10 Things The US Government Doesn’t Want You To Know

united-states-secrets

When it comes to governance, especially in the case of a democratic government, the voters get to choose trusted leaders to deal with all the affairs involved in running the country. This means that the population entrusts the country to a few people, who are supposed to be accountable to them, responsible in all their actions, innovative in problem solving and selfless when it comes to executing their duties in office. During the campaign period, the leaders in question always promise the voters heaven on earth, only for them to get to office and fall short on all their promises. This is the situation in all parts of the world, and it begs the question “what changes in an individual when he or she ascends to power?”
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US Global Assassination Campaign Kills Numerous Unreported Civilians, Says Whistleblower

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A former National Security Agency executive and whistleblower says the US assassination campaign has killed far more civilians than has been reported.

Thomas Drake told the Sputnik news agency on Thursday that America’s mass assassination program – that has mostly stayed in the dark over the years – has led to an untold number of civilian casualties.

“We [the United States] have mass surveillance and we have a mass assassination program,” Drake said. “It is two sides of the same coin.”

On Wednesday, a new series of secret documents related to the US military’s “kill-capture” program were revealed by The Intercept.

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Perpetual War – and Obama’s Perpetual Con Game

 

President Obama’s perpetual scam machine is in high gear – which signals another expansion of war and war-powers accumulation. The president played the reluctant warrior who doesn’t really want the limitless powers he has arrogated to himself. But, what he’s seeking is formal authorization to escalate the U.S. offensive against world order and civil liberties.

 

Perpetual War – and Obama’s Perpetual Con Game

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

He admits to having done no wrong.”

Barack Obama is a master trickster, a shape-shifter, and a methodical liar. The man who has arrogated to himself the right to kill at will, anywhere on the globe, accountable only to himself, based on secret information and classified legal rationales, now says he is determined that Washington’s “perpetual war” must one day end – sometime in the misty future after he is long gone from office. He informed his global audience of potential victims that he had signed a secret agreement (with himself?) that would limit drone strikes to targets that pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot be captured – a policy that his White House has always claimed (falsely) to be operative. He promises to be more merciful than before, “haunted” as he is by all the nameless deaths, although he admits to having done no wrong.

He is a man of boundless introspection, inviting us to ride with him on his wildly spinning moral compass. But, most of all, he is not George Bush – of that we can be certain, if only because he is younger and oratorically gifted and Black. “Beyond Afghanistan,” he said, “we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Thus, magically, he redefined the U.S. war on terror out of existence (in perpetuity) by breaking the conflict down to its daily, constituent parts, while simultaneously affirming that America will soon travel “beyond Afghanistan” despite the fact that many thousands of Special Operations troops will continue their round the clock raids in the countryside while drones rain death from the skies for the foreseeable future.

Such conflicts, we must understand, are necessitated by the “imminence” of threats posed to U.S. security, as weighed and measured by secret means. His Eminence is the sole judge of imminence. He is also the arbiter of who is to be detained in perpetuity, without trial or (public) charge, for “association” with “terrorists” as defined by himself. He has no apologies for that.

His Eminence is the sole judge of imminence.”

America must turn the page on the previous era, because “the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11.” A reevaluation is in order, since “we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.” In that case, why not call for repeal of the layers of war on terror legislation that have accumulated over the last 12 years, including Obama’s own NDAA preventive detention bill? Or, he could simply renounce these measures and refuse to employ them as a matter of policy. Instead, the president defended his own maximalist interpretation of the law, and claimed that the legal basis for his kill-at-will authority is firmly rooted in the Congress’s 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AMUF). Although he made vague reference to changes that Congress might make in the AMUF, there was no substantive indication that he sought to impose restrictions on his own or any other president’s authority to wage war precisely as he has for the last four years.

Obama’s blanket interpretation of AMUF – the legal logic – had previously been considered a state secret. It was news to much of the U.S. Senate, too, until assistant secretary of defense Michael Sheehan, in charge of special operations (death squads) at the Pentagon, told lawmakers earlier this month that the AMUF allows Obama to put “boots on the ground” anywhere he chooses, including “Yemen or the Congo,” if his classified logic compelled him to do so.

The senators were stunned – although it is no secret that Obama has already put U.S. Special Forces boots on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, and has sent a combat brigade on permanent posting on the continent. Central Africa is one part of the world in which al Qaida has found little traction. The purported “bad guy” hiding in the bush, Joseph Kony, is the Christian leader of the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama authorized the deployment under the doctrine of Humanitarian Military Intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a war-making notion that is, at best, ill-defined under international law and non-existent in U.S. statutes. However, if Obama is sincere (!) in wanting to phase out AMUF, as he averred last week, he’s always got R2P as a backup.

Why not call for repeal of the layers of war on terror legislation that have accumulated over the last 12 years?”

Death squad honcho Sheehan is a believer in the perpetual lifespan of AMUF, which he considers operative until al Qaida has been consigned to the “ash heap of history” – an eventuality that is “at least 10 to 20 years” away. Since this is the guy who carries out Obama’s kill orders (the identity of his counterpart in the CIA is, of course, a secret), one would think that Sheehan and Obama would be on the same page when it comes to al Qaida and AMUF. But then, we are told that page has turned.

Obama is very good at flipping pages, changing subjects, hiding the pea in his hand while we try to figure out which bowl it’s under. His call for Congress to come up with a substitute for AMUF – without yet offering his own version – is a ploy to more explicitly codify those powers assumed by Bush and expanded upon by the Obama administration. Or, the Congress can do nothing – a very likely outcome – and Obama can pretend to be the reluctant, self-restrained global assassin, preventive detainer and regime changer for the rest of his term.

Not a damn thing has changed.

U.S. Currently Fighting 74 Different Wars … That It Will Publicly Admit

Photo: Press TV

Fire Dog Lake’s Kevin Gosztola notes:

Today US military operations are involved in scores of countries across all the five continents. The US military is the world’s largest landlord, with significant military facilities in nations around the world, and with a significant presence in Bahrain, Djibouti,Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to long-established bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and the UK.  Some of these are vast, such as the Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar, the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, which has recently been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000 troops and 120 aircraft.

Citing a page at US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) website, they highlight the “areas of responsibility” publicly listed:

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) is active in 20 countries across the Middle Eastern region, and is actively ramping-up military training, counterterrorism programs, logistical support, and funding to the military in various nations. At this point, the US has some kind of military presence in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E., Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM), according to the paper, “supports military-to-military relationships with 54 African nations.”

[Gosztola points out that the U.S. military is also conducting operations of one kind or another in Syrian, Jordan, South Sudan, Kosovo, Libya, Yemen, the Congo, Uganda, Mali, Niger and other countries.]

Altogether, that makes 74 nations where the US is fighting or “helping” some force in some proxy struggle that has been deemed beneficial by the nation’s masters of war.

***

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides an accounting of all the publicly acknowledged deployments of US military forces

But those are just the public operations.

Gosztola notes that the covert operations are uncountable:

Beyond that, there are Special Operations forces in countries. Jeremy Scahill in Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, writes, “By mid-2010, the Obama administration had increased the presence of Special Operations forces from sixty countries to seventy-five countries.

***

Scahill also reports, based on his own “well-placed special operations sources”:

…[A]mong the countries where [Joint Special Operations Command] teams had been deployed under the Obama administration were: Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Yemen, Pakistan (including in Baluchistan) and the Philippines. These teams also at times deployed in Turkey, Belgium, France and Spain. JSOC was also supporting US Drug Enforcement Agency operations in Colombia and Mexico

Since President Barack Obama has been willing to give the go ahead to operations that President George W. Bush would not have approved, operations have been much more aggressive and, presumably, JSOC has been able to fan out and work in way more countries than ever expected.

Global assassinations have been embraced by the current administration, opening the door to night raids, drone strikes, missile attacks where cluster bombs are used, etc. Each of these operations, as witnessed or experienced by the civilian populations of countries, potentially inflame and increase the number of areas in the world where there are conflict zones.

***

The world is literally a battlefield with conflicts being waged by the US (or with the “help” of the US). And, no country is off-limits to US military forces.

Of course, JSOC is not accountable to Congress … let alone the public:

JSOC operates outside the confines of the traditional military and even beyond what the CIA is able to do.

***

But it goes well beyond the war zones. In concert with the Executive’s new claims on extra-judicial assassinations via drone strikes, even if the target is an American citizen, JSOC goes around the world murdering suspects without the oversight of a judge or, god forbid, granting those unfortunate souls the right to defend themselves in court against secret, evidence-less government decrees about their guilt. As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh said at a speaking event in 2009:

Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.

***

There are legal restrictions on what the CIA can do in terms of covert operations. There has to be a finding, the president has to notify at least the “Gang of Eight” [leaders of the intelligence oversight committees] in Congress. JSOC doesn’t have to do any of that. There is very little accountability for their actions. What’s weird is that many in congress who’d be very sensitive to CIA operations almost treat JSOC as an entity that doesn’t have to submit to oversight. It’s almost like this is the president’s private army, we’ll let the president do what he needs to do.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/05/u-s-currently-fighting-74-different-wars-that-it-publicly-admits.html

Three People Killed By U.S. Strike On Afghan School

This incident has the same number of deaths as those who were killed in the Boston Marathon Bombings. Where are the outcries of “Terrorism”? Why haven’t the pilots and the officers who ordered the attack been “brought to justice”? Why are the social media networks not being flooded with people offering their “thoughts and prayers” en mass?

West Texas Explosion Might Have Been Triggered by Militarized Blast, Eyewitness Says ‘It Was a Plane’

Independent video of the tragic explosion that devastated the small town of West shows that the plant was likely detonated from an outside source, and/or a possible bomb or missile.

Town of West: An explosion from a fertilizer plant rocked the area sending shockwaves 50 miles away.

Town of West: An explosion from a fertilizer plant rocked the area sending shockwaves 50 miles away.

by Shepard Ambellas
Intellihub.com

April 20, 2013

WEST — A massive blast that measured 2.1 on the Richter scale hit the small Texas town on Wednesday leveling buildings and other structures, killing and injuring a number of civilians in what most local witnesses could only describe as a “bomb blast”. In fact, some witnesses have even stated on video when asked that, “It was a plane”.

Although it has been reported as a fertilizer plant fire explosion by the entire mainstream media and government sources, there could be more to the story as local reports suggest otherwise. While it is important to note that the factory did have a history of safety problems, audio and video analysis from the explosion suggests the possibility of something else.

Good people in the area are questioning the events that took place on that grim day, and for good reason.

Intellihub.com reporter Matthew Short’s investigation concludes with video evidence that emergency response vehicles were in the area before the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West and drills were being ran as stated by the hospital’s CEO in an interview.

This is the same fingerprint we have seen during events such as the attacks on September 11, 2001, the London bombings in July of 2005, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and even the Patriot’s Day bombing in Boston most recently.

These examples show the classic layout of an advanced governmental sponsored false flag event, which in turn is used to further subject the populace to surveillance and the removal of our god given rights and freedoms by a government which now seems to be overran by a tyrannical force.

Information also exists the suggest nuclear preparedness mass casualty drills were being ran in the area. According to the North Central Texas Trama Regional Advisory Council’s official website the regional full scale exercise took place on the dates of April 17th and 18th, 2013;

Regional Full Scale EMTF Exercise – Black Rain
Start Date/Time: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 9:00 AM
End Date/Time: Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:00 PM
Recurring Event: One time event
Importance: Normal Priority
Category:
Exercises
Location: NCTTRAC Offices
Description:

Regional Full Scale EMTF Exercise – Black Rain

Scenario:
The North Central Texas region is impacted by a radiological catastrophe at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. The blast and residual fallout results in many injuries and fatalities within the immediate hazard area and the densely populated DFW Metroplex area is affected by blackouts and rolling brownouts due to loss of power generation. Blast and fallout damage results in a critical taxing of the medical community and generates a potential need for medical evacuation and vast number of worried well within the metropolitan population. Region 2 of the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) must activate and deploy its Ambulance, AMBUS and MMU Strike Teams to assist with the first response and contamination monitoring efforts of the medical community.

The NCTTRA also released this announcement after the explosion;

NCTTRAC Statement – West, TX

The North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council (NCTTRAC) wants to extend its heartfelt condolences and prayers to the victims and their families, the first responders, and the community of West, Texas for their unspeakable loss. West, Texas is a community familiar and dear to many of us in the emergency medical management and response community, and we’re only beginning this morning to assess the devastation of that community.

 

Because of the sensitivity to the ongoing event, the response from many north central Texas assets including components of Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) -2 , and the potential for additional asset requests today, NCTTRAC is scaling back the remainder of the exercise we have in progress today to support activity onsite of the mobile medical units and the clinical teams in a more limited role. However, we will not have any of today’s planned EMS activities using the ambulance strike teams or the ambulance buses (AMBUSes).
The VIP tours scheduled this afternoon from noon until 3:00 pm will still take place as scheduled during this time for the mobile medical units; however we will not have any of the AMBUSes or ambulance strike teams available for touring.

NCTTRAC appreciates the support received in this event, which has provided an opportunity to highlight the excellent work accomplished in north central Texas in emergency medical planning and response. The tragedies this week are exactly why this community prepares, supports, and responds and will continue to do so.

And if that information is chilling to you, you might want to sit down to read the rest of this article.

