The Common Good

Quick Read - Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Israel Shoots Down Drone

An Israeli jet shot down a drone off its northern coast on Thursday. While some Israeli officials said they believed it was an Iranian-manufactured aircraft sent by Hezbollah, that group denied it. The Associated Press reported:

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the unmanned aircraft was detected as it was flying over Lebanon and tracked as it approached Israeli airspace.

He said the military waited for the aircraft to enter Israeli airspace, confirmed it was “enemy,” and then an F-16 warplane shot it down, smashing its wreckage into the sea about five miles (eight kilometers) off the northern port of Haifa. Lerner said Israeli naval forces were searching for the remains of the aircraft.

He said it still was not clear who sent the drone, noting it flew over Lebanese airspace, but that it could have originated from somewhere else.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Update on Senate Hearing on Drones

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), held a hearing yesterday on “The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing.” It was the Senate’s first public hearing on drones. McClatchy News reported on the hearing that witnesses urged “the Obama administration to make public more information about its top-secret targeted killing program amid questions about the legality and effectiveness of hundreds of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere.”

One witness was from Yemen:

“Farea al Muslimi, a U.S.-educated activist from Yemen, testified that drone strikes have killed many civilians in his country, aiding al Qaida’s regional affiliate, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, by appearing to affirm its propaganda that the United States is waging war against ordinary Yemenis. “The drones have simply made more mistakes than AQAP has ever done,” he said.”

Another witness, retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had some practical proposals:

“Cartwright called on Obama to establish a government task force to evaluate secret drone strikes, including the extent of civilian casualties and their impacts on communities; the effectiveness of precautions used to avert such casualties; and the means by which the results of strikes are assessed. An unclassified version of the task force’s final report should be made public, he said.

“Cartwright said the CIA also should publicly acknowledge its role in drone operations outside Afghanistan, establish procedures for declassifying information on those operations after they’re over, and provide information to Congress on the impact of drone strikes on civilians.”

 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Hearing on Drones

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights is holding a hearing this afternoon on “The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing.” According to Subcommittee Chair Sen. Richard Durbin’s office:

“the hearing will address the legal and policy issues raised by drone strikes, including the constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings, the scope of the battlefield in the conflict with Al Qaeda and associated forces, and the international precedent set by U.S. drone policy.”

You can watch it live here.    

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: One Boston Marathon Suspect Dead, Boston Virtually Shut Down in Search for Second

Boston residents are waking up this morning to a virtual shutdown of many parts of the city after a contfrontation that left one of the marathon suspects dead, according to reports. An M.I.T. police officer was also killed. From NBC News

Law enforcement officials said the tumult began just before 11 p.m., when the suspects approached a police officer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and shot him in the head.

The two then stole the officer’s cruiser, robbed a nearby 7-Eleven, carjacked a Mercedes SUV and briefly kidnapped the driver, the sources said. The suspects threw explosives out the window during the chase that followed, they said. A Boston transit police officer was shot and wounded, authorities said.

The dead suspect — the man in the black hat from the FBI photos — had an improvised explosive device strapped to his chest, law enforcement officials said.

The two suspects have been identified as brothers — the one on the run identified as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

This story is developing. 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Attacks in Pakistan and Yemen

The month-long break in drone strikes appears to have ended.

On Wednesday, a strike on a training camp in Pakistan killed at least five people. According to Al Jazeera:

“A US drone has fired two missiles into a Taliban training camp in Pakistan, destroying the compound and killing at least five people, local officials have said.“Wednesday's strike took place in the Baber Ghar area of the South Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud where the faction runs several camps.”

Also on Wednesday, two separate strikes in Yemen killed five. The Associated Press reported:

“Two U.S. drone strikes Wednesday killed at least five suspected al-Qaida militants and destroyed the house of one of them in a mountainous area south of the capital, Sanaa, a Yemeni security official and witnesses said.

“The four were killed in the first strike while riding a vehicle in the desert area of Oussab al-Ali, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) south of Sanaa, the official said. The second strike killed a fifth suspected jihadi, Hamed Radman. A drone bombed his house, the official said.” 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Organizations Express Concerns About Drone Killings

Ten major human rights and civil rights organizations have sent a statement to President Obama expressing their “shared concerns” about the U.S. targeted killing program using drones. The signatories included the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and others.

The statement begins by summarizing the organizations’ concerns, and then elaborates on each point.

“The undersigned human rights and civil rights groups urge the United States to take essential steps to ensure meaningful transparency and legal compliance with regard to U.S. targeted killing policies and practices, particularly those outside the internationally-recognized armed conflict in Afghanistan. In particular, we call on the administration to: publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria; ensure that U.S. lethal force operations abroad comply with international law; enable meaningful congressional oversight and judicial review; and ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Background Checks Proposal Fails (VIDEO)

The U.S. Senate has just failed to get 60 votes on a bipartisan proposal to expand gun sale background checks. Politico reports:

“The vote was 54-46, with only four Republicans crossing the aisle and voting with the Democrats in favor of the bipartisan proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Sixty votes were needed.”

Four months after the Newtown massacre, a compromise measure that would have banned no guns, no magazines, is apparently still too strong. And what is especially outrageous is the continued abuse of the filibuster, requiring 60 votes for anything to pass the Senate. Is there any other legislative body in the world where a proposal can pass by 8 votes and lose?

