Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16049 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Tue May 04, 2010 11:45 pm Post subject: UK, US, Israeli 'double tap' drones flown by war criminals
Remember the V1 and V2? Oh we've come a long way since then.
The rise of the robo-fighters: Britain's new pilotless air force
By Rob Waugh
Last updated at 1:39 AM on 3rd May 2010
The Mantis can fly for 24 hours without refuelling, do the surveillance job of four helicopters, acquire its own enemy targets and deliver a deadly payload - all without a pilot and crew. But should we be afraid of Britain's new robotic air force?
The Mantis carries no human crew. The plane is controlled by a set of computer components not that far removed from the chips and boards inside a high-end personal laptop
The aircraft is the size of a medium range bomber, with huge grey wings stretching 70ft across the hangar. It looks for all the world like any conventional aircraft - the wings, the nose, the wheels are all familiar. The engineers standing in front of it are dwarfed by its bulk. Modules beneath the wings can carry air-to-ground missiles and precision-guided bombs.
Other racks on the nose can carry surveillance equipment so advanced it can decrypt and listen to mobile phone messages instantly as it flies over, at heights of up to 60,000ft. It takes a while for you to notice the most important fact - there is no cockpit. There are no windows anywhere on the craft, - and no doors.
The Mantis carries no human crew - one of the reasons it can stay airborne for 24 hours. The plane is controlled by a set of computer components not that far removed from the chips and boards inside a high-end personal laptop. But unlike the American Predator and Reaper drones now flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan, this isn't flown by pilots via satellite control from a bunker outside Las Vegas. It flies itself.
The aircraft is sitting in the hangars of BAE Systems, just outside Preston - next to an airfield where Eurofighters are shooting vertically upwards from a take-off strip. The site is vast, with limousines ferrying suited executives from one part to another, and visitors carefully shepherded only into the areas they are cleared to see.
To enter Mantis's hangar, you have to pass through a glass cubicle that scans for any transmitting equipment - phones and cameras are strictly forbidden. A recording suddenly blares, 'Mobile phone detected!' as one of my hosts remembers he has a BlackBerry in his coat. I'm allowed to see Mantis, but not to know where the aircraft is currently flying.
The Mantis on the runway
Mantis isn't a 'drone'. It's a robotic aircraft. It's among the first of a new breed of armed UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that can take off, fly, plot courses and even acquire targets for itself, and the UK is at the forefront of this new technology. The Mantis only needs human beings for one thing - to pull the trigger.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - with their political pressure for low casualties - have caused an explosion in demand for craft that need less and less human input. The spectacle of captured pilots was a staple of the first Iraq war and other conflicts around the Middle East. It's a vision that has been absent from the news this time round for one simple reason: there are now fewer pilots.
Robotics is a revolutionary technology on a par with gunpowder and the atomic bomb. It's another genie you couldn't put back in the bottle Laptop parts, satellite connections and software are doing it instead. There are now 12,000 UAVs, used for everything from surveillance to search and destroy missions. In less than a decade, the business of unmanned aircraft has gone from being a minor, specialist sector to being worth £9 billion.
In the training missions that BAE is allowed to discuss with me, Mantis takes off entirely independent of its crew. When airborne, it is controlled either from a base in the UK or from a command-and-control centre so tiny that it fits inside a packing crate, which can be flown to a combat theatre inside a transport aircraft, with a commander and crew ready to deploy.
A satellite relays information to the Mantis, while pictures, video feeds, infrared images and decrypted phone calls come back from the battlefield. Six screens back on the ground offer a Mantis-eye view, a map and a set of geometric patterns showing the Mantis's orders.
Identifying potential targets
Previous generations of surveillance craft deluge intelligence staff with so many pictures that up to 160 back-room staff are required for each aircraft, but Mantis decides for itself what is interesting. A single Mantis can do the surveillance job of three or four helicopters or three Nimrod jet crews.
While it's in flight, no one controls Mantis with a joystick. Details of the mission are copied on to a memory stick and loaded into the control system's computers by the commander. In training two Mantis operatives can oversee up to three aircraft at once.
A video of BAE's software in action shows the aircraft targeting a line of trucks from miles above the Australian outback, with squares appearing over vehicles showing that they are objects of interest while Mantis flies over to investigate. The software inside Mantis has decided that they are moving, that they are in an area they shouldn't be and that they match its criteria for further investigation.
For a terrorist, or a lone psychopath, the idea of a vehicle that could launch, find targets and attack autonomously must seem like the ultimate risk-free weapon - a suicide bomb without a suicide bomber Until now, the British Army has relied on American and Israeli drones, but Mantis is home-grown technology. In just four years the Mantis family of aircraft has gone from laptop components strapped to a second-hand glider bought in Wolverhampton to an operational spy plane due to enter full service in 2015.
The process has cost £124 million, and development has been spread across a team of British companies, including Rolls-Royce and QinetiQ, and British universities, such as Loughborough. At least two Mantis planes are being tested in the air right now over combat zones, although BAE is not allowed to say where. Other drone companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are making their own autonomous versions - but none can match demand.
First flight of the Global Hawk RQ-4
Autonomous machines save money, save pilots' lives and point to a future where stealth-enabled unmanned fighters and ultra-long-endurance surveillance planes can almost remove human beings from the aerial battlefield. But this technology has largely appeared without governments or the public questioning it. Can a chip make split-second decisions as well as a highly trained pilot? What happens when these systems fail? And worst of all - what happens when one falls into the wrong hands?
Unmanned aircraft have been used routinely since World War II, when the Germans used a remotely piloted bomb drone known as the 'Fritz'. But the market has exploded in the past ten years. There are 43 nations currently developing their own unmanned vehicles, including China, Iran and Russia. Some predict-that the market will hit a value of £53 billion - and the U.S. Army already predicts that its air force will be 80 per cent robotic by 2020.
Although drones are widely used, air forces tend to be nervous about letting them fly under their own steam - so highly trained pilots are still used, with a full back-up staff to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
'The way the U.S. military likes to do things, current attack drones require up to three pilots to operate - fastjet combat pilots, who are rare and expensive front-line assets,' says Steve Worsnip of BAE Systems. 'But the RAF doesn't have the luxury of those sort of numbers. They simply can't fight wars that way.'
The ground crew track a drone's flight path
'The human role isn't disappearing, but it is changing,' says PW Singer, a former Pentagon weapons adviser and author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution And Conflict In The Twenty First Century, 'Humans are no longer making decisions in the here and now; rather, they are simply supervising.'
In the U.S., more drone pilots are now being trained than actual pilots - and the degree of autonomy exhibited by the aircraft has increased to the point that new controllers don't even need to know how to fly. Many are videogamers, more than ready for the dehumanised, computer-assisted world of drones.
'People have an inherent fear of autonomous aircrafts, but as we face technical and battlefield problems, the solution is more and more autonomy,' says Singer.
'One of the problems right now is that unmanned systems such as Predator are gathering enormous amounts of data. We're about to add "Gorgon Stare" to Predators - an array of 12 video feeds. We can't keep up, but give the sensors more autonomy and they will decide what they send. A lot of the scientists told me that robotics is a revolutionary technology on a par with gunpowder and the atomic bomb. It's another genie you couldn't put back in the bottle.'
The BAE Mantis isn't the only unmanned aircraft that can operate independently. Global Hawk RQ-4, made by Northrop Grumman, is a huge, high-altitude craft that has been flying over Afghanistan for a decade, and has no need for pilots, either in the air or on the ground. It was the first unmanned vehicle capable of flying itself, and has completed more than 30,000 combat hours overseas. Its makers seem offended by the use of the word 'drone' and refer to it as a 'robotic aircraft'.
Twelve years ago, a prototype of the RQ-4 Global Hawk was flying at 60,000ft above the Atlantic Ocean, near the east coast of the Azores. Its flying altitude is almost double the ceiling of civilian aircraft, and one of the reasons the Global Hawk is cleared to fly over civilian airspace. Abruptly, the 'crossover' between two of the military satellites used to guide the Hawk failed, due to human error.
A Predator drone prepares for take-off
This was what its autonomy software had been designed for - 'contingencies' are programmed into its software so that it can respond to unforeseen events. The Hawk turned itself around, entirely without satellite guidance, and returned to the airbase it had flown from. Ten minutes later, it landed at the base.
'Our first fully autonomous landing was in 1975,' says Dane Marolt, international business development director of the RQ-4, a former pilot who has overseen Northrop Grumman's autonomous drones programme since it first began.
'The RQ-4 is totally autonomous. It is a mouse-click aircraft. But there is no pilot flying this. As it stands, the U.S. Army and Navy choose not to use it in this way - there is a pilot in command.'
Every weapons company says the same thing - that it is their computer software that gives them the edge. The equipment inside the UAVs may not be cutting-edge, but the software is. And this software isn't as easy to protect, or to copyright, as a vehicle. It's also much more easily copied. Hezbollah has already fired captured drones back at Israel from the West Bank. There are other risks, too - last year, insurgents hacked into the video feeds of Predator drones flying over Iraq.
The website DIY Drones is a thriving community of do-it-yourself drone builders and operators, building drones that look eerily similar to - or are copies of - the weapons employed currently by the West. For a terrorist, or a lone psychopath, the idea of a vehicle that could launch, find targets and attack autonomously must seem like the ultimate risk-free weapon - a suicide bomb without a suicide bomber.
Tribesmen gather at the site of a missile attack by a U.S. drone in Pakistan, which killed up to six people in 2008
Autonomy is far more ubiquitous than people think, but it brings with it problems and dangers. The AEGIS shipboard computer used on board American destroyers controls their anti-missile systems. It works so quickly that operators simply tell it whether to shoot fighters or bombers first when the ship comes under attack - the ship then acquires targets and shoots on its own. It was an AEGIS system that had been left in attack mode that shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988. The system had mistakenly identified it as an enemy fighter.