Information has been brought to light that the explosion was triggered by another source rather from the fertilizer plant fire itself. The videos display the lack of chemical reaction, ignition from an internal point in the plant, but rather from an outside point, possibly from the sky.

At (06:49) into the next video an eyewitness states, “It was a plane”.

You can also see by the damage to the building in the video that it was a massive blast, reminiscent of some militarized technology.

According to Matthew Short, reporter for Intellihub.com (as stated during aradio interview) people in the area are now coming to him for answers, demonstrating the need for information as locals are not buying the official story either.

Another key piece of evidence is an actual emergency transmission from that day. In the audio to disbatch the firefighter states“We need every ambulance we can get this way. A bomb just went off inside here, it’s pretty bad. We got allot of firemen down.” (See video below).

America`s Drone Wars: Unmanned Predators to be Used for Domestic Law Enforcement?

Idaho took the lead in protecting people from drone surveillance last week when Gov. Butch Otter became the first state leader to sign legislation.  Known as the “Preserving Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act,” the law restricts the use of drones by government or law enforcement, particularly when it involves gathering of evidence and surveillance on private property.

In Florida, the state senate has passed a similar bill, The Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act, which prevents police from using drones for routine surveillance. However, it would allow unmanned aircraft if there’s a threat of terrorist attack.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are considering legislation that would prevent police from identifying anyone or anything not related to a warrant.

According to the ACLU, at least 35 states have considered drone bills so far this year, and 30 states have legislation pending. Most bills require a “probable-cause” warrant for drone use by law enforcement, while a handful seek to ban weaponized drones.

 

Mosquito MAV

They come in all sizes, from the Predator drones used in Pakistan and other countries to tiny mosquito drones that can be used covertly in urban neighborhoods and indoors. In the next few years police will increasingly turn to them for surveillance. But groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also see their potential for tracking poachers, while farmers want aerial vehicles to measure crop growth.

The ACLU is urging state lawmakers to require that police obtain a warrant before using any drone to conduct a search. But the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute argues that governments should go further and ban any information obtained by drones from use in court. In January, Rutherford submitted model legislation to lawmakers in all 50 states.

In Maine, a Joint Judiciary Committee had a work session last week on LD 236, officially known as “An Act to Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use.” After a debate between the Attorney General and an ACLU spokesperson, committee members voted unanimously to postpone a decision for two weeks.

In a nearby hearing room, where a debate on gun control was underway, one gun-rights supporter displayed a bumper sticker with a drone on it – and the words “Protect our 2nd amendment rights to shoot down drones.”

Maine’s Attorney General has proposed a temporary moratorium until July 1, 2014. The official rationale is to allow time for law enforcement agencies to come up with “minimum standards,” including prior authorization by “some official” before drones could be used for surveillance. But the AG also argues that the drone bill should not impede the possibility of a drone test center in northern Maine.

At least 37 states are competing for six drone testing centers that are expected eventually to launch 30,000 drones into the skies. For Maine, one lure could be the promise that the state won’t require operators to get a warrant before launching a spy-bot.

Democrats, who control Maine’s legislature but not the governorship, hope to win back the top spot again.  Thus, they want backing from the police, aerospace industry interests, new drone manufacturing firms, and citizens living near the closed Loring AFB who believe a drone test center and missile defense base would bring back jobs.

A variety of activist groups are staging protests in an attempt to stop the use of domestic drones in US airspace.  Events are expected in at least 18 states at research facilities, drone command centers, manufacturing plants, universities that have drone programs and the White House, according to Nick Mottern, founder of Known Drones, a website that tracks unmanned aircraft activity in the US and abroad.

The protests are being organized by more than 15 anti-drone groups, including Codepink, Veterans for Peace, No Drones Network, and the American Friends Service Committee. The groups oppose both domestic drone use and targeted drone killings overseas.

On February 7, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an updated list of communities, states, law enforcement agencies, and universities that have requested and received licenses to deploy drones. The Electronic Freedom Foundation obtained the list via a Freedom of Information Act disclosure and learned that more than 81 public entities have so far applied to the FAA for permission to launch drones.

Lethal Ornithopter

Why the rapid push for domestic deployment ?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, drone makers hope to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions.  The US House actually has a 60-member “drone caucus” — officially known as the House Unmanned Systems Caucus. In the last four years, it members received nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions. Drone Caucus members from California, Texas, Virginia, and New York received the lion’s share, channeled from firms in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

In a recent study, the Teal Group estimates that spending on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will increase over the next decade from current worldwide expenditures of $6.6 billion annually to $11.4 billion. That’s more than $89 billion in the next 10 years. “The UAV market will continue to be strong despite cuts in defense spending,” claims Philip Finnegan, Teal’s director of corporate analysis. “UAVs have proved their value in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said, “and will continue to be a high priority for militaries in the United States and worldwide.”

On  April 23, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights will hold a hearing Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing. If you can’t attend, you can submit a statement for the record. Chairman Durbin has invited advocates and stakeholders to offer their perspectives and experiences by submitting written testimony.

Submissions are limited to 10 pages, submitted in PDF or Word Document form to Stephanie Trifone at Stephanie_Trifone@Judiciary-dem.Senate.gov  no later than Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. Statements can be addressed to Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Cruz, and Members of the Subcommittee. For some reason they can’t accept previously published information as a statement.

The FAA is currently writing regulations for domestic drone use. According to Defending Dissent, the federal agency’s jurisdiction is limited. But it could provide safeguards such as compliance with Fair Information Practices for all licensees, creation of a public database of drone operators – with information about the surveillance equipment used and the operator’s data minimization procedure. Operation of drones could also be restricted to only licensees, ruling out wildcat rental operators. Otherwise, it’s going to be crazy up there.

Leaked report: Nearly half of US drone strikes in Pakistan not against al-Qaeda

AFP Photo / John Moore

 

A trove of leaked classified reports has confirmed what many had suspected – US drone kills in Pakistan are not the precision strikes against top-level al-Qaeda terrorists they are portrayed as by the Obama administration.

Instead, many of the attacks are aimed at suspected low-level tribal militants, who may pose no direct danger to the United States – and for many there appears to be little evidence to justify the assassinations.

Top secret documents obtained by McClatchy newspapers in the US show the locations, identities and numbers of those attacked and killed in Pakistan in 2006-8 and 2010-11, as well as explanations for why the targets were picked.

The statistics illustrate the breadth of the US ‘drone doctrine’ – which has never been defined by consecutive US administrations. Between 1,990 and 3,308 people are reported to have been killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, the vast majority of them during the Obama terms.

In the 12-month period up to 2011, 43 out of 95 drone strikes in the reports (which give an account of the vast majority of US operations in the country) were not aimed at al-Qaeda at all. And 265 out of 482 people killed in those assassinations, were defined internally as “extremists”.

Indeed, only six of the men killed – less than two percent – were senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Some of the groups include the Haqqani network and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, both militant organizations, but ones the US did not designate as terrorists until 2012 and 2010 respectively. Neither one has ever conducted an attack on US soil.

It also confirms that attacks during the George W. Bush era, were conducted on targets picked by ISI, Pakistan’s security agency, which has no obligations to comply with US legal criteria.

Furthermore, in some cases it is difficult to confirm that the targets were militants at all.

In the strikes above, the internal reports showed that only one civilian had been killed. But the modus operandi revealed behind the strikes, shows that some of the attacks seem to have been based on the certain people or visitors being present as certain locations, or merely associating with those the US believes were terrorists. This chimes with the accusation that the US is carrying out a policy of“signature strikes” – attacks based on behavior, or “signature” that would be expected of a terrorist, rather than any specific illegal activity.

These “signatures” apparently include such suspicious behavior as taking part in a funeral procession orfirst responding to an initial drone strike. Last year, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said it’s believed that, “since President Obama took office, at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”

The US has previously refused to admit that it operates such a policy.

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack, claiming that innocent civilians were killed during a June 15 strike in the North Waziristan village of Tapi, 10 kilometers away from Miranshah.(AFP Photo / Thir Khan)

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack, claiming that innocent civilians were killed during a June 15 strike in the North Waziristan village of Tapi, 10 kilometers away from Miranshah.(AFP Photo / Thir Khan)

Some of the assassinations, such as that of, Mohammad, the younger brother of the leader of the Haqqani network, Badruddin, appear to have been simply errors, with the victims branded as terrorists only after the fact.

All this seems to go against the assurance of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief, and new CIA head, who is the mastermind behind the drone policy

“We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing,” Brennan explained a year ago.

Obama’s administration has also said all targets are on a “list of active terrorists,” compiled with “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness”. Obama has also explicitly stated that drones should not carry out “speculative” killings.

But other than when ordering assassinations of US citizens, the President does not have to give full information to the Senate about the basis for any drone attack, much less give it a legal justification.

The latest revelations have unleashed a torrent of protest from experts who believe that the program is extra-judicial, violates Pakistan’s sovereignty, and is counter-productive in the long term.

“I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban,” Christopher Swift, a national security law expert from Georgetown University told McClatchy.

“We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.”

Micah Zenko, from the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think tank, went further, and accused the government of“misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”

He added: “When there is such a disconnect between who the administration says it kills and who it actually kills, that hypocrisy itself is a very dangerous precedent that other countries will emulate.”

Last month Ben Emmerson, after a secret research trip to the country announced that drone strikesviolate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Emmerson added that the Pakistani government conveyed to him that it does not consent to the attacks, something that is often challenged in Washington and fuels mass protests in Pakistan.

 

AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi

AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi

 

Drone strikes were first used after the 9/11 attacks from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, in combat missions inside Afghanistan. More than a decade later, Washington has expanded the use of the remotely controlled aircraft into Yemen, Somalia and most of all Pakistan.

The US has carried out countless attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 through the CIA’s Special Activities Division.  Begun by President George W. Bush, the intensity of the missions has increased under the presidency of Barack Obama.

Islamabad publicly condemns these attacks but is known to have shared intelligence with the US and allowed drones to operate from its territory until April 2011, when NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Salala incident. WikiLeaks cables also revealed that Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani sanctioned the flights and in 2008 even asked the CIA for more “Predator coverage.” 

Ordinary Pakistanis have also repeatedly protested against these attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and because of immense civilian collateral damage, including the death dozens of women and children.

 

 

http://rt.com/news/drones-us-al-qaeda-militants-649/

Leak Shows US Hid The Truth About Drone Strikes

 

Activist Post

New evidence has emerged that proves the US intentionally lied about the true nature of its controversial drone strike operations.

The leaked intelligence documents reveal that the US has been targeting individuals who pose no immediate threat, with half of the slaughtered people being labeled simply as “unknown extremists.”

While the files obtained by the McClatchy news agency show half of the deceased as innocent, other calculations show that a more accurate percentage of innocents killed in Pakistan is as high as 80%.

The files also show that Pakistan’s intelligence agency was working with the US while its government was condemning the use of drone strikes.

The mainstream media likes to downplay the use of drone strikes, frequently reporting that the global death toll attributed to drone strikes is around 2,500, while the true figure could be almost double that according to Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham.

Whatever the true number of innocents killed, many of whom are children, the US has received constant international criticism for the use of these killer drones.

Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer working with the British human rights charity Reprieve, has also accused the US of hiding the truth: “There is now mounting evidence that the Obama administration is misleading the American public – and the world at large – about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan,” she said.

The reports show a significant number of the strikes have nothing to do with al-Qa’ida. Instead, they may have been a quid pro quo exchange between two countries’ spy agencies. The result is that the US often doesn’t know who it is killing.

The Obama administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has always claimed that use of drones are only to target those involved with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, senior members of al-Qa’ida and those plotting to attack the US.

In a 2012 interview with CNN, Obama said:

It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.

However, McClatchy has found that:

– At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists. Drones killed only six top al Qaida leaders in those months, according to news media accounts.

Forty-three of 95 drone strikes reviewed for that period hit groups other than al Qaida, including the Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as “foreign fighters” and “other militants.”

During the same period, the reports estimated there was a single civilian casualty, an individual killed in an April 22, 2011, strike in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

– At other times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.

To date, the Obama administration has not disclosed the secret legal opinions and the detailed procedures buttressing drone killings, and it has never acknowledged the use of so-called “signature strikes,” in which unidentified individuals are killed after surveillance shows behavior the U.S. government associates with terrorists, such as visiting compounds linked to al Qaida leaders or carrying weapons. Nor has it disclosed an explicit list of al Qaida’s “associated forces” beyond the Afghan Taliba

DHS Tests Gun-Sensing Drones In Oklahoma

 

(HSToday) -The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is testing a wide variety of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) sensor platforms, including one that can determine whether individuals are armed or unarmed, for use by first responders and frontline homeland security professionals.

 

The testing is taking place at the Oklahoma Training Center for Unmanned Systems (OTC-UC), a unit of University Multispectral Laboratories (UML), a not-for-profit scientific institution operated for Oklahoma State University (OSU) by Anchor Dynamics, Inc. UML is a “Trusted Agent” for the federal government, technology developers and operators.

 

DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Borders and Maritime Security Division’s Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) testing program is evaluating numerous SUA and sensor systems to identify possible applications for first responders, including search-and-rescue scenarios, response to radiological and chemical incidents and fire response and mapping. In addition, the testing will help to determine whether SUAs are suitable for use by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Coast Guard to provide lower altitude, quick response situational awareness in tactical situations.

