The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself.
Top U.S. Drone Pilot Bill “Sweet” Tart
The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself.
Top U.S. Drone Pilot Bill “Sweet” Tart
Two of America’s medium-altitude Reaper drones will be sold to France as backup for the country’s operations against Islamist rebels in Mali.
The news comes from the ‘Air et Cosmos’ specialist magazine, which reported online that a deal had been reached between France and the United States for the sale of two non-armed MQ-9 units.
The French air force had already deployed a European-made Harfang drone to Mali, with the country now wishing to acquire more modern models quickly, although any purchase of the US Reapers directly from the manufacturer (as was done with Harfang) is expected to delay delivery by seven months.
May 20th, 2013
An apparent US drone strike killed two suspected [military age males up to no good] in central Yemen on Monday, a local official said.
The attack took place in the Khobza area of the central province of Baida, the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that an American drone launched the attack.
Yemen’s defence ministry said on its news website 26sep.net that the raid targeted “two members of Al-Qaeda as they as they left a farm on a motorbike,” in Khobza.
It named the two killed as Abd Rabbo Mokbal Mohammed Jarallah al-Zouba and Abbad Mossad Abbad Khobzi.
On Saturday, four suspected [military age males up to no good] died in a similar attack in southern Yemen.
European countries are piling more pressure on the US to allow them to buy armed Predator and Reaper drones. As we have previously reported Germany wants to buy armed Reaper drones from the US and France too has reported this week that it ‘expects’ the US to allow it to acquire unarmed Reapers as a step towards it aim of acquiring armed drone capability.
Italy meanwhile is getting frustrated with a lack of response from the US to its request to arm the unarmed Reaper that it currently operates. According to the Aviation News article, Italy says that it is “looking for alternatives” including supporting a European black (secret) armed drone project. There are already a number of known drone programmes under development within Europe including BAE System’s Taranis, Dassault’s Neuron and EADS’Talarion (although the future of the latter is far from clear). However these are all at an early stage of development with possible in-service dates being many years off and hence the desire of European countries to purchase Reaper and Predator drones.
This week Germany also announced it was cancelling the Euro Hawk project. Unveiled with such fanfare in 2011, Euro Hawk was a German version of the Northrop Grumman’s surveillance drone, the Global Hawk. Various reasons were given this week to the press for its cancellation but German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière simply called the project “a horror without end” in his Bundestag statement. Cancellation of this project, even though it has already cost Germany 500 million Euros, apparently ‘saves’ a further 500 million Euros which can now be spent on alternative drone developments.
Meanwhile the UK continues to operate its armed Reapers acquired from the US in 2007. The UK is now testing the British-made Brimstone missile on its Reapers as an alternative to the US-made Hellfire missile. This will no doubt make it easier for the UK to continue operating its Reaper drones after the Afghanistan ‘drawdown’.
New figures from SIPRI show that Israel has been the biggest proliferator of drone technology over the past decade with just over 40% of drone exports originating from Israel. Many of these small to medium unarmed drones have gone to European countries but also to Latin America and Africa. YnetNews also reported that sales of drones now nets Israel $400 million per year.
While other countries seek to catch up with the drone wars, the US this week undertook a significant test of its new autonomous X-47B drone. For the first time an unmanned drone has taken off from an aircraft carrier, flown a pre-programmed mission and landed all by itself. As many commentators reported, this is a major step forward.
Ominously, in the same week senior Pentagon officials told a Senate hearing on drone strikes that the war on terror is one without end or boundaries and that it is expected it to continue for another ten to twenty years. [++]
[…] In Pakistan, we’re facing a new Prime Minister in Nawaz Sharif who has claimed to be skeptical of drones. And we’re facing the tensions between Pakistan’s security establishment and its democratic governmentthat necessitate a thoroughly unconvincing kabuki about whether Pakistan consents.
There’s a similar tension in Yemen, too. In addition, I suspect we’re captive to what our drone base hosts in Saudi Arabia want. And there was never much chance they were going to accept a partner other than the old Riyadh Station Chief, John Brennan, run their drone program.
In other words, nothing will change anytime soon. As has been clear in every single piece that simultaneously said DOD would be taking over drone killing even while admitting there would be exceptions tied to Brennan for quite some time.
Surprise: Obama’s National Security people are going to keep saying they’re moving drones to DOD, even while admitting they don’t mean that’s happening right now. [++]
Which isn’t to say moving drones strikes to DOD would make the murder program better either. You can’t really improve such things. But for now, plausible deniability is all that seems to matter - especially to our “international partners”.
We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does. And the guy in the rear hears this, and he runs forward to the two guys in front, and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there’s a crater there. You can see body parts of the people. But the guy that was running from rear to the front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we were watching this in infrared. Then I eventually watched the guy become the same color as the ground that he died on. … In my own mind, I thought these guys could’ve been local people that had to protect themselves, and I think we jumped the gun.
Bonus game: NPR has hidden/perpetuated a false dichotomy inside the story at the link. Can you find it?
