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.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Democracy NOW! Interview with reporter and director of new film: DRONE

Democracy Now on Thursday April 17.

Former Drone Operators Reveal Air Force Plays Key Role in Secret CIA Assassination Campaign. 

A new documentary film reveals how a regular U.S. air force unit based in the Nevada desert is responsible for flying the CIA’s drone strike program in Pakistan. "Drone" identifies the unit conducting CIA strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, which is located on the Creech air force base, about 45 miles from Las Vegas. We are joined by the film’s director, Tonje Schei, and Chris Woods, an award-winning reporter who investigates drone warfare. Woods is featured in "Drone" and is working on a forthcoming book on U.S. drone warfare.

Guests
Chris Woods, Award-winning reporter who investigates drone warfare. He recently wrote an article for The Guardian called "CIA’s Pakistan drone strikes carried out by regular US air force personnel." Woods is featured in the new film "Drone" and is working on a forthcoming book called, "Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars."

Tonje Schei, Award-winning director and producer based in Norway. Her new documentary, "Drone," just aired this week on national television in Germany and France.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Atrocities in Afghanistan: A Troubling Timetable *Updated*

By Voices Co-coordinators
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Update**

Since April of 2009, Co-coordinators at Voices have maintained an Afghan Atrocities list by monitoring the news media and keeping track of instances where the US government or ISAF have admitted to killing civilians in Afghanistan. We are grateful to our student interns who converted this data into a visual format. We ask these questions: Why has ISAF consistently pursued a nationwide policy in Afghanistan which has led to increased civilian casualties and is likely to stir up further resistance and violence? Even as the Obama administration talks about withdrawing in 2014, is there is an unspoken interest in destabilizing the country to provide an excuse for a continued military, diplomatic and contractor presence?
Number of Afghans Killed by Year: data for 2014 is provisional 
Number of Afghans Killed by Year: data for 2014 is provisional

Our sources for the Afghan Atrocities Timetable have come only from mainstream news outlets or from instances where civilian casualties were admitted. The data does not address the hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s policy of counting all military aged men as insurgents unless they are posthumously proved innocent nor the likely cover-up of incidents that were never reported in the mainstream media. Furthermore, during the period included in the timetable, Gen. John Allen of the US Army admitted to ISAF having conducted as many as 2200 night raids within one year. Given the frequency of night raids and the lack of transparency involved in such operations, the number of civilian casualties may be much higher than the official figures. We also did not include statistics from human rights organizations about the number of prisoners who may have died while in ISAF custody at prisons such as the facility at Bagram Air Force Base.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Delays in Effort to Refocus C.I.A. From Drone War


WASHINGTON — In the skies above Yemen, the Pentagon’s armed drones have stopped flying, a result of the ban on American military drone strikes imposed by the government there after a number of botched operations in recent years killed Yemeni civilians. But the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone war in Yemen continues. 

In Pakistan, the C.I.A. remains in charge of drone operations, and may continue to be long after American troops have left Afghanistan

And in Jordan, it is the C.I.A. rather than the Pentagon that is running a program to arm and train Syrian rebels — a concession to the Jordanian government, which will not allow an overt military presence in the country. 
Just over a year ago John O. Brennan, the C.I.A.’s newly nominated director, said at his confirmation hearing that it was time to refocus an agency that had become largely a paramilitary organization after the Sept. 11 attacks toward more traditional roles carrying out espionage, intelligence collection and analysis. And in a speech last May in which he sought to redefine American policy toward terrorism, President Obama expanded on that theme, announcing new procedures for drone operations, which White House officials said would gradually become the responsibility of the Pentagon.

John O. Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., took questions after addressing the Council on Foreign Relations last month.
Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
But change has come slowly to the C.I.A. 

“Some might want to get the C.I.A. out of the killing business, but that’s not happening anytime soon,” said Michael A. Sheehan, who until last year was the senior Pentagon official in charge of special operations and now holds the distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center

A number of factors — including bureaucratic turf fights, congressional pressure and the demands of foreign governments — have contributed to this delay. At the same time, Mr. Brennan is facing a reckoning for other aspects of the C.I.A.’s role at the forefront of the secret wars the United States has waged since 2001. 