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Four Killed in Pakistan Attack

 

On Sunday evening, the first U.S. drone attack in nearly a month killed at least four people in Pakistan. The attack took place in Datta Khel town, 22 miles west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region. According to Agence France-Presse:

Six US drones flew over the area when one of them fired two missiles at a compound in the Manzarkhel area of the town. "The drones kept hovering at the compound for a while and then one drone fired two missiles at the time of sunset," a local security official said. "At least four militants were killed in the strike," said the official.

 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Killings in Pakistan

After years of secrecy, the leaks of classified information on the drone killing program in Pakistan have turned into a torrent. Today, it was the McClatchy Newspapers, running two stories by national security and intelligence reporter Jonathan S. Landay.

The first examines in depth intelligence reports that covered most of the drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011. Reviewing the killings covered in these reports, Landay concludes that:

“Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.

The second, apparently using some of the same reports, reveals the history and extent of cooperation between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. While Pakistan was aiding the U.S against al Qaida, CIA drones were aiding the Pakistani military against the Taliban.

“Even as its civilian leaders publicly decried U.S. drone attacks as breaches of sovereignty and international law, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency secretly worked for years with the CIA on strikes that killed Pakistani insurgent leaders and scores of suspected lower-level fighters, according to classified U.S. intelligence reports. Dozens of civilians also reportedly died in the strikes in the semi-autonomous tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan that is a stronghold of al Qaida, Afghan militants, other foreign jihadists and a tangle of violent Pakistani Islamist groups.”

Both stories are long, both are well worth reading. Taken together, they reveal more secret details of the drone killing program.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: The Next Drones?

While there appears to be a lull in drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, are the next targets being prepared? 

The Japan Times reports that as tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high, the possibility of unarmed drones carrying out surveillance over North Korea is increasing.

“Japan and the U.S. might deploy the Global Hawk, a high-altitude reconnaissance drone, at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture to increase surveillance of North Korea … Interest in monitoring North Korea has been climbing since it began threatening nuclear strikes, and reportedly moved a midrange missile to its east coast Thursday.”

The Voice of America reported a confirmation of the story,

“The Defense Ministry in Tokyo also confirms the United States is considering deploying high altitude aerial reconnaissance "Global Hawk" drones to Misawa air base in northern Japan to monitor North Korea.”

While the Global Hawk is not designed to carry weapons, its surveillance capabilities have made it “one of the best sources of tips for where to send the Predator and Reaper drones, which fly at lower altitudes and fire missiles.” Is that what’s in store for North Korea? 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: A Secret Deal on Drones

How did the drone assassination program begin? In a front page feature Sunday, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti offered an answer. In June 2004, a Pakistani Taliban leader, Nek Muhammad , was killed by a drone strike in the South Waziristan tribal area. The killing, writes Mazzetti, was the result of a secret deal between the CIA and Pakistani intelligence officials.

“Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

“That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.

“The C.I.A. has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike. While it was not the first country where the United States used drones, it became the laboratory for the targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war.”

According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office responded that “the story is baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan on this matter.”  

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Church to Oppose Drones

The Church of the Brethren will consider a “Resolution Against Drone Warfare” at its annual conference this summer. Passed by the church’s Mission and Ministry Board, the resolution states

“We are troubled by the quickly expanding use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. These drones are being used for surveillance and remote killing of people. In our opposition to all types of war, the Church of the Brethren has spoken out specifically against covert warfare.... Drone warfare embodies the fundamental problems that covert warfare entails.”

The resolution urges the church and its members to

“Call upon Congress to hold the President accountable for his administration’s past use of armed drones, and to control the future use of armed drones by instituting legitimate oversight of any deployment of drones by the military or the CIA. We will no longer tolerate secretive “kill lists,” and the decision-making process in the matter of armed drones must be made public so that the lethal actions of government may be properly understood and judged.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone War Visualization

With data from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, a team of developers has created a visualization of every drone strike in Pakistan since 2004. The interactive timeline shows how the campaign built over time, and illustrates the number of people killed. According to the Bureau:

“The project, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, aims to capture the scale and human cost of the drone war in Pakistan through its visual representation of the CIA’s covert Pakistan drone war from the first event in 2004 to the latest strike.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drones in Niger

While the drone debate continues to grow, the administration is moving to expand their use. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Air Force began flying surveillance drones from a base in Niger late last month.

“Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has relied heavily on drones for operations, both declared and covert, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. U.S. drones also fly from allied bases in Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

“Now, they are becoming a fixture in Africa. The U.S. military has built a major drone hub in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, and flies unarmed Reaper drones from Ethiopia. Until recently, it conducted reconnaissance flights over East Africa from the island nation of the Seychelles.

“The Predator drones in Niger, a landlocked and dirt-poor country, give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa.”

At this point, the primary objective from the new base is the fight against an Islamic insurgency in Mali, intelligence information from the drones is shared with French and African troops involved.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Four Killed in Pakistan

Four people were killed in a drone attack on a vehicle in Pakistan yesterday. According to The New York Times,

"The officials said missiles fired late Thursday night from a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency hit a moving vehicle in Datta Khel Bazar in the North Waziristan tribal region, which is a redoubt of local and foreign militants. “Four men inside the vehicle were killed,” a tribal official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The nationality of those killed was not immediately clear. The vehicle exploded after it was hit by two missiles, leaving the bodies charred and beyond recognition.”

This is the first reported attack in nearly two weeks.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence