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DRONE WATCH: Out of the Shadows

In an editorial this morning, the Washington Post sums up the legal and political problems with a continuing war based on “kill lists,” then concludes with its recommendations for greater transparency and accountability:

“Drone strikes should be carried out by military forces rather than by the CIA; as with other military activities, they should be publicly disclosed and subject to congressional review. The process and criteria for adding names to kill lists in non-battlefield zones should be disclosed and authorized by Congress — just like the rules for military detention and interrogation. Before operations begin in a country, the administration should, as with other military operations, consult with Congress and, if possible, seek a vote of authorization. It should seek open agreements with host countries and other allies.

“There may be cases where the president must act immediately against an imminent threat to the country, perhaps from an unexpected place. But to institutionalize a secret process of conducting covert drone strikes against militants across the world is contrary to U.S. interests and ultimately unsustainable.”

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DRONE WATCH: The Risks of Relying on Drones

Kurt Volker, U.S. ambassador to NATO from July 2008 to May 2009, wrote in the Washington Post on the risks associated with the increasing U.S. reliance on drones as its “principal and permanent component in fighting global terrorism.” According to Volker, these risks are moral, the consequences, the U.S. monopoly on drone warfare will not last, and our national identity. He proposes that we need a standard for the use of drones and suggests

“A more useful standard comes from our country’s basic approach to warfare. For a conventional military engagement, we would take into account the costs and risks of: sending a force to carry out the strike; generating public support; seeking congressional authorization; attracting allies to the cause; the regional effects of military action; and the duration and end of the mission, not just the beginning.”

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DRONE WATCH: Rare Strike in Northern Yemen Kills Four.

Reuters reports on a rare drone strike in northern Yemen, near the Saudi border.

“At least four men suspected of being al Qaeda members were killed in what a local official said was a U.S. drone strike on Islamist militants in northern Yemen on Sunday.

“It was a rare attack on al Qaeda-linked targets in northern Yemen, an area dominated by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels battling Yemeni government forces for control of the rugged mountainous region.

“The official said that a drone attacked two houses in the Abu Jabara area in Saada Province, killing four people.”

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DRONE WATCH: This Week in Drones

In drone news this week:

• The Washington Post reported that Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, and  Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will investigate the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the U.S. and other governments. According to Emmerson, “I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted.”

•Sixteen people from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were arrested Thursday while blocking gates at the New York National Guard’s Hancock Field near Syracuse. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that “The protesters believe that such operations are wrong and use the protests and arrests as a way to educate the public about the issue, said Ellen Grady, a protester from Ithaca.”

•The British High Court is hearing a case brought by Pakistani Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a suspected drone attack. According to the BBC, “Judges are deciding whether there should be a full judicial review into the legality of any UK co-operation with the Central Intelligence Agency.” In the same case, the Washington Post reported that James Eadie, lawyer for Britain’s Foreign Office, told the Court, “Ties between Britain, the U.S. and Pakistan could be jeopardized if a judge grants a request for a court inquiry into the possible role of U.K. spy agencies in aiding covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region…”

• In Pakistan, DAWN reports that a two-member panel of the Peshawar High Court has served notice on former president Pervez Musharraf to appear before the court. The Court is hearng a petition that has been filed against drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in particular the killing of innocent people including women and children.  

• On Slate’s Map of the Week, a map showing the location of the 284 drone attacks reported in Pakistan under the Obama administration.

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Attack in Pakistan.

DAWN reports a drone attack Wednesday in the North Waziristan region.

“At least five people were killed Wednesday when a US drone targeted a suspected militant compound about 10 kilometres from the main town in volatile North Waziristan region, intelligence sources said.

“The US drone fired three missiles in Tappi village, about 10 kilometres southeast of Miramshah, on a compound which intelligence sources said was a militant facility. Two missiles hit the house and one struck a vehicle resulting in the death of four suspected militants. A woman was also killed in the strike, sources added. The official sources also said that three cows have also been killed as the house was completely destroyed.”

CNN reported three killed, and added that two children were injured.

“The latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children, military officers said. Militants lived in the compound, but so did civilians, the officers said.”