But while mistakes of that magnitude are rare, a report, The Year Of The Drone, by the New America Foundation, an American non-profit think tank, has analysed drone strikes against militants in Pakistan and has found that the level of civilian casualties was such that it undermined any claims of drones being 'precision' weapons. The use of weaponised drones might have reduced the number of captured pilots - but their capacity to strike precisely is questionable.
'Our research shows that some two-thirds of those killed in the strikes since 2004 have been described as militants, implying a civilian casualty rate of about one-third,' says the foundation's Katherine Tiedemann.
Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, alleges that the use of drones over states such as Pakistan, with which the US has not declared war, 'might violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law'.
President Obama's State Department legal adviser Harold Koh replied to Alston's allegations saying, 'Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise.'
Earlier this month, a drone strike on Boya village, in Pakistan's North Waziristan, killed between three and five Al-Qaeda militants, according to reports, but also up to 13 civilians. Human Rights Watch is trying to open debate on the use of the weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The statistics in The Year Of The Drone allege that more than 400 civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan in just one year - and its authors allege that the U.S. government is not open about the casualties.
'The closest a government official has come to publicly recognising the civilian casualties is an anonymous quote suggesting that only 20 civilians have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan in the last two years,' says Tiedemann. But still the drive among the West's armies is to allow not more control over UAVs, but less.
Boeing, like BAE, is already developing unmanned aircraft that will go well beyond its current roles of surveillance and attacking ground troops. Boeing and BAE's unmanned planes look and operate like stealth bombers - a role in which communication with the outside world is likely to give away a plane's decision.
At BAE the black, triangular shape of Tanaris looks instantly familiar - it's almost identical to the American B-2 stealth bomber. It's a UAV designed for a different kind of warfare - not against tribesmen armed with AK-47s but against modern nations equipped with radar, satellites and electronic counter-measures. To maintain full stealth cover, it is capable of severing communications with its handlers and travelling without radio contact for up to 36 hours.
Tanaris is a so-called 'black project' - it's introduced as a model in a room at BAE's headquarters in Preston, and the three senior managers who introduce it are deliberately vague about where Tanaris might be used, what weapons it might carry, or any context in which it might be deployed. Tanaris will take its first flights next year and is a 'test-bed' for future technologies. Some of the technologies inside Tanaris will be used in MoD vehicles until 2025.
'One of the critical ways UAVs will improve is by staying up in the air longer - current models can only remain airborne for around 80 hours,' says the University of Reading's Kevin Warwick.
'The American military research organisation Darpa has put out a contract called Vulture looking for a solar-powered UAV that can remain airborne for five years. On the more micro scale, UAVs will have a role flying in and out of buildings. They'll also continue to become more autonomous. "Drone" makes it sound quite friendly and politically digestible. These aren't drones. They're hunter-killers. Other systems in development might work as "swarms", communicating with one another to carry out the mission.
'That's the worry - they make the decisions. What are these decisions? If it's against the enemy, it's fine - but what happens if it decides that I'm the enemy?'
Further evidence of the rise of research into unmanned military systems in British universities comes with the news that engineers from Newcastle University are part of a team working on a giant solar powered surveillance drone for the US military.
The Solar Eagle drone which is being built by US arms giant Boeing and funded by the Pentagon’s research agency, DARPA , is being designed to fly at an altitude of 18km for five years nonstop. Engineers from Newcastle University’s Centre for Advanced Electrical Drives have worked previously with UK arms giant QinetiQ on the Zephyr drone (see report here) and this work will presumably form the basis of work on this new drone.
An altitude of 18km however, is nothing for the USAF’s unmanned space plane which took off for another secret mission last week (5th March). While NASA normally builds and tests US space vehicles, the USAF is running the show for their unmanned space drone. The USAF’s X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle will stay in orbit for up to 270 days, according to Air Force officials. Little is known about the purpose or budget for the unmanned space drone but speculation is rife on the blogosphere.
Meanwhile, drone strikes have returned with a vengeance in Pakistan after the recent ‘pause’ attributed to the arrest of Raymond Davis. In the past week reported strikes took place on Tues 8th, Fri 11th and Sunday 13th
One of America's most sophisticated weapons in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the unmanned drone, has been successfully penetrated by insurgents using software available on the internet for $26 (£16).
Insurgents in Iraq intercepted live video feeds from the drones being relayed back to a US controller and revealing potential targets. A US official said the flaw was identified and fixed in the past 12 months.
The problem only came to light after the US found many hours' worth of videotaped recordings on militant laptops late last year and earlier this year.
The insurgents used software programmes such as Skygrabber, developed by a Russian company and originally intended to download music and videos from the internet.
After the conference that states "we need more drone security" comes this drone hacking...
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16049 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:42 am Post subject: Drone war video game click and killers
America just droning on about peace
By PAUL HEISE
Updated: 12/21/2011 10:11:16 AM EST Tweet
Peace, peace - but there is no peace. The war in Iraq, the president tells us, is over, and America "will shrink the foreign footprint in Afghanistan by 40,000" in 2012. But we are still in armed conflict in Ethiopia, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Iran. Peace is a long way off, and these wars are affecting us in ways we do not recognize.
Our cyber and robotic technology is changing us as it changes everything about war. It has created an ever-expanding battlefield, redefined to include even our homes. It has separated our citizenry and even our military from the actual warfare. And we, the citizens, are not asking or being informed what the consequences of these technologies really are. The drone wars are a good example.
In 2002, the U.S. had only 167 drones. Now there are upwards of 7,000. Ever more intelligent unmanned aircraft could eventually replace every type of manned aircraft. At least 40 countries have the technology. Even Hezbollah has received 24 drones.
At the unmanned-aircraft industry show last year, China showed up with a surprising 24 different drones. Iran will probably share with China the technology of the U.S., super-stealth RQ 170 drone that they somehow downed early this month.
Drones are not just weapons. They can and are amazingly useful. They are already patrolling the Canadian and Mexican borders and monitoring weather, natural disasters and industrial accidents. For the military, they are gathering electronic messages, reporting battle conditions to local commanders and doing a wide range of reconnaissance tasks.
Let's recognize that drones are a technological advance comparable to, in their day, the machine gun and even the crossbow. Are they so inhumane, like poison gas, cluster bombs and landmines, that they should be outlawed? Unlikely.
So, are remotely controlled battlefields and targeted killings an effective, legal and moral way to fight a war? Drones have been particularly effective in the targeted killing of high-ranking Taliban and al-Qaida officials. Collateral damage, the euphemism for civilian deaths, is, however, in dispute. Some claim, absurdly, that there are no civilian deaths. Other estimates put the civilian casualties at half the level of militant casualties.
The legality of drones challenges both international humanitarian law and the principle of national self-defense. International law and conventions on war, the so-called law of armed conflict, allow lawful combatants, i.e., uniformed military, the right to attack other combatants on the battlefield. Critics claim that a civilian CIA employee piloting a drone in Afghanistan from a site in Arizona is not a "lawful combatant," nor is he on a "battlefield."
The law of armed conflict doesn't make much sense in the context of a robotic war.
The principle of self-defense in regard to warfare means that a nation has the right to use deadly force both in an active combat zone as well as elsewhere to protect vital national interests. The U.S. State Department demands "the right of a state to strike terrorists within the territory of another state where the terrorists are using that territory as a location from which to launch terrorist attacks and where the state involved has failed to respond effectively to a demand that the attacks be stopped."
The U.S. would define terrorism and decide, of course, when all those conditions are met.
This is a stretch. The governments of Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran (or any of those countries where we have targeted and killed individuals) could target former President George W. Bush or a CIA drone pilot based on their definition of terrorism.
In any event, whether moral or legal, robotic warfare has far-reaching social and political consequences. The ugly reality of drone strikes becomes like a PlayStation game, something that American youth are already addicted to. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," a video wargame, had $775 million in sales in just the first five days.
Unlike the games, real people are dying in the drone-strike videos our kids see on YouTube. But Afghanis are being killed by people sitting in perfect safety in bunkers in Arizona. With our standing army of volunteers, we already exempt 99 percent of our population from military service and the real dangers of war. Remember, we stopped the draft after Vietnam because of opposition to the war by those who had to serve. What if no one has to be in danger?
A robotic, remote war will detach us even further from the horrors of war. It will mask the hard facts on which we base our opposition to war. With drones doing our dirty work, it will be easier, cheaper and more likely we will go to war.
We can't stop the drones, but we can fight the consequences. We can still pray for peace this Christmas.
A resident of Mt. Gretna, Heise holds a Ph.D. in economics and is professor emeritus of economics at Lebanon Valley College. His column appears every other Thursday. He maintains past columns and can be reached through his blog, paulheise.blogspot.com.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16049 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:59 pm Post subject:
Oh dear William!
also - what have these lawyers been up to before?
UK's Foreign Secretary faces suit over Pakistan drone strikes
Published: March 12, 2012
London law firm Leigh Day & Co said it had “credible,” evidence that Hague oversaw a policy of passing intelligence to US forces planning attacks against in Pakistan.
Lawyers for the family of man killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan said they would take legal action against Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, accusing him of complicity in strikes they say broke international laws.
London law firm Leigh Day & Co said it had “credible,” evidence that Hague oversaw a policy of passing intelligence to US forces planning attacks against in Pakistan. It plans to issue formal proceedings against Hague at the High Court in London on behalf of Noor, whose father died in a drone attack last year.
Malik Daud Khan was part of a local “jirga”, or council of holding a meeting in the tribal areas of northwest when a missile fired from a drone hit the group, the firm said.
Attacks by pilotless US aircraft have become a key weapon in President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy in and officials say they have helped to weaken al Qaeda’s in the region.
However, the attacks have become a source of friction between Washington and Islamabad and have angered many who see them as a breach of their sovereignty and the frequent civilian deaths.
