Living Under Drones
posted by Keito
2012-09-30 12:58:59A new report from Stanford suggests that the ongoing terror campaign waged by the United States of America, in foreign lands far away, is having a massively detrimental effect. People living under constant fear of attack by drones. Resentment grows. Is there any wonder hatred for the US and their foreign policies exist? This is not combating terrorism... this is terrorism. This will never make the world safer. This will do nothing but make us more of a target. it will breed terrorists, who seek revenge. In the long-run, it will mean massive crackdowns by our own governments, in order to 'make us safer' when the threat of future attacks on home soil grows, as a consequence of the constant attacks made by us - a retaliation. Freedom and liberty will suffer, thanks to this wrong-doing.
'In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.
This narrative is false.
Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.
Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.
It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.
First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.” It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.
Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.
Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%. Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.” Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani relations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.
Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US. The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase.
In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits. A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.
This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:
The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly requested by various groups and officials: the targeting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;
Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;
In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.
The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.
 The US publicly describes its drone program in terms of its unprecedented ability to “distinguish … effectively between an al Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians,” and touts its missile-armed drones as capable of conducting strikes with “astonishing” and “surgical” precision. See, e.g., John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorism-strategy.
 See Obama Administration Counterterrorism Strategy (C-Span television broadcast June 29, 2011), http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/AdministrationCo; see also Strategic Considerations, infra Chapter 5: Strategic Considerations; Contradictions Chart, infra Appendix C.
 Covert War on Terror, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/ (last visited Sept. 12, 2012).
 Peter Bergen & Megan Braun, Drone is Obama’s Weapon of Choice, CNN (Sept. 6, 2012), http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/05/opinion/bergen-obama-drone/index.html.
 Jo Becker & Scott Shane, Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will, N.Y. Times (May 29, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all.
 Pew Research Center, Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.: 74% Call America an Enemy (2012), available at http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2012/06/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Project-Pakistan-Report-FINAL-Wednesday-June-27-2012.pdf.
 See, e.g., Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Study on Targeted Killings, Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.6 (May 28, 2010) (by Philip Alston), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf; US: Transfer CIA Drone Strikes to Military, Human Rights Watch (Apr. 20, 2012), http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/20/us-transfer-cia-drone-strikes-military; Letter from Amnesty International et al. to Barack Obama, President of the United States (May 31, 2012), available at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1242.
 Letter from Amnesty International et al., supra note 7.
 Terri Judd, UN ‘Should Hand Over Footage of Drone Strikes or Face UN Inquiry’, Independent (Aug. 20, 2012), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-should-hand-over-footage-of-drone-strikes-or-face-un-inquiry-8061504.html.'
Calling U.S. Drone Strikes 'Surgical' Is Orwellian Propaganda
posted by Keito
2012-09-29 17:05:05'A moment's reflection is enough to understand why intellectually honest people should shun the loaded metaphor.
The Obama Administration deliberately uses the word "surgical" to describe its drone strikes. Official White House spokesman Jay Carney marshaled the medical metaphor here, saying that "a hallmark of our counterterrorism efforts has been our ability to be exceptionally precise, exceptionally surgical and exceptionally targeted." White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan attributed "surgical precision" and "laser-like focus" to the drone program. He also spoke of "delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us." And a "senior administration official" told The Washington Post that "there is still a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States."
They've successfully transplanted the term into public discourse about drones.
I've been told American drone strikes are "surgical" while attending Aspen Ideas Festival panels, interviewing delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and perusing reader emails after every time I write about the innocents killed and maimed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.
It is a triumph of propaganda.
The inaccuracy of the claim fully occurred to me as I played back a recent interview I conducted with Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution. (His book Wired for War is a fascinating read.) "You used to measure a surgeon by how still could he hold his hand," Singer told me. "How precise could he make the cut? Well, robotic systems, it isn't a matter of shaking at minute levels. It doesn't shake. You are amazed by a surgeon doing a cut that is millimeters in precision. With robotics it is in nanometers." He was explaining why unmanned systems make sense in a variety of fields, not commenting on the Obama Administration's rhetoric in its ongoing, multi-country drone war.
