You are hereDrones
By Jack Balkwill
How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?
Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?
― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land
FOUR HANCOCK ANTI-DRONE ACTIVISTS GUILTY OF TRESPASS, BUT ACQUITTED OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT AND OF OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION (OGA), A MISDEMEANOR. SENTENCING WILL BE IN THE DE WITT (NY) TOWN COURT 6:30 P.M. JULY 8.
This afternoon (6/27), after deliberating a couple hours, a six-person jury found the four not guilty of obstructing government administration (OGA) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, New York, but guilty of trespass, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day imprisonment.
Today was the last day of the four-day trial presided over by Judge Joseph Zavaglia, a corporate attorney. The four were represented by Atty. Lew Oliver of Albany. They were among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock’s main gate on East Molloy Rd on April 28, 2013 for “dieing-in” with bloody shrouds or for attempting to read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to “prick the conscience” of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.
A low point in the trial came when Judge Zavaglia did not permit Pardiss Kebraiaei, a national security and international law expert, to testify. Kebraiaei, who has testified before Congress, had come that morning from NYC where she’s an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Since 2010 Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010 Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations.
June 25, 2015, DeWitt, NY: Four concerned citizens are on trial before Judge Joseph Zavaglia in the DeWitt Town Court for their action at Hancock Drone Base, a suburb of Syracuse, NY, on April 28, 2013. The four are Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, NJ, Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, MD, Beverly Rice, and Joan Pleune of NYC.
Jury selection was yesterday. The jury of six and two alternates, were chosen from the Town of DeWitt. One of the jurors said he thinks Edward Snowden should be executed and that weaponized drones are good.
The Assistant District Attorney, Peter Hakes started his case today, with only one witness taking the stand. After a full day of questioning of the witness, Chief Master Sergeant Ramsey, the prosecution rested their case.
The four defendants are facing four charges, Obstruction of Governmental Administration, Trespass, and two Disorderly Conducts. If found guilty the activists could be sentenced to a year.
On April 28, 2013, 31 people were arrested as they tried to bring to the base an image of what a drone strike could look like. The defendants participated in the action.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the Wars along with colleague organizations Veterans For Peace and the Granny Peace Brigade to which the defendants belong, believe the killing is immoral and illegal, violating the United Nations Charter, and international treaty laws which under Article 6 of the US Constitution are part of the supreme law of the United States and supersede local and Federal law.
Since 2010 anti-drone activists have experienced nearly 200 arrests and numerous jail sentences at Hancock for scrupulously-nonviolent protests, as part of a national campaign to resist drones at a number of bases.
The trial will continue with the defense starting it’s case on Friday morning. Please come support the defendants.
Four Defendants Go On Trial 24 June at DeWitt, NY Town Court for Opposing Reaper Drone War Crimes at Hancock Air Base
At 9am, Wednesday 24 June, 2015, Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, MD, Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, NJ, Joan Pleune and Beverly Rice of New York City, defended by Attorney Lewis B. Oliver of Albany, NY, will begin trial before a six-person jury in the DeWitt, NY Town Court of Judge Zavaglia, charged with 2 counts of disorderly conduct, one count of trespass, and one count of obstructing government administration.
Over 2 years ago, on 28 April, 2013, the four were arrested with 27 others for allegedly blocking the driveway leading to the main gate of the Hancock Reaper drone base on East Molloy Rd, town of DeWitt.
The arrestees that day are members and colleagues of Upstate Drone Action, a grass-roots group which calls public attention to the killing and terrorizing of Afghan civilians by Hancock's 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, and urges drone operators to examine their consciences.
Upstate Drone Action, along with colleague organizations Veterans For Peace and the Granny Peace Brigade to which the defendants belong, believe the killing is immoral and illegal, violating the United Nations Charter, and international treaty laws which under Article 6 of the US Constitution are part of the supreme law of the United States and supersede local and Federal law.
Since 2010 anti-drone activists have experienced nearly 200 arrests and numerous jail sentences at Hancock for scrupulously-nonviolent protests, as part of a national campaign to resist drones at a number of bases.
For more information see upstatedroneaction.org
Letter Reinforces Call Made in National TV Ad Campaign
Hastings on Hudson, NY – An increasing number of United States military veterans are counseling United States military drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance/attack missions – the veterans are even helping sponsor prime time television commercials urging drone operators to "refuse to fly."
In a letter released today by KnowDrones.com, 44 former members of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines whose ranks range from private to colonel and whose military service spans 60 years, “urge United States drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/ assassination missions. These missions profoundly violate domestic and international laws intended to protect individuals’ rights to life, privacy and due process.”
On Monday, June 15th 2015, a group of Left MP´s from the Deutscher Bundestag (German Parliament), supported by local peace activists, will try to gain entrance to the US Air Force Base in Ramstein in order to fulfill their parliamentary responsibilities and to make their own evaluation of the operations on the US Air Force Base.
The action will focus on the use of killer-drones. Located on Ramstein Air Force Base is the central relay station that connects US drone pilots in Nevada with drones in targetted areas such as Pakistan or Yemen. According to Sahra Wagenknecht, Vice President of the Left Party group in the German Parliament: “The murders by US drones are contrary to international law and infringe upon right to life that is guaranteed under human rights law. The thousands of killings via drones are like the enforcement of thousands of death sentences without a court order.”
