Tag Archives: CIA

Deadly US drone strike violated civilian protections promised by Obama

deadly us drone strike yemen Deadly US drone strike violated civilian protections promised by Obama

The United States may have killed up to 12 civilians during a drone strike in Yemen last year, possibly violating both international law and the Obama administration’s own targeted killing policy, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
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While US officials have claimed the December 2013 strike only killed members of Al-Qaeda, witnesses of the incident told HRW that the US actually ended up targeting a wedding procession. The witnesses said everyone killed and injured was a civilian.

For its part, the report found that the group targeted was indeed a wedding convoy, though it also allowed for the possibility that militants – whose identities are still unknown – were part of the group. Regardless, the report suggests that at least some civilian casualties were involved.

At least 12 men were killed as a result of the four Hellfire missiles launched at 11 vehicles, while another 15 were injured. Both US and Yemeni officials have also stated that the primary target of the strike, an Al-Qaeda leader named Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, was not killed and managed to escape.

“We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounded were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians,” report author Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at HRW, said to the Associated Press. “They did not reply to this question.”

“While we do not rule out the possibility that [Al-Qaeda] fighters were killed and wounded in this strike, we also do not rule out the possibility that all of those killed and wounded were civilians.”

Either way, the report stated that if the United States failed to differentiate between noncombatants and militants before carrying out the strike, it may have violated international law “by causing civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military advantage.”

Additionally, the attack may have violated the targeted killing policy detailed by President Barack Obama in May 2013, in which he stated the need for “near certainty” that civilians would not be harmed by a strike. The US “has also failed to demonstrate that the alleged target was present, could not feasibly have been arrested, or posed a ‘continuing and imminent threat’—three other US policy requirements,” the report stated.

Three unnamed US officials told the AP the government has conducted two investigations of its own into the incident, both of which confirmed its initial claim: that only militants were killed in the strike. These reports have not been released to the public.

“When we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly,” Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, told the AP. “In situations where we have concluded that civilians have been killed, the U.S. has made condolence payments where appropriate and possible.”

Still, Hayden wouldn’t confirm or deny whether any of those affected by this particular strike have received compensation.

In its report, HRW urges the US to conduct a transparent investigation into the incident, hold individuals accountable for any wrongdoing, and properly compensate the affected parties.

“The US refusal to explain a deadly attack on a marriage procession raises critical questions about the administration’s compliance with its own targeted killing policy,” Tayler said in a statement. “All Yemenis, especially the families of the dead and wounded, deserve to know why this wedding procession became a funeral.”

Meanwhile, updated figures by the New America Foundation have also shed light on American drone activity in Yemen. Since 2002, drone strikes in the country have killed between 78 and 84 civilians, with another 30-50 deaths that cannot be classified. With more than 900 total strikes carried out, somewhere between 600 and 800 enemy combatants have been killed. With the singular exception of one 2002 strike, all have been carried out by the Obama administration.

Source: RT

US considering new drone bases in Central Asia

Us consider drone base in central asia US considering new drone bases in Central Asia

To continue counter-terrorism operations abroad after the imminent exit of American troops from Afghanistan, the United States is reportedly pursuing plans to put US drones inside air bases in Central Asia.
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The Department of Defense is expected to withdraw all or most of the US soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, significantly shrinking the size of the Pentagon’s physical footprint there for the first time in over 12 years. Along with eliminating boots on the ground, though, the US will also be walking away from the bases that for years have housed the unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, that are responsible for administering lethal missile strikes against suspected insurgents in neighboring Pakistan.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the US is considering moving their drones to air bases elsewhere in Central Asia. Amidst international condemnation, however, relocating the controversial program is likely to come not without opposition.

Citing unnamed US officials, Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud reported for the Times that the covert American drone strikes carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency could cease as a result of relinquishing bases in Afghanistan near its demarcation line with Pakistan.

Currently, the Times reporters wrote, CIA analysts rely substantially on human intelligence collected by those in the region willing to provide American authorities with information on suspected extremists. Collaborated with other data, that intelligence is used by the CIA to carry out lethal drone strikes against alleged Al-Qaeda members and other targets in the volatile parts of neighboring Pakistan.

“They pay people to place GPS trackers on cars or buildings to help guide the drone-launched missiles,” the journalists wrote.

At the same time, though, the spy agency also needs the Pentagon to stay close to Pakistan because, according to the Times’ sources, “The CIA cannot fly drones from its Afghan drone bases without US military protection.” Once that protection is impossible, the Times reported, “[t]he CIA’s targeted killing program thus may prove a casualty of the bitter standoff with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over whether any US troops can remain in Afghanistan after 2014.”

With the future of the CIA’s abilities in Pakistan now up in the air, the US is reportedly pursuing bases elsewhere in the region that would allow covert drone strikes to still be carried out against area insurgents.

“If the bases are evacuated, the CIA fleet of armed Predator and Reaper drones could be moved to airfields north of Afghanistan,” the Times reported, citing unnamed US officials who did not identify possible locations.

Afghanistan is immediately surrounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but the US is likely still unwelcomed in at least one of those locales — in 2005, author Brian Glyn Williams told the Times, Uzbekistan evicted the CIA’s drones from a base there.

Joshua Kucera, an Istanbul-based writer for The Bug Pit website, wrote on Monday that choosing any of those three nations, in his opinion, “would have serious downsides from the US’s perspective.”

“Tajikistan is highly susceptible to Russian pressure, and the Kremlin is surely not inclined to let the US reestablish its military presence in Central Asia,” he wrote. “Uzbekistan might be willing to host a base and is relatively immune to Russian pressure, but is a bit of a bete noire in Washington and setting up a drone base there would surely face resistance from human rights-inclined members of Congress. And Turkmenistan would have some of the same problems as Uzbekistan, but also has a proudly held neutrality that would seem to preclude hosting US drones.”

