› I know in my bones that a robot is going to kill you – the new micro-drones | Charlie Brooker
[…] The video depicted the future of UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles, or computer-controlled drones to you and me. Drones are already used to kill people in industrial quantities in Pakistan of course. For a sobering assessment of just how far advanced the war of the machines is getting, check out the Wikipedia page called “List of drone strikes in Pakistan”. It’s a directory of robot attacks with a lot of dead children in it. Accurate or not, it’s much harder to chortle about the rise of the Terminators after you’ve scrolled through it.
A fairly desperate list of al-Qaida’s drone defence measures was uncovered last week: evasion techniques mainly included running in and out of doors and spreading broken glass on the roof so the glint would confuse its sensors. This already has the feel of a desperate human fightback against a merciless robot army, like the sort of methods an Amazonian tribe might resort to when battling Cybermen in an as-yet unwritten episode of Doctor Who.
Most of the flying robots carrying out those kill missions are eerie, windowless airborne hulks bristling with Hellfire missiles. Enormous winged battledicks. They’re frightening, but visually silly somehow, which adds to the obscenity of it all. The smaller drones in the video I watched look sillier still, but potentially more deadly. Compared with the current models flying over Pakistan, they have fearsome advantages of stealth, agility – and sheer number. Because there were swarms of the things.
Some were the size of pigeons. In fact, they actively disguised themselves as pigeons: they landed on overhead phonelines and folded their wings around themselves so the folk down below wouldn’t get too suspicious. Then they hovered around gathering surveillance information. At one point the video shows a company of multiple “bugbots”, each the size of a Milky Way bar, spreading out to wirelessly compile a good overall view of an apparently hostile city. Then one of them sneaks past a guard, swoops down a corridor, flies through a doorway and shoots a bad guy in the head.
The only thing currently holding this stuff back is battery technology, although they’re reportedly already working on ways to let the flying deathbots leach power from electricity cables to recharge themselves mid-mission.
See? Precisely the sort of thing that’ll definitely kill us all. Never mind North Korean nuclear tests: what happens when they launch a billion-strong regiment of robotic sparrows with buzzsaws for beaks in our direction? I know, I know, it’s not how you pictured yourself dying – but that’s what’s going to happen. Sorry to break it to you on a cold Sunday night, but forewarned is forearmed. Not that you’re actually forearmed in any real sense. No. You’re helpless to stop it. Sorry about that, too.
Because the video was accompanying a new story, I assumed it was new. But a few hours later, while trying to show it to someone I wanted to profoundly depress for a laugh, I discovered the same footage had also been uploaded to YouTube in 2009, prompting me to wonder if it was a hoax, or perhaps just a cutscene from a video game lifted out of context. That gave me a glimmer of hope, which was immediately extinguished when I recalled my own experiences with making up things of a technological nature: they almost invariably come true, quicker than you think. A fortnight ago, Channel 4 broadcast a fanciful drama I’d written in which a young widow communicates with a piece of AI software that mimics her dead husband by trawling his social networking past and emulating his personality. No sooner had the credits rolled than people were pointing me in the direction of a company claiming to offer that very service. Turns out I needn’t have bothered writing a script. I could’ve just typed out the URL and asked them to televise that instead.
With that in mind, my new rule is that if you can picture something on the cusp of plausibility, it’ll definitely be real by Christmas. Given that the bugbot video is at least three years old, I’d be flabbergasted if there isn’t a production line silently screwing the wings on to a miniature death squadron in some Nevadan hangar right now. A tit-for-tat war of the minibots will unfold and come 2036 or so, it’s death by buzzbird for the lot of us. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spread broken glass on the roof and run in and out of some doors. [++]
› The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About | ProPublica
The nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director has prompted intense debate on Capitol Hill and in the media about U.S. drone killings abroad. But the focus has been on the targeting of American citizens – a narrow issue that accounts for a miniscule proportion of the hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in recent years.
Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.
The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual.
In these attacks, known as “signature strikes,” drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other “signatures.” According to anonymously sourced media reports, such attacks on unidentified targets account for many, or even most, drone strikes.
Despite that, the administration has never publicly spoken about signature strikes. Basic questions remain unanswered.
What is the legal justification for signature strikes? What qualifies as a “signature” that would prompt a deadly strike? Do those being targeted have to pose a threat to the United States? And how many civilians have been killed in such strikes?
The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.