Leigh Day & Co will argue that those involved in armed can only claim immunity from criminal law if they are “lawful combatants” taking part in an “international armed”.
Khan’s lawyers will say that staff working at UK Government Headquarters (GCHQ) in southwest England’s main intelligence monitoring centre, may have broken the law. As civilians, they are not classed as combatants and be prosecuted, the law firm said.
They will also say that Pakistan is not involved in a conflict.
“There is credible, unchallenged evidence that (Hague) is operating a policy of passing intelligence to officials or of the US government and that he considers such to be in ‘strict accordance’ with the law,” Richard, head of human rights at Leigh Day, said in a statement.
“If this is the case, the Secretary of State has one or more of the principles of international law immunity for those involved in armed attacks on behalf a state.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said it did not comment on legal proceedings. Asked whether Britain helps the States in drone attacks, the spokesman added: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters”.
A key ally of Washington in neighbouring Afghanistan, Britain has around 9,500 soldiers in country. The deaths of six British soldiers in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday brought the British death toll to more than 400. _________________ www.lawyerscommitteefor9-11inquiry.org www.rethink911.org www.patriotsquestion911.com www.actorsandartistsfor911truth.org www.mediafor911truth.org www.pilotsfor911truth.org www.mp911truth.org www.ae911truth.org www.rl911truth.org www.stj911.org www.v911t.org www.thisweek.org.uk www.abolishwar.org.uk www.elementary.org.uk www.radio4all.net/index.php/contributor/2149 http://utangente.free.fr/2003/media2003.pdf
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
WASHINGTON — This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.
President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.
“How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.”
It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”
Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.
In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.
They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”
His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers.
The administration’s failure to forge a clear detention policy has created the impression among some members of Congress of a take-no-prisoners policy. And Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said.
Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.
But the strikes that have eviscerated Al Qaeda — just since April, there have been 14 in Yemen, and 6 in Pakistan — have also tested both men’s commitment to the principles they have repeatedly said are necessary to defeat the enemy in the long term. Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants; in his 2010 guilty plea, Faisal Shahzad, who had tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.”
Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.
Mr. Blair’s criticism, dismissed by White House officials as personal pique, nonetheless resonates inside the government.
William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff in 2011, said the president and his advisers understood that they could not keep adding new names to a kill list, from ever lower on the Qaeda totem pole. What remains unanswered is how much killing will be enough.
“One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20?” Mr. Daley said, describing the internal discussion. “At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?”
‘Maintain My Options’
A phalanx of retired generals and admirals stood behind Mr. Obama on the second day of his presidency, providing martial cover as he signed several executive orders to make good on campaign pledges. Brutal interrogation techniques were banned, he declared. And the prison at Guantánamo Bay would be closed.
What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes. They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric. Instead, he was already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit.
It was a pattern that would be seen repeatedly, from his response to Republican complaints that he wanted to read terrorists their rights, to his acceptance of the C.I.A.’s method for counting civilian casualties in drone strikes.
The day before the executive orders were issued, the C.I.A.’s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, had called the White House in a panic. The order prohibited the agency from operating detention facilities, closing once and for all the secret overseas “black sites” where interrogators had brutalized terrorist suspects.
“The way this is written, you are going to take us out of the rendition business,” Mr. Rizzo told Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama’s White House counsel, referring to the much-criticized practice of grabbing a terrorist suspect abroad and delivering him to another country for interrogation or trial. The problem, Mr. Rizzo explained, was that the C.I.A. sometimes held such suspects for a day or two while awaiting a flight. The order appeared to outlaw that.
Mr. Craig assured him that the new president had no intention of ending rendition — only its abuse, which could lead to American complicity in torture abroad. So a new definition of “detention facility” was inserted, excluding places used to hold people “on a short-term, transitory basis.” Problem solved — and no messy public explanation damped Mr. Obama’s celebration.
“Pragmatism over ideology,” his campaign national security team had advised in a memo in March 2008. It was counsel that only reinforced the president’s instincts.
Even before he was sworn in, Mr. Obama’s advisers had warned him against taking a categorical position on what would be done with Guantánamo detainees. The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed.
Some detainees would be transferred to prisons in other countries, or released, it said. Some would be prosecuted — if “feasible” — in criminal courts. Military commissions, which Mr. Obama had criticized, were not mentioned — and thus not ruled out.
As for those who could not be transferred or tried but were judged too dangerous for release? Their “disposition” would be handled by “lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.”
A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
But a year later, with Congress trying to force him to try all terrorism suspects using revamped military commissions, he deployed his legal skills differently — to preserve trials in civilian courts.
It was shortly after Dec. 25, 2009, following a close call in which a Qaeda-trained operative named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had boarded a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb sewn into his underwear.
Mr. Obama was taking a drubbing from Republicans over the government’s decision to read the suspect his rights, a prerequisite for bringing criminal charges against him in civilian court.
The president “seems to think that if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war,” former Vice President Dick Cheney charged.
Sensing vulnerability on both a practical and political level, the president summoned his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., to the White House.
F.B.I. agents had questioned Mr. Abdulmutallab for 50 minutes and gained valuable intelligence before giving him the warning. They had relied on a 1984 case called New York v. Quarles, in which the Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a suspect in response to urgent public safety questions — the case involved the location of a gun — could be introduced into evidence even if the suspect had not been advised of the right to remain silent.
Mr. Obama, who Mr. Holder said misses the legal profession, got into a colloquy with the attorney general. How far, he asked, could Quarles be stretched? Mr. Holder felt that in terrorism cases, the court would allow indefinite questioning on a fairly broad range of subjects.
Satisfied with the edgy new interpretation, Mr. Obama gave his blessing, Mr. Holder recalled.
“Barack Obama believes in options: ‘Maintain my options,’ “ said Jeh C. Johnson, a campaign adviser and now general counsel of the Defense Department.
‘They Must All Be Militants’
That same mind-set would be brought to bear as the president intensified what would become a withering campaign to use unmanned aircraft to kill Qaeda terrorists.
Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ “ a top White House adviser recounted.
In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.
The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush.
It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.
This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.
“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”
About four months into his presidency, as Republicans accused him of reckless naïveté on terrorism, Mr. Obama quickly pulled together a speech defending his policies. Standing before the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, he mentioned Guantánamo 28 times, repeating his campaign pledge to close the prison.
But it was too late, and his defensive tone suggested that Mr. Obama knew it. Though President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate, had supported closing the Guantánamo prison, Republicans in Congress had reversed course and discovered they could use the issue to portray Mr. Obama as soft on terrorism.
Walking out of the Archives, the president turned to his national security adviser at the time, Gen. James L. Jones, and admitted that he had never devised a plan to persuade Congress to shut down the prison.
“We’re never going to make that mistake again,” Mr. Obama told the retired Marine general.
General Jones said the president and his aides had assumed that closing the prison was “a no-brainer — the United States will look good around the world.” The trouble was, he added, “nobody asked, ‘O.K., let’s assume it’s a good idea, how are you going to do this?’ “
It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”
In fact, both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the attorney general, Mr. Holder, had warned that the plan to close the Guantánamo prison was in peril, and they volunteered to fight for it on Capitol Hill, according to officials. But with Mr. Obama’s backing, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, blocked them, saying health care reform had to go first.
When the administration floated a plan to transfer from Guantánamo to Northern Virginia two Uighurs, members of a largely Muslim ethnic minority from China who are considered no threat to the United States, Virginia Republicans led by Representative Frank R. Wolf denounced the idea. The administration backed down.
That show of weakness doomed the effort to close Guantánamo, the same administration official said. “Lyndon Johnson would have steamrolled the guy,” he said. “That’s not what happened. It’s like a boxing match where a cut opens over a guy’s eye.”
The Use of Force
It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.
This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia.
The video conferences are run by the Pentagon, which oversees strikes in those countries, and participants do not hesitate to call out a challenge, pressing for the evidence behind accusations of ties to Al Qaeda.
“What’s a Qaeda facilitator?” asked one participant, illustrating the spirit of the exchanges. “If I open a gate and you drive through it, am I a facilitator?” Given the contentious discussions, it can take five or six sessions for a name to be approved, and names go off the list if a suspect no longer appears to pose an imminent threat, the official said. A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes.
The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name. He signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan — about a third of the total.
Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy.
“He realizes this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence,” said Mr. Daley, the former chief of staff. “The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.”
But the control he exercises also appears to reflect Mr. Obama’s striking self-confidence: he believes, according to several people who have worked closely with him, that his own judgment should be brought to bear on strikes.
Asked what surprised him most about Mr. Obama, Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser, answered immediately: “He’s a president who is quite comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the United States.”
In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become “Dr. Strangelove.”)
In office, however, Mr. Obama has done exactly what he had promised, coming quickly to rely on the judgment of Mr. Brennan.
Mr. Brennan, a son of Irish immigrants, is a grizzled 25-year veteran of the C.I.A. whose work as a top agency official during the brutal interrogations of the Bush administration made him a target of fierce criticism from the left. He had been forced, under fire, to withdraw his name from consideration to lead the C.I.A. under Mr. Obama, becoming counterterrorism chief instead.
Some critics of the drone strategy still vilify Mr. Brennan, suggesting that he is the C.I.A.’s agent in the White House, steering Mr. Obama to a targeted killing strategy. But in office, Mr. Brennan has surprised many former detractors by speaking forcefully for closing Guantánamo and respecting civil liberties.
Harold H. Koh, for instance, as dean of Yale Law School was a leading liberal critic of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies. But since becoming the State Department’s top lawyer, Mr. Koh said, he has found in Mr. Brennan a principled ally.
“If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I’m comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude,” Mr. Koh said. “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”
The president values Mr. Brennan’s experience in assessing intelligence, from his own agency or others, and for the sobriety with which he approaches lethal operations, other aides say.
