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Giant Portrait Shows Drone Operators That People Aren’t “Bug Splats”

From where a drone operator’s sitting, one blurry blob of pixels looks almost exactly like the next blurry blob of pixels, which is how the term “bug splat” worked its way into modern military slang as a way of referring to a kill. Now, though, a giant art installation in Pakistan wants to show drone operators that its people are anything but anonymous white blobs—and that that “bug splat” belongs to an actual human being.

laliberty:

Giant Portrait Shows Drone Operators That People Aren’t “Bug Splats”

From where a drone operator’s sitting, one blurry blob of pixels looks almost exactly like the next blurry blob of pixels, which is how the term “bug splat” worked its way into modern military slang as a way of referring to a kill. Now, though, a giant art installation in Pakistan wants to show drone operators that its people are anything but anonymous white blobs—and that that “bug splat” belongs to an actual human being.

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Torture, racism, drones & unlawful killings: UN Human Rights Committee releases report on US government
March 28, 2014

The United Nations Human Rights Committee completed its review of the United States’ compliance with a major human rights treaty. It takes issue with the government’s interpretation that the treaty only applies to persons when they are inside the country and also expresses concern with drones, racism, gun violence, excessive use of force by police, Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, mandatory detention of immigrants and impunity for those who commit torture and unlawful killings.

It is the Obama administration’sposition that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US is a signatory, does not impose any “human rights obligations on American military and intelligence forces when they operate abroad.”The treaty covers “individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction” so the committee refused to accept this position.

It expressed concern about the “limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the US government, including private contractors, for unlawful killings in its international operations and the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in US custody, including outside its territory, as part of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” program.”

“The Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meager number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives,” the Committee added.

Torture victims, in general, are unable to claim compensation from the US government and its officials “due to the application of broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity.” The US lacks legislation prohibiting all forms of torture.

The review drew attention to “targeted killings” in “extraterritorial counterterrorism operations” with drones and criticized the “lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes.” It questioned the government’s “very broad approach to the definition and the geographical scope of an armed conflict, including the end of hostilities, the unclear interpretation of what constitutes an ‘imminent threat’ and who is a combatant or civilian taking a direct part in hostilities.”

On the continued detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the review lamented the fact that President Barack Obama’s administration has no timeline for the closure of the prison.

NSA surveillance was highlighted the body of secret law that has developed, which makes it possible for the government to systematically violate privacy rights. It expressed concern that non-US citizens receive “limited protection against excessive surveillance.”

This review acknowledged the “practice of racial profiling and surveillance by law enforcement officials targeting certain ethnic minorities and the surveillance of Muslims undertaken” by the FBI and New York Police Department in the “absence of any suspicion of any wrongdoing.”

When it comes to indigenous people, “insufficient measures,” the committee said, are being taken to protect  sacred areas from “desecration, contamination and destruction as a result of urbanization, extractive industries, industrial development, tourism and toxic contamination.”

The committee noted the significant racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty. African-Americans are disproportionately affected and this is “exacerbated” by a rule that discrimination can only be proven on a case-by-case basis. Plus, a high number of individuals are wrongly sentenced to death and untested lethal drugs are being used to execute people.

It also called attention to the “high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces” like the Chicago Police Department and continued reports of excessive use force by law enforcement including “deadly use of tasers, which has a disparate impact on African-Americans.”

Also, as highlighted in the report’s findings, high numbers of “gun-related deaths and injuries” and the “disparate impact of gun violence on minorities, women and children” persist. There is a steady trend of “criminalization” of homeless people, who engage in “everyday activities, such as eating, sleeping or sitting in particular areas, etc.” Students in schools are being increasingly criminalized by administrators seeking to “tackle disciplinary issues” in schools.

In the criminal justice system, juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole for homicides and adults can be sentenced to life without parole for “non-homicide related sentences.” A number of states” exclude 16 and 17 year olds from juvenile court jurisdictions and thus juveniles continue to be tried in adult courts and to be incarcerated in adult institutions.”

Solitary confinement continues to be practiced in US prisons. “Juveniles and persons with mental disabilities under certain circumstances” may be subject to “prolonged solitary confinement” (which often amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment or torture).