“How, for example, does the Administration ensure that the targets are legitimate terrorist targets and not insurgents who have no dispute with the United States?” asked three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Holder last May.
The legislators sent a second letter in December. Republicans on the committee joined in sending another letter this month. All have gone unanswered, according to committee staff.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently sent his own letter to Brennan asking several pointed questions on signature strikes.
“How do ‘signature strikes’ square with your statement that targeted killing operations are only approved when a targeted individual poses a ‘significant threat to U.S. interests?’” McCain asked, quoting a speech Brennan gave on drone strikes last April.
“How can the Administration be certain it is not killing civilians in areas, like many parts of Yemen and Pakistan, where virtually all men, including civilians, carry weapons?” the letter continued.
A McCain spokesman said the senator had not received a response. The White House declined to comment for this story.
When Obama administration officials publicly address drone strikes, they focus on thwarting imminent threats and targeting Al Qaeda leaders, including U.S. citizens.
Brennan, for example, said at his confirmation hearing that a lethal strike only occurs when “the intelligence base is so strong and the nature of the threat is so grave and serious, as well as imminent, that we have no recourse.” He was talking only about strikes targeting U.S. citizens, not signature strikes.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is now threatening to filibuster Brennan’s nomination until he answers questions on the U.S. citizen issue. And the Justice Department “white paper” leaked to NBC this month outlines the legal rationale for drone strikes, but only in cases when they target U.S. citizens who are also Al Qaeda leaders.
“What about the people who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a list?” asks Naureen Shah, a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.” [continue]
› Drones are fool's gold: they prolong wars we can't win | Simon Jenkins
The greatest threat to world peace is not from nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. It is from drones and their certain proliferation. Nuclear bombs are useless weapons, playthings for the powerful or those aspiring to power. Drones are now sweeping the global arms market. There are some 10,000 said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. Some reports say they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11.
I have not read one independent study of the current drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the horn of Africa that suggests these weapons serve any strategic purpose. Their “success” is expressed solely in body count, the number of so-called “al-Qaida-linked commanders” killed. If body count were victory, the Germans would have won Stalingrad and the Americans Vietnam.
Neither the legality nor the ethics of drone attacks bear examination. Last year’s exhaustive report by lawyers from Stanford and New York universities concluded that they were in many cases illegal, killed civilians, and were militarily counter-productive. Among the deaths were an estimated 176 children. Such slaughter would have an infantry unit court-martialled. Air forces enjoy such prestige that civilian deaths are excused as a price worth paying for not jeopardising pilots’ lives.
This week President Obama appointed two drone “enthusiasts” as his new defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, and his new CIA chief, John Brennan. Drone war is now the flavour of the month and the military-industrial complex is licking its lips. If Obama, himself a lawyer, had any reservations about the legality of these weapons, he has clearly overcome them.
Quite apart from ethics and law, I find it impossible to see what contribution these weapons make to winning wars. The killing of officers merely sees others replace them, eager for revenge. The original Predator was intended for surveillance but was adapted for bombing specifically to kill Osama bin Laden. When he was finally found, the drone was considered too inaccurate a device to risk, and old-fashioned boots-with-guns had to be sent instead.
As for the inevitable killing of civilians, however few or many, this is not just “collateral damage” but critical to victory or defeat. It does not occupy or hold territory and it devastates hearts and minds. Aerial bombardment has long been a questionable weapon of war. It induces not defeat but retaliation.* [continue]
* Which, however much we might like to deny the possibilty, may be, and likely is, the end goal.
› Pakistan: Unrelenting attack - Two drone strikes kill 8 people in N. Waziristan | The Express Tribune
MIRANSHAH: A US operated armed drones fired missiles in Mir Ali and Essukhel area of North Waziristan in two sorties early on Tuesday morning killing at least eight people, Express News reported.
According to Express News, the CIA-operated drones first fired at least eight missiles at a compound in Haiderkhel area of Miranshah killing five people. Four people were also injured in the attack.
Locals are sifting through the rubble to recover the bodies of the dead and rescue the injured.
In a second attack in as many hours, drone attacks killed at least three people.
… US drones had fired a volley of missiles at militant hideouts in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 12 Taliban fighters near the Afghan border, security officials said.
CNN reported 17 killed in the Sunday strike
› Obama's New Year's Resolution: More Drone Strikes | Spencer Ackerman
It’s barely three days into 2013, and the Obama administration’s lethal campaign of drone strikes has resumed in earnest. Missiles fired by remotely piloted planes struck targets in Pakistan and Yemen three times in the past several hours, killing several people, including two prominent militant commanders.
