Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals | The Agonist

Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals | The Agonist: since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.

The ACLU reported back in July 2011 that:
Zero civilian casualties — during a period when there were more than 100 CIA drone strikes — sounded almost too good to be true. As it turns out, it was. According to a new report from the UK's award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism, released last night, at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes since August 2010. Among these, the Bureau reports that it has identified, by name, six children killed in drone strikes. More civilians are likely to have been killed in an additional 15 strikes for which precise information is not available.

The ACLU was protesting the denial of their FOIA request on this matter and pointing out that the government was claiming zero casualties while either refusing to take the responsibility for investigating and documenting civilian deaths or simply covering up what they did know by refusing to release the data.

See this article

Andrew Sullivan points out the bureacratic nightmare created by non- overlapping kill lists and secrecy between various government agencies creating an unregulated
unaccountable killing machine operating at an industrial scale, to borrow CNAS President John Nagl's phrasing.

Article at Andrew Sullivan Blog

Human Rights Watch chimes in:
“CIA drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence around the world, but little is known about who is killed and under what circumstances,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as the US resists public accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be conducting targeted killings.”

Human Rights Watch also addresses the legality of Drone attacks with respect to International Law and this takes us back to the lack of tranparency and accountability:
The lawfulness of a targeted killing hinges in part on the applicable international law, which is determined by the context in which the attack takes place, Human Rights Watch said. The laws of war permit attacks during situations of armed conflict only against valid military targets. Attacks causing disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are prohibited. During law enforcement situations, international human rights law permits the use of lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save human life. Individuals cannot be targeted with lethal force merely because of past unlawful behavior, but only for imminent or other grave threats to life when arrest is not reasonably possible.

The CIA’s increasing role in targeted killings using drones in Pakistan and other countries with no transparency or demonstrated accountability raises grave concerns about the lawfulness of the attacks, Human Rights Watch said. While the laws of war do not prohibit intelligence agencies from participating in combat operations, states are obligated to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and provide redress for victims of unlawful attacks. The US government’s refusal to acknowledge the CIA’s role in targeted killings or to provide information on strikes where there have been credible allegations of laws-of-war violations leaves little basis for determining whether the US is meeting its international legal obligations.

It then makes an interesting recommendation that drones should be under MIlitary control and not used by the CIA:
Since the US has not demonstrated a readiness to hold the CIA to international legal requirements, the use of drones for attacks should be exclusively within the command responsibility of the US armed forces, Human Rights Watch said. The military has more transparent procedures for investigating possible wrongdoing, although it too needs to make clear that it is conducting attacks in accordance with international legal requirements.

Ending the CIA’s command of targeted killing operations would be consistent with the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission, which in 2004 specifically urged that “[l]ead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department.” In November, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair called for military control over the armed drone program, noting that the armed forces have an open set of procedures, while CIA operations require secrecy, which is not sustainable over the long term: “If something has been going for a long period of time, somebody else ought to do it, not intelligence agencies."

Finally there is a photographic archive made by a pakistani journalist at great personal risk. These have been posted on Wired's Danger Room Blog by Spencer Ackerman who vetted the source to the best of his abilities and warns that accusationa have been ade about possible connections to Pakistani Intelligence:

Before posting Behram's photos we took a number of measures to confirm as best we could what was being shown. We verified Behram’s bona fides with other news organizations. We sifted through the images, tossing out any pictures that couldn’t correlate with previously reported drone attacks. Then we grilled Behram in a series of lengthy Skype interviews from Pakistan, translated by Akbar, about the circumstances surrounding each of the images.

Still, we weren't at the events depicted. We don't know for sure if the destruction and casualties shown in the photos were caused by CIA drones or Pakistani militants. Even Behram, who drives at great personal risk to the scenes of the strikes, has little choice but to rely on the accounts of alleged eyewitnesses to learn what happened.
But we know for sure that these are rare photos from a war zone most Americans never see. "In North Waziristan, the bar for western journalists is very high because of the Taliban presence," says Peter Bergen, al-Qaida expert and author of The Longest War

Here are some examples. Warning some photos are disturbing.

Datta Khel, Oct. 13, 2010

Behram arrived in Datta Khel, a district not far from Mirin Shah -- North Waziristan’s main city -- after the funerals for the victims of this strike. He was told that six people died, but didn’t see the corpses. One of the dead was said to be a man in his thirties who was supposed to soon be married, the cousin of the teenager in the maroon shirt shown here.

The teenager helped with the cleanup and rescue effort at the scene of his cousin's death. Along with some other local children, when he saw Behram taking photos, he ran over to Behram to express how angry he was. He gathered the children and they showed Behram fragments of the missile they recovered. Three U.S. ordnance experts examined Behrams' photos of these pieces, are concluded that they were Hellfires -- the missiles fired by U.S. drones and helicopters.

See Gallery of Photos here

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