There has been much talk of late about the courage of Caitlyn Jenner. A recent Vanity Fair cover showed the transformation of former 65-year-old Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn, an attractive woman who appears to be in her thirties.
But let us look for a moment at the definition of courage. Merriam-Webster defines it thusly: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”
By John Grant
We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
- George Orwell
A Yemeni man, whose innocent nephew and brother-in-law were killed in an August 2012 U.S. drone strike, has today filed a lawsuit in his ongoing quest for an official apology over his relatives’ deaths.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, who filed suit today in Washington D.C., lost his brother-in-law Salem and his nephew Waleed in the strike. Salem was an anti-al Qaeda imam who is survived by a widow and seven young children. Waleed was a 26 year old police officer with a wife and infant child of his own. Salem had given a sermon preaching against extremism just days before he and Waleed were killed.
The lawsuit requests that the D.C. District Court issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful, but does not ask for monetary compensation. Faisal is jointly represented by Reprieve and pro bono counsel at law firm McKool Smith.
Leaked intelligence - reported in The Intercept - indicates that U.S. officials knew they had killed civilians shortly after the strike. In July 2014 Faisal’s family were offered a bag containing $100,000 in sequentially-marked US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
Originally published at Truthout.org
This open letter, addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and signed by 21 leading US peace activists and 21 US peace organizations, was prompted by an important court case that was brought against the German government by the Yemeni survivors of a US drone strike.
The case brought by the Yemeni plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences. The Yemeni survivors request that the German government intervene by shutting down the Satellite Relay Station at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, so as to protect Yemenis from further US drone strikes. As was recently reported by The Intercept and by the German news magazine Spiegel, the Satellite Relay Station at Ramstein is essential for all US drone strikes in the Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia. Under German law, extrajudicial killings are deemed to be murders.
The NGOs Reprieve, based in the United Kingdom, and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), based in Germany, provided legal representation for the plaintiffs. The case was heard on May 27 in an administrative court in Cologne, Germany.
Activists in the US and in Germany held vigils and other protest event days in solidarity with the Yemeni survivors who brought the case. On May 26, the open letter was presented by delegations of US citizens to the German Embassy in Washington DC, and to the German Consulate in New York. On May 27, a delegation of German citizens presented the open letter to a representative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office in Berlin. The US and German activists will also forward the letter to members of the German Parliament (Bundestag).
The open letter was authored by Elsa Rassbach, Judith Bello, Ray McGovern and Nick Mottern.
Dear Chancellor Merkel:
On May 27th a German court in Cologne will hear evidence from Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Yemen who lost two relatives to a 2012 U.S. drone strike. This is the first time that a court in a country providing significant military/technical support for the U.S. drone program has permitted such a case to be heard.
U.S. drone strikes have killed or maimed tens of thousands in many countries with which the U.S. is not officially at war. The vast majority of drone-strike victims have been innocent bystanders, including large numbers of children. One respected study found that for every target or known combatant killed, 28 “unknown persons” were also killed. Because the victims were/are not U.S. citizens, their families do not have standing to initiate legal action in U.S. courts. Shamefully, the families of these victims have had no legal recourse whatsoever.
Thus the case of Mr. bin Ali Jaber, representing his family in a German court, is of great interest to many who have long been dismayed at the U.S. government’s violations of human rights and international law in the so-called "war on terror." Reportedly, Mr. bin Ali Jaber will argue that the German Government has violated the German Constitution by allowing the U.S. to use Ramstein Air Base in Germany for extrajudicial “targeted” killings in Yemen. He is expected to request that the German government “take legal and political responsibility for the U.S. drone war in Yemen” and “forbid use of the Satellite Relay Station in Ramstein.”
Credible evidence has already been widely published indicating that the U.S. Satellite Relay Station in Ramstein plays an essential role in ALL U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia. The killings and maiming resulting from missiles fired from U.S. drones would not be possible without the cooperation of the German government in enabling the U.S. to use Ramstein Air Base for the illegal drone wars -- a military base which, we respectfully suggest, is an anachronism a full seventy years after the liberation of Germany and Europe from the Nazis.
Irrespective of the ultimate outcome in court of Mr. bin Ali Jaber’s case, which possibly could continue for years, now is the time for Germany to take effective measures to stop the U.S. from using Ramstein Air Base for combat drone missions.
The reality is this: The military base in Ramstein is under the legal jurisdiction of the Federal The reality The reality is this: The military base in Ramstein is under the legal jurisdiction of the Federal Government of Germany, even though the U.S. Air Force has been allowed to use the base. If illegal activities such as extrajudicial killings are conducted from Ramstein or other U.S. bases in Germany -- and if U.S. authorities do not desist from these legal offenses then we respectfully suggest that you and your government have a duty under international law to act. This is clearly expressed in the Nuremberg Trials Federal Rules Decisions of 1946-47 (6 F.R.D.60), which were adopted into US law. Accordingly, every individual participating in the enactment of a war crime is responsible for that crime, including businessmen, politicians and others who enable the criminal act.
In 1991 the reunited Federal Republic of Germany was granted “complete sovereignty at home and abroad” via the Two-plus-Four-Treaty. The Treaty emphasizes that “there shall be only peaceful activities from German territory” as does Article 26 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, which states that the acts undertaken to prepare for a war of aggression are deemed "unconstitutional" and "a criminal offense." Many in the U.S. and around the world hope that the German people and their government will provide much-needed leadership in the world on behalf of peace and of human rights.
