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ACTION ALERT: Free the Anti-NATO Nine

May 31st, 2012 - by admin

Committee to Stop FBI Repression – 2012-05-31 00:51:32

http://stopfbi.net

Anti-NATO Protesters Held on Terrorism
Charges, Extreme Bail

Call States Attorney Anita Alvarez
773-674-6209
Demand all charges be dropped against anti-NATO protesters! “Release them all now!”

(May 30, 2012) — Nine people continue to be held in jail in Chicago, arrested before or during the protests against the NATO summit, according to information provided by the National Lawyers Guild. [See below.] They face felony charges and even terrorism charges, while the NATO generals responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands have left town to return to their occupation of Afghanistan and plotting for their next war.

Of those still being held, five of them have been charged under a State of Illinois law passed after 9/11 that has never been used. The NATO 5 were all targeted by undercover police officers exposed by the National Lawyers Guild. The agents went by the nicknames “Mo” and “Gloves.”

The NATO 5 were arrested without any evidence of their involvement in violence, other than the statements of undercover provocateurs. The first arrests took place in an unlawful police raid of a home on Wednesday night, May 16th, in which the police kicked in doors without presenting a warrant, beat up people, shackled protesters hand and foot, and then “disappeared” 11 people for up to 40 hours. The National Lawyers Guild and Occupy Chicago activists faced repeated denials by the CPD in their attempts to locate those arrested.

The remaining two were arrested several days later. Again, no evidence has been presented other than the statements of the undercover police. Both men were held longer than the 48 hours required by law before being given access to use of a telephone or to speak with an attorney.

The other four still being held were involved in a protest action at the point which the police turned violent, causing over 70 injuries from baton blows, including many serious head injuries. Over 24 had to be treated at area hospitals for broken bones, knocked out teeth, concussions, and wounds requiring stitches or staples.

On top of the arrests and charges, the protesters are being held with outrageous bails: $1.5 million for the first three facing terrorism charges; $750,000 and $500,000 for the second two charged under the same state terrorism law; and as high as $250,000 for the remaining men. Bail for one Chicago youth, Raziel Azuara is set at $150,000.

It is the Chicago Police Department that is responsible for the violence; and the CPD and the States Attorney are violating the law and the Constitution.

Charges of terrorism, pre-emptive raids and prosecution, charges based on entrapment, and violence against protesters are all standard procedure when the US government declares a National Special Security Event as they did with the NATO summit.

These tactics were employed at the Republican National Convention in 2008, resulting in the cases of the RNC 8; the 23 anti-war activists raided by the FBI and subpoenaed to a grand jury for investigation of support for foreign terrorists; and the current trial of Carlos Montes in Los Angeles.

Now in Chicago they’ve added the element of excessive bail, as if the protesters were part of the 1%, rather than the 99%.

We must speak out against this repression. We know the charges against the anti-NATO protesters are false. All these prisoners should be free.

Call States Attorney Anita Alvarez
773-674-6209
Demand all charges be dropped against anti NATO protesters! Release them all now!

In struggle,
Joe Iosbaker
Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Copyright © 2012 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414


NLG Provides Wrap-up of Police
Reaction to NATO Demonstrations

Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild Press Release

CHICAGO, IL (May 25, 2012)— The Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has made an initial assessment of police actions on the streets during the week of NATO demonstrations, which was dominated by police harassment and violence, serious injuries, high-level charges, and exceptionally high bonds.

At this time, the NLG estimates that 117 people were arrested, but fewer than 100 were ultimately charged. Of those charged, the vast majority were ordinance violations and misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, trespassing, and resisting arrest. Sixteen people were charged with felonies, including 5 protesters accused of terrorism-related crimes.

The NLG was disturbed to receive reports of more than 70 instances of police brutality, most of which occurred at the end of Sunday’s antiwar march at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road. Most of the injuries were from baton blows to the body and many resulted in serious head injuries. More than two-dozen protesters were taken to Northwestern and Mercy Hospitals and treated for broken bones, knocked out teeth, concussions, and several open wounds requiring stitches or staples.

“Although police allowed some unpermitted marches to take place without incident, there were massive shows of force by police throughout the week of NATO demonstrations and indiscriminate violence perpetrated against many protesters,” said NLG Chicago spokesperson Kris Hermes.

“Contrary to rhetoric from Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent McCarthy, the city was anything but tolerant to political dissent.” Several activists’ homes and organizing spaces, including the Wellington Avenue Church where activists converged, were targeted and visited by police. Numerous instances of unconstitutional stops and searches were also reported to the NLG throughout the week.

The first felony case to go to a preliminary hearing was dismissed by a Cook County Judge on Tuesday. Danny Johnson was arrested on May 15th at an immigration rally, charged with felony aggravated assault on a police officer, and held in jail for a week on $10,000 bond. “The dismissal of charges against Danny Johnson certainly raises questions about the veracity of claims against many other NATO protesters,” continued Hermes.

Eleven people are still in custody, including the 5 protesters facing terrorism-related charges. Most of the felony arrestees will have court dates this week and next.

The so-called NATO 5 will have hearings on June 12th and 13th at 11:30am in Branch 98 at 26th and California. The NLG staffed a 24-hour legal office during the NATO demonstrations, dispatched Legal Observers to document police misconduct, and is committed to providing legal representation for anyone arrested and facing charges.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Iraq’s PM Warns Arab States May Face ‘Water War’

May 31st, 2012 - by admin

BBC News & Hugh Sykes / BBC News – 2012-05-31 00:40:06

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18262496

Iraq’s PM Warns Arab States May Face ‘Water War’
BBC News

(May 30, 2012) — Arab states could be headed towards a future war over water if they do not act quickly to tackle shortages, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has warned.

At a conference in Baghdad, he urged countries to work together in order to prevent conflict in the arid region.

Issues include desertification, poor water management, and the need for most Arab countries to rely on the goodwill of upstream states for river water.

Arab countries are seeking to address the water crisis with a unified plan.

The BBC’s Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad says Arab leaders have in the past failed to tackle common crises because of infighting and inefficiency.

And with popular uprisings tearing through the region, their differences seem to be getting even worse, our correspondent adds.

At the conference, the head of the Palestinian Water Authority accused Yemen of wasting a substantial amount of its water on irrigating qat plants, whose leaves are a popular stimulant.

Last year, a report funded by the Swiss and Swedish governments said Iraq’s marshlands had reduced in size by 50 to 90% from 1960 to 2000.

In March, a report by the US Director of National Intelligence said a global water war would be unlikely in the next 10 years, but warned that the risk of conflict would increase because demand for water would outstrip current supplies by 40% by 2030.

Past water disputes have contributed to tensions between rivals including Israel and the Palestinians, and Syria and Iraq.


Iraq’s Drought: Eden Drying Out
Hugh Sykes / BBC News

BAGHDAD (September 29, 2009) — The Garden of Eden is in danger of turning into a dustbowl. The legendary Eden was in Mesopotamia, the land between two rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. For hundreds of miles between their lower reaches there is fabulously fertile farmland.

But it’s hardly rained in Iraq for more than two years, the river levels have dropped by half in some places, and farmland is drying out.

The drought is having a devastating effect on Iraq’s most renowned export after oil – its dates.

Iraq used to produce three-quarters of the world’s entire date crop every year. Now, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran export more dates than Iraq.

At a date farm in Baghdad – near the city centre – it all seems lush and lyrical.

There’s a strong smell of fresh mint in the air. Herbs, and vegetables like Jew’s Mallow, are grown between the trees; their roots fix nitrogen in the soil, which helps to nourish the palms with natural fertiliser.

But the dates are not well.

The plantation is farmed by two brothers with warm smiles – Idris and Sarieh Alaa ad-Din. They say the drought is so bad they only get dates every two years now.

From their 1,500 palm trees, they tell me they used to collect up to 50 tonnes of dates every harvest every year – last year they only got 30 tonnes.

They have had no harvest at all this year.

Since 2007, Iraq has had a lot less than half its normal rainfall. This has had another effect on the date harvest – rain cleans the trees, and washes away pests that degrade the crop. Now the insects thrive, and the trees suffer.

Idris and Sarieh say the last time there was any serious rain here was six months ago.

Falling river level
Flowing through Baghdad near the date plantation, the River Tigris is shrinking away from its banks.

Ducks still quack contentedly. White Egrets cluster by deep green bulrushes that move gently in a warm breeze. A kingfisher plops into the water and re-emerges with a small fish and flies rapidly away.

But the Tigris is ailing.

A friendly, moustachioed, middle-aged policeman gave me a glass of tea, chatted about better days and then walked down the embankment steps to show me how high the river used to reach just six years ago – half way up the steps.

There are wide patches of dry earth between the Tigris and the embankment. Abandoned boats lie high and dry where the water level used to be. Sandbanks which were once under the surface now stretch high above it.

The Tigris — and the Euphrates to the west — are 50% to 70% lower than they were 10 years ago.

At the National Centre for Water Management in Baghdad, senior engineer Zuhair Hassan Ahmed showed me graphs recording the levels of the two rivers over the past 10 years.

The “water year” starts in October. The hand-drawn lines for 2008 and 2009, for the Tigris and the Euphrates, confirm that their levels are well below the mean.

And Mr Ahmed explains that drought in Iraq is only part of the problem. The shortage of water for each river, he tells me, is caused mainly by lack of rain and snowmelt in the mountains of Turkey where the rivers rise.

Another factor is a series of dams on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria, reducing flow before the river enters Iraq. Turkey has recently agreed to increase the flow, but Zuhair Ahmed fears it may not be enough.

Multiple threats
There is also a vicious circle. Hardly any rain means farmland turns to dust. Baghdad used to expect to endure about eight serious dust storms a year. Now there are more than 30 storms that turn the air of the capital orange.

In southern Iraq, river flow is so sluggish that salt water from the Gulf has reached further upstream, making it hard to supply safe drinking water to Basra.

And, near Basra city, the drought is hampering attempts to re-flood the vast marshes that were drained by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The traveller and author Wilfred Thesiger wrote tenderly about that community in The Marsh Arabs:

“Canoes moving in procession down a waterway, the setting sun seen crimson through the smoke of burning reedbeds, narrow waterways that wound still deeper into the Marshes … reed houses built upon water, black dripping buffaloes … stars reflected in dark water, the croaking of frogs, the stillness of a world that never knew an engine.”

It’s not like that any more.

One Iraqi agriculture specialist says the shortage of rainfall and river water have created “a real serious disaster”.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UN: Civilian Casualties Down but Still ‘Unacceptably High’

May 31st, 2012 - by admin

N News Service & – 2012-05-31 00:35:39

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42121&Cr=Afghan&Cr1=

UN Reports Drop in Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan in 2012
UN News Service

(May 30, 2012) — The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first four months of 2012 is 21 percent lower than during the same period last year, the top United Nations envoy in the country reported today, while adding that deaths continued to occur at “unacceptable” levels.

A study conducted by the human rights section of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found there were 579 civilian casualties and 1,216 injuries from 1 January to 30 April this year — the first time that civilian casualty figures have dropped since UNAMA began compiling these figures in 2007.

The vast majority of the deaths this year — 79 percent — were attributed to actions by anti-government elements. Pro-government forces accounted for nine percent of the deaths, and 12 percent of the casualties were unattributed.

“Civilian casualties continue to occur at unacceptable levels,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMA, Ján KubiÅ¡, told a news conference in Kabul.

“Regretfully, the anti-government forces don’t show respect for civilians,” he added, noting that the use of landmines and suicide bombers by these forces is “totally unacceptable.”

The annual report on protection of civilians in armed conflict, prepared by UNAMA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and released in February, recorded 3,021 civilian deaths in 2011 — an increase of eight percent on the previous year’s total of 2,790.

Since 2007, at least 11,860 civilians have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan between the Government, backed by international forces, and the Taliban and other insurgent groups.


“SETTING THE RIGHT PRIORITIES:
PROTECTING CHILDREN AFFECTED BY ARMED CONFLICT IN AFGHANISTAN”

UN Department of Public Information Press Release

NEW YORK (June 114, 2010) — A global network of child rights monitors today called on the Security Council to prioritize child concerns during its planned visit to Afghanistan, where it said more than 1,000 children had been killed in 2009 as a result of aerial bombings, night raids, landmines and other explosives.

Eva Smets, Director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, made the call during a Headquarters press conference to launch the report Setting the Right Priorities: Protecting Children Affected by Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, ahead of a Security Council debate on children and armed conflict scheduled for 16 June. She said that in 2009 Afghanistan had hit the world record for the most “attacks on education” by armed groups.

The attacks had destroyed school buildings and directly harmed pupils, teachers and other staff, she said, adding that other violations of children’s rights included their recruitment into armed conflict, sexual violence, and denial of humanitarian access and health services.

In addition, about 1.5 million Afghan children were refugees in Pakistan or Iran, she said, noting that more than half of the approximately 160,000 internally displaced Afghans were children, who were thus especially vulnerable to child recruitment and sexual violence.

She said that the Watchlist — an international network of local and international non-governmental organizations working to influence decision-makers on child-protection issues — was pressing for greater child-protection capacity within the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which needed to place more child-protection advisers within its ranks.

The group was also recommending that the Afghan Government draw up an action plan to reduce violations of children’s rights, ensure that they were investigated and that victims and their families received adequate compensation. It was also calling on donors to prioritize child-protection concerns in their funding decisions, she added.

Accompanying Ms. Smets were Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Fazel Jalil, Deputy Country Director for Save the Children’s Afghanistan Programme, who called on the Government to prevent violence in schools, which had become prime targets for armed groups since they had been used as polling stations in the 2009 presidential election.

Ms. Coomaraswamy recalled having made similar recommendations during a visit to the country in February, emphasizing that the changing nature of warfare called for more discussion with non-State actors, who often made difficult negotiating partners.

Stymied by the lack of access imposed by such groups, the humanitarian sector needed to do “a lot of thinking” on how to gain better access, she said, adding that, with military actors beginning to conduct humanitarian work, it had become much harder to ensure respect for humanitarians as neutral parties.

Expressing disappointment with the declaration agreed at the recent peace jirga, she said she had expected more child-protection provisions, noting that non-State actors had begun using children as suicide bombers. There were seven known cases of children being involved in suicide bombings in 2009, she added.

Moreover, the more children were recruited into the ranks of armed groups, the greater were the numbers of child militants captured and detained, with the risk of their rights being further jeopardized in detention. She warned that bacha bazi — the practice of using boys as entertainment, which had been eradicated under the Taliban — a challenge unique to Afghanistan and different from those mentioned in Graça Machel’s Africa-focused 1996 report on children and armed conflict, had re-emerged, with many powerful people as the perpetrators.

Mr. Jalil, noting that Save the Children had been in Afghanistan since 1974, said the organization was calling on the Election Commission not to use schools as polling stations so as to prevent more violence against children. That call was especially pertinent given that parliamentary elections were set to take place in a few months’ time.

He recommended that the donor community and United Nations agencies involve everyday Afghans in their work as much as possible, since many knew the armed groups first hand and were in a position to engage in meaningful dialogue.

In the past year, Save the Children had striven to improve school enrolment by easing the worries of parents who hesitated to send their children to school for fear that they would be harmed. At the moment, the number of students in school was 20 percent lower than it had been before the 2009 presidential election.

Health clinics were sometimes used as polling stations as well, he said, noting that, with Afghanistan facing one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, the donor community and United Nations agencies should urge the Government not to use those facilities for political purposes. He also called on the United Nations and other organizations to study cross-border smuggling involving the use of child smugglers, stressing the importance of international cooperation in protecting children in such situations.

For information media • not an official record

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

America’s Murderous Drone Campaign Is Fuelling Terror

May 31st, 2012 - by admin

Seumas Milne / The Guardian – 2012-05-31 00:30:24

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/29/americas-drone-campaign-terror

WASHINGTON (May 29, 2012) — More than a decade after George W Bush launched it, the “war on terror” was supposed to be winding down. US military occupation of Iraq has ended and NATO is looking for a way out of Afghanistan, even as the carnage continues. But another war — the undeclared drone war that has already killed thousands — is now being relentlessly escalated.

From Pakistan to Somalia, CIA-controlled pilotless aircraft rain down Hellfire missiles on an ever-expanding hit list of terrorist suspects — they have already killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians in the process.

At least 15 drone strikes have been launched in Yemen this month, as many as in the whole of the past decade, killing dozens; while in Pakistan, a string of US attacks has been launched against supposed “militant” targets in the past week, incinerating up to 35 people and hitting a mosque and a bakery.

The US’s decision to step up the drone war again in Pakistan, opposed by both government and parliament in Islamabad as illegal and a violation of sovereignty, reflects its fury at the jailing of a CIA agent involved in the Bin Laden hunt and Pakistan’s refusal to reopen supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan. Those routes were closed in protest at the US killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, for which Washington still refuses to apologise.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner in London, describes the latest US escalation as “punitive”. But then Predators and Reapers are Barack Obama’s weapons of choice and coercion, deployed only on the territory of troublesome US allies, such as Pakistan and Yemen — and the drone war is Obama’s war.

In his first two years in office, the US president more than tripled the number of attacks in Pakistan alone. For their US champions, drones have the advantage of involving no American casualties, while targeting the “bad guys” Bush lost sight of in his enthusiasm to subjugate Iraq. Enthusiasts boast of their surgical accuracy and exhaustive surveillance, operated by all-seeing technicians from thousands of miles away in Nevada.

But that’s a computer-game fantasy of clinical war. Since 2004, between 2,464 and 3,145 people are reported to have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan, of whom up to 828 were civilians (535 under Obama) and 175 children. Some Pakistani estimates put the civilian death toll much higher — plausibly, given the tendency to claim as “militants” victims later demonstrated to be nothing of the sort.

The US president insisted recently that the civilian death toll was not a “huge number”. Not on the scale of Iraq, perhaps, where hundreds of thousands were killed; or Afghanistan, where tens of thousands have died. But they gruesomely include dozens killed in follow-up attacks after they had gone to help victims of earlier strikes — as well as teenagers like Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani boy decapitated in a strike last November after he had travelled to Islamabad to protest against drones.

These killings are, in reality, summary executions and widely regarded as potential war crimes by international lawyers – including the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston. The CIA’s now retired counsel, John Rizzo, who authorised drone attacks, himself talked about having been involved in “murder”.

A decade ago, the US criticised Israel for such “extrajudicial killings” but now claims self-defence in the war against al-Qaida. These are attacks, however, routinely carried out on the basis of false intelligence, in countries such as Pakistan where no war has been declared and without the consent of the elected government.

Lawyers representing victims’ families are now preparing legal action against the British government — which carries out its own drone attacks in Afghanistan — for taking part in war crimes by passing GCHQ intelligence to the CIA for its “targeted killings”. Parallel cases are also being brought against the Pakistani government and the drone manufacturer General Electric — whose slogan is “we bring good things to life”.

Of course, drone attacks are only one method by which the US and its allies deliver death and destruction in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East, from night raids and air attacks to killing sprees on the ground. The day after last Friday’s Houla massacre in Syria, eight members of one family were killed at home by a Nato air attack in eastern Afghanistan — one of many such atrocities barely registered in the western media.

But while support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low in all Nato states, the drone war is popular in the US. That’s hardly surprising, as it offers no danger to American forces — the ultimate asymmetric warfare — while supposedly “taking out” terrorists. But these hi-tech death squads are creating a dangerous global precedent, which will do nothing for US security.

A decade ago, critics warned that the “war on terror” would spread terrorism rather than stamp it out. That is exactly what happened. Obama has now renamed the campaign “overseas contingency operations” and is switching the emphasis from boots on the ground to robots.

But, as the destabilisation of Pakistan and growth of al-Qaida in Yemen shows, the impact remains the same. The drone war is a predatory war on the Muslim world, which is feeding hatred of the US – and fuelling terror, not fighting it.

Twitter: @SeumasMilne

(c) 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Amnesty Denounces US on OBL Raid, Drone Hits

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

The Nation (Pakistan) & Amnesty International – 2012-05-29 23:56:07

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/25-May-2012/amnesty-denounces-us-on-obl-raid-drone-hits

Amnesty Denounces US on OBL Raid, Drone Hits
Special Correspondent / The Nation (Pakistan)

UNITED NATIONS (May 25, 2012) — In a vindication of Pakistan’s stand, Amnesty International has condemned the United States on Wednesday for the ‘unlawful’ commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound, and voiced concern over the drone attacks inside Pakistani territory.

The international human rights monitor said the cross-border raid violated international law. “The US administration made clear that the operation had been conducted under the US’s theory of a global armed conflict between the US and Al-Qaeda in which the US does not recognise the applicability of international human rights law,” the human rights group said in its annual report released at the UN and several cities around the world.

“In the absence of further clarification from the US authorities, the killing of Osama bin Laden would appear to have been unlawful,” it said.

The report raised serious concerns regarding US drone strikes inside Pakistani territory, which killed several innocent civilians including some low rank militants.

Amnesty said a request for clarification over an apparent US drone strike in Yemen last September that killed US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, his Al-Qaeda co-conspirator Samir Khan and at least two others had also gone unanswered.

“These killings appeared to have amounted to extrajudicial executions,” the group said.

Amnesty also hit out at human rights violations committed by former president George W Bush’s administration and condemned the ‘impunity’ with which his officials operated.

The global rights monitor also criticised Canada for failing to arrest Bush when he visited in October, “despite clear evidence that he was responsible for crimes under international law, including torture.”

“There was no accountability for human rights violations committed under the administration of president Bush as part of the CIA’s program of secret detention and rendition,” Amnesty said, referring to the transfer of individuals from one country to another without access to legal process.

Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2011 launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody but dropped probes into the vast majority of alleged interrogation abuses.

Amnesty regretted President Barack Obama’s failure to shut down Guantanamo, noting that at the end of 2011, nearly two years after his self-imposed closure deadline, “171 men were still held at the base, including four who had been convicted by military commission.”

The number of detainees at the US detention center in Cuba currently stands at 169.

The report lamented that five suspects accused of planning the September 11, 2001 attacks “had been held incommunicado for up to four years in secret US custody before being transferred to Guantanamo.”

Amnesty also criticised conditions in American prisons, in particular the high number of hours some detainees were confined in isolated cells, and the execution of 43 men last year, all by lethal injection.

AFP adds: Amnesty regretted President Barack Obama’s failure to shut down Guantanamo, noting that at the end of 2011, nearly two years after his self-imposed closure deadline, “171 men were still held at the base, including four who had been convicted by military commission.”

The number of detainees at the US detention centre in Cuba currently stands at 169.

The report lamented that five suspects accused of planning the September 11, 2001 attacks “had been held incommunicado for up to four years in secret US custody before being transferred to Guantanamo.”

Amnesty also criticised conditions in American prisons, in particular the high number of hours some detainees were confined in isolated cells, and the execution of 43 men last year, all by lethal injection.

“This brought to 1,277 the total number of executions carried out since the US Supreme Court lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 1976,” the report said.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.


Amnesty International Urges US to
Clarify Basis for Lethal Drone Attacks in Pakistan

Human rights organization urges Attorney General Holder to provide facts, not rhetoric, in his anticipated speech justifying use of drones.

WASHINGTON, DC (January 31, 2012) — The United States must disclose details of the legal and factual basis for the lethal use of drones in Pakistan, Amnesty International said today, after President Barack Obama confirmed that the CIA is using the unmanned aircraft to target suspected militants in the country’s tribal areas.

President Obama made the rare public acknowledgment on Monday during an hour-long online video chat with users of the social network Google+. Amnesty International also called on the United States to monitor civilian casualties inflicted by drone attacks in Pakistan.

“President Obama’s confirmation of drone use in Pakistan opens the door for improved transparency and accountability in the US drone program: its scope, legal justification and provisions to safeguard civilians,” said Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA’s policy director for (counter) terrorism and human rights.

The President said that the drone strikes were a “targeted focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” He asserted that the strikes targeted “al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder will reportedly touch on the US Government’s legal arguments in support of such killings by drone attacks in a speech on national security in the coming weeks.

“The drone program has been conducted in secrecy for too long,” said Parker. “Attorney General Holder needs to bring some clarity to this debate by answering questions on the legal theory underpinning these operations, how targets are chosen and who decides when to pull the trigger.”

Past justifications offered by U.S. officials have invoked legal justifications based on a “global war” between the United States and al-Qaeda, a concept that is not recognized by international humanitarian or human rights law.

U.S. drone attacks have doubled overall in Pakistan during the Obama administration. Thousands of people have been killed by the strikes — civilians as well as suspected militants. Because of the security situation and difficulty in accessing the terrain, it has been impossible for organizations like Amnesty International to verify the number of civilian casualties caused by drones.

In its June 2010 report, As If Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan, Amnesty International said the use of drones to target insurgents in northwest Pakistan had generated considerable resentment inside the country. Available evidence shows that the number of strikes decreased during 2011.

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

The Drone Summit and the Invisibility of Charred Children

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

Code Pink & Hugh Gusterson / Truthout – 2012-05-29 23:45:41

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9011-the-drone-summit-the-lunch-box-and-the-invisibility-of-charred-children

Drone Summit Press Conference 2012
Code Pink / YouTube
For a complete list of the speakers, see the agenda at the end of this posting.

The Drone Summit, the Lunchbox and the Invisibility of Charred Children
Hugh Gusterson / Truthout | Op-Ed

(May 9, 2012) — I kept finding myself thinking about the lunchbox.

I was at the all-day Drone Summit in Washington DC organized by Codepink, the antiwar group whose mostly female members are famous for putting on theatrical protests while wearing bold pink. I spent the day listening to human rights activists talking about civilians killed by US drone strikes, lawyers who complained that the strikes violated international law, and scientists worried that the United States is on the brink of automating the use of lethal force by drones and killer robots.

And I kept thinking about the lunchbox.

The lunchbox belonged to a schoolgirl in Hiroshima. Her body was never found, but the rice and peas in her lunchbox were carbonized by the atomic bomb. The lunchbox, turned into an exhibition piece, became, in the words of historian Peter Stearns, “an intensely human atomic bomb icon.” The Smithsonian museum’s plans to exhibit the lunchbox as part of its 1995 exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II enraged military veterans and conservative pundits, who eventually forced the exhibit’s cancellation.

Everyone knows, in the abstract at least, that the atom bomb killed thousands of children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But any visual representation of this fact — even if done obliquely, through a lunchbox, rather than through actual pictures of charred children — was deemed out-of-bounds by defenders of the bombing.

I found myself thinking about the lunchbox while listening to a Drone Summit presentation by the Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. Akbar is a Pakistani lawyer who represents civilian victims of US drone strikes in Waziristan (a tribal area on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan).

He has given Waziris cameras and trained them to take photographs of the aftermath of US drone strikes, such as this very disturbing image. Some activists have now begun pairing pictures of the wreckage of Hellfire missiles, made by Lockheed, with pictures of the children killed by that particular strike.

In Japan after World War II, the US occupying authorities made it illegal for Japanese citizens to own any pictures of the aftermath of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. In Japan, Akbar would have been locked up by General MacArthur.

Although Akbar has not been locked up, his Transparency Project has not been welcomed by the Obama administration. Akbar was invited to speak at Columbia University in May 2011; although he had visited the United States many times before and had even consulted for US agencies, he was not given a visa.

It looked as though he would not be allowed to speak at the Drone Summit either, but after months of pressure from human rights organizations, the State Department relented and, four days before he was due to take the podium, allowed Akbar a visa.

According to another speaker at the Drone Summit, Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, while the CIA claims its drones only kill what US authorities refer to as “militants,” US drone strikes have killed at least 174 children in Pakistan and somewhere between 479 and 811 civilians in all. Akbar pointed out that, lacking air conditioning, Pakistanis often sleep outside, and children’s bodies are particularly vulnerable to shrapnel.

Akbar, who would like the CIA officials responsible for the strikes to stand trial for murder, showed the audience many heart-rending photographs of children in hospital or laid out for their funerals after drone strikes.

In an affecting statement after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a Florida vigilante, President Obama said, that, if he had a son, he might have looked like Martin. One wonders if the president saw Akbar’s photographs of dead brown-skinned girls whether he would find himself thinking that these could have been his daughters.

In a 1996 interview with “60 Minutes,” Lesley Stahl asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright if US sanctions against Iraq were justified given that they were said to have killed half a million Iraqi children. “This is a very hard choice,” she responded, “but we think the price is worth it.”

We can disagree with her answer, but at least she had the honesty to confront the question and give an honest answer. One wonders if Obama and the CIA officials responsible for the drone program ever think about the dead children that follow from their decisions. Do they have the honesty to look at the lunchbox?

This article is a Truthout original.

An anthropologist, Gusterson is a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. He has conducted considerable fieldwork in the United States and Russia, where he studied the culture of nuclear weapon scientists and antinuclear activists.

Two of his books encapsulate this work — Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (University of California Press, 1996) and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). He also coedited Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005); a sequel, The Insecure American, is in preparation. Previously, he taught in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology, and Society.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.


Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control
Code Pink

WASHINGTON, DC (April 28-29, 2012) —

Saturday Schedule
The peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting the first international drone summit.

On Saturday, April 28, we are bringing together human rights advocates, robotics technology experts, lawyers, journalists and activists for a summit to inform the American public about the widespread and rapidly expanding deployment of both lethal and surveillance drones, including drone use in the United States. Participants will also have the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Pakistani drone-strike victims.

Time: 9:00am-9:00pm
Location: Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001

On Sunday, April 29 we will have a strategy session to network, discuss and plan advocacy efforts focused on various aspects of drones, including surveillance and targeted killings.

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20001

Sunday’s session is for representatives of organizations and individuals who want to be actively involved in this work. If you are interested in attending Sunday’s session, please email Ramah Kudaimi at rkudaimi@gmail.com.

Details
Topics will include:

* the impact of drones on human lives and prospects for peace

* the lack of transparency and accountability for drone operations, including targeted killings

* disputed legality of drone warfare

* compensation for victims

* the future of domestic drone surveillance

* drone use along U.S. borders.

Speakers will include:

* Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist

* Clive Stafford Smith, director of UK legal group Reprieve that represents drone victims

* Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

* Maria LaHood, attorney with Center for Constitutional Rights

* Shahzad Akbar, attorney with Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Fights

* Amna Buttar, member of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab in Pakistan

* Rafia Zakaria, Pakistani-American journalist

* Sarah Holewinski, director of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)

* Hina Shamsi, ACLU national security expert

* Jay Stanley, ACLU privacy expert

* Tom Barry, drone border expert with Center for International Policy

* David Glazier, law professor who served 21 years as a US Navy surface warfare officer

* Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel at Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

* Peter Asaro and Noel Sharkey from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).

Join us Friday, April 27 at 6:00pm to hear Medea Benjamin discuss her new groundbreaking book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.” She will discuss the menace posed by the proliferation of drones for killing abroad and spying here at home. The United States is the number one user of drones, but now over 50 countries have them, leading us into a world of chaos and lawlessness. The event will take place at Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th Street NW, Washington, DC.

Background:
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed drones in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. While the U.S. military and the CIA initially used drones primarily for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are currently routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of noncombatants and even American citizens, have been killed in covert missions.

Our nation is leading the way toward a new form of warfare where pilots sitting on the ground thousands of miles away command drone strikes, where targets are- in military jargon- “neutralized,” and where unintended victims are dismissed as “collateral damage.” Close observers, both inside and outside the U.S. military, call this “video-game warfare.” These drone operations, directed largely by the CIA, lack necessary transparency and accountability.

Drones are also being deployed domestically by border security and law enforcement agencies. Predator drones deployed by Customs and Border Protection search for immigrants and drugs on the northern and southern borders, while metropolitan police and county sheriffs are acquiring smaller drones to assist their SWAT operations.

Congress recently mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration open up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015 and that it immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government drones (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) in commercial U.S. airways.

As drones become an increasingly preferred form of warfare and as their presence expands at home, it is time to educate ourselves, the U.S. public, and our policymakers about drone proliferation. As remotely controlled warfare and spying race forward, it is also time to organize to end current abuses and to prevent the potentially widespread misuse both overseas and here at home.

If you have any questions, email Summit Organizer Ramah Kudaimi at rkudaimi[at]gmail.com.

Endorsed by Center for International Policy, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Muslim Peace Coalition-USA, Nonviolence International, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the Washington Peace Center and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The World Reacts to Revelations of America’s ‘Assassin-in-Chief’: UN Denounces US Killings

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

The Pakistan Daily Times & Agence France-Presse & Russia Today – 2012-05-29 23:09:48

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012530story_30-5-2012_pg1_5

Obama Approves Every Drone Strike
The Pakistan Daily Times & Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON (May 30, 2012) — US President Barack Obama has personally overseen a top-secret process for determining which al Qaeda suspects should be placed on a “kill list”, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The Times, citing dozens of top officials and former advisers, said the administration had developed what it termed the “kill list” as part of a stepped-up drone war against al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan and Yemen. “He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” it quoted US National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon as saying. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world… He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

The Times described the top-secret process, which begins with some 100 counter-terrorism officials sifting through biographies and “nominating” suspects in Yemen and Somalia to be added to the kill list during a secure videoconference run by the Pentagon. The CIA carries out a separate process for suspects in Pakistan, it said.

The nominations then go to Obama, who signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on especially complex and risky strikes in Pakistan — about a third of the total, the Times said. Obama personally approves the killing of top suspects, such as Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaqi — a US citizen — who was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen last year.

The Times quoted former White House chief of staff William Daley as saying that Obama called the decision to strike Awlaqi “an easy one”, but Daley said some officials had expressed some qualms about the kill list.

“One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No 21, becomes 20?” the Times quoted Daley as saying. “At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?”

The Times also described an internal debate over the US administration’s disputed method for counting casualties, in which men of fighting age within striking distance of a suspect are considered militants.

It quoted one official as saying that al Qaeda was an insular, paranoid organisation that would keep its distance from outsiders. But others said the Obama administration’s claim that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan was in the “single digits” was unrealistic. afp


Obama Approves Names To Be Put on
Kill Lists of Drone Strikes

Russia Today

MOSCOW (May 30, 2012) — According to the report published by the paper on Tuesday, every week or so, more than 100 members of the country’s national security team gather via secure video teleconference run by the Pentagon and go over the biographies of suspects in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, and “nominate” those who should be targeted in the attacks.

The identities of the nominees are then provided to Obama, who signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and on especially complex and risky strikes in Pakistan.

National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said, “He (Obama) is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go.”

“His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world… He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short,” he noted.

The report noted that no other US president in the country’s history ever took such a singular role in deciding such matters.

A US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaqi was killed in Yemen in an assassination drone attack approved by Obama last year. Critics have said that it set a worrying precedent that the president could single-handedly decide to be “judge, jury, and executioner” over an American.

In Pakistan, Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants crossing the border with Afghanistan, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

The US military has also used the drones in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq.

On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the use of the drones as “the most precise weapon we have” in the campaign against al-Qaeda. At least 21 people were killed in US drone attacks across the world in less than 24 hours following his remarks.

The UN has denounced the attacks as targeted killings and said they posed a challenge to international law.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

Jo Becker and Scott Shane / The New York Times – 2012-05-29 23:05:29

How Obama Maintains His Secret ‘Kill LIst’
PBS NewHour

(May 29, 2012) — Drone strikes on militant targets in Yemen are on the rise, as are targeted killings of insurgents there and elsewhere. But who has the final say on the so-called kill list of terrorists slated to be killed or captured? Ray Suarez introduces an excerpt from a new “Frontline” then speaks with New York Times reporter Scott Shane.

Watch How Obama Maintains His Secret ‘Kill List’ on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

WASHINGTON (May 29, 2012) — 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.”

‘A No-Brainer’
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.

Trade-Offs
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.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Nuke Upgrade to Trigger New Arms Race with Russia?

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

F. Brinley Bruton / MSNBC World News & European Leadership Network – 2012-05-29 15:51:06

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/11/11658159-us-nuke-upgrade-to-trigger-new-arms-race-with-russia?

US Nuke Upgrade to Trigger New Arms Race with Russia?
F. Brinley Bruton / MSNBC World News

LONDON (May 11, 2012) — Plans to upgrade the estimated 180 American tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe are expensive, dangerous and likely to trigger a dangerous reaction from Russia, according to a new report.

“Modernization … will be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default which can be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow,” said the study by the European Leadership Network (ELN) think tank, which was released on Thursday.

NATO is preparing to replace aging aircraft and antiquated free-fall nuclear bombs with precision-guided warheads carried by modern US aircraft, according to the report by Edmond Seay, a former arms control adviser to NATO’s US mission.

The weapons to be replaced were “originally deployed to help NATO counter massive Soviet conventional force superiority in central Europe” and are now “widely seen to have no real military purpose or value,” according to a summary of the report. [See summary below.]

The American government will be replacing these “relics of the Cold War” with precision guidance systems at a cost of $4 billion, in spite of swinging defense spending cuts, the report said. European countries will also have to pay large amounts to replace the defense system, the summary adds:

European countries, whose pilots are trained to deliver the B-61s to target, are also facing expensive decisions to replace the relevant aircraft, which are now coming to the end of their effective service lives. Each replacement aircraft — (the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) — is slated to cost from $90 million to just over $110 million.

The nuclear force modernisation plans, if carried through, will therefore produce a “formidable increase in nuclear capabilities for NATO in Europe”, rendering these weapons more credibly usable in war-fighting scenarios with Russia.

The newly formed think tank includes a number of high-profile figures on its executive board, including former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and former foreign or defense ministers from NATO member countries such as France, Spain, Norway, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom, among others. (To read the full report on ELN’s site click here)

Russia has shown that it is acutely aware of NATO’s plans. The country’s military chief of staff said in early May that Russia could launch preemptive strikes against future NATO missile defense facilities in Europe if sufficiently threatened.

The warning indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold out US plans for an anti-missile shield as a big barrier to better relations and, specifically, to Kremlin approval of deeper nuclear arms cuts.

Washington says the shield is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia. Moscow maintains that it could give the West the capability to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, upsetting the strategic equilibrium between the former Cold War foes.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Escalation by Default:
The Future of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Edmond Seay / European Leadership Network

(May 10, 2012) — At a time when NATO claims it is committed to creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons, a new European Leadership Network (ELN) report shows the Alliance is planning to use scarce resources to upgrade tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and doing so in ways likely to worsen the relationship with Russia.

This report, authored by Ted Seay, a Senior Associate Fellow of the ELN, and until Autumn 2011 the Arms Control Advisor to the United States Mission at NATO, describes how NATO is planning to replace “dumb” free-fall nuclear bombs and ageing delivery aircraft, with precision guided weapons and stealth enabled bombers.

Despite rhetoric to the effect that NATO is seeking a strategic partnership with Russia, this will increase NATO’s ability to reach targets in Russia with tactical nuclear weapons at a time when NATO and Russia are already locked in a tense stand-off over missile defence.
Key Facts from the report include:

• NATO currently possesses approximately 180 B61 free fall tactical nuclear bombs in Europe. The aircraft to deliver these bombs are European, deployed in five countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Turkey). The bombs have no guidance systems and the aircrafts tasked with delivering them are ageing and in need of replacement.

The tactical nuclear weapons in question are relics of the Cold war, originally deployed to help NATO counter massive Soviet conventional force superiority in central Europe. They are now widely seen to have no real military purpose or value.

• The US government, despite impending defence spending cuts, is planning to upgrade the bombs with precision guidance systems at a cost of $4 billion.

• European countries, whose pilots are trained to deliver the B-61s to target, are also facing expensive decisions to replace the relevant aircraft, which are now coming to the end of their effective service lives. Each replacement aircraft — (the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) — is slated to cost from $90 million to just over $110 million.

• The new aircraft will come with advanced stealth technology, allowing them to potentially reach targets without detection.

• The nuclear force modernisation plans, if carried through, will therefore produce a “formidable increase in nuclear capabilities for NATO in Europe”, rendering these weapons more credibly usable in war-fighting scenarios with Russia. Modernisation, in other words, will be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default which can be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow.

• While some in Eastern Europe argue that these tactical nuclear forces are needed to re-assure NATO allies of the US commitment to European security, the report stresses that alternative paths to achieve this goal are possible. If the goal of east European allies is also to have the many Russian tactical nuclear warheads removed from European territories of Russia, then again NATO policy is unlikely to help.

Edward Seay is ELN Senior Associate Fellow and former Arms Control Adviser, US Mission to NATO

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Dark Side of the Prestigious Marine Barracks

May 29th, 2012 - by admin

Col. Ann Wright / TruthDig – 2012-05-29 15:44:49

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_dark_side_of_the_prestigious_marine_barracks_20120508/

(May 8, 2012) — According to Marine Corps lore, semper fidelis, a Latin phrase for “always faithful,” commands Marines to remain a “brotherhood, faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone and once made, a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps.”

The Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., is the official residence of the commandant of the Marine Corps. It is the home of the Marines who are the ceremonial guard for the president during official US government functions and the security force for the White House and Camp David. The Marine Band, also located at the Barracks, is known as “The President’s Own.” The Barracks is the showplace of the Marine Corps with its Silent Drill Platoon giving weekly military precision performances for the public during the busy summer tourist season.

But the Marine Barracks has its dark and ugly side. It is also the home of officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps who have been accused of sexually harassing, assaulting and raping female Marine officers and enlisted and civilian women who work there.

According to information provided by the Marine Barracks Washington legal adviser at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee minority counsel, from 2009 to 2010 three female Marines and two civilian women reported to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that they had been raped by male Marines. Two of the female Marines held high-visibility jobs at the Barracks and said they were raped by senior officers.

During the same period, two other female Marines and two other civilian women reported that they had been sexually harassed by Marines at the Barracks.

Second Rape Lawsuit Filed
Against Marines, Navy and DOD

On March 6, 2012, attorney Susan Burke filed a federal lawsuit in US District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight military women—four Marines and four Navy members—who said they were raped while in the service.

Two of the four female Marine officers served at the Barracks and alleged that they had been raped by Marines assigned there. The two, Lt. Ariana Klay and Lt. Elle Helmer, spoke at a news conference announcing the lawsuit and on national TV shows afterward.

This is the second lawsuit filed in a little over a year against the Department of Defense on the issue of rape in the military. The first lawsuit was filed on Feb. 15, 2011, and was brought by 15 female and two male active-duty military personnel and veterans. They accused the DOD of permitting a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault and alleged that it mishandled cases that were brought to its attention, thus violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

On Dec. 9, 2011, US District Judge Liam O’Grady dismissed the suit, saying the sexual assault allegations were “troubling” but that Supreme Court and other court decisions had advised against judicial involvement in cases of military discipline. O’Grady cited Gilligan v. Morgan, decided in 1973 by the US Supreme Court, which determined that “matters of military discipline should be left to the ‘political branches directly responsible—as the judicial branch is not—to the electoral process.’ ” O’Grady said, “Not even the egregious allegations within the plaintiffs’ complaint will prevent dismissal.”

The March 2012 lawsuit names current and former secretaries of defense and military chiefs of the Navy and Marine Corps as defendants. It alleges that “Although defendants testified before Congress and elsewhere that they have ‘zero tolerance’ for rape and sexual assault, their conduct and the facts demonstrate the opposite: They have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and ‘zero tolerance’ for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment.” The lawsuit alleges that “Defendants have a long-standing pattern of ignoring congressional mandates designed to ameliorate the armed services’ dismal record of rape and sexual assault.

As but one example, defendant [Leon] Panetta [secretary of defense] continues to violate the law requiring the Department of Defense to establish an incident-specific Sexual Assault Database no later than January 2010.” More than two years later, the database still does not exist.

“Rather than being respected and appreciated for reporting crimes and unprofessional conduct,” the lawsuit alleges, “plaintiffs and others who report are branded ‘troublemakers,’ endure egregious and blatant retaliation, and are often forced out of military service.”

Lt. Ariana Klay
According to the lawsuit, Klay, a Naval Academy graduate, served as a protocol officer for the Marine Barracks. She alleges that while there, she was sexually harassed by a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain. She said she was gang-raped by a Marine officer and his civilian friend, a former Marine. Klay alleges that the Marine officer threatened to kill her and told his friend he would show him “what a slut she was” and “humiliate” her.

After she reported the alleged rapes and subsequent harassment, the Marine Corps investigation ruled that she welcomed the harassment because “she wore makeup, regulation-length skirts as a part of her uniform and exercised in running shorts and tank tops.”

The Marine Corps did not punish any of those who were accused of sexually harassing Klay. One of her alleged harassers was granted a waiver by the Corps that permitted him to get a security clearance despite accusations of hazing and sexual misconduct against not only Klay but many others. He was selected to be in a nationally televised recruitment commercial while he was still under investigation. According to the lawsuit, the Marine Corps featured Klay’s alleged rapist and a harasser in the Marine calendar.

The Marine Corps finally court-martialed one of Klay’s alleged attackers but didn’t convict him of rape, instead finding him guilty of adultery and indecent language (a common escape by military courts from the rape charge). The military court ruled that Klay “consented” to having sex with the men despite the evidence that the accused threatened to kill her.

Klay has attempted suicide since the alleged rapes and harassment and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lt. Elle Helmer
In 2005, Helmer was appointed the public affairs officer for the Barracks, the federal lawsuit says. In 2006, she was selected to also serve as the first female “ceremonial parade staff flanking officer.” Helmer alleged that the “selecting” officer, a Marine captain, made continuing sexual advances to her that she reported to the Marine Barracks equal opportunity officer. Nothing was done to stop the advances, Helmer said.

Another superior officer, a major, required Helmer to attend a “pub crawl” for St. Patrick’s Day that had been endorsed by the unit’s colonel, the lawsuit alleges. When Helmer objected to going, she says the major told her that it was a mandatory work event. The pub crawl involved Marine officers identified by the T-shirts they were wearing going from bar to bar on Capitol Hill drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, paid for by the Marine Corps, the lawsuit says.

Helmer says she was required to drink shots of liquor at the same pace as the bigger male officers and when she drank water to try to keep herself from becoming intoxicated, she was required by the major to drink an extra shot as a punishment.

