Tag Archives: Conflict

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

Father trying to stop family fight beaten to death by Oklahoma cops

father beaten by cop after trying to breakup family fight Father trying to stop family fight beaten to death by Oklahoma cops

A Valentine’s Day outing turned tragic for one Oklahoma family who claims five police officers beat their father to death during a confrontation outside a local movie theater.
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The death is currently under investigation, and three police officers have been placed on administrative leave as the probe unfolds.

The incident occurred February 14 in Moore, Oklahoma, when an argument erupted between Nair Rodriguez and her daughter Lunahi. Nair slapped her daughter during the dispute and ended up leaving the theater. When Luis Rodriguez chased after his wife in a bid to stop her, law enforcement officials intervened and asked for his identification.

According to NewsOK, police claim that Luis Rodriguez attempted to fight with police and that led to a physical altercation. Nair and Lunahi, however, told local media outlet News9 that allegation is false, and that Luis simply tried to bypass officers to keep his wife from driving off in anger.

As the confrontation escalated, five police officers allegedly beat Luis Rodriguez beyond recognition, a situation captured on a video by Nair’s cell phone.

“They jumped on him like he was some kind of killer or drug dealer and beat him up,” Lunahi Rodriguez said to NewsOK. “He never fought the officers, they beat him on the head and that’s how he lost his breath.”

“When they flipped him over you could see all the blood on his face, it was, he was disfigured, you couldn’t recognize him,” she added to News9.

Although paramedics were already at the scene responding to a separate incident, Luis Rodriguez could not be revived. According to Nair Rodriguez, it was clear her husband had died as soon as the beating was over.

“I saw him. His [motionless] body when people carry it to the stretcher. I knew that he was dead,” she said.

Afterwards, police asked Nair what happened and she said her husband was just trying to break up a fight between her and her daughter.

According to a spokesman for the Moore Police Department, police confiscated Nair Rodriguez’s phone as evidence, though it’s unclear whether or not they’ve watched the video yet.

The Rodriguez family said it plans to hire an attorney and take legal action.

Source: RT

Innocent man beaten and tasered by California police for signaling he is deaf

cop tasered and beaten deaf man Innocent man beaten and tasered by California police for signaling he is deaf

A California man was allegedly beaten and tasered multiple times by four police officers while attempting to signal that he was deaf. Now, he’s suing local law enforcement.
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The suit was filed on behalf of Jonathan Meister by the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, and claims police used excessive force and violated Meister’s civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The incident took place on February 13, when Meister visited a friend to pick up snowboarding equipment that was stored in his home. Suspecting a burglary, a neighbor called out to the man, who didn’t respond because he cannot hear.

When two officers arrived at the scene shortly after, Meister reportedly put his boxes down and tried to use hand gestures to tell them he was deaf. As he approached police, though, the officers supposedly grabbed his hands, turned him around, and attempted to handcuff him.

“Because he is deaf, Mr. Meister depends on using his hands while facing a person to communicate,” the lawsuit states, according to a local publication called the Daily Breeze. “The officers’ sudden aggression, which both caused pain and interfered with his ability to communicate, caused Mr. Meister reflexively to pull his hands away, hop back over the fence and step toward the gate … to create some space so that he could communicate.”

Police then became more physical with Meister, taking him to the ground with a stun gun. Two other officers had arrived at the scene by this time, and helped the other officials by striking Meister with their fist and feet. The Courthouse News Service reported that in the lawsuit, Meister said police then subjected him to multiple “punishing shocks” with tasers and were purposely “burning his flesh.”

Meister was eventually knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital, where he was charged with assault. Police described him as “aggressive and violent” in their report, but ultimately ended up dropping the charges and releasing him.

According to Courthouse News, Meister’s lawsuit claims the entire confrontation could have been avoided if Hawthorne police were trained to properly communicate with deaf individuals.

“We’re really concerned about the problem of law enforcement and people who are deaf,” said Meister’s attorney, Paula Pearlman, to the Daily Breeze. “He wasn’t doing anything other than trying to get away from people who were hurting him.”

The Hawthorne Police Department declined to comment on the situation.

Source: RT

Trooper sues more than 100 cops for harassment after pulling over Miami police officer

FHP Pullover Miami cop Trooper sues more than 100 cops for harassment after pulling over Miami police officer

Florida Highway Patrol trooper Donna Jane Watts was just doing her job when she pulled over a Miami police officer for topping speeds of 120 mph, but the fallout has been anything but routine: She’s now suing her colleagues for harassment.
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According to the Florida-based Sun-Sentinel, Watts has filed a lawsuit against more than 100 police officers and agencies for illegally accessing her personal information and creating a “life-threatening situation.”

