning, the second day of talks after he arrived late Friday. The U.S. wants a deal by the end of the month, while Karzai wants assurances over sovereignty that have deadlocked negotiations in the past year.

Kerry is no stranger to marathon negotiations with Karzai.

In October 2009, when Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on a visit to Afghanistan, he managed to broker an agreement for Karzai to accept a runoff presidential election after a U.N. election commission threw out one third of his votes claiming massive fraud. Kerry spent four days convincing Karzai to accept the runoff, which was later cancelled when the runner up quit the race. Karzai was re-elected for a second and final presidential term.

Kerry’s unannounced overnight visit to Kabul comes as talks foundered. Discussions have repeatedly stalled in recent weeks over Karzai’s demand for American guarantees against future foreign intervention from countries like Pakistan, and U.S. demands for any post-2014 residual force to be able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

The situation deteriorated in the past week following a series of angry comments from Karzai that the United States and NATO were repeatedly violating Afghanistan’s sovereignty and inflicting suffering on its people.

Another possible reason for the outburst could have been the capture in eastern Afghanistan of senior Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud by U.S. forces on Oct. 5, the same day Kerry and Karzai last spoke. Karzai saw the move as an infringement on Afghan sovereignty.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Meshud’s group had claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing attempt in Times Square and said they would carry out future attacks.

Mehsud is a senior deputy to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. The Pakistani Taliban has waged a decade-long insurgency against Islamabad from sanctuaries along the Afghan border and also helped the Afghan Taliban in their war against U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.

Karzai wants America to guarantee such cross-border militant activity won’t occur and has demanded guarantees the U.S. will defend Afghanistan against foreign intervention, an allusion to neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan accuses its neighbor of harboring the Taliban and other extremists who enter Afghanistan and then cross back into Pakistan where they cannot be attacked by Afghan or U.S.-led international forces.

In one such attack Saturday, insurgents killed one civilian and two police officers in a suicide car bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The agreement is necessary to give the U.S. a legal basis for having forces in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 and also allow it to lease bases around the country. It would be an executive agreement, meaning the U.S. Senate would not have to ratify it.

There currently are an estimated 87,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including about 52,000 Americans. That number will be halved by February and all foreign combat troops will be gone by the end of next year.

The U.S. wants to keep as many as 10,000 troops in the country to go after the remnants of al-Qaida, but if no agreement is signed, all U.S. troops would have to leave by Dec. 31, 2014. President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press he would be comfortable with a full pullout of U.S. troops.

Karzai is calling a meeting of Afghan tribal elders in November to advise him on whether to sign a security deal.

If they endorse the agreement, then Karzai has political cover to agree to it. He is keenly aware that previous leaders of his country historically have been punished for selling out to foreign interests and wants to make sure that any U.S.-Afghan agreement is not seen in that light.


SUROBI, Afghanistan — Col. Babagul Aamal is a proud veteran of 28 years in the Afghan National Army. Short and fit, with a thick black beard, he’s a leader who blurts out exactly what he’s thinking.

«I don’t talk politics — I talk facts,» Aamal said, wearing a sweater beneath his uniform in his unheated command office on a dusty base 40 miles east of Kabul.

It shames him, Aamal said, that he is not allowed to wear his pistol when he enters the fortified gate of the new American military base next door. Though he’s a brigade commander, he’s required to stand before an airport-type scanner with his arms raised, almost in surrender.

Yet when Americans visit Aamal’s base, they are not searched. They are offered chai tea. And they bring half a dozen soldiers armed with M-16s, so-called Guardian Angels on the lookout for «insider attacks» by Afghan soldiers.

«Afghan generals get searched by low-ranking foreign soldiers,» Aamal said. «Our soldiers see this, and they feel insulted.»

As American troops shift from combat to advising, the ominous specter of insider attacks has strained the relationship between the two armies.

Sixty-two Western coalition troops have been killed this year in 46 such attacks, leaving many American soldiers deeply suspicious of their erstwhile allies.

At the same time, some Afghan officers and soldiers say they feel abandoned and patronized. After 11 years, they say, certain Americans still don’t respect Afghan customs.

Moreover, they complain that the United States is pulling out without providing the weapons and equipment needed to hold off the Taliban.

«The Americans have the weapons, so they go wherever they want. It’s like this is their country,» the brigade’s public affairs officer, Maj. Ghulam Ali, said with a weary shrug.

***

Officers and soldiers encountered during three days spent with the Afghan army were upbeat and enthusiastic about taking over the fight. But many also said they felt slighted by what they perceive as a chronic lack of resources.

At a desolate battalion base beneath towering snowcapped mountains, Lt. Col. Hussian Hadl sat in his office, shivering in an overcoat and puffing on a cigarette. The electricity was on, but only because Hadl was using precious fuel to run a generator for a visit by an American journalist.

Hadl’s 1st Battalion recently took over the base from a French military unit, which had fuel for generators. Hadl said he’s been supplied enough fuel to power communications equipment, but not for heat or lights.


US troops are set to leave Afghanistan in 2014, but an unidentified number will stay behind. This is an open-ended occupation that, combined with a pernicious drug war, constitutes a clear and present danger to Afghan, regional and global security.

– The Senate voted overwhelmingly to voice its support for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. The 62-33 vote included 13 Republicans. “It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history,” the measure’s chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said.

– Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the United States and its allies are likely to battle al Qaeda for years to come. “Although we clearly have had an impact on (al Qaeda’s) presence in Afghanistan, the fact is that they continue to show up,” Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon. “And intelligence continues to indicate that they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan as well.”


ReutersBy Arshad Mohammed and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) – Major donors pledged on Sunday to give Afghanistan $16 billion in development aid through 2015 as they try to prevent it from sliding back into chaos when foreign troops leave, but demanded reforms to fight widespread corruption.

Donor fatigue and war weariness have taken their toll on how long the global community is willing to support Afghanistan and there are concerns about security following the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014 if financial backing is not secured.

«Afghanistan’s security cannot only be measured by the absence of war,» U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an international donors’ conference in Tokyo.

«It has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds.»

The roughly $4 billion in annual aid pledged at the meeting, attended by 80 countries and international organizations, fell short of the $6 billion a year the Afghan central bank has said will be needed to foster economic growth over the next decade.

Clinton and other donors stressed the importance of Afghanistan – one of the most corrupt nations in the world – taking aggressive action to fight graft and promote reforms.

«We have agreed that we need a different kind of long-term economic partnership, one built on Afghan progress in meeting its goals, in fighting corruption, in carrying out reform, and providing good governance,» Clinton said.

According to «mutual accountability» provisions in the final conference documents, as much as 20 percent of the aid could ultimately depend on Afghanistan meeting benchmarks on fighting corruption and other good governance measures.

However, a Japanese official said that it was up to each donor whether to make its aid contingent on such reforms and that the benchmarks could vary from country to country.

World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the pressure was on the Afghan government to deliver reforms and ensure fair elections in 2014 in order to secure aid beyond the amount pledged in Tokyo.

«This is a fragile conflict state,» Indrawati told Reuters in an interview. «Three years is a very short time for a country to be able to build stable and competent institutions.»

NEED TO DO MORE

International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010, but the return on that investment has been mixed and the country remains one of the five poorest in the world.
President Hamid Karzai admits his government needs to do more to tackle corruption, but his critics say he is not doing enough, and some directly blame authorities for vast amounts of aid not reaching the right people.

While strides have been made in schooling children and improving access to health care, three-quarters of the 30 million Afghans are illiterate and the average person earns only about $530 a year, according to the World Bank.

The government has identified priority areas for economic development, including investment in agriculture and mining, which Western officials see as a possible engine for growth. Afghanistan is believed to have up to a trillion dollars’ worth of untapped mineral wealth.

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said the Tokyo conference had shown aid donors were committed to the long haul. «Today’s event sends the strongest message to Afghan people that the international community will be with us in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020 and beyond,» Zakhilwal told a news conference.
U.S. officials gave no figure for their aid pledge but said the administration would ask Congress to keep assistance through 2017 «at or near» what it has given over the past decade.

Annual U.S. aid to Afghanistan has ranged from about $1 billion a decade ago to a peak of about $4 billion in 2010. It stands at about $2.3 billion this year.

Japan pledged $3 billion in aid for Afghanistan through 2016. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said $2.2 billion of that amount would be grants for development projects in areas like investment in roads and infrastructure.

The EU has said it will continue with pledges of 1.2 billion euros a year, but warned that if progress is not made with rule of law and women’s rights, this could be difficult to continue.

The pledges made in Tokyo are on top of the $4.1 billion by NATO and its partners for supporting the Afghan security forces.

(Additional reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman in Kabul and Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

US negotiators who have been trying to reach a deal with Pakistan over a supply route to Nato troops in Afghanistan have quit the talks.

«The decision was reached to bring the team home for a short period of time,» Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

The negotiators have, so far, failed to reach a deal.

Pakistan shut a Nato supply route in November after a Nato air strike near the Afghan-Pakistani border which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Part of the team left Islamabad over the weekend, and the rest will return shortly, Mr Little said.

The closure of the route left thousands of tankers bound for Afghanistan stranded in Pakistan.

Washington has stopped short of an official apology for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers.

Tension between the two countries has been rising in recent months, with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warning last week that the US was «reaching the limits of our patience» with Pakistan.

US officials accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to militants active in Afghanistan, which Islamabad denies.


During the first day of the NATO Summit in Chicago, Mr. Clumpner returned his medals along with 43 other veterans.


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday and killed four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed on with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week.

Drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas where Afghan and other militants have found refuge are considered a key tactic by U.S. officials in the war against al-Qaida and its Taliban supporters. But many Pakistanis resent the strikes, which they consider an affront to their sovereignty.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said the latest attack took place in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region.

The officials said the victims were buying goods from a bakery when the missiles hit. Residents were still removing the debris, officials said. All of the dead were foreigners, but the officials did not have any information on their identities or nationalities.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The U.S. rarely talks publicly about the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan.

Drone strikes have become an increasingly contentious issue between Washington and Pakistan. Pakistan’s parliament has demanded the U.S. end all attacks on its territory.

Some figures within the Pakistani government and military are widely believed to have supported the attacks in the past. Washington-Islamabad security cooperation has declined as relations between the two countries have deteriorated, but many analysts believe there is still some support for the attacks on militants within Pakistan’s senior ranks.

U.S. officials have said in private that the strikes are a vital anti-terror tool and have killed many senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders.

On Thursday, a suspected U.S. drone killed 10 alleged militants in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border.

The attack took place in a militant hideout in the North Waziristan tribal area. Most of those killed were believed to be Uzbek insurgents.

On Wednesday four suspected militants were killed in the village of Datta Khel Kalai in North Waziristan.

The ongoing strikes have complicated negotiations between Islamabad and Washington about reopening supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan closed the routes six months ago in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. The Americans say the attacks were an accident.


For years, U.S. government agencies have told the public, veterans and Congress that they couldn’t draw any connections between the so-called “burn pits” disposing of trash at the military’s biggest bases and veterans’ respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems. But a 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room flat-out stated that the burn pit at one of Afghanistan’s largest bases poses “long-term adverse health conditions” to troops breathing the air there.

The unclassified memo (.jpg), dated April 15, 2011, stated that high concentrations of dust and burned waste present at Bagram Airfield for most of the war are likely to impact veterans’ health for the rest of their lives. “The long term health risk” from breathing in Bagram’s particulate-rich air include “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases.” Service members may not necessarily “acquire adverse long term pulmonary or heart conditions,” but “the risk for such is increased.”

The cause of the health hazards are given the anodyne names Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5, a reference to the size in micrometers of the particles’ diameter. Service personnel deployed to Bagram know them by more colloquial names: dust, trash and even feces — all of which are incinerated in “a burn pit” on the base, the memo says, as has been standard practice in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade.

Accordingly, the health risks were not limited to troops serving at Bagram in 2011, the memo states. The health hazards are an assessment of “air samples taken over approximately the last eight years” at the base.