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Kills Four In Yemen

The second drone strike in four days killed four in Yemen. AFP reports

Four members of the Al-Qaeda extremist network including a local chief were killed in Yemen Sunday in a strike presumed to have been carried out by a US drone against their vehicle in Maarib province, tribal and police sources said. "A drone fired a missile at a car which had four Al-Qaeda militants in it, destroying the vehicle and killing the occupants," the tribal source said,

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DRONE WATCH: France Sending Drones to Mali Region.

As Al-Qaeda-linked rebels strengthen their control over northern Mali, France has taken the lead in plans for possible military intervention. In an exclusive report, AP revealed that as French and U.S. military leaders and diplomats are meeting in Paris this week, France will send drones to the area.

France will move surveillance drones to West Africa and is holding secretive talks with U.S. officials in Paris this week as it seeks to steer international military action to help Mali's feeble government win back the northern part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels, The Associated Press has learned.

France and the United Nations insist any invasion of Mali's north must be led by African troops. But France, which has six hostages in Mali and has citizens who have joined al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, is playing an increasing role behind the scenes.

Many in the West fear that northeast Mali and the arid Sahel region could become the new Afghanistan, a no-man's-land where extremists can train, impose hardline Islamic law and plot terror attacks abroad. And France, former colonial ruler to countries across the Sahel, is a prime target.

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DRONE WATCH: UK Doubles Number of Drones.

The U.K. has had five Reaper drones, which it has used for combat and surveillance missions against insurgents in Afghanistan. They have been piloted, however, from Creech Air Force base in Nevada as Britain has not had the capability. Now, according to the Guardian, five additional drones are being added, and they will be controlled from an air base in the U.K. The Guardian reports on the U.K.’s use of drones,

The most recent figures from the Ministry of Defence show that, by the end of September, the UK's five Reapers in Afghanistan had flown 39,628 hours and fired 334 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs at suspected insurgents.

While British troops on the ground have started to take a more back-seat role, the use of UAVs has increased over the past two years despite fears from human rights campaigners that civilians might have been killed or injured in some attacks.

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DRONE WATCH: CIA Wants More Drones.

The Washington Post reports this morning that the CIA wants more drones

“The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said.

“The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots, officials said.

 

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Malala Yousafzai Recovering

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan for her activism, is recovering at a hospital in Britain. The Guardian reported this morning

“Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl flown to Britain for treatment after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan, has the potential to make "pretty much a full recovery", her doctors have said.

“She is able to stand with help and is writing notes, and although the bullet grazed her brain she has not shown "any deficit in terms of function", doctors at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham said on Friday. She was "not out of the woods but is doing very well", said Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust.”

The shooting has attracted a mass outpouring of support, both in Pakistan around the world. And Yousafzai is apparently aware of that support. According to Dr. Rosser

"She is keen that people share the details. She is also keen that I thank people for their support and their interest. She is obviously aware of the amount of support and interest this has generated around the world. She is keen to thank people for that." 

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DRONE WATCH: Continuing Controversy Over Drone Shot Down By Israel

Nearly two weeks ago, Israeli jets shot down a drone that had crossed into its airspace. For several days, there was speculation that it had been launched by Hezbollah, speculation that Prime Minister Netanyahu turned into an accusation.

Last Thursday, Reuters reported a confirmation

“Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged on Thursday sending a drone aircraft that was shot down last weekend after flying some 25 miles into Israel. Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone's parts were manufactured in Iran and it was assembled by members of the Shi'ite Muslim militant movement in Lebanon.”

Iran then acknowledged that the drone had been manufactured in that country and assembled in Lebanon. The purpose of the flight over Israel was seen as monitoring and gathering intelligence on Israel’s nuclear research center. McClatchy News reports

“This was a crude device, but it was a drone with all the capabilities that unmanned aerial crafts offer, and for that reason it is worrying,” an Israeli military official told McClatchy under the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to discuss sensitive information with a reporter. “We are studying the drone now to learn more about what it accomplished and what Hezbollah intended with it.”

Today, Haaretz reports on the continuing situation, now involving the U.N.