Immigrants, the review found, are subject to “mandatory detention” in violation of the treaty. The “mandatory nature of deportation” is extremely troubling. It also is problematic that undocumented immigrants and children are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.

There also is “widespread use of non-consensual psychiatric medication, electroshock and other restrictive and coercive practices in mental health services.”

The Committee would like to see the US government “disclose the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal basis for specific attacks, the process of target identification and the circumstances in which drones are used,” which has been a top priority of human rights organizations in the country. The Obama administration has vigorously resisted this call.

Like numerous human rights groups, it urged the US to transfer detainees “designated for transfer” to countries, including Yemen. Provide detainees with a fair trial or immediate release and “end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial.” It suggested the US “ensure that any criminal cases against detainees held in Guantánamo and military facilities in Afghanistan are dealt with within the criminal justice system rather than military commissions.”

Furthermore, it recommended a federal moratorium on the death penalty, reforming surveillance so it does not violate privacy, impose strict limits on solitary confinement, enact legislation to prohibit torture. And, to address impunity, the recommendation that “command responsibility” be incorporated into criminal law was made, along with a call to “declassify and make public the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA secret detention program.

Source

~American excellence~

U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolutionMarch 20, 2014
Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.
The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.
The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.
The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.
The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”
Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.
Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.
Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”
It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.
Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”
Full article

U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolution
March 20, 2014

Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.

The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.

The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.

The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.

"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”

Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.

Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.

Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”

It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.

Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”

Full article

More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years
January 23, 2014

Five years ago, on January 23 2009, a CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan’s tribal regions. It was the third day of Barack Obama’s presidency, and this was the new commander-in-chief’s first covert drone strike.

Initial reports said up to ten militants were killed, including foreign fighters and possibly a ‘high-value target’ – a successful first hit for the fledgling administration.

But reports of civilian casualties began to emerge. As later reports revealed, the strike was far from a success. At least nine civilians died, most of them from one family. There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.

Later that day, the CIA attacked again – and levelled another house. It proved another mistake, this time one that killed between five and ten people, all civilians.

Obama was briefed on the civilian casualties almost immediately and was ‘understandably disturbed’, Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman later wrote. Three days earlier, in his inauguration address, Obama had told the world ‘that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.’

The Pakistani government also knew civilians had been killed in the strikes. A record of the strikes made by the local political administration and published by the Bureau last year listed nine civilians among the dead. But the government said nothing about this loss of life.

Yet despite this disastrous start the Obama administration markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.

Lethal strikes
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.

Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.

The apparent change in targeting  is well demonstrated by comparing a strike carried out by the Bush administration in 2006 and one seven years later under Obama. On October 30 2006 at least 68 children were killed when CIA drones destroyed a madrassa – a religious school – in the Bajaur area of Pakistan’s tribal belt. The attack was reportedly targeting then-al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri. He escaped. On November 21 last year, drones again targeted a madrassa, this time in Hangu, outside the tribal regions. As many as 80 students were sleeping in the building. But the strike destroyed a specific portion of the building – just one or two rooms – and killed between six and nine people.

In Yemen, however, civilians continue to die in US drone strikes. Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.

Drones were not the first weapon the administration turned to when it started to attack the country. On December 17 2009 a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.

The missile slammed into a hamlet hitting one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least 41 civilians dead, including at least 21 children and 12 women – five of them were pregnant. A week earlier President Obama had been awardedthe Nobel Peace Prize. He used his acceptance speech to defend the use of force at times as ‘not only necessary but morally justified’. He warned that ‘negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms’.

Full article

…can we all just talk about this? Where is the outrage?

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake

December 12, 2013

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

"An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital," one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the militant network.

Yemen, AQAP’s main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

Stabilizing the country, which is also struggling with southern separatists and northern rebels, is an international priority due to fears of disorder in a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

On Monday, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen.

Source

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Confirmed drone strikes: 55-65
Civilians killed: 21-56
Children killed: 5
Injured: 67-150
Total killed: 269-389

Possible extra drone strikes: 85-104

(The drone attack) created a disruption in our lives. Our children live in fear. They don’t want to go to school. They don’t want to play outside.