The memo’s findings contradict years of U.S. military assurances that the burn pits are no big deal. An Army memo from 2008 about the burn pit at Iraq’s giant Balad air base, titled, “Just The Facts,” found “no significant short- or long-term health risks and no elevated cancer risks are likely among personnel” (.pdf). A 2004 fact sheet from the Pentagon’s deployment health library — and still available on its website — informed troops that the high particulate matter in the air at Bagram “should not cause any long-term health effects.” More recently, in October 2010, a Pentagon epidemiological study found “for nearly all health outcomes measured, the incidence for those health outcomes studied among personnel assigned to locations with documented burn pits and who had returned from deployment, was either lower than, or about the same as, those who had never deployed” (.pdf).

Over the years, thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems that they associate with their service. Some have sued military contractors for exposing them to unsafe conditions. For months, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has urged the military to create a database of vets suffering neurological or respiratory afflictions, a move that’s winding through the legislative process. But the military has argued it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to associate environmental conditions on the battlefield with long-term health risks — and it argued that months after this memo is dated.

“As recently as April, in correspondence with the Defense Department and in discussions with my staff, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both continued to maintain that research has not shown any long-term health consequences due to burn pits,” Akin tells Danger Room. “They also maintained that remaining burn pits in Afghanistan were away from military populations to reduce exposure. It is disturbing to discover that at least at Bagram the military concluded that burn pits posed a serious health risk.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has collected “hundreds” of anecdotes from vets complaining of health problems connected to serving near burn pits. “It’s good to see someone in the military is acknowledging there are going to be long-term problems with burn pits, but it’s disturbing that this memo is more than a year old and it doesn’t seem like the military has done anything about it,” says Tom Tarantino, IAVA’s deputy policy director, who deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an Army captain. “I lived next to a burn pit for six months at Abu Ghraib. You can’t tell me that was OK. That was pretty nasty. While I was there everyone was hacking up weird shit.”

Any visitor to the sprawling Bagram airfield knows the burn pit — if not by sight, then by smell. It’s an acrid, smoldering barbecue of trash, from busted furniture to human waste, usually manned by Afghan employees who cover their noses and mouths with medical breathing masks. Plumes of aerosolized refuse emerge from what troops refer to as “The Shit Pit,” mingle with Parwan Province’s already dust-heavy air, and sweep over the base. In February, that was where soldiers at the nearby Parwan detention facility accidentally incinerated the Koran.

At the time of the memo’s issuance, it noted that the affected population on the base contemporaneously was “40,000 Service Members and contractors.” Hundreds of thousands have cycled through the giant base since the U.S. seized it in 2001. Bagram is a major transit and logistics hub for the Afghanistan war, and one of the first bases the U.S. took and continuously operated during the war. Millions more have served in Iraq and Afghanistan near similar burn pits.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, studies conducted on the effects of breathing in Particulate Matter 10 and 2.5 have determined “a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature mortality.” The Army memo reports that Bagram’s air had twice the amount of Particulate Matter 10 than the federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard, and more than three times the amount of Particulate Matter 2.5 as the standard.

Burn pits remain in use across Afghanistan. And although a study by the Institute of Medicine and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs found last October that there is insufficient data to correlate those pits with health risks, troops’ cardiovascular problems are clearly on the rise: There were 91,013 cases reported in 2010, up sharply from 65,520 in 2001. A 2010 study found half of a small sample of soldiers who struggled to run two miles had undiagnosed bronchiolitis. Hundreds of troops have sued the pits’ contractor operators after experiencing chest pains, asthma and migraines. For years, the U.S. government has pled ignorance about the causes of those veterans’ ailments. And unless the military formally acknowledges that the burn pits pose a long-term health risk, it will be difficult for veterans to receive long-term health care for associated respiratory and cardiopulminary ailments from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The acknowledgement that air-sampling data is now indicating that burn pits may pose a risk of chronic illness to our servicemen and women validates the need for the national burn pit registry that I have proposed,” Akin says. Tarantino backs him up: “We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”

The U.S. Army and the NATO military command in charge of the Afghanistan war did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Even casual visitors to Bagram know that the air is a menace. Within days of my most recent reporting trip there, in August 2010, I developed a disgusting, productive cough that kept me from sleeping comfortably. Airmen and soldiers joked with me about catching “Bagram Lung.”

But for at least a year, the U.S. military has known that “Bagram Lung” won’t stay at Bagram. There’s a significant chance that it will plague a generation of Afghanistan veterans for the rest of their lives.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will require «significant firepower» in Afghanistan in 2013-14, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces there said, but decisions about further U.S. troop reductions will only be made after this fall at the earliest.
«We’re going to need combat power. I don’t think anyone questions that,» Marine General John Allen said on Wednesday. «I owe the president some real analysis on this.»
Allen spoke to reporters two days after NATO leaders discussed Afghanistan’s future in Chicago, embracing a plan to hand control to local security forces by the middle of 2013 and, Western leaders hope, to end the long, costly Afghan conflict.
By the end of this summer, Allen is due to withdraw all the 33,000 «surge» troops that President Barack Obama sent to battle the Taliban in 2009-2010.
Once those troops are gone, Allen will assess the campaign and make recommendations to the White House about how best to withdraw most of the remaining U.S. force of about 68,000.
«I intend to take a very hard look at the state of the insurgency,» Allen said, and how Afghanistan’s growing military is faring. Those factors will inform his recommendations to Obama about how many troops can be pulled in 2013 and 2014 without allowing the Taliban to stage a comeback.

«So there’s not a number right now,» he said.

While most foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a modest number of Western soldiers are expected to stay beyond then, focused on targeted strikes against militants and advising Afghan forces.

Yet critics, especially among Republicans as the race to November presidential elections intensifies, are already warning the Obama administration against allowing anything other than conditions on the ground and security concerns to dictate the pace of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
While Obama’s surge drove Taliban militants out of some areas of their southern stronghold, the Afghan insurgency remains a potent enemy.
Allen appeared confident that troop reduction would not allow the Taliban to return as a more powerful fighting force.
«It is not our intention to cede the ground, ultimately, to the Taliban. And, in fact, it’s not even clear that the Taliban have the capacity to flow in» to areas that foreign troops depart, Allen said.
(Reporting by Missy Ryan and Phil Stewart; Editing by Anthony Boadle)


PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A Rhode Island National Guard member struck and killed by an armored vehicle in Afghanistan last week had moved an Afghan girl to safety shortly before the accident, military officials said.

The National Guard on Wednesday released details of the March 22 accident that killed 29-year-old Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. of Providence and called him a hero.

Officials say Weichel’s unit was in Laghman province when they encountered several Afghan children in the path of their convoy. They say Weichel saw a girl trying to retrieve an item under the armored vehicle and moved her to safety, then was struck.

«He would have done it for anybody,» said Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who was a mentor to Weichel and who deployed with him to Iraq in 2005. «That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.»

Weichel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the NATO Service Medal Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon RI Star.

Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence. He will be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

He is survived by three children, his fiancee and his parents.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the US of not fully co-operating with a probe into the massacre of 16 civilians by an American serviceman.

The accused soldier is on his way to the US where he is likely to face a military tribunal. US officials named him as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

Afghan MPs had demanded the soldier be tried in public in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai earlier met relatives of the dead, who demanded justice.

This has been going on for too long. This is by all means the end of the rope here”

President Hamid Karzai

Men, women and children were shot and killed at close range as the soldier apparently went on a rampage in villages close to a Nato base in the remote Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province.

President Karzai told reporters that the chief of the official investigation into those killings had not received the co-operation expected from the US.

He also said the problem of civilian casualties at the hands of Nato forces had «gone on for too long»

«This form of activity, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It’s past, past, past the time,» Mr Karzai told the BBC’s Lyse Doucet at the presidential palace in Kabul.

On Wednesday, Mr Karzai told the US that it must pull back its troops from village areas and allow Afghan security forces to take the lead, in an effort to reduce such civilian deaths.

The Taliban also called off peace talks in the wake of the killings although they made no mention of the massacre in their statement.
Relatives’ anguish

Earlier, the president had an emotional session with relatives of those who had been killed last Sunday. The assembled villagers berated him and urged him to seek justice.

Mr Karzai said their account was entirely different from what he called the «supposed US version» that only one American soldier was involved in the massacre.

«In [one] family, in four rooms people were killed, children and women were killed and then they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That one man cannot do,» he said, reporting the concerns of the villagers.

The allegation that there was more than one gunman contradicts the official US version of events. But Mr Karzai assured villagers that he would pursue that line of inquiry.

«Why did this happen?» demanded the man who lost nine members of his family. «Do you have answers, Mr President?»

«No, I do not,» responded a tired-looking Mr Karzai.

Our correspondent, Lyse Doucet, says the president’s strong public condemnation of his most important ally is certain to frustrate the US. Washington has been trying to limit the damage from these latest incidents, she says, as they deal with an unpredictable president.

This intervention adds new strains to an already troubled partnership, our correspondent says.


By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

We may never know what drove a U.S. Army staff sergeant to head out into the Afghan night and allegedly murder at least 16 civilians in their homes, among them nine children and three women. The massacre near Belambai, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has shocked the world and intensified the calls for an end to the longest war in U.S. history. The attack has been called tragic, which it surely is. But when Afghans attack U.S. forces, they are called “terrorists.” That is, perhaps, the inconsistency at the core of U.S. policy, that democracy can be delivered through the barrel of a gun, that terrorism can be fought by terrorizing a nation.

“I did it,” the alleged mass murderer said as he returned to the forward operating base outside Kandahar, that southern city called the “heartland of the Taliban.” He is said to have left the base at 3 a.m. and walked to three nearby homes, methodically killing those inside. One farmer, Abdul Samad, was away at the time. His wife, four sons, and four daughters were killed. Some of the victims had been stabbed, some set on fire. Samad told The New York Times, “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us.”

The massacre follows massive protests against the U.S. military’s burning of copies of the Quran, which followed the video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans. Two years earlier, the notorious “kill team” of U.S. soldiers that murdered Afghan civilians for sport, posing for gruesome photos with the corpses and cutting off fingers and other body parts as trophies, also was based near Kandahar.

In response, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rolled out a string of cliches, reminding us that “war is hell.” Panetta visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, near Kandahar, this week on a previously scheduled trip that coincidentally fell days after the massacre. The 200 Marines invited to hear him speak were forced to leave their weapons outside the tent. NBC News reported that such instructions were “highly unusual,” as Marines are said to always have weapons on hand in a war zone. Earlier, upon his arrival, a stolen truck raced across the landing strip toward his plane, and the driver leapt out of the cab, on fire, in an apparent attack.

The violence doesn’t just happen in the war zone. Back in the U.S., the wounds of war are manifesting in increasingly cruel ways.


LANSING, Kansas (Reuters) – U.S. authorities lack proof of what occurred the night a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan, the lawyer representing the serviceman said on Tuesday.

«I’m very concerned now they don’t have much proof of anything,» attorney John Henry Browne told Reuters after meeting with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales on Tuesday for a second day in a military detention center in Kansas.

Browne said he has now spent 11 hours with Bales discussing the events of Sunday, March 11, when Bales allegedly walked off his base in southern Afghanistan and gunned down the 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in a massacre that damaged U.S.-Afghan relations.

Bales, 38, a four-tour combat veteran, has not yet been charged, but Browne told reporters on Tuesday he expected his client to be charged with «homicide and a bunch of other charges» on Thursday. He added that the case could stretch over two years.

«I don’t know what the evidence is,» Browne told reporters. «We’ve all heard the allegations. I don’t know that the government has proved much. There is no forensic evidence, there is no confession.»

Browne said Bales is still «in shock» and cast the soldier as a selfless servant of the U.S. armed forces. «He is a soldier’s soldier. He did not want to go over there but he did what he was told. He has never said anything about ‘poor little me’, which I get from my clients’ way too often. His first questions were about the safety and security of his family.»

He added that Bales may speak to his wife on the phone Tuesday night, for the first time since the incident. On Monday, Bales’ wife, Karilyn, appealed for peace and understanding.

Browne sought to downplay the effect of Bales’ financial problems, which include an abandoned property in the Seattle area and a $1.3 million fine from his time as a securities broker.