The German Government often states that it has no knowledge of the activities being conducted at Ramstein Air Base or other U.S. bases in Germany. We respectfully submit that if this is the case, you and the German Government may have a duty to require the needed transparency and accountability from the U.S. military and intelligence agencies in Germany. If the present Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Germany precludes the transparency and accountability that the German Government needs in order to enforce German and international law, then the German Government must request that the U.S. make appropriate modifications in the SOFA. As you know, Germany and the U.S. each have the right to unilaterally terminate the SOFA upon giving two years' notice. Many in the U.S. would not oppose but would indeed welcome a renegotiation of the SOFA between the U.S. and Germany if this should be required to restore the rule of law.
The end of hostilities in 1945 seventy years ago saw the world faced with the task of restoring and advancing the international rule of law. This led to efforts to define and punish war crimes -- major efforts like the Nuremberg Tribunal and the formation of the United Nations, which in 1948 proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While Germany has sought to adhere to the principles of the Declaration, the U.S. increasingly in recent years ignored these principles. In addition, the U.S. seeks to draw NATO and other allies into complicity in violating these principles.
The U.S. began the drone program in secrecy in 2001 and did not reveal it to the American people or to most of their representatives in Congress; the drone program was first discovered and revealed by U.S. peace activists in 2008. The British people were also not informed when the United Kingdom in 2007 obtained killer drones from the U.S. And only recently have the German people been informed, through courageous reporting by independent journalists and whistleblowers, of the key role of Ramstein in the illegal U.S. drone program.
Now aware of the role Ramstein in undermining human rights and international law, many German citizens are calling upon you and the German government to enforce the rule of law in Germany, including on the U.S. bases. And because of the indispensable role of Ramstein for all the U.S. drones strikes, the government of Germany now holds in its hands the power to actually stop the illegal U.S. drone killings altogether.
If the German Government were to take decisive action in this matter, Germany would surely find support among nations of the world, including the nations of Europe. The European Parliament in its Resolution on the Use of Armed Drones, which was adopted by a landslide vote of 534 to 49 on February 27, 2014, urged its Member States to “oppose and ban the practice of extrajudicial killings” and “not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states.” The European Parliament Resolution further declares that Member States must “commit to ensuring that, where there are reasonable grounds for believing that an individual or entity within their jurisdiction may be connected to an unlawful targeted killing abroad, measures are taken in accordance with their domestic and legal obligations.”
Extrajudicial killing - the killing of 'suspects' - is in fact also a grievous violation of the U.S. Constitution. And the U.S. initiation and prosecution of killings and wars in sovereign countries that do not threaten the U.S. mainland violate international treaties the U.S. has signed and Congress has ratified, including the United Nations Charter.
Tens of thousands of Americans have struggled in vain for years to expose and end the U.S. drone program and other U.S. war crimes that have quite predictably led to increasing hatred for the U.S. and its allies among the targeted and terrorized populations. Like the incarceration without due process at Guantanamo, drone warfare has clearly undermined the post-WWII international law upon which we all rely.
We hope that major U.S. allies - and particularly Germany, because of the indispensable role it plays - will take firm action to end extrajudicial drone killings. We implore you to take all steps necessary to put a stop to all activities in Germany that support drone warfare and killings by the U.S. government.
Carol Baum, Co-Founder of Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, Syracuse Peace Council
Judy Bello, Co-Founder of Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, United National Antiwar Coalition
Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder of CodePink
Jacqueline Cabasso, National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice
Leah Bolger, Former President of National Veterans for Peace
David Hartsough, PeaceWorkers, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Robin Hensel, Little Falls OCCU-PIE
Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Malachy Kilbride, National Coalition for Nonviolent Resistance
Marilyn Levin, Co-Founder of United National Antiwar Coalition, United for Justice with Peace
Mickie Lynn, Women Against War
Ray McGovern, Retired CIA Analyst, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Nick Mottern, KnowDrones
Gael Murphy, CodePink
Elsa Rassbach, CodePink, United National Antiwar Coalition
Alyssa Rohricht, Graduate Student in International Relations
Coleen Rowley, Retired FBI Agent, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
David Swanson, World Beyond War, War is a Crime
Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait
Brian Terrell, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Missouri Catholic Worker
Colonel Ann Wright, Retired Military Officer and Diplomatic Attaché, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink
Brandywine Peace Community, Philadelphia, PA
CodePink Women for Peace
Ithaca Catholic Worker, Ithaca, NY
Little Falls OCC-U-PIE, WI
National Coalition for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR)
Peace Action and Education, Rochester, NY
Syracuse Peace Council, Syracuse, NY
United For Justice with Peace, Boston, MA
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
U.S. Foreign Policy Activist Cooperative, Washington DC
Upstate (NY) Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 27
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
War Is A Crime
Watertown Citizens for Peace Justice and the Environment, Watertown, MA
Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Women Against Military Madness, Minneapolis, MN
Women Against War, Albany, NY
World Beyond War
World Can’t Wait
The Yemeni plaintiffs did not prevail on May 27, nor was it anticipated that they would prevail in such an important matter in a lower court in Germany. Nevertheless, the Court's decision in the case set some important legal precedents:
a) The Court ruled that the Yemeni survivors, who are not German citizens, have standing to sue the German government in the German courts. This is the first known time that a NATO country that has granted drone survivors or victims who are not citizens of their country such standing in court.
b) The Court stated in its decision that the media reports regarding the essential role of Ramstein in the US drone killings are "plausible," the first time that this has been officially acknowledged by authorities Germany.