 

SUAS sensor platforms are being tested for use by “first responder and homeland security operational communities” that “can distinguish between unarmed and armed (exposed) personnel,” as well as conducting detection, surveillance, tracking and laser designation of targets of interest at stand-off ranges, according to the RAPS Test Plan obtained by Homeland Security Today.

 

There’s also a requirement to test SUAS sensors for how well they can capture crime and accident “scene data with still-frame, high definition photos.”

 

But there’s nothing nefarious about having these sensor capabilities on SUAs for the needs of law enforcement and other first responders, said a RAPS program official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program publicly. DHS’s chief privacy official concluded that the testing program posed no privacy issues in the Nov. 16 Privacy Impact Assessment for the RAPS Project.

 

The RAPS Test Plan also involves testing sensor suites to “enhance the search and rescue capabilities of first responders by increasing [their] situational awareness.” And to that end, SUA sensors are being tested for their ability to “locate and provide the position of targets of interest satisfactorily for search and rescue personnel in a variety of terrain and day conditions.”

 

To enhance fire and disaster response capabilities of first responders by increasing their situational awareness, SUA sensors are being tested for their ability to locate and provide the position of fire or hot spots despite the presence of objects that obscure their line-of-site; locate and provide the position and concentration of chemical agents; and locate and provide the position and concentration of radiological agents.

 

The RAPS Test Plan explained that “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems may soon become valuable tools for first and emergency responders and for those responsible for US border security.” It emphasized that “SUAS can provide tactical, rapid-response capabilities and much better situational awareness before field officers and agents respond to and engage in potentially dangerous operations.”

 

The test plan explained that “Within the United States, almost 50,000 police and fire departments exist but only about 300 (less than 1 percent) have aviation departments, owing primarily to the significant cost of acquiring, operating and maintaining manned fixed-wing and rotary-wing platforms. The estimated cost per flight hour for these assets is 300 times more expensive than commercially available SUAS which can be operated at costs lower than those of a typical police cruiser. But for state, county or city entities to become potential users of SUAS, their adoption must be justifiable and affordable. Improved sensor and platform capabilities, and economies of scale, now bring SUAS within reach of the budgets of many small first responder organizations.”

 

“Considering the size and diversity of the user communities targeted by this program,” the RAPS Test Plan said, “our approach concerning SUAS requirements is to focus primarily on advancing the near-term transition of good, affordable SUAS capabilities using relatively mature solutions. Working closely with senior law enforcement and fire operators in the field, we derived high-level SUAS needs tied to notional, top-priority scenarios for SUAS that, if realized, may or would provide good value to users — depending partly on the results of testing as envisioned” in the RAPS testing plan.

 

Consequently, the test plan explained that “The purpose of [the RAPS] project is to assess the extent to which SUAS can enhance situational awareness in support of first responder and border security events,” the test plan says, noting that “such events include, but are not limited to, law enforcement response, fire response, search and rescue, response to hazardous material (HAZMAT) spills or incidents and response to intrusions at US international borders.” In addition, “Where feasible and applicable, our testing will verify SUAS performance characteristics that may impact their eventual integration into the National Air Space System.”

 

“As one of many first responder support initiatives within DHS S&T, the primary outcome of RAPS will be a knowledge and database resource consisting of test reports, user testimonials and guidelines for adoption by the operational community,” the RAPS Test Plan pointed out. “The RAPS team will study fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft having gross takeoff weights of 25 lbs. or less, typically, using key performance measures in a variety of simulated but realistic, real-world operational scenarios that focus on the use of SUAS technology in response to situations where human lives are in imminent danger.”

 

The RAPS testing is being carried out at the Ft. Sill Army Post near Lawton, Okla. because DHS found the Army base “to be the optimal site to conduct RAPS test operations,” the test plan said. “The ready availability of restricted airspace at Ft. Sill and its central location within the continental US make it logistically accessible and convenient to participating vendors.” In addition, the test plan said “the Ft. Sill test sites offer good flying conditions year-round and provide a variety of terrain features needed for conducting search-and-rescue and other test scenarios.”

 

Oklahoma has emerged as a leader in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). DHS is working closely with the state on the RAPS program through Gov. Mary Fallin’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Council, as the federal initiative is being conducted through OSU’s University Multispectral Laboratories’ advanced testing facility that’s uniquely positioned within Ft. Sill’s 200 square miles of restricted airspace.

 

“The strong support of the State of Oklahoma first responder community underscored the benefits of the Ft. Sill test site,” DHS said.

 

“Aerospace represents a significant portion of our state economy and UAS is expected to be the most dynamic growth sector within the aerospace industry in the next decade,” said Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma (USA-OK) President, James L. Grimsley. “This is an important time for the unmanned aerial systems industry and for Oklahoma.”

 

“Successful SUAS test operations at Ft. Sill may lead, later, to more complex SUAS operational testing at two other Oklahoma sites,” the RAPS Test Plan said. These sites are the Oklahoma National Guard’s Camp Gruber and the University Multispectral Laboratory’s test site at Chilocco, Okla., “both of which have varied and realistic urban complex facilities.”

 

The RAPS program began with DHS’s Request for Information (RFI) issued on Sept. 24, 2012 seeking white papers from SUAS vendors interested in participating in the testing project. The deadline for the papers was Oct. 31, 2012.

 

However, the testing program “is not linked to any intended procurement action, nor does it imply intent to initiate such action,” DHS explained.

 

Public and congressional concerns over the expanding use of UAVs of all kinds by federal, state and local law enforcement were exacerbated recently following a report by CNET.com that DHS has “customized its Predator drones” to be able to “identify civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones.”

 

CNET.com reported that DHS’s “specifications for its drones … ‘shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,’” and that “They also specify ‘signals interception’ technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones and ‘direction finding’ technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.”

 

The disclosure was based on an apparent “unredacted copy” of the May 26, 2005, CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) Performance Specification for the DHS/Customs and Border Protection Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System document that DHS released in redacted form to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

 

An updated March 10, 2010 CBP OAM performance specifications document for CBP’s Predator B UAV also was obtained by EPIC under the FOIA, and portions of it also were redacted.

 

Most of the redactions, though, were made pursuant to legitimate FOIA exemptions authorizing the withholding of records compiled for law enforcement purposes or that would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations.

 

Much of the redacted information deals with sensitive operational and performance capabilities of CBP’s fleet of Predators, as well sensitive technical data on the UAVs’ sensor packages and specifications.

 

A CBP spokesman told CNET.com the agency “is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices.”

 

DHS’s RAPS Program Manager, Dr. John Appleby, told Homeland Security Today the department “is very sensitive to the privacy and civil rights issues that are involved with our [UAV] systems and testing.”

 

But privacy rights advocates don’t see it that way. EPIC’s Ginger McCall, director of the group’s Open Government Project, has said CBP’s UAS requirements documents “clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” and that “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”

 

A DHS official who spoke to Homeland Security Today on background about the issue explained that CBP needed to have “a whole host of requirements for its [Predators] for all possible needs to support border security operations, but that doesn’t mean they’re all being used … people jump to all sorts of conclusions based on what they think they know or understand.”

 

The official said the Predators are capable of distinguishing whether objects detected on the ground are people, animals, vehicles or something else, and emphasized that this capability is needed when, for example, the UAVs are being used to support Border Patrol agents on the ground who are trying to apprehend human- or narco-traffickers in difficult terrain or circumstances, or when conducting border surveillance missions for potential illegal cross-border activity.

 

But this capability isn’t any different from ground-based radar that can distinguish between a human and a truck CBP has tested that may be incorporated into its Integrated Fixed Tower program Homeland Security Today examined in detail last Oct.

 

As for the deployment of communications interception technology on CBP’s Predators, officials adamantly said there are numerous legal issues involved “that would have to be worked out” before this capability can routinely be used.

Iraqi Birth Defects Are Much Worse Than Hiroshima

iraqi birth defects
(warning: graphic images)
The United States may be finished dropping bombs on Iraq, but Iraqi bodies will be dealing with the consequences for generations to come in the form of birth defects, mysterious illnesses and skyrocketing cancer rates.

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U.S. Commandos in 75 Countries Are Teaching Militaries to Torture, Kill, and Abuse Civilians

u.s., commandos, in, 75, countries, are, teaching, militaries, to, torture,, kill,, and, abuse, civilians, US Commandos in 75 Countries Are Teaching Militaries to Torture Kill and Abuse Civilians

(PolicyMIC) -While aggressive war, drone strikes, and a global network of military bases are the most visible aspects of American hegemonic power, what is often overlooked is the U.S. policy of training, assisting, and subsidizing foreign militaries. Although these actions are largely covert and discreet, they serve the same purpose of hegemonic control, diminish peace and national security, and help contribute to the subjugation of foreign citizens.

The training of foreign militaries to serve the interests of the American state goes all the way back to at least the Cold War. The U.S. used taxpayer money and weapons to subsidize foreign governments and militaries that were “anti-communist” even if the regimes were incredibly brutal and ruthless. All an authoritarian had to do was refer to his political opponents as “communists” and the Americans came rushing in.

In nearly every continent, the U.S. taught extremely fascistic, right-wing governments the art of cracking down on domestic dissent, jailing and torturing political opponents, centralizing power, making deals beneficial to American corporations, and employing death squads. Cheaper and less visible than directly invading and overthrowing governments the U.S. didn’t like, sock puppet dictators were the preferred means of implementing policy.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 left very little justification for an American imperial position throughout the globe, yet those same Cold War policies were not only not discarded, but expanded upon. Back in 2010, President Obama and the Pentagon began implementing a strategy with a larger emphasis on “combat operations” and military-to-military coordination. U.S. Special Forces are now operating in (at least) 75 countries, teaching their governments more efficient means of subjugating their populations, creating chaos, and serving the interests of the American empire.

Syria is the most recent example of this policy. While publicly claiming that the U.S. is helping build schools and hospitals in Syria, the Associated Press and New York Times reports document that the U.S. is training and arming Syrian “rebels” opposing the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. With the help of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, most of the weapons are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, many of whom belonging to groups that just a few years ago were killing U.S. Marines in Iraq.

President Obama, secretly and without the consent of Congress, sent more than 150 Special Forces to Jordan to train the anti-Assad fighters on the use of sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.

What is even more disturbing is that the Syrian “rebels” have most likely already used chemical weapons, have a reputation for beheading prisoners, and that U.S. support is prolonging the conflict in the region. The reasons for U.S. intervention are of course complicated and multifaceted, but it most likely has to do with attempts to destabilize Iran’s strongest ally and what the Romans called divide et impera.

Syria may be the most dangerous example of the Obama administration’s enhanced policy of covert military training and assistance, but unfortunately it is nowhere near the only one. In Mali, along with building a brand new drone base, U.S. AFRICOM chief General Carter Ham admitted that while training Mali’s military, they “skipped ethics.” Targeting dissidents based on ethnicity and executing them is a staple of the U.S.-trained Mali government.

In Indonesia, the Obama administration resumed training and assisting an elite Indonesian military unit whose members have been convicted of massive human rights abuses in East Timor. U.S.-trained forces in Guatemala have incredibly close ties to some of the region’s most violent drug cartels and are notorious for their brutal treatment of civilians during the Guatemalan civil war.

A report from the Washington Office on Latin America details a U.S. policy called “the Merida Initiative” designed to “help the region’s militaries take on internal security roles” and use American police to train local police. Although President Obama publicly denounced the 2009 military coup in Honduras, Wikileaks cables later revealed that the Obama administration had members of the State Department meet with the illegitimate new Honduran “president” to help coordinate the implementation of the Merida Initiative.

The policy of militarizing, arming, and subsidizing foreign governments, especially those with well-known and documented human rights abuses and commissions of war crimes, appears to be a staple of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. But these policies help contribute to the spread of dictatorships, humanitarian crises, and instability while making the possibility of resentment and blowback much more likely.

It is becoming more and more clear that the bipartisan consensus policy of military interventionism is a threat to peace and security. Neutrality and non-intervention, as the Founders recommended, is a far more practical alternative and is still the best way to spread the American values our politicians are so fond of endorsing.

Drone strikes kill, maim and traumatize too many civilians, U.S. study says

A Pakistani man burns an American flag during a protest against U.S. drone attacks in Multan on February 9, 2012.

 

(CNN) — U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — about 2%.

The report accuses Washington of misrepresenting drone strikes as “a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer,” saying that in reality, “there is significant evidence that U.S. drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.”

It also casts doubts on Washington’s claims that drone strikes produce zero to few civilian casualties and alleges that the United States makes “efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability.”

The drone strike program has long been controversial, with conflicting reports on its impact from U.S. and Pakistani officials and independent organizations.

President Barack Obama told CNN last month that a target must meet “very tight and very strict standards,” and John Brennan, the president’s top counter-terrorism adviser, said in April that in “exceedingly rare” cases, civilians have been “accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes.”

In contrast to more conservative U.S. statements, the Stanford/NYU report — titled “Living Under Drones” — offers starker figures published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

It also highlights harm “beyond death and physical injury,” publishing accounts of psychological trauma experienced by people living in Pakistan’s tribal northwest region, who it says hear drones hover 24 hours a day.

“Before this we were all very happy,” the report quotes an anonymous resident as saying. “But after these drones attacks a lot of people are victims and have lost members of their family. A lot of them, they have mental illnesses.”