A Pakistani court on Thursday declared that US drone strikes in the country’s lawless tribal belt were illegal and directed the Foreign Ministry to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.
The Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused collateral damage.
Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhuman and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court observed that the strikes must be declared a war crime as they kill innocent people.
“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said. It asked the Foreign Ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.
“If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.
US officials have said the drones target Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan’s tribal regions who are blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan insists that the US spy planes kill innocent people, damage civilian property and are counter-productive to the war on terror.
The US has rejected Pakistan’s calls for halting drone strikes.
The Peshawar High Court had earlier reserved its verdict after the completion of arguments by lawyers for the federal government and the petitioners, including the Defence of Pakistan Council, an amalgamation of religious groups, tribal elders and rights groups.
The petitioners had asked the court to direct the government to make public any secret deal with the US on drone strikes, stop drone strikes by force, take the issue to the UN Security Council and pay compensation to families of people killed in missile attacks.
The camera-enabled, 6-pound, 24-inch-long Switchblade is small and light enough to fit in a backpack. The tube-launched UAV can be guided to its intended target using a hand-held ground control station before detonating its explosive round by simply flying into the target. The tiny killer can fly for up to 10 minutes. Army officials confirmed in February that the Switchblade officially became lethal earlier this year, scoring several hits on enemy targets.
Shiny new robits offer risk-free courage
From the start, the Fisa court was a radical perversion of the judicial process. It convened in total secrecy and its rulings were classified. The standard the government had to meet was not the traditional ‘probable cause’ burden imposed by the Fourth Amendment but a significantly diluted standard. There was nothing adversarial about the proceeding: only the Justice Department (DOJ) was permitted to be present, but not any lawyers for the targets of the eavesdropping request, who were not notified. Reflecting its utter lack of real independence, the court itself was housed in the DOJ. And, as was totally predictable, the court barely ever rejected a government request for eavesdropping. From its inception, it was the ultimate rubber-stamp court, having rejected a total of zero government applications - zero - in its first 24 years of existence, while approving many thousands. In its total 34 year history - from 1978 through 2012 - the Fisa court has rejected a grand total of 11 government applications, while approving more than 20,000.
[Like] the Fisa court, … a “drone court” would be far worse than merely harmless. Just imagine how creepy and tyrannical it is to codify a system where federal judges - in total secrecy and with only government lawyers present - issue execution warrants that allow the president to kill someone who has never been charged with a crime. It’s true that the president is already doing this, and is doing it without any external oversight. But a fake, illusory judicial process lends a perceived legitimacy to his execution powers that is not warranted by the reality of this process. Worse, it further infects the US judiciary with warped, secretive procedures more akin to a Star Chamber than anything recognized by the US Constitution. Beyond that, it takes a program that is now seen as a radical presidential power grab - Obama’s kill list - and legitimizes and entrenches it by making both the Congress and courts cooperative parties.
It’s one thing to have a secret court that lends a veneer of legality and legitimacy to the government’s rampant spying behavior. It’s quite another to have one that authorizes the government to kill people who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any actual crime. But it’s a rather powerful reflection of how warped our political culture has become that a secret, unaccountable, one-sided “court” is being widely proposed to issue execution warrants, and that this is the “moderate” or even “liberal” position. How anyone could look at the Fisa court and want to replicate its behavior in the context of presidential executions is really mystifying.
[On] the question of oversight, and the related pleas for “accountability” and “transparency”: keep in mind what the Murder Program is. The executive branch claims that it can murder anyone it chooses anywhere in the world, for any reason it wishes. Someone needs to explain to me how oversight, accountability and transparency will make such a program better. But they can’t explain that — because it cannot be done. A program that is evil in the manner the Murder Program is evil cannot be “improved,” or “managed” so as to make it decent and humane. The Murder Program is an abomination. You don’t “fix” abominations of this kind. You end them. You end them this very moment.
Today in “No shit, Dick Tracy” news.
And Obama’s plan to indefinitely detain “terrorists” on U.S. soil is his alternative to indefinite detention at Guantanamo, should he ever get around to shuttering the place.
But keep using phrases like “lesser evil” if it makes you feel better.
Bush oversaw forty-eight drone strikes in Pakistan during his two terms. Since 2009, Obama has authorized more than three hundred. In [journalist Mark] Mazzetti’s telling, C.I.A. leaders repeatedly pushed Obama for more expansive authority to use armed drones. They got their way in almost every instance. … In one Situation Room meeting early in Obama’s first term, General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is said to have asked why the United States was ‘building a second Air Force’ in the form of the C.I.A.’s swelling armed-drone fleet. Mazzetti quotes Obama’s reply: ‘The C.I.A. gets what it wants.’ By 2010, according to Mazzetti, Obama’s own Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, ‘wondered whether the pace of the drone war might be undercutting relations with an important ally for the quick fix of killing midlevel terrorists.’ Munter soon discovered that, under President Obama, ‘it was what the C.I.A. believed that really counted.’
