End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization
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Drone victims are today lodging a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing NATO member states of war crimes over their role in facilitating the US’ covert drone programme in Pakistan.
It has been revealed in recent months that the UK, Germany, Australia, and other NATO partners support US drone strikes through intelligence-sharing. Because all these countries are signatories to the Rome Statute, they fall under The ICC’s jurisdiction and can therefore be investigated for war crimes. Kareem Khan - whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 drone strike – is at The Hague with his lawyers from the human rights charity Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who have filed the complaint on his behalf.
The CIA has launched more than 300 missiles at North Waziristan since its covert drone programme began and it is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians including children.
The US has immunised itself from legal accountability over drone strikes and the UK has closed its domestic courts to foreign drone victims. In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal in London ruled that it would not opine on the legality of British agents' involvement in the US drone war in Pakistan, for fear of causing embarrassment to its closest ally.
Kat Craig, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “There can surely be no doubt that facilitating the deaths of thousands of civilians – as NATO allies are doing in a plethora of ways - constitutes war crimes. The International Criminal Court, established specifically to hold overwhelming state power to account, is in a unique position to offer some semblance of justice to individual drone victims with nowhere else to go. They must take this complaint seriously and investigate.”
... among people who are not the president.
On Presidents Day, RootsAction.org set up a petition in response to this news:
"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."
The petition reads:
"Mr. President, Without making any exception for the president, the Constitution requires adherence to the Fifth Amendment. 'Due process' is mandatory, not optional. Legality is a question of law, not policy. You are not allowed to kill whoever you want on your own say-so."
Within the first several hours, over 10,000 people had signed. You can sign it too.
Here are some of the comments that people have posted:
"Has the CONSTITUTION become an - OPTION ???" —S. Schwenchy, CA
"And we thought Bush was a liar!" —Richard Wilkey, TN
"And you are also not allowed to pass judgement on someone before they are judged by a jury of their peers as you did in the case of Pvt. Manning. I thought you were better than that. My bad." —John Nettleton, OR
"Please, just stop murdering suspicious people. This is like what happened to Trayvon Martin, but there's no trial afterward." —Tim Ferguson, CA
"Expedience is not an excuse. We can't be the good guys just because we say so, we have to act on it too. Killing terrorists just creates more terrorists." —Boola Lomuscio, MA
"A country which can imprison indefinitely its citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing is not a democracy. Period. Let alone the country which can KILL citizens without due process, without ever charging them with any wrongdoing. Obey the law. Obey the Constitution." —Jamil Said, CA
"A President is nothing more than a servant, and if he commits a crime, it is ten times the crime and should have ten times the penalty." —Ronald Denner, MI
"According to the Nuremberg Principles if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values. It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, to speak out." —Robert Stevens
"All labels aside, ANY president who does not follow his oath needs to be impeached. It really is that simple." —Robert Horan, OH
"All presidents seem to think that the Constitution is for the people to obey, not them. The 5th Amendment provides due process for American citizens. If one suspects criminal activity against the USA, then the suspect must have his day in court. This is part of the democratic process, and NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT, IS ABOVE THE LAW!" —Robert Glasner, CA
"Amendment IV -- 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures' -- Does that include the life of the person?" —David Bean, OR
"America is supposed to have the rule of law, not of men. I don't care how well-intentioned people are; if the precedent is set, then less well-intentioned people will take advantage of it." —Deborah Goldsmith, CA
"Among other reasons, drone strikes kill innocents without exception, and you know it, Mr. President, and that's not something to accept regardless of what your military advisers believe." —Marianne Kenady, WA
"Are we back in the dark ages where the king decides to behead anyone he wants? Seems that way. I don't think that is where we want to be, none of us." —Kenneth Walton, IA
"Are you still a constitutional lawyer? - - Then, why are you acting as you are? That is, choosing and selecting American citizens for annihilation." —William See, OR
"Believe it or not, murder is murder. Murdering a murderer is still murder." —Frank C Benjamin, NY
"Don't stray from the mandates, including the Constitution, you have been sworn to uphold. People accused of crimes are supposed to be tried by a jury of their peers, not one man on a power trip." —John Davis, ME
"Execution of citizens without any due process, especially a jury of peers, is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government -- no matter how much the tyrant pleads otherwise." —Robert Anderson, CA
"Execution without arrest and fair trial is unethical, immoral and goes against all American values." —Patricia Robinett, MO
"Extraordinary renditions and torture perpetrated by the Bush Administration was illegal and immoral. Killing without due process, especially an American citizen, is even worse." —Audrey Bomse, FL
"Following our example, I guess it is ok for foreign governments to send drones over our territory to murder dissidents from their country?" —Michael JamesLong, OR
"For a constitutional lawyer, our President does not honor, in any way, shape or form, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th amendments to the U.S. Constitution." —Lisbeth Caccese, CA
Read thousands more, pick your favorites, add your own:
A Pakistani man who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike is this week visiting Germany to hold meetings with MPs and Government officials about the impact of the US’ secret bombing campaign.