“The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to U.S. persons’ lives,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview. “It is the option of last recourse. So the president, and I think all of us here, don’t like the fact that people have to die. And so he wants to make sure that we go through a rigorous checklist: The infeasibility of capture, the certainty of the intelligence base, the imminence of the threat, all of these things.”
Yet the administration’s very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo.
“Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. “They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing.”
Mr. Obama’s aides deny such a policy, arguing that capture is often impossible in the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen and that many terrorist suspects are in foreign prisons because of American tips. Still, senior officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon acknowledge that they worry about the public perception.
“We have to be vigilant to avoid a no-quarter, or take-no-prisoners policy,” said Mr. Johnson, the Pentagon’s chief lawyer.
The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”
But he has found that war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision.
One early test involved Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The case was problematic on two fronts, according to interviews with both administration and Pakistani sources.
The C.I.A. worried that Mr. Mehsud, whose group then mainly targeted the Pakistan government, did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing: he was not an imminent threat to the United States. But Pakistani officials wanted him dead, and the American drone program rested on their tacit approval. The issue was resolved after the president and his advisers found that he represented a threat, if not to the homeland, to American personnel in Pakistan.
Then, in August 2009, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, told Mr. Brennan that the agency had Mr. Mehsud in its sights. But taking out the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Panetta warned, did not meet Mr. Obama’s standard of “near certainty” of no innocents being killed. In fact, a strike would certainly result in such deaths: he was with his wife at his in-laws’ home.
“Many times,” General Jones said, in similar circumstances, “at the 11th hour we waved off a mission simply because the target had people around them and we were able to loiter on station until they didn’t.”
But not this time. Mr. Obama, through Mr. Brennan, told the C.I.A. to take the shot, and Mr. Mehsud was killed, along with his wife and, by some reports, other family members as well, said a senior intelligence official.
The attempted bombing of an airliner a few months later, on Dec. 25, stiffened the president’s resolve, aides say. It was the culmination of a series of plots, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam.
Mr. Obama is a good poker player, but he has a tell when he is angry. His questions become rapid-fire, said his attorney general, Mr. Holder. “He’ll inject the phrase, ‘I just want to make sure you understand that.’ “ And it was clear to everyone, Mr. Holder said, that he was simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures.
When a few officials tentatively offered a defense, noting that the attack had failed because the terrorists were forced to rely on a novice bomber and an untested formula because of stepped-up airport security, Mr. Obama cut them short.
“Well, he could have gotten it right and we’d all be sitting here with an airplane that blew up and killed over a hundred people,” he said, according to a participant. He asked them to use the close call to imagine in detail the consequences if the bomb had detonated. In characteristic fashion, he went around the room, asking each official to explain what had gone wrong and what needed to be done about it.
“After that, as president, it seemed like he felt in his gut the threat to the United States,” said Michael E. Leiter, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Even John Brennan, someone who was already a hardened veteran of counterterrorism, tightened the straps on his rucksack after that.”
David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements.
In the most dramatic possible way, the Fort Hood shootings in November and the attempted Christmas Day bombing had shown the new danger from Yemen. Mr. Obama, who had rejected the Bush-era concept of a global war on terrorism and had promised to narrow the American focus to Al Qaeda’s core, suddenly found himself directing strikes in another complicated Muslim country.
The very first strike under his watch in Yemen, on Dec. 17, 2009, offered a stark example of the difficulties of operating in what General Jones described as an “embryonic theater that we weren’t really familiar with.”
It killed not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents. It was hardly the kind of precise operation that Mr. Obama favored. Videos of children’s bodies and angry tribesmen holding up American missile parts flooded You Tube, fueling a ferocious backlash that Yemeni officials said bolstered Al Qaeda.
The sloppy strike shook Mr. Obama and Mr. Brennan, officials said, and once again they tried to impose some discipline.
In Pakistan, Mr. Obama had approved not only “personality” strikes aimed at named, high-value terrorists, but “signature” strikes that targeted training camps and suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants.
But some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist “signature” were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.
Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well.
“We are not going to war with Yemen,” he admonished in one meeting, according to participants.
His guidance was formalized in a memo by General Jones, who called it a “governor, if you will, on the throttle,” intended to remind everyone that “one should not assume that it’s just O.K. to do these things because we spot a bad guy somewhere in the world.”
Mr. Obama had drawn a line. But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when C.I.A. analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence. And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory.
Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name — TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret — part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency.
The Ultimate Test
On that front, perhaps no case would test Mr. Obama’s principles as starkly as that of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and Qaeda propagandist hiding in Yemen, who had recently risen to prominence and had taunted the president by name in some of his online screeds.
The president “was very interested in obviously trying to understand how a guy like Awlaki developed,” said General Jones. The cleric’s fiery sermons had helped inspire a dozen plots, including the shootings at Fort Hood. Then he had gone “operational,” plotting with Mr. Abdulmutallab and coaching him to ignite his explosives only after the airliner was over the United States.
That record, and Mr. Awlaki’s calls for more attacks, presented Mr. Obama with an urgent question: Could he order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial?
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.
Mr. Obama gave his approval, and Mr. Awlaki was killed in September 2011, along with a fellow propagandist, Samir Khan, an American citizen who was not on the target list but was traveling with him.
If the president had qualms about this momentous step, aides said he did not share them. Mr. Obama focused instead on the weight of the evidence showing that the cleric had joined the enemy and was plotting more terrorist attacks.
“This is an easy one,” Mr. Daley recalled him saying, though the president warned that in future cases, the evidence might well not be so clear.
In the wake of Mr. Awlaki’s death, some administration officials, including the attorney general, argued that the Justice Department’s legal memo should be made public. In 2009, after all, Mr. Obama had released Bush administration legal opinions on interrogation over the vociferous objections of six former C.I.A. directors.
This time, contemplating his own secrets, he chose to keep the Awlaki opinion secret.
“Once it’s your pop stand, you look at things a little differently,” said Mr. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s former general counsel.
Mr. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director and now an adviser to Mr. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, commended the president’s aggressive counterterrorism record, which he said had a “Nixon to China” quality. But, he said, “secrecy has its costs” and Mr. Obama should open the strike strategy up to public scrutiny.
“This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s not sustainable,” Mr. Hayden said. “I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.”
Tactics Over Strategy
In his June 2009 speech in Cairo, aimed at resetting relations with the Muslim world, Mr. Obama had spoken eloquently of his childhood years in Indonesia, hearing the call to prayer “at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.”
“The United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” he declared.
But in the months that followed, some officials felt the urgency of counterterrorism strikes was crowding out consideration of a broader strategy against radicalization. Though Mrs. Clinton strongly supported the strikes, she complained to colleagues about the drones-only approach at Situation Room meetings, in which discussion would focus exclusively on the pros, cons and timing of particular strikes.
At their weekly lunch, Mrs. Clinton told the president she thought there should be more attention paid to the root causes of radicalization, and Mr. Obama agreed. But it was September 2011 before he issued an executive order setting up a sophisticated, interagency war room at the State Department to counter the jihadi narrative on an hour-by-hour basis, posting messages and video online and providing talking points to embassies.
Mr. Obama was heartened, aides say, by a letter discovered in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. It complained that the American president had undermined Al Qaeda’s support by repeatedly declaring that the United States was at war not with Islam, but with the terrorist network. “We must be doing a good job,” Mr. Obama told his secretary of state.
Moreover, Mr. Obama’s record has not drawn anything like the sweeping criticism from allies that his predecessor faced. John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and “softer packaging” have protected him. “After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it’s remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians,” said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes.
By withdrawing from Iraq and preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, Mr. Obama has refocused the fight on Al Qaeda and hugely reduced the death toll both of American soldiers and Muslim civilians. But in moments of reflection, Mr. Obama may have reason to wonder about unfinished business and unintended consequences.
His focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president.
Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.
Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. “It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
But Mr. Blair’s dissent puts him in a small minority of security experts. Mr. Obama’s record has eroded the political perception that Democrats are weak on national security. No one would have imagined four years ago that his counterterrorism policies would come under far more fierce attack from the American Civil Liberties Union than from Mr. Romney.
Aides say that Mr. Obama’s choices, though, are not surprising. The president’s reliance on strikes, said Mr. Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “is far from a lurid fascination with covert action and special forces. It’s much more practical. He’s the president. He faces a post-Abdulmutallab situation, where he’s being told people might attack the United States tomorrow.”
“You can pass a lot of laws,” Mr. Leiter said, “Those laws are not going to get Bin Laden dead.”
A stunning report in the New York Times depicted President Obama poring over the equivalent of terrorist baseball cards, deciding who on a “kill list” would be targeted for elimination by drone attack. The revelations — as well as those in Daniel Klaidman’s recent book — sparked public outrage and calls for congressional inquiry.
Yet bizarrely, the fury is targeted at the messengers, not the message. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed dismay that presidential aides were leaking national security information to bolster the president’s foreign policy credentials. (Shocking? Think gambling, Casablanca). Republican and Democratic senators joined in condemning the leaks. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. — AWOL in the prosecution of rampant bank fraud — roused himself to name two prosecutors to track down the leakers.
Please. Al-Qaeda knows that U.S. drones are hunting them. The Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis, Afghanis and others know the U.S. is behind the drones that strike suddenly from above. The only people aided by these revelations are the American people who have an overriding right and need to know.
The problem isn’t the leaks, it’s the policy. It’s the assertion of a presidential prerogative that the administration can target for death people it decides are terrorists — even American citizens — anywhere in the world, at any time, on secret evidence with no review.
It is a policy driven largely by the new technological capacity of pilotless aircraft. Drone strikes have rapidly expanded, becoming a centerpiece of the Obama strategy. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush.