But that is how we think of surgeons, isn't it?
They use a scalpel. Their cuts are precise down to the millimeter. Once in a great while there is a slip of the knife, a catastrophic mistake. In those cases, the surgeon is held accountable and the victim lavishly compensated. Oh, and there's one more thing about surgical procedures: While the person being cut into is occasionally victimized by a mistake, there is never a case where the scalpel is guided so imprecisely that it kills the dozen people standing around the operating table. For that reason, orderlies and family members don't cower in hospital halls terrified that a surgeon is going to arbitrarily kill them. And if he did, he'd be arrested for murder.
So no, drone strikes aren't like surgery at all.
"As much as the military has tried to make drone pilots feel as if they are sitting in a cockpit, they are still flying a plane from a screen with a narrow field of vision," Mark Mazzetti reports. "Then there is the fact that the movement shown on a drone pilot's video screen has over the years been seconds behind what the drone sees -- a delay caused by the time it takes to bounce a signal off a satellite in space. This problem, called 'latency,' has long bedeviled drone pilots, making it difficult to hit a moving target." That's one more way drones strikes are unlike surgery.
Are they "surgical" compared to an H-bomb?
Er, no, they're less destructive and more precise. To conjure a surgeon with a knife is to lead the listener astray. And it is a downright dishonest metaphor when invoked by an administration that could make their strikes more like surgery but doesn't. For example, the Obama Administration could make certain of the identity of the people it is "operating on." Instead it sometimes uses "signature strikes," wherein the CIA doesn't even know the identity of the people it is killing. It could also attempt autopsies, literal or figurative, when things go wrong. Instead, it presumes sans evidence that all military-aged males killed in drone strikes are "militants."
Said George Orwell in 1946:
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
The phrase "surgical drone strike" is handy for naming U.S. actions without calling up images of dead, limb-torn innocents with flesh scorched from the missile that destroyed the home where they slept or burned up the car in which they rode. The New America Foundation, which systematically undercounts these innocents, says there have been at least 152 and many as 192 killed since 2004. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the civilian death figure at between 474 and 881 killed. Either way, would "surgical" strikes kill innocents on that scale in a region with just 2 percent of Pakistan's population? Using data that undercounts innocents killed, The New America Foundation reports that 85 percent of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes are "militants," while 15 percent are civilians or unknown. What do you think would happen to a surgeon that accidentally killed 15 in 100 patients? Would colleagues would call him "surgical" in his precision?
Unlike the Democratic politicians and former Obama Administration officials I heard speak in Aspen, retired Brigadier General Craig Nixon didn't say that American drone strikes were surgical.
He was asked to explain how a farmer was accidentally killed.
And he used a different metaphor when recounting his field experience:
A drone or another intelligence device is sorta like being at a football game sitting on the 50-yard line and looking through a soda straw. I mean you see what you see. But there's a lot of other context that you don't see.
As technology improves, he said, it's a little better, like looking through multiple straws, but there's still a lot of missing context.
It's a very different image than a "surgical drone strike," isn't it?
Ralph Nader: President Obama’s a ‘war criminal’
posted by Keito
2012-09-26 20:53:26'It’s no surprise that Ralph Nader isn’t a fan of former President George W. Bush. After all, the longtime activist ran against him in both 2000 and 2004. But Nader’s even less a fan of President Barack Obama, if only because he thinks Obama was capable of so much more.
On issues related to the military and foreign policy, Obama’s worse than Bush, “in the sense that he’s more aggressive, more illegal worldwide,” Nader told POLITICO, going so far as to call Obama a “war criminal.”