“United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon submitted an especially harsh report on the situation in Lebanon, including sharp criticism of Hezbollah, to the 15-member Security Council on Thursday. The report, a copy of which was attained by Haaretz, warned that the Iranian drone launched into Israel by the organization earlier this month was a “reckless provocation” which could lead to a regional conflict.”

As the rhetoric rises, the chances of a greater conflict grow. 

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DRONE WATCH: Opposition to Drones in Yemen.

Christopher Swift, adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University, traveled to Yemen this summer to interview 40 Yemeni tribal and religious leaders about the increasing U.S. drone attacks on that country. He found that the Yemeni public does not support the attacks. According to National Defense magazine, in a recent panel discussion at Georgetown, Swift said

“There is currently a shift in Yemen from drone attacks that target a particular individual to attacks that are “based upon generalize patterns of what we believe are militant characteristics and militant behavior," he said. Swift advocated a decrease in these “signature strikes,” saying they add to Yemeni concerns about civilian casualties and the United States impeding on their nation’s sovereignty.”

A report this morning by Reuters came to the same conclusion:

“Yemen's interim president has won U.S. praise for cooperating in a war on al Qaeda, but his recent public support for drone strikes that sometimes kill civilians could undermine his domestic popularity and stir sympathy for militants. …Yemenis complain the U.S. focus on militants is a violation of sovereignty that is driving many towards al Qaeda and diverting attention from other pressing issues such as unemployment, corruption, water depletion and economic revival.”

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DRONE WATCH: Nine Deaths in Yemen.

A U.S. drone attack early Thursday morning killed nine suspected militants. Reuters reports:

"Nine suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in what a security source and residents said was a U.S. drone attack on a farmhouse outside a town in southern Yemen that was held by militants last year.

"The farmhouse just west of Jaar, one of two southern towns that Yemen's army took back from rebel control this summer, was hit by three separate missile strikes at dawn, they said.

"The residents said they found six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three other people, including Nader al-Shaddadi, a senior al Qaeda militant in the southern Abyan province who led the group that occupied Jaar."

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DRONE WATCH: The Legal Battle Against Drone Strikes.

Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, has been fighting against drones since the first CIA drone strike in 2002. The Los Angeles Times has a story calling her “a fierce critic of America's drone attacks outside a war zone,” and writing about her insistence that the targeted killings are illegal under international law.

"We wouldn't accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone," O'Connell said. "And yet that's the authority we're asserting."

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DRONE WATCH: Strikes Resume in Pakistan

Last weekend, the government of Pakistan prevented an anti-drone protest from entering the tribal regions. Led by former cricket star and now politician Imran Khan and including a delegation of 30 US activists, the caravan was blocked by barricades guarded by riot police.

The Guardian reported:

“Makeshift roadblocks, security threats and warnings from Pakistan's army forced Imran Khan to abandon his unprecedented attempt to lead a cavalcade of anti-drone protesters deep into the country's restive tribal belt on Sunday. Leading a convoy of thousands, the former cricketer was within striking distance of South Waziristan, where the CIA uses remote-controlled planes in the fight against Islamist militants, when he abruptly turned back.

“Later Khan said he had changed plan because of warnings from the army and the risk of becoming stuck after the military-imposed curfew. Addressing an impromptu rally of his supporters, he said the convoy had still been a huge success because he had gone to areas his political rivals "can only look at on maps." "We want to give a message to America that the more you carry out drone attacks, the more people will hate you," Khan told the crowd of around 2,500 supporters.”

On Wednesday, the drone strikes resumed. BBC reported

“A US drone strike targeting a militant base has killed five insurgents in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials say. … "Several US drones flew into the area before dawn and fired four missiles on a compound, killing five militants," a security official told the AFP news agency after the strike in Hurmuz area, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.”

Thursday, another major strike in which Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported 16 people were killed.

A US drone attack killed 16 suspected militants and injured six others in the Orakzai agency of Pakistan’s tribal region on Thursday. Four missiles were fired in the Buland Khel area of the Orakzai agency, which is close to the borders of the North and South Waziristan tribal regions in Fata.”

The Associated Press added that according to a government administrator, as many as 12 others were injured and that “Drones were still flying over the site of the attack and locals were reportedly staying away from the site.”

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