But the Court held that it is in the discretion of the German government to decide what steps must be taken to protect the people of Yemen from the danger of being killed by drones with essential assistance from Ramstein Air Base. In addition, the Court mentioned that the present Status of Forces Agreement (SOSA) between the US and Germany may at this time prohibit the German government from closing the Satellite Relay Station in the Ramstein base. The plaintiffs argued that the SOSA could be renegotiated or even cancelled by the German government.
In an unusual step, the Court immediately granted the plaintiffs the right to appeal. ECCHR and Reprieve will appeal on behalf of the Yemeni plaintiffs as soon as the full written decision of the court in Cologne is available.
WATCH: Attorneys with the human rights organizations representing the bin Ali Jaber family of Yemen in their lawsuit against the German government discuss the court hearing on May 27 in Cologne, Germany.
Elsa Rassbach interviews Kat Craig, the Legal Director of Reprieve:
Elsa Rassbach interviews Andreas Schüller of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights:
This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.
Elsa Rassbach is US citizen, filmmaker and journalist, who often lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She heads the "GIs & US Bases" working group in DFG-VK (the German affiliate of War Resisters International, WRI) and is active in Code Pink, No to NATO, and the anti-drone campaign in Germany. Her film short We Were Soldiers in the 'War on Terror' has just been released in the U.S., and The Killing Floor, her award-winning film set in the Chicago Stockyards, will be re-released next year.
Judith Bello serves on the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, Rochester, NY.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publication arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served at CIA from the administrations of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush, and was one of five CIA “alumni” who created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003.
Nick Mottern is a reporter and director of Consumers for Peace.org, who has been active in anti-war organizing and has worked for Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Bread for the World, the former US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs and The Providence (RI) Journal - Bulletin.
By Buddy Bell, Voices For Creative Nonviolence
A new survey just released by the Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org) found that respondents have become much more likely to voice their disapproval over the U.S. drone assassination program. In a phone survey conducted from May 12-18, 2015, Pew found that 35 of every 100 respondents said they disapproved “of the United States conducting [drone strikes] to target extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” The complete report of Pew’s methodology indicates that the last time they asked this particular question was from February 7-10, 2013. In that survey, only 26 of every 100 respondents disapproved, so in the span of two years the disapproval rate shot up by 9 points, constituting a 34% increase.
A terrifying group of four miscreants descended upon the German Embassy on Tuesday, demanding all number of ludicrous things and terrorizing embassy staff with their homemade cardboard signs and left-wing propaganda. The four hippie commies who smugly arrived by bike and on foot, stood outside of the embassy gates, menacingly waving at passersby and occasionally sitting in the shade to escape the hot D.C. sun. Rightly, the rowdy bunch was immediately met by an Embassy security guard and questioned and eventually told, “Fine, you can stay here, but don’t cause any trouble.”
When the group of delinquents asked to speak with someone in the Embassy for a number of minutes and deliver a petition, they were told that everyone had left for the day – at 3pm – and that no one was available inside to hear them. “You should make an appointment,” another security guard told the group, yet the hoodlums argued that requests for appointments via phone and email the week prior were rejected. And strangely, even though everyone had left work at the embassy for the day, many BMWs and all kinds of fancy convertibles were seen leaving the embassy gates in the hours that followed. Since everyone from the embassy had already left, these BMW-driving folk must have just constituted the apparently well-paid janitorial staff.
Yemeni man granted permission to continue case against German government over role in US drone strikes
A German court has granted ‘immediate permission to appeal’ to a Yemeni man in his case seeking to expose and put an end to the German government’s role in the U.S. covert drone programme in Yemen.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a who had two relatives killed in a 2012 drone strike, had his evidence heard in a Cologne court today. Mr bin Ali Jaber - represented by international human rights charity Reprieve and its local partner the European Center for Human Rights (ECCHR) brought the case against Germany, following revelations that Ramstein air base is crucial to facilitating American covert drone strikes in Yemen.
By Brian Terrell
When President Barack Obama apologized on April 23 to the families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an American and an Italian, both hostages killed in a drone attack in Pakistan in January, he blamed their tragic deaths on the “fog of war.”
“This operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region,” he said, and based on “hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this (the building targeted and destroyed by drone launched missiles) was an al Qaeda compound; that no civilians were present.” Even with the best of intentions and most stringent of safeguards, the president said, “it is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes -- sometimes deadly mistakes -- can occur.”
I sometimes read that drone strikes are counterproductive to western security interests because each person killed by a drone results in more new ‘terrorists’. See, for example, ‘The more civilians US drones kill in the Mideast, the more radicals they create’.
NEW YORK – A vigil imploring the German government to order the immediate closure of the United States drone satellite relay station at Ramstein Air Base will be held at 11:30 am, Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at the German Consulate, 871 U.N. Plaza.
The Ramstein relay station, according to an April 17, 2015 article in The Intercept, is essential to U.S. drone attacks because it “enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries.”
The vigil will mark the opening of a court case in Cologne, Germany on May 27, 2015 on behalf of Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Yemen who lost his brother-in-law and a nephew to a U.S. drone attack in 2012. His suit seeks to force the German government act to close the Ramstein relay station under a provision of German law that allows people to seek redress if they have suffered harm from activities generated on German soil, in this case drone execution without due process.