Watts claims the harassment by law enforcement began after she pulled over Miami cop FaUsto Lopez in October 2011 for speeding in his patrol car. Traveling well over 100 mph, Lopez was reportedly weaving in and out of lanes so fast it took Watts seven minutes to pull him over even with her lights flashing and sirens blaring.

FHP Pullover Miami cop 2 Trooper sues more than 100 cops for harassment after pulling over Miami police officer

When Lopez finally pulled aside, Watts made her way to the police vehicle with her gun drawn, handcuffed the Miami officer, and took his weapon.

Lopez was eventually fired for his behavior, but that was just the beginning of the story for Watts. She began receiving phone calls from unknown phone numbers – some of which were prank calls, while others contained threats. The lawsuit alleges that orders for pizza were made in her name without her knowledge, and that multiple police vehicles would linger in front of her house or on her street.

The lawsuit states the situation became so dire that Watts “started to experience physical symptoms to include dry heaves and nausea when performing basic activities such as opening her mailbox, starting her ignition, or when being followed by a law enforcement vehicle for no apparent reason.”

FHP Pullover Miami cop 3 Trooper sues more than 100 cops for harassment after pulling over Miami police officer

After filing a public records request with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Watts discovered that her personal information was accessed by at least 88 officers from 25 different jurisdictions over a three-month span. Her profile was viewed more than 200 times total – a number that attorney Mirta Desir claims violates the Driver Privacy Protection Act. Under that law, improperly accessing an individuals profile results in a $2,500 fine per violation.

“This is an invasion of privacy,” Desir, who is representing Watts, told the Sun-Sentinel. “Law enforcement does have access to information most residents don’t and with that level of access there should come a certain amount of care. … This is something that is not supposed to be done.”

The various officials and law enforcement agencies have declined to comment on the matter, but they have asked the judge involved to throw out the lawsuit. According to the Associated Press, they believe Congress can only impose a penalty on police officers for selling personal data, not simply for viewing it.

0 Trooper sues more than 100 cops for harassment after pulling over Miami police officer

The Department of Justice, however, disagrees, and has filed its own argument stating that multiple courts have upheld Congress’ right to monitor the issue regardless of whether information is sold or not.

“There is value in drivers’ information and a market for it,” Justice Department lawyers said to the AP.“What the defendants fail to recognize is that there is value in drivers’ information whether or not it is actually sold.”

Already, some police agencies have settled the lawsuit with Watts, acknowledging that their employees had broken the law. The city of Margate agreed to pay Watts $10,000 for the incident.

Even so, groups like the National Association of Police Agencies are now looking to change the law itself and remove the $2,500 penalty except for cases in which officers pursue opportunities to make money off personal data.

As for Watts herself, she’s still employed by the FHP, but has been relocated to another county.

Source: RT

Use of NSA metadata to find drone targets kills civilians – Greenwald

nsa headquarters Use of NSA metadata to find drone targets kills civilians – Greenwald

The US is relying upon NSA metadata to identify targets for drone strikes, reports the Intercept. A former NSA operative said the tactic is flawed and the agency targets phones “in the hopes that the person on the other end of the missile is the bad guy.”
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Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden and testimonies from former Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) members, Glen Greenwald and colleague Jeremy Scahill have revealed the extent which the US military is using NSA intel to establish targets for drone strikes in an article in the Intercept.

The most common tactic employed by the NSA is known as ‘geolocation’, which entails locking on to the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist. A former drone sensor operator with the US Air Force, Brandon Bryant, told the Intercept that using the metadata led to inaccuracies that killed civilians.

The NSA uses a program called Geo Cell to follow potential targets and often do not verify whether the carrier of the phone is the intended target of the strike.

“It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy,”
 Bryant told the Intercept – the nascent news site created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar to “to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable.”

Over the past five years the NSA “has played an increasingly central role in drone killing,” but the growing reliance on metadata to find insurgents is also targeting civilians. The analysis of the electronic surveillance leaves a lot of room for error and can kill “the wrong people.”

Moreover, the lack of operatives on the ground in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan means the JSOC is often not able to confirm the identity of the targets.

‘Gilgamesh’ and ‘Shenanigans’

Instead of accessing cellphone metadata through cell phone towers and internet service providers, the NSA uses a program called Gilgamesh. To be able to track the cellphones of potential targets a special device known as a ‘virtual base-tower transceiver’ has to be installed on the drone. The transceiver emits a signal that forces the target’s mobile to lock into the NSA’s system, allowing the target to be tracked to within 30 feet of their location.

As well as Gilgamesh, the NSA has developed a program known as ‘Shenanigans’ that acts like a giant cyber vacuum cleaner. A pod on an aircraft downloads massive amounts of information from any wireless networks, smart phones, computers, or other electronic devices that are within range.

