Report Says US Drones Kill 28 Unidentified Victims for Every 1 Target
December 6, 2014
Democracy Now! & Lee Fang / The Nation
While the Obama administration has claimed its drone strikes are precise, the group Reprieve found that US drone strikes kill 28 unidentified people for every intended target. The CIA killer drones programme is the death penalty without trial, and the new face of state lawlessness in the name of counter-terrorism. Reprieve is assisting victims' families to seek legal accountability for drone attacks, with the goal of exposing the programme to scrutiny and restoring the rule of law.
A "Precise" US Drone War? Report Says 28 Unidentified Victims Killed for Every 1 Target
(December 3, 2014) -- A new report finds US drone strikes kill 28 unidentified people for every intended target. While the Obama administration has claimed its drone strikes are precise, the group Reprieve found that strikes targeting 41 people in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 other, unnamed people.
In its attempts to kill al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri alone, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults; Al-Zawahiri remains alive. We are joined by Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve and author of the new report, "You Never Die Twice: Multiple Kills in the US Drone Program."
Transcript: This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A new report finds US drone strikes kill, on average, 28 unidentified people for every intended target. While the Obama administration has claimed its drone strikes are precise, the group, Reprieve, found that strikes targeting 41 people in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 other unnamed people. In its attempts to kill al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri alone, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults. al-Zawahiri remains alive.
AMY GOODMAN: Joining us from Berlin is Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at reprieve, author of the new report, You Never Die Twice. First of all, Jennifer, why that title and talk about your main findings.
JENNIFER GIBSON: I think the title is quite self-explanatory for us. Basically, what happened is we started noticing a pattern among the drone strikes with our investigations in Pakistan and Yemen.
The pattern was that the same high-value targets seem to die again and again and again. When we started digging into it and looking at the news reporting, what we found was that in targeting 41 high-value targets, the US Took on average three times -- it was three attempts to kill them and actually, with seven of the individuals, they didn't even kill them. Instead, during the multiple attempts, what you had happened was they killed over 1000 people.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, how were you able to compile the data that you used in the report?
JENNIFER GIBSON: So, what we did is we -- obviously, the drone program is covert. US Government, despite repeated promises of transparency, has refused to discuss the program on record in any sort of detail.
So, all we had to rely on were public news reports. But, those public news reports are often fed by intelligence officials, either American, Pakistani, or Yemeni, and it is often those officials who leak the name of the target as either being targeted or killed in the strike.
AMY GOODMAN: Your organization Reprieve has legal challenges against those involved with drone warfare. Can you talk about them?
JENNIFER GIBSON: Sure, we have ongoing litigation on behalf of civilian victims of drone strikes, both in the Pakistani courts, and most recently here in Germany, which is where I am at today, against the German government because of a US Base here called Rammstein Airbase that, leaks have shown, is integral to drone strikes in Yemen.
The orders to give the strikes are coming through that base. So, we have brought litigation on behalf of some of the victims of that program here in German court, basically, under the constitution claiming the right to life is being violated.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk in particular about the repeated attempts to kill the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri? Was he repeatedly reported to have actually been hit or that just the strike against him had been launched?
JENNIFER GIBSON: So, Ayman al-Zawahiri is quite a disturbing case because in two attempts to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, 76 children lost their lives. In total in Pakistan in attempts to target these 41 men, 142 children have lost their lives to drone strikes. In his case, he was targeted and missed on two different occasions.
He is still alive today. And there are others that are perhaps even more disturbing. You have a man by the name of al-Masri in Pakistan who was targeted three times, killed -- there were 120 people were killed in his place. And in the end, it wasn't a drone strike that killed him, but he died of natural causes.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your recommendations?
JENNIFER GIBSON: The administration really needs to come clean on what is happening with this program. It consistently tells the American public that this is a surgical, precise weapon, that the strikes are targeted, don't worry we are only killing bad guys.
What this data suggests, is there's nothing precise about the program at all. And in fact, we're potentially killing hundreds in an effort, unsuccessfully in some instances, to get 41 men on a kill list who may or may not be a threat to the US That, in my opinion, makes us less safe rather than more safe.
AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Gibson, we want to thank you for being with us. Staff Attorney at the international legal charity Reprieve. Speaking to us from Berlin, Germany, as we move back to the United States.
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The CIA killer drones programme is the death penalty without trial, and the new face of state lawlessness in the name of counter-terrorism. Reprieve is assisting victims' families to seek legal accountability for drone attacks, with the goal of exposing the programme to scrutiny and restoring the rule of law.
WHAT ARE DRONES?
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly known as drones, have become President Obama's weapon of choice in the ever-expanding War on Terror. Flown by pilots sitting safely in Nevada, these remotely-piloted aircraft have the ability to hover over communities twenty-four hours a day and to target those below at the mere push of a button.
The CIA drones programme is both the next phase in the so-called ‘War on Terror' and the death penalty without trial. Reprieve is therefore working to expose and challenge the programme, along with Islamabad lawyer Shahzad Akbar and various international and Pakistani artists and activists.
WHY ARE THEY SO PROBLEMATIC?
To date, the United States has used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- all countries against whom it has not declared war. The US' drones programme is a covert war being carried out by the CIA.
For communities living under drones, life is filled with constant terror. Nobody knows who the next target might be. Armed drones can hand down a death sentence simply because a person exhibited suspicious behaviour. Yet what that behaviour is, the United States refuses to say.
Other times, the death sentence comes simply because the person fell within the target demographic: all males aged 18 to 65. According to the United States, these men are not deemed civilians unless they can prove their innocence - posthumously.
The drones, sometimes as many as five or six at a time, constantly circle overhead, terrorising civilian populations, nearly half of whom are children. A recent study carried out in Yemen by clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr Peter Schaapveld, reported severe post-traumatic stress disorder in children living in areas targeted for drone strikes.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
The US has used drones to execute without trial some 4700 people -- that we know of. The ramifications of the escalating drone age are terrifying for us all -- especially, of course, for those communities in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan which are terrorised daily by the presence of drones. The UK government and UK companies are actively complicit in this covert war without any transparency or accountability to you, the British public.
Through investigation, litigation and education, Reprieve is working to bring about transparency and accountability on behalf of those affected by drone strikes. Noor Khan's father was a Pakistani Tribal elder and mediator for local disputes, he was killed on March 17th 2011 along with approximately 50 others in North Waziristan at a meeting to discuss a dispute over a local chromite mine.
Noor was studying for his MA in political science at the time, and is currently taking legal action against the UK government over its intelligence-sharing with the U.S. which facilitated the drone strike that killed his father.
According to a report by Stanford and New York Universities' Law schools, between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September 2012; between 474 and 881 of those were civilians, and 176 were children.
The report states: "Their presence terrorises 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.
Drones are not just the preserve of the US military -- they are already in the skies above you, here in the UK. Annually deployed at the V festival in Staffordshire and soon to be used at the G8 summit, police forces across the UK are increasingly using this technology as a method of surveillance.
It's like a permanently running CCTV camera, recording and storing data; hovering overhead, watching you. Police forces have been reluctant to be open about this use or whether they might at some point in the future arm those drones. We live in a society which is supposed to police by consent but how can we consent to something we know so little about?
The UK Government's relationship with the use of drones is marred by a lack of transparency and accountability.
Along with Shahzad Akbar's Pakistani-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, Reprieve is handling Noor Khan's legal challenge of the British Government, as well as further legal action against the Pakistani Government in Peshawar's High court on behalf of the victims of the drone strike in March 2012.
A significant victory was recently had when the Peshawari High Court declared the US guilty of war crimes for its use of drones in North West Pakistan, and ordered the Pakistani government to take a series of steps to stop future strikes.
Furthermore, the court held that the US Government is bound to compensate all the victims' families and that the Pakistani Government should take steps to ensure that this happened immediately.
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