Drones are enormously seductive and widely popular. Video games made real, they are relatively cheap, risk no U.S. casualties, claim to be exactly targeted and, according to the administration, have been lethal in eliminating al-Qaeda’s operatives. As Adm. Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence for the Obama administration before being pushed out, notes, “It plays well domestically and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
Drones are also alarming. As a recent congressional letter of inquiry notes, “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths . . . They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.” The drone attacks may generate as many terrorists as they dispatch. They seduce the U.S. into literally policing the world, an intrusive presence that surely will generate hostility and retribution.
Nick Hopkins - The Guardian, Monday 22 October 2012 22.35 BST
The UK's existing Reaper drones in Afghanistan have flown about 40,000 hours so far. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The UK is to double the number of armed RAF "drones" flying combat and surveillance operations in Afghanistan and, for the first time, the aircraft will be controlled from terminals and screens in Britain.
In the new squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), five Reaper drones will be sent to Afghanistan, the Guardian can reveal. It is expected they will begin operations within six weeks.
Pilots based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire will fly the recently bought American-made UAVs at a hi-tech hub built on the site in the past 18 months.
The UK's existing five Reaper drones, which are used to target suspected insurgents in Helmand, have been operated from Creech air force base in Nevada because Britain has not had the capability to fly them from here.
After "standing up" the new XIII squadron in a ceremony this Friday, the UK will soon have 10 Reapers in Afghanistan. The government has yet to decide whether the aircraft will remain there after 2014, when all Nato combat operations are due to end.
"The new squadron will have three control terminals at RAF Waddington, and the five aircraft will be based in Afghanistan," a spokesman confirmed. "We will continue to operate the other Reapers from Creech though, in time, we will wind down operations there and bring people back to the UK."
The use of drones has become one of the most controversial features of military strategy in Afghanistan. The UK has been flying them almost non-stop since 2008.
The CIA's programme of "targeted" drone killings in Pakistan's tribal area was last month condemned in a report by US academics. The attacks are politically counterproductive, kill large numbers of civilians and undermine respect for international law, according to the study by Stanford and New York universities' law schools.
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.
The RAF bought the drones as an urgent operational requirement (UOR) specifically for Afghanistan, and the MoD confirmed that their purpose after 2014 was unclear. Under rules imposed by the EU and the Civil Aviation Authority, UAVs can be flown only in certain places in the UK, including around the Aberporth airfield in mid-Wales.
If the air-exclusion zone restrictions are not lifted by the end of 2014, the UK may have to relocate the drones to the US, or perhaps even to Kenya, sources said.
"No decisions have been made about the longer-term future of Reaper as a core capability, nor have any decisions been made on the basing of Reaper aircraft once the UOR is complete," said a spokesman. "The UK has a need for a persistent intelligence-gathering capability. Our investment and experiences with Reaper will be considered in developing the programme ... at this stage, the MoD is still developing this strategy."
The MoD said the relocation of RAF personnel from 39 Squadron at Creech air force base would begin in the new year, and that RAF Waddington would eventually be home to two squadrons of drones.
"The intention is to phase the relocation of 39 Squadron to ensure there is no disruption to Reaper support to current operations," the spokesman added.
In the first three-and-a-half years of using the Reapers in Afghanistan, the aircraft flew 23,400 hours and fired 176 missiles. But those figures have almost doubled in the past 15 months as Nato seeks to weaken the Taliban ahead of withdrawal.
The MoD insists only four Afghan civilians have been killed in its strikes since 2008 and says it does everything it can to minimise civilian casualties, including aborting missions at the last moment.
However, it also says it has no idea how many insurgents have died because of the "immense difficulty and risks" of verifying who has been hit.
The MoD says it relies on Afghans making official complaints at military bases if their friends or relatives have been wrongly killed – a system campaigners say is flawed and unreliable.
Heather Barr, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, has said: "There are many disincentives for people to make reports.
"Some of these areas are incredibly isolated, and people may have to walk for days to find someone to report a complaint. For some, there will be a certain sense of futility in doing so anyway. There is no uniform system for making a complaint and no uniform system for giving compensation. This may not encourage them to walk several days to speak to someone who may not do anything about it."
In December 2010, David Cameron claimed that 124 insurgents had been killed in UK drone strikes. But defence officials said they had no idea where the prime minister got the figure and denied it was from the MoD.
A high court hearing on Tuesday may shed light on any support the UK is giving to the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan. The case has been brought by Noor Khan, whose father was killed in an attack on a local council meeting in 2011. He is asking the foreign secretary, William Hague, to clarify the government's position on sharing intelligence for use in CIA strikes, and is challenging the lawfulness of such activities.
His lawyer, Rosa Curling, said: "This case is about the legality of the UK government providing 'locational intelligence' to the US for use in drone strikes in Pakistan.
An off-the-record GCHQ source stated to a number of media outlets that GCHQ assistance was being provided to the US for use in drone attacks and this assistance was 'in accordance with the law.'
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL It's called the Super Aegis 2 and its one of the most advanced weapons systems ever built. Billed by its manufacturers DoDaam of South Korea as a "Total Security Solution", the Super Aegis is an automated turret system that supports a variety of weapons, from a standard machine-gun to a surface-to-air missile. It is designed to repel an attacker from up to 3 kilometres away, using sophisticated thermal imaging software and camera systems to lock onto a human-sized target even in the dead of night. The system requires no human presence. It's all operated robotically from a distant control room. DoDaam Systems Vice-President Park Sung-ho says the high-tech weapon could become an integral component in South Korea's ongoing military face-off with North Korea across the heavily armed Demilitarised Zone. SOUNDBITE: DODAAM SYSTEMS VICE PRESIDENT PARK SUNG-HO SAYING (Korean): "We have certain circumstance where North and South Korea are confronting each other and currently soldiers are operating a lot of military equipment. If the job can be replaced by non-human guarding and monitoring robots, it could reduce the number of labour forces and military forces. And it could also reduce human losses under real combat situations." Super aEgis 2 detects objects with two cameras: a low-light camera and a thermal imaging camera which senses body temperature. A laser range finder and gyroscopic stabiliser keep the weapon steady in high winds. SOUNDBITE: DODAAM SYSTEMS VICE PRESIDENT PARK SUNG-HO SAYING (Korean): "Super aEgis 2 is a guarding, monitoring combat robot composed of a video part and a shooting part. The video part consists of a day and night colour camera, thermal camera, and Laser range finder which measures the distance. The shooting part consists of a section that uses the incoming image from the video part to detect the object and to destroy it." It's not yet clear though, whether the Super aEgis 2 will be deployed along the border. The 60 year old Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea specifies limits for the weapons each side can point at one another. The super gun's presence may never be known, unless or until it starts firing. Tara Cleary, Reuters.
'During the late 1990s, (technology?) was developed using cameras that no longer required light sources or extensive cooling required by infrared imagery.
Originally tasked with detecting oil and minerals or for oceanographic research, unforeseen advances in technology have surpassed “hyperspectral” into the “hyperspatial” range.
A drone with an “after-next generation” HS/HS system can detect your breath, give you a blood alcohol count, tell you what your last meal was and count the change in your pocket...'
For the 10% of the real technology described above, there is a 90% that is hidden, much as with an iceberg, with is mass always beneath the surface, unseen yet threatening.
Drones had become a threat to life, a harbinger of destruction from above for those unlucky enough to have garnered the attention of the US or Israel.
Death can take on more forms than the physical, a loss of, not just privacy, but a pervasive intrusion into the lives and property of all, not just “targeted militants” or “drug mules,” but, with organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, tasked with putting advanced technologies into the hands of every agency feigning a “need,” no one will ever feel secure in their person again...' _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
1) Ground the Drones protest logistics
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Ground the Drones
We look forward to seeing you on the Ground the Drones march from Lincoln to Britain's drone control centre, RAF Waddington on April 27. The protest has been organised by CND, the Drone Campaign Network, War on Want and Stop the War Coalition. Here are some details to help you on the 27th.
March route We will gather at 12pm on the West corner of South Park (look out for the Ground the Drones banner). At 12:30pm we will set off along the A15 to the site of Helen John's caravan protest against drones (the green symbol on the map) which is opposite RAF Waddington. The length of the route is 2.8 miles and we will arrive at approximately 2pm in time for a political rally.
By train If you are travelling to Lincoln by train, shuttle buses will run from Lincoln train station to South Park, the start of the march. When you arrive, look out for stewards in hi-viz jackets to find out when the next bus will leave. Please let us know if you plan to use the bus. They will leave at approximately 11:45am and about 12:15pm. Alternatively the number 1 bus goes from outside the Railway station at 11:05, 11:35 and 12:05 to Lincoln South Park. When the march and rally has finished at 4pm, the shuttle bus will return people to the train station.
By coach or car Please ask your group's driver to drop you off at South Park, off Cross O'Cliff Hill, and park at the end of the route to the north of Sleaford Road (A15) where there are plenty of parking spaces. This will make it easy for your group to leave at 4pm.
Book a coach ticket from your area
Birmingham - 07771567496 firstname.lastname@example.org
Doncaster - 07587697028
Cambridge - 07562724750
Coventry - 07732030231
London - 02075619311 or buy online
Manchester - 07765122829 email@example.com
Norwich - 07717504 210
Sheffield - 01142680726
York - please contact Doncaster
Organizing transport in your area? Let us know
We need your help. If you would like to volunteer as a steward to help us get from Lincoln to RAF Waddington, please drop us an email or call 020 7561 9311.
We advise that you bring a packed lunch, although there will be refreshments available at the end of the route. More details to be announced soon.
The groups who have come together to organize the Ground the Drones protest will bring their organization's banners and some placards will be available. However, we encourage participants to make their own banners and placards to send a clear message to the government.
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Chris Nineham, vice-Chair of Stop the War, writes that the great advantage of drones for western governments is they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
RAF Waddington will soon be the control centre for British drone warfare. It may already be, we can't be sure.
The fact we don't know testifies to the secrecy that surrounds the operation of these remote control killing machines. Drones embody the sinister shift that has been taken in the West's wars post Iraq.