The Pentagon has previously said that Sgt Bales could face charges that carry a possible death penalty.

Such a trial could take years, contrasting with Afghan demands for swift and decisive justice.


By Qais Azimy in on Mon, 2012-03-19 14:23.

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channeled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:

Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Payendo
Robeena
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim
Parween
Rafiullah
Zardana
Zulheja


KABUL (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday that the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier must not deter them from their mission to secure the country ahead of a 2014 NATO withdrawal deadline.

Despite calls from local residents for him to be tried in Afghanistan, the U.S. staff sergeant who killed the villagers on Sunday has been flown out of Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron he did not anticipate any «sudden» change in U.S. plans for the pace of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Panetta arrived amid heightened tensions over the massacre. At around the time he landed at a British airbase, an Afghan man drove a stolen pickup truck at high speed onto a runway and emerged from the vehicle in a blaze, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman George Little, travelling with Panetta, denied reports in Afghan media that the vehicle caught fire or exploded. No explosives were found on the man or in the truck.

«The Secretary, we believe, was never in danger,» Little said, adding that the driver’s motives were unclear and he was being treated for burns. A coalition member was injured when he was pulled from the vehicle as it was stolen, the Pentagon said.

In an earlier incident, a motorcycle bomb blast in Kandahar city killed an Afghan intelligence soldier and wounded two others, as well as a civilian.

A roadside bomb also killed eight civilians in southern Helmand province, where Panetta began a two-day visit by meeting with U.S. and coalition forces at two bases, Afghan provincial officials said.

«We’ll be challenged by our enemy. We’ll be challenged by ourselves. We’ll be challenged by the hell of war itself. But none of that, none of that, must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve,» Panetta told soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, the main U.S. Marine base in the volatile area.

Panetta’s trip had been scheduled before Sunday’s shootings in two Kandahar villages, but gained added urgency as political pressure mounted on Afghan and U.S. officials over the unpopular war, now in its 11th year.

Obama called the shooting of 16 Afghans «tragic» at a news briefing with Cameron, but emphasized that both nations remained committed to completing the Afghan mission «responsibly.»

«There will be a robust coalition presence inside of Afghanistan during this fighting season to make sure that the Taliban understand that they’re not going to be able to regain momentum,» Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.

NATO leaders gathering in Obama’s home city of Chicago on May 20-21 will decide the «next phase» of the planned transition to Afghan forces taking the lead for security in 2014, he said.

The United States and Britain have the largest contingents of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but domestic support for the more than 10-year-old war has flagged, posing a challenge to Obama as he campaigns for reelection on November 6.

Obama acknowledged that people wanted the war over, but argued they still back the reason the United States invaded in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, plotted by al Qaeda militants from the sanctuary of Afghanistan.

MAJORITY WANT TROOPS HOME

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 40 percent of Americans said the shooting spree, in which nine children and three women were among those killed, had weakened their support for the war.

Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed in the March 12-13 poll said remaining U.S. troops should be brought home immediately, down slightly from the 66 percent with that opinion in a similar March poll. Seventeen percent disagreed.

U.S. soldiers are the likely targets of any backlash over the killings. The Afghan Taliban threatened to retaliate by beheading U.S. personnel, while insurgents also attacked investigating Afghan officials on Tuesday.

Afghans investigating the incident had been shown video of the U.S. soldier taken from a security camera mounted on a blimp above his base, an Afghan security official who could not be identified told Reuters.
The footage showed the uniformed soldier, with his weapon covered by a cloth, approaching the gates of the Belandai special forces base and throwing his arms up in surrender, the official said.

The video had been shown to investigators to help dispel a widely held belief among Afghans, including many members of parliament, that more than one soldier must have been involved because of the high death toll, the official said.

Panetta was to hold talks with Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai, with tensions high following a spate of incidents, including the burning of Korans at the main NATO base in the country last month.

DEMAND FOR AFGHAN TRIAL

While Afghan members of parliament have called for a trial of the soldier responsible for the massacre under Afghan law, Karzai’s office was understood to accept that a trial in a U.S. court would be acceptable, provided the process was transparent and open to media.

The Pentagon said the soldier, whose name has not been released, was flown out of Afghanistan. The commander of U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, made the decision based on a legal recommendation, a U.S. official said.

In the two Panjwai district villages where the massacre took place, U.S. troops remained confined to the compound where the soldier was based, and people in the area demanded a trial in Afghanistan under Afghan law.

«They have to be prosecuted here. They have done two crimes against my family. One, they killed them, and secondly, they burned them,» said Wazir Mohammad, 40, who lost 11 members of his family in the incident.
Panetta’s visit to Helmand – where U.S. Marines and British soldiers are battling a resilient insurgency – came a day after the first protests over Sunday’s massacre flared in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Some 2,000 demonstrators chanted «Death to America» and demanded Karzai reject a planned strategic pact that would allow U.S. advisers and possibly special forces to remain beyond the pullout of most NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.

The U.S. military hopes to withdraw about 23,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of the coming summer fighting season, leaving about 68,000.

With its mission facing increasing protests in Afghanistan, NATO said on Wednesday that it plans to boost security measures for its troops there, a decision that was based the January killing of four French soldiers by a rogue Afghan soldier.

«It’s a mix of measures concerning vetting, screening, but also training and education,» said Oana Lungescu, spokeswoman for the Western military alliance.

The plan would strengthen security measures for ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan), as well as improve the vetting, screening and monitoring of Afghan forces and «crucially improve cultural awareness on both sides,» a NATO spokeswoman said in Brussels.

(Additional reporting by Ahmad Nadem in Kandahar, Mirwais Harooni in Kabul and David Alexander in Washington; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Anthony Boadle)


KABUL (Reuters) – Suspected insurgents opened fire on Tuesday on senior Afghan investigators of the massacre of 16 civilians by a lone U.S. soldier, Afghan officials said, just hours after the Taliban threatened to behead American troops to avenge the killings.

The gunmen shot from long range at two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers, Shah Wali Karzai and Abdul Qayum Karzai, and security officials at the site of the massacre in Kandahar’s Panjwai district.

Karzai’s brothers were unharmed in the brief battle, which began during meetings with local people at a mosque near Najiban and Alekozai villages, but a soldier was killed and a civilian wounded. The area is a Taliban stronghold and a supply route.

The Taliban had earlier threatened reprisals for the weekend shooting spree, which came weeks after deadly riots across the country over the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops at NATO’s main base in the country. That violence led to calls to accelerate a 2014 goal for the exit of most foreign combat troops.

«The Islamic Emirate once again warns the American animals that the mujahideen will avenge them, and with the help of Allah will kill and behead your sadistic murderous soldiers,» Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term by which the Islamist group describes itself.

The grim warning, which was unlikely to have any impact on heavily-protected NATO soldiers on the ground, followed the February beheading of four Afghan men by insurgents in a country where such killings are relatively rare.

Tuesday’s attack, which was carried out despite tight security around Karzai’s siblings, Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa and Tribal Affairs Minister Asadullah Khalid, underscored the insurgents’ ability to strike at fledgling Afghan government forces.

The first protests over Sunday’s massacre also broke out in eastern city Jalalabad, where around 2,000 demonstrators chanted «Death to America» and demanded President Karzai reject a planned strategic pact with Washington that would allow U.S. advisers and possibly special forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

An unnamed U.S. soldier — reported to have only recently arrived in the country — is accused of walking off his base in Kandahar province in the middle of the night and gunning down at least 16 villagers, mostly women and children.

A U.S. official said the accused soldier had suffered a traumatic brain injury while on a previous deployment in Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking after a phone call with Karzai — who is said to be furious over the latest deaths — said the shootings had only increased his determination to get American troops out of Afghanistan as planned.

However, Obama cautioned there should not be a «rush to the exits» for U.S. forces who have been fighting in Afghanistan since late 2001 and that the drawdown set for the end of 2014 should be done in a responsible way.

The soldier, from a conventional unit, was based at a joint U.S.-Afghan base used by elite U.S. troops under a so-called village support program hailed by NATO as a possible model for U.S. involvement in the country after the 2014 drawdown.

Such bases provide support to local Afghan security units and provide a source of security advice and training, as well as anti-insurgent backup and intelligence.

«CAN NO LONGER BE CALLED ROGUE»

A spokesman for the Kandahar governor Wesa said tribal elders in the area of the massacre would urge against protests and work to dampen public anger if the investigation process was transparent.

«They are supporting the government and will accept any conclusion by the investigators. Today we have meetings with people in the area and all will become clear,» spokesman Ahmad Jawid Faisal said.

NATO officials said it was too early to tell if the U.S. soldier would be tried in the United States or Afghanistan if investigators were to find enough evidence to charge him, but he would be under U.S. laws and procedures under an agreement between U.S. and Afghan officials.

Typically, once the initial investigation is completed, prosecutors decide if they have enough evidence to file charges and then could move to an Article 32 or court martial hearing.

NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, has promised a rapid investigation of the massacre, while security was being reviewed at NATO bases across the country.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that the death penalty could be sought in the U.S. military justice system against the soldier, but portrayed the shooting as an isolated event that would not alter withdrawal plans.

While Afghan MPs in parliament called for a trial under Afghan law, Karzai’s office was understood to accept that a trial in a U.S. court would be acceptable provided the process was transparent and open to media.

Afghan MPs protested against the shooting for a second day in the capital Kabul by walking out of a session.

Analysts said the incident would complicate U.S. efforts to reach agreement with the Afghan government on a post-2014 security pact before a May summit in the U.S. city of Chicago on the future size and funding of Afghan security forces.

Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said that despite NATO and White House references to the killings as the work of a «rogue» soldier, similar events had happened before, including a «kill team» apprehended in Kandahar in 2010.

«In the stress of an environment of escalated violence – by both sides, but particularly after Obama’s troop surge in early 2009, it looks as if most soldiers simply see Afghanistan as a whole as ‘enemy territory’ and every Afghan as a potential terrorist. This can no longer be called ‘rogue’,» Ruttig said.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)


 PR: ?  I: ?
KABUL | Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:38am EDT

(Reuters) - An Afghan man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least one serviceman on Sunday, local officials and the NATO-led coalition said.



The so-called "insider attack" in Paktika province is the fourth in less than a month and is likely to strain already tense ties between coalition troops and their allies, with most foreign troops scheduled to withdraw by the end of next year.

A Reuters tally shows Sunday's incident was the tenth this year, and took the death toll of foreign personnel to 15.

"A man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at Americans in Sharana city (the provincial capital) near the governor's office," said an Afghan official, adding that two soldiers had been hit by the gunfire.

The NATO-led coalition confirmed one soldier had been shot by a man in security forces uniform, but did not comment on his nationality or whether the Afghan was wearing a army uniform.

Insider attacks threaten to further undermine waning support for the war among Western nations sending troops to Afghanistan.



KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry extended talks Saturday with President Hamid Karzai on a bilateral security agreement with the United States, and while work remains to be done a deal could be struck by the end of the day, a presidential spokesman said.

Aimal Faizi said some contentious issues remain to be finalized. Talks that began a year ago have been deadlocked over sovereignty issues and the safety of Afghan citizens at the hands of American and allied troops.

"There is still some work to do on the document. Things are not yet finalized. It will be concluded hopefully this evening. Although it is not certain," Faizi said.

U.S. officials said it was hoped that the talks will reach an agreement in principle whose details can be finalized later.



"Secretary Kerry sees an opening to continue making headway on issues including security and sovereignty this evening and wants to leave Kabul with as many issues resolved as possible to set up conditions for finalizing an agreement," said one U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the negotiations so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff after the meetings recessed that "we've had a terrific day."

"We're going back to the palace to enjoy dinner with the president and more importantly we're going to see if we can make a little more progress, which is what we have been trying to do all day long," he added.

"If this thing can come together, this will put the Taliban on their heels," he added. "This will send a message to the community of nations that Afghanistan's future is being defined in a way that is achievable."

Kerry began negotiations with Karzai in the morning, the second day of talks after he arrived late Friday. The U.S. wants a deal by the end of the month, while Karzai wants assurances over sovereignty that have deadlocked negotiations in the past year.