Rafiq Rehman, whose mother was killed in an American drone strike in North Waziristan. Rehman & his two children went before Congress today to demand an end to covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia & in other countries.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 376 total strikes have taken place in Pakistan, killing up to 926 civilians and as many as 200 children.

Obama has not delivered on May’s promise on transparency on drone strikesAugust 18, 2013
The media estimate that more than  37 people have died in a series of strikes in Yemen. The US government has refused to officially acknowledge the strikes surge or  reports of potentially unlawful deaths – just as it did, for years, refuse to confirm reports of the more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan. On drones, secrecy is business as usual – and it carries on.
Earlier this summer, however, there was hope for a different way forward. In late May, the White House released more information about US drone strikes than it ever had before. Following a  major address on national security by President Obama, the government pledged to keep sharing “as much information as possible”.
In fact, since May, the White House has not officially released any new information on drone strikes (though leaks still abound). While NSA surveillance has taken center-stage, the government’s policy of secrecy and obfuscation on drones persists, too. Past critics of the drone program – ranging from Senator Rand Paul (Republican, Kentucky) to Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) – should take notice. It is time to renew and expand the demand for answers about who is being killed.
Instead of acknowledging the new strikes and describing a coherent policy and legal approach, the government has again chosen to selectively disclose information that raises more questions than it answers. Thus, an unattributed leak to the  New York Times on Monday served up a major policy change in the form of a morsel, with little elaboration, that a recent terrorist threat has “expanded the scope of people we could go after”.
So, the question of whom the  United States believes it can kill in drone strikes remains, as it ever was, full of unknowns. A handful of bullet-points on the government’s  "policy standards" for using lethal force, which the White House released in May concurrently with the president’s national security speech, initially appeared to provide some guidance. But it expressly does not apply in “extraordinary circumstances”, and since the embassy closures of earlier this month could be interpreted as providing such justification, the memorandum may not be relevant to the latest spate of strikes in Yemen.
The White House could clarify this issue; better yet, it could move beyond conveniently malleable policy standards and describe how the government applies existing international law. Instead, the White House has again chosen to operate secretly and under rules of its own creation, which may permit killing individuals under a concept of “imminence” (of threat) that departs radically from all conventional interpretations of the law.
Even more damning is that, in the absence of any commitment to investigating credible allegations of unlawful deaths, the United States appears indifferent to the question of who is actually dying in drone strikes. President Obama admitted in May that four US citizens had been killed, three of whom – including 16-year-old Abdulrahman Aal-Awlaki – he admitted were not intended targets. But the president did not define the identities of the more than 4,000 other people killed, or specifically address reports that a significant number of the dead – in assessments varying between 400 and nearly 1,000, according to the  Bureau of Investigative Journalism – were civilians.
When the president acknowledges four deaths of US citizens, but not 4,000 deaths of non-Americans, he signals to the world a callous and discriminatory disregard for human life. Perhaps only a fraction of these 4,000 deaths were unlawful. But acknowledging and investigating these deaths is a matter of dignity and justice – for the survivors of strikes, their communities and their countrymen.
Full article

Obama has not delivered on May’s promise on transparency on drone strikes
August 18, 2013

The media estimate that more than  37 people have died in a series of strikes in Yemen. The US government has refused to officially acknowledge the strikes surge or  reports of potentially unlawful deaths – just as it did, for years, refuse to confirm reports of the more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan. On drones, secrecy is business as usual – and it carries on.

Earlier this summer, however, there was hope for a different way forward. In late May, the White House released more information about US drone strikes than it ever had before. Following a  major address on national security by President Obama, the government pledged to keep sharing “as much information as possible”.

In fact, since May, the White House has not officially released any new information on drone strikes (though leaks still abound). While NSA surveillance has taken center-stage, the government’s policy of secrecy and obfuscation on drones persists, too. Past critics of the drone program – ranging from Senator Rand Paul (Republican, Kentucky) to Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) – should take notice. It is time to renew and expand the demand for answers about who is being killed.

Instead of acknowledging the new strikes and describing a coherent policy and legal approach, the government has again chosen to selectively disclose information that raises more questions than it answers. Thus, an unattributed leak to the  New York Times on Monday served up a major policy change in the form of a morsel, with little elaboration, that a recent terrorist threat has “expanded the scope of people we could go after”.