“He’s gone beyond George W. Bush in drones, for example. He thinks the world is his plate, that national sovereignties mean nothing, drones can go anywhere. They can kill anybody that he suspects and every Tuesday he makes the call on who lives and who dies, supposed suspects in places like Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is a war crime and he ought to be held to account.”
Nader called Obama “below average because he raised expectation levels. What expectation level did George W. Bush raise?… He’s below average because he’s above average in his intellect and his knowledge of legality, which is violating with abandon.”
“I don’t know whether George W. Bush ever read the Constitution,” said Nader. “This man taught the Constitution, and this is what we got.”
Nader gave Obama this much: He’s the lesser of two evils when compared to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But he said Obama is “the more effective evil because he brings credibility, he brings the democratic heritage to it, he has legitimized the lawless war-mongering and militarism abroad of George W. Bush.”
When asked to highlight some positives about Obama’s presidency, Nader said, “I like the way he’s emphasized renewable energy, even though he still supports nuclear and fossil fuels, as if they’re all the same, all of the above. But he does speak more about renewables than any president perhaps since Jimmy Carter.” (Nader will be speaking at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C., later this month.)
And: “He wanted to have a public works program, he really did want to have a jobs program and the Republicans crushed it and that would have created a lot of jobs that couldn’t be exported to China.”
Nader doesn’t let Republicans off easy, either, calling them “the worst Republican Party in history.”
“We’re dealing with a real sick, decaying Democratic Party that can’t defend the country against the cruelest, most ignorant, most anti-worker, most war-mongering, most Wall Street–indentured Republican Party in its history, since the 1850s.”
As for Romney, Nader said “he’s not the old Romney, governor of Massachusetts. He’s had a character and personality makeover. He’s just bought into the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, represented by Paul Ryan, and I don’t think he’s going to be able to shake that. He’s basically a corporation running for president masquerading as a human being.”
For the first time in a long time, Nader is not running for president this year. From the way he puts it, he may be through with such campaigns.
“I’ve run several times and we’ve documented the two-party tyranny, which means they’re very adept at excluding, with a whole variety of ways, third parties.”
It’s not, however, because he’s been billed by some as a political spoiler.
“That’s a politically bigoted words, as if we’re second-class citizens,” said Nader. “Since we’re all trying to get votes from one another, either we’re all spoilers of one another or none of us are spoilers.”'
US Air Force’s Secret Space Plane Prepped for New Launch
posted by Keito
2012-09-26 20:41:34'The Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane is now readying for its third space mission, slated to begin in October. And perhaps not surprising for the hush-hush orbital drone, the third time into space remains as secretive as the first two.
Next month, the X-37B will blast off again aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The exact timing of the October launch is unknown and subject to change due to weather conditions, and there’s no telling how long the drone will stay in orbit. ”Preparations for launch at Cape Canaveral have begun,” Major Tracy Bunko, an Air Force spokesperson, told Space.com.
While it’ll be the third flight for the robotic space plane program as a whole, it’s only the second for this particular craft. Four months ago, X-37B’s second of two planes returned from its first flight and a record-breaking 469 days in orbit – more than double the first mission’s total.
Will the OTV-3 try to break that record? The military, naturally, hasn’t said; calls to the Air Force were not immediately returned. Nor does the public know what exactly it’ll be doing once it’s up there. Its mysterious mission has fueled speculation it could be a spy. China fears it could be an experimental weapons platform or a means to disable satellites.
What we do know about the X-37B is that it’s a smaller, unmanned version of the now-retired space shuttle and is ostensibly used for Air Force research missions of an indeterminate nature. The manned space shuttle, we know, was retired last summer and just completed a three-day ferry flight across the United States. The X-37B is like a lighter robotic version, and can stay up for more than a year at a time — far longer than the manned shuttles ever could. The drone measures 29 feet long and 15 feet wide, weighs 11,000 pounds and is about a fourth the weight of the space shuttle, and launches into orbit on a conventional rocket but glides back down to Earth like a plane. Inside the plane is a payload bay roughly the size of a pickup truck bed. It costs around an estimated billion dollars.