Kerry is no stranger to marathon negotiations with Karzai.

In October 2009, when Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on a visit to Afghanistan, he managed to broker an agreement for Karzai to accept a runoff presidential election after a U.N. election commission threw out one third of his votes claiming massive fraud. Kerry spent four days convincing Karzai to accept the runoff, which was later cancelled when the runner up quit the race. Karzai was re-elected for a second and final presidential term.

Kerry's unannounced overnight visit to Kabul comes as talks foundered. Discussions have repeatedly stalled in recent weeks over Karzai's demand for American guarantees against future foreign intervention from countries like Pakistan, and U.S. demands for any post-2014 residual force to be able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

The situation deteriorated in the past week following a series of angry comments from Karzai that the United States and NATO were repeatedly violating Afghanistan's sovereignty and inflicting suffering on its people.

Another possible reason for the outburst could have been the capture in eastern Afghanistan of senior Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud by U.S. forces on Oct. 5, the same day Kerry and Karzai last spoke. Karzai saw the move as an infringement on Afghan sovereignty.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Meshud's group had claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing attempt in Times Square and said they would carry out future attacks.

Mehsud is a senior deputy to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. The Pakistani Taliban has waged a decade-long insurgency against Islamabad from sanctuaries along the Afghan border and also helped the Afghan Taliban in their war against U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.

Karzai wants America to guarantee such cross-border militant activity won't occur and has demanded guarantees the U.S. will defend Afghanistan against foreign intervention, an allusion to neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan accuses its neighbor of harboring the Taliban and other extremists who enter Afghanistan and then cross back into Pakistan where they cannot be attacked by Afghan or U.S.-led international forces.

In one such attack Saturday, insurgents killed one civilian and two police officers in a suicide car bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The agreement is necessary to give the U.S. a legal basis for having forces in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 and also allow it to lease bases around the country. It would be an executive agreement, meaning the U.S. Senate would not have to ratify it.

There currently are an estimated 87,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including about 52,000 Americans. That number will be halved by February and all foreign combat troops will be gone by the end of next year.

The U.S. wants to keep as many as 10,000 troops in the country to go after the remnants of al-Qaida, but if no agreement is signed, all U.S. troops would have to leave by Dec. 31, 2014. President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press he would be comfortable with a full pullout of U.S. troops.

Karzai is calling a meeting of Afghan tribal elders in November to advise him on whether to sign a security deal.

If they endorse the agreement, then Karzai has political cover to agree to it. He is keenly aware that previous leaders of his country historically have been punished for selling out to foreign interests and wants to make sure that any U.S.-Afghan agreement is not seen in that light.



SUROBI, Afghanistan — Col. Babagul Aamal is a proud veteran of 28 years in the Afghan National Army. Short and fit, with a thick black beard, he's a leader who blurts out exactly what he's thinking.

"I don't talk politics — I talk facts," Aamal said, wearing a sweater beneath his uniform in his unheated command office on a dusty base 40 miles east of Kabul.

It shames him, Aamal said, that he is not allowed to wear his pistol when he enters the fortified gate of the new American military base next door. Though he's a brigade commander, he's required to stand before an airport-type scanner with his arms raised, almost in surrender.

Yet when Americans visit Aamal's base, they are not searched. They are offered chai tea. And they bring half a dozen soldiers armed with M-16s, so-called Guardian Angels on the lookout for "insider attacks" by Afghan soldiers.

"Afghan generals get searched by low-ranking foreign soldiers," Aamal said. "Our soldiers see this, and they feel insulted."

As American troops shift from combat to advising, the ominous specter of insider attacks has strained the relationship between the two armies.

Sixty-two Western coalition troops have been killed this year in 46 such attacks, leaving many American soldiers deeply suspicious of their erstwhile allies.

At the same time, some Afghan officers and soldiers say they feel abandoned and patronized. After 11 years, they say, certain Americans still don't respect Afghan customs.

Moreover, they complain that the United States is pulling out without providing the weapons and equipment needed to hold off the Taliban.

"The Americans have the weapons, so they go wherever they want. It's like this is their country," the brigade's public affairs officer, Maj. Ghulam Ali, said with a weary shrug.

***

Officers and soldiers encountered during three days spent with the Afghan army were upbeat and enthusiastic about taking over the fight. But many also said they felt slighted by what they perceive as a chronic lack of resources.

At a desolate battalion base beneath towering snowcapped mountains, Lt. Col. Hussian Hadl sat in his office, shivering in an overcoat and puffing on a cigarette. The electricity was on, but only because Hadl was using precious fuel to run a generator for a visit by an American journalist.

Hadl's 1st Battalion recently took over the base from a French military unit, which had fuel for generators. Hadl said he's been supplied enough fuel to power communications equipment, but not for heat or lights.




US troops are set to leave Afghanistan in 2014, but an unidentified number will stay behind. This is an open-ended occupation that, combined with a pernicious drug war, constitutes a clear and present danger to Afghan, regional and global security.



– The Senate voted overwhelmingly to voice its support for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. The 62-33 vote included 13 Republicans. “It is time to end this war, end the longest war in United States history,” the measure’s chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said.

– Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the United States and its allies are likely to battle al Qaeda for years to come. “Although we clearly have had an impact on (al Qaeda’s) presence in Afghanistan, the fact is that they continue to show up,” Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon. “And intelligence continues to indicate that they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan as well.”







TOKYO (Reuters) - Major donors pledged on Sunday to give Afghanistan $16 billion in development aid through 2015 as they try to prevent it from sliding back into chaos when foreign troops leave, but demanded reforms to fight widespread corruption.

Donor fatigue and war weariness have taken their toll on how long the global community is willing to support Afghanistan and there are concerns about security following the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014 if financial backing is not secured.

"Afghanistan's security cannot only be measured by the absence of war," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an international donors' conference in Tokyo.

"It has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds."

The roughly $4 billion in annual aid pledged at the meeting, attended by 80 countries and international organizations, fell short of the $6 billion a year the Afghan central bank has said will be needed to foster economic growth over the next decade.

Clinton and other donors stressed the importance of Afghanistan - one of the most corrupt nations in the world - taking aggressive action to fight graft and promote reforms.

"We have agreed that we need a different kind of long-term economic partnership, one built on Afghan progress in meeting its goals, in fighting corruption, in carrying out reform, and providing good governance," Clinton said.
According to "mutual accountability" provisions in the final conference documents, as much as 20 percent of the aid could ultimately depend on Afghanistan meeting benchmarks on fighting corruption and other good governance measures.

However, a Japanese official said that it was up to each donor whether to make its aid contingent on such reforms and that the benchmarks could vary from country to country.

World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the pressure was on the Afghan government to deliver reforms and ensure fair elections in 2014 in order to secure aid beyond the amount pledged in Tokyo.

"This is a fragile conflict state," Indrawati told Reuters in an interview. "Three years is a very short time for a country to be able to build stable and competent institutions."

NEED TO DO MORE


International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010, but the return on that investment has been mixed and the country remains one of the five poorest in the world.
President Hamid Karzai admits his government needs to do more to tackle corruption, but his critics say he is not doing enough, and some directly blame authorities for vast amounts of aid not reaching the right people.

While strides have been made in schooling children and improving access to health care, three-quarters of the 30 million Afghans are illiterate and the average person earns only about $530 a year, according to the World Bank.

The government has identified priority areas for economic development, including investment in agriculture and mining, which Western officials see as a possible engine for growth. Afghanistan is believed to have up to a trillion dollars' worth of untapped mineral wealth.

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said the Tokyo conference had shown aid donors were committed to the long haul. "Today's event sends the strongest message to Afghan people that the international community will be with us in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2020 and beyond," Zakhilwal told a news conference.
U.S. officials gave no figure for their aid pledge but said the administration would ask Congress to keep assistance through 2017 "at or near" what it has given over the past decade.

Annual U.S. aid to Afghanistan has ranged from about $1 billion a decade ago to a peak of about $4 billion in 2010. It stands at about $2.3 billion this year.

Japan pledged $3 billion in aid for Afghanistan through 2016. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said $2.2 billion of that amount would be grants for development projects in areas like investment in roads and infrastructure.

The EU has said it will continue with pledges of 1.2 billion euros a year, but warned that if progress is not made with rule of law and women's rights, this could be difficult to continue.

The pledges made in Tokyo are on top of the $4.1 billion by NATO and its partners for supporting the Afghan security forces.

(Additional reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman in Kabul and Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)






US negotiators who have been trying to reach a deal with Pakistan over a supply route to Nato troops in Afghanistan have quit the talks.

"The decision was reached to bring the team home for a short period of time," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

The negotiators have, so far, failed to reach a deal.

Pakistan shut a Nato supply route in November after a Nato air strike near the Afghan-Pakistani border which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Part of the team left Islamabad over the weekend, and the rest will return shortly, Mr Little said.

The closure of the route left thousands of tankers bound for Afghanistan stranded in Pakistan.

Washington has stopped short of an official apology for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers.

Tension between the two countries has been rising in recent months, with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warning last week that the US was "reaching the limits of our patience" with Pakistan.

US officials accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to militants active in Afghanistan, which Islamabad denies.




During the first day of the NATO Summit in Chicago, Mr. Clumpner returned his medals along with 43 other veterans.


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday and killed four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed on with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week.

Drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas where Afghan and other militants have found refuge are considered a key tactic by U.S. officials in the war against al-Qaida and its Taliban supporters. But many Pakistanis resent the strikes, which they consider an affront to their sovereignty.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said the latest attack took place in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region.

The officials said the victims were buying goods from a bakery when the missiles hit. Residents were still removing the debris, officials said. All of the dead were foreigners, but the officials did not have any information on their identities or nationalities.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The U.S. rarely talks publicly about the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan.

Drone strikes have become an increasingly contentious issue between Washington and Pakistan. Pakistan's parliament has demanded the U.S. end all attacks on its territory.

Some figures within the Pakistani government and military are widely believed to have supported the attacks in the past. Washington-Islamabad security cooperation has declined as relations between the two countries have deteriorated, but many analysts believe there is still some support for the attacks on militants within Pakistan's senior ranks.

U.S. officials have said in private that the strikes are a vital anti-terror tool and have killed many senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders.

On Thursday, a suspected U.S. drone killed 10 alleged militants in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border.

The attack took place in a militant hideout in the North Waziristan tribal area. Most of those killed were believed to be Uzbek insurgents.

On Wednesday four suspected militants were killed in the village of Datta Khel Kalai in North Waziristan.

The ongoing strikes have complicated negotiations between Islamabad and Washington about reopening supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan closed the routes six months ago in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. The Americans say the attacks were an accident.


For years, U.S. government agencies have told the public, veterans and Congress that they couldn’t draw any connections between the so-called “burn pits” disposing of trash at the military’s biggest bases and veterans’ respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems. But a 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room flat-out stated that the burn pit at one of Afghanistan’s largest bases poses “long-term adverse health conditions” to troops breathing the air there.

The unclassified memo (.jpg), dated April 15, 2011, stated that high concentrations of dust and burned waste present at Bagram Airfield for most of the war are likely to impact veterans’ health for the rest of their lives. “The long term health risk” from breathing in Bagram’s particulate-rich air include “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases.” Service members may not necessarily “acquire adverse long term pulmonary or heart conditions,” but “the risk for such is increased.”

The cause of the health hazards are given the anodyne names Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5, a reference to the size in micrometers of the particles’ diameter. Service personnel deployed to Bagram know them by more colloquial names: dust, trash and even feces — all of which are incinerated in “a burn pit” on the base, the memo says, as has been standard practice in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade.

Accordingly, the health risks were not limited to troops serving at Bagram in 2011, the memo states. The health hazards are an assessment of “air samples taken over approximately the last eight years” at the base.