So, the question of whom the  United States believes it can kill in drone strikes remains, as it ever was, full of unknowns. A handful of bullet-points on the government’s  "policy standards" for using lethal force, which the White House released in May concurrently with the president’s national security speech, initially appeared to provide some guidance. But it expressly does not apply in “extraordinary circumstances”, and since the embassy closures of earlier this month could be interpreted as providing such justification, the memorandum may not be relevant to the latest spate of strikes in Yemen.

The White House could clarify this issue; better yet, it could move beyond conveniently malleable policy standards and describe how the government applies existing international law. Instead, the White House has again chosen to operate secretly and under rules of its own creation, which may permit killing individuals under a concept of “imminence” (of threat) that departs radically from all conventional interpretations of the law.

Even more damning is that, in the absence of any commitment to investigating credible allegations of unlawful deaths, the United States appears indifferent to the question of who is actually dying in drone strikes. President Obama admitted in May that four US citizens had been killed, three of whom – including 16-year-old Abdulrahman Aal-Awlaki – he admitted were not intended targets. But the president did not define the identities of the more than 4,000 other people killed, or specifically address reports that a significant number of the dead – in assessments varying between 400 and nearly 1,000, according to the  Bureau of Investigative Journalism – were civilians.

When the president acknowledges four deaths of US citizens, but not 4,000 deaths of non-Americans, he signals to the world a callous and discriminatory disregard for human life. Perhaps only a fraction of these 4,000 deaths were unlawful. But acknowledging and investigating these deaths is a matter of dignity and justice – for the survivors of strikes, their communities and their countrymen.

Full article

Obama ‘concerned & disappointed’ after respected journalist who exposed US war crimes is freed in YemenJuly 26, 2013
The White House is “concerned and disappointed” over the news that Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who was kept in a Yemeni jail for three years per the request of the Obama administration after he exposed a deadly U.S. drone strike, was released Tuesday.
Following news of Shaye’s release, journalist Jeremy Scahill, who has written extensively about Shaye’s story, contacted the White House for a comment.
The White House’s response was brief and alarming:

We are concerned and disappointed by the early release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who was sentenced by a Yemeni court to five years in prison for his involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Scahill and numerous other journalists who have followed the story, Shaye’s only involvement with Al Qaeda was conducting interviews with their members for major news outlets that included the Washington Post, ABC News and the New York Times.
Shaye’s legal troubles only arose after he uncovered the deadly U.S. strike that killed dozens of innocent Yemeni civilians, after which he was thrown in prison. At one point Shaye was slated for early release, but a phone call from president Obama urged Yemeni officials to keep him behind bars.
"We should let that statement set in," Scahill said of the White House’s response. “The White House is saying that they are disappointed and concerned that a Yemeni journalist has been released from a Yemeni prison.”
"This is a man who was put in prison because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children."
Watch Scahill in an interview with Democracy Now!, which aired Thursday morning.
Source
….& the Obama administration’s war on truth continues.

Obama ‘concerned & disappointed’ after respected journalist who exposed US war crimes is freed in Yemen
July 26, 2013

The White House is “concerned and disappointed” over the news that Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who was kept in a Yemeni jail for three years per the request of the Obama administration after he exposed a deadly U.S. drone strike, was released Tuesday.

Following news of Shaye’s release, journalist Jeremy Scahill, who has written extensively about Shaye’s story, contacted the White House for a comment.

The White House’s response was brief and alarming:

We are concerned and disappointed by the early release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who was sentenced by a Yemeni court to five years in prison for his involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Scahill and numerous other journalists who have followed the story, Shaye’s only involvement with Al Qaeda was conducting interviews with their members for major news outlets that included the Washington PostABC News and the New York Times.

Shaye’s legal troubles only arose after he uncovered the deadly U.S. strike that killed dozens of innocent Yemeni civilians, after which he was thrown in prison. At one point Shaye was slated for early release, but a phone call from president Obama urged Yemeni officials to keep him behind bars.