People have to live with the fear that a strike could come down on them at any moment of the day or night, leaving behind dead whose “bodies are shattered to pieces,” and survivors who must be desperately sped to a hospital.

The report concedes that “real threats to U.S. security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones.” And it acknowledges that drone strikes have “killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks.”

But it concludes that drone strikes, which are conducted by the CIA in a country not at war with the United States, are too harmful to civilians, too sloppy, legally questionable and do more harm to U.S. interests than good.

“A significant rethinking of current U.S. targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue,” it says. “U.S. policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of U.S. targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.”

The study recommends that Washington undertake measures to rectify collateral damage — including making public detailed legal justification for strikes, implementing mechanisms transparently to account for civilian casualties, ensuring independent investigations into drone strike deaths, prosecuting cases of civilian casualties and compensating civilians harmed by U.S. strikes in Pakistan.

Nine months of research went into the report, according to its authors, which included “two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting.”

U.S. authorities have largely kept quiet on the subject of drone strikes in Pakistan.

However, the use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists has increased dramatically during the Obama administration, according to Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that monitors drone strikes.

Obama has already authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, Bergen wrote earlier this month. As a result, the number of estimated deaths from the Obama administration’s drone strikes is more than four times what it was during the Bush administration — somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618.

However, an analysis by the New America Foundation says that the civilian casualty rate from drone strikes has been dropping sharply since 2008 despite the rising death toll.

“The number of civilians plus those individuals whose precise status could not be determined from media reports — labeled ‘unknowns’ by NAF — reported killed by drones in Pakistan during Obama’s tenure in office were 11% of fatalities,” said Bergen. “So far in 2012 it is close to 2%. Under President Bush it was 33%.”

The foundation’s analysis relies on credible media outlets in Pakistan, which in turn rely on Pakistani officials and local villagers’ accounts, Bergen said, rather than on U.S. figures.

The drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where the national parliament voted in April to end any authorization for it. This, however, was “a vote that the United States government has simply ignored,” according to Bergen.

Obama told CNN’s Jessica Yellin this month that the use of armed drones was “something that you have to struggle with.”

“If you don’t, then it’s very easy to slip into a situation in which you end up bending rules thinking that the ends always justify the means,” he continued. “That’s not been our tradition. That’s not who we are as a country.”

Obama also addressed his criteria for lethal action in the interview, although he repeatedly declined to acknowledge any direct involvement in selecting targets.

“It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws. It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States,” Obama said.

His security adviser, Brennan, gave the Obama administration’s first public justification for drone strikes in his April speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank.

Such strikes are used when capture is not a feasible option and are conducted “in full accordance with the law,” Brennan said.

“We only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed, except in the rarest of circumstances,” he said.

Despite the “extraordinary precautions” taken by the United States, Brennan said, civilians “have been accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. When it does, it pains us, and we regret it deeply, as we do any time innocents are killed in war.”

Brennan also cited the “the seriousness, the extraordinary care” taken by Obama and his national security team in deciding whether to use lethal force.

The London-based rights organization Reprieve, which with the help of a partner organization in Pakistan facilitated access to some of the people interviewed for the Stanford/NYU study, backed its finding that the drone program causes wider damage than is acknowledged by the U.S. government.

“This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies,” said Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith.

“Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. Yet there is no end in sight, and nowhere the ordinary men, women and children of North West Pakistan can go to feel safe.”

The Anger Phase Of Humanity Is Coming

The NYT and Obama officials collaborate to prosecute Awlaki after he’s executed

New York Times building China hack

(Guardian) -The New York Times and the Obama administration have created a disturbing collaborative pattern that asserted itself again on Sunday with the paper’s long article purporting to describe the events leading up to the execution by the CIA of US citizen Anwar Awlaki. Time and again, the Obama administration shrouds what it does with complete secrecy, and then uses that secrecy to avoid judicial review of its actions and/or compelled statutory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. “Oh, we’re so sorry”, says the Obama DOJ, “but we cannot have courts deciding if what we did is legal, nor ordering us to disclose information under FOIA, because these programs are so very secret that any disclosure would seriously jeopardize national security”.

But then, senior Obama officials run to the New York Times by the dozens, demand (and receive) anonymity, and then spout all sorts of claims about these very same programs that are designed to justify what the US government has done and to glorify President Obama. The New York Times helpfully shields these officials – who are not blowing any whistles, but acting as government spokespeople – from being identified, and then mindlessly regurgitates their assertions as fact. It’s standard government stenography, administration press releases masquerading as in-depth news articles.

Sunday’s lengthy NYT article on the Awlaki killing by Mark Mazzetti, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane is a classic case of this arrangement. It purports to provide “an account of what led to the Awlaki strike” that is “based on interviews with three dozen current and former legal and counterterrorism officials and outside experts”. But what it really does is simply summarize the unverified justifications of the very officials involved in the killing, most of whom are permitted to justify themselves while hiding behind anonymity. It devotes itself with particular fervor to defending the actions of former Obama OLC lawyers David Barron and Marty Lederman, who concocted the theories to authorize due-process-free assassinations of American citizens (those same Democratic lawyers were, needless to say, among the most vocal critics of the Bush administration’s War on Terror policies that denied due process and relied on rampant secrecy).

There are many points to make about all of this. To begin with, will the Obama administration – which has persecuted whistleblowers with an unprecedented fervor and frequency – launch a criminal investigation to determine the identity of the “three dozen current and former legal and counterterrorism officials” who spoke to the NYT about the classified Awlaki hit, or, as usual, are such punishments reserved for those who embarrass rather than glorify the president?

Moreover, why can Obama officials run to the NYT after the fact and make all sorts of claims about the mountains of evidence supposedly proving Awlaki’s guilt, but not have done the same thing in a court of law prior to killing him? As the NYT notes, when the ACLU sued on behalf of Awlaki’s father seeking to enjoin Obama from killing his son, the Obama DOJ invoked the “state secrets” privilege, insisting that the evidence against Awlaki was so secret that national security would be jeopardized if disclosed to the court: the very same alleged evidence that Obama officials are now spilling to the NYT. They also deliberately refused to indict him, which would have at least required showing some evidence to a court to justify the accusations against him and would have enabled him to turn himself in and defend himself if inclined to do so.

All of this highlights why it’s so odious to prosecute and convict people in a newspaper after you execute them, rather than in a court of law before you end their life. As but one example, the statements about Awlaki from attempted underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab on which the NYT heavily relies to assert Awlaki’s guilt would have been subjected to intense cross-examination to see if they were simply the results of Abdulmutallab giving the government what they wanted – namely, statements that incriminated someone they wanted to kill – in exchange for favors as part of his plea agreement. It’s so basic, though the NYT seems not to have heard, that statements made by accused criminals in exchange for favors as part of a plea bargain are among the most unreliable.

But that kind of critical scrutiny only happens in courtrooms, with due process. By contrast, asserted government evidence is simply mindlessly assumed to be true when it’s fed to journalists after the fact without anyone to contradict it or any process available to disprove it. As the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights jointly said yesterday about this NYT story:

“This is the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government’s killing program, including its use against citizens.

“Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution’s due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Aulaqi posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court.”

Indeed, while the NYT asserts as though it’s incontrovertible that he was “a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen“, Yemen experts such as Gregory Johnsen have long said the opposite: “We suspect a great deal about Anwar al-Awlaki, but we know very little, precious little when it comes to his operational role” and “Mendelsohn [said]: ‘(Awlaki) played an important role in a string of attacks in the West’. We just don’t know this, we suspect it but don’t know it.”

Beyond that, the DOJ officials whose conduct is defended by this story have long been important sources to the very NYT reporters writing this article (not just during the Obama years but also the Bush years), so it’s a typical case of journalists using anonymity to serve the agendas of their government sources. And it’s yet another case where journalistic anonymity is granted not to protect whistleblowers from recriminations by the powerful, but to protect government officials from accountability so they can justify government conduct. And, finally, Marcy Wheeler details several extremely dubious claims that were passed off as fact by this NYT article: here and here.

But I want to focus on one key point. What prompted my opposition from the start to the attempted killing of Awlaki was that it was very clear he was being targeted because of his anti-American sermons that were resonating among English-speaking Muslim youth (sermons which, whatever you think of them, are protected by the First Amendment), and not because he was a Terrorist operative. In other words, the US government was trying to murder one of its own citizens as punishment for his political and religious views that were critical of the government’s policies, and not because of any actual crimes or warfare.

The NYT addresses this concern directly with a long, convoluted explanation that the Obama administration refrained from targeting Awlaki when they thought he was only a “dangerous propagandist”, and decided to kill him only once they obtained proof that he was an actual Terrorist operative. The NYT says that this proof was obtained in “late January 2010” when Abdulmutallab cooperated with authorities and claimed Awlaki participated in his plot. In order to validate this explanation, the NYT claims that a December, 2009 drone strike in Yemen that was widely reported at the time to have targeted Awlaki – and which media outlets falsely reported killed him – was actually targeting others, and that Awlaki would merely have been oh-so-coincidental (and perfectly legal) “collateral damage”. Here is the NYT’s effort to insist that the Obama administration targeted Awlaki for death only once it obtained evidence in late January, 2010 that he was more than a mere propagandist:

“[Awlaki’s] eloquent, English-language exhortations to jihad turned up repeatedly on the computers of young plotters of violence arrested in Britain, Canada and the United States.

“By 2008, said Philip Mudd, then a top F.B.I. counterterrorism official, Mr. Awlaki ‘was cropping up as a radicalizer – not in just a few investigations, but in what seemed to be every investigation.’

“In November 2009, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was charged with opening fire at Fort Hood in Texas and killing 13 people, Mr. Awlaki finally found the global fame he had long appeared to court. Investigators quickly discovered that the major had exchanged e-mails with Mr. Awlaki, though the cleric’s replies had been cautious and noncommittal. But four days after the shootings, the cleric removed any doubt about where he stood.

“‘Nidal Hassan is a hero’, he wrote on his widely read blog. ‘He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.’

“As chilling as the message was, it was still speech protected by the First Amendment. American intelligence agencies intensified their focus on Mr. Awlaki, intercepting communications that showed the cleric’s growing clout in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

“On Dec. 24, 2009, in the second American strike in Yemen in eight days, missiles hit a meeting of leaders of the affiliate group. News accounts said one target was Mr. Awlaki, who was falsely reported to have been killed.

“In fact, other top officials of the group were the strike’s specific targets, and Mr. Awlaki’s death would have been collateral damage – legally defensible as a death incidental to the military aim. As dangerous as Mr. Awlaki seemed, he was proved to be only an inciter; counterterrorism analysts did not yet have incontrovertible evidence that he was, in their language, “operational.”

“That would soon change. The next day, a 23-year-old Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried and failed to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit. The would-be underwear bomber told FBI agents that after he went to Yemen and tracked down Mr. Awlaki, his online hero, the cleric had discussed ‘martyrdom and jihad’ with him, approved him for a suicide mission, helped him prepare a martyrdom video and directed him to detonate his bomb over United States territory, according to court documents.

“In his initial 50-minute interrogation on Dec. 25, 2009, before he stopped speaking for a month, Mr. Abdulmutallab said he had been sent by a terrorist named Abu Tarek, although intelligence agencies quickly found indications that Mr. Awlaki was probably involved. When Mr. Abdulmutallab resumed cooperating with interrogators in late January, an official said, he admitted that ‘Abu Tarek’ was Mr. Awlaki. With the Nigerian’s statements, American officials had witness confirmation that Mr. Awlaki was clearly a direct plotter, no longer just a dangerous propagandist.

“‘He had been on the radar all along, but it was Abdulmutallab’s testimony that really sealed it in my mind that this guy was dangerous and that we needed to go after him,’ said Dennis C. Blair, then director of national intelligence.”

So that tortured justification for what the Obama administration did, laundered through the NYT, is clear in its claims: (1) we were legally and constitutionally barred from trying to kill Awlaki when we thought he was just a propagandist; (2) the December, 2009 strike wasn’t really targeting him, despite what media outlets reported at the time, because we did not yet have evidence that he was a Terrorist plotter; and (3) we acquired that evidence only in late January, 2010, and only then did we start to target Awlaki for execution. Obviously, those claims are necessary to defend themselves from what would clearly be criminal behavior: trying to kill a US citizen because of the government’s dislike for his political and religious speech.

But the first journalist to report on the existence of Obama’s kill list and the inclusion of US citizens was the Washington Post’s Dana Priest. On January 26, 2010, this is what she wrote:

“As part of the operations [in Yemen], Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a US citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of US citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said . . .

“The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a US citizen joins al-Qaeda, ‘it doesn’t really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them’, a senior administration official said. ‘They are then part of the enemy.’

“Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called ‘High Value Targets’ and ‘High Value Individuals’, whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three US citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”

According to Priest’s reporting back then, the Obama administration was trying to execute Awlaki as early as late 2009 – exactly when the Obama officials who spoke to the NYT admit that they had no evidence that he was anything other than a “propagandist” and this his targeted killing would therefore be unconstitutional and illegal. (That’s also a reminder that not only Awlaki, but at least two other still-unknown Americans, have been placed on Obama’s kill list). Priest then added that the cause of Awlaki’s being placed on the kill list were his “academic” discussions with Nidal Hasan: exactly what the NYT’s Obama-official-sources now say are protected free speech that could not be used to legally justify his killing:

“Intelligence officials say the New Mexico-born imam also has been linked to the Army psychiatrist who is accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, Tex., although his communications with Maj. Nidal M. Hasan were largely academic in nature. Authorities say that Aulaqi is the most important native, English-speaking al-Qaeda figure and that he was in contact with the Nigerian accused of attempting to bomb a US airlner on Christmas Day.”

