Pakistan

Who is the US Killing with Drones?

As the news broke on March 7, 2016, that US drone strikes had killed 150 people in Somalia, the White House announced it will reveal, for the first time, the number of people killed by drones and manned airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities” since 2009. The tallies will include civilian deaths. This is a critical first step toward much-needed transparency. But it will not go far enough.

The Obama administration has been lying for years about how many deaths result from its drone strikes and manned bombings. In 2011, John Brennan, the former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, falsely claimed that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other nongovernmental organizations that calculate drone deaths put the lie to Brennan’s claim. It is believed that of the estimated 5,000 people killed on Obama’s watch, approximately 1,000 were civilians. But the administration has never released complete casualty figures.

Plus, the numbers by themselves are not sufficient. Even if the White House makes good on its promise to publicize death tallies, it must also publish the Presidential Policy Guidance, which has provided the legal justification for the US targeted killing program.

In May 2013, responding to international criticism about his drone policy, Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University. He proclaimed, “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists — our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them.” Then why has Obama added only one man to the Guantánamo roster?

As he gave his 2013 speech, the White House released a fact sheet that purported to contain preconditions for the use of lethal force “outside areas of active hostilities.” But the Presidential Policy Guidance, on which the fact sheet was based, remains classified.

Here is a quick summary of the fact sheet’s main points, including some direct quotations from it:

– There must be a “legal basis” for the use of lethal force. It does not define whether “legal basis” means complying with ratified treaties. They include the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense or when approved by the UN Security Council; the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the targeting of civilians; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees due process and the right to life.

– The target must pose a “continuing, imminent threat to US persons.” The fact sheet does not define “continuing” or “imminent.” But a US Department of Justice white paper leaked in 2013 says that a US citizen can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” Presumably the administration sets an even lower bar for non-citizens.

– There must be “near certainty that the terrorist target is present.” The fact sheet does not address “signature strikes” (known as crowd killings), which don’t target individuals but rather areas of suspicious activity.

– There must be “near certainty that noncombatants will not be injured or killed.” But the administration defines combatants as all men of military age in a strike zone “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

– There must be “an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation.” It is unclear what feasibility means. It was feasible to capture Osama bin Laden, as none of the men at the compound were armed at the time the US military assassinated him.

– There must be “an assessment that relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to US persons,” which is left undefined.

– There must be “an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat to US persons,” also left undefined.

Finally, the fact sheet would excuse those preconditions when the president takes action “in extraordinary circumstances,” which are “both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.” There is no definition of “extraordinary circumstances” or what would be “lawful.”

Releasing the Presidential Policy Guidance would clarify the gaps in the guidelines for the use of lethal force listed in the fact sheet.

In February 2016, the bipartisan Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy gave the Obama administration an “F” in three areas the task force had flagged for improvement in its June 2014 report. The first area is focused on progress in releasing information on drone strikes. The second involves explaining the legal basis under US and international law for the drone program. The third is about developing more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of traditional battlefields.

Regarding the first area (about releasing information), Stimson concluded the administration has made almost no information public about the approximate number, location or death tolls of lethal drone attacks, which agency is responsible for what strikes, the organizational affiliation of people known to have been killed by strikes, and the number and identities of civilians who are known to have been killed.

Speaking about the second area of focus (about the legal basis for the drone program), Stimson mentioned that a few official government documents have been made public that relate to the US lethal drone program, primarily through court orders. One was a redacted memo from the Department of Justice about the legality of the 2011 targeted killing of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki “without due process of law,” following a successful ACLU-New York Times Freedom of Information Act request. The only other released document was the Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual, with three short sections on the use of “remotely piloted aircraft” in war. The only qualifications it contained was that the weapons cannot be “inherently indiscriminate” or “calculated to cause superfluous injury.” But the Geneva Conventions prohibit the targeting of civilians in all instances.

Regarding the third area (about oversight and accountability), Stimson said the administration continues to oppose the release of any public information on the lethal drone program, which has obstructed mechanisms for greater oversight and accountability. “The lack of action reinforces the culture of secrecy surrounding the use of armed drones,” according to the report.

The Stimson report noted that the administration has “as a rule, been reluctant to publicly acknowledge the use of lethal force by unmanned aerial vehicles in foreign countries.” Stimson identified one “notable exception,” however. After the discovery that two Western civilians held by al-Qaeda were killed by a US drone strike in January 2015, the administration admitted the deaths, but provided few specific details.

Lethal drone strikes have been reported in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia, and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Stimson also identified 12 countries believed to host US drone bases: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Niger, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden mounted a full-throated defense of the US drone program in a February 2016 New York Times op-ed. He claimed, “The targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict,” annihilating the ranks of al-Qaeda. But his claims are impossible to verify without documentation.

Hayden has also said, “We kill people based on metadata.” But Ars Technica recently revealed that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) SKYNET program, which uses an algorithm to gather metadata in order to identify and target terrorist suspects in Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan, would result in 99,000 false positives.

The Obama administration has resisted transparency. We will see what it publicizes in the coming period. Regardless of the data the administration releases, we must demand full disclosure in order to attain real accountability.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/who-is-the-us-killing-with-drones/5513522

Clinton Terrorist

Hillary Clinton Added To Terror Sponsor Watchlist

Today, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that it has just added democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to its terror sponsor watchlist. This happened after this week’s discovery that one of the top monetary contributors to her current campaign is a suspected agent of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who has funneled millions of dollars to Islamic Sunni-backed terror groups throughout the Middle East.

The Federation began their confidential list of people and organizations they found to be involved in money laundering and funding terrorism, back in 2011. With Hillary being on this list, she became the highest ranking US official to have ever been placed upon it. This is not necessarily a “firm/complete” indication of her guilt, but it rather means her “actions/associations” involving “known/suspected” terrorists and terrorism supporters have raised “serious concerns” within the FSB.

As to what raised these concerns about Hillary, this report explained that it was her private meeting this past week in Beaumont, Texas, with Pakistani businessman Muhammad Tahir Javed at his home, and attended by 250 other Muslims, that collected about $500,000 making it one of the top five private fundraisers she has had in America to date.

Muhammad Tahir Javed, now being Hillary’s main supporter, has long been identified by the FSB as a “suspected” terror supporter and ISI “agent” since he arrived in the States in 1989 during Bill Clinton’s regime and over the past quarter century has amassed a fortune through his “convenience store empire” located in Texas and the American south which he has vastly expanded into other business areas making him one of the most powerful Islamic businessmen in both the US and Pakistan.

FSB intelligence on the “true” business practices of Muhammad Tahir Javed though, this report notes, appear to show that his fortune was made through his involvement with the ISI and Mexican drug cartels utilizing the “complicity/support” of American government officials.

To the exact working of the ISI’s and Muhammad Tahir Javed’s “scheme” to support global Islamic terrorists, this report says, was recently detailed in news reports from the US State of Alabama where 11 of Javed’s affiliated convenience stores were confiscated this past summer, and as we can, partly, read about:

A couple of steaks shoplifted at a Gardendale Walmart three months ago led to the biggest food stamp fraud investigation in Alabama history, and launched 11 simultaneous raids this morning at convenience stores countywide.

Led by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, teams of law enforcement officers met at 5 a.m. for a briefing and then fanned out across the county beginning at 6:50 a.m. The officers and agents were armed with 242 arrest warrants and plans to arrest 17 suspects.

All 17 suspects were in custody by mid-morning, and investigators already today have filed for forfeiture and condemnation of those 11 stores, which totals more than $1 million in assets.

“This is huge for us,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls.

The massive probe, dubbed Operation T-bone, targeted those they say have been cheating the food stamp system to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and sending  the profits via wire transfer to Yemen, some of which is suspected to have funded Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist activity.

At the heart of the operation are Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, a government-issued debit card that replaced food stamps. There are more than 900,000 people who get government assistance through the EBT card in Alabama each year, and they are allowed to use the cards for food, non-alcoholic beverages, and other basic needs, mostly through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The investigation began in February when Gardendale police arrested a man for shoplifting steaks and some other items at Walmart in that city. When they interviewed the suspect, he said he was boosting the items to give to two convenience stores, and he named the stores, authorities said

As to why the State of Alabama became the only US law enforcement entity to crack down on Muhammad Tahir Javed, this report explains, is due to that State’s top judge becoming embroiled with the Obama regime over the rights of homosexual peoples to marry—and which this action was clearly meant to send a message to President Obama himself that they knew some of his darkest secrets.

In supporting Muhammad Tahir Javed too, this report continues, Hillary Clinton, while she was Secretary of State, joined with the Obama regime in flooding Texas with Islamic refuges who all have received EBT cards which they are now using at Javed’s thousands of convenience/thrift stores—and where one of whom was recently arrested for being a member of the Islamic State terror group.

As to how the American people will react to Hillary Clinton’s receiving $500,000 from a suspected Islamic terror supporter just a fortnight before US Presidential primary elections are held, this report concludes, is never to be known as barely any of them will know about it due to the New York Times itself shockingly admitting in 2012 that all American news, especially news relating to political campaigns, are censored by Obama regime government officials.

Source: http://www.worldnewspolitics.com/2016/01/23/russia-shockingly-adds-hillary-clinton-to-terror-sponsor-watchlist/

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Pakistan and the Saudi Attack on Yemen

From In Defense of Marxism

The Pakistani masses have reacted very negatively to the prospects of becoming an accomplice in the Saudi Monarchy’s brutal aggression against Yemen. This response has shocked Pakistan’s ruling elite, the state’s bosses, the media and the intelligentsia. Even some in the media have dared to reveal the vicious character of the despotic Saudi regime and its atrocious treatment of more than 2.5 million Pakistani immigrant workers banished into slavery and drudgery by these tyrannical monarchs

The hesitation, lack of any confidence, and hypocrisy of the rulers is pathetic. An official Press report stated that, “Pakistan called upon the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. An official statement from the PM House (Prime Minister’s Office) had said the meeting concluded that Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It was also emphasised in the meeting that Pakistan is committed to playing a meaningful role in resolving the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.”

What a laughable, pathetic and spineless response! What is said about consulting the ‘parliament’ and informing the people is a reeking cynical farce. These rulers themselves are mere timid puppets. Usually they are only informed about military operations and crucial foreign policy decisions after the fact by the top bosses of the state and their imperialist masters. These are the real people calling the shots.

(more…)

US Drone Strikes Kill Nine in North Waziristan

From Antiwar.com

A pair of US drone strikes destroyed a house and a vehicle in the Shawal Valley of Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency today, killing at least nine people, including four who officials say may have been ethnic Uzbeks.

The Uzbeks were said killed in the US attack on the vehicle, though officials conceded they haven’t actually confirmed this, and that the ethnicity of the victims was just something they heard.

The other five people killed are totally unidentified even nominally, though officials say they believe the house destroyed belonged to a leader in the Punjabi Taliban.

Still, they have no idea if the Punjabi Taliban leader was in the home at the time, or indeed if it was even his people who were hit. The US has been picking up the rate of drone strikes in Pakistan in recent weeks, a sore spot in US-Pakistani relations, though most recently Pakistan has been mum on the attacks.

Leaked Internal CIA Document Admits US Drone Program “Counterproductive”

From Common Dreams

Wikileaks on Thursday has made public a never-before-seen internal review conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that looked at the agency’s drone and targeted assassination programs in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.

The agency’s own analysis, conducted in 2009, found that its clandestine drone and assassination program was likely to produce counterproductive outcomes, including strengthening the very “extremist groups” it was allegedly designed to destroy.

Here’s a link to the document, titled Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Toolocument (pdf).

In one of the key findings contained in the CIA report, agency analysts warn of the negative consequences of assassinating so-called High Level Targets (HLT).

“The potential negative effect of HLT operations,” the report states, “include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group’s bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

Wikileaks points out that this internal prediction “has been proven right” in the years since the internal review was conducted near the outset of President Obama’s first term. And despite those internal warnings—which have been loudly shared by human rights and foreign policy experts critical of the CIA’s drone and assassination programs—Wikileaks also notes that after the internal review was prepared, “US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.”

Reached by the Washington Post on Thursday for response, CIA spokesperson Kali J. Caldwell said the agency would not comment “on the authenticity or content of purported stolen intelligence documents.”

According to a statement released by Wikileaks:

The report discusses assassination operations (by various states) against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, the FARC, Hizbullah, the PLO, HAMAS, Peru’s Shining Path, the Tamil’s LTTE, the IRA and Algeria’s FLN. Case studies are drawn from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand.

The assessment was prepared by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues (OTI). Its role is to provide “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support”. The report is dated 7 July 2009, six months into Leon Panetta’s term as CIA chief, and not long after CIA analyst John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the torture of CIA detainees. Kiriakou is still in prison for shedding light on the CIA torture programme.

Following the politically embarrassing exposure of the CIA’s torture practices and the growing cost of keeping people in detention indefinitely, the Obama administration faced a crucial choice in its counter-insurgency strategy: should it kill, capture, or do something else entirely?

Given exclusive access to the CIA document ahead of its public release, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Philip Dorling reported earlier on Thursday:

According to a leaked document by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, “high value targeting” (HVT) involving air strikes and special forces operations against insurgent leaders can be effective, but can also havenegative effects including increasing violence and greater popular support for extremist groups.

The leaked document is classified secret and “NoForn” (meaning not to be distributed to non-US nationals) and reviews attacks by the United States and other countries engaged in counter-insurgency operations over the past 50 years.

The CIA assessment is the first leaked secret intelligence document published by WikiLeaks since 2011. Led by Australian publisher Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy group says the CIA assessment is the first in what will be a new series of leaked documents relating to the US agency.

The 2009 CIA study lends support to critics of US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen by warning that such operations “may increase support for the insurgents, particularly if these strikes enhance insurgent leaders’ lore, if non-combatants are killed in the attacks, if legitimate or semi-legitimate politicians aligned with the insurgents are targeted, or if the government is already seen as overly repressive or violent”.

Drone strikes have been a key element of the Obama administration’s attacks on Islamic extremist terrorist and insurgent groups in the Middle East and south Asia. Australia has directly supported these strikes through the electronic espionage operations of the US-Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.