"We should let that statement set in," Scahill said of the White House’s response. “The White House is saying that they are disappointed and concerned that a Yemeni journalist has been released from a Yemeni prison.”

"This is a man who was put in prison because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children."

Watch Scahill in an interview with Democracy Now!, which aired Thursday morning.

Source

….& the Obama administration’s war on truth continues.

The drone that killed my grandson by Nasser al-AwlakiJuly 20, 2013
I learned that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman — a United States citizen — had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died.
The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen.
I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.
Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death.
The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not “specifically targeted,” raising more questions than he answered.
My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable. On Friday, I will petition a federal court in Washington to require the government to do just that.
Abdulrahman was born in Denver. He lived in America until he was 7, then came to live with me in Yemen. He was a typical teenager — he watched “The Simpsons,” listened to Snoop Dogg, read “Harry Potter” and had a Facebook page with many friends. He had a mop of curly hair, glasses like me and a wide, goofy smile.
In 2010, the Obama administration put Abdulrahman’s father, my son Anwar, on C.I.A. and Pentagon “kill lists” of suspected terrorists targeted for death. A drone took his life on Sept. 30, 2011.
The government repeatedly made accusations of terrorism against Anwar — who was also an American citizen — but never charged him with a crime. No court ever reviewed the government’s claims nor was any evidence of criminal wrongdoing ever presented to a court. He did not deserve to be deprived of his constitutional rights as an American citizen and killed.
Early one morning in September 2011, Abdulrahman set out from our home in Sana by himself. He went to look for his father, whom he hadn’t seen for years. He left a note for his mother explaining that he missed his father and wanted to find him, and asking her to forgive him for leaving without permission.
A couple of days after Abdulrahman left, we were relieved to receive word that he was safe and with cousins in southern Yemen, where our family is from. Days later, his father was targeted and killed by American drones in a northern province, hundreds of miles away. After Anwar died, Abdulrahman called us and said he was going to return home.
That was the last time I heard his voice. He was killed just two weeks after his father.
A country that believes it does not even need to answer for killing its own is not the America I once knew. From 1966 to 1977, I fulfilled a childhood dream and studied in the United States as a Fulbright scholar, earning my doctorate and then working as a researcher and assistant professor at universities in New Mexico, Nebraska and Minnesota.
I have fond memories of those years. When I first came to the United States as a student, my host family took me camping by the ocean and on road trips to places like Yosemite, Disneyland and New York — and it was wonderful.
After returning to Yemen, I used my American education and skills to help my country, serving as Yemen’s minister of agriculture and fisheries and establishing one of the country’s leading institutions of higher learning, Ibb University. Abdulrahman used to tell me he wanted to follow in my footsteps and go back to America to study. I can’t bear to think of those conversations now.
After Anwar was put on the government’s list, but before he was killed, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights represented me in a lawsuitchallenging the government’s claim that it could kill anyone it deemed an enemy of the state.
The court dismissed the case, saying that I did not have standing to sue on my son’s behalf and that the government’s targeted killing program was outside the court’s jurisdiction anyway.
After the deaths of Abdulrahman and Anwar, I filed another lawsuit, seeking answers and accountability. The government has argued once again that its targeted killing program is beyond the reach of the courts. I find it hard to believe that this can be legal in a constitutional democracy based on a system of checks and balances.
The government has killed a 16-year-old American boy. Shouldn’t it at least have to explain why?

Nasser al-Awlaki, the founder of Ibb University and former president of Sana University, served as Yemen’s minister of agriculture and fisheries from 1988 to 1990.
Source

The drone that killed my grandson by Nasser al-Awlaki
July 20, 2013

I learned that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman — a United States citizen — had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died.

The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen.

I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.

Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death.

The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not “specifically targeted,” raising more questions than he answered.

My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable. On Friday, I will petition a federal court in Washington to require the government to do just that.

Abdulrahman was born in Denver. He lived in America until he was 7, then came to live with me in Yemen. He was a typical teenager — he watched “The Simpsons,” listened to Snoop Dogg, read “Harry Potter” and had a Facebook page with many friends. He had a mop of curly hair, glasses like me and a wide, goofy smile.