Whatever else is true, there is a serious potential contradiction between the self-justifying claims of the NYT’s sources (we waited until late January, 2010 when we acquired evidence of Awlaki’s involvement in plots before trying to kill him) and Priest’s reporting (the Obama administration began trying to kill Awlaki in 2009, before it had evidence that he had done anything beyond “inspiring” plots with his sermons). The reason this matters so much regardless of your views of Awlaki is obvious, and is certainly on the mind of the NYT’s government sources: it would be purely tyrannical, not to mention unconstitutional and criminal (murder), for the US government to try to kill one of its own citizens in order to stop his critical speech.

It’s possible that there is a distinction in this reporting between being targeted for killing by JSOC versus the CIA, although the NYT’s government sources are clear that any government targeted killing of Awlaki without proof of involvement in terrorist plots – based solely on his sermons – would be legally dubious, at best (indeed, on Democracy Now this morning, the NYT’s Scott Shane said: “they had in fact decided they could not target [US citizen] Samir Khan, because he was a propagandist, and not an actual plotter, but he was killed anyway”); when I asked Savage about this, he told me this morning via email that “the exact date that Awlaki went on ‘the list’ is one of several issues that we dug into at length, and while we were able to mosaic together some answers to some previously outstanding questions this one remains murky”). It’s also possible that Priest’s reporting was wrong and efforts to kill Awlaki only began in 2010 once the government acquired what it claims is evidence of his involvement in Terrorist plots. It’s also possible that the NYT’s sources are simply wrong, or worse, when claiming that abundant evidence exists to prove Awlaki’s involvement in such plots.

But all of this only underscores why governments of civilized nations don’t first execute people without charges or due process and seek after the fact to prosecute and convict them in a one-sided, non-adversarial process of newspaper leaks; these are exactly the kinds of questions that are resolved by adversarial judicial procedures, precisely the procedures the Obama administration made sure could never take place. It also underscores why responsible media outlets should do more than print these unverified government accusations as truth, especially about a matter as consequential as the government’s assassination of its own citizens. That the Obama administration and the New York Times did neither of those things in this case is quite revealing about the function they perform.

Tiny, Suicidal Drone/Missile Mashup Is Part of U.S.’ Afghanistan Arsenal

 


(Wired) -U.S. troops may be winding down their war in Afghanistan, but they’re now also operating one of the most bleeding-edge lethal drones available. 

Afghanistan is the trial by fire of the Switchblade, AeroVironment’s much-hyped miniature mashup of drone and missile. Most killer drones are designed like aircraft and fire missiles at a target. The Switchblade is the missile.

Unveiled to much fanfare in 2011 — it even got its own weird Taiwanese animation — as of last fall, Army soldiers in Afghanistan had yet to use the six-pound Switchblade they paid some $10 million to procure. But the U.S.-NATO military command there says they’re loving what they’re seeing from it.

“Switchblade is in use in Afghanistan and has proven to be a very effective tool in our campaign,” the 3rd Infantry Division’s Lt. Col. Ben Garrett, a spokesman for U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan, confirms to Danger Room.

 

But that’s all the military will confirm. It’s not saying anything about “deployment, effectiveness, distribution or tactical employment” of the system, Garrett says, beyond an assurance that the Switchblade is “very effective.” Nothing about how many times it’s been operate; nothing about the breakdown between its surveillance missions and its lethal ones; and certainly nothing about its accuracy.

This is getting to be a thing with the International Security Assistance Force. The U.S.-NATO military command recently opted to stop publishing data on Taliban attacks. Danger Room has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with U.S. Central Command to learn more about the Switchblade.

Still, the specs alone on the Switchblade make it worth watching. Unlike every other drone in military use, the Switchblade only looks like an aircraft once its wings unfold, following a launch from a tube. Once in the air, the Switchblade’s size limits its flight time, but its cameras send a video feed back to a remote operator who could be a dismounted soldier. AeroVironment bills it as a tool for pursuit of an adversary on the move or for close air support-in-a can for troops pinned down by enemy fire. That’s because once a target comes into view, the operator can send the Switchblade on a one-way mission, careening it into an enemy position to detonate. It can also be pre-programmed to hit a set target.

While little battlefield information on the Switchblade has emerged, the Army already wants more than the 75 units it’s sent to Afghanistan, as Danger Room pal Paul McLeary of Defense News reports. Ultimately, the Army wants to acquire a “Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System” of tiny Switchblade-like drones — possibly based on the Switchblade itself — to spot and kill a target from six miles away. Much hinges on just how effective the Switchblade’s trial by fire in Afghanistan actually is.

US Air Force scrubs drone strike data from reports

 

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(RT) -As the US military continues to court scrutiny regarding drone use, the Air Force has stopped sharing information on the number of drone strikes in Afghanistan. Going one step further, it has removed those statistics from prior reports on its website.

The Air Force’s Central Command began keeping track of drone weapon releases in October 2012, according to the Air Force Times. The move was described at that time as a bid to “provide more detailed information on [drone] ops in Afghanistan,” said Central Command spokeswoman Capt. Kim Bender, the magazine reports.

Statistics were recorded as part of the policy for November, December and January. But when February’s numbers were published on March 7, there was only a blank space where the drone statistics were normally placed.

And beyond that, the monthly reports posted to the Air Force’s website had the drone data removed from them in recent weeks, with the data still being posted as late as February 16.

The data wipe comes as drone-use has fallen under close scrutiny in connection with the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA. Brennan faced fierce opposition in the Senate, though he was ultimately approved, because of his defense of drone use while acting as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser.

Cheney Admits that He Lied about 9/11

 

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(Washington’s Blog) -What Else Did He Lie About?

The New York Times’ Maureen Daud writes today:

In a documentary soon to appear on Showtime, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” [Cheney said]  “I got on the telephone with the president, who was in Florida, and told him not to be at one location where we could both be taken out.” Mr. Cheney kept W. flying aimlessly in the air on 9/11 while he and Lynn left on a helicopter for a secure undisclosed location, leaving Washington in a bleak, scared silence, with no one reassuring the nation in those first terrifying hours.

“I gave the instructions that we’d authorize our pilots to take it out,” he says, referring to the jet headed to Washington that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. He adds: “After I’d given the order, it was pretty quiet. Everybody had heard it, and it was obviously a significant moment.”

***

When they testified together before the 9/11 Commission, W. and Mr. Cheney kept up a pretense that in a previous call, the president had authorized the vice president to give a shoot-down order if needed. But the commission found “no documentary evidence for this call.”

In other words, Cheney pretended that Bush had authorized a shoot-down order, but Cheney now admits that he never did.  In fact, Cheney acted as if he was the president on 9/11.

Cheney lied about numerous other facts related to 9/11 as well.  For example, Cheney:

More cities get military tanks they don’t need

 

 

(Image credit: The Brain Toad/Flickr)

 

(EndTheLie) -Last month I reported on how Georgia law enforcement agencies have acquired a massive arsenal of military-grade vehicles and weapons through  the Department of Defense. Unfortunately, it’s far from isolated.

Many law enforcement agencies acquire military equipment through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Police have also acquired military robots through the DoD but they have other  ways to get their hands on armored surveillance vehicles and armored personnel carriers as well.

Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security gave the city of Keene, New  Hampshire, with a population of less than 25,000, $285,933 to buy an armored  counter-attack vehicle called a BearCat, according to Radley Balko.

Keene has had a whopping three murders since 1999 according to City Data and according to the American Civil Liberties  Union (ACLU), the city lied about the need for the tank-like vehicle built by Lenco Industries, Inc.

The ACLU points out that a Keene City Councilmember actually admitted that  the city lied about their need for the BearCat to DHS.

“Our application talked about the danger of domestic terrorism, but that’s  just something you put in the grant application to get the money,” the  councilmember said, according to the ACLU. “What red-blooded American cop isn’t  going to be excited about getting a toy like this? That’s what it comes down  to.”

Another example of this type of completely unnecessary equipment being  acquired by a law enforcement agency can be seen in Richland County, South  Carolina.

With a violent crime rate down 3.7% and property crime down 3.9% compared to last year, Richland doesn’t seem to have a  massive crime problem. Furthermore, many of the crimes there are related to drug  use or gambling, according to the ACLU.

Yet Richland’s Sheriff’s Department for some reason has an armored personnel  carrier they call “The Peacemaker.”

As was reported by Reason in 2008, the armored personnel carrier has a belt-fed  .50-caliber turreted machine gun which even the US military is reluctant to use  on humans.

(Image credit: mpeake/Flickr)

(Image credit: mpeake/Flickr)

How exactly a weapon usually reserved for use against armored vehicles will “save lives” is anyone’s guess.

These, like the examples in Georgia are far from isolated.

“Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have sweeping access to military equipment and to billions of  dollars in federal grant money to purchase heavy weaponry designed for overseas  combat missions, as well as access to anti-terrorism tactical training,” the  ACLU reports.

The ACLU recently launched a new project on the militarization of policing in America in response to  this growing trend.

While some may claim this type of equipment is necessary to assure the safety  of officers when facing massive shootouts or similar encounters, in reality, the  use is much more mundane in most cases.

“And in Maryland, the transparency law has shown that police departments in  the state are using SWAT tactics in precisely the ways critics have claimed: to  break into homes to serve warrants on people suspected of low-level drug  crimes,” according to a March 6 article by Radley Balko. “Many times, they’re not  even finding enough contraband to make an arrest. Yet there haven’t been any  calls in the state to reform the way SWAT teams are used.”

The disturbing results of the militarization of police are many. In 2010 a nine-year-old girl was shot in the neck and killed by a  SWAT team.

(Image credit: verifex/Flickr)

(Image credit: verifex/Flickr)

Shortly before she was killed, the SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade through the window of her home in Detroit,  Michigan, immediately setting her blanket on fire.

In another incident, Iraq war veteran Jose Guerena was shot 60 times by a  SWAT team when serving a search warrant as part of a multi-house drug  crackdown.

Guerena he picked up his own gun (but didn’t fire it) in an attempt to defend  his family after his wife saw a shadowy figure in their front yard holding a  gun. Police later defended their actions after retracting their claim  that Guerena shot first and declining to say if they found any drugs in his  house.

According to the ACLU, their affiliates in 23 states filed over 255 public  records requests on March 6 with law enforcement agencies and National Guard  offices to “determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled  the militarization of state and local police departments.”

More on the ACLU’s new project can be seen here.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of  a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a  wider audience? Feel free to contact me at admin@EndtheLie.com with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just  about anything that may strike your fancy.

 

Ohio man charged with shooting police robot that entered his bedroom

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(NaturalNews) It’s not a zombie apocalypse but it could be the next best  – or worst – thing, depending on your point of view, but one thing is for  certain: The robots are coming, and with them new laws that will undoubtedly be  utilized to protect them.

According to the Chillicothe Gazette, a  Gannett-owned Ohio newspaper, a 62-year-old man, Michael Blevins, who was  heavily inebriated was recently arrested for shooting (but not killing) a police robot following a six-hour stand-off.

The report said that  officers in the town of Waverly initially responded to a complaint that shots  had been fired inside a bedroom at a home, and that the homeowner had a number  of guns and was threatening neighbors.

Police knocked on the front door  of the home, called on the telephone and even brought in a trained negotiator in  an effort to make contact with Blevins, but he refused to speak to anyone for  hours. At that, officers decided to contact the Pike County Sheriff’s Department  as well as the state Highway Patrol’s Strategic Response Team for help. They got  a pair of search robots instead.

Attack of the drones?

The  first robot to enter the Blevins’ home was camera-equipped. Its mission was to  locate the man and his guns. A second, larger robot was then sent inside, but  when Blevins spotted that machine, he opened fire on it with a small caliber  pistol, damaging it.

After all that, police finally entered his home and  used a simple stun gun to subdue and arrest him.

Later, after obtaining a  search warrant, cops found several firearms in Blevins’, including a pair of  AK-47-style, semi-automatic rifles and a 75-round ammunition magazine, an item  that is illegal to own in Ohio.

Following an  evaluation by medical doctors and mental health professionals, Blevins was  charged with two felony counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance  and vandalism of government property, among other charges, the local paper  reported.

The use of robots by the military has grown exponentially over  the past decade. They are utilized as bomb-sniffing devices and for other  counter-IED missions in Afghanistan and were used is similar capacities in Iraq  before U.S. troops pulled out.

And just as the military has replaced a  lot of missions that can be harmful to soldiers with robots, civilian  authorities are doing the same for certain dangerous situations, to protect  officers. Other technologies being used by police  are alarming, however: They include automated license plate readers; taser  cameras; face ID scanners; facial recognition software; and drones. Robots are  only the latest high-tech device employed by police.

In fact, reports  David J. Hill at SingularityHub.com, another Ohio police department last  fall was showing off a recently acquired $11,000 AVATAR surveillance robot  from a firm called RoboteX; its mission is assisting the department’s SWAT  team.