In Pakistan’s South Waziristan province, at least 4 MQ-1 Predators or MQ-9 Reapers operated by the CIA killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulvi Nazir, according to media reports that cite unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Nazir had struck a detente with the Pakistani government but, according to drone watcher Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal, maintained ties to al-Qaida and attacked U.S. troops in Afghanistan [just trust me/us!]. The drones fired on Nazir’s vehicle, killing him and at least five others.
A separate drone strike on a different vehicle in North Waziristan shortly thereafter brought the death toll to 15, CNN reports. The New York Times reports that the identities of those killed in the second attack “were not immediately known.” Thousands of miles away and several hours later, a drone strike in Yemen killed Moqbel Ebad Al Zawbah, a “leading al-Qaida figure,” and two of his allies, al-Jazeera English tweeted.
Welcome to 2013, yet another year of the drone. Senior Obama officials recently signposted the indefinite character of the drone campaign: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heralded further strikes “in areas beyond the reach of effective security and governance,” as he put it in a November speech, even beyond Pakistan and Yemen, probably into destabilized African countries. Those strikes kill an untold number of civilians.
And just as the U.S. drone campaign persists, so does the veil of secrecy surrounding it. As my colleague David Kravets reports, a federal judge has denied an effort by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to disclose the secret memoranda that the administration uses as the legal rationale for the drone strikes. Although Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. Southern District Court of New York declared that the government possessed wide legal latitude to keep the memos secret, her Wednesday ruling also expressed discomfort with the legality of some of the strikes, especially the September 2011 Yemen attack that killed al-Qaida propagandist and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.
McMahon considered Awlaki’s affiliation with al-Qaida to be treasonous on its face. Nevertheless, she wrote, “the Founders contemplated that traitors would be dealt with by the courts of law, not by unilateral action of the Executive.”
A bipartisan majority in Congress has shown little desire to exercise public oversight of the drone campaign, much less rein it in. Secrecy-watcher Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists notes that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, one of two congressional panels that oversees the CIA, held only one unclassified hearing in 2012. In response, Danger Room pal Marcy Wheeler argues that a helpful start to 2013 would involve holding a hearing on the civilian toll inflicted by the drone program — a topic of much speculation, debate and controversy but also practically no official disclosure or reckoning.
“[C]ontinuing to rest the drone program’s legitimacy on repeated public calls to ‘trust me’ actually undermines its legitimacy,” Wheeler writes. It remains to be seen if that or other aspects of the global, lethal drone effort will concern the Obama administration, Congress or the courts in 2013.
› US Bombs Killed At Least 223 People in Yemen in 2012
The US government has killed 223 people in Yemen in more than 40 drone strikes in 2012, according to estimates from the Long War Journal.
The Long War Journal is a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neo-conservative think-tank in Washington, DC that has been shown to systematically underestimate information about the drone war.
A new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes are “significantly and consistently underestimated” by tracking organizations which are trying to take the place of government estimates on casualties, which the Obama administration won’t comment on because the drone war is technically secret.
The study “warns that low civilian casualty estimates may provide false assurance to the public and policymakers that drone strikes do not harm civilians.” Many low-ball estimates – like those from Long War Journal and New America Foundation – are due to reliance on news reports, which “suffer from common flaws” like trusting “anonymous Pakistani government officials or unnamed witnesses for the claim that ‘militants’ – rather than civilians – were killed.”
But even if we take this probably low-ball estimate as a decent enough approximation of the truth, there is a huge problem in estimating how many of the 223 killed were civilians. The Long War Journal says that 19 percent were civilians.
But according to the New York Times, the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
In addition, as The Washington Post reported last week, the Yemeni government as a policy tries to conceal when US drones kill civilians, instead automatically and systematically describing the victims as al-Qaeda militants, regardless of the truth.
“Forget,” Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations sarcastically implores, “that most of the 223 people killed by US airpower in Yemen are not ‘the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists,’ but actually primarily engaged in a domestic insurgency.”
The US is taking out the domestic enemies of the Yemeni government – not individuals engaged in direct attacks on the United States.
“I’m particularly worried that the US drones in Yemen are being used to settle long-standing scores on the ground,” writes Yemen scholar Gregory D. Johnsen.