Despite Kucera’s claims about Tajikistan, though, the LA Times’ reporting suggests there is a very real possibility that the CIA may soon ship its drones there. Just last month, the paper reported, the commander of the US special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia visited Tajikistan for talks on “issues of bilateral security cooperation” and “continued military cooperation,” according to a US Embassy statement from that country’s capital city, Dushanbe.

Coincidentally, Kucera added, the US Defense Intelligence Agency just advertised for a job for an intelligence officer to be posted in Dushanbe to work on “short and long term analysis of military capabilities, infrastructure or political-military issues.”

Regardless of what happens in Afghanistan, however, the CIA’s secret drone program has a chance of coming across another roadblock: President Barack Obama has repeatedly touted a plan that would transfer UAVs away from the spy agency and fully into the hands of the Pentagon, but those efforts have been halted by members of Congress who oppose losing the covert program.

Source: RT

Over 300 US drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006 – leaked official data

drone 11 Over 300 US drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006 – leaked official data

Top-secret documentation collected by Pakistani field officers gives detailed information on 330 US drone strikes that have occurred in Pakistan since 2006. The CIA-run program is estimated to have killed 2,371 people.

From solitary individuals riding on horseback to mountain hideouts crammed with people, the CIA drone program has had no shortage of targets in the Islamic Republic, according to newly released information obtained by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).
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The most complete official record of American drone activity in Pakistan yet published provides an account as to the time and place of each strike, even including in some cases the identity of the homeowners.

The document is unique in that it provides a “strike-by-strike account,” opening the window on Pakistan’s view of each incident with that of other authorities.

Strangely, the retrieved data stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, while even failing to mention details of civilian deaths that have been widely acknowledged by the Pakistani authorities. It also inexplicably excludes information from the year 2007.

The news watchdog said the leaked documents are based on information filed to the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents in the field. However, TBIJ noted that the leaked documents are just one of several sources of information the Pakistani government has on US drone activity in the country.

paki 1 Over 300 US drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006 – leaked official data

 

‘Naming the dead’

Last July, TBIJ published the first part of the document, which detailed US drone strikes in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan between 2006 and late 2009.The information showed that Islamabad was aware of hundreds of civilian casualties – even in incidences where it had officially refused to acknowledge such deaths had occurred.

In the first part of the report, 746 people are listed as killed in the drone strikes, at least 147 of the victims are said to be civilians, 94 of which are thought to be children. From 2009 to Sept. 2013, it is estimated that 1, 625 people were killed by drone strikes, a figure that closely matches those of the TBIJ.

The London-based journalism watchdog emphasized that some entries in the report included ambiguous language, hinting that possible civilian deaths are being deliberately concealed.

On March 17 2011, for instance, a meeting of tribal elders fell victim to a US drone strike that left 41 people killed. The attack was condemned by Pakistani officials. The report, however, only states that ‘it is feared that all the killed were local tribesmen’.

TBIJ says it has repeatedly found evidence of civilian deaths in strikes where local media have used ambiguous terms, such as ‘villagers,’ ‘people’ and ‘local tribesmen’.

Another entry in the documents suggests problems with identifying exactly who is considered a ‘militant’. For a strike on April 12 2010, it shows 14 deaths and three wounded, noting: ‘The killed militants also include a 12 years [sic] old child.’

‘Whatever is happening, if this document is anything to go by, it’s clear the Pakistan government’s investigations are not adequate,’ Mustafa Qadri, a researcher for Amnesty International Amnesty, told the journalism watchdog. ‘First, this table does not appear to be telling us the whole truth about casualties.

‘Secondly, what steps have Pakistan authorities taken to assist civilians caught up in these strikes like access to medical services or provide them with remedies such as access to justice or compensation? … It doesn’t seem to be the case that this record keeping is carried out so that the Pakistan state can better assist people caught up in these strikes.’

The data also gives little information on other details, such as which organisation the killed are said to have belonged to, or even the names of those killed. Even in instances when senior militants are reportedly killed, they are rarely identified by name.

As TBIJ discovered with its Naming the Dead report, the overwhelming majority of those killed in drone strikes remain unidentified: only about one in five victims have so far been identified by name.

paki2 Over 300 US drone strikes in Pakistan since 2006 – leaked official data

 

Drone backlash

Amid growing evidence showing that US drone strikes are not as ‘surgical’ as the Pentagon believes them to be, US officials continue to downplay the collateral damage connected with its drone campaign.

In a report dated August 11, 2011, the New York Times quoted US officials, who spoke on the condition anonymity, that the US Drone program “has killed more than 2,000 militants and about 50 noncombatants since 2001,” a hit-miss ratio that the paper described as a “stunningly low collateral death rate by the standards of traditional airstrikes.”

The findings of the document are at odds with CIA Director John O. Brennan’s claim in June 2011 that that for almost a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.”

The enduring belief in the flawless execution of aerial drone technology, which allows military personnel to take out enemy combatants, often many miles away from the action, is not without its critics. Indeed, some of them are members of the US military itself.

“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” retired General Stanley McChrystal said in an interview earlier this month. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

McChrystal said the use of drones creates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.’”

Meanwhile, Islamabad has so far refused to confirm the authenticity of the latest leaked information obtained by TBIJ, but it is not refuting the document’s claims of high civilian deaths.

‘I am not in a position to authenticate the veracity of this report, but the facts that are being revealed are something which is not new,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Choudhry told Voice of America. ‘We have always said that drone strikes cause civilian casualties.’

Source: RT