Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Only 4% of drone victims in Pakistan named as al Qaeda members

by Jack Serle
CIA drones targeted but missed al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in this strike in 2006 (AFP/Getty)
As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, research by the Bureau of Investigative
Journalism finds that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda. This calls in to question US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, the details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004. On October 11 an attack brought the total number of drone strikes in Pakistan up to 400.

The names of the dead have been collected over a year of research in and outside Pakistan, using a multitude of sources. These include both Pakistani government records leaked to the Bureau, and hundreds of open source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu.

Naming the Dead has also drawn on field investigations conducted by the Bureau’s researchers in Pakistan and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict.

Only 704 of the 2,379 dead have been identified, and only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group. Few corroborating details were available for those who were just described as militants. More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group. Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.

These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding US drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International.

Pakistan drone strike
deaths in numbers
Total killed 2,379
Total named as militants 295
Total named as al Qaeda 84
Total named 704

When asked for a comment on the Bureau’s investigation, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that strikes were only carried out when there was “near-certainty” that no civilians would be killed.

“The death of innocent civilians is something that the U.S. Government seeks to avoid if at all possible. In those rare instances in which it appears non-combatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise such risk to non-combatants in the future,” said Hayden.

“Associated forces”

The Obama administration’s stated legal justification for such strikes is based partly on the right to self-defence in response to an imminent threat. This has proved controversial as leaked documents show the US believes determining if a terrorist is an imminent threat “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

The legal basis for the strikes also stems from the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (Aumf) – a law signed by Congress three days after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. It gives the president the right to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind the attacks on the US, wherever they are.

The text of Aumf does not name any particular group. But the president, in a major foreign policy speech in May 2013, said this includes “al Qaeda, the Taliban and its associated forces”.

Nek Mohammed speaks at a Jirga three weeks before he died in a CIA drone strike (Reuters/Kamran Wazir)

It is not clear who is deemed to be “associated” with the Taliban. Hayden told the Bureau that “an associated force is an organised armed group that has entered the fight alongside al Qaeda and is a co-belligerent with al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

The CIA itself does not seem to know the affiliation of everyone they kill. Secret CIA documents recording the identity, rank and affiliation of people targeted and killed in strikes between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011 were leaked to the McClatchy news agency in April 2013. They identified hundreds of those killed as simply Afghan or Pakistani fighters, or as “unknown”.

Determining the affiliation even of those deemed to be “Taliban” is problematic. The movement has two branches: one, the Afghan Taliban, is fighting US and allied forces, and trying to re-establish the ousted Taliban government of Mullah Omar in Kabul. The other, the Pakistani Taliban or the TTP, is mainly focused on toppling the Pakistani state, putting an end to democracy and establishing a theocracy based on extreme ideology. Although the US did not designate the TTP as a foreign terrorist organisation until September 2010, the group and its precursors are known to have worked with the Afghan Taliban.

According to media reports, the choice of targets has not always reflected the priorities of the US alone. In April last year the McClatchy news agency reported the US used its drones to kill militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas in exchange for Pakistani help in targeting al Qaeda members.

Three days before the McClatchy report, the New York Times revealed the first known US drone strike in Pakistan, on June 17 2004, was part of a secret deal with Pakistan to gain access to its airspace. The CIA agreed to kill the target, Nek Mohammed, in exchange for permission for its drones to go after the US’s enemies.

“Judging by the sheer volume of strikes and the reliable estimates of total casualties, it is very unlikely that the majority of victims are senior commanders” Mustafa Qadri Amnesty International

The “butcher of Swat”

Senior militants have been killed in the CIA’s 10-year drone campaign in Pakistan. But as the Bureau’s work indicates, it is far from clear that they constitute the only or even the majority of people killed in these strikes.

“Judging by the sheer volume of strikes and the reliable estimates of total casualties, it is very unlikely that the majority of victims are senior commanders,” says Amnesty’s Qadri.

The Bureau has only found 111 of those killed in Pakistan since 2004 described as a senior commander of any armed group – just 5% of the total. Research by the New America Foundation estimated the proportion of senior commanders to be even lower, at just 2%.