The memo’s findings contradict years of U.S. military assurances that the burn pits are no big deal. An Army memo from 2008 about the burn pit at Iraq’s giant Balad air base, titled, “Just The Facts,” found “no significant short- or long-term health risks and no elevated cancer risks are likely among personnel” (.pdf). A 2004 fact sheet from the Pentagon’s deployment health library — and still available on its website — informed troops that the high particulate matter in the air at Bagram “should not cause any long-term health effects.” More recently, in October 2010, a Pentagon epidemiological study found “for nearly all health outcomes measured, the incidence for those health outcomes studied among personnel assigned to locations with documented burn pits and who had returned from deployment, was either lower than, or about the same as, those who had never deployed” (.pdf).

Over the years, thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems that they associate with their service. Some have sued military contractors for exposing them to unsafe conditions. For months, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has urged the military to create a database of vets suffering neurological or respiratory afflictions, a move that’s winding through the legislative process. But the military has argued it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to associate environmental conditions on the battlefield with long-term health risks — and it argued that months after this memo is dated.

“As recently as April, in correspondence with the Defense Department and in discussions with my staff, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both continued to maintain that research has not shown any long-term health consequences due to burn pits,” Akin tells Danger Room. “They also maintained that remaining burn pits in Afghanistan were away from military populations to reduce exposure. It is disturbing to discover that at least at Bagram the military concluded that burn pits posed a serious health risk.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has collected “hundreds” of anecdotes from vets complaining of health problems connected to serving near burn pits. “It’s good to see someone in the military is acknowledging there are going to be long-term problems with burn pits, but it’s disturbing that this memo is more than a year old and it doesn’t seem like the military has done anything about it,” says Tom Tarantino, IAVA’s deputy policy director, who deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an Army captain. “I lived next to a burn pit for six months at Abu Ghraib. You can’t tell me that was OK. That was pretty nasty. While I was there everyone was hacking up weird shit.”

Any visitor to the sprawling Bagram airfield knows the burn pit — if not by sight, then by smell. It’s an acrid, smoldering barbecue of trash, from busted furniture to human waste, usually manned by Afghan employees who cover their noses and mouths with medical breathing masks. Plumes of aerosolized refuse emerge from what troops refer to as “The Shit Pit,” mingle with Parwan Province’s already dust-heavy air, and sweep over the base. In February, that was where soldiers at the nearby Parwan detention facility accidentally incinerated the Koran.

At the time of the memo’s issuance, it noted that the affected population on the base contemporaneously was “40,000 Service Members and contractors.” Hundreds of thousands have cycled through the giant base since the U.S. seized it in 2001. Bagram is a major transit and logistics hub for the Afghanistan war, and one of the first bases the U.S. took and continuously operated during the war. Millions more have served in Iraq and Afghanistan near similar burn pits.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, studies conducted on the effects of breathing in Particulate Matter 10 and 2.5 have determined “a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature mortality.” The Army memo reports that Bagram’s air had twice the amount of Particulate Matter 10 than the federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard, and more than three times the amount of Particulate Matter 2.5 as the standard.

Burn pits remain in use across Afghanistan. And although a study by the Institute of Medicine and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs found last October that there is insufficient data to correlate those pits with health risks, troops’ cardiovascular problems are clearly on the rise: There were 91,013 cases reported in 2010, up sharply from 65,520 in 2001. A 2010 study found half of a small sample of soldiers who struggled to run two miles had undiagnosed bronchiolitis. Hundreds of troops have sued the pits’ contractor operators after experiencing chest pains, asthma and migraines. For years, the U.S. government has pled ignorance about the causes of those veterans’ ailments. And unless the military formally acknowledges that the burn pits pose a long-term health risk, it will be difficult for veterans to receive long-term health care for associated respiratory and cardiopulminary ailments from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The acknowledgement that air-sampling data is now indicating that burn pits may pose a risk of chronic illness to our servicemen and women validates the need for the national burn pit registry that I have proposed,” Akin says. Tarantino backs him up: “We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”

The U.S. Army and the NATO military command in charge of the Afghanistan war did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Even casual visitors to Bagram know that the air is a menace. Within days of my most recent reporting trip there, in August 2010, I developed a disgusting, productive cough that kept me from sleeping comfortably. Airmen and soldiers joked with me about catching “Bagram Lung.”

But for at least a year, the U.S. military has known that “Bagram Lung” won’t stay at Bagram. There’s a significant chance that it will plague a generation of Afghanistan veterans for the rest of their lives.




WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will require "significant firepower" in Afghanistan in 2013-14, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces there said, but decisions about further U.S. troop reductions will only be made after this fall at the earliest.

"We're going to need combat power. I don't think anyone questions that," Marine General John Allen said on Wednesday. "I owe the president some real analysis on this."

Allen spoke to reporters two days after NATO leaders discussed Afghanistan's future in Chicago, embracing a plan to hand control to local security forces by the middle of 2013 and, Western leaders hope, to end the long, costly Afghan conflict.

By the end of this summer, Allen is due to withdraw all the 33,000 "surge" troops that President Barack Obama sent to battle the Taliban in 2009-2010.

Once those troops are gone, Allen will assess the campaign and make recommendations to the White House about how best to withdraw most of the remaining U.S. force of about 68,000.

"I intend to take a very hard look at the state of the insurgency," Allen said, and how Afghanistan's growing military is faring. Those factors will inform his recommendations to Obama about how many troops can be pulled in 2013 and 2014 without allowing the Taliban to stage a comeback.

"So there's not a number right now," he said.

While most foreign troops will be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a modest number of Western soldiers are expected to stay beyond then, focused on targeted strikes against militants and advising Afghan forces.

Yet critics, especially among Republicans as the race to November presidential elections intensifies, are already warning the Obama administration against allowing anything other than conditions on the ground and security concerns to dictate the pace of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

While Obama's surge drove Taliban militants out of some areas of their southern stronghold, the Afghan insurgency remains a potent enemy.

Allen appeared confident that troop reduction would not allow the Taliban to return as a more powerful fighting force.

"It is not our intention to cede the ground, ultimately, to the Taliban. And, in fact, it's not even clear that the Taliban have the capacity to flow in" to areas that foreign troops depart, Allen said.
(Reporting by Missy Ryan and Phil Stewart; Editing by Anthony Boadle)




PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A Rhode Island National Guard member struck and killed by an armored vehicle in Afghanistan last week had moved an Afghan girl to safety shortly before the accident, military officials said.

The National Guard on Wednesday released details of the March 22 accident that killed 29-year-old Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. of Providence and called him a hero.

Officials say Weichel's unit was in Laghman province when they encountered several Afghan children in the path of their convoy. They say Weichel saw a girl trying to retrieve an item under the armored vehicle and moved her to safety, then was struck.

"He would have done it for anybody," said Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who was a mentor to Weichel and who deployed with him to Iraq in 2005. "That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it."

Weichel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the NATO Service Medal Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon RI Star.

Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence. He will be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

He is survived by three children, his fiancee and his parents.



Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the US of not fully co-operating with a probe into the massacre of 16 civilians by an American serviceman.

The accused soldier is on his way to the US where he is likely to face a military tribunal. US officials named him as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

Afghan MPs had demanded the soldier be tried in public in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai earlier met relatives of the dead, who demanded justice.

This has been going on for too long. This is by all means the end of the rope here”

President Hamid Karzai

Men, women and children were shot and killed at close range as the soldier apparently went on a rampage in villages close to a Nato base in the remote Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province.

President Karzai told reporters that the chief of the official investigation into those killings had not received the co-operation expected from the US.

He also said the problem of civilian casualties at the hands of Nato forces had "gone on for too long"

"This form of activity, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It's past, past, past the time," Mr Karzai told the BBC's Lyse Doucet at the presidential palace in Kabul.

On Wednesday, Mr Karzai told the US that it must pull back its troops from village areas and allow Afghan security forces to take the lead, in an effort to reduce such civilian deaths.

The Taliban also called off peace talks in the wake of the killings although they made no mention of the massacre in their statement.
Relatives' anguish

Earlier, the president had an emotional session with relatives of those who had been killed last Sunday. The assembled villagers berated him and urged him to seek justice.

Mr Karzai said their account was entirely different from what he called the "supposed US version" that only one American soldier was involved in the massacre.

"In [one] family, in four rooms people were killed, children and women were killed and then they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That one man cannot do," he said, reporting the concerns of the villagers.

The allegation that there was more than one gunman contradicts the official US version of events. But Mr Karzai assured villagers that he would pursue that line of inquiry.

"Why did this happen?" demanded the man who lost nine members of his family. "Do you have answers, Mr President?"

"No, I do not," responded a tired-looking Mr Karzai.

Our correspondent, Lyse Doucet, says the president's strong public condemnation of his most important ally is certain to frustrate the US. Washington has been trying to limit the damage from these latest incidents, she says, as they deal with an unpredictable president.

This intervention adds new strains to an already troubled partnership, our correspondent says.





By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

We may never know what drove a U.S. Army staff sergeant to head out into the Afghan night and allegedly murder at least 16 civilians in their homes, among them nine children and three women. The massacre near Belambai, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has shocked the world and intensified the calls for an end to the longest war in U.S. history. The attack has been called tragic, which it surely is. But when Afghans attack U.S. forces, they are called “terrorists.” That is, perhaps, the inconsistency at the core of U.S. policy, that democracy can be delivered through the barrel of a gun, that terrorism can be fought by terrorizing a nation.

“I did it,” the alleged mass murderer said as he returned to the forward operating base outside Kandahar, that southern city called the “heartland of the Taliban.” He is said to have left the base at 3 a.m. and walked to three nearby homes, methodically killing those inside. One farmer, Abdul Samad, was away at the time. His wife, four sons, and four daughters were killed. Some of the victims had been stabbed, some set on fire. Samad told The New York Times, “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us.”

The massacre follows massive protests against the U.S. military’s burning of copies of the Quran, which followed the video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans. Two years earlier, the notorious “kill team” of U.S. soldiers that murdered Afghan civilians for sport, posing for gruesome photos with the corpses and cutting off fingers and other body parts as trophies, also was based near Kandahar.

In response, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rolled out a string of cliches, reminding us that “war is hell.” Panetta visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, near Kandahar, this week on a previously scheduled trip that coincidentally fell days after the massacre. The 200 Marines invited to hear him speak were forced to leave their weapons outside the tent. NBC News reported that such instructions were “highly unusual,” as Marines are said to always have weapons on hand in a war zone. Earlier, upon his arrival, a stolen truck raced across the landing strip toward his plane, and the driver leapt out of the cab, on fire, in an apparent attack.

The violence doesn’t just happen in the war zone. Back in the U.S., the wounds of war are manifesting in increasingly cruel ways.





LANSING, Kansas (Reuters) - U.S. authorities lack proof of what occurred the night a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan, the lawyer representing the serviceman said on Tuesday.

"I'm very concerned now they don't have much proof of anything," attorney John Henry Browne told Reuters after meeting with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales on Tuesday for a second day in a military detention center in Kansas.

Browne said he has now spent 11 hours with Bales discussing the events of Sunday, March 11, when Bales allegedly walked off his base in southern Afghanistan and gunned down the 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in a massacre that damaged U.S.-Afghan relations.

Bales, 38, a four-tour combat veteran, has not yet been charged, but Browne told reporters on Tuesday he expected his client to be charged with "homicide and a bunch of other charges" on Thursday. He added that the case could stretch over two years.

"I don't know what the evidence is," Browne told reporters. "We've all heard the allegations. I don't know that the government has proved much. There is no forensic evidence, there is no confession."

Browne said Bales is still "in shock" and cast the soldier as a selfless servant of the U.S. armed forces. "He is a soldier's soldier. He did not want to go over there but he did what he was told. He has never said anything about 'poor little me', which I get from my clients' way too often. His first questions were about the safety and security of his family."

He added that Bales may speak to his wife on the phone Tuesday night, for the first time since the incident. On Monday, Bales' wife, Karilyn, appealed for peace and understanding.

Browne sought to downplay the effect of Bales' financial problems, which include an abandoned property in the Seattle area and a $1.3 million fine from his time as a securities broker.

The Pentagon has previously said that Sgt Bales could face charges that carry a possible death penalty.

Such a trial could take years, contrasting with Afghan demands for swift and decisive justice.