The done has also received attention from secretive sources. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), America’s secret spy satellite agency, has shown interest in using reusable launch vehicles like the X-37B to carry sensors. Right now the X-37B happens to be the only reusable space plane currently in service by the U.S. military, which narrows the NRO’s options.
The Air Force is also considering a shift of the craft’s landing site from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — where the two previous X-37B flights touched down — to Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral. The Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility was used for most of the old shuttle landings, which would be a way to use leftover infrastructure and save money by leveraging “previous space shuttle investments,” said Bunko.
Trying to find a way to reduce costs is crucial if the X-37B is to survive, and promoting the X-37B as an affordable replacement for the shuttle has figured prominently in statements from Boeing. There have been recurring questions as to why the Air Force needs a new reusable orbiter when contrasted with existing — and cheaper — conventional satellites. The facility, called Building 31, has been the center of a fractious labor dispute between Boeing managers and engineers.
There’s also increasing competition from the private space industry pushing the Pentagon and Boeing to find cheaper alternatives to get into space. Paul Rusnock, Boeing’s vice president of Government Space Systems, has said the return of the first X-37B to space will demonstrate that it’s “an affordable space vehicle that can be repeatedly reused.”
Which means the space plane must impress — albeit in a rather secretive way.
Update 5:00 p.m.: “We are on track to launch the third X-37B OTV mission in late October,” Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37B program manager at the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, tells Danger Room. The plane is designed to stay up for nine months, but “actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance, and conditions at the landing site.”
“The focus of the program –and of this upcoming mission — remains on testing vehicle capabilities and proving the utility and cost effectiveness of a reusable spacecraft,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre added that the Air Force is evaluating the feasability of landing at the Kennedy Space Center, which “has the potential to save program costs.” But for now, the Air Force is still planning to land the plane at Vandenberg, per usual.'
Pentagon unveils DARPA-made mule-drone
posted by Keito
2012-09-18 20:08:13'Military researchers working for the Pentagon have released video footage of one of its newest projects, the Legged Squad Support System, and are touting the creation as a cyborg-style animal-drone that will aid troops across a variety of terrains.
Scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, are touting a video of one of its latest endeavors in action. The lab has released footage of an unmanned, four-legged robot nicknamed the LS3 that they expect to send into battle to assist soldiers and Marines in an array of conditions.
“Today’s dismounted warfighter can be saddled with more than 100 pounds of gear, resulting in physical strain, fatigue and degraded performance,” DARPA claims on their website. “Reducing the load on dismounted warfighters has become a major point of emphasis for defense research and development, because the increasing weight of individual equipment has a negative impact on warfighter readiness. The Army has identified physical overburden as one of its top five science and technology challenges. To help alleviate physical weight on troops, DARPA is developing a four-legged robot, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with a squad of Marines or Soldiers.”
DARPA says that, when fully-functioning, the mule-like machine will be able to carry upwards of 400lbs of weapons, supplies and other cargo as troops transverse all sorts of terrain, “similar to a trained animal and its handler.” Additionally, the LS3 is expected to act as an auxiliary power source to recharge handheld devices used in the field.
Scientists completed their first test run of the LS3 back in January and have recently launched a two-year, platform-refinement test cycle in July that is being assisted with aid from the Marine and Army. At the end of this program, says DARPA, the LS3 will ideally be able to accompany troops using its own local perception abilities.
The “LS3 attempts to follow as close as possible to the path its leader takes,” DARPA explains in one example, adding that the craft with also have “freedom to make local path decisions, so the leader doesn’t need to think about LS3’s mobility capabilities.”
Although DARPA says that the LS3 will be able to move across fronts on its own without necessarily relying on direct commands for mobility instructions, the agency has not announced if the finished product will be able to be as intuitive in regards to mounted firearms that may be affixed to its shell.
“The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal,” DARPA Program Manager Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt tells reporters.'