Among them are men linked to serious crimes. Men such as Ibne Amin, known as the “butcher of Swat” for the barbaric treatment he and his men meted out on the residents of the Swat valley in 2008 and 2009.

Others include Abu Khabab al Masri, an al Qaeda chemical weapons expert. Drones also killed Hakimullah and Baitullah Mehsud, and Wali Ur Rehman – all senior leaders of the TTP.
There are 73 more people recorded in Naming the Dead who are described as mid-ranking members of armed groups. However someone’s rank is not necessarily a reliable guide to their importance in the organisation.

“I think it really depends on what they are,” Rez Jan, a senior Pakistan analyst at the American Enterprise Institute think tank told the Bureau. “You can be a mid-level guy who is involved in [improvised explosive device] production or training in bomb making or planting, or combat techniques and have a fairly lethal impact in that manner.”

Rashid Rauf, a British citizen killed in a November 2008 drone strike in Pakistan, is one al Qaeda member who appears to have had an impact despite not rising to the organisation’s highest echelons.
He acted as a point of contact between the perpetrators of the July 7 2005 attacks on the London Underground and their al Qaeda controllers. He also filled a similar role linking al Qaeda central with the men planning to bring down several airliners flying from London to the US in the 2006 “liquid bomb plot”.

The Bureau has only been able to establish information about the alleged roles of just 21 of those killed. Even this mostly consists of basic descriptions such as “logistician” or “the equivalent of a colonel.

Note: This story contains a clarification. 4% of people who have been killed by CIA drone strikes have been named and positively identified as members of al Qaeda by available records. Of the drone strike victims who have been named, 12% are identified as al Qaeda. 

Follow Jack Serle on Twitter. Sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project, subscribe to our podcast, Drone News from the Bureau, and follow Drone Reads on Twitter to see what the team is reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fly Kites, Not Drones

In Minneapolis, MN, USA, the WAMM-Ground All Drones Committee closed the week of counter-drone activities around the world with our "Fly Kites, Not Drones" event near the shores of Lake Harriet, one of the urban Chain of Lakes. WAMM-GAD provided small light-weight kites that children and their adults could decorate with symbols, words, "No Killer Drone" stickers, and colorful drawings. Our accessible activity drew some passersby, though it was a chilly autumn day. An unusual and, I think, important connection was made with three young adults (two women and one man) who are mechanical engineers from Iran, apparently attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota. They told us they were unaware of any opposition among Americans to drone warfare, and they were overjoyed to join our playful protest. We gave them copies of WAMM's current newsletter featuring a cover article written by a WAMM member who recently returned from a visit with her husband's family in Iran. In addition to signing postcards -- denouncing the US drone program -- to be sent to President Obama, the Iranian grad students flew kites and took many photos, which I'm hoping will be seen within Iran and around the world.

Lucia Smith
for WAMM-Ground All Drones

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What is it like to be a drone operator?

“It’s very odd” – a former UK drone operator speaks. 

An article from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
See sidebar for a theater performance about a pilot.

“You’re absolutely there, you’re in the fight,” recalls former UK drone operator Paul Rolfe in this week’s Drone News podcast. “You’re hearing the guys on the ground and you’re hearing their stress, so when you finish your shift it’s very odd to then step outside… it’s the middle of the day and you’re in Las Vegas.”

For several years Rolfe helped fly Reaper and Predator drones over Afghanistan from both a launch and recovery base in Kandahar and the mission control complex in Creech, Nevada, where RAF Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) operators are embedded.

In an exclusive interview with Bureau journalists, the former sensor operator gives a rare detailed account of how drones operate in combat.

His account highlights the amount of intelligence, analysis, and support needed for remotely piloted aircraft to be effective.

The drones’ sensors allow image analysts to assess an individual’s age, gender and whether or not they are carrying a weapon, according to Rolfe. But he said he had never been able to make out anyone’s face.