The declassification of a scathing report by the Senate Intelligence Committee about the agency’s detention and interrogation program will once again cast a harsh light on a period of C.I.A. history Mr. Brennan has publicly disavowed. The Justice Department has been drawn into a dispute between the agency and the committee, and is looking into a charge by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s chairwoman, that the agency broke the law by monitoring computers of committee staff working on the report. 

Before taking charge of the C.I.A. last March, Mr. Brennan had spent four years as Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, a job that put him in charge of the targeted killing operations that became a signature of the Obama administration’s approach to terrorism. It also made Mr. Brennan — who before working for Mr. Obama had spent 25 years at the C.I.A. — a powerful influence on a president with no experience in intelligence. 

American officials said that in that role Mr. Brennan repeatedly cautioned Mr. Obama that the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism mission threatened to attenuate the agency’s other activities, most notably those of penetrating foreign governments and analyzing global trends. During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Brennan obliquely criticized the performance of American spy agencies in providing intelligence and analysis of the Arab revolutions that began in 2009, and said the C.I.A. needed to cede some of its paramilitary role to the Pentagon. 

“The C.I.A. should not be doing traditional military activities and operations,” he said.


Continue reading the main story

 

Related Coverage
Judge Dismisses Suit Against Administration Officials Over Drone Strikes


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lawmakers Ask Obama for a Tally of People Killed by Drones

ZoĆ« Carpenter on April 2, 2014  in The Nation 


While questions about transparency have of late focused on the government’s surveillance programs, some members of Congress would like to direct some of that scrutiny towards another aspect of the national security state: the targeted killing program.

On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff and Republican Walter Jones introduced a bill that would compel the Obama administration to report annually how many people are killed or injured in US drone strikes—and, critically, to make a clearer distinction between combatants and civilians.

How many people the US is killing via drones, and who those people are, has been difficult to determine because of official secrecy. Last year, facing criticism for a lack of transparency and accountability, President Obama announced new guidelines for strikes designed to minimize casualties. The question the reporting requirements seek to answer is whether the government really is “meeting the standard that we’ve set of not striking unless to a near certainty we’re sure that there are going to be no civilian casualties,” Schiff told The Nation.

Administration officials and lawmakers sympathetic to the intelligence agencies have argued that drone strikes result in a low number of civilian casualties— “typically…in the single digits,” Dianne Feinstein claimed in 2013. It’s fair to ask whether we can really draw a meaningful line between nine dead innocents and ten. There’s also evidence that the administration has crafted a definition of civilian so as to artificially lower the casualty count. Reportedly, the administration considers all adult males within the strike zone as combatants—effectively, assuming guilt by location.

“It’s important that we understand how the administration will be defining ‘combatants’ to be able to evaluate the numbers that we ultimately get,” Schiff said. Are we defining combatants in a way that we clearly know who they are, that they’re fighting against us? Or do we have a more amorphous definition where it’s difficult to tell?”

The requirement would cover all strikes outside “theatres of conflict,” which at the moment refers only to Afghanistan. Schiff emphasized that the public report would not provide any information that would be damaging to national security and thus worthy of classification; it would be a bulk annual tally, with no information about particular strikes, their location or the department involved.

Significantly, the legislation compels the administration to provide a count for the deaths and injuries from drone strikes dating back to 2008. That would open the door for critical evaluation of claims made by officials and lawmakers like Feinstein about the number of civilians killed.

A coalition of human rights organizations including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights hailed the bill as a “modest yet crucial step toward ending excessive secrecy about US drone strikes.” Their statement went further in probing the civilian-military distinction, arguing that pre-emptive, targeted killing in the absence of a direct threat is unlawful regardless of how one defines militant. “Outside the narrow and exceptional circumstances of armed conflict, where international human rights law applies, the United States can only target an individual if he poses an imminent threat to life and lethal force is the last resort. For this and other reasons, we do not necessarily agree that the terms ‘combatant’ and ‘civilian’ apply,” reads the statement.