By Qais Azimy in on Mon, 2012-03-19 14:23.

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channeled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:

Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Payendo
Robeena
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim
Parween
Rafiullah
Zardana
Zulheja






KABUL (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday that the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier must not deter them from their mission to secure the country ahead of a 2014 NATO withdrawal deadline.

Despite calls from local residents for him to be tried in Afghanistan, the U.S. staff sergeant who killed the villagers on Sunday has been flown out of Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron he did not anticipate any "sudden" change in U.S. plans for the pace of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Panetta arrived amid heightened tensions over the massacre. At around the time he landed at a British airbase, an Afghan man drove a stolen pickup truck at high speed onto a runway and emerged from the vehicle in a blaze, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman George Little, travelling with Panetta, denied reports in Afghan media that the vehicle caught fire or exploded. No explosives were found on the man or in the truck.

"The Secretary, we believe, was never in danger," Little said, adding that the driver's motives were unclear and he was being treated for burns. A coalition member was injured when he was pulled from the vehicle as it was stolen, the Pentagon said.

In an earlier incident, a motorcycle bomb blast in Kandahar city killed an Afghan intelligence soldier and wounded two others, as well as a civilian.

A roadside bomb also killed eight civilians in southern Helmand province, where Panetta began a two-day visit by meeting with U.S. and coalition forces at two bases, Afghan provincial officials said.

"We'll be challenged by our enemy. We'll be challenged by ourselves. We'll be challenged by the hell of war itself. But none of that, none of that, must ever deter us from the mission that we must achieve," Panetta told soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, the main U.S. Marine base in the volatile area.

Panetta's trip had been scheduled before Sunday's shootings in two Kandahar villages, but gained added urgency as political pressure mounted on Afghan and U.S. officials over the unpopular war, now in its 11th year.

Obama called the shooting of 16 Afghans "tragic" at a news briefing with Cameron, but emphasized that both nations remained committed to completing the Afghan mission "responsibly."

"There will be a robust coalition presence inside of Afghanistan during this fighting season to make sure that the Taliban understand that they're not going to be able to regain momentum," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.

NATO leaders gathering in Obama's home city of Chicago on May 20-21 will decide the "next phase" of the planned transition to Afghan forces taking the lead for security in 2014, he said.

The United States and Britain have the largest contingents of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but domestic support for the more than 10-year-old war has flagged, posing a challenge to Obama as he campaigns for reelection on November 6.

Obama acknowledged that people wanted the war over, but argued they still back the reason the United States invaded in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, plotted by al Qaeda militants from the sanctuary of Afghanistan.

MAJORITY WANT TROOPS HOME

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 40 percent of Americans said the shooting spree, in which nine children and three women were among those killed, had weakened their support for the war.

Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed in the March 12-13 poll said remaining U.S. troops should be brought home immediately, down slightly from the 66 percent with that opinion in a similar March poll. Seventeen percent disagreed.

U.S. soldiers are the likely targets of any backlash over the killings. The Afghan Taliban threatened to retaliate by beheading U.S. personnel, while insurgents also attacked investigating Afghan officials on Tuesday.

Afghans investigating the incident had been shown video of the U.S. soldier taken from a security camera mounted on a blimp above his base, an Afghan security official who could not be identified told Reuters.
The footage showed the uniformed soldier, with his weapon covered by a cloth, approaching the gates of the Belandai special forces base and throwing his arms up in surrender, the official said.

The video had been shown to investigators to help dispel a widely held belief among Afghans, including many members of parliament, that more than one soldier must have been involved because of the high death toll, the official said.

Panetta was to hold talks with Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai, with tensions high following a spate of incidents, including the burning of Korans at the main NATO base in the country last month.

DEMAND FOR AFGHAN TRIAL

While Afghan members of parliament have called for a trial of the soldier responsible for the massacre under Afghan law, Karzai's office was understood to accept that a trial in a U.S. court would be acceptable, provided the process was transparent and open to media.

The Pentagon said the soldier, whose name has not been released, was flown out of Afghanistan. The commander of U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, made the decision based on a legal recommendation, a U.S. official said.

In the two Panjwai district villages where the massacre took place, U.S. troops remained confined to the compound where the soldier was based, and people in the area demanded a trial in Afghanistan under Afghan law.

"They have to be prosecuted here. They have done two crimes against my family. One, they killed them, and secondly, they burned them," said Wazir Mohammad, 40, who lost 11 members of his family in the incident.
Panetta's visit to Helmand - where U.S. Marines and British soldiers are battling a resilient insurgency - came a day after the first protests over Sunday's massacre flared in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Some 2,000 demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and demanded Karzai reject a planned strategic pact that would allow U.S. advisers and possibly special forces to remain beyond the pullout of most NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.

The U.S. military hopes to withdraw about 23,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of the coming summer fighting season, leaving about 68,000.

With its mission facing increasing protests in Afghanistan, NATO said on Wednesday that it plans to boost security measures for its troops there, a decision that was based the January killing of four French soldiers by a rogue Afghan soldier.

"It's a mix of measures concerning vetting, screening, but also training and education," said Oana Lungescu, spokeswoman for the Western military alliance.

The plan would strengthen security measures for ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan), as well as improve the vetting, screening and monitoring of Afghan forces and "crucially improve cultural awareness on both sides," a NATO spokeswoman said in Brussels.

(Additional reporting by Ahmad Nadem in Kandahar, Mirwais Harooni in Kabul and David Alexander in Washington; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Anthony Boadle)





KABUL (Reuters) - Suspected insurgents opened fire on Tuesday on senior Afghan investigators of the massacre of 16 civilians by a lone U.S. soldier, Afghan officials said, just hours after the Taliban threatened to behead American troops to avenge the killings.

The gunmen shot from long range at two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers, Shah Wali Karzai and Abdul Qayum Karzai, and security officials at the site of the massacre in Kandahar's Panjwai district.

Karzai's brothers were unharmed in the brief battle, which began during meetings with local people at a mosque near Najiban and Alekozai villages, but a soldier was killed and a civilian wounded. The area is a Taliban stronghold and a supply route.

The Taliban had earlier threatened reprisals for the weekend shooting spree, which came weeks after deadly riots across the country over the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops at NATO's main base in the country. That violence led to calls to accelerate a 2014 goal for the exit of most foreign combat troops.

"The Islamic Emirate once again warns the American animals that the mujahideen will avenge them, and with the help of Allah will kill and behead your sadistic murderous soldiers," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term by which the Islamist group describes itself.

The grim warning, which was unlikely to have any impact on heavily-protected NATO soldiers on the ground, followed the February beheading of four Afghan men by insurgents in a country where such killings are relatively rare.

Tuesday's attack, which was carried out despite tight security around Karzai's siblings, Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa and Tribal Affairs Minister Asadullah Khalid, underscored the insurgents' ability to strike at fledgling Afghan government forces.

The first protests over Sunday's massacre also broke out in eastern city Jalalabad, where around 2,000 demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and demanded President Karzai reject a planned strategic pact with Washington that would allow U.S. advisers and possibly special forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

An unnamed U.S. soldier -- reported to have only recently arrived in the country -- is accused of walking off his base in Kandahar province in the middle of the night and gunning down at least 16 villagers, mostly women and children.

A U.S. official said the accused soldier had suffered a traumatic brain injury while on a previous deployment in Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking after a phone call with Karzai -- who is said to be furious over the latest deaths -- said the shootings had only increased his determination to get American troops out of Afghanistan as planned.

However, Obama cautioned there should not be a "rush to the exits" for U.S. forces who have been fighting in Afghanistan since late 2001 and that the drawdown set for the end of 2014 should be done in a responsible way.

The soldier, from a conventional unit, was based at a joint U.S.-Afghan base used by elite U.S. troops under a so-called village support program hailed by NATO as a possible model for U.S. involvement in the country after the 2014 drawdown.

Such bases provide support to local Afghan security units and provide a source of security advice and training, as well as anti-insurgent backup and intelligence.

"CAN NO LONGER BE CALLED ROGUE"

A spokesman for the Kandahar governor Wesa said tribal elders in the area of the massacre would urge against protests and work to dampen public anger if the investigation process was transparent.

"They are supporting the government and will accept any conclusion by the investigators. Today we have meetings with people in the area and all will become clear," spokesman Ahmad Jawid Faisal said.

NATO officials said it was too early to tell if the U.S. soldier would be tried in the United States or Afghanistan if investigators were to find enough evidence to charge him, but he would be under U.S. laws and procedures under an agreement between U.S. and Afghan officials.

Typically, once the initial investigation is completed, prosecutors decide if they have enough evidence to file charges and then could move to an Article 32 or court martial hearing.

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, has promised a rapid investigation of the massacre, while security was being reviewed at NATO bases across the country.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that the death penalty could be sought in the U.S. military justice system against the soldier, but portrayed the shooting as an isolated event that would not alter withdrawal plans.

While Afghan MPs in parliament called for a trial under Afghan law, Karzai's office was understood to accept that a trial in a U.S. court would be acceptable provided the process was transparent and open to media.

Afghan MPs protested against the shooting for a second day in the capital Kabul by walking out of a session.

Analysts said the incident would complicate U.S. efforts to reach agreement with the Afghan government on a post-2014 security pact before a May summit in the U.S. city of Chicago on the future size and funding of Afghan security forces.

Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said that despite NATO and White House references to the killings as the work of a "rogue" soldier, similar events had happened before, including a "kill team" apprehended in Kandahar in 2010.

"In the stress of an environment of escalated violence - by both sides, but particularly after Obama's troop surge in early 2009, it looks as if most soldiers simply see Afghanistan as a whole as 'enemy territory' and every Afghan as a potential terrorist. This can no longer be called 'rogue'," Ruttig said.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)