They blur the distinction between war and state execution, with no chance for public scrutiny.
Britain has been using drones in Afghanistan for some years. But by developing its drone capability, the British government is now stepping up its global ability to conduct arbitrary assassinations.
Official US language shows droes are normalizing such behaviour. There has been next to no public discussion about their use in Britain, but in the US drones are actualloy justified as precision weapons of international assassination. Their supporters say they are capable of surgically removing terrorist targets, so 'cleansing' weakened states of extremist leaders.
In a half hearted attempt to provide a legal framework, the Obama administration has claimed that drones are justified because they are used only against "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces" involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting "imminent" violent attacks on Americans. The US is still at war against Al-Qaeda, the argument goes, so such lethal incursions into foreign territory are legal.
"It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative," President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. "It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States."
But the evidence is unchallengeable: this is nonsense. Recent reports suggest that just 1.5% of the estimated 3,100 that have been killed by US drones in Pakistan were identified by US officials as 'high-profile targets'. The US categorises victims as children, civilians, "high-profile," and "other." "The 'other" grey zone comprises males of fighting age.
The Obama administration assumes that these are legitimate targets even though there is no information as to their affiliation. But the Washington Post reported in February that most attacks now are "signature strikes," in which targets are selected based on suspicious patterns of activity and the identities of those who could be killed is not known. In 2012, the New York Times paraphrased a view they said was shared by several officials that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."
Their crime in other words was to have been young, male and in the area.
But it's not just that fantasies are being peddled about drones' technical ability to single out their targets. Their strategic role is being obscured too. In reality drones are not used simply as surgical weapon to pre-empt a possible attack. Partly their adoption has been driven by the unpopularity and the manifest failure of the conventional wars that have been fought under the rubric of the war on terror over the last twelve years.
The great advantage of drones from the point of view of western governments is that, at least while the West has the technological edge over competitors, they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
Another advantage of drones is that they are a relatively cheap way of killing people, important at a time of spending cuts. They are a way of continuing foreign wars while slimming budgets.
Drones are no more part of a rational policy of self-defence than the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. And nor do they mark a drawdown in US military ambitions. They are in fact being used as a surrogate for conventional military operations. White House senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended drone strikes in April 2012 by comparing them to "deploying large armies abroad" and "large, intrusive military deployments."
The fact the US has used drones in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan and very likely in Mali as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, testifies to the fact that drones are integrated into the US's wider war strategy. They are being used to destabilise enemy governments and shore up allies.
The conditions that led to the war on terror are still in place. The US faces growing economic challenges while it retains enormous military predominance. The chaos and volatility created by the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of Chinese power in influence in the Pacific, in Africa and elsewhere make the global situation is, if anything, even more tense than at the beginning of the last decade.
The US military is explicit that the war goes on. In January, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Ted Koppel that even after 2014, "Our war in Afghanistan will be complete, but no one has ever suggested that that will end the war." Secretary Panetta is just as clear: "We are in a war. We're in a war on terrorism and we've been in that war since 9/11."
In a process that the experts call 'monopoly erosion', drone use is spreading fast, confirming that they are becoming the new face of modern warfare. A 2012 survey showed that 11 countries had functioning drone systems, including France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, India and China. Other countries are rushing to catch up. We already face a frightening situation in which great powers are confronting each other with these 'easy to use' 'low cost' killing systems.
A US study based on extensive research in Pakistan gives some inkling of the impact of this remote control imperialism:
Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.
One man interviewed by the researchers described the reaction to the sound of the drones as "a wave of terror" coming over the community. "Children, grown-up people, women, they are terrified. . . . They scream in terror." Another "God knows whether they'll strike us again or not. But they're always surveying us, they're always over us, and you never know when they're going to strike and attack".
The opposition to our government's foreign wars must continue – we mustn't let them keep fighting behind our backs.
16 April Public Meeting in Parliament: Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Public meeting jointly called by Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs and the All Party Drones Group
Tuesday 16th April: 18.30 to 20.00
Wilson Room, Portcullis House
(next to Westminster tube station)
Chris Cole, Drone Campaign Network UK
Rafeef Ziadah, War on Want
Paul Flynn MP
Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs was launched to press for British withdrawal and consider constructive ways in which the conflict might be ended. The group is co-chaired by MPs Paul Flynn and Caroline Lucas. Supporters are drawn from across the political parties.
All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones was set up to examine the use of drones by governments for domestic and international, military and civilian purposes. It is chaired by Tom Watson MP. Baroness Stern, a cross bench peer and human rights and criminal justice campaigner, is group vice chair.
'By Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent, NBC News
A former Air Force drone operator who says he participated in missions that killed more than 1,600 people remembers watching one of the first victims bleed to death.
Brandon Bryant says he was sitting in a chair at a Nevada Air Force base operating the camera when his team fired two missiles from their drone at three men walking down a road halfway around the world in Afghanistan. The missiles hit all three targets, and Bryant says he could see the aftermath on his computer screen – including thermal images of a growing puddle of hot blood...' _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
The CIA did not always know who it was targeting and killing in drone strikes in Pakistan over a 14-month period, an NBC News review of classified intelligence reports shows. About one of every four of those killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010, and Oct. 30, 2011, were classified as "other militants,” the documents detail. The “other militants” label was used when the CIA could not determine the affiliation of those killed, prompting questions about how the agency could conclude they were a threat to U.S. national security.
Joined: 30 Jul 2006 Posts: 5789 Location: East London
Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:26 am Post subject:
We cannot believe any statistics the CIA or any other official US (or British etc) government agency puts out.
To mass murderers, 'War Criminals', 'Criminals Against Peace' & 'Criminals Against Humanity' (the three Nuremberg War Crimes), lying is a very venial sin, pardonable by one 'Our Father' & two 'Hail Mary's'. _________________ 'And he (the devil) said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them'. Luke IV 5-7.
Heavy-hearted judge imposes minimum sentence on anti-drone activists
On 7 October, six peace activists were found guilty of criminal damage during a protest at a British drones base, RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. They were given a conditional discharge for six months, were fined £10 and ordered to pay £75 in court costs.
Defendant Keith Hebden told PN: ‘The judge recognised the validity of our arguments, saying Waddington was a “legitimate target for protest”. The token order to pay £10 in compensation reads to me like an invitation to press home the campaign to ground the drones.’
In an unusual move, district judge John Stobart said he would welcome an appeal, after giving this ruling: ‘I find, and not without some hesitation, that the lack of proximity or relationship between the defendants and those in Afghanistan who may be either targeted or hit accidentally by these drones is insufficient. I therefore, with a very heavy heart, find all the defendants guilty.’
Susan Clarkson told PN: ‘Although we were found guilty. I felt the day went well. We were able to put all our points across and the district judge listened carefully to all we had to say.
‘I hope that our words will strike a chord in him and that one day he, and others like him, will join us in resisting war and preparations for war. Then he will be light-hearted!’
By coincidence, the date of the conviction was also the 12th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war.
Susan Clarkson, Christopher Cole, Henrietta Cullinan, Keith Hebden, Martin Newell and Penny Walker all denied criminal damage to a fence at the base. They justified their actions on 3 June — the UN’s International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression — as war crime prevention. The protesters said they believed their actions were justified to prevent the UK from operating armed drones, which they claimed is a breach of international law.
‘During the action I tried to focus on the suffering of the victims of drone strikes in Afghanistan,’ Henrietta Cullinan explained to PN. ‘The whole experience was intensely personal. It was strange then talking about these experiences and deeply-held beliefs in a court, and then even more so being listened to by a sympathetic judge, even though we were eventually found guilty.’
'We were disappointed but not surprised to have been found guilty'
‘We were disappointed but not surprised to have been found guilty,’ Chris Cole told PN. ‘However our evidence that the UK’s use of armed drones was breaching international law clearly moved the judge and he urged us to appeal to a higher court, which we are considering. This is not the end of the road by any means and no doubt RAF Waddington will see many more protests over the coming months and years.’
During the trial, Keith Hebden told the court: ‘The decision to pilot armed drones from Waddington makes RAF Waddington a war zone. It brings the Afghanistan conflict into this country and it puts ourselves in grave danger.
‘If this country becomes part of a war zone, it makes all of our lives less safe. Our intention was to save lives.’
In June, Penny Walker wrote on Chris Cole’s Drone Wars UK blog: ‘With drones, the huge distance between the people making the decision to kill and the people being killed can protect the killers from the reality of their deed. While I was there, I wanted to communicate the reality of a drone strike on Afghan families, and what it is like for them to live in fear.’
Vine and fig tree
The six were detained on 3 June after civilian police were called to the base. By then the activists had planted a peace garden — consisting of a vine and a fig tree — inside the base, and had spent over half an hour taking photographs and leafleting staff.
‘Being part of a group of such fantastic experienced peace campaigners was a great privilege for me. I was extremely lucky to be able to test my thoughts and moral convictions in this way. As a journey it was very personal, heartfelt and spiritual as well as public, that involved interactions with police, security guards, the court, other peace campaigners.’
They placed posters on buildings, hangars and signposts inside the base, with information about the impact drone strikes have on Afghan civilians. The posters were clips and photos from various news sources, including the Guardian and CNN, about drone damage, and included images of children wounded and killed by strikes.
The station, which also houses a squadron of AWACS spy planes, was placed on lockdown until the activists were removed from the site.
While they were initially charged with aggravated trespass and conspiracy to commit criminal damage, those charges were later dropped and replaced with the sole charge of criminal damage to the perimeter fence.
Michel Treharne, prosecuting, said: ‘The damage to the fence was caused by bolt croppers. It was not seen to be done but the bolt croppers were found very close to where the fence had been cut.
‘As a result of the damage, the protesters were able to get through onto the base. They were walking around with cameras and leaflets.’