Schiff said the greatest challenge is getting the bill out of the House intelligence committee, which last year rejected a similar measure, rather than passing it through the full chamber. Still, he judged it “likely” that a coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans similar to the one that drove congressional opposition to the NSA’s surveillance programs will unite to call for transparency in the drone program.

“We’re taking a very small step here because even small steps, in this area, are difficult,” Schiff said. He was clear, however, about its implications. “It’s a way of building support for, ultimately, a change in policy.” Reporting the dead as a statistic may be only a first step, but it’s a necessary one on the way to a conversation about the very real people killed in our name.

Article in The NATION

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Drones Abroad and at Home: Why We Should Care

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:55 By Ed Kinane, SpeakOut | Op-Ed  in Truthout

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
- C. Little

Chicken Little got it wrong. The sky isn't exactly falling, but it does pose lethal threats. Those threats are near and long term, domestic and international. They entail surveillance and terror.

Weaponized unmanned drone aircraft – the Predator, the Reaper, the Global Hawk - have no crew on board. Hence no head, no heart. These drones are amoral robots exquisitely designed to spy and to kill, to maim and to demolish. Out of the blue, their 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles strike like lightning bolts.

Stateside technicians piloting them see their human targets as through a soda straw. Their computer screen vision is severely constricted. Their cultural understanding is distorted by American exceptionalism and prevailing Islamophobia.

Further, the pilots' moral vision tends to be compartmentalized. How could it be otherwise? Military training features "killing and blowing up things." Recruits are dehumanized, the better to dehumanize the "enemy." They are programmed to follow orders without question. Extensions of the drones, they too become robotized.

In their illegality, their immorality and their inhumanity, these death squads play the devil. In executing non-combatants without judge or jury - without due process - these vigilantes and their chain of command play God.

Why should we care?

Out of self-interest – whether narrowly or broadly defined. Drone technology - cheaper and more nimble than jet aircraft or nuclear weaponry - rapidly evolves and proliferates.

Currently, the US and Israel are on the very cutting edge of drone design and deployment. For fear of being arms race losers, dozens of other nations are also acquiring drone technology. Some use drones to intimidate domestic dissent or to suppress tribal minorities.

Drones become dark angels exacting revenge. Not all nations look fondly upon the US and its "interests." Given the resentment generated by promiscuous drone strikes, this hostility and dread triggers blowback. The world is not made safer.

Drone strikes are classified, anonymous. Often, they defy investigation. Often, the victims can be neither named nor counted. But we know drone strikes occur in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, as well as in Muslim areas of Africa and the Philippines. And who knows where else.

Thanks to the US nuclear arsenal, the leaders of every nation have long been forced to defer to the US. Now, in the face of the US drone fleet, they must doubly do so. Opposing the world's most militarized nation - one that claims the obscene privilege to assassinate whenever and wherever it chooses - is imprudent.

Chickens come home to roost. Will we be next? Drone targets won't always be the poor, the defenseless, the non-Judeo-Christian. Nor will the targets always be "them" or "over there."
With billions in contracts and research grants, the US drone industry is burgeoning...and busy lobbying. The FAA is mandated to expedite domestic drone use. Conveniently, much of the US population think drones are "cool" and "save lives."

Thanks to pro-drone mainstream media hype, the public is already de-sensitized to extrajudicial execution. Opting for a delusional security, they tolerate, even welcome, creeping surveillance at home. Think NSA.

Police and intelligence agencies drool at the prospect of using these toys - initially unweaponized - here. Whether we trust the President and his advisors, whether we embrace the Pentagon and Homeland Security agenda, must we keep ceding unaccountable power to them?

This article is a Truthout original. 


Ed Kinane works with Upstate Drone Action to expose and indict US Reaper drone attacks. Many such attacks originate from the 174th Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse. Check upstatedroneaction.org or reach Ed at edkinane@verizon.net.

