Pakistani Journalist Sues CIA For Drone Strike that Killed Relatives
April 8, 2015
Pakistan's Islamabad high court has ordered that murder charges be brought against Jonathan Banks and former CIA lawyer John A Rizzo for 2009 strike that killed at least three. Banks's name was first dragged into the public domain in 2010 when a tribesman called Karim Khan began legal action against the undercover spy chief over an attack by an unmanned aircraft on his home which he said killed his brother and son. The unmasking of a sitting station chief forced Banks to quit his post and leave the country.
Pakistan Court Says Former CIA Station Chief
Will Face Charges over Drone Strike
(April 7, 2015) -- The former head of the CIA in Pakistan should be tried for murder and waging war against the country, a high court judge ruled on Tuesday.
Criminal charges against Jonathan Banks, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad, were ordered in relation to a December 2009 attack by a US drone which reportedly killed at least three people.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad high court also ruled charges should be brought against John A Rizzo, formerly the top CIA lawyer who gave the legal green light for drone strikes.
Banks's name was first dragged into the public domain in 2010 when a tribesman called Karim Khan began legal action against the supposedly undercover spy chief over an attack by an unmanned aircraft on his home in North Waziristan which he said killed his brother and son.
The extraordinary unmasking of a sitting station chief forced Banks to quit his post and leave the country.
Banks went on to become the head of the Iran operations divisions at the CIA's headquarters and currently works in the US military's intelligence wing.
At the time, the outing of Banks sparked much speculation about how Khan and his lawyer Shahzad Akbar could possibly have known the identity of the CIA station chief. Many assumed Pakistan's own spies leaked the name to punish the CIA at a time of fraught ties with the US.
There are few hard facts about the 2009 drone strike. The CIA never comments on an officially secret programme, and independent investigators face hurdles trying to work in North Waziristan, an area that for years was under the control of militant groups.
Press reports at the time suggested the target of the strike was the then-Taliban commander for North Waziristan, a militant called Haji Omar. Khan has always denied the claim.
With no chance of either of the two Americans travelling to Pakistan to face their day in court, the case is unlikely to go anywhere.
The issue of drone strikes has faded from public concern in Pakistan in recent years and is nothing like as prominent as it was in 2009, when the CIA campaign was running at a high tempo.
While US drone strikes have become far rarer in recent years, the relationship between Washington and Islamabad has also improved dramatically, with Pakistan lodging only pro forma protests when drone strikes do take place.
Pakistani Journalist Sues CIA
For Drone Strike that Killed Relatives
(December 13, 2010) -- Karim Khan is seeking $500 million damages for death of two relatives in drone attack in North Waziristan. A Pakistani journalist whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike has started a legal push to charge America's top spy in Pakistan with murder.
"We appeal to the authorities not to let Jonathan Banks escape from Pakistan," said Karim Khan, naming the alleged CIA station chief in Islamabad. "He should be arrested and executed in this country."
Khan was speaking outside an Islamabad police station after lodging an application to prevent the US official from leaving Pakistan. He has lodged a separate civil suit seeking $500m (£314m) in damages from the US government.
Khan says that his brother and son, both government employees, were killed in a CIA drone strike on their home near Mir Ali in North Waziristan in December 2009.
Press reports named the target as Haji Omar, a leading Taliban commander. Khan insists that Omar was not in the house and that his relatives were innocent. "These men had nothing to do with the Taliban," said his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar.
Mir Ali is a hotbed of al-Qaida and Taliban militancy that has borne the brunt of a sharp escalation in US attacks this year. Akbar said his client has identified Banks as the CIA station chief through local press reports; one local paper recently claimed that Banks had entered Pakistan on a business visa and therefore does not enjoy diplomatic immunity.
Khan's allegations are difficult to confirm independently. Information about civilian deaths from US drone strikes is widely disputed, largely because the lawless tribal belt is out of reach to foreign and even most Pakistani journalists. His unusual legal bid has slim chances of success. The CIA has rarely been successfully sued at home, much less abroad. And the recent WikiLeaks cables revealed secret Pakistani government support for the drones.
As Khan lodged his legal papers today, the CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, met prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the other side of Islamabad. But the case could revive public debate about the drones, whose legality was also questioned in a report by a UN human rights investigator last June.
Pakistani public opinion is mostly hostile to drones, although criticism has abated somewhat this year. "I don't think we will achieve anything immediately, but we have started something," said Akbar. "Before this, nobody was thinking of the legality of the drones."
The drones are already a subject of lively debate inside the American system, the WikiLeaks cables showed. Last year ambassador Anne Patterson argued that increased "unilateral operations" risked "destabilizing the Pakistani state" and ultimately hindering the US goal of expelling al-Qaida from the region.
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