Writes Hill:

Robots like these are increasingly being  used in standoffs in which armed people are not cooperating with police. For  example, a related event occurred last year in Utah when two cousins  who were roommates got into an argument and shots were fired. When SWAT arrived,  one cousin surrendered but the other refused to come out. He did, however,  surrender his shotgun when the police sent a robot in.

Increased  technology impinges on the Constitution

Departments are increasingly  looking to high-tech, high-end systems that make it easier to catch lawbreakers  while protecting the lives of officers, but as technology often does, with the  advances come additional new concerns about constitutional issues such as  privacy and other individual rights, Hill notes. “After all, the consequence of  the intoxicated Ohio man’s actions is to be charged with damage to police  equipment rather than, at the least, attempted murder charges if he had fired on  police.”

But would he have fired on police? These implications of  increased robot use are only now coming into focus. Notes  Hill:

Incidents between citizens and police  robots will be on the rise as more bots are brought into service. Hopefully,  we can remember that a potentially deadly armed standoff resulted in no one  being hurt, thanks to technology and those who use it  responsibly.

The key word, of course, is responsibly.

Predator drones can track cell phones and tell if a citizen is armed

Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is "armed or not."

Homeland Security required that this Predator drone, built by General Atomics, be capable of detecting whether a standing human at night is “armed or not.”

(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

(CNET) -The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.

The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.

Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s requirements for its drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements that provides additional information about the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities.

Homeland Security's Predator B drone can stay aloft conducting surveillance for 20 hours.Homeland Security’s Predator B drone can stay aloft conducting surveillance for 20 hours.

(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

Concern about domestic use of drones is growing, with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish legal safeguards, in addition to parallel efforts underway from state and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administration recently said that it will “address privacy-related data collection” by drones.

The prospect of identifying armed Americans concerns Second Amendment advocates, who say that technology billed as securing the United States’ land and maritime borders should not be used domestically. Michael Kostelnik, the Homeland Security official who created the program, told Congress that the drone fleet would be available to “respond to emergency missions across the country,” and a Predator drone was dispatched to the tiny town of Lakota, N.D., to aid local police in a dispute that began with reimbursement for feeding six cows. The defendant, arrested with the help of Predator surveillance, lost a preliminary bid to dismiss the charges.

“I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”

Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency declined to answer questions about whether direction-finding technology is currently in use on its drone fleet. A representative provided CNET with a statement about the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that said signals interception capability is not currently used:

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices. 

CBP’s UAS program is a vital border security asset. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and day-and-night cameras, the UAS provides real-time images to frontline agents to more effectively and efficiently secure the nation’s borders. As a force multiplier, the UAS operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain. The UAS also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations.

 

During his appearance before the House Homeland Security committee, Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who recently left the agency, testified that the drones’ direction-finding ability is part of a set of “DOD capabilities that are being tested or adopted by CBP to enhance UAS performance for homeland security.” CBP currently has 10 Predator drones and is considering buying up to 14 more.

If the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But their use domestically by other government agencies has become routine enough — and expensive enough — that Homeland Security’s inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign agreements “for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling mission requests.”

“The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” says Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”

A Homeland Security official, who did not want to be identified by name, said the drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition. The official also said that because the unarmed drones have a long anticipated life span, the department tries to plan ahead for future uses to support its border security mission, and that aerial surveillance would comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws.

The documents show that CBP specified that the “tracking accuracy should be sufficient to allow target designation,” and the agency notes on its Web site that its Predator B series is capable of “targeting and weapons delivery” (the military version carries multiple 100-pound Hellfire missiles). CBP says, however, that its Predator aircraft are unarmed.

Gene Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said CBP “needs to be very careful with attempts to identify armed individuals in the border area” when aerial surveillance touches on a constitutional right.

“In the border area of California and Arizona, it may be actively dangerous for the law-abiding to not carry firearms precisely due to the illegal flow of drugs and immigrants across the border in those areas,” Hoffman says.

CBP’s specifications say that signals interception and direction-finding technology must work from 30MHz to 3GHz in the radio spectrum. That sweeps in the GSM and CDMA frequencies used by mobile phones, which are in the 300MHz to 2.7GHz range, as well as many two-way radios.

The specifications say: “The system shall provide automatic and manual DF of multiple signals simultaneously. Automatic DF should be able to separate out individual communication links.” Automated direction-finding for cell phones has become an off-the-shelf technology: one company sells a unit that its literature says is “capable of taking the bearing of every mobile phone active in a channel.”

Although CBP’s unmanned Predator aircraft are commonly called drones, they’re remotely piloted by FAA-licensed operators on the ground. They can fly for up to 20 hours and carry a payload of about 500 lbs.

New Poll Finds 57 Percent of Americans Think Obama’s Assassination Program Is Unconstitutional

 

Defence Images / photo on flickr

 

(Reason) -When asked if they thought it was “constitutional or unconstitutional for the president of the United States to order the killing of American citizens who are suspected of being terrorists,” 57 percent of respondents said they thought it was unconstitutional, including 65 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents, and 44 percent of Democrats.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said it was constitutional for the president to kill Americans suspected of being terrorists, including 40 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Republicans, and 28 percent of independents.

As evidenced by several different questions, Americans have strong negative feelings about drones. One question asked, When it comes to the use of drones, how concerned are you that the government may abuse its power…a lot, some, not too much, or not at all? In response, 32 percent of respondents said “a lot,” 27 percent said “some,” 19 percent said “not too much,” and only 17 percent said “not at all.”

Forty percent of respondents, including 34 percent of Democrats, 36 percent of Republicans, and 47 percent of independents, said they were very worried that local police would use drones to invade their privacy; fully 60 percet said they were worried to some degree or another. Only 21 percent of respondents said they were “not at all” worried about police using drones to invade their privacy.

Respondents were evenly divided over this question: If a drone flew over your house and was recording you and your property without your permission, do you think should have the right to destroy it, or not? Forty-seven percent said yes, 47 percent said no, 4 percent didn’t answer, and one percent said, “It depends.”

What Reason-Rupe found about Americans’ sentiments towards targeted killing contradicts a recent WSJ/NBC poll, which found that “[a] solid majority, 64%, favored the U.S. policy of targeted assassinations of suspected terrorists by the use of drones in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan.”

There’s a pretty simple explanation for the conflicting responses, and you can find it in the questions. Reason-Rupe asked:

Do you think it is constitutional or unconstitutional for the president of the United States to order the killing of American citizens who are suspected of being terrorists?

While NBC/WSJ asked:

As you know, the United States has been targeting and killing suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Many of these killings have been conducted using unmanned aircraft that are controlled remotely, also known as drones. Do you favor or oppose the use of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones, to kill suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists? If you don’t know enough to have an opinion on this issue please just say so.

The NBC/WSJ poll question doesn’t distinguish between foreign-born terrorists and Americans suspected of being terrorists. That distinction, as Reason-Rupe found, matters.

How Does the U.S. Mark Unidentified Men in Pakistan and Yemen as Drone Targets?

 

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(ProPublica) -Earlier this week, we wrote about [1] a significant but often overlooked aspect of the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen: so-called signature strikes, in which the U.S. kills people whose identities aren’t confirmed. While President Obama and administration officials have framed [2] the drone program as targeting particular members of Al Qaeda, attacks against unknown militants reportedly may account [3] for the majority of strikes.

The government apparently calls such attacks signature strikes because the targets are identified based on intelligence “signatures” that suggest involvement in terror plots or militant activity.

 

 

So what signatures does the U.S. look for and how much evidence is needed to justify a strike?

The Obama administration has never spoken publicly about signature strikes. Instead, generally anonymous officials have offered often vague examples of signatures. The resulting fragmentary picture leaves many questions unanswered.

In Pakistan, a signature might include:

Training camps…

  • Convoys of vehicles that bear the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run. – Senior American and Pakistani officials, New York Times [4], February 2008.
  • “Terrorist training camps.” – U.S. Diplomatic Cable [5] released by Wikileaks, October 2009.
  • Gatherings of militant groups or training complexes. – Current and former officials, Los Angeles Times [6], January 2010.
  • Bomb-making or fighters training for possible operations in Afghanistan…. a compound where unknown individuals were seen assembling a car bomb. – Officials, Los Angeles Times [7], May 2010.
  • Travel in or out of a known al-Qaeda compound or possession of explosives. – U.S. officials, Washington Post [8], February 2011.
  • Operating a training camp… consorting with known militants. – High-level American official, The New Yorker [9], September 2011.

A group of guys…

  • Large groups of armed men. – Senior U.S. intelligence official, Associated Press [10], March 2012.
  • Groups of armed militants traveling by truck toward the war in Afghanistan. – Administration officials, Washington Post [11], April 2012.
  • The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp. – Senior official, May 2012.
  • “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40.” – Former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, Daily Beast [12], November 2012.
  • “Armed men who we see getting into pickup trucks and heading towards the Afghanistan border or who are in a training exercise.” – Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Council on Foreign Relations [13], January 2013.

Officials have characterized the intelligence that goes into these strikes as thorough, based on “days [14]” of drone surveillance and other sources — and said that [15] apparently low-level people may still be key to an organization’s functioning. In 2010, an official told the Los Angeles Times [7] that the CIA makes sure “these are people whose actions over time have made it obvious that they are a threat.”

In Yemen, signature strikes are reportedly bound by stricter rules [11]. Officials have often cited the necessity of a plot against Americans:

  • Clear indication of the presence of an al-Qaeda leader or of plotting against targets in the United States or Americans overseas. — Administration officials, Washington Post [11], April 2012.
  • “Individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans… or intelligence that…[for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.” — Senior administration official, Washington Post [16], January 2013

These strikes are not supposed to target “lower-level foot soldiers battling the Yemeni government,” U.S. officials told [17] the Wall Street Journal. A White House spokesman said last summer [18] that the U.S. “[has] not and will not get involved in a broader counterinsurgency effort” in Yemen.

But experts say some strikes [19] in Yemen do appear to have been aimed at local militants [20]. In Pakistan, in addition to low-level militants who might be involved in the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has sometimes hit [21] those who posed a threat to the Pakistani government.

As we detailed [1], signature strikes have also been criticized by human rights groups and some legal observers because of the lack of transparency surrounding them, including on the number of civilians killed.

Maine lawmaker on domestic drones: “If I saw one of those things flying over my house I’d shoot it down.”

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(CAV News) – Add Maine to the list of states debating the use of domestic drones and the concerns that “fly with it.”

As reported on our page nearly a month ago, the ACLU and other Maine lawmakers are at least trying to get out and ahead to protect Maine residents against the technology and its invasive capabilities.

Senator and Democrat John Patrick is proposing bill that would place restrictions on the use of domestic drones.

According to Rob Poindexter of WABI TV 5, Patrick’s bill would:

* Regulates unmanned aerial vehicles, including their acquisition and lawful operation by law enforcement agencies in collecting, disclosing and receiving information and the retention of information collected.

* For the permitted operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle, the bill requires the consent of the subject person, a warrant or court order, an emergency situation that threatens life or serious bodily injury or an emergency enforcement situation that threatens national security or convinces conspiratorial criminal conduct requiring immediate operation of the vehicle before a warrant can be obtained.

* The bill also allows delayed service of a warrant or court order informing the subject person until after the warrant’s or order’s issuance if necessary for avoiding certain adverse results.

*The bill provides for a private right of action or enforcement by the Attorney General for a violation and disallows the use of any information collected in violation as evidence in a hearing or court of law.

* The bill requires the Attorney General to report certain information concerning the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to the Legislature and the Administrative Office of the Courts and for law enforcement agencies and the Attorney General to post certain information on their publicly accessible websites.

Maine’s branch of the ACLU supports Patrick’s bill.

Other attending the hearing weren’t fond of the idea of these Orwellian devices flying around all so freely.

“If I saw one of those things flying over my house I’d shoot it down,” said Representative Wayne Mitchell.

Those comments were similar to those made by Judge Andrew Napolitano when he said, “The first American patriot that shoots down one of these  drones that comes too close to his children in his backyard will be an American hero.”

Other states such as Virginia and Washington got the ball rolling for other states in the union to take a close look at the intrusive use of UAV’s.

Washington, is in the early stages of tough drone laws.

Virginia, placed a two-year moratorium on the use of drones and Charlottesville Virginia become the first city in the union to pass anti drone legislation.

Texas and Minnesota are also working on their drone legislation to assure citizens of their privacy and protect them against unreasonable searches or seizures.

For the story on Maine’s hearing: http://www.wabi.tv/news/37997/should-law-enforcement-need-a-warrant-for-domestic-drone-use

Thanks to Rob Poindexter for sharing the story with me.

Soures: WABI, Before It’s News, US News, RT, Unexplainable Net

Written by: Derek Wood

Citizens Awareness Vanguard is: Chris Perkins, Derek Wood, and YOU! visit us on facebook!

WH Told Gibbs Not to Acknowledge Drone Program: ‘You’re Not Even to Discuss That It Exists’

 
Gibbs(CNSNews.com) – Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said before he became spokesman for the Obama administration he was told to “not even acknowledge the drone program…you’re not even to discuss that it exists.”

The administration’s drone program has come under scrutiny since a confidential Justice Department memo — leaked earlier this month — detailed the basis for drone strikes against alleged al-Qaeda operatives, including U.S. citizens.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” on Sunday, Gibbs was asked if he believes the White House has been “sufficiently forthcoming” about its drone-strike program.