 PR: ? I: ? L: ? LD: ? I: ? Rank: ? Age: ? I: ? whoissourceRobo: ?Sitemap: ? Rank: ? Price: ?
?
Dear Friend,
A tragic and explosive story from Afghanistan shook up the nation this past weekend. Reports emerged that an American soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, including 9 children, in a night-time massacre near a U.S. base in that country's violent south.1 There are conflicting media accounts of what exactly happened, but graphic details have emerged of an American soldier allegedly being "drunk" and "shooting all over the place," and then pouring chemicals over dead bodies and burning them.2
After ten years, $444 billion in U.S. taxpayer money, the lives of nearly 2,000 American service members, and countless Afghan military and civilian lives, it's clear that a continued occupation is not in either nation's interest. The U.S. intervened in Afghanistan to pursue the terrorists who planned the attacks on September 11. Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. It's long past time to end the occupation of Afghanistan.
The sickening killing rampage from this past weekend was the latest in a string of bloody violence in recent days that has fundamentally shaken up the already deteriorating political dynamic of the American occupation of Afghanistan. In recent weeks, American soldiers and officers have been gunned down as a result of a violent and massive chain reaction to the destruction of Korans in a burn pit at Bagram Air Base, an incident that has thrown the country into a mess of bloody panic, violence and horror.3 Most disturbingly, following that incident two Americans were assassinated inside a highly secure area of an Afghan interior ministry. The situation had devolved so much that NATO has pulled all of its advisers out of Afghan ministries in Kabul as a result.4
We have now reached a tipping point in Afghanistan that underscores the need for a strategy of swift, rapid and methodical withdrawal of American troops. Even before the latest unconscionable massacre, the increasing slaughter of U.S. troops and deaths of Afghan civilians in recent weeks has "exposed a crippling weakness in the American strategy to wind down the war."5 The bloodshed of recent days has provided more tragic evidence that a political solution is not feasible for that war ravaged nation, as long as American troops remain as an occupation force.
The Obama Administration had hoped to reach a political solution to the unrest in Afghanistan before bringing our troops home. Tragically, there are no good outcomes after a decade of occupation. Only bad choices that limit future damages. Unfortunately it is incredibly unlikely that our partnership with Hamid Karzai's current regime, which is riddled with corruption,6 hostile to women,7 and resistant to Western notions of democracy, could result in anything approaching a happy ending. While we are particularly concerned about the fate of women and girls in Afghanistan, there is no indication that a continued U.S. occupation would make a positive outcome for women possible, and there is every indication that our continued presence is making the situation much more dangerous for U.S. troops and Afghan civilians in general.
The United States is currently scheduled to hand over control of security to the Afghan army and remove American troops by the end of 2014. However, the Obama Administration is currently negotiating a strategic partnership agreement that would leave U.S. special forces and military advisers in the country indefinitely.8 Meanwhile, the majority of Americans want our troops out of Afghanistan now. As reported by the Washington Post on Sunday, majority opposition to this war has been "consistent" for nearly two years,9 and a majority of Americans want to pull out American troops from Afghanistan "even if the Afghan army is not adequately trained to carry on the fight."10
CREDO Action members have been working with Congresswoman Barbara Lee on legislative attempts to provide a path for a responsible end to the endless war in Afghanistan. In the wake of the latest terrible tragedy in Afghanistan, it's time to take our case directly to President Obama who as commander-in-chief has the power to finally end the disastrous decade-long occupation of Afghanistan. It's becoming increasingly clear to Democrats and Republicans alike that we simply cannot afford the cost of the occupation in lives or treasure.
You can provide more momentum to the growing tide of public and political support for ending this war by calling on President Obama to bring our troops home by the end of 2012. Click below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=5540563&id=36528-5154581-QCvcnLx&t=11
Thank you for speaking out to end the war.
Mushed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. Ahmad Nadem and Ahmad Haroon, "Sixteen Afghan civilians killed in rogue U.S. attack," Reuters, March 11, 2012.
2. Ahmad Nadem, "Western forces kill 16 civilians in Afghanistan — Kabul govt," Reuters, March 11, 2012.
3. Deb Riechmann, 2 U.S. troops are killed in Afghanistan; Quran burning backlash claims 6", AP, March 2, 2012.
4. Graham Bowley and Alissa J. Rubin, "2 U.S. Officers Slain; Advisers to Exit Kabul Ministries," The New York Times, February 25, 2012.
5. Greg Jaffe, "Violence in wake of Koran incident fuels U.S. doubts about Afghan partners," The Washington Post, February 26, 2012.
6. Matthew Rosenberg and Graham Bowley, "Intractable Afghan Graft Hampering U.S. Strategy," The New York Times, March 7, 2012.
7. Associated Press in Kabul, Hamid Karzai backs clerics' move to limit Afghan women's rights," March 6, 2012.
8. Rajan Menon, "Playing Chicken in Kabul," HuffingtonPost.com, March 6, 2012.
9. Jon Cohen, "Poll: Few in U.S. sense Afghan support for war," WashingtonPost.com, March 11, 2012.
10. Id.





KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The massacre of 16 villagers by a U.S. soldier has triggered angry calls for an immediate American exit from Afghanistan as Washington tries to negotiate a long-term presence to keep the country from sliding into chaos again.

Just days before Sunday's attack, Kabul and Washington had made significant progress in negotiations on a Strategic Partnership Agreement that would allow American advisers and special forces to stay in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

But securing a full deal may be far more difficult now after the shooting spree in villages in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, which killed mostly women and children.

"This could delay the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement," an Afghan government official told Reuters.

The attack, the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan, may be a turning point for the United States in a costly and unpopular war now in its eleventh year.

Afghanistan's parliament condemned the killings, saying Afghans had run out of patience with the actions of foreign forces and the lack of oversight.

Popular fury over the killing spree, which brought demands that the United States withdraw earlier than scheduled, could be exploited by the Taliban to gain new recruits.

"We have benefited little from the foreign troops here but lost everything - our lives, dignity and our country to them," said Haji Najiq," a Kandahar shop owner.

"The explanation or apologies will not bring back the dead. It is better for them to leave us alone and let us live in peace."

Anti-Americanism, which boiled over after copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, were inadvertently burned at a NATO base last month is likely to deepen after the Kandahar carnage.

"The Americans said they will leave in 2014. They should leave now so we can live in peace," said Mohammad Fahim, 19, a university student. "Even if the Taliban return to power our elders can work things out with them. The Americans are disrespectful."

The civilian deaths may also force Afghan President Hamid Karzai to harden his stand in the partnership talks to appease a public already critical of his government's performance.

The partnership agreement, which Washington and Kabul have been discussing for more than a year, will be the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

Without a pact that keeps U.S. advisors or special forces here, there is a danger that civil war could erupt again in Afghanistan because ill-trained Afghan forces would be unable to keep insurgents at bay.

The Kandahar violence came just days after the United States and Afghanistan signed a deal on the gradual transfer of a major U.S.-run detention centre to Afghan authorities, overcoming one of the main sticking points in the partnership negotiations.

"The Americans are not here to assist us they are here to kill us," said Najibullah, 33, a house painter in Kabul.

"I hate the Americans and I hate anyone who loves them, so I hope there is no long-term partnership between our countries."

Afghanistan wants a timeline to take over detention centers and for the United States and NATO to agree to end night raids on Afghan homes as preconditions for signing the pact.

Civilian deaths are one of the main sources of tension between Kabul and Washington.

U.S. officials warned of possible reprisal attacks after the villagers were killed in the likely "rogue" shooting.

Washington has rushed to distance the shootings from the efforts of the 90,000-strong U.S. force but faces growing criticism at home and abroad about its conduct of the war.

"The U.S. Embassy in Kabul alerts U.S. citizens in Afghanistan that as a result of a tragic shooting incident in Kandahar province involving a U.S. service member, there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days, especially in the eastern and southern provinces," the embassy said in an emergency statement on its website.

"NIGHT-TIME MASSACRE"

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, who were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001. Southern and eastern provinces have seen some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

The U.S. embassy said on its Twitter feed that restrictions had been placed on the movements of its personnel in the south.

A sharp increase in attacks on U.S. troops by Afghan forces followed the Koran burning. Sunday's incident in Kandahar was one of the worst of its kind, witnesses describing it as a "night-time massacre" that killed nine children and three women.

Villagers in three houses were attacked and many civilians were wounded, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

U.S. President Barack Obama called Karzai, promising a quick investigation and to hold accountable anyone responsible for an incident he called "tragic and shocking".

But Afghans are tired of American apologies. Such incidents are often quickly exploited by insurgents and the Afghan Taliban said it would take revenge.

"The Kandahar shootings will give the Taliban the chance to prove to Afghans that they are the freedom fighters and the Americans are the evil ones," said Waheed Mujhda of the Afghan Analysts Network.

Sunday's attack may also harden a growing consensus in Washington about what can be accomplished in Afghanistan.

The bill for the war has already exceeded $500 billion and more than 1,900 U.S. troops have been killed, with the total number of foreign troops killed approaching 3,000.

"These killings only serve to reinforce the mindset that the whole war is broken and that there's little we can do about it beyond trying to cut our losses and leave," said Joshua Foust, a security expert with the American Security Project.

Karzai, whose relationship with his Western backers is fraught at the best of times, condemned the rampage as "intentional murders" and demanded an explanation. Karzai's office released a statement quoting a villager as saying "American soldiers woke my family up and shot them in the face".

There were conflicting accounts of how many U.S. soldiers were involved, with witness accounts saying there were several.

Officials from the U.S. embassy, ISAF and from Washington said it appeared there was only one. An ISAF spokesman said the lone U.S. soldier "walked back to the base and turned himself in to U.S. forces this morning".

The detained soldier was described by U.S. officials as a staff sergeant who was married with three children. He had served three Iraq tours but was on his first Afghan deployment.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Mirwais Harooni in KABUL, and Missy Ryan and Alister Bull in WASHINGTON; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by John Chalmers and Sanjeev Miglani)







A US soldier in Afghanistan has shot dead 15 civilians and wounded others after entering their homes in Kandahar province, Afghan and Nato sources say.

He reportedly left his military base in the early hours of the morning, attacking at least two homes. Nine children are among the dead.

Nato said it was investigating the "deeply regrettable incident".

BBC correspondents expect there could be a furious backlash when news of the attack reaches the wider public.

In Kandahar's Panjwai district, local people have reportedly gathered near the base to protest about Sunday's killings, and the US embassy is advising against travel to the area.

President Hamid Karzai has been consulting officials in Kandahar by telephone. The region is regarded as the birthplace of the Taliban.

Anti-US sentiment is already high in Afghanistan after US soldiers burnt copies of the Koran last month.

US officials have apologised repeatedly for the incident at a Nato base in Kabul but they failed to quell a series of protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people and six US troops.

This is the first time Afghan civilians have been targeted by foreign soldiers in this way, the BBC's Quentin Sommerville reports from Kabul.

However, a US soldier was convicted last year on three counts of premeditated murder after leading a rogue "kill team" in Afghanistan.

Prince Ali Seraj, head of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes in Afghanistan, told the BBC that Afghans would want to try the soldier in Afghanistan.

"This is going to have very, very bad effect, I believe, and I think it is time the US may have to alter their policy of not allowing their soldiers to be tried in foreign countries," he said.

Before Sunday's killings, relations between international forces and the Afghan people were already at an all-time low following the accidental burning of the Koran by US soldiers last month, our correspondent adds.






Nato has withdrawn all its personnel from Afghan ministries after two senior US officers were shot dead in the interior ministry building in Kabul.

Nato said an "individual" had turned his gun on the officers, believed to be a colonel and major, and had not yet been identified or caught.

Nato commander Gen John Allen condemned the attack as "cowardly".

The shootings come amid five days of deadly protests over the burning of copies of the Koran by US soldiers.

Taliban statement

The interior ministry was put in lock-down after the shootings, officials said.

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Kabul says eight shots were reported inside the building, which should be one of the safest in the capital, and that any Afghan who carried out the attack would have had the highest clearance.

Local media reports said the gunman was an Afghan policeman but this has not been confirmed.

The Taliban said in a website statement that it carried out the attack in response to the Koran burnings.

But Gen Jacobson would not be drawn on any link to the protests.

He said: "We have seen an emotional week, we have seen a busy week - but it would be too early to say this incident was linked."

He added: "It is very regretful to see the loss of life again on this day, and that includes the loss of life that we have seen around demonstrations."

Obama apology

Angry protests over the burning of the Korans continued on Saturday, with a UN compound in the city of Kunduz set alight.

Nearly 30 people have died since the protests began on Tuesday.

US personnel apparently inadvertently put the books into a rubbish incinerator at Bagram air base, near Kabul.

US President Barack Obama has apologised for the Koran-burning incident.

In a letter to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama said the books had been "unintentionally mishandled".

Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.


Published: February 1, 2012
A NATO report based on interrogations portrays an insurgency convinced it is winning even as the United States and its allies enter what they hope will be the Afghan war’s final phase.

KABUL, Afghanistan — More Taliban insurgents are being killed or captured than ever before, yet when the captives are interrogated by the American military, they remain convinced that they are winning the war.

That is because the Taliban believe that their own hearts-and-minds campaign is winning over Afghans — or so they tell their interrogators — and even converting a growing number of Afghan government officials and soldiers.

Those are among some of the findings of a NATO report, “State of the Taliban 2012,” based on 27,000 interrogations of 4,000 Taliban and other captives that portrays a Taliban insurgency that is far from vanquished or demoralized even as the United States and its allies enter what they hope will be the final phase of the war. A copy of the document, which was first reported by the BBC and The Times of London, was given to The New York Times by a Western official, on the condition of anonymity because it was classified.

The report coincides with an announcement on Wednesday by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that American forces would step back from a combat role in Afghanistan as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to withdraw.

Yet the classified report provides a sobering counterpoint to the coalition’s decidedly more upbeat public assessments of progress in the war and of the Afghanistan that NATO says it will leave behind. It abounds with accounts of cooperation between the insurgents and local government officials or security forces, as well as accounts from Taliban detainees who claim that in areas where coalition soldiers are withdrawing, the Afghan military is cooperating with the insurgents.

“Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban,” the report says. The Afghan government “continues to declare its willingness to fight, yet many of its personnel have secretly reached out to insurgents, seeking long-term options in the event of a possible Taliban victory,” it adds.