Not all aspects of the drones’ sorties can be operated from as far away as Nevada. There is a two second delay in the satellite links through which drones are remotely operated, Rolfe said, which means that a team is needed closer to the ground to manage the take off and landing of the aircraft. He has served in both environments, and found them very different experiences.
“When you come out of the ground control station you’re there in your body armour, you’re on a base which is full of people who are there at war and doing a job, and you have the mortar alarm going off every now and again, so you’re very clearly somewhere which isn’t nice, but you’re able to decompress with all the other guys that are there at the time.”

When operating drones out of Nevada however, the stress of the job caught Rolfe unaware.

I didn’t even realise I was stressed… I had my last sortie, I stepped away and the following day I came out in hives
- Paul Rolfe, former drone operator

He has operated drones that have fired at targets, but never on a pre-planned mission. Rolfe said that in his experience the authorisation process for striking was no less rigorous for a remotely piloted aircraft than for a manned one.

If they saw a situation on the ground in which they might be required to strike, they would have to request an authorisation from the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar, he said.

The doctrine of so-called courageous restraint under which they were operating meant that civilian casualties were unacceptable, Rolfe said, and they had to make sure they could divert a weapon somewhere safe if a mythical “busful of nuns” came in to the picture.

Rolfe now works for a private firm called Unmanned Experts which offers consultancy services to people interested in using or understanding UAVs. While his clients used to be mainly military, demand from the civilian sector has soared in recent months, he said.

Listen to the full interview here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

See this you tube - John Oliver on Drones

The topic isn't at all funny but John gets a lot of points across.

Why Do Americans Hate Beheadings But Love Drone Killings?


   Former FBI Special Agent. WAMM Board member 
Blogger on Huff Post Politics  Posted:

The answer lies in human psychology. And probably like the old observation about history, people who refuse to understand human psychology are doomed to be victims of psychological manipulation. How is it that even members of peace groups have now come to support US bombing? One lady framed the issue like this: "I request that we discuss and examine why the videotaped beheading of a human being is understood to be more egregious than the explosion (almost totally invisible to the public) of a human being by a missile or bomb fired from a drone."

There are at least four main reasons that explain why Americans care far more about the beheadings (thus far) of two Americans and one U.K citizen, than they care -- here's the polling -- about the thousands of foreign victims of US drone bombing. Here's how people are likely being manipulated into believing that more US bombing is the answer to such terroristic killings even when almost all military experts have admitted that it won't work and "there's no military solution":
1) "Us versus them" mentality, the group bonding also known as tribalism, nationalism, group elitism, etc. seems partially learned behavior but also hard-wired into humans (like other animals) to enable group survival. The worst, most excessive forms of group bonding are also known as racism. Yet it's an innate part of human psychological makeup to identify most closely with those whom we are close to and with whom we share group affinity, so Americans are always going to care more about Americans/Westerners as opposed to more distant foreigners;

2) The gruesome beheadings were deliberately and dramatically videotaped to ensure that US media brought the scenes into all US living rooms whereas the drone bombings of citizens of foreign countries are almost never filmed nor covered at all by US media. Thus to the majority of Americans, drone killings seem sterile, sanitized and surgical even though drone pilots who see the results up close know differently and some are even committing suicide.

3) It's apparent that even a large segment of the "peace" community does not understand that US wars and US-orchestrated regime changes indirectly created Islamic State (and other Al Qaeda type terrorist groups) and that US drone (and other aerial) bombing is giving rise to MORE terrorism, rather than working to reduce it. These two articles "How the West Created the Islamic State" and "How ISIS Is Using Us to Get What It Wants" describe the dynamic. As in all wars, the leaders of both sides are opportunistically using each other to empower each other. Robert Greenwald's video (below) puts it most succinctly: "How Perpetual War Fuels Terrorism." (But the opposite is also true: terrorism fuels war). This is well-known by Western intelligence analysts and foreign policy experts, and it's garden variety war manipulation for everyone except the duped US public. (Borowitz isn't really joking when he reports: "Americans Who Have Not Read a Single Article About Syria Strongly Support Bombing It.") It's depressing otherwise to learn how many uninformed people there are that still think "bombing the village to save it" somehow can work. Such "war on terror" propaganda is actually effective on the liberal-minded who are more vulnerable to having their emotional buttons -- fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty -- pressed than it is on more pragmatic, cool-headed realists. It's being reported that a number of US journalists who should know better have even fallen for hyped terror threats used to justify the launching of bombing upon Syria.