On the day of the trial, about 20 demonstrators staged an anti-drone protest outside the Lincoln magistrates court, including members of the Drone Campaign Network, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition, and War on Want.
Defendant Penny Walker told PN: ‘The amount of supporters we had, both inside the court and outside with banners and talking to passers-by, was fantastic. I feel part of a very committed and growing group of people determined to stop drone warfare.’
Richard Johnston, who was protesting outside the court, told The Lincolnite: ‘It’s interesting because now war is being waged from our soil, just down the road. We are very near a war zone. You think of all the messages that are actually going out from that base and killing people.’
The E-767 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) is worthy of special note. Much loved by cash heavy control freaks the world over, these aircraft regularly fly around illegally in UK airspace with no registration or other markings. One UK base for these is at USAF Waddington in Lincolnshire which you can visit quite legally once annually. The rest of the year there is a fence in the way. http://www.waddingtonairshow.co.uk
'It looks like a gamer’s paradise: A comfortable tan leather captain’s chair sits behind four computer monitors, an airplane joystick with a red “fire” button, a keyboard and throttle control.
The games here have great implications. Across the world, a $20 million Gray Eagle drone armed with four Hellfire missiles, ready to make a sortie into hostile territory is taking commands from a workstation like this one. A graduate from this room on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach could be in that other room in as little as six months with a master’s degree in drone warfare, his hand on the joystick, making $150,000 a year.
The government budget for drone warfare has gone from a relatively paltry $667 million in 2002 to more than $3.9 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Welcome to the new basic training, where the skills to fight the War of Tomorrow are taught in private classrooms today. Embry-Riddle this fall became the first in the country to offer post graduate education in this field.
“We’re trying to prepare our students so they’re ready to operate at the highest levels,” said Dan Macchiarella, department chair of aeronautical sciences at Embry-Riddle.
But as with so many things that begin with a military purpose, these unmanned vehicles are coming in all shapes and sizes — from full-sized planes to mini helicopters less than 2 feet across — to play a role in the civilian world.
“My generation grew up with Vietnam on TV. But this spins off from gaming. Just look at it. It looks like gaming.”
- Dan Macchiarella, department chair of aeronautical sciences at Embry-Riddle
They are used by law enforcement to patrol the borders, to nab shark-fin poachers off the Galapagos Islands, to hover above the trees and count populations of endangered birds. The University of Florida built its own drone to monitor wildlife.
There are storm-chasing drones. Fire-fighting drones. Drones to report real-time traffic. Congress has ordered the FAA to issue new regulations for this impending civilian army of unmanned vehicles.
Look up in the sky: The drones are coming.
“It’s going to grow exponentially once the law catches up,” said Josh Olds, an Embry-Riddle graduate and drone flight instructor at Embry-Riddle who worked with government contractors overseas before returning to help run the school’s flight simulation lab.
The government budget for drone warfare has gone from a relatively paltry $667 million in 2002 to more than $3.9 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report. And the number of drones in military service has shot from 167 to nearly 7,500 — and climbing.
Where there is a new skill to learn, there is soon a teacher.
Some will simply enlist in the military to train in piloting drones. For the civilians, there is now college.
In 2011, the University of North Dakota was the first to graduate a class — of five students — with a bachelor of science in unmanned systems. In May, Kansas State awarded its first diploma.
Embry-Riddle had hoped to attract 200 students within the first five years of the program. Just three semesters in, they have 120 students. Now, they expect they’ll have to limit their enrollment to 500 students a year.
“It’s taking off like a rocket,” Macchiarella said. “We had students go through the program as fast as they could to get out there.”
Already, through its ROTC program, Embry-Riddle graduates more pilot cadets than any other institution outside the military academies. Of its 5,000 students, about a quarter are involved with the ROTC program. Most have financial aid to offset the $30,000 annual tuition.
The nature of this fly-by-computer-screen technology attracts the young gamer-type, Macchiarella said — much different from the soldiers of his generation, when he retired as an Army lieutenant colonel.
But he saw the change coming as he worked in the battle labs where the military flew some of the first advanced unmanned aircrafts, the so-called Hunter UAV spy planes with 29-foot wingspans.
“My generation grew up with Vietnam on TV,” said Macchiarella, who flew Apache helicopters. “But this spins off from gaming. Just look at it. It looks like gaming.”
In an economy hungry for jobs, students are going where the work is. And right now, drones are hot.
“I didn’t get into flying airplanes to do this, but I fell into it because it was lucrative,” said John Bounds, a 2006 Embry-Riddle graduate who manages the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight lab and serves as a flight instructor. “The salary this offered was competitive with what I could make as a pilot with 15 years experience.”
Two years out of school, Bounds was hired by a government contractor, General Dynamic Information Technology, to train civilians and soldiers to fly drones at Libby Army Airfield in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Bounds was hired specifically because of his experience with General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle, a $21.5 million turbo-diesel unmanned plane with a 56-foot wingspan, which can carry four Hellfires or eight stinger missiles, fly at 170 mph, up to 29,000 feet and 30 hours straight.
“Privates straight out of basic training, we trained them on the system, then they deployed,” Bounds said.
Along with the ubiquitous Predator, it is the among the most popular drone used by the military. Embry-Riddle is looking into purchasing a Gray Eagle for training, which would take off from the adjacent Daytona Beach International Airport, Bounds said.
At Embry-Riddle, there are two tracks for students interested in drones: one to build and one to fly.
On a recent blustery Monday, a remote-controlled boat shaped like a floating box braved the choppy waters in the expansive fountain outside the Embry-Riddle president’s office, when a 2-foot-wide helicopter with four blades — a “quad copter” — lifted off from the back of the boat.
Will Shaler, 21, kept it aloft via remote control and landed it back safely — and dry. Soon, these two remote-controlled systems will work in tandem, and completely autonomously, to complete a task laid out in a contest sponsored by a government contractor.
The goal is to make drones that execute particular tasks, from mowing the lawn at the neighboring airport at night to a tiny one that can hover through a window, steal a thumb-drive off a desk and replace it with a phony before making its escape.
And for this, they rely on students like Shaler to design them.
“Nobody’s going to be buying manned fighter planes in a few years,” said Shaler, a mechanical engineering senior who wants to work in drone robotics.
“We feel UAVs are an integral part of the future of aviation,” Embry-Riddle President John Johnson said, coming out to watch the robotics students maneuvering outside his office.
But right now, there’s a catch with UAVs: No one can legally use the airspace to fly unmanned aircraft for profit.
The industry is waiting for the FAA to expand the usable U.S. airspace for drones. The regulations now were designed for hobbyists flying remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters under 400 feet.
There are only a handful of exceptions for private entities doing research and development, and flight training or demonstrations. The FAA grants a Certificate of Authorization, which permits a limited area for a particular aircraft. But only 327 are approved in the country at last count, in February.
“Right now, it’s kind of in the ‘Wild West’ stage,” Macchiarella said. And of course, there are concerns over privacy.
This year, Florida passed a law that bars local law enforcement from using drones without a warrant, unless there’s the threat of a terrorist attack, and says the information can’t be used as evidence in court. (Three Florida law enforcement agencies — Miami-Dade police, and Orange and Polk counties sheriff’s offices — are authorized to use drones.)
“There’s an industry that wants to sell hundreds and thousands of these drones all over the country, and before they’re up in the sky, I thought it was a good idea to say, here are the rules in Florida,” Florida Sen. Joe Negron, who sponsored the bill, told the Miami Herald in April.
The days of unmanned vehicles whizzing overhead are drawing near.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16049 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:34 am Post subject: Re: Obama's Kill List of Drone Victims approved every Wednes
Only difference in the MO is in the UK (RAF Waddington & elsewhere) decisions about these war crimes are committed in total secret.
I suppose these evil people think they can hide forever.
I suppose they believe, because of the deaths of David Kelly, Diana, Robin Cook etc they can easily kill any domestic opponent, including a senior army officer, who moves to bring them to justice.
I suppose the idea is to make the UK seem 'nicer' than the US to most of the world. It's just that the UK is still a despotic monarchy.
WASHINGTON — This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.
Defence firm BAE Systems today officially unveiled its first ever high-tech unmanned stealth jet.
The Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is about the same size as a Hawk jet and is equipped with stealth equipment and an 'autonomous' artificial intelligence system.
The plane will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent.
The trial aircraft cost £143 million pounds to construct and spearheads BAE's drive to convince the Ministry of Defence to invest in the next generation of unmanned aircraft.
Almost invisible to ground radar, it is designed to travel at high jet speeds and cover massive distances between continents.
The plane is built to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on enemy territory using onboard sensors.
And it has been designed to carry a cache of weapons - including bombs and missiles -, giving it a potential long-range strike capability.
It can be controlled from anywhere in the world with satellite communications.
Experts say the cutting-edge design is at the forefront of world technology and as advanced as any US development.
The plane began development in December 2006, and is intended to prove the UK's ability to produce a stealthy UAV.
Taranis will be stealthy, fast, able to carry out use a number of on-board weapons systems and be able to defend itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft.
Any future need hinges on the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will conclude around October.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth said: 'Taranis is a truly trailblazing project.
'The first of its kind in the UK, it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.'
He added: 'Taranis shows the UK's advanced engineering, research, technology and innovation sector at its world-beating best.'
Taranis is an informal partnership of the UK MoD and industry British engineering firms including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.
Rolls-Royce will focus on the next generation propulsion system for the Taranis demonstrator.
Speaking on behalf of the industry team, Nigel Whitehead, Group managing director of BAE Systems' Programmes & Support business, said: 'Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours.
'It represents a significant step forward in this country's fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the UK's leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation."
The Taranis prototype will provide the MOD with knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.