 

 

“Well, I think you’ve seen recently the president discuss the need and desire to be more forthcoming,” Gibbs said. “I certainly think there are aspects of that program that are and will remain highly sensitive and very secret.”

“But let me give you an example here Chris,” Gibbs said. “When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.’”

“So I would get a question like that—literally I couldn’t tell you what Major [Garrett] asked, because once I figured out it was about the drone program I realized I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Gibbs said.

“But here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition,” he added. “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program—pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Gibbs said denying the drone program, as he was told to do, “undermines people’s confidence” in government.

“I think in many ways, and I think what the president has seen–and I have not talked to him about this, so I want to be careful, this is my opinion,” he said. “But I think what the President has seen is, is our denial of the existence of the program when it’s obviously happening, undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”

The Justice Department memo, released by NBC News on Feb. 4, reveals that American citizens can be the target of a drone strike if an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government determines they have “recently” been involved in “activities” posing a threat of violent attack, though the terms remain undefined.

US-led airstrike kills 10 Afghan civilians

an civiliansThis file photo shows Afghan villagers standing at a house that was hit by a US-led NATO airstrike in Sajawand village in Logar Province, south of Kabul.

(PressTV) -At least 10 Afghan civilians, including women and children, have been killed in an airstrike carried out by US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan.

Local officials said on Wednesday that the attack in eastern Kunar Province claimed the lives of “five children, four women and a man.”
A spokesman for the US-led NATO forces said they have launched an investigation into the report.

Afghans have become increasingly outraged at the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults by US-led forces in the country over the past months. The killings have been the main source of friction between Kabul and Washington.

In another similar attack on January 23, three Afghans were killed and two others wounded in the eastern province of Nangarhar when a US-led warplane targeted a residential building.
The US claims that its operations target militants, but local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after 11 years, insecurity remains in the country despite the presence of many US-led forces.

Dianne Feinstein’s shocking lies about the number of civilians killed by U.S. drone program

 

Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet speaks with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at the St. Francis Yacht Club during the San Francisco Fleet Week 2010 Parade of Ships. (Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy M. Starr/Released)

Vice Adm. Richard W. Hunt, commander of U.S. 3rd  Fleet speaks with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and San Francisco Mayor Gavin  Newsom at the St. Francis Yacht Club during the San Francisco Fleet Week 2010  Parade of Ships. (Image credit: U.S. Navy  photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy M.  Starr/Released)

(EndTheLie) – Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chair of the Senate Select  Committee on Intelligence, brazenly lied about the number of civilians killed by  the U.S.’s so-called “targeted killing” (or “targeted force” as she put  it) program during her remarks at the beginning of the confirmation  hearings of John Brennan.

This assassination program, mostly – but not entirely – comprised of strikes  carried out by drones, was recently shown to be even more disturbing than  previously thought with the leak of a Justice Department white paper, although a federal  court ruling determined that the Obama administration never has to explain  the legal basis for the strikes in court.

The program also has some calling for increased oversight through another secret court  even though Attorney General Eric Holder claims the secret reviews of classified evidence carried out by the  Obama administration count as due process.

“But for the past several years, this committee has done significant  oversight of the government’s conduct of targeted strikes, and the figures we  have obtained from the executive branch,  which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian  casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in  the single digits,” Feinstein said.

The claim that civilian deaths resulting from “the use of targeted force,” as  she put it, have “typically been in the single digits” is simply ludicrous.

Conor Friedersdorf massive underestimates the magnitude of this lie when he  calls the claim “imprecise.” It is nothing short of an egregious lie.

Even if Feinstein was using some of more “conservative” statistics like those  compiled by the New American Foundation – shown to be woefully inaccurate by Friedersdorf in July of 2012 – her  claim wouldn’t be truthful.

Researchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK estimates the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in  Pakistan – not including those killed by drones in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere – to be at a minimum 2 in 2004, 6 in 2005, 96 in 2006, 4 in 2007, 74 in  2008, 119 in 2009, 97 in 2010, 68 in 2011 and 7 in 2012.

Maybe Feinstein chose to only look at the figures for 2004, 2005, 2007 and  2012? Even then, the claim would be dubious at best since those figures only  include Pakistan.

Keep in mind, as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism points out, that from  2004-2013 the CIA has conducted 364 drone strikes in Pakistan. 312 of those have been during the Obama  administration.

Somewhere from 473-893 civilians have been reported killed as a result of  those 364 strikes and 176 children were reported killed in Pakistan alone.  Anywhere from 1,270 to 1,433 civilians were reportedly injured. Remember, this  is all just in Pakistan where the CIA targets rescuers and funerals with drone strikes.

In Yemen, 42-52 U.S. drone strikes have been confirmed from  2002 to 2013 while 54-64 total U.S. operations have been confirmed, according to  the Bureau. Possible extra U.S. operations range from 135 to 157 and possible  extra U.S. drone strikes range from 77 to 93.

The total number of people killed ranges from 374 to 1,112 with 72 to 178  civilians killed by all operations. The number of children killed by all U.S.  operations in Yemen during the period ranges from 27 to 37.

Thankfully, the numbers in Somalia are significantly lower, but those numbers are from  2007 to 2013. The total number of U.S. strikes is 10-23, while the total number  of U.S. drone strikes range from three to nine.

Total number of people reported killed ranges from 58 to 170 while civilians  killed range from 11 to 57 with one to three children reported killed.

Friedersdorf also points out that there have been instances where a single  strike caused more civilian casualties than she claims occur in an entire  year.

One example is a 2009 strike in Yemen which resulted in far more civilian  deaths than Feinstein’s numbers would allow.

“Some months after the attack in Al Majalah, Amnesty International  released photos showing an American cluster bomb and a propulsion unit from a  Tomahawk cruise missile,” according to an article published on the New Yorker’s Daily Comment blog. “A subsequent inquiry by the Yemeni parliament found that fourteen Al Qaeda  fighters had been killed—along with forty-one civilians, including twenty-three  children.”

As the article points out, when American officials were spoken to, “they  seemed genuinely perplexed. They didn’t deny that a large number of civilians  had been killed. They felt bad about it. But the aerial surveillance, they said,  had clearly showed that a training camp for militants was operating there.”

“It was a terrible outcome,” an unnamed official told Dexter Filkins, the  author of the piece. “Nobody wanted that.”

If Feinstein’s claim was accurate, the casualties from that single “targeted” strike would have to be spread out over some five years.

That’s not the only single incident that proves Feinstein’s claim to be  completely and totally false.

An incredibly detailed and lengthy report published in September 2012, “Living Under Drones,” by the International Human Rights and  Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic  at New York University School of Law focused on one such incident in  Pakistan.

The report focused on a single drone strike on March 17, 2011 in Pakistan  which killed around 40 or more people according to “nearly all available  sources.”

While individuals with Pakistani intelligence said that 12 or 13 of those  killed were Taliban militants, the report stated that, “the Associated Press  investigation found that it was likely only four. Of those four, only one,  Sherabat Khan, has ever been identified by name.”

Separate investigations carried out by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism “so far obtained the names of 24 civilians killed who died in the strike,” according to the report.

The most noteworthy of all points, however, is that according to a New York  Times report from last year, “Obama embraced a disputed method for  counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It 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.”

This method of counting civilian deaths is, on its face, completely  absurd.

Feinstein’s justification for trusting the Obama administration’s numbers are  perhaps even more absurd.

Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room asked Feinstein why the Intelligence  Committee would be confident in believing that the CIA was not misleading  Congress about civilian deaths from drones when they previously misled Congress  about their torture and detention program.

“That’s a good question, actually,” Feinstein said, according to Danger Room. “That’s a good question.”

“She said she felt the CIA wasn’t ‘defensive’ of the drones in the way it was  defensive of the torture program, however,” wrote Ackerman.

Feinstein refuses to even recognize the fact that the Obama administration’s  estimates are not only based on a patently absurd methodology but also that the  administration “has clear incentives to lie,” as Friedersdorf rightly points  out.

This issue is only going to become more important as outgoing Secretary of  Defense Leon Panetta stated that the U.S. needs an open-ended drone war in order to prevent a  future attack on America and the problem of domestic drone use is becoming increasingly  contentious.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of  a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a  wider audience? Feel free to contact me at admin@EndtheLie.com with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just  about anything that may strike your fancy.

 

In a Major Privacy Victory, Seattle Mayor Orders Police to Dismantle Its Drone Program After Protests

 

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(EFF) -In an amazing victory for privacy advocates and drone activists, yesterday, Seattle’s mayor ordered the city’s police agency to cease trying use surveillance drones and dismantle its drone program. The police will return the two drones they previously purchased with a Department of Homeland Security grant to the manufacturer.

EFF has been warning of the privacy dangers surveillance drones pose to US citizens for more than a year now. In May of last year, we urged concerned citizens to take their complaints to their local governments, given Congress has been slow to act on any privacy legislation. The events of Seattle proves this strategy can work and should serve as a blueprint for local activism across the country.

Back in early 2012, the Seattle city council was told that the Seattle police agency had obtained an authorization to fly drones from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But they did not find out from the police; they found out from a reporter who called after the council after he saw Seattle’s name on the list obtained by EFF as part of our lawsuit against the FAA.

City council was understandably not happy, and the police agency was forced to appear before the council and apologize. It then vowed to work with the ACLU of Washington and the FAA to develop guidelines to make sure drones wouldn’t violate Seattle citizens’ privacy. But as long as the guidelines weren’t passed in a binding city ordinance, there’d be no way to enforce them.

After a townhall meeting held by police, in which citizens showed up in droves and angrily denounced the city’s plans, some reporters insinuated that city counsel members’ jobs could be on the line if they did not pass strict drone legislation protecting its citizens privacy.

Documents obtained by MuckRock and EFF in October as part of our 2012 drone census showed that the Seattle police were trying to buy two more drones despite the controversy. But that ended yesterday as the Mayor put a stop to the program completely.

Critics of the privacy protests said the participants were exaggerating the capabilities of the Seattle drones, given they would only fly for less than an hour at a time and are much smaller than the Predator drones the military flies overseas and Department of Homeland Security flies at home.

But while Seattle’s potential drones may not have been able to stay in the air for long, similar drones have already been developed and advertised by drone manufacturers with the capability to stay in the air for hours or days at a time. In fact, Lockheed Martin has been bragging about a drone that weights 13.2 pounds (well within the FAA’s weight limits) that can be recharged by a laser on the ground and stay in the air indefinitely.

Since the Seattle protests have heated up, similar complaints have been heard at local city counsels and state legislatures across the country. At least thirteen states are now considering legislation to restrict drone use to protect privacy, and there are also members of Congress on both sides of the aisle pushing the same thing.

Here in the Bay Area, we’ve experienced a similar situation. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office tried to sneak through drone funding without a public hearing and told the county board of supervisors it only wanted to use the drone for emergency purposes. Yet in internal documents obtained by EFF and MuckRock as part of our 2012 drone census, the Sheriff’s Office said it wanted to use the drone for “suspicious persons” and “large crowd control disurbances.”

When EFF and ACLU held a press conference pointing out this discrepancy, the county backtracked and is now attempting to write privacy guidelines that could potentially be turned into binding law. We will keep you updated on further developments.

But regardless, it’s important that privacy advocates take the lesson from Seattle and apply it all over the country. This is an important privacy victory, and like we said back in May, local governments will listen to our concerns, so let’s make our voice heard.

Congratulations Charlottesville, Virginia! The First City to Pass Anti-Drone Legislation

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(Liberty Blitzkreig) -This simple piece of legislation proves that you can make a difference at the local level.  We need a lot more of this type of thing all over these United States.  As I have said many times, it’s not that I am against drones in all capacities; however, we must be vigilant about how these things are used and must have serious safeguards in place to protect civil liberties.  Kudos to the Rutherford Institute for leading the charge here.

From US News:

Charlottesville, Va., has become the first city in the United States to formally pass an anti-drone resolution.

The resolution passed by a 3-2 vote and was brought to the city council by activist David Swanson and the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group based in the city. The measure also endorses a proposed two-year moratorium on drones in Virginia.

Councilmember Dede Smith, who voted in favor of the bill, says that drones are “pretty clearly a threat to our constitutional right to privacy.”

 

“If we don’t get out ahead of it to establish some guidelines for how drones are used, they will be used in a very invasive way and we’ll be left to try and pick up the pieces,” she says.

“With a lot of these resolutions, although they don’t have a lot of teeth to them, they can inspire other governments to pass similar measures,” she says. “You can get a critical mass and then it does have influence. One doesn’t do much, but a thousand of them might. We want this on [federal and state lawmakers’] radars.”

Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans

 

 

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.”


But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about a newly obtained, confidential Department of Justice white paper that hints at the details of a secret White House memo that explains the legal justifications for targeted drone strikes that kill Americans without trial in the name of national security.

“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Read the entire ‘white paper’ on drone strikes on Americans

Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”  It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and  not discussed publicly.

Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration  officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s  Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly — or even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.

“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans.  “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the white paper. The spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, instead pointed to public speeches by what she called a “parade” of administration officials, including Brennan, Holder, former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and former Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson that she said outlined the “legal framework” for such operations.