4) A fourth reason why most Americans now go happily along with perpetual war in a kind of blissful stupor, cheering on their favorite war hawk politician comes from the lessons learned so well from the Vietnam War. Getting rid of the military draft and putting the trillions of dollars of mounting war costs on the ever-expanding and perfectly elastic national debt card was a stroke of genius on the part of the military industrial complex to wipe away any remaining "Vietnam Syndrome." The new "poverty draft" that we're left with constitutes another layer of "us versus them" type manipulation geared to getting the liberal, intellectual middle class on board as they perceive little or no costs and only benefits to perpetual war. Even when not directly profiting by working for military or national security contractors, many Americans have come to believe war creates jobs and ensures they are supplied with cheap gas and other resources.

Anyway, I may be flat wrong but there has to be some explanation and I would welcome others' opinions. Without the witty humor of a Borowitz or Jon Stewart, people may also resent being told how they are constantly duped into this perpetual war that makes them less and less safe. But hopefully, more people will wise up to this psychological manipulation.

Read the article and comments on Huff Post Here

Thursday, September 25, 2014

US drone strike kills as many as 10 in Pakistan


On September 24, 2014
Posted by http://rt.com/usa/190312-drone-strike-pakistan-waziristan/
A suspected US drone strike has killed as many as ten Uzbek and local alleged militants near the Afghan border in northwestern Pakistan, according to reports citing unnamed intelligence officials.
Four missiles were fired on a vehicle carrying the group of targeted suspects a mere 500 meters from the Afghan border in the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan, two Pakistani intelligence officials told AP. The tribal region in northwestern Pakistan is said to be a haven for Taliban and allied fighters.
 
While AP’s source claimed ten were killed in the strike, Reuters cited “intelligence officials” who said five to eight militants perished in the blast.According to AFP, eight suspected fighters died.
“There are two Uzbeks among the dead militants identified so far,” AFP reported, quoting a senior security official, who added that the vehicle was near a compound when missiles rained down around 3:30 a.m. local time. Reuters sources also reported two foreigners were killed in the attack.
 
On June 15, the Pakistani Army launched an offensive, known as Zarb-i-Azb, against insurgents in the tribal area. Since then, the military claims to have killed more than 1,000 militants, including a senior commander. Yet the Pakistani government has not offered any proof; no photographs or names have been provided to the media. The area is largely off limits to journalists, and was so even before the Army’s offensive.
 
Pakistan’s Foreign Office condemned the latest strike, according to a statement. A spokesperson said “with the decisive action being taken against terrorist elements in North Waziristan, there is no need for such strikes.” “We, therefore, urge US for a cessation of such strikes,” the spokesperson added.
 
In the past decade, the United States has conducted 391 unmanned-drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimates that 2,352 to 3,802 people - both alleged militants and civilians - have been killed in those attacks.
 
The US curbed the strikes for the first six months of the year as Pakistan tried to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban insurgents. Yet the deal failed to materialize, and drone strikes resumed a few days before the Pakistani Army’s offensive began. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism reported that since then, there have been at least seven US drone strikes in the region, not counting Wednesday’s attack. The latest strike is the first on Pakistani territory in more than a month.
 
The US does not officially acknowledge covert drone operations in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen, arousing contempt from those nations and others for alleged violations of national sovereignty and for dangerous legal and ethical precedents being made amid the dawn of robotic warfare.
 
On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council criticized targeted killings via unmanned drone strikes. It marked the first time the panel has formally discussed the issue of armed drones in violation of international human rights law and of the UN Charter. Representatives from 21 countries joined to voice opposition to US drone strikes around the world. The US, UK, and France were the only countries to withhold condemnation.
 
Unmanned drones have also been deployed in the US-led offensive against militant jihadist group Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL). Drones are accompanying more traditional fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor, F-15 Strike Eagles, and F-16s.  Syria has now become the seventh country US President Barack Obama has targeted with airstrikes.