 

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Armed Drones Becoming the Norm? At the Crossroads of Robotic Warfare
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By Medea Benjamin, OtherWords | Op-Ed

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

UN report identifies 30 drone strikes that require ‘public explanation’

A UN counter-terrorism expert has published the second report of his year-long investigation into drone strikes, highlighting 30 strikes where civilians are reported to have been killed.

The report, by British lawyer Ben Emmerson QC, identifies 30 attacks between 2006 and 2013 that show sufficient indications of civilian deaths to demand a ‘public explanation of the circumstances and the justification for the use of deadly force’ under international law.

Emmerson analysed 37 strikes carried out by the US, UK and Israel in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza, to arrive at a ‘sample’ of strikes that he believes those nations have a legal duty to explain.

Britain and the US conduct strikes as part of the armed conflict in Afghanistan, and the US also conducts covert strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Although Israel has never officially acknowledged using armed drones, Emmerson met with Israeli officials in the course of preparing his report and lists seven attacks in Gaza among those requiring investigation.

This report expands on an argument for the legal obligation for states to investigate and account for credible claims of civilian casualties, which Emmerson first laid out in his previous report, presented to the UN General Assembly in October.

He writes: ‘in any case in which there have been, or appear to have been, civilian casualties that were not anticipated when the attack was planned, the State responsible is under an obligation to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailed public explanation of the results.’

A February 2010 attack in Afghanistan serves as a ‘benchmark’ of the kind of disclosure that should follow claims of civilian casualties.

After a US drone attack on a convoy of trucks reportedly killed up to 23 civilians, the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which runs international operations in Afghanistan, partially declassified the findings of its internal investigation. Emmerson writes that this report strongly criticised the crew’s actions and revealed ‘a propensity to “kinetic activity” [lethal action]‘.
This level of transparency is rare.

The most recent incident featured in Emmerson’s report is a December 2013 attack that hit a wedding procession near Rada’a in Yemen, killing at least 12. Multiple sources have identified numerous civilian casualties among the dead, including a Human Rights Watch investigation published last week.

Three unnamed US officials told Associated Press after the publication of Human Rights Watch’s report that an internal investigation had found only alleged militants were killed – but no results of this investigation have yet been officially released.

Continue article here. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

US Drone Strike Kills US-Backed Afghan Soldiers

 At least five reported killed and many injured as "precision" weapon obliterates allies on the ground - Jon Queally, staff writer

Published on Thursday, March 6, 2014 by Common Dreams

At least five Afghan National Army soldiers in Logar Province are dead and many others injured on Thursday after a U.S. drone bombed a former NATO-run military outpost in Afghanistan.

The latest incident of mistaken targeting by a U.S. drone—which the military and Obama administration call a "precision" weapon—is sure to further outrage ordinary Afghans as well as President Hamid Karzai who has repeatedly, and with increasing anger, criticized bother NATO and U.S. forces for their disregard of Afghan lives while operating within the country.

“We believe the strike was the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone,” said Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the governor of Logar Province, which is in the east of Afghanistan.

“The area is frequented by insurgents both foreign and local, and drone strikes are carried out quite often in that part of Charkh,” Darwish continued. “The A.N.A. outpost was part of the security belt in the province.”

According to Agence France-Presse:

Khalilullah Kamal, the Charkh district governor, told AFP he had visited the site of the attack, which he said was from a US drone.

‘‘The post is totally destroyed,’’ he said.

‘‘The Americans used to be in that post but since they left, the ANA [Afghan national army] took over. The post is on a hilltop. The attack was conducted by drones.’’
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) issued a statement following the bombing which confirmed that at least five Afghan soldiers had been killed.

"An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident,’’ read the statement. ‘‘Our condolences go out to the families of the ANA soldiers who lost their lives and were wounded ... we will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again.’’

The New York Times adds: "While no hard data is available, the American military has apparently been using drones in Afghanistan with increasing frequency after strict controls were imposed on airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties, as well as complaints by the Afghan military that they were not getting adequate air support for their operations."