Pressure for turning over the Justice Department memos on targeted killings of Americans appears to be building on Capitol Hill amid signs that Brennan will be grilled on the subject at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

On Monday, a bipartisan group of 11 senators — led by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon — wrote  a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the subject. While accepting that “there will clearly be circumstances in which the president has the authority to use lethal force” against Americans who take up arms against the country,  it said, “It is vitally important … for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how  the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority.”

Anticipating domestic boom, colleges rev up drone piloting programs

The completeness of the administration’s public accounts of its legal arguments was also sharply criticized last month by U.S. Judge Colleen McMahon in response to a  lawsuit brought by the New York Times and the ACLU seeking access to the Justice Department memos on drone strikes targeting Americans under the Freedom of Information Act.  McMahon, describing herself as being caught in a “veritable Catch-22,”  said she was unable to order the release of the documents given “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 the conclusion a secret.”

In her ruling, McMahon noted that administration officials “had engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens.” But, she wrote, they have done so “in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing … any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.”

In one passage in Holder’s speech at Northwestern in March,  he alluded – without spelling out—that there might be circumstances where the president might order attacks against American citizens without specific knowledge of when or where an attack against the U.S. might take place.

“The Constitution does not  require the president to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning, when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear,”  he said.

But his speech did not contain the additional language in the white paper suggesting that no active intelligence about a specific attack is needed to justify a targeted strike. Similarly, Holder said in his speech that targeted killings of Americans can be justified  if “capture is not feasible.” But he did not include language in the white paper saying that an operation might not be feasible “if it could not be physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity or if the relevant country (where the target is located) were to decline to consent to a capture operation.” The speech also made no reference to the risk that might be posed to U.S. forces seeking to capture a target, as was  mentioned in the white paper.

The white paper also includes a more extensive discussion of why targeted strikes against Americans does not violate constitutional protections afforded American citizens as well as   a U.S. law that criminalizes the killing of U.S. nationals overseas.

It  also discusses why such targeted killings would not be a war crime or violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations.

“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” the white paper reads. “In the Department’s view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly,  the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.”

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

 

(AlterNet) -The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public’s radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses? That’s L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport? That’s L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison.

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3’s venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we’re talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris’ Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

If you’ve heard of Harris at all, it’s likely been because its controversial Stingray product has been getting attention as an information-gathering tool with major privacy implications. The Stingray allows law enforcement to cast a kilometers’ wide digital net over an area to determine the location of a single cell phone signal – and in the process collect cell data on potentially hundreds of people who aren’t suspected of any crimes. EFF claims the device is a modern version of British soldiers canvassing the pre-Revolutionary colonies, searching people’s homes without probable cause – exactly what the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent. EFF describes the process this way:

“A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower—to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not— and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.”

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),the FBI has been using similar technology since 1995. But a recent federal case, United States v. Rigmaiden, has raised Fourth Amendment questions regarding whether law enforcement officials need to obtain a warrant before employing a Stingray. The judge in that case determined that the government hadn’t provided enough information about how the devices work, and ordered that the information collected in Rigmaiden couldn’t be used in court.

What’s especially troubling about Stingrays is that the government either won’t say, or doesn’t understand, how the technology works. The WSJ reported that the US Attorney making the requests “seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.”

And it’s not just the federal government that uses Stingrays. As Slate notes,referencing FOIA documents recently obtained by EPIC, “the feds have procedures in place for loaning electronic surveillance devices (like the Stingray) to state police. This suggests the technology may have been used in cases across the United States, in line with a stellar investigation by LA Weekly last year, which reported that state cops in California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona had obtained Stingrays.”

Harris has been tightlipped about the Rigmaiden case, but expect to be hearing a lot about Stingrays in the future.

BI2 Technologies

BI2 makes a fine pitch. Its iris-scanning technology can be made to sound very appealing. Iris scans are relatively non-invasive, there’s no touching involved so the likelihood of spreading disease is reduced, and as B12 states on its Web site, “there are no lasers, strong lights or any kind of harmful beams.” It also claims that iris scanning is “strictly opt-in,” and that a “user” (who in most cases would be better described as an “arrestee”) “must consciously elect to participate” in the scanning. (When I was arrested by the NYPD while covering a protest, the scan was voluntary — though the NYPD didn’t tell me that, a protester did. But if I refused to submit to it I could have been punished with an extra night in jail.)

Reuters reported that BI2’s iPhone-based iris scanner — called MORIS — is capable of taking an accurate scan from four feet away, “potentially without the person being aware of it.” MORIS has drawn harsh condemnation from the ACLU. The primary concern from privacy advocates is that law enforcement will deploy this technology in an overly broad way. ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told Reuters that he didn’t want the police “using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people.”

MORIS isn’t just for irises; it also scans faces. In 2011, the Wall Street Journalreportedthat the sheriff’s office in Pinellas County, Florida, “uses digital cameras to take pictures of people, download the pictures to laptops, then use facial-recognition technologies to search for matching faces.” New database technology like Trapwire, a data mining system that analyzes “suspicious behavior” in purported attempts to predict terrorist behavior, makes face scanning potentially more worrisome. Trapwire uses at least “CCTV, license-plate readers, and open-source databases” as input sources, and although it doesn’t employ facial-recognition software, the incentives to combine these types of technology is clear.

Beginning in 2014, BI2 will manage a national iris-scan database for the FBI, called Next-Generation Identification (NGI).Lockheed Martin is also involved in building the database.Much of BI2’s iris data comes from inmates in 47 states, and despite BI2’s claims that iris scanning can’t be gamed, that is not the case. Experts showed last summer that the iris can be “reverse-engineered” to fool the scanners, which are generally thought to be more accurate than fingerprinting.

The usual suspects lamented in 2011 that iris scanning isn’t used at airports or borders, but security creep is difficult to combat, especially once “national security” is invoked. Just days ago it was reported that the FBI is teaming with the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up iris scanning at US borders. AlterNet has previously reported that the Department of Defense scans the irises of people arriving at and departing from Afghanistan.

The story of BI2 is important because the initial technology is superficially appealing. The company’s first projects were called the Child Project, designed to help locate missing children; and Senior Safety Net, developed to identify missing seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s. According to B12’s Web site, sheriffs’ departments in 47 states use the BI2 iris-scanning device and database, which makes it easy to mobilize support to facilitate the safe return of children and seniors.

While the desire to find missing children and seniors is perfectly legitimate, the collection of biometric data is a pandora’s box. Once it’s opened, it’s proven difficult if not impossible to limit.

US Establishes Drone Base in Niger, Targets Regional Militia

 

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President Barack Obama

 
(GhannaMMA) -The United States of America is planning to establish a drone base in Niger, a country sandwiched between Nigeria and Mali, two nations that have been under attack from Islamic militants.

The drone base, according to a report in last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, will give the US military command increased unmanned surveillance missions on the activities of Boko Haram and other extremist groups in West Africa that are affiliated to Al Qaeda and other sectarian groups.

With the establishment of the drone base, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which has proved successful in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the goal is to limit risks involved with the use of humans and as well improve intelligence gathering around the desert belt connecting North and West African.
The report of the planned establishment of the drone base in Niger came on the heels of international efforts to rout out Islamic insurgents from Mali.

Nigeria, which is part of the international military coalition in Mali, has so far expended $32 million on its military expedition in the Sahelian nation, just as it has so far deployed 776 troops in the war-torn country.

More troops, to make up the 1,200 contingent Nigeria is contributing to the peace efforts, are expected to leave for Mali next week, THISDAY has learnt.

In order to sustain the peace efforts in Mali, a donors’ conference was held yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to raise funds for the military expedition during which global donors pledged the donation of $455.53 million.

When THISDAY made enquiries Tuesday from the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, how the plan by the US to establish the drone base in Niger would affect Nigeria’s security, especially the fight against Boko Haram terror, she said on the phone that government was reviewing the situation.

“I will make consultations and get across to you,” she added.
When contacted some hours later, she directed all enquiries to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim and Defence Headquarters for more information on the issue.

According to some military sources, who spoke with THISDAY on the issue, the plan has “been in the pipeline by the US African Command (USAFRICOM), especially to monitor the activities of Boko Haram and their growing links with international terrorist organisations like the Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM).

“However, it is like they are taking the decision seriously owing to the ongoing development in Mali, with Niger already providing a base for both Nigeria and other foreign troops.”

Another military source, who disclosed that the US already has a base in Niger, added that the drone base is also expected to provide intelligence and assist the French mission and war efforts in Northern Mali.

“It is part of the war efforts in Mali, which provides for both short and long-term measures as you are aware that the US already had some existing secret base in Niger,” the source said.

When he visited Nigeria last month, the Commander, USAFRICOM, Gen Carter Ham, had at the Nigerian Defence College (NDC) expressed concern over the increasing connectivity and collaboration between the network of Al-Qaeda affiliates and adherents in Africa, including the Boko Haram sect.

Ham while speaking on areas of common interests and challenges between Nigeria and US, explained that since the Al-Qaeda core has been significantly weakened, the group has simply mutated into various affiliate organisations, especially in the Middle East and Africa that are increasingly coordinating resources and intelligence to carry out their terrorist acts.

He had explained that the Al-Qaeda networks and affiliates, including Boko Haram, were changing in ways that increase threats to individual African states and regional stability, as well as to the US and international security interests.

THISDAY was also informed that Niger is strategic for the US, Nigeria and Africa’s fight against terrorism as it is a gateway between the North, West, East and Central Africa, with Nigeria’s porous northern border being of great concern.

In Addis Ababa Tuesday, President Goodluck Jonathan at a fundraiser for the military expedition in Mali, restated Nigeria’s commitment to the success of the exercise, stressing that this had informed the Federal Government’s commitment of human and material resources in the bid to recapture the country from the Islamic militants.

Jonathan, speaking at the end of the 20th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said Nigeria has so far expended $32 million on its military expedition in Mali.
The money, he added, was spent on troops’ deployment and logistics support for the contingent.

At the fundraiser, global donors pledged the donation of $455.53 million, exceeding by far the previous target of $50 million set by the AU.

Jonathan explained that besides the $32 million that Nigeria had spent on troops deployment and logistics, the Federal Government would spend an additional $5 million to assist the war-torn country.

He added that the extra $5 million was in response to demands for more donations.

Expressing Nigeria’s commitment to the international effort to restore normalcy in Mali, the president also stated that his administration had
re-constructed and refurbished some health facilities in Malian defence barracks, a project which he said cost Nigeria $5.5 million under the Security Sector Reform (SSR) intervention.

He said Nigeria as part of the international initiative being undertaken by the AU, ECOWAS, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN), aimed at mobilising adequate financial resources in support of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) as well as AFISMA, would not shirk its responsibility towards the global efforts to rout out the Islamic insurgents from Mali.
He said: “The collaboration between these four organisations on this initiative is a clear demonstration of international solidarity, sympathy and cooperation required for a definitive resolution of the Malian crisis which has serious international consequences.

“Specifically, Nigeria has commenced the deployment of 900 combat soldiers and 300 air force personnel to Mali as part of AFISMA. Nigeria has so far provided about $32 million for the immediate deployment and logistic support for the troops.

“Prior to this, Nigeria dispatched relief and humanitarian relief and supplies amounting to US$2 million and Nigeria has undertaken the re-construction and refurbishment of a number of clinics in the military barracks of some of the Malian Defence and Security Forces, as part of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) intervention to the tune of US$5.5 million.”

Recalling his efforts as a co-mediator in the crisis since October 2012, he said that the antidote to the crisis is the implementation of the ECOWAS road map for the resolution of the crisis.

“For this reason, the pledge (of $5million) I make today (yesterday) is a further expression of our commitment to a worthy international effort,” he said.

He urged the conference to use the funds so raised not only for defence and security matters, but also for the provision of necessary humanitarian support.

The president pointed out that the situation in Mali called for cooperation, sacrifice and action on the part of strategic partners, the countries of the sub-region, Africa and indeed the entire international community.

Chairman of the AU and Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, said in his remarks that the funds pledged at the conference could assist to mobilise the necessary resources to maintain the gains of the military expedition and re-energise the political process in Mali.

So far, Nigeria has deployed 776 troops in Mali and more members of the contingent that will make up the 1,200 troops Nigeria has pledged are expected to leave for Mali next week.

The first batch of the Nigerian contingent, comprising members of the Nigerian Air Force and Army, left Nigeria on January 17 via Port Harcourt and Kaduna under the aegis of the Africa-led International Mission in Mali (AFISMA) spearheaded by ECOWAS.

However, THISDAY learnt that Nigerian troops have not been embedded with the French troops that were already in the country fighting with Malian soldiers to chase away the insurgents.

A defence ministry source further revealed that not all members of ECOWAS had deployed their troops in Mali.

US could attack Syria with chemical weapons, reveals an E-mail leak

 

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(Dailybhaskar)- Through an e-mail which has now surfaced in the public domain, White House’s plans of attacking Syria with chemical weapons has come to light. A report that came out Monday highlighted the exchange of e-mails where two senior officials talked about future plan against Syria.
 
Washington had approved the policy discussed according to which Qatar would financially aid the rebellious army.
 
US President Barack Obama had made it clear to Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad that it would not tolerate Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own people.
 
 
According to reports, the e-mail was hacked by a hacker in Malaysia. US has refused a comment on this matter.