The US has bombed Yemen at least 42 times in 2012, up from an estimated 10 times in 2011. This, unsurprisingly, has prompted anger among the local populations and has coincided with a marked increase in the estimated number of al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.
“Our entire village is angry at the government and the Americans,” a Yemeni villager named Mohammed told the Post. “If the Americans are responsible, I would have no choice but to sympathize with al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda is fighting America.”
(Source: jayaprada, via randomactsofchaos)
› Drone attack kills four in North Waziristan: sources | DAWN.COM
PESHAWAR: Four “suspected militants”* were killed in a US drone strike Friday afternoon in North Waziristan regions, one of Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal agencies near the Afghan border, intelligence and government sources said.
Although military and political administration officials refuse to comment on such strikes in the tribal areas, intelligence sources said the drone targeted a “suspected militant” facility located in the Hisukhel area of Mir Ali, about 25 kilometres east of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan agency.
The drones fired two missiles, destroying the house and killing four “militants” inside, said the sources on condition of anonymity. The identities of the dead and their affiliation to a militant group were unclear, they added.
* The Obama administration’s policy for drone strikes deems all adult male victims as militants, unless exculpatory evidence emerges after their deaths.
As usual, initial reports are scattered:
US drone strike ‘kills one’ in Pakistan - AFP
Suspected US drone strike kills 3 militants in northwestern Pakistan - Washington Post
From the Post column, Yemenis killed in Pakistan:
Senior government official Shahid Ali says two drone-fired missiles hit a vehicle Saturday near the Sheen Warsak area of South Waziristan, killing a Yemeni “militant” and two others.
The attack was second this week in the same area. On Thursday, a missile strike on a house killed three alleged “militants”. Two intelligence officials say another Yemeni was killed in that strike.
4 killed, 3 injured in US drone strike in NW Pakistan - Xinhua
› Drones Obliterate Shades of Gray Between Militants and Civilians | Russ Wellen
“Killing someone because they looked like they were ‘up to no good’ doesn’t really pass legal muster.”
Under the Obama administration, the CIA drone program uses what they call signature strikes, as you’ve no doubt heard. Usually, the term “signature” has a positive connotation, as in a characteristic that distinguishes one from others. But, to the CIA, it just means that any military-age males in an area it has decided is a strike zone are combatants. In other words, they look like they’re “up to no good” and deserve to die.
In September, as you may be aware, the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law released a landmark report titledLiving Under Drones. In one section it reveals the sheer simple-mindedness of dividing individuals under surveillance into either civilians or militants. In fact, most of those labeled militants should be painted in shades of gray. (Emphasis added.)
Major media outlets in the US, Europe, and Pakistan that report on drone strikes tend to divide all those killed by drone strikes into just two categories: civilians or “militants.” This reflects and reinforces a widespread assumption and misunderstanding that all “militants” are legitimate targets for the use of lethal force, and that any strike against a “militant” is lawful. This binary distinction. … distinction is extremely problematic, however, from a legal perspective.
[First] use of the word “militant” to describe individuals killed by drones often obscures whether those killed are in fact lawful targets under the international legal regime governing the US operations in Pakistan. It is not necessarily the case that any person who might be described as a “militant” can be lawfully intentionally killed.
Even if one buys into the drone program, he or she must acknowledge that
… in order for an intentional lethal targeting to be lawful, a fundamental set of legal tests must be satisfied. For example … the targeted individual must either be directly participating in hostilities with the US (international humanitarian law) or posing an imminent threat that only lethal force can prevent (international human rights law).
But that’s only the beginning of the criteria that should be used in determining if someone is Predator or Reaper fodder.
[First] members of militant groups with which the US is not in an armed conflict are not lawful targets, absent additional circumstances … Further, simply being suspected of some connection to a “militant” organization—or, under the current administration’s apparent definition, simply being a male of military age in an area where “militant” organizations are believed to operate–is not alone sufficient to make someone a permissible target for killing.
… Second, the label “militant” also fails to distinguish between so-called “high-value” targets with alleged leadership roles in Al Qaeda or [the Taliban], and low-level alleged insurgents with no apparent … means of posing a serious or imminent threat to the US. National security analysts—and the White House itself—have found that the vast majority of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been low-level alleged “militants.”
To make matters worse, along with the CIA failing to properly discriminate about who it attacks
… Often, little to no information is presented to support the claim … that a certain number of those killed were “militants.” And, it is entirely unclear what, if any, investigations are carried out by the Pakistani or US governments to determine who and how many people were killed.
The drone program was key in preventing many of us from throwing our support behind President Obama in the election. In future posts, we’ll examine further atrocities within the atrocity that the drone program as a whole constitutes.
› Military Stats Reveal Epicenter of U.S. Drone War | Noah Shachtman
“When Barack Obama began his first term in the White House, many in his administration pushed for keeping the number of troops in Afghanistan relatively small while boosting the number of drone strikes. At the time, Obama decided to go in a different direction. But now, as he gets set for the start of his second term, the president appears ready to embrace his internal critics, and leave Afghanistan to the robots.”
The American military has launched 333 drone strikes this year in Afghanistan. That’s not only the highest total ever, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. It’s essentially the same number of robotic attacks in Pakistan since the CIA-led campaign there began nearly eight years ago. In the last 30 days, there have been three reported strikes in Yemen. In Afghanistan, that’s just an average day’s worth of remotely piloted attacks. And the increased strikes come as the rest of the war in Afghanistan is slowing down.
The secret drone campaigns have drawn the most scrutiny because of the legal, geopolitical, and ethical questions they raise. But it’s worth remembering that the rise of the flying robots is largely occurring in the open, on an acknowledged battlefield where the targets are largely unquestioned and the attending issues aren’t nearly as fraught.
The military has 61 Predator and Reaper “combat air patrols,” each with three or four robotic planes. The CIA’s inventory is believed to be just a fraction of that: 30 to 35 drones total, although there is thought to be some overlap between the military and intelligence agency fleets. The Washington Post reported last month that the CIA is looking for another 10 drones as the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) become more and more central to the agency’s worldwide counterterror campaign.
In Pakistan, those drones are flown with a wink and a nod, to avoid the perception of violating national sovereignty. In Yemen, the robots go after men just because they fit a profile of what the U.S. believes a terrorist to be. In both countries, people are considered legitimate targets if they happen to be male and young and in the wrong place at the wrong time. The White House keeps a “matrix” on who merits robotic death. Congress (outside of the intelligence committees) largely learns about the programs through the papers.
None of these statements is true about the drone war in Afghanistan, where strikes are ordered by a local commander, overseen by military lawyers, conducted with the (sometimes reluctant) blessing of the Kabul government, and used almost entirely to help troops under fire. The UAVs aren’t flown to dodge issues of sovereignty or to avoid traditional military assets. They’re used because they work better — staying in the sky longer than traditional aircraft and employing more advanced sensors to make sure the targets they hit are legit.
The U.S. military is now launching more drone strikes — an average of 33 per month — than at any moment in the 11 years of the Afghan conflict. It’s a major escalation from just last year, when the monthly average was 24.5. And it’s happening while the rest of the American war effort is winding down: There are 34,000 fewer American troops than there were in 2010; U.S. casualties are down 40 percent from 2010′s toll; militant attacks are off by about a quarter; civilian deaths have declined a bit from their awful peak.
Even the air war is shrinking. Overall surveillance sorties are down, from an average of 3,183 per month last year to 2,954 in 2012. (Drones flew 860 of those sorties in 2011, and now fly 761 per month today.) Missions in which U.S. aircraft fire their weapons have declined, too. That used to happen 450 times per month on average in 2011. This year, the monthly total dropped to 360.
In other words, drone strikes in Afghanistan now make up about 9 percent of the overall total of aerial attacks. Last year, it was a little more than 5 percent. The UAVs are growing in importance while the rest of the military campaign is receding.
“The numbers are yet another powerful data point illustrating the fact that unmanned systems are here and they are here to stay. They show their growing use, even as overall air strikes go down,” e-mails [Peter] Singer, who first noticed the drone strike increase.
“…the president appears ready to embrace his internal critics, and leave Afghanistan to the robots.”
The slow transition to permanent death by robot. That’s the penalty for embarrassing the United States by not “losing” the war on terror.
The people of Afghanistan must be so glad the American people chose the more peaceful-seeming President again (and yes, I know, Romney could have been “worse”).