Test flights for the Taranis plane are due to start in 2011. _________________ www.lawyerscommitteefor9-11inquiry.org www.rethink911.org www.patriotsquestion911.com www.actorsandartistsfor911truth.org www.mediafor911truth.org www.pilotsfor911truth.org www.mp911truth.org www.ae911truth.org www.rl911truth.org www.stj911.org www.v911t.org www.thisweek.org.uk www.abolishwar.org.uk www.elementary.org.uk www.radio4all.net/index.php/contributor/2149 http://utangente.free.fr/2003/media2003.pdf
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
That's some long term planning. Mind you...I suppose the 'Global' in Global Hawk says it all reallly. _________________ "Soon after the year 2000 has been written, a law will go forth from America whose purpose will be to suppress all individual thinking. This will not be the wording of the law, but it will be the intent" Rudolf Steiner: Gegenwärtiges und Vergangenes in Menschengeiste (The Present and the Past in the Human Spirit)
Softening up public for drone attacks on anyone, anywhere. Just brand them as "terrorist" and that's enough.
This week (February 20, 2014) Obama announced that his administration was contemplating killing an American citizen in Pakistan but the real target is not in Pakistan at all.
Obama announced that his administration was contemplating killing an American citizen in Pakistan. Supposedly because this individual is suspected of terrorism. Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd? Why on earth would they announce something like that? Why would they publicize their lawlessness opening up a potential public relations disaster and giving the assassination target a chance to escape?
I'll tell you why.
The real target of this stunt isn't some man living in a foreign country that may or may not have contemplated committing a crime. The real target is you.
We've been conditioned to weigh the value of the lives of people in distant lands with a different scale than than we measure our own. Especially when those people seem very different from us. So it may never have punched you in the gut when you heard of civilians being killed in drone strikes even when it was revealed that 50 civilian non-combatants are killed for every 1 so called insurgent in the U.S. Drone program. Those weren't Americans, so it made it easier to put the reality of those numbers aside, and to put your attention back on much more important issues, like Justin Biebers recent arrest. (Yeah I know, like what was he thinking? You don't tell the cops you've been smoking weed.)
However, to kill an American citizen overseas without a trial, without even the semblance of due process that's psychologically different, even if morally indistinguishable. 50 years ago such talk would have sent shockwaves through the nation, it would have been interpreted as a constitutional crisis and an existential threat, but today it's just a minor blip in the weekly news cycle.
The American people have been gradually conditioned to accept a new paradigm, a paradigm in which a single man in a position of power can issue death sentences on a whim, a paradigm in which those who wrap themselves in the mantle of government are above the law, and act accordingly. The power to kill or imprison without due process, the power to rule by edict, to sidestep and ignore the constitution, these are the powers of a king. The ruling class is attempting to establish the cultural context for a modern monarchy, a dictatorship with the superficial trappings of a democratic system.
I say the cultural context, because this all depends on the acquiescence and participation of the population.
This announcement by Obama is perfect example of the method they have been using to psychologically condition the people. What they're doing here is getting you used to hearing about suspects being murdered in the field without a trial. And this isn't the first time they've done this. Remember the drone strike Obama ordered that killed Anwar al-Aulaqi and his 16 year old son? Oh wait, their skin is brown, and they have funny sounding names. They don't count do they.
I've got news for you, they do count, because if you are willing to look the other way and rationalize the extrajudicial murder of those you have a hard time relating to that sets precedent. And precedent is more than just a legal concept, it's a psychological principle.
That principle will enable the next president to pick up where Obama leaves off and stretch these new powers even farther, just like Obama expanded upon the abuses pioneered by the Bush administration.
These publicized assassinations of U.S. citizens living in other countries are are test balloons. If the people accept this as a new normal then it is only a matter of time till we start hearing about targeted assassinations being carried out domestically, and it's only a matter of time till the definition of a terrorist becomes stretched to accommodate political dissidents of all flavors. That's what states do with this kind of power. To think that the U.S. government is the exception is beyond naive.
That unnamed American citizen targeted for assassination in Pakistan is you, it's the future we are handing down to our children, it is the essence of our very way of life, the most basic protections that we have come to take for granted. That's what's really in the cross hairs. And all they need from you is your silence.
If you recognize just how dangerous this trend of extrajudicial assassinations really is and if you are willing to speak out there is a link below which will give you a starting point.
This video is non-commercial. You have permission to download it, you can upload to your own channel or to put it on dvd and pass it out on the streets. If you would like to support our work we have a donate button on our website StormCloudsGathering.com.
Judge dismisses lawsuit over death of Anwar al-Awlaki and two others in Yemen, saying it is a matter for Congress
theguardian.com, Saturday 5 April 2014 04.15 BST
Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen.
A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the families of three American citizens killed by drones in Yemen, saying senior officials cannot be held personally responsible for money damages for the act of conducting war.
The families of the three – including Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born militant Muslim cleric who had joined al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate, as well as his teenage son – sued over their 2011 deaths in US drone strikes, arguing that the killings were illegal.
Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US district court in Washington threw out the case, which had named as defendants the former defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the former senior military commander and CIA chief David Petraeus and two other top military commanders.
"The question presented is whether federal officials can be held personally liable for their roles in drone strikes abroad that target and kill U.S. citizens," Collyer said in her opinion. "The question raises fundamental issues regarding constitutional principles and it is not easy to answer."
But the judge said she would grant the government's motion to dismiss the case.
Collyer said the officials named as defendants "must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the US constitution when they intentionally target a US citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war."
Awlaki's US-born son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16 years old when he was killed. Also killed was Samir Khan, a naturalised US citizen who had moved to Yemen in 2009 and worked on Inspire, an English-language al-Qaida magazine.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, both based in New York, represented the families. They had argued that in killing American citizens the government violated fundamental rights under the US constitution to due process and to be free from unreasonable seizure.
"This is a deeply troubling decision that treats the government's allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court," said ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi. "The court's view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution."
Centre for Constitutional Rights lawyer Maria LaHood said the judge "effectively convicted" Anwar al-Awlaki "posthumously based solely on the government's say-so". LaHood said the judge also found that the constitutional rights of the son and of Khan "weren't violated because the government didn't target them".
"It seems there's no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn't. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy and for all victims of the US government's unlawful killings," LaHood said.
Collyer ruled that the families did not have a claim under the Constitution's fourth amendment guarantee against unreasonable seizures because the government did not seize or restrain the three who were killed. "Unmanned drones are functionally incapable of 'seizing' a person; they are designed to kill, not capture," she wrote.
Collyer wrote that the families had presented a plausible claim that the government violated Awlaki's due process rights. "Nonetheless the court finds no available remedy under US law for this claim," the judge wrote.
"In this delicate area of war making national security and foreign relations the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role."
Allowing claims against individual federal officials in this case "would impermissibly draw the court into the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation", she wrote. It would "require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions".
Nasser al-Awlaki, father of Anwar al-Awlaki, said he was disappointed in the American justice system and "like any parent or grandparent would, I want answers from the government when it decides to take life, but all I have got so far is secrecy and a refusal even to explain".
Drone attacks have killed several suspected figures in al-Qaida's Yemen-based affiliate including Awlaki, who is accused of orchestrating plots to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and US cargo planes in 2010.
The United States has faced international criticism for its use of drones to attack militants in places such as Pakistan and Yemen. A UN human rights watchdog in March called on the Obama administration to limit its use of drones targeting suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Barack Obama's administration increased the number of drone strikes after he took office in 2009 but attacks have dropped off in the past year. The US has come under pressure from critics to rein in the missile strikes and do more to protect civilians.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16049 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:36 pm Post subject:
Israel IDF prefers drones as killers for future wars
From Iron Dome to unmanned drones: The IDF's vision for the future battlefield
How will Israel's wars be fought in 10 years' time? The person best qualified to answer that question is Ophir Shoham, head of the Defense Ministry's R&D division, who rarely speaks to the media.
By Amos Harel | 19:15 12.04.13 | 9
Unmanned weapons systems will be integrated into the Israel Defense Forces’ future land battles, says the defense establishment’s chief technological officer, Ophir Shoham: “Within a few years there will be a number of operational missions of a known character that we will be able to carry out with a small number of unmanned...
NASA is building an air traffic control system for drones
http://t.co/fctAG2jyJ8 _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Brain Reset Time Again!
Gives a whole new meaning to the term 'Mind Controlled Drone'
http://rt.com/usa/184881-us-mind-control-drone/ _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
In an op-ed published in Salon on Tuesday, the unnamed former Air Force imagery analyst writes, “I was the only line of defense between keeping someone alive and providing the intelligence for a strike using technology not accurate enough to determine life and death.”
The military veteran—published under the name AFISR Predator (for Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)—goes on to describe how a drone pilot’s success was partly determined by the number of “enemy kills.” The analysts were encouraged to fly missions “even when there was nothing of consequence to see, no targets to strike and no American ground forces to protect,” wrote the veteran.
Despite calls for greater transparency, President Barack Obama has yet to acknowledge or provide any accounting for the number of civilians killed by the U.S. drone program. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that in Yemen roughly 135 civilians were killed by either confirmed or possible drone strikes since 2014 and in Pakistan over 950 civilians have been killed by confirmed strikes.
Countering claims made by the CIA director John Brennan that the use of drones will “dramatically reduce,” if not eliminate, the danger to U.S. personnel, AFISR Predator describes the prevalence of spousal, alcohol and drug abuse among his 100-person unit; two members had even taken their lives.
“The psychological pressure of not knowing if strikes were accurate was debilitating at times,” AFISR Predator writes.
“Our team worked between 12- and 14-hour shifts in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, sometimes flying for hours seeing nothing, sometimes seeing unspeakable carnage,” AFISR Predator continues. “Then we returned home to spouses and families, where our security clearances prevented us from sharing our experiences in an effort to decompress from what we had witnessed.”
AFISR Predator concludes by saying that the military must “reconsider” their reliance on killer drones. “They are not as legal, targeted or accurate as the government makes them out to be, and they are not without consequences for our troops.”
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