“This is an extremely important case not only because it has the potential for stopping U.S. drone attacks but because it may expose much about the U.S. drone program that has been kept secret from the American public and the world,” said Nick Mottern, Director of KnowDrones.com
The vigil will include music by the Raging Grannies singing group and display of a large model of the MQ-9 Reaper, the world’s most numerous and deadly drone. The event is being organized by: KnowDrones.com, the Granny Peace Brigade and World Can’t Wait.
From Know Drones:
On Sunday, May 17, from 2 – 3:30 pm there will be an anti-drone war rally at the entrance of Whiteman AFB in Knob Noster, MO. Cars will leave at 12:30 pm from 912 E. 31st Street, Kansas City, MO for the base. To carpool, call 913-206-4088.
Brian Terrell, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence (VCNV), will speak at the rally. He served 6 months in a federal prison camp for resistance at Whiteman AFB in 2012 after crossing a line on the entry road to protest remote control of killer drones from Whiteman and other bases.
Brian says, protesters plan to stay on the public right-of-way and will invite the base commander and officers “to join us to break bread and converse,” and that no civil resistance is planned. Last year Georgia Walker, of PeaceWorks-KC, and Kathy Kelly, of the Chicago-based VCNV, did civil resistance at Whiteman AFB. Georgia is on probation for a year, and Kathy served 3 months in a federal prison camp.
The rally is sponsored by PeaceWorks-KC, Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation and PeaceWorks-Mid-MO.
by Debra Sweet A few points on the U.S. drone war which will not surprise you, but should be in your arsenal of arguments for people who think drones are an acceptable form of mass murder:
40 years after Vietnam: Celebrating the End of One War, and Witnessing the Start of a New One Here at Home
By Dave Lindorff
It was 40 years ago today that the last troops from America’s criminal war against the people of Vietnam scurried ignominiously onto a helicopter on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and fled the country where US forces had killed some 3-4 million people in the name of “fighting Communism.”
Criminal investigation launched by Pakistan police into former CIA station chief's role in drone strike
The Islamabad Police today launched an official criminal investigation into the actions of former CIA station chief, Jonathan Banks, on charges of murder and conspiracy to kill, over his role in the US’ covert drone war in Pakistan.
The charges were first brought in 2010 by Kareem Khan, a resident of North Waziristan who lost his brother and son in a drone strike carried out by the CIA on December 31st 2009. Kareem lost his teenage son Zahinullah and brother Asif Iqbal who was a primary school teacher in Mirali, North Waziristan. Kareem Khan started his legal case against the CIA station chiefs in 2010 and has been pursuing the case ever since.
The investigation marks the first time any country has sought to hold individual CIA officers responsible for their roles in the US drone programme that has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan alone. It follows a four-year court battle and signals the government’s decision not to appeal the Islamabad High Court ruling three weeks ago instructing the Islamabad police and the Pakistan government to launch a formal investigation.
After opening the investigation today, the Islamabad police also moved to have the investigation transferred to the FATA Secretariat, which it says has jurisdiction over carrying out the investigation. Lawyers for Kareem Khan have announced they will file a motion next week before the Islamabad High Court to block that move.
Mirza Shahzad Akbar, Reprieve legal fellow and Khan’s lawyer, said: “Today’s decision marks a key turning point in Kareem Khan’s search for justice over the deaths of his brother and son. After four years of government attempts to block his case, Kareem may finally get the answers he deserves and the CIA may finally be held in some way accountable for the murders it has been carrying out on Pakistani soil. We’re disappointed, though, that the police have seen it necessary to transfer the legal case to FATA. There is no legal justification for such a transfer. The orders to strike Kareem’s family were given from the US Embassy in Islamabad and that’s where the investigation needs to be focused: on the CIA agents who sit behind embassy walls making life or death decisions as judge, jury and executioner. An investigation centered anywhere else is simply an attempt to subvert justice.”
Kareem Khan, said: “The launch of this investigation against those responsible for the deaths of my son and brother, and thousands of other civilian victims, supports our position that the CIA is committing acts of murder in Pakistan by killing innocent civilians with impunity. I am disappointed that the Islamabad police seem eager to transfer the case to FATA where there is no police and when the culprits sit here in Islamabad. Nevertheless I will continue my legal struggle against continued injustice and will approach the judiciary again to bring the case back to Islamabad where it should be investigated.”
By Nick Mottern
As the Obama government attempts to justify its drone program, Staff Sergeant Shane R. Owens, a drone sensor operator suffering from PTSD from having been involved with drone killing, assigned to the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech AFB, has been confined by the Air Force without charges since March 5 at nearby Nellis AFB in Nevada.
Please contact the following Air Force officials and demand that Owens be released and that the Air Force disclose all details of his case, including whether Owens was functioning as a drone sensor operator at the same time he was being treated for PTSD.
1. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James - Email http://www.af.mil/
Chris Woods' excellent new book is called Sudden Justice: America's Secret Drone Wars. The title comes from a claim that then-President George W. Bush made for drone wars. The book actually tells a story of gradual injustice. The path from a U.S. government that condemned as criminal the type of murder that drones are used for to one that treats such killings as perfectly legal and routine has been a very gradual and completely extra-legal process.