Steve Coll, Our Drone Dilusion
April 28, 2013
In testimony delivered to Congress last week by Dyke D. Weatherington, who is in charge of all unmanned drone programs at the Department of Defense, it was revealed:
* All DOD components currently possess 9,670 small drones (RQ-11 RAVEN, WASP, PUMA, and RQ-10 T-HAWK), 194 US Navy SCAN EAGLE maritime surveillance drones, 626 medium-sized drones (principally RQ-7 SHADOW), and 430 large unmanned drones (235 PREDATOR/GRAY EAGLE, 44 MQ-6 HUNTER, 18 MQ-8 FIRE SCOUT, 100 MQ-9 REAPER, and 34 GLOBAL HAWK). Total: more than 10,800 drones currently in the inventory.
* Except for the 9,670 small tactical drones, DOD’s remaining 1,200 large- and medium-sized drones flew a total of 550,000 flight hours in 2012, down from almost 700,000 flight hours in 2011. Drone flight hours are expected to increase slightly in this coming fiscal year (FY 2013).
* In the FY 2014 budget submission just given to Congress, the Pentagon is asking for more than $1.4 billion for drone-related research and development, and another $1.2 billion for drone procurement. Total: $2.6 billion just in this one single category.
* Significant drone buys this coming fiscal year: 12 MQ-9 REAPERs for the USAF, 15 GRAY EAGLE for the Army (this the Army’s version of the MQ-1 PREDATOR drone flown by the USAF), and 25 RQ-7 SHADOW for the Army and Marine Corps.
The drone war may have just taken out a high value target—former President of Pakistan and Bush Administration partner in the War on Terror, Pervez Musharraf.
No, he didn’t get blown to bits by a Hellfire missile, or die in a “Double-Tap” strike when he rushed to the aid of an unfortunate wedding party supposedly teeming with “suspected militants.”
Rather, simply by shooting of his big mouth, the retired general collaterally damaged the tumultuous pact between his former colleagues in both Islamabad and Washington. In fact, he blew another hole in the crumbling wall of obfuscation around Washington’s kill list.
What did Pervez say?
Eager to position himself as an instant frontrunner in Pakistan’s forthcoming elections, Pervez agreed to a bombshell interview with CNN in which he admitted to a “secret deal” between his government and the U.S. to allow drone strikes within his troubled, often drone-attacked country.
This directly contradicts the official position of the Pakistani government and instantly confirms the charges made by critics within Pakistan. It also confirms and highlights revelations now emerging from sharp reporting by Mark Mazzetti in both the New York Times and his new book about the drone war, The Way of the Knife.
Although it got quickly lost in the wall-to-wall coverage of the Boston Bombings, General Musharraf’s candor was a stunning development with geopolitical implications.
And it probably got Musharraf arrested. That’s right. Within a week of the interview, a judge issued an order for his arrest.
General Musharraf, who’d come back to Pakistan with the stated intention to run for the Presidency, quickly stated his intention to run for his life! But there was no escape. Musharraf was arrested on charges related to the summary firing of judges back in 2007 and was ordered held for two weeks. Now those charges have escalated to possible treason and perhaps even the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He’s also been named as a target for assassination, and someone tried to bomb his home.
The timeline tells the story:
03.24.13: A less-than-triumphant return
04.12.12: Gives the CNN interview
04.16.13: Officially barred from seeking election
04.18.13: Arrest order issued
04.18.13: Flees the Court
It is quite a turn of events for America’s one-time partner and the Pakistani Army’s most reliable strongman. The timing of the arrest and charges certainly highlight the fluid nature of Pakistani politics, along with the growing problem of the drone war and the fallout it is generating—not only in Pakistan, but around the world.
In this case, timing is everything.
Musharraf’s gambit—perhaps to position himself with the growing popular reaction against the ad hoc bombing of his country—came on the heels of a number of revelations about the conduct and cover-up of the drone war by the Obama Administration.
Not only has Team Obama mischaracterized targets and wildly under-reported civilian casualties, it also inherited a “quid pro quo” policy established in 2004 that traded access to airspace in Pakistan for the assassination of Pakistan’s political opponents.
The policy could best be summed up as: “We’ll kill yours, if you let us kill ours.” [READ]
Remotely controlled armed drones used to target insurgents in Afghanistan have been operated from the UK for the first time, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.
Missions of the missile-carrying Reaper aircraft began from a newly built headquarters at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire earlier this week – five years after the MoD bought the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and attack the Taliban.
Since then the UK has been controlling the RAF’s five Reaper aircraft from Creech airforce base in Nevada because the British military did not have the capability to fly them from here.
However, the MoD made building a new UAV hub at Waddington a priority following the 2010 strategic defence and security review, and the centre “stood up” at the end of last year.
Waddington has become the home of XIII squadron, and defence officials said pilots from the unit have now started to take command of Reapers, working in tandem with the team in America. [++]