Bryant told the Intercept the “JSOC acknowledges that it would be completely helpless without the NSA conducting mass surveillance on an industrial level.”

Noting that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed in these strikes, Bryant said that some terrorists have got wise to geo-tracking and have developed a number of tricks to elude the NSA. Taliban groups, he said, had been known to purposely distribute SIM cards among their organization to muddle trackers.

“They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” said Bryant, adding the targets “might have been terrorists, or they could have been family members who have nothing to do with the target’s activities.”

The classified data paints a very different picture of the targeted killings to Washington’s stance on the matter. The White House maintains the strikes are conducted with the utmost precision and all possible measures are taken to minimize civilian casualties.

Last year President Obama claimed “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

‘Our views are far apart’: German chancellor slams US, UK over spying

Germany slams US and UK for spying ‘Our views are far apart’: German chancellor slams US, UK over spying
 
Countries spying on their allies sow distrust that could result in less, rather than more security, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned. She particularly referred to the surveillance and spying activities by the US and the UK.
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“But does that make it right for our closest allies, like the United States or Britain, to access all imaginable data – arguing that it helps their own security and that of their partners?” Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Parliament in the first major policy speech of her third term.

Merkel, who herself was a target of US eavesdropping on her personal phone calls, warned that using “everything that is technically do-able” to obtain information leads to mistrust between allies, which would eventually undermine their mutual security.

The US, however, says its surveillance practices are focused on threats to national security, including terrorism. In its recent interview, US President Barack Obama assured Merkel that she does not need to worry about NSA surveillance, even though the Agency would continue surveillance on foreign governments.

“Can it be right that it’s not just about defending against terrorist threats but also to gain advantage over their allies, for example, in negotiations at G20 summits or UN sessions?”“Our answer can only be: ‘No, that cannot be right’.”

Merkel is set to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin on Friday to discuss “on the transatlantic partnership and global political issues”. The NSA and its surveillance practices are expected to be on the agenda.

“Our views are today far apart,” Merkel said.

In October, Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, where phone tapping was common practice, compared the NSA’s spying to that of the Stasi secret police in the former German Democratic Republic. Following the revelations, Merkel accused the US of a grave breach of trust.

The Chancellor has reiterated that Berlin was now driving efforts for “a European no spying”agreement and new rules to safeguard data privacy.

Since reports about spying emerged, Merkel’s government has been pressing for a “no spying” agreement with Washington. However, the US seems to be reluctant to sign such deal, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in mid-January, citing a Federal Intelligence Service (BND) employee as saying: “We’re getting nothing.”

Negotiations on an anti-spying agreement began in August last year, after whistleblower Edward Snowden started leaking classified data in June. In her Wednesday speech Angela Merkel still vowed to continue negotiations.

“Many say the attempts for such an agreement are doomed to failure from the outset, an unrealistic endeavour. That may be,” Merkel said. “Certainly the problem won’t be solved by just one visit.”

Gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger refuse to sell their products in California

rtr1uqt2.si Gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger refuse to sell their products in California

Rather than comply with California’s new “microstamping” gun law, some companies have decided their best course of action is to simply stop selling their firearms in the state.

Both Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger have announced that they will halt the sales of numerous gun models in California that would be subject to a law which opponents believe is intended to infringe on gun rights.

Last year, California chose to enact Assembly Bill 1471, which mandates that manufacturers of semi-automatic weapons implement technology that engraves a gun’s serial number, along with other information, onto a bullet’s casing when it’s fired. This “stamp” would potentially allow law enforcement agencies to trace guns more easily in the event of a crime.
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As the Los Angeles Times reported, the law was originally passed in 2007, but delayed until the stamping technology required became easily available. Multiple police chiefs, public officials, and anti-violence groups came out in favor of the legislation, but gun makers and their advocates – such as the National Rifle Association – were strongly opposed.

“Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms,” the manufacturer said in a press release. “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”

“The microstamping mandate and the company’s unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents.”

In a statement made on the website for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Sturm Ruger also announced that its semi-automatic pistols would be pulled out of California due to the microstamping law.

“We are working hard to serve our customers in California and will do all we can to fight this draconian law,” the statement reads.

According to Fox News, many critics of the law argue that microstamping’s ability to aid criminal investigations is limited, since most cases typically involve stolen handguns. Supporters, meanwhile, believe that even if a gun is stolen, tracing it back to its original owner could lead to information that would help further an investigation.

In an attempt to prevent the law from remaining on the books, however, the NSSF and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute have filed a lawsuit against California, arguing that the legislation is unconstitutional.

In addition to California, other states such as Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts are also contemplating enacting microstamping requirements.

While Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger will stop providing new semi-automatic pistols in California, the two companies will continue to sell other handguns, such as revolvers and bolt action rifles.

Source: RT