Drone murders started in October 2001 and, typically enough, the first strike murdered the wrong people. The blame game involved a struggle for control among the Air Force, CENTCOM, and the CIA. The absurdity of the struggle might be brought out by modifying the "Imagine you're a deer" speech in the movie My Cousin Vinny: Imagine you're an Iraqi. You're walking along, you get thirsty, you stop for a drink of cool clear water... BAM! A fuckin missile rips you to shreds. Your brains are hanging on a tree in little bloody pieces! Now I ask ya. Would you give a fuck which agency the son of a bitch who shot you was working for?
Yet much more attention has gone into which agency does what than into how best to pretend it's all legal. CIA team leaders began getting orders to kill rather than capture, and so they did. As of course did the Air Force and the Army. This was novel when it came to the murder of specific, named individuals as opposed to large numbers of unnamed enemies. According to Paul Pillar, deputy chief of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center in the late 1990s, "There was a sense that the White House did not want to put clearly on paper anything that would be seen as authorization to assassinate, but instead preferred more of a wink-and-nod to killing bin Laden."
In the early months of Bush-Cheney, the Air Force and CIA were each struggling to impose the drone murder program on the other. Neither wanted to end up in a heap of trouble for something so illegal. After September 11, Bush told Tenet the CIA could go ahead and murder people without asking for his permission each time. One model for this was Israel's targeted murder program, which the U.S. government denounced as illegal up until 9-11-2001. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was the lead author of an April 2001 U.S. government report that said Israel should cease and desist, and criticized its operation as failing to distinguish protests from terrorism.
How did the U.S. government get from there to a "Homeland Security Department" that trains local police to consider protesters to be terrorists? The answer is: gradually and fundamentally through a change in behavior and culture rather than through legislation or court ruling. By late 2002, the U.S. State Department was being questioned in a press conference as to why it condemned Israeli murders but not similar U.S. murders. Why the double standard? The State Department had no answer whatsoever, and simply stopped criticizing Israel. The U.S. government kept quiet for years, however, about the fact that some of the people it was murdering were U.S. citizens. The groundwork had not yet been prepared sufficiently for the public to swallow that.
Some three-quarters of U.S. drone strikes have been in supposed battlefields. As one weapon among many in an existing war, armed drones have been deemed legal by lawyers and human rights groups across the full spectrum of the tiny percentage of humanity whose governments are engaged in the drone murders -- plus the "United Nations" that serves those governments. What makes the wars legal is never explained, but this sleight of hand was a foot in the door for the acceptance of drone murders. It was only when the drones killed people in other countries where there was no war underway, that any lawyers -- including some of the 750 who've recently signed a petition in support of allowing Harold Koh (who justified drone murders for the State Department) to teach so-called human rights law at New York University -- saw any need to concoct justifications. The UN never authorized the wars on Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya, not that it actually could do so under the Kellogg Briand Pact, and yet the illegal wars were taken as legalizing the bulk of the drone murders. From there, just a little liberal sophistry could "legalize" the rest.
The United Nations Human Rights Council's Asma Jahangir declared non-war drone murders to be murder at the end of 2002. UN investigator (and law partner of Tony Blair's wife) Ben Emmerson noted that in the U.S. view, war could now travel around the world to wherever bad guys went, thus making drone murders anywhere only as illegal as other wars, the legality of which nobody gave a damn about. In fact, the CIA's view, as explained to Congress by CIA General Counsel Caroline Krass in 2013, was that treaties and customary international law could be violated at will, while only domestic U.S. law need be complied with. (And, of course, domestic U.S. laws against murder in the United States might resemble domestic Pakistani or Yemeni laws against murder in Pakistan or Yemen, but resemblance is not identity, and only the U.S. laws matter.)
The growing acceptance of drone murders among Western imperialist lawyers led to all the usual attempts to tweak the crime around the edges: proportionality, careful targeting, etc. But "proportionality" is always in the eye of the killer. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, along with various innocent people, when Stanley McChrystal declared it "proportionate" to blow up a whole house to murder one man. Was it? Was it not? There is no actual answer. Declaring murders "proportionate" is just rhetoric that lawyers have told politicians and generals to apply to human slaughter. In one drone strike in 2006, the CIA killed some 80 innocent people, most of them children. Ben Emmerson expressed mild displeasure. But the question of "proportionality" wasn't raised, because it wasn't helpful rhetoric in that case. During the occupation of Iraq, U.S. commanders could plan operations in which they expected to kill up to 30 innocent people, but if they expected 31 they needed to get Donald Rumsfeld to sign off on it. That's the sort of legal standard that drone murders fit into just fine, especially once any "military aged male" was redefined as an enemy. The CIA even counts innocent women and children as enemies, according to the New York Times.
As drone murders rapidly spread during the Bush-Cheney years (later to absolutely explode during the Obama years) the rank and file enjoyed sharing the videos around. Commanders tried to halt the practice. Then they began releasing select videos while keeping all the others strictly hidden.
As the practice of murdering people with drones in nations where mass-murder hadn't been somehow sanctioned by the banner of "war" became routine, human rights groups like Amnesty International began stating clearly that the United States was violating the law. But over the years, that clear language faded, replaced by doubt and uncertainty. Nowadays, human rights groups document numerous cases of drone murders of innocents and then declare them possibly illegal depending on whether or not they are part of a war, with the question of whether murders in a given country are part of a war having been opened up as a possibility, and with the answer resting at the discretion of the government launching the drones.
By the end of the Bush-Cheney years, the CIA's rules were supposedly changed from launching murderous drone strikes whenever they had a 90% chance of "success" to whenever they had a 50% chance. And how was this measured? It was in fact eliminated by the practice of "signature strikes" in which people are murdered without actually knowing who they are at all. Britain, for its part, cleared the way for murdering its citizens by stripping them of their citizenship as needed.
All of this went on in official secrecy, meaning it was known to anyone who cared to know, but it wasn't supposed to be talked about. The longest serving member of Germany's oversight committee admitted that Western governments were depending largely on the media to find out what their spies and militaries were doing.
The arrival of Captain Peace Prize in the White House took drone murders to a whole new level, destabilizing nations like Yemen, and targeting innocents in new ways, including by targeting the rescuers just arrived at the bloody scene of an earlier strike. Blow back against the U.S. picked up, as well as blow back against local populations by groups claiming to be acting in retaliation for U.S. drone murders. The damage drones did in places like Libya during the 2011 U.S.-NATO overthrow was not seen as a reason to step back, but as grounds for yet more drone killing. Growing chaos in Yemen, predicted by observers pointing to the counterproductive effects of the drones strikes, was claimed as a success by Obama. Drone pilots were now committing suicide and suffering moral stress in large numbers, but there was no turning back. A 90% majority in Yemen's National Dialogue wanted armed drones criminalized, but the U.S. State Department wanted the world's nations to buy drones too.
Rather than ending or scaling back the drone-murder program, the Obama White House began publicly defending it and advertising the President's role in authorizing the murders. Or at least that was the course after Harold Koh and gang figured out how exactly they wanted to pretend to "legalize" murder. Even Ben Emmerson says it took them so long because they hadn't yet figured out what excuses to use. Will the dozens of nations now acquiring armed drones need any excuse at all?
Andreas Schüller is an attorney on the staff of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He is the lead attorney on a suit being brought by ECCHR and Reprieve against the German government on behalf of three Yemeni survivors of a U.S. drone strike. The case will be heard May 27th in Cologne.
Their suit argues that it is illegal under German law for the German government to allow the U.S. air base at Ramstein to be used for drone murders abroad. The suit comes after the passage of a resolution in the European Parliament in February 2014 urging European nations to "oppose and ban the practice of extrajudicial targeted killings" and to "ensure that the Member States, in conformity with their legal obligations, do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states."
I've always thought of drone murders as illegal under the laws of the countries where the murders happen, as well as under the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. I asked Schüller: Is your suit seeking prosecution for murder where (or in one of the places where) the act is committed from a distance?
"The suit," he replied, "is based on constitutional rights in Germany and thus not seeking prosecution, but measures by the German administration to stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the U.S. in Yemen." The central claim, he said, is that the U.S. air base at Ramstein is involved in drone operations, by transmitting data from and to drones through a satellite relay station as well as transatlantic fiber cables. The suit seeks to stop use of the air base's air operations center for analysis of surveillance images sent by drones as part of combat drone missions.
How, I asked, does this differ from the recent indictment of a former CIA station chief in Pakistan?
"The Pakistani case," Schüller said, "deals with drone strikes in the country where they take place in massive numbers and with high numbers of killed civilians. It's about prosecuting individuals responsible for the strikes set up. Our suit concerns the preemptive protection of our clients that are living in an area with continuing drone operations as well as technical and targeting aspects in drone operations and state collaboration."
In the United States it's common for lawyers to claim that murder is legal if it's part of a war, and to defer to the warmakers to tell them if something is part of a war or not; does it matter in your case whether the act was part of a war?
"It is important to prove that the U.S. practice in conducting drone strikes is illegal in several aspects. On the one hand, strikes in Yemen are conducted outside an armed conflict and thus infringe the right to life without any justification. In line with a legal opinion by the German Federal Prosecutor's Office we don't consider the U.S. to be in a global armed conflict against Al-Qaida and associate forces. Even if there would be the case of an armed conflict, the targeting practice by the U.S. is too broad and includes a large number of targets that do not fall under the category of legitimate military targets in an armed conflict. Attacks against those targets are thus illegal, even in armed conflict."
Is Germany obliged by the European Parliament to end drone murders from its soil? (And does this apply to every EU member country?) And by the German Constitution?
"Politically, the European Parliament made a strong statement against the illegal and expanded use of drone strikes. All EU member states are also bound by laws, such as the European Convention of Human Rights, to respect and protect the right to life. A similar provision is part of the German constitution."
Briefly what is the story of the victims in your case?
"On August 29, 2012, five rockets fired by U.S. drones struck the village of Khashamir in eastern Yemen. The extended family of our clients had gathered in the village to celebrate a wedding. Two members of the family were killed in the strike. Other family members were left with ongoing trauma. The family members killed were outspoken critics of AQAP and active in countering their influence in the region through speeches and social activities."
What do you hope to prove?
"It's about the use of German territory for illegal drone operations and the need for European governments to take a stronger legal and political position against the continuing US practice."
What is the timing?
"The lawsuit has been filed in October 2014 with the administrative court in Cologne. In the end of May 2015 an oral hearing will take place. Further court session as well as rendering of a judgment are not foreseeable, as well as appeals procedures."
What could result if you succeed?
"The result could be that the German government must take a stronger position towards the U.S. government to stop the use of the U.S. airbase in Ramstein for drone operations, including activities to rebuild the relay station or the air operations center."
Any benefit for this movement that I just wrote about?
"In Europe, we need to form a transborder activists network addressing and opposing the use of European allies' soil for drone operations. So the German case will definitely be of interest for Italy and other countries in Europe."
What can people do to help?
"The ultimate political goal is to change the U.S. practice of drone strikes and to conduct them according to human rights standards. People must continue to put pressure on governments worldwide to take a clear position on the legal boundaries of drone strikes as well as the long-term consequences in international relations if such an illegal practice continues in many different places worldwide."
Well let's hope the ultimate goal is not murders by flying robots that meet "human rights standards" whatever in the world those might be! But let's help advance this effort to hold the German government to a higher standard than the abysmal one modeled by the United States.
A key witness in court will be former U.S. drone pilot Brandon Bryant. If you know of any other drone pilots willing to speak about what they've done, please let me know.
© ECCHR / Photo: Nihad Nino Pušija
NY Times covers up Washington’s monstrous evil: Hiding America’s War Crimes in Laos, While Reporting on the Grim Results
By Dave Lindorff
Amanda Bass and Aman Singh are law students at NYU and organizers of a letter condemning the hiring of Harold Koh. Read and sign the letter here:
Amanda Bass is a third year student at NYU School of Law where her work has focused on human rights and racial justice. Amanda has interned with the Worker Justice Center of New York, where she assisted workers with wage and hour claims, and with the Southern Center for Human Rights, where she worked on the post-conviction appeal of an individual sentenced to death-in-prison by Alabama courts. Upon graduation from law school, Amanda plans to return to Alabama to work with the Equal Justice Initiative on behalf of prisoners.
Aman Singh is a second year student at NYU School of Law.
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Joy First reports from Mauston, Wisc., that Bonnie Block, a Madison grandmother and long-time peace activist, was found guilty of trespassing in a jury trial in the Juneau County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, and sent to jail.
Sadly, this is not an April Fool's joke. Block, pictured at right, was compelled to either pay $232 or spend 5 days in the Juneau County Jail. Faced with that choice, Block said in court:
"Your Honor, I asked for a jury trial in this matter so I could explain to the citizens of Juneau County my moral, constitutional, and legal reasons for opposing the drone training via handing out a leaflet at the Volk Field Open House. I also wanted to point out the absurdity of being arrested for trespassing at an event to which the public had been invited.
"However, the Court’s pretrial orders based on the District Attorney's 25-point Motion in Limine precluded me from explaining this to the jury because the pre-trial orders prohibited any mention to the jury of the very issues that I believe constitute a defense for my nonviolent action.
"These prohibitions also made it impossible for me to testify on my own behalf because I couldn't honor the oath 'to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' And to top it off, there was the unilateral refusal of Volk Field Commander Romauld to honor my third-party subpoena to testify so he could explain the military rules and rationale that he considers the justification for my arrest. It puts the military brass above the law and I object.
"For these reasons, I can't in good conscience pay the fine. It would be giving consent to the outcome of a legal process I believe was unfair and which sets dangerous precedents for those of us engaged in nonviolent civil resistance and seeking justice for victims of U.S. drone warfare. So I'll 'do the time instead of paying the fine.'"
After sentencing Block to 5 days in jail, First reports, Judge Paul Curran told Block that he would allow her to have lunch with her husband and son before reporting to the Juneau County "Justice" Center to begin her sentence.
First explains the background: "The trespassing charge was the result of a May 17, 2014, action in which Block and Fr. Jim Murphy took a bus tour of Volk Field which was part of the Base's Open House to which the public was invited. As they left the bus at the National Guard Museum, they handed out a leaflet with four questions about drones to the other passengers on the bus. As a result they were arrested and ultimately charged with trespass. Block opted for a jury trial because she believed her constitutional right of free speech was violated as was her conscientious objection to drone warfare.
"Block, who represented herself in front of the 6-person jury, was prevented from mounting a vigorous defense as a result of Judge Curran's pretrial ruling in favor of a motion which prevented Block from talking about international law, the U.S. Constitution, morals and ethics, and other topics important to the case. . . .
"The jury deliberated for thirty minutes before returning with the guilty verdict."
Block is part of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars which holds monthly vigils outside the gates of this Wisconsin Air National Guard Base. Since 2009, Volk Field has been training operators of RQ-7 Shadow drones that are part of U.S. drone wars.
BUT CHARGES DROPPED IN SYRACUSE
Meanwhile Ed Kinane reports from Upstate New York: "This afternoon in the Dewitt (NY) town court, after hearing about 90 minutes of motions, Judge Robert Jokl dismissed charges against four Hancock Air Force Base defendants 'in the interest of justice.' Arguing against Assistant D.A. Peter Hakes were attorneys Jonathan Wallace representing Julienne Oldfield and John Honeck; Kathy Manley representing Andrew Schoerke, and Kim Zimmer representing Mary Snyder.
"Their charges were trespass, two counts of disorderly conduct, and obstruction of government administration -- a misdemeanor. The four perps were among 31 arrested in a nonviolent die-in at the front gate of Hancock’s 174th attack wing (home of the reaper drone) on April 28, 2013, following a weekend drone conference here in Syracuse. For half a decade we have been charging Hancock with war crime and terrorism against the people of Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"This acquittal follows our March 19th 'big books' action at Hancock’s main gate in which seven of us were arrested with similar charges. Arraignments will be in late April."
Kinane's report was generally taken to be an April Fool's joke by drone activists around the country, but he says it is not. So, thank you to Judge Jokl for acting in the interest of justice.