The Taliban accounts may be influenced by the duress of interrogation or tinged with bravado. Yet the report’s findings roundly challenge many of the assumptions on which American policy in Afghanistan is based: that American military might will force the Taliban to the negotiating table; that the coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy will increase support for the Afghan government among Afghans; and that as NATO troops leave, Afghan security forces will be able to take over their responsibilities.

It also portrays a tight yet nuanced relationship between the Taliban and their Pakistani patrons, one not only of sometimes servile dependence, but also of frank enmity, and it says that the Taliban have gradually distanced themselves from Al Qaeda. The Taliban’s alliance with Al Qaeda was the reason that coalition forces entered Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Publication of the report put NATO officials on the defensive, and on Wednesday they issued an unusually detailed rebuttal. A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition played down the findings and emphasized that NATO analysts did not necessarily accept the views of the Taliban detainees as valid.

“This document aggregates the comments of Taliban detainees in a captive environment without considering the validity of or motivation behind their reflections,” said Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “Any conclusions drawn from this would be questionable at best.”

“It is important not to draw conclusions based on Taliban comments or musings,” Colonel Cummings said. “These detainees include some of the most motivated and ruthless of the insurgents, who are inspired to play up their success. It is what they want us to believe they think.”

In Washington, the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the report reflected a limited assessment of detainees’ attitudes and would not alter American efforts to repair the badly strained relationship with Pakistan, particularly after a mistaken border attack on Pakistani troops in November.

“It was not designed for any purpose other than to help those in the field understand what Taliban detainees were saying,” Ms. Nuland said. “So it was in no way designed to impact on our ongoing efforts to be back on track with Pakistan.”

A crucial element of the American strategy in Afghanistan is to step up the tempo of raids aimed at capturing or killing insurgents, particularly midlevel commanders; in the past two years the number of detainees has more than doubled. The raids are intended to pressure the insurgents to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the war, and in recent weeks there have been steps toward starting peace talks.

The report, dated Jan. 6, provided little evidence to believe that this strategy or the increase in the number of troops during the Obama administration had helped spur the nascent peace talks. “Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable,” the report said. “Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact.”

It added of the insurgents: “While they are weary of war, they see little hope for a negotiated peace. Despite numerous tactical setbacks, surrender is far from their collective mind-set. For the moment, they believe that continuing the fight and expanding Taliban governance are their only viable courses of action.”

Recruits and donations for the Taliban increased over the past year, the report said, citing insurgents’ accounts.

One of the most startling elements in the report is the view by detainees that the Taliban have mostly rejected their old alliance with Al Qaeda and no longer give members of the terrorist network logistical or military support.

“In most regions of Afghanistan, Taliban leaders have no interest in associating with Al Qaeda,” the report said. “Working with Al Qaeda invites targeting and Al Qaeda personnel are no longer the adept and versatile fighters and commanders they once were.”

The report said the Haqqani network, a particularly lethal Pakistan-based faction of the insurgency that once had close ties with Al Qaeda, had not had any contacts with Al Qaeda in two years, according to detainees.

The report was apparently leaked to the BBC and The Times of London on the eve of the first high-level visit to Afghanistan since last September by a Pakistani official, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, and both news organizations made much of Pakistan’s role in supporting the insurgents. Ms. Khar dismissed that as “old wine in an even older bottle.”

One former Obama administration official speculated that the American military might have been behind the leak. “The mood in Kabul is that the U.S. military are very critical of Pakistan,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of military rules about discussing classified material. “They think the problem is not the Taliban, but the ISI,” the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s spy agency.

Much of the Pakistani material in the report depicts a surprisingly unhappy alliance between the Taliban and the ISI. While it confirmed complaints by American officials that factions of the ISI cooperate with the Taliban, it also reported that Taliban leaders and fighters viewed their patrons with distrust and even hostility.

“ISI is thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel,” the report said. “The Haqqani family, for example, resides immediately west of the ISI office at the airfield in Miram Shah, Pakistan,” the report said. The Haqqani network has been responsible for some of the most spectacular insurgent attacks of the past year, including an assault on the American Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul in September.

“There is a widespread assumption that Pakistan will never allow the Taliban the chance to become independent of ISI control,” the report said.

At the same time, however, it reported that Taliban commanders and fighters viewed the Pakistanis with suspicion and as “untrustworthy, manipulative, controlling and demeaning,” and cooperated with them “in lieu of realistic alternatives.” And the detainees reported no evidence that ISI directly financed or supplied the Taliban in the field, working through intermediaries instead.

But it was the accounts of cooperation between the insurgents and local government officials or security forces that seemed to most upset NATO officials. “Captured photographs of Taliban personnel riding openly in the green Ford Ranger pickup trucks of the Afghan army are commonplace throughout Afghanistan,” the report said, adding that the vehicles were “sold or donated” to the Taliban. Elsewhere it cited a document related to a plot between Afghan intelligence agents and the Taliban to ambush American soldiers.

Some of the newest material in the report covered extensive efforts by the Taliban to improve their relations with local people. The Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, has promoted a code of conduct that sets out how insurgents should deal with people, including rules on avoiding civilian casualties and excessively brutal punishments.

The group has even instituted “hot line” numbers for citizens to make complaints about their treatment by insurgents, and it sends fact-finding committees out from headquarters in Quetta, eliciting complaints against local Taliban leaders.

The report, which also included interrogations of non-Taliban civilians who were arrested after sweeps of their communities, cited the high marks the insurgents received for their judicial activities, which in contrast to many government court actions, were offered to people without demands for payments or bribes.

Reporting was contributed by Declan Walsh and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan; Sharifullah Sahak from Kabul; and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.






BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - U.S. helicopters fired flares to disperse hundreds of angry Afghans who massed outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday after hearing staff there had burned copies of the Koran.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued an apology for "inappropriate treatment" of Islam's holy book at the base to try to contain fury over the incident - a public relations disaster for Washington as it tries to pacify the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014.

White House spokesman Jay Carney later echoed his remarks, telling a briefing, "We apologize to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms."

Protesters started to gather after Afghan laborers found charred remains of copies of the Koran as they collected rubbish from Bagram air base, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.
As many as 2,000 Afghans massed outside several gates to the base, the main centre for NATO-led forces just north of the capital Kabul, chanting anti-foreigner slogans and throwing stones, said Reuters reporters at the scene.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban in Afghanistan condemned the incident, both of them saying the values of Islam had been "degraded".
Winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is critical to U.S. efforts to defeating the Taliban, but critics say Western forces often fail to grasp Afghanistan's religious and cultural sensitivities.
A senior U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said staff at Bagram had decided to remove "extremist literature" and other materials left in a library in the base's detention block.

"They (the materials) were taken out of the library for good reason but they were being disposed of in a bad way," the official said.

"There was a breakdown in judgment in this matter but there was no breakdown in our respect for Islam," the official added.

NATO ORDER

In a statement issued by the Pentagon, Panetta said NATO had ordered an investigation into the "deeply unfortunate" incident.

NATO's top general in Afghanistan, General John Allen, apologized for "actions" at the base and said a new order had been given to all coalition forces in Afghanistan to take part in training in the proper handling of religious materials.

"This was not intentional in any way," said Allen, the head of Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan," he added.

The apologies did little to ease the anger.
"We want them out of our country now," said Zmari, 30, a protester who has a shop near Bagram.

"We Afghans don't want these Christians and infidels, they are the enemy of our soil, our honor and our Koran," said Haji Shirin, one of the protesters at the heavily fortified compound, which is home to 30,000 foreign troops and civilians.

"I urge all Muslims to sacrifice themselves in order to pull out these troops from this soil."
President Karzai's office condemned the incident and said the president had appointed a delegation of senior clerics to investigate how it occurred.

"Based on initial reports, four copies of the holy Koran have been burned and the holiest values (of Islam) been degraded," a statement from Karzai's office said.

The Afghan Taliban also strongly condemned the incident.

"Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the animal Americans, this is almost the 10th time that they have degraded the holiest values of Muslims," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an emailed statement.

Bagram houses a prison for Afghans detained by American forces. The centre has caused resentment among Afghans because of reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners.

Protests raged for three days across Afghanistan in April last year after a U.S. pastor burned a Koran in Florida.


(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Michael Georgy and Rob Taylor; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mohammad Zargham)


War zone controversies


Abu Ghraib: Several US soldiers imprisoned after photos of abuse of detainees at Iraqi prison emerge in 2004

Stryker case: US military imprisons several soldiers and is prosecuting others from 5th Stryker Brigade on charges of murdering civilians. The so-called "kill team" took photos of their victims in Kandahar province in 2010

Daily Mirror hoaxed: UK paper publishes photos in 2004, later found to be faked, allegedly showing UK soldiers urinating on and otherwise abusing Iraqi prisoners




Marine Urinating on dead Insurgents.


The pentagon will conduct a full investigation.

Now US ( united states) Marines have been caught on video relieving themselves on dead Afghans. A short clip has managed to make its way to the internet and in it people can watch four US Marines on patrol in Afghanistan urinating on the corpses of dead Afghan men. According to a note included with the video, the US servicemen were members of the Marine Scout Sniper Team 4 and the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. That battalion has been deployed to a wide range of combat a peacekeeping situations, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay to fighting wildfires in Idaho. The unit deployed to Afghanistan in early 2011 and returned in September or October, CNN reported. At least two of four US Marines shown in a video appearing to urinate on Taliban corpses have been identified, a Marine Corps official has told the BBC.

All four US Marines seen in a video apparently urinating on dead Afghans have been identified by American military investigators, US media say.

Two of the men have already been interviewed by the US Navy's criminal investigation branch.

The names of the men, who are thought to be Marine snipers, have not been released.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a video that appears to show US Marines urinating on the bloodied corpses of several Taliban fighters.

The Taliban has also criticised the video as "shameful" but said it would not derail attempts at peace talks.

The US military is investigating the authenticity of the video and the Marine Corps said the actions were not consistent with its core values.

The origin of the video is not known, nor is it clear who posted it online.

The footage shows four men in military fatigues appearing to urinate on three apparently lifeless men. They have brown skin, bare feet and are dressed in loose-fitting outfits. One appears to be covered in blood.

A man's voice is heard saying: "Have a great day, buddy."

The men in military fatigues seem to be aware they are being filmed.


In a statement, President Karzai's office said: "The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans.


"This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime."

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told the BBC that this was not the first time Americans had carried out such a "wild action" and that Taliban attacks on the Americans would continue.

But a different Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the video "is not a political process, so the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage".

Last week the Taliban said they were working to set up a political office, possibly in the Gulf state of Qatar, that could help jump-start peace talks with the Afghan government and its Western allies.

Washington has been considering releasing several Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay jail as a confidence-building measure, Associated Press news agency says.

The video has not yet circulated widely in Afghanistan but there are fears of a backlash against the foreign presence in the country once it does.

"The US soldiers who urinated on dead bodies of Muslims have committed a crime," Kabul resident Feda Mohammad told Reuters news agency.

"Since they've committed such a crime, we don't want them on our soil anymore."

Afghan Member of Parliament Fawzia Kofi said ordinary Afghans, no matter how they felt about the Taliban, would be upset by the video.

"It's a matter of a human being, respect to a human being," she told the BBC.


The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps”

US Marine Corps


"I believe that the brutal acts that the Taliban did here during their government and even now is condemned by Afghans. So is watching a brutal act by international forces. We condemn that as well," she added.

The Taliban are known for applying a ruthless brand of Islamic Sharia law in areas they control and have carried out many suicide bombings and attacks which have killed civilians.

Investigation


The US military said it was "deeply troubled by the video" and was investigating it.

Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon said in a statement: "The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated.''

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said it "strongly condemns the actions depicted in the video, which appear to have been conducted by a small group of US individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan".

In a separate case, the US military has been prosecuting five soldiers from the army's 5th Stryker Brigade who are accused of killing Afghan civilians during their deployment in Kandahar province in 2010.

The US has about 20,000 Marines deployed in Afghanistan, based mostly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. In total, about 90,000 US troops are on the ground in Afghanistan.

The US and its partners in Afghanistan have said they plan to hand over security of the country and withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014.