Kareem Khan will today meet with the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees, as well as members of Germany’s Green Party. Tomorrow he is set to meet officials from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There had been fears for Mr Khan’s safety up until last Friday, following his abduction from his Rawalpindi home by men in police uniforms on February 5. Mr Khan had not been heard from until his release on February 14, after which he revealed that, during his captivity, he had been beaten and questioned about his activities.
Mr Khan is being accompanied on his visit by Noor Behram, a journalist from North Waziristan (the region which bears the brunt of CIA strikes); his lawyer Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve; and Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve.
The group is visiting Germany, followed by the Netherlands and the UK, in order to discuss the impact of the CIA drone programme on civilians in Pakistan.
European states have been revealed to be involved in the CIA campaign through the sharing of intelligence used to target strikes, and the provision of crucial infrastructure – notably at US air bases such as Ramstein in Germany and RAF Croughton in the UK.
Kareem Khan said: “I hope my meetings with parliamentarians in Europe will help raise awareness about the real impact of US drone strikes. It is imperative that Germany take a stand on such drones. They are making no one safer, least of all America's allies.”
Jennifer Gibson said: “Given the involvement of European countries in the CIA’s illegal and counter-productive campaign of drone strikes, it is important that politicians and public alike are aware of how this affects innocent civilians on the ground. Mr Khan lost his son and his brother to these strikes, and when he started speaking out, ended up being kidnapped. People in Germany, the UK and the US deserve to know about the abuses that are being carried out in their name – it is high time the drone campaign was brought out of the shadows.”
Further information on Mr Khan’s abduction can be found here:
A Pakistani drone victim who had been missing since being abducted from his home by men in police uniforms on February 5 has been released.
Kareem Khan, who had not been heard from since being taken from his Rawalpindi home, was freed earlier today (February 14).
Mr Khan lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike, and had been set to travel to Europe to discuss his experiences with parliamentarians when he disappeared. He was also involved in legal action against the Pakistani police over their refusal to investigate the killing of his relatives.
After being abducted in the early morning hours of 5 February by 15-20 men, 8 of whom were in police uniform, Mr Khan was taken to a cell in an undisclosed location. Later in the day of 5 February, he was blindfolded and driven for approximately 2-3 hours to another undisclosed location where he remained until his release. While detained, Mr Khan was interrogated, beaten and tortured. He was placed in chains and repeatedly questioned about his investigations into drone strikes, his knowledge of drone strike victims and his work advocating on their behalf.
In the early hours of this morning (14 February), he was driven to the Tarnol area of Rawlpindi, where he was thrown from a van after being told not to speak to the media.
Mr Khan is now with his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve. Mr Akbar, who is also director of NGO the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, had filed ‘habeas’ proceedings in the courts earlier this week in an attempt to secure Mr Khan’s release. In response, a judge from the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court had ordered the Ministry of the Interior, which has oversight of the Pakistani intelligence services, to produce Mr Khan by February 20.
Mr Khan plans to go ahead with his trip to meet parliamentarians in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands later this week. Today he said: “When I was picked up I thought I would never see my family again, that I would never be free again because of all the stories I have heard about disappeared people. Now that I have been released and have seen the news, the efforts of activists, I know it is because of them that I am free, and I would like to thank them.”
Shahzad Akbar said: “What happened to Kareem Khan in last few days is nothing new in Pakistan. We are living in a state of lawlessness where the executive enjoys impunity. The lesson learned though this experience is that we must always raise our voices. We need to take this stand for each and every person who disappears, it is the only way to force those in power to listen. That is why I am so thankful to all the local and international activists who spoke out for Kareem.”
Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “It is a huge relief that Mr. Khan has finally been released, though we are deeply concerned to hear about the mistreatment he has endured. No one should have to suffer as he and his family have done for simply trying to get to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Serious questions remain for the Pakistani Government on how this was allowed to happen.”
As of this morning, the Lahore High Court has ordered Pakistan's intelligence agencies to produce Kareem on February 20th. Now is the time to put pressure on Pakistani and US officials to make sure he is released as soon as possible.
To that end, we have planned a Twitter storm for TOMORROW, Thursday, February 13th from 11am- 12am EST. (Yes, that's a 13 hour campaign).
Code Pink has also planned a protest TODAY in Washington, D.C. in front of the Pakistani Embassy at 4pm. More details to follow.
We will tweet under the hashtag #FreeKareem to the Pakistani ambassador to the US, the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry and PML-N, the ruling party of Pakistan. Please do the same to amplify our demands.
Here are some suggested tweets:
Suggested tweets to @JalilJilani (Pakistani ambassador to the US) and @pmln_org (Pakistan's ruling party):
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Kareem lost a brother and son. Now, he’s lost his freedom. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Prove you are a democratic govt. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Who’s afraid of Kareem Khan? #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org Kareem speaks out against drone attacks. Gets disappeared. #FreeKareem #nodrones
- .@JalilJilani @pmln_org We need democracy not disappearances. #FreeKareem #no drones
Suggested tweets to @statedept and @johnkerry:
- .@statedept @johnkerry The US killed his family. Pakistan disappeared him for speaking about it. Ensure his freedom! #FreeKareem
- .@statedept @johnkerry Pakistan disappears anti-drone activist. Is this how @statedept promotes democracy? #FreeKareem
- .@johnkerry Kareem’s family was killed by US drone in Pakistan. He was disappeared on Feb. 5 for speaking out against drones. #FreeKareem
- .@statedept Kareem’s family was killed by a US drone in Pakistan. He was disappeared on Feb. 5 for speaking out against drones. #FreeKareem
Also, please call the following numbers to demand Kareem's immediate release:
Pakistan Embassy: 202.243.6500
Pakistan Desk of the US State Dept: 202.647.9823
And, please sign this petition.
Parliamentarians from across Europe have written to the Pakistani Government to raise concerns over the disappearance of a drone strike victim who had been set to meet with them this month in order to discuss his case.
Kareem Khan, who lost his son and his brother in a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to meet members of the UK, German and Dutch Parliaments next week, but has not been seen since being seized from his Rawalpindi home on February 5 by men in Pakistani police uniforms.
Mr Khan had also sought redress through the Pakistani courts, asking them to force the police to investigate the murder of his relatives – judgement in that case was imminent at the time of his disappearance.
Yesterday (February 11), Tom Watson MP, Chair of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones and a former British defence minister, wrote to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, concerning Mr Khan’s case.
Meanwhile, in response to questions in the Dutch Parliament, the country’s Minister for International Development said Mr Khan’s case had been raised with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, and would be raised again at bilateral meetings between the two countries due to take place later this month. Dutch MP Harry van Bommel has also written to Mr Sharif asking him to investigate Mr Khan’s disappearance.
In Germany, Bundestag member Hans-Christian Ströbele has written to Mr Sharif to ask him to “urgently investigate Mr. Khan’s disappearance [and] locate which Pakistani entity has detained him.” Mr Stroebele has also urged the German Foreign Minister to raise the case of Kareem Khan with his Pakistani counterpart.
Mr Watson said: “I am extremely concerned for the safety of drone victim and journalist Kareem Khan whom I invited to speak to MPs this month. Kareem was seized last week and his family still have had no news of his whereabouts. Given the timing, I am concerned that there may be a connection between his disappearance and his intention to speak to Members of Parliament. I urge both the UK and Pakistani Governments to do everything in their power to secure Kareem’s release, and support his visit to Parliament.”
Mr Khan is represented by Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and a fellow of legal charity Reprieve.
Judge orders Pakistani intelligence services to produce missing drone victim
A Pakistani judge today ordered the country’s intelligence services to produce a victim of CIA drone strikes who has been missing since being seized from his Rawalpindi home a week ago.
Kareem Khan, who lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to Europe to discuss his experience with parliamentarians in a number of countries later this month. However, he has not been heard from since being detained by a group of men in police uniforms and plain clothes in the early hours of February 5.
The Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court was today hearing a Habeas petition brought by Mr Khan’s lawyer and Reprieve fellow, Shahzad Akbar. Mr Akbar argued that the intelligence services must have been responsible for Mr Khan’s arrest, as responses filed by the police indicated that they were unaware of the incident. As a result, the judge ordered the various intelligence services overseen by Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior to produce Mr Khan by Thursday February 20.
Mr. Khan was due to travel to Europe this Saturday (February 15), where he was scheduled to speak with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his personal experience with drone strikes and and his work as a freelance journalist investigating other strikes in the region.
Mr Khan is also involved in legal proceedings on behalf of his brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher, and his son Zahinullah. Mr Khan has asked the courts to order the Pakistani police to launch a criminal investigation into the strike, arguing it constitutes murder under domestic law.
Commenting, Shahzad Akbar said: “Kareem Khan has already lost a brother and son to US drone strikes. Now, he too has disappeared. All because he had the courage to speak out about what happened to him and about the terrible civilian toll such strikes are having. Pakistan’s Prime Minister must launch an immediate investigation into which part of his government abducted Kareem and secure his release.”
Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “It has now been a week since anyone has seen or heard from Kareem Khan. The Pakistani Government must immediately tell us where he is and why they have tried to silence such an important anti-drones voice. Failure to do so raises disturbing questions of continued PK complicity in the US drone programme.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A CHILD IS ON FIRE?
By Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI
As a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), we have been working in a number of different ways to bring an end to the illegal drone assassination program being perpetrated by the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon. We know that thousands of innocent people have been murdered, and that the program continues to kill families in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and other places around the world. So many people are suffering so greatly because of our government’s actions.
On Friday February 7, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, members of NCNR appealed our conviction from an arrest at a vigil against drones at the CIA on June 29, 2013 when about 50 people rallied at the gates in Langley, VA. After several speakers, six members of NCNR walked to the police line and attempted to deliver a letter to CIA Director John Brennan, trying to set up a meeting to talk about the drone assassination program. After being denied a meeting and engaging in street theater Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Phil Runkel, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Cindy Sheehan, and myself were arrested and charged with trespass. Five of us went to trial on October 22, and were found guilty (Cindy was not able to join us and pled guilty). There were so many things that were not right about the trial and we decided to appeal.
We also decided that while we were at the courthouse for the appeal we would try to visit Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi since he is in the same courthouse building. Six activists from NCNR had a 40 minute meeting with Mr. Rossi on May 21, 2013. His office, the Eastern District of Virginia, has jurisdiction over the CIA. We delivered a criminal complaint against Obama, CIA Director Brennan, and others at the CIA who are involved in the killer drone program. During the meeting Mr. Rossi was over-the-top friendly in a very artificial way. He was good at his job and tried to placate us, while constantly trying to change the subject to friendly small talk. We left the criminal complaint with him and he said he would send it up to his boss. Over the last several months, we have followed up with him several times, but, as expected, they are not taking our complaint seriously. We can’t let this drop and so we decided to pay him a visit on February 7.
In preparing for our appeal, we were not able to obtain an attorney, and so we decided we would do the best we could as pro se appellants. Several days before the appeal, we filed a written brief that was authored by Max. There were six arguments made in the brief. In summary:
1) Our First Amendment right to free speech was infringed upon.
2) The government did not present sufficient evidence to show that the order to leave was lawful or that we were on CIA property.
3) The arrest and conviction violated our due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.
4) We were denied sufficient discovery to present an effective defense.
5) We were not allowed to present evidence regarding our First Amendment activities or intent during the trial.
6) The Nuremberg Tribunal charges us all to take action against war crimes, and we were not allowed to bring this up in our defense.
Just the day before the appeal hearing, Attorney Stacy Chaffin, on loan to the US Attorney’s office from the CIA and the prosecutor in our October trial, filed a written brief that was very weak and not supported by case law.
Feeling anxious about what would happen during the hearing, Malachy, Max, Phil, and I walked into the 9th floor courtroom a few minutes before 9:00 am. We were joined by several others who were there for support. Janice received a waiver to appear because of a family matter, but was allowed to join onto Max’s motion. Judge T.S. Ellis III would be hearing the case.
What really surprised us that morning was to see that Assistant US Attorