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Romney Advisors: ‘Bring Back Torture’

September 30th, 2012 - by admin

Charlie Savage / The New York Times – 2012-09-30 01:00:55

Election to Decide Future Interrogation Methods in Terrorism Cases

WASHINGTON (September 27, 2012) — Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has said much about torture as part of terrorism investigations during the 2012 general campaign. But the future of American government practices when interrogating high-level terrorism suspects appears likely to turn on the outcome of the election.

In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in the Army Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.

While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011, and not a final decision by him, its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.

The campaign policy paper does not specify which techniques Mr. Romney should approve, saying more study was needed because Mr. Obama had “permanently damaged” the value of some by releasing memorandums detailing Bush-era techniques in April 2009.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush administration lawyers approved as legal, despite antitorture laws, such tactics as prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling into painful “stress” positions for long periods while naked and in a cold room, slamming into a wall, locking inside a small box, and the suffocation tactic called waterboarding. The goal was to break the will to resist of detainees believed to be withholding information.

When disclosed, the Bush policies ignited a heated debate that continues to flare. The policy’s supporters say they were lawful and extracted valuable information that helped save lives. Critics contend that they were illegal and damaged the United States’ moral standing, and that the same or better information could have been obtained with nonabusive tactics.

The Romney campaign document, obtained by The New York Times, is a five-page policy paper titled “Interrogation Techniques.” It was a near-final draft circulated last September among the Romney campaign’s “national security law subcommittee” for any further comments before it was to be submitted to Mr. Romney. The panel consists of a brain trust of conservative lawyers, most of whom are veterans of the George W. Bush administration.

The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The policy paper acknowledges that it is hard to know what would be different had Mr. Bush’s interrogation policy continued. But it argues that Mr. Obama’s approach has “hampered (or will hamper) the fight against terrorism” by forbidding techniques “that we should feel, as a nation, that we have a right to use against our enemies.”

In particular, it criticizes Mr. Obama for restricting interrogators to a “one-size-fits-all approach” designed for routine battlefield captures by ordinary soldiers, not high-level terrorist operatives in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency. It also notes that the Army Field Manual is available on the Internet, so enemies can study it.

Last December, Mr. Romney was asked about waterboarding at a town-hall meeting in Charleston. He replied that he would “do what is essential to protect the lives of the American people” but would not list “for our enemies around the world” what techniques the United States would use.

Mr. Romney also declared that he would “not authorize torture.” At the news conference afterward, a reporter pressed him to say whether he thought waterboarding was torture, and Mr. Romney replied, “I don’t.”

That comment appeared to align Mr. Romney with a practice by the executive branch, under President Bush, of defining torture narrowly and saying the harsh treatment it inflicted on detainees fell short of that level. By contrast, Mr. Obama has embraced a more expansive conception of the suffering that is off-limits.

“Waterboarding is torture,” Mr. Obama said in November. “It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice. If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example.”

Uncertainties remain. One open question is whether a Romney administration would wait to decide which additional techniques to authorize until an important terrorism suspect is captured alive. That could take a while: the government’s counterterrorism apparatus has, under Mr. Obama, centered on tactics that kill, like drone strikes.

Moreover, the Central Intelligence Agency could give “a certain amount of passive-aggressive resistance” to any directive to restart any aggressive interrogation practices that could leave it exposed if political winds shift again, said Mark Lowenthal, who was its assistant director for analysis and production from 2002 to 2005.

Finally, because the Bush administration’s interrogation policy evolved, it is not clear which techniques a Republican-style Justice Department would consider lawful.

In 2005, Steven Bradbury, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in Mr. Bush’s second term, took a fresh look at C.I.A. interrogation tactics and reapproved them as not violating an antitorture statute, even when combined. He also concluded that they did not violate a more sweeping prohibition on “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” established by a treaty; at the time, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was pushing, over the Bush administration’s objections, to codify that rule in domestic statutes.

In 2006, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions protected wartime Qaeda prisoners, contrary to Bush administration legal theories. The C.I.A. shuttered its program, and Congress passed a law limiting the ruling’s impact by specifying specific categories of ill treatment that would be considered grave breaches.

The next year, the agency proposed restarting a more limited version of its program, using sleep deprivation, withholding solid food, slapping and head grabbing. Mr. Bradbury approved that shorter list of tactics. It remained ambiguous whether the others, too, were still legally permissible if a policy maker wanted to use them.

Mr. Bradbury, who declined to comment, was one of 18 lawyers on the Romney campaign’s national security law subcommittee when its “Interrogation Techniques” paper was circulated.

The list also included Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary; Cully Stimson, the Pentagon’s detainee policy chief; and many other Bush-era executive branch veterans: Bradford Berenson, Elliot S. Berke, Todd F. Braunstein, Gus P. Coldebella, Jimmy Gurule, Richard D. Klingler, Ramon Martinez, Brent J. McIntosh, John C. O’Quinn, John J. Sullivan, Michael Sullivan and Alex Wong. Three others — Lee A. Casey, Maureen E. Mahoney and David B. Rivkin Jr. — served in earlier Republican administrations.

A distribution e-mail said that the paper “reflects input from several members of the subcommittee” without specifying them or saying whether anyone disagreed with it.

Mr. Romney has consistently opposed ruling out interrogation techniques. At a debate in 2007, he sparred with Senator McCain over whether the United States should renounce waterboarding. And last year, in response to a survey on executive power, he said he opposed “torture” but criticized Mr. Obama’s approach.

“I support the use of appropriate and necessary interrogation techniques to obtain information from high-value terrorists who possess knowledge critical to our national defense,” Mr. Romney said. “I do not believe it is wise for our country to reveal all of the precise interrogation methods we may authorize for use against captured terrorists, and I strongly condemn the actions taken by President Obama to do so.”

Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

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

Detainee Forced to Take High Drug Doses in Guantanamo

September 30th, 2012 - by admin

Natalie O’Brien / Sydney Morning Herald – 2012-09-30 00:56:36


Hicks Forced to Take High Drug Doses in Guantanamo

(September 16, 2012) — Guantanamo Bay detainees, including David Hicks, were forced to take high dosages of anti-malaria drug mefloquine despite showing no signs of the disease, a practice likened to ”pharmacological waterboarding” by a US military doctor.

Questions have been raised about whether the mass administration of the drug to detainees was a secret, illegal experiment after a medical journal article last month by an army doctor, Major Remington Nevin, highlighted the ”inappropriate use” of the drug and asked if its use had been motivated by the drug’s psychotic side effects.

The US Centres for Disease Control issued a warning against the use of mefloquine on anyone suffering psychiatric disturbances or having a previous history of depression. Dr Nevin also warned high doses of the drug could cause brain injuries.

Mr Hicks has long claimed he was drugged against his will. Evidence including previously secret reports and witnesses including a Guantanamo guard and New York lawyer Josh Dratel support Mr Hicks’ claims.

Mr Dratel, who has top secret security clearance from the US Department of Justice and has acted for a number of detainees including Mr Hicks, was to give direct evidence of Mr Hicks’ drugging against his will for ”non-therapeutic reasons”.

In an affidavit prepared for the trial, Mr Dratel revealed US prosecutors admitted Mr Hicks’ claims ”guards had forced him to eat a meal which contained a sedative before they read him the charges” were true. He was told it was done to protect the officers reading the charges from his reactions.

Former Guantanamo guard Brandon Neely also supplied an affidavit for the trial saying detainees were beaten for refusing to take the drugs. He also claimed doctors never told detainees what drugs they were given.

What drugs were administered in some cases may never be known. Many medical records have apparently had names and dosages of drugs removed.

Evidence of forced drug injections at Guantanamo has been revealed in a previously secret US Department of Defence intelligence report into allegations of the use of mind-altering drugs to interrogate detainees.

The report also found ”chemical restraints were used on detainees that posed a threat to themselves” and detainees being treated with psychoactive drugs that impaired mental functions were interrogated while under the effects of the medication.

Such forced druggings and abuse handed out to Mr Hicks and other detainees in Guantanamo Bay was to be at the heart of his defence against the Australian government’s legal action to stop him receiving proceeds of crime by collecting royalties from his book Guantanamo: My Journey.

On July 24, a week before his case was due to go to trial in the New South Wales Supreme Court, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the case, saying it would have been unable to satisfy the court that admissions made by Mr Hicks while in Guantanamo should be relied upon and that Mr Hicks had served evidential material not previously available.

Mr Hicks’ lawyer, Steven Glass, said: ”The only thing David has wanted since he was first detained in 2001 was to have the allegations against him determined by a properly constituted court applying the rule of law. The trial … would have been the first time he had that opportunity.”

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

‘Devil’s Breath’: The Most Dangerous Drug in the World’

September 30th, 2012 - by admin

Beth Stebner / London Daily Mail – 2012-09-30 00:51:23


Chemical from Colombia Can Block Free Will, Wipe Memory and Even Kill
Beth Stebner / London Daily Mail


Scopolamine often blown into faces of victims or added to drinks

Within minutes, victims are like ‘zombies’ — coherent, but with no free will

Some victims report emptying bank accounts to robbers or helping them pillage own house

Drug is made from borrachero tree, which is common in Colombia

LONDON (May13, 2012) — A hazardous drug that eliminates free will and can wipe the memory of its victims is currently being dealt on the streets of Colombia.

The drug is called scopolamine, but is colloquially known as ‘The Devil’s Breath,’ and is derived from a particular type of tree common to South America.

Stories surrounding the drug are the stuff of urban legends, with some telling horror stories of how people were raped, forced to empty their bank accounts, and even coerced into giving up an organ.

Danger: ‘The Devil’s Breath’ is such a powerful drug that it can remove the capacity for free will

VICE’s Ryan Duffy travelled to the country to find out more about the powerful drug. In two segments, he revealed the shocking culture of another Colombian drug world, interviewing those who deal the drug and those who have fallen victim to it.

Demencia Black, a drug dealer in the capital of Bogota, said the drug is frightening for the simplicity in which it can be administered.

He told Vice that Scopolamine can be blown in the face of a passer-by on the street, and within minutes, that person is under the drug’s effect – scopolamine is odourless and tasteless.

‘You can guide them wherever you want,’ he explained. ‘It’s like they’re a child.’

Black said that one gram of Scopolamine is similar to a gram of cocaine, but later called it ‘worse than anthrax.’ In high doses, it is lethal.

It only takes a moment: One drug dealer in Bogota explained how victims are drugged within minutes of exposure

Victims: One Colombian woman said that under the influence of scopolamine, she led a man to her house and helped him ransack it

The drug, he said, turns people into complete zombies and blocks memories from forming. So even after the drug wears off, victims have no recollection as to what happened.

One victim told Vice that a man approached her on the street asking her for directions. Since it was close by, she helped take the man to his destination, and they drank juice together.

‘You can guide them wherever you want. It’s like they’re a child.’

She took the man to her house and helped him gather all of her belongings, including her boyfriend’s cameras and savings.

‘It is painful to have lost money,’ the woman said,’ but I was actually quite lucky.’

According to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the drug — also known as hyoscine — causes the same level of memory loss as diazepam.

In ancient times, the drug was given to the mistresses of dead Colombian leaders – they were told to enter their master’s grave, where they were buried alive.

Devil’s Breath: The drug is odourless and tasteless and can simply be blown in the face of someone on the street; their free will vanishes after being exposed to it

Dangerous: Vice’s Ryan Duffy traveled to the capital of Bogota to find out more about the drug

In modern times, the CIA used the drug as part of Cold War interrogations, with the hope of using it like a truth serum.

However, because of the drug’s chemical makeup, it also induces powerful hallucinations.

The tree common around Colombia, and is called the ‘borrachero’ tree — loosely translated as the ‘get-you-drunk’ tree.

It is said that Colombian mothers warn their children not to fall asleep under the tree, though the leafy green canopies and large yellow and white flowers seem appealing.

Experts are baffled as to why Colombia is riddled with scopolamine-related crimes, but wager much of it has to do with the country’s torn drug-culture past, and on-going civil war.

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

US Forced Use of Truth Drug Revealed

September 30th, 2012 - by admin

Natalie O’Brien / Sydney Morning Herald – 2012-09-30 00:42:50


(September 30, 2012) — New evidence has emerged that all Guantanamo Bay detainees, including David Hicks, were drugged involuntarily with a substance that has a long history as a truth serum.

Recently declassified US documents revealing medical procedures have shown that scopolamine was administered to all detainees taken to the Cuban detention centre.

The documents, which were standard operating procedures for nursing staff, were obtained by the independent US news outlet Truthout, and reveal that the rationale for the drug’s use on all detainees was to prevent motion sickness.

However, US military experts have said that scopolamine is not recommended for motion sickness because of its severe side effects.

The US government has not responded to questions by The Sun-Herald about drugs given involuntarily to detainees.

The Sun-Herald revealed this month that Mr Hicks and other detainees were drugged against their will with unknown substances and that detainees’ medical records were incomplete, with the names and dosages of drugs removed.

Details of the mistreatment of Mr Hicks were about to emerge publicly for the first time in legal action, by the federal government, to stop him receiving revenue from his book Guantanamo: My Journey, until the government abandoned the case.

Witnesses and previously secret documents were to have backed up Mr Hicks’s long-held claims of abuse. Commonwealth prosecutors decided that the proceeds of crime case would not stand up in court and dropped the action.

Details about the use of scopolamine emerged last week.

Mr Hicks has told The Sun-Herald he was given a drug during his journey to Guantanamo Bay that left him drowsy and disoriented.

He said it was administered by injection, not a patch behind his ear as is described in the standard operating procedures.

Information released by the US spy agency, the CIA, has revealed that because of its many undesirable side effects, scopolamine had been disqualified as a truth drug.

It listed its most disabling side effects as hallucinations, disturbed perception, headaches, rapid heartbeat, and blurred vision.

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

Bush the Christian Crusader

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

Tom Hayden / Tom Hayden.com – 2012-09-27 18:30:38


Kurt Eichenwald’s new book,
500 Days:
Secrets And Lies in The Terror Wars

(September 12, 2012) — Anyone amazed by the current wave of spontaneous Islamic uprisings against the crazy anti-Islam film should realize America has a deeper problem than trying to explain the First Amendment to the Muslim street. Wait until millions of people read the 2003 statement by President George Bush calling for a Christian war against Iraq and the Middle East.

In a stunning statement, President George Bush told the president of France, Jacques Chirac, that the Iraq “confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins,” according to a new book by Kurt Eichenwald, former New York Times reporter.

So far there has been complete silence and denial about the Bush statement. But the fuse is lit. Bush will be under pressure to explain himself.

Bush, in an early 2003 phone call to President Chirac, according to Eichenwald, said, “Jacques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord.”

Bush continued, “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is being willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins.”

Seen through this disclosure, US attacks on Islamic fundamentalists are partly a projection of a deep American Christian fundamentalism rooted in the Crusades. Bush used the term “crusader” early in his administration, but later withdrew the comments as a mistake.

When the Iraq invasion began, nine evangelical churches were opened, 150 Christian missionaries flooded in, and one million Arabic-language leaflets proclaimed the “good news.” The End-timers waited for the prophecies to be fulfilled. The president’s Pentagon point person on intelligence, Gen. William Boyklin, claimed that God, who incidentally was the “real God” as opposed to the satanic Allah, appointed Bush.

Then there was the Pentagon’s inspector general, Joseph Schmitz, who seemed more interested in demonic forces than corrupt contractors — the hierarchy of Blackwater, after all, was dominated by fundamentalist Christians. Schmitz’ website described his association with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an 11th century Crusader group whose mission was to “defend territories that the Crusaders had conquered from the Moslems.”

Rational officials, like Air Force Academy Chaplain Capt. MeLinda Morton and Guantanamo Chaplain James Yee, were forced to resign after they complained of extreme Christian proselytizing.

For more information, see also by Tom Hayden, “Billy Graham’s Legacy: A Crusade in Iraq,” in Writings for a Democratic Society, “For Franklin Graham, The Crusades Never End,” and “Ryan a Pawn in Neo-Con Return.”

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

US Special Forces Deployed in Iraq, Again

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

Tom Hayden / The Nation – 2012-09-27 12:22:35


(September 25, 2012) — Despite the official US military withdrawal last December, American special forces “recently” returned to Iraq on a counter-terrorism mission, according to an American general in charge of weapons sales there. The mission was reported by the New York Times — in the fifteenth paragraph of a story about deepening sectarian divides.

The irony is that the US is protecting a pro-Iran Shiite regime in Baghdad against a Sunni-based insurgency while at the same time supporting a Sunni-led movement against the Iran-backed dictatorship in Syria. The Sunni rebellions are occurring in the vast Sunni region between northwestern Iraq and southern Syria where borders are porous.

During the Iraq War, many Iraqi insurgents from Anbar and Diyala provinces took sanctuary in Sunni areas of Syria. Now they are turning their weapons on two targets, the al-Malaki government in Baghdad and the Assad regime in Damascus.

The US is caught in the contradictions of proxy wars, favoring Iran’s ally in Iraq while trying to displace Iran’s proxy in Syria.

The lethal complication of the US Iraq policy is a military withdrawal that was propelled by political pressure from public opinion in the US even as the war could not be won on the battlefield. Military “redeployment”, as the scenario is described, is a general’s nightmare.

In the case of Vietnam, a “decent interval” was supposedly arranged by the Nixon administration to create the appearance of an orderly American withdrawal. During the same “interval”, Nixon massively escalated his bombing campaign to no avail. Two years after the 1973 Paris peace accords, Saigon collapsed.

It is unlikely that the Maliki regime will fall to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, if only because the Sunni population is approximately twenty percent of the population.

However, the return of US Special Forces is not likely to restore Iraqi stability, and they may become trapped in crossfire as the sectarian tensions deepen. The real lesson may be for Afghanistan, where another unwinnable, unaffordable war in support of an unpopular regime is stumbling towards 2014.

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

Syrian War Spillover Prompts Plans to Return US Troops to Iraq

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

Tim Arango / The New York Times – 2012-09-27 12:17:54

Syrian War’s Spillover Threatens a Fragile Iraq

BAGHDAD (September 24, 2012) — The civil war in Syria is testing Iraq’s fragile society and fledgling democracy, worsening sectarian tensions, pushing Iraq closer to Iran and highlighting security shortcomings just nine months after American forces ended their long and costly occupation here.

Fearing that Iraq’s insurgents will unite with extremists in Syria to wage a two-front battle for Sunni dominance, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki recently ordered guards at the western border to block adult men, even husbands and fathers with families in tow, from crossing into Iraq along with thousands of refugees seeking to escape the grinding war next door.

Farther north, Iraqi officials have another concern, also related to the fighting across the border. Turkish warplanes have stepped up attacks on the mountain hide-outs of Kurdish insurgents galvanized by the war in Syria, underscoring Iraq’s inability to control its own airspace.

The hardening of the antagonists’ positions in Syria — reverberating across Iraq — was made clear Monday at the United Nations when the new special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, gave a bleak appraisal of the conflict to the Security Council and said he saw no prospect for a breakthrough anytime soon.

The Syrian war’s spillover has called attention to uncomfortable realities for American officials: despite nearly nine years of military engagement, an effort that continues today with a $19 billion weapons sales program, Iraq’s security is uncertain and its alliance with the theocratic government in Tehran is growing. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership is so worried about a victory by Sunni radicals in Syria that it has moved closer to Iran, which shares a similar interest in supporting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

There is already some indication that Sunni insurgents in Iraq have tried to coordinate with Syrian fighters to set off a regional sectarian war, Iraqi tribal leaders said.

“Fighters from Anbar went there to support their sect, the Sunnis,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hayes, a tribal leader in Anbar Province, in western Iraq, who once led a group of former insurgents who switched sides and joined the Americans in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In response, the United States has tried to secure its interests in Iraq. It has unsuccessfully pressed Iraq to halt flights from Iran that traverse Iraqi airspace to ferry weapons and fighters to the Assad government, although The Associated Press reported that over the weekend a government spokesman said Iraq would begin random searches of Iranian aircraft.

While some Congressional leaders have threatened to cut off aid to Iraq if the flights do not stop, the United States is trying to speed up weapons sales to Iraq to secure it as an ally, said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., the American commander in charge of that effort. As regional security deteriorates, the United States is finding it hard to deliver the weapons — especially antiaircraft systems — quickly enough to satisfy the Iraqis, who in some cases are looking elsewhere, including Russia.

“Although they want a strategic partnership with the United States, they recognize the vulnerability, and they are interested in going with the nation that will be able to provide them, and meet their need, their capabilities gap, as quickly as possible,” said General Caslen, who oversees a Pentagon office here, under the authority of the American Embassy, that brokers weapons sales to Iraq.

The United States is providing Iraq with refurbished antiaircraft guns, free of charge, but they will not arrive until June. In the meantime, the Iraqis have collected cold war-era missiles found in a junkyard on an air base north of Baghdad, and they are trying to get them in working order. Iraq is negotiating with Russia to buy air defense systems that could be delivered much more quickly than those bought from the United States.

“Iraq recognizes they don’t control their airspace, and they are very sensitive to that,” General Caslen said. Each time Turkish fighter jets enter Iraq’s airspace to bomb Kurdish targets, he said, Iraqi officials “see it, they know it and they resent it.”

Iskander Witwit, a former Iraqi Air Force officer and member of Parliament’s security committee, said, “God willing, we will be arming Iraq with weapons to be able to shoot down those planes.”

The American military withdrew at the end of last year after negotiations for an extended troop presence collapsed because the Iraqis would not agree to extend legal immunities to any remaining force. Once the Americans left, Iraq celebrated its sovereignty, even as military officials in both countries fretted about the deficiencies of Iraq’s military and sought ways to work together that would not require a public debate about immunities.

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

So even as the country leans closer to Iran and contemplates buying weapons from Russia, it still seeks the military support of the United States. This is because Iraq is still facing a potent insurgency whose frequent recent attacks have raised questions about the ability of Iraq’s counterterrorism forces to face the threat.

In Anbar, said Mr. Hayes, the tribal leader, insurgents have created Al Qaeda-affiliated units under the name the Free Iraqi Army, to mimic the banner under which Syrian Sunnis are fighting. “They are having meetings and are recruiting,” he said. The group also has a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

Similar units have sprouted in Diyala Province, and they have used a call to arms in Syria as a recruitment tool, according to local officials. When fighters die in Syria, local families hold funerals in secret so as not to alert the Shiite-dominated security forces that they have sent their sons to Syria. One such recent funeral was held on the pretext that the fallen fighter had died in a car crash in Jordan, and not, as had actually happened, in fighting in Aleppo, according to a local intelligence officer.

As Western policy makers consider intervention in Syria, they worry that country’s war could turn into a full-blown sectarian conflict like the one that engulfed Iraq from 2005 to 2007. For Iraqis who fled to Syria and are now returning, not by choice but to save their own lives, Syria already is Iraq.

“It’s exactly like it was in Iraq,” said Zina Ritha, 29, who returned to Baghdad after several years in Damascus. Referring to the Free Syrian Army, Ms. Ritha said: “The F.S.A. is destroying Shia houses. They are kidnapping people, especially the Iraqis and the Shia.”

On a recent morning, Ms. Ritha and her mother-in-law visited a center for returnees here, where families collect a payment of four million Iraqi dinars, or about $3,400, from the government. For Iraqis in Syria, people at the center said, there is no security. Shiites are attacked by rebels, Sunnis by government forces. And at any time they can be targeted just for being foreigners.

Abdul Jabbar Sattar, a single man in his 40s, is Sunni. After a bombing in Damascus that killed several top security officials in July, his neighborhood endured round-the-clock shelling. He returned to Iraq with one set of clothes, and little money, having been robbed as he fled.

“It’s the same situation as it used to be in Iraq,” he said. “Everyone is afraid of one another.”

Reporting was contributed by Duraid Adnan, Yasir Ghazi and Omar al-Jawoshy from Baghdad, and an employee of The New York Times from Diyala Province.

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

Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, And Trauma to Civilians

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

International Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Clinic – 2012-09-27 01:20:10


Living Under Drones
Death, Injury, And Trauma to Civilians
From US Drone Practices in Pakistan

International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic
(Stanford Law School) & Global Justice Clinic (New York University School of Law)


In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.1

This narrative is false.

Following nine months of intensive research — including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting — this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies.

Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.

Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.

It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”

It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.

The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.3 TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals.

Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team.

It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.

From June 2004 through mid- September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted- for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.

Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior.

The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators.

Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.

Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — estimated at just 2%.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.” Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani relations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.6

Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US.

The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy.

US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase.

In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits.

A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.

This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:

The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies.

The US should:
Release the US Department of Justice memoranda
outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;

Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly requested by various groups and officials: the targeting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;8

Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;

In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.

The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.

Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.

The report is divided into five chapters: Background and Context, Numbers, Living Under Drones, Legal Analysis, and Strategic Considerations. Immediately following is a brief account of the methodology of this study, including challenges faced by our research team. The report then turns to the five main chapters:

‘Background and Context,’ Chapter 1, provides brief background and context on: the nature of unmanned aerial vehicles; drones and targeted killings as a response to 9/11; Obama’s escalation of the drone program; the decision-making process behind drone strikes; the Pakistani government’s divided role; conflict, non-state groups, and military forces in northwest Pakistan; the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); and the limits on access to FATA.

‘Numbers,’ Chapter 2, assesses the debate on drone casualties, outlining the factors that produce conflicting and often unreliable reporting by government and media sources. Examining the methods and content of three well-known and widely cited drone data aggregators, this chapter explains what information can be gleaned from these sources, and challenges the oversimplified civilian/”militant” binary reproduced in many accounts.

‘Living under Drones,’ Chapter 3 sets forth the core findings of this report. The Chapter begins with firsthand narrative accounts of three specific drone strikes. For each of these strikes, there is significant evidence of civilian casualties. It further examines the broader impacts of drone surveillance and strikes in North Waziristan, including on the families of those killed, education and economic opportunities, emotional trauma, widespread fear, and the undermining of community institutions.

‘Legal Analysis,’ Chapter 4 provides an overview of the terms of debate on the legality of the US targeted killing program and drone campaign in Pakistan under both international and US domestic law. It describes the law related to key issues: whether US drone practices violate Pakistan’s sovereignty; when and which individuals may lawfully be targeted; and the extent to which the US has met, or failed to meet, its international legal obligations related to transparency and accountability.

‘Strategic Considerations,’ Chapter 5 examines the strategic implications of US drone strike policies in Pakistan. In particular, it considers available evidence about their effectiveness in hampering attacks by armed non-state actors, their impact on attitudes in Pakistan and the surrounding region toward the US, their geopolitical implications, and their effect on decision-making related to war and the use of force in the US.

The report includes several appendices. The first appendix provides additional narratives from victims and witnesses to drone strikes, as well as others directly affected by drones. The second appendix charts the timing and intensity of drone attacks between January 2010 and June 2012 in light of parallel political events and key moments in Pakistani-US relations. The third appendix compares statements of US officials on drone strikes with strike data reported by a leading strike data aggregator.

This report is based on over 130 detailed interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.

Our research team also engaged in extensive review of documentary sources, including: news reports; legal, historical, political, medical, and other relevant scholarship; civil society and analysts’ reports; court filings and other legal documents; government documents; and physical evidence.

Our research team conducted two separate investigations in Pakistan (including in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, and Rawalpindi) in February-March 2012 and May 2012.10 Investigations included interviews with 69 individuals (‘experiential victims’) who were witnesses to drone strikes or surveillance, victims of strikes, or family members of victims from North Waziristan.

These interviewees provided first-hand accounts of drone strikes, and provided testimony about a range of issues, including the missile strikes themselves, the strike sites, the victims’ bodies, or a family member or members killed or injured in the strike.12 They also provided testimony about the impacts of drone surveillance and attacks on their daily lives, and their views of US policy.

Interviews were arranged through local contacts in Pakistan, including journalists, lawyers, tribal leaders, experts, and civil society members. The majority of the experiential victims interviewed were arranged with the assistance of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a legal nonprofit based in Islamabad that has become the most prominent legal advocate for drone victims in Pakistan.

Those interviewees, who undertook an extremely unsafe, time-consuming, and difficult trip in order to be interviewed, were all male, as poor security conditions, together with cultural norms of purda (separation of men and women), restricted women’s ability to travel.

One of the experiential victims interviewed is a female Waziri now residing outside Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Nine of the 69 experiential victims are clients of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. None of the interviewees were provided compensation for participating in investigations for this report.13

The interviews were conducted by teams that included at least one Stanford or NYU researcher, as well as a translator. Some interviews also included a researcher from either Reprieve or the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. The interviews with individual Waziris were semi-structured, and lasted from approximately thirty minutes to two hours.

Security, confidentiality, and privacy for those interviewed were key concerns. Our research team applied informed consent guidelines to all interviews, and interviewees chose if or how they wished to be identified in this report.

We do not include the names and other identifying information of interviewed individuals in this report when so requested by the person concerned, or when the research team determined that doing so might place the individual at risk.

Thus, many of the experiential victims have been given pseudonyms in this report. All of the medical and humanitarian professionals, and most of the journalists with whom we met, also expressed concerns for their safety, and requested anonymity.

In addition to our interviews with medical professionals in Pakistan, medical experts at Stanford reviewed this report’s sections concerning the psychological and physiological impacts of drones. These experts also met with our research team to discuss our findings and assist in our analysis of the classification of symptoms.

As part of our effort to speak with relevant stakeholders, our research team requested the input of the US government, and sought to share our findings in advance of this report’s release. Via letter sent July 18, 2012, we requested a meeting with the National Security Council (NSC), “the President’s principal arm for coordinating [national security and foreign] policies among various government agencies.” At this writing, we had not received a response to our request.

The foremost challenge the research team faced was the pervasive lack of US government transparency about its targeted killing and drone policies and practices in Pakistan. This secrecy forced us to conduct challenging primary research into the effects of drones in Pakistan. Primary research in FATA is difficult for many reasons.

First, it is very difficult for foreigners physically to access FATA, partly due to the Pakistani government’s efforts to block access through heavily guarded checkpoints, and partly due to serious security risks.

Second, it is very difficult for residents of Waziristan to travel out of the region. Those we interviewed had to travel hundreds of kilometers by road to reach Islamabad or Peshawar, in journeys that could take anywhere from eight hours to several days, and which required passing through dozens of military and police checkpoint stops, as well as, in some cases, traveling through active fighting between armed non-state groups and Pakistani forces.

Third, mistrust, often justifiable, from many in FATA toward outsiders (particularly Westerners) inhibits ready access to individuals and communities.

Fourth, many residents of FATA fear retribution from all sides–Pakistani military, intelligence services, non-state armed groups–for speaking with outsiders about the issues raised in this report.

Fifth, practices of purda in FATA make it extremely difficult for women to travel, for outsiders to speak directly to Waziri females, or to obtain information about females through male family members. It is often considered inappropriate, for example, for men to provide the names of female victims of drone strikes.

In addition, strict segregation can mean that neighbors or extended family members may not know how many women and children were killed or injured in a strike.

Because of these obstacles to speaking directly with women, most of the information the research team obtained about the impacts of drones on the daily lives of women came second-hand through husbands, sons, fathers, and in-laws, as well as by health care providers and members of civil society working in the area.

Following interactions and the building of trust between our researchers and interviewees, a number of those interviewed expressed an interest in facilitating interviews with female witnesses and victims in future investigations.

Sixth, and as documented in the ‘Background and Context’ Chapter, FATA has very low literacy rates. This, in conjunction with the fact that much information about incidents in Waziristan is not recorded in written form, made it difficult for some interviewees to pinpoint the exact dates of certain strikes or to identify in terms that could be related to outsiders the precise geographical locations of small villages.

The research team has made extensive efforts to check information provided by interviewees against that provided in other interviews, known general background information, other reports and investigations, media reports, and physical evidence wherever possible.

Many of the interviewees provided victims’ identification cards and some shared photographs of victims and strike sites, or medical records documenting their injuries. We also reviewed pieces of missile shrapnel.

This section provides background and contextual information relevant to understanding US drone policies in Pakistan. It provides a basic overview of what unmanned aerial vehicles are, how the US has been using this technology as part of a broader effort to engage in “targeted killing” of alleged enemies, and how the use of drones has undergone a dramatic escalation under President Obama.

The section also provides some background on Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area in which most drone strikes take place, on the residents of North Waziristan who live under drones, and on armed non-state actors and military forces in northwest Pakistan.

The US government has been using armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to carry out hundreds of covert missile strikes in northwest Pakistan since at least June 2004. Drone strikes now form a key part of the US government’s approach to counterterrorism and enable the US to kill from afar without immediate risk to American lives.

For years, the government would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the strikes, and only began to outline the practices and legal justifications following significant pressure from domestic and international civil society.

To date, the government has refused to provide necessary details on how the program works, how targets are chosen, or how legality and accountability are ensured, leading civil society groups repeatedly to request this information. Instead, the government insists that the killings are lawful, and that virtually all of those targeted are linked to Al Qaeda and associated forces and pose a threat to US national security.

Recently, anonymous government officials have revealed that, for the purpose of tracking civilian casualties, the government presumes that all military-age males killed in drone strikes are combatants.

According to the US Department of Defense, a drone, or unmanned aircraft, is an “aircraft or balloon that does not carry a human operator and is capable of flight under remote control or autonomous programming.” Although drones have only recently become the subject of significant public debate, they are not new, and their origins can be traced at least to World War I.

Throughout the twentieth century, however, they were used primarily for surveillance, most notably during the Gulf War and the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s. The first armed drones were flown in Afghanistan in early October 2001. Since then, the US has increased its arsenal of Predator drones from 167 in 2002 to more than 7,000 today.

There are two types of lethal drones primarily now used by the US: the MQ-1B Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. The Predator MQ-1B, first flown in 1994,26 was designed “to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information combined with a kill capability.” Equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, the Predator MQ-1B was the world’s first-ever weaponized unmanned aircraft system.

As P.W. Singer writes in Wired for War, “[a]t twenty-seven feet in length, [the Predator] is just a bit smaller than a Cessna. . . . made of composite materials instead of metals, the Predator weighs just 1,130 pounds. Perhaps its best quality is that it can spend some twenty-four hours in the air, flying at heights of up to twenty-six thousand feet.”

The MQ-9 Reaper “is larger and more powerful than the MQ-1 Predator and is designed to prosecute time- sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets.”

The technical precision of these weapons has been disputed, including by companies that developed software used in targeting.31 One factor that reduces targeting precision is ‘latency,’ the delay between movement on the ground and the arrival of the video image via satellite to the drone pilot.

As the New York Times reported in July 2012, “Last year senior operatives with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula told a Yemeni reporter that if they hear an American drone overhead, they move around as much as possible.”

Even when they are precise, however, casualties and damage are not necessarily confined to the specific individual, vehicle, or structure targeted. The blast radius from a Hellfire missile can extend anywhere from 15-20 meters;33 shrapnel may also be projected significant distances from the blast.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2011 attacks, the Bush administration began a campaign of ‘targeted killing’ against suspected members of Al Qaeda and other armed groups.34 The CIA allegedly carried out its first targeted drone killing in February 2002 in Afghanistan, where a strike killed three men near a former mujahedeen base called Zhawar Kili.

Some reports suggest the CIA thought one of the three men might have been bin Laden in part due to his height. When questioned in the aftermath of the strike, however, authorities confirmed that it was not bin Laden and, instead, appeared not to know who they had killed. A Pentagon spokeswoman stated, “[w]e’re convinced that it was an appropriate target,” but added, “[w]e do not know yet exactly who it was.”

Another spokesman later added that there were “no initial indications that these were innocent locals.” Reports since have suggested that the three individuals were local civilians collecting scrap metal.

Six months later, on November 3, 2002, the US took the targeted killing program to Yemen. US officials, reportedly operating a drone from a base in Djibouti, hit and killed six men travelling in a vehicle in an under-populated area of Yemen. One of the men was Qaed Sinan Harithi, believed to have been one of the planners of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

In January 2003, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, concluded that the strike “constitute[d] a clear case of extrajudicial killing.

Nonetheless, the strike in Yemen set the precedent for what would later become a full-scale program of targeted killing by drone in Pakistan. After the US invasion of Afghanistan, a number of Taliban fighters fled across the border into Pakistan and in particular FATA, which borders Afghanistan. From 2002 to 2004, the US used Predator drones to monitor this area.

Then, in June 2004, the US launched a strike against Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani Taliban commander who two months prior had announced his support for Al Qaeda. Witnesses initially reported that the missile was fired from a drone circling overhead, but the Pakistani military denied any US involvement, instead taking credit for the operation itself. Today, this is widely believed to have been the first US drone strike in Pakistan.

When President Bush left office in January 2009, the US had carried out at least 45 drone strikes according to the New America Foundation, or 52 according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), inside Pakistan.48 Since then, President Obama has reportedly carried out more than five times that number: 292 strikes in just over three and a half years.

This dramatic escalation in the US use of drones to carry out targeted killings has brought with it escalating tensions between the US and Pakistan, as well as continued questions about the efficacy and accuracy of such strikes.

A key feature of the Obama administration’s use of drones has been a reported expansion in the use of “signature” strikes. Between 2002 and 2007, the Bush administration reportedly focused targeted killings on “personality” strikes targeting named, allegedly high-value leaders of armed, non-state groups like Salim Sinan al Harethi and Nek Mohammad.

Under Obama, the program expanded to include far more “profile” or so-called “signature” strikes based on a “pattern of life” analysis. According to US authorities, these strikes target “groups of men who bear certain signatures, or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity, but whose identities aren’t known.” Just what those “defining characteristics” are has never been made public.

In 2012, the New York Times paraphrased a view shared by several officials that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.” The Times also reported that some in the Obama administration joke that when the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” they think it is a terrorist training camp.

On June 15, 2012, the Obama administration, in a letter to Congress, publicly acknowledged the existence of military actions in Yemen and Somalia against individuals alleged to be linked to Al Qaeda. However, the administration has not provided similar statements about CIA activities (including drone programs) in Pakistan and Yemen.

As a result, what little public information exists about government perspectives, programs, and policies has come largely through anonymous sources and leaks in major news outlets. In May 2012, three such stories — one by the New York Times, one by the Associated Press, and one by Newsweek reporter and author Daniel Klaidman — revealed the most information to date about how the decision to kill a particular target is made.

According to the Associated Press and the New York Times, the President acts as the final decision maker, at least with respect to the decision to carry out “personality strikes” targeting named individuals. According to the New York Times, early in his presidency, “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.” Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman noted that, “Obama followed the CIA operations closely”62 and that he would frequently pull aside CIA director Leon Panetta “and ask for details about particular strikes.”

Both the CIA and the US Special Operations Command, the latter through its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — have their own target lists. Those lists are drawn up through independent processes, but significant overlap often exists.

The administration claims to have a thorough vetting process by which names are chosen. It is unclear what, if any, process is in place for decisions regarding the so-called “signature strikes,” which are particularly problematic and open to abuse and mistake.

These strikes target individuals or groups “who bear characteristics associated with terrorism but whose identities aren’t known.”

Pakistan-US relations are complex and complicated by continuing drone strikes. Pakistan initially appeared to support US strikes covertly. From 2004 through at least 2007, the Pakistani government claimed responsibility for attacks that had, in fact, been conducted by the US, thus allowing the US to deny any involvement.

In 2008, according to cables released by Wikileaks, Pakistan’s Prime Minister reportedly told US Embassy officials, “I don’t care if they [conduct strikes] as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”

In 2009, both Pakistan’s Prime Minister and its Foreign Minister publicly celebrated the drone strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud, the alleged leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP), an armed group that launches terrorist attacks within Pakistan.

As strikes have increased, however, so too has the Pakistani public’s opposition to them. In 2011, rising opposition to the US within Pakistan was further exacerbated by three separate events: the public shooting of two men by CIA agent Raymond Davis in January, the May raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound and his killing, and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an errant NATO airstrike in November.

It is important to note that segments of the Pakistani population, including in FATA, support drone strikes that kill terrorists. This is primarily because of the significant toll that terrorists and armed non-state groups take on the civilian population.74 In the absence of other effective government action, some support military efforts to attack and kill terrorists.

However, it is clear that the majority of the population oppose current drone practices. A Pew Research Poll conducted in 2012 found only 17 per cent of Pakistanis favor the US conducting “drone strikes against leaders of extremist groups, even if they are conducted in conjunction with the Pakistani government.”

Of those familiar with the drone campaign, the study noted that 94 per cent of Pakistanis believe the attacks kill too many innocent people and 74 per cent say they are not “necessary to defend Pakistan from extremist organizations.”

Further, particular strikes (such as those targeting first responders), as well as the constant presence of drones overhead, have caused significant hardships for many in FATA. Because the consequences of US drone practice for those living in targeted areas have been largely omitted from coverage in the US, this report focuses on these effects.

Opposition to drone strikes has accompanied increasingly negative perceptions of the US. Roughly three in four now consider the US an enemy, an increase from both 2010 and 2011.

David Kilcullen, former Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus, and Andrew M. Exum of the Center for a New American Security have explained that “[p]ublic outrage at the strikes is hardly limited to the region in which they take place . . . . Rather, the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces.”

Pakistani officials have been very vocal, particularly in 2012, in their opposition to ongoing drone strikes in FATA. They have asserted that the strikes are unlawful, a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, and counterproductive.

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

Feinstein Is against Pre-emptive US Strike

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

Carla Marinucci / San Francisco Chronicle – 2012-09-27 00:19:03


SAN FRANCISCO (September 26, 2012) — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday in San Francisco that while Iran’s nuclear capability is rapidly advancing, she does not believe that the United States would make a pre-emptive strike on that country, “nor do I believe that would be the right thing to do.”

Feinstein, a Democrat who is seeking her fifth term in the Senate this year, made the comments during an hour-long meeting with The Chronicle‘s editorial board.

Asked about the growing sentiment that the United States might intervene to stop Iran’s march toward nuclear capability — and the resultant threat to Israel — Feinstein said, “I wouldn’t make that conclusion at this time. The decision, we are assured, has not been made to go forward with a weapon.”

But because Iranians are “enriching uranium as quickly as they possibly can,” Feinstein said, “the question becomes: Can the program be taken out?”

Based on recent committee briefings, she said, “intelligence says it can be delayed but not likely taken out. There are more than two dozen (nuclear) places.”

Despite the threats that Iran’s nuclear program could pose to Israel and the Middle East, Feinstein is wary of U.S. involvement in the Iranian situation — particularly in light of former President George W. Bush’s decision to send troops into Iraq based on what intelligence officials and Bush himself said was overwhelming evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

‘I Think I’ve Learned’
“It was wrong and it was bad intelligence … and I cast my vote,” she said Tuesday. “That was a pre-emptive vote for regime change, nothing more, nothing less. I have to live with that. And I think I’ve learned from that.”

Feinstein’s comments came as President Obama had tough words for Iran, telling the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that he prefers diplomacy to resolve issues with that nation’s nuclear program. But because Iran has repeatedly failed to provide evidence that the program is peaceful, Obama warned, “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked anger Monday by dismissing Israel as a mere footnote in the Middle East region.

“‘They have no roots there in history,” Ahmadinejad said of the Israelis. “They do not even enter the equation for Iran.”

The Iranian leader, who is in New York to address the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, also rejected the suggestion that his nation fears the possibility of Israeli efforts to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, which intelligence suggests are part of Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

“We believe the Zionists see themselves at a dead end and they want to find an adventure to get out of this dead end,” the Associated Press reported him as saying. “We are fully ready to defend ourselves. We do not take these threats seriously.”

Rehearsing Attacks
Feinstein, asked about that possibility, told The Chronicle editorial board: “I don’t know whether Israel is going to attack or not.”

But she added: “I do know that they have rehearsed attacks, and I know what those rehearsals have been.” She said she did not get the information from intelligence but from “the former head of the Israeli defense services,” who flew a mission over a key reactor in Iraq.

“They’ve rehearsed, they’ve done paratroop drops, they’ve done civil defense training,” she said. “They’ve recalibrated the Jericho missile.”

Such efforts strongly suggest that “Iran is not Iraq,” she warned.

“Iran is strategically deep. Iran has a lot of missiles. The number is classified, but I’ve looked at them, and they’re in the hundreds,” she said. “They have mobile launchers. They have in-place launchers,” which presumably would be used “to launch missiles at Israel, initially hitting what I would assume (would be) nuclear facilities.”

Israel has “a robust interceptor system,” she said. “But the interceptor system cannot continue ad infinitum. At some point, it begins to let the missiles through.”

“The current assessment” is that Iran “will have a measured response” in the event of an Israeli attack, she said, adding that she’s “not so sure” that a response from Iran would be measured.

“So we back up Israel,” she added, “and then, dependent on how we do it — it could well be an act of war.”

Of the unrest in several nations in the region, Feinstein said, “You’ve got nine countries in the Middle East beset from within — enormous controversy, instability, the Arab spring going into an Arab winter. Nobody knows quite how it will turn out. But I believe strongly that this is when strong diplomacy really counts.”

Asked whether Obama was right to nudge former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power, Feinstein said, “I’m not going into that. What’s done is done.”

Carla Marinucci is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. E-mail: cmarinucci@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @cmarinucci

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

Life for Pakistanis in US Drone War Detailed in New Report

September 27th, 2012 - by admin

Brave New Films & The Dissenter – 2012-09-27 00:05:58


Living Under Drones
Brave New Films

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation prepared a video to accompany a recently released report on life under US drones in Pakistan. In the video, Sarah Knuckey of New York University and James Cavallero of Stanford University highlight how they went about putting together the report and explain they were able to gain access to people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan, an “area cordoned off and into which virtually no one can enter.” Investigation missions were able to speak to people, who came in to be interviewed.

The missions discovered there were entire communities where drones fly overhead twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The people in these communities have no idea when the drones will strike, and they do not know who the drones will strike.

As one young man describes, “There are many drones that fly in our area. And they fly very low. There are lots of them. Because of that, our people are suffering mentally.” So badly that some Pakistanis experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Life for Pakistanis in US Drone War Detailed in New Report
Kevin Gosztola / The Dissenter

(September 25, 2012) — A new report featuring testimony from civilians, who’ve been victims of the US drone war in Pakistan, thoroughly examines what it is like for Pakistanis to live under drones.

The International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law spent nine months conducting research and spoke with individuals, like Waziris, who agreed to be interviewed for the report and traveled long distances to share firsthand accounts, despite significant risks.

The report, “Living Under Drones,” directly challenges the “dominant narrative” that United States drones in Pakistan are a “surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling ‘targeted killings’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.”

It calls this “narrative” false and flatly states that, although civilian casualties are “rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.” It suggests publicly available evidence that strikes make the US safer is “ambiguous at best” and considers the legality of the strikes to be “doubtful.”

It breaks new ground is in the section of the report where it illuminates the “considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.” This section, Chapter 3, contains “firsthand narrative accounts of three specific drone strikes.” It also explores the “broader impacts of drone surveillance and strikes in North Waziristan.

Firedoglake was one of a select group of media organizations that was given an advanced embargoed copy for journalists so it could prepare full coverage of this incredibly exhaustive report and it has put together a series of posts.

This post, Part 1, examines strikes against rescuers and funerals. Part 2 examines drone surveillance, the effect that the presence of drones in the sky has on the mental health of Pakistanis and how drones breed distrust in Pakistani communities. And Part 3 examines how drone strikes bring economic hardship and poverty to families and communities in Pakistan.

“Double Tap”
The practice of targeting a strike site “multiple times in relatively quick succession” — a practice known as “double tap”—has received some attention but, up until now, the terrible impact of this practice on Pakistani communities has not really been explored beyond the fact that it kills rescuers, who are trying to provide emergency medical assistance and that is likely a war crime.

The researchers talked to Pakistanis, who were well-aware of the practice of “follow-up strikes” and explained these strikes have “discouraged average civilians from coming to one another’s rescue.”

“We and other people are so scared of drone attacks now that when there is a drone strike, for two or three hours nobody goes to [the location of the strike],” a father of four, who lost a leg in a drone strike, confessed. “We don’t know who [the victims] are, whether they are young or old, because we try to be safe.”

Those venturing out to “recover bodies,” according to journalist Noor Behram, know they are likely to be “killed or maimed.”

[W]hat America has tried to do is attack the rescue teams . . . . So now, what the tribals do, they don’t want many people going to the strike areas. Only three or four willing people who know that if they go, they are going to die, only they go in. . . . It has happened most of the times . . . [O]nce there has been a drone attack, people have gone in for rescue missions, and five or ten minutes after the drone attack, they attack the rescuers who are there.

Quite chilling is Hayatullah Ayoub Khan’s experience. He was driving between Dossali and Tal in North Waziristan when “a missile from a drone was fired at a car approximately three hundred meters in front of him.” The missile missed the car ahead of him but struck the road close enough to do “serious damage.”

Hayatullah stopped, got out of his own car, and slowly approached the wreckage, debating whether he should help the injured and risk being the victim of a follow-up strike. He stated that when he got close enough to see an arm moving inside the wrecked vehicle, someone inside yelled that he should leave immediately because another missile would likely strike.

He started to return to his car and a second missile hit the damaged car and killed whomever was still left inside. He told us that nearby villagers waited another twenty minutes before removing the bodies, which he said included the body of a teacher from Hayatullah’s village.

The impact of “double tap” does not only dissuade Good Samaritans from helping out, but it also deters professional humanitarian organizations from being in the area to provide assistance.

A “health professional familiar with North Waziristan” reported, “one humanitarian organization had a ‘policy to not go immediately [to a reported drone strike] because of follow up strikes. There is a six hour mandatory delay.'” This means, “Only the locals, the poor” will “pick up the bodies of loved ones.”

Simply put, the fact that humanitarian organizations feel they must wait six hours before they can go help people is a clear example of how criminal the US drone war happens to be.

Burials & Funerals
People interviewed informed researchers the drone war was impacting the ability of communities to engage in burial traditions or funerals. As the report notes, “Religion plays an important role in community life in Muslim-majority North Waziristan.

Religion calls for a certain level of respect for the deceased. It is believed that a community has a duty to bury the dead “as soon as possible after death, to wash and cover the deceased and to hold a communal funeral service, an event that involves recitations of prayer for the deceased and often serves as a collective coping mechanism.”

Funerals or services help reduce “psychological distress” in a community, but life under drones makes Pakistanis afraid of engaging in religious tradition.

Ibrahim Qasim of Manzar Khel said, “[T]here used to be funeral processions, lots of people used to participate. . . . But now, [the US has] even targeted funerals, they have targeted mosques, they have targeted people sitting together, so people are scared of everything.” Dawood Ishaq, “who lost both his legs in a strike,” said “people are reluctant to go to the funerals of people who have been killed in drone strikes because they are afraid of being targeted.”

Even more vile, drone strikes “incinerate” victims, leaving them “in pieces and unidentifiable.” This makes traditional burial traditions impossible for Pakistanis:

As Firoz Ali Khan, a shopkeeper whose father-in-law’s home was struck, graphically described, “These missiles are very powerful. They destroy human beings . . .There is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.”563 A doctor who has treated drone victims described how “[s]kin is burned so that you can’t tell cattle from human.”

When another interviewee came upon the site of the strike that killed his father, “[t]he entire place looked as if it was burned completely, so much so that even [the victims’] own clothes had burnt. All the stones in the vicinity had become black.” Ahmed Jan, who lost his foot in the March 17 jirga strike, discussed the challenges rescuers face in identifying bodies: “People were trying to find the body parts. We find the body parts of some people, but sometimes we do not find anything.”

And, in some instances, it is impossible to “separate individuals into different graves.” So, as one relative of a victim told researchers, a funeral was held for everybody in one location after the March 17 drone strike because no bodies could be identified.

Part 2 to be posted soon.

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

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