The wars and war powers won’t end until the AUMF (written a decade ago to initiate the “war on terror”) is scrapped. If the AUMF sticks around, which I
suspect am almost certain will happen, the war in Afghanistan will not “end” in 2014, it’ll be death by robot forever, wherever (in addition, a probable U.S. presence in Afghanistan until 2024 is part of the Afghanistan SOFA agreement signed by Obama and Hamid Karzai). The only requirement for permanent war, the only necessary justification, as the last decade of paranoia shows, repeatedly, is a defense or intelligence “official”, any senior one will do, saying that a threat still exists and Americans will blindly support the killing of anyone they’re told (just trust us!) is a “terrorist”. And with no boots on the ground to worry about, only the “bad guys”, who, for some reason, just won’t stop hatin’ on us, get whacked - clean, sanitary, and sociopathic.
Taliban’s message to Obama: Focus on solving your own people’s problems | War in Context
› Drone strike in south Yemen kills 7 "Qaeda suspects"
A drone strike near the southern Yemeni city of Jaar killed at least seven “Al-Qaeda suspects”, including a local leader, at dawn on Thursday, an official in the restive region told AFP.
likely American, fired several rockets at a group of ‘Al-Qaeda members’ northwest of Jaar killing all of them,” said the official, adding seven bodies had so far been recovered.
The United States is the only country that operates drones in the region.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “several bodies” had been identified, including one belonging to Nader Al-Shadadi, “Al-Qaeda’s leader” in Jaar.
› US drone strike in Pakistan kills 5 militants* | Boston.com
Two Pakistani intelligence officials say that missiles from an American drone have killed five militants* in their hideout in a northwestern tribal area.
The intelligence officials said two missiles fired from the unmanned spy aircraft slammed into the village of Dawar Musaki in the North Waziristan region.
The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
* The Obama administration’s policy for drone strikes deems all adult male victims as militants, unless exculpatory evidence emerges after their deaths.
This comes on the heels of a strike on Saturday in N. Waziristan that killed 3.
29 dead in a little over a week. Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States’ secretive, undeclared war.
Noah Shachtman, 29 Dead in 8 Days as U.S. Puts Yemen Drone War in Overdrive
› Latest US Drone Attack in Pakistan Another Possible War Crime | Kevin Gosztola
In relation to the previous post:
Triple drone attacks in Pakistan reportedly killed more than twelve people who were suspected of being “militants” or terror suspects. Nine were killed in an initial attack on a “militant compound” in Miranshah in North Waziristan. Three more were killed in a second attack while people were trying to “recover dead bodies.” A third strike killed at least one more, according to the Agence France Presse news agency.
[One] of the attacks bears the hallmark of a Central Intelligence Agency tactic that Christof Heyns, a UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, recently condemned. The second drone strike appears to have been against “rescuers,” who were showing up to help those injured in the “initial” drone attack. This, according to Heyns, is a “war crime.”
The Pakistan-based Dawn.com provides a detailed account of the attacks (though the media organizations reports only a double attack occurred):
According to sources, six missiles hit the fortress-like residence of tribesman Muhammad in Zoi Nari locality of tehsil Dattakhel at around 8:45pm.
Local people rushed to the site of the attack and started rescue work while drones continued to hover over the area. They retrieved 17 bodies and two injured persons from the rubble of the house.
At about 10:30pm, the drones fired another two missiles on the compound, some 35km from the agency’s headquarters of Miramshah, when tribesmen were still carrying out rescue work. Three people died and two others were injured in the attack.
Local tribesmen feared the number of the people killed or injured might go up because they had to stop work due to the hovering drones. They said most of the bodies retrieved were mutilated beyond recognition.
In February, the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), published analysis showing how the CIA utilizes this tactic. The investigation TBIJ conducted found “at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims.” Over 20 of those killed were attacked in “deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”
The executions of people who show up in the aftermath of initial attacks to rescue dead bodies undermine the Obama administration’s claims that drone strikes are extremely precise. How can the administration, which makes premeditated decisions by committee on who to kill and not kill, know who is going to show up to clean up in the aftermath? No member of the administration knows. Most likely, the people who are victims of secondary strikes are seen as justifiable targets because of President Barack Obama’s criteria that all military-age males in a strike target area are “militants.”
Outside of the war crime that appears to have been committed in this instance, there’s the issue over casualty numbers. The majority of Pakistani news outlets are reporting twenty-one were killed. The Pakistan-based Dawn Media Group reports twenty were killed. Dawn.com reported twenty killed. The Guardian‘s latest report on the strikes puts the number of people killed at nineteen. The New York Times‘ report puts the figure at fifteen. Initial reports suggested twelve had died. TheAFP‘s report indicates, when the deaths from all three strikes are added up, that thirteen people died. This means eight deaths are disputed.