Helmer became intoxicated and left the group to find a cab home. She said the major followed her and told her that she must come with him to his office to discuss a business matter. When they reached his office, Helmer alleges, the major tried to kiss her and when she resisted he grabbed her and knocked her over. She says she lost consciousness at that point.

Upon regaining consciousness, she said, she found herself lying on the floor in the major’s office, wearing his shorts. He was allegedly passed out on the floor nearby, naked.

Helmer left the office and reported to the Marine Command that she had been raped. She alleges the colonel there discouraged her from asking for a rape kit examination, saying it would “be out of his hands.” Nonetheless, Helmer got a medical examination that employed a rape kit.

NCIS initially refused to investigate Helmer’s allegations, despite the medical and circumstantial evidence, saying that her inability to recall the incident precluded any investigation. After a delay in which the alleged crime scene was destroyed, NCIS eventually conducted a brief investigation and because of Helmer’s lack of consciousness during the incident concluded that nothing could be done. Additionally, the Marine Corps reported it had lost the Helmer rape kit, the medical evidence allegedly indicating rape.

Helmer took the case to the major’s superior officer, who acknowledged that the NCIS investigation was “woefully inadequate” and removed the major from his command. No further steps were taken, the lawsuit alleges. Helmer says the superior officer told her, “You’re from Colorado—you’re tough. You need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I can’t baby-sit you all of the time.”

Helmer says she was eventually forced to leave the Marine Corps. The alleged rapist remains a Marine officer in good standing.

Rape Reporting in the Military
The Department of Defense estimates that only 20 percent of military personnel who experience “unwanted sexual contact” report it to military authorities because the accusations can be met with suspicion and the victims can experience retaliation.

In 2009, 3,230 service members reported being raped or sexually assaulted, but the Department of Defense estimated that 16,150 actually were raped or sexually assaulted during that year.

In 2010, 3,158 military personnel reported sexual assault or rape. The DOD estimated 15,790 were actually raped or assaulted.

In addition, in 2010, 68,379 veterans had at least one VA outpatient visit related to military sexual trauma. About 40 percent of those outpatients—nearly 27,000 —requesting treatment for military sexual trauma were male veterans.

Retaliatory Culture for Those Reporting Rape
The Department of Defense has finally quantified the retaliatory culture of the military. The DOD 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 44 percent of active-duty women and 20 percent of active-duty men who had been victims of sexual assaults or rapes did not report them because “they thought their performance evaluation or chance for promotion would suffer.” Even more decided not to report because they “thought they would be labeled a troublemaker.”

Most rapists evade any form of punishment, much less incarceration. The DOD sexual assaults report said that fewer than 8 percent of suspected perpetrators were court-martialed and convicted, while in civilian life 40 percent of the accused were prosecuted. Most military personnel who have committed rape or sexual assault are allowed to be honorably discharged; if they’re forced to retire, they still receive their full benefits.

The DOD does not maintain a military sex offender registry that can alert service members, unit commanders, communities and civilian law enforcement to the presence and movement of sexual predators. Military sex offenders are not placed in the national sex offenders’ database created by the Department of Justice.

The Navy and Marine Corps give a substantial number of waivers to potential recruits who have criminal records, including felony convictions. A 2007 study found that in 2006 the Marines gave 20,750 recruits (54.3 percent of all those recruited that year) waivers for criminal convictions. In 2005, 20,426 recruits (53.5 percent) were given them.

In 2006, the Navy gave 3,502 recruits, or 9.7 percent of those recruited, waivers for criminal conduct. In 2005, it gave them to 3,467 recruits, or 9.2 percent.

According to a 2009 study, 13 percent of men enlisting in the Navy admitted that they had raped someone. Of those men, 71 percent admitted to serial rapes. The perpetrators said that they targeted people they knew rather than strangers and generally used drugs or alcohol rather than brute force to incapacitate their victims.

What Can Be Done to
Stop Rape and Boost Prosecutions?

Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain and company commander and now executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, says that the Pentagon’s primary solution for ending rape is through its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), which has no law enforcement authority to prosecute or punish. She says SAPRO’s messaging to military troops is questionable, including its infamous poster that says “Ask Her When She’s Sober.”

Bhagwati strongly believes that the military should have all sexual assault cases handled at the General Court Martial Convening Authority level, where a general officer—with more experience, maturity and impartiality than a junior commander in whose unit the alleged crime occurred—would decide whether they should be prosecuted.

Another option is offered in the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (the STOP Act), introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier on Nov. 16, 2011. H.R. 3435 would take the reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction for them in the newly created, autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office, composed of civilian and military experts.

Speier has been talking about the issue of rape in the military each week for four months on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Because of the reluctance of the military to prosecute sexual predators, Bhagwati also calls for reform to allow service members access to the federal courts for civil redress of these crimes. Currently, service members cannot bring a tort claim in federal court for rape, sexual assault and harassment cases and other crimes and acts of negligence by the military, including medical malpractice and workplace discrimination.

There is a pattern of the military using psychiatric diagnoses to get women who report sexual assaults out of the military.

According to a Freedom of Information Act request, from 2001 to 2010 the military discharged more than 31,000 service members, citing a personality disorder—”a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood.” The military considers a personality disorder diagnosis as a non-service-related, pre-existing condition.

Veterans Affairs will not provide treatment for a pre-existing condition, and the service members are left without treatment for their sexual assault trauma. Additionally, service members who are diagnosed with a personality disorder and are discharged lose GI Bill educational benefits and have to repay re-enlistment bonuses.

Military records obtained by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic through a separate Freedom of Information Act request show that the personality diagnosis is used disproportionately on women. In the Army, 16 percent of all soldiers are women, but they constitute 24 percent of all personality disorder discharges.

Women make up 21 percent of the Air Force but account for 35 percent of personality discharges. In the Navy, women account for 17 percent of the total members but 26 percent of personality discharges, while the 7 percent of the Marine Corps who are female account for 14 percent of the personality discharges. The records do not state how many women were ordered discharged from the military with a personality disorder diagnosis.

On April 16, 2012, after pressure during meetings with congressional leaders, Secretary of Defense Panetta said he would ensure that officers of at least the rank of colonel with special court-martial authority would oversee sexual assault cases rather than junior officer commanders.

Although reported sexual assaults continue to rise, junior commander-initiated actions to prosecute offenders were down 23 percent, courts-martial were down 8 percent and convictions decreased 22 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Panetta also will recommend to the military that special victims units be established to handle the offenses and that National Guard and Reserve members be allowed to remain on duty after they are sexually assaulted so they can obtain treatment and support, which they currently lose when they are removed from active duty.

To learn more about rape in the military, see the film “The Invisible War.” It won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel. She has written extensively on the issues of sexual assault and rape in the military. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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