In 2010, the Obama administration put Abdulrahman’s father, my son Anwar, on C.I.A. and Pentagon “kill lists” of suspected terrorists targeted for death. A drone took his life on Sept. 30, 2011.

The government repeatedly made accusations of terrorism against Anwar — who was also an American citizen — but never charged him with a crime. No court ever reviewed the government’s claims nor was any evidence of criminal wrongdoing ever presented to a court. He did not deserve to be deprived of his constitutional rights as an American citizen and killed.

Early one morning in September 2011, Abdulrahman set out from our home in Sana by himself. He went to look for his father, whom he hadn’t seen for years. He left a note for his mother explaining that he missed his father and wanted to find him, and asking her to forgive him for leaving without permission.

A couple of days after Abdulrahman left, we were relieved to receive word that he was safe and with cousins in southern Yemen, where our family is from. Days later, his father was targeted and killed by American drones in a northern province, hundreds of miles away. After Anwar died, Abdulrahman called us and said he was going to return home.

That was the last time I heard his voice. He was killed just two weeks after his father.

A country that believes it does not even need to answer for killing its own is not the America I once knew. From 1966 to 1977, I fulfilled a childhood dream and studied in the United States as a Fulbright scholar, earning my doctorate and then working as a researcher and assistant professor at universities in New Mexico, Nebraska and Minnesota.

I have fond memories of those years. When I first came to the United States as a student, my host family took me camping by the ocean and on road trips to places like Yosemite, Disneyland and New York — and it was wonderful.

After returning to Yemen, I used my American education and skills to help my country, serving as Yemen’s minister of agriculture and fisheries and establishing one of the country’s leading institutions of higher learning, Ibb University. Abdulrahman used to tell me he wanted to follow in my footsteps and go back to America to study. I can’t bear to think of those conversations now.

After Anwar was put on the government’s list, but before he was killed, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights represented me in a lawsuitchallenging the government’s claim that it could kill anyone it deemed an enemy of the state.

The court dismissed the case, saying that I did not have standing to sue on my son’s behalf and that the government’s targeted killing program was outside the court’s jurisdiction anyway.

After the deaths of Abdulrahman and Anwar, I filed another lawsuit, seeking answers and accountability. The government has argued once again that its targeted killing program is beyond the reach of the courts. I find it hard to believe that this can be legal in a constitutional democracy based on a system of checks and balances.

The government has killed a 16-year-old American boy. Shouldn’t it at least have to explain why?

Nasser al-Awlaki, the founder of Ibb University and former president of Sana University, served as Yemen’s minister of agriculture and fisheries from 1988 to 1990.

Source

US launches first drone strike in Pakistan since electionMay 29, 2013
A U.S. drone strike killed seven people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on Wednesday, security officials said, the first such attack since a May 11 general election in which the use of the unmanned aircraft was a major issue.
U.S. President Barack Obama recently indicated he was scaling back the drone strike program, winning cautious approval from Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S. fight on militancy.
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry official condemned all such strikes.
"Any drone strike is against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan and we condemn it," the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
Pakistani security officials and Pashtun tribesmen in the northwestern region said the drone fired two missiles that struck a mud-built house at Chashma village, 3 km (2 miles) east of Miranshah, the region’s administrative town.
They said seven people were killed and four wounded. It was not immediately clear if the victims were the intended targets.
"Tribesmen started rescue work an hour after the attack and recovered seven bodies," said resident Bashir Dawar. "The bodies were badly damaged and beyond recognition."
North Waziristan is on the Afghan border and has long been a stronghold of militants including Afghan Taliban and their al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban allies.
Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif said this month that drone strikes were a “challenge” to Pakistan’s sovereignty.
"We will sit with our American friends and talk to them about this issue," he said.
Obama’s announcement of scaling back drone strikes was widely welcomed by the people of North Waziristan, where drones armed with missiles have carried out the most strikes against militants over the past seven years, sometimes with heavy civilian casualties.
The strike also coincided with the first session of the newly elected provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former Northwest Frontier Province.
Former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party won most seats in the assembly and has been very critical of drone strikes in the region.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said last week it appreciated Obama’s acknowledgement that force alone did not work, adding that the root causes of terrorism had to be addressed.

"On the use of drone strikes, the government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that (they) are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law," it said.
SourcePhoto: Demonstrators in Multan
"We are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership [with Pakistan].”- President Obama on May 23, six days before this attack. 
No, the US isn’t rebuilding partnerships. It is building more networks of enemies with every strike that destroys communities, families & lives of many civilians. 

US launches first drone strike in Pakistan since election
May 29, 2013

A U.S. drone strike killed seven people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on Wednesday, security officials said, the first such attack since a May 11 general election in which the use of the unmanned aircraft was a major issue.

U.S. President Barack Obama recently indicated he was scaling back the drone strike program, winning cautious approval from Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S. fight on militancy.

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry official condemned all such strikes.

"Any drone strike is against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan and we condemn it," the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Pakistani security officials and Pashtun tribesmen in the northwestern region said the drone fired two missiles that struck a mud-built house at Chashma village, 3 km (2 miles) east of Miranshah, the region’s administrative town.

They said seven people were killed and four wounded. It was not immediately clear if the victims were the intended targets.

"Tribesmen started rescue work an hour after the attack and recovered seven bodies," said resident Bashir Dawar. "The bodies were badly damaged and beyond recognition."

North Waziristan is on the Afghan border and has long been a stronghold of militants including Afghan Taliban and their al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban allies.

Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif said this month that drone strikes were a “challenge” to Pakistan’s sovereignty.

"We will sit with our American friends and talk to them about this issue," he said.

Obama’s announcement of scaling back drone strikes was widely welcomed by the people of North Waziristan, where drones armed with missiles have carried out the most strikes against militants over the past seven years, sometimes with heavy civilian casualties.

The strike also coincided with the first session of the newly elected provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former Northwest Frontier Province.

Former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party won most seats in the assembly and has been very critical of drone strikes in the region.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said last week it appreciated Obama’s acknowledgement that force alone did not work, adding that the root causes of terrorism had to be addressed.

"On the use of drone strikes, the government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that (they) are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law," it said.

Source
Photo: Demonstrators in Multan

"We are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership [with Pakistan].”- President Obama on May 23, six days before this attack. 

No, the US isn’t rebuilding partnerships. It is building more networks of enemies with every strike that destroys communities, families & lives of many civilians. 

Woops! Police drone crashes into police…
May 13, 2013

The Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office had a big day planned. After becoming the first department in the country with its own aerial drone ($300,000!), they were ready for a nice photo op. And then the drone crashed into a SWAT team.

The Examiner reports a painfully contrived police action-athon:

As the sheriff’s SWAT team suited up with lots of firepower and their armored vehicle known as the “Bearcat,” a prototype drone from Vanguard Defense Industries took off for pictures of all the police action. It was basically a photo opportunity, according to those in attendance.

"Lots of firepower" and a "Bearcat" sure sounds like a good photo op. OK, time to launch the $300,000 drone. Here we go. Launch the drone:

"[The] prototype drone was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground. It’s designed to go into an auto shutdown mode…but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle."

Not only did the drone fail, and not only did it crash, it literally crashed into the police. It’s no wonder we’re not able to find a video of this spectacular publicity failure. Luckily, the SWAT boys were safe in their Bearcat.

This would be a fine one-off blooper story if it weren’t for some upsetting implications. This is exactly why we have reason to raise multiple eyebrows at Congress, which wants to allow hundreds of similar drones to fly over US airspace. These drones are still a relatively young technology, relatively unproven, and relatively crash-prone. The odds of being hit by one are low, of course, but should a Texas-style UAV plummet ever happen in, say, a dense urban area, nobody would be laughing. Not all of us are driving around in Bearcats.

Source

Pakistani court declares US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt illegal

May 13, 2013

A Pakistani court has declared that US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt are illegal and has directed the government to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.

In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.

Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter onhuman rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.

“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. It asked Pakistan’s foreign ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.

“If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.

US officials have said the drones target al-Qa’ida and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s tribal regions who are blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and say the operations are done with the complicity of Pakistan’s military. Activists say hundreds of civilians are killed as “collateral damage” and that there is no transparency about the operation of the drones.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party is considered frontrunner in this Saturday’s election, this week vowed that he would not tolerate drone attacks on Pakistani soil.

“Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country’s autonomy and independence,” he said.

The case was filed last year by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a legal charity based in Islamabad, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga.

The jirga, a traditional community dispute resolution mechanism, had been called to settle a chromite mining dispute in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials. There was strong condemnation of this attack by all quarters in Pakistan including the federal government and Pakistan military.

Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, said: “This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.”?

Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based group Reprieve, which has supported the case, said: “Today’s momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA’s secret drone war.”

He added: “For the innocent people killed by U.S. drone strikes, it marks the first time they have been officially acknowledged for who they truly are - civilian victims of American war crimes.”

Source

The US will surely veto any resolution that goes through the UN, just as it has before in the past (ahem, 41 vetoes to defend Israel)… but this case is monumental in examining the US drone war as a war crime because of the innocent civilians who have been killed, not just in Pakistan (between411-884) but in Yemen (between 99-184) & Somalia (up to 15) as well. (Note: These stats don’t include “militants,” which was redefined to include all males of military age in a strike zone, which often includes innocent civilians.) 

nolandwithoutstones

whykillthemockingbird:

MUST WATCH:

A Yemeni national, Farea Al-muslimi, describes how a US drone fired missiles on his small village of Wessab in Yemen, “What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.” The came can be said of US drone attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Uganda, and beyond.

This testimony is really powerful. Watch it if you haven’t already.

This is what Obama’s Drone War looks like.
The CIA uses tactics considered to be war crimes under international law, such as the double-tap method that targets rescuers & family members, even those attending funerals, with a second strike in the same area. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims.
There have been between 282 and 535 civilians who have been credibly reported as killed, including more than 60 children. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. 
Samiullah Khan, a Waziristan-based journalist, eyewitness & field researcher in drone casualties on his experience: "There was of course a drone up in the air – in that area they seem to be up 24 hours a day. About five minutes into the interview I heard a massive noise from an attack and all the glass in the house broke. I ran out, though the Taliban were urging me not to approach the site. I saw people crying ‘Help us, help us’, there was a huge fire. Since everyone in the [damaged] house was dead or injured, the only people who could help were other villagers or the Taliban I’d been interviewing.
Many people were badly burned. We put three in my pick-up truck and took them to Miranshah town – doctors there told us they were unlikely to live, each having 90 per cent burns to his body. Back in Danda Darpakhel more people had come to the attack site to help with the rescue, thinking that the danger had now passed after 30 minutes. But the drones returned and fired again. If I had been there I would have been caught in that explosion. People there were killed, including two of my friends. They were good people. One was a student; the other ran a stall at the local bazaar. Neither was involved with the Taliban.” 
The latest drone strike killed one to three people in Pakistan on March 10. Several others were injured. The victims’ identities are still unknown.

This is what Obama’s Drone War looks like.

The CIA uses tactics considered to be war crimes under international law, such as the double-tap method that targets rescuers & family members, even those attending funerals, with a second strike in the same area. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims.

There have been between 282 and 535 civilians who have been credibly reported as killed, including more than 60 children. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. 

Samiullah Khan, a Waziristan-based journalist, eyewitness & field researcher in drone casualties on his experience: "There was of course a drone up in the air – in that area they seem to be up 24 hours a day. About five minutes into the interview I heard a massive noise from an attack and all the glass in the house broke. I ran out, though the Taliban were urging me not to approach the site. I saw people crying ‘Help us, help us’, there was a huge fire. Since everyone in the [damaged] house was dead or injured, the only people who could help were other villagers or the Taliban I’d been interviewing.

Many people were badly burned. We put three in my pick-up truck and took them to Miranshah town – doctors there told us they were unlikely to live, each having 90 per cent burns to his body. Back in Danda Darpakhel more people had come to the attack site to help with the rescue, thinking that the danger had now passed after 30 minutes. But the drones returned and fired again. If I had been there I would have been caught in that explosion. People there were killed, including two of my friends. They were good people. One was a student; the other ran a stall at the local bazaar. Neither was involved with the Taliban.” 

The latest drone strike killed one to three people in Pakistan on March 10. Several others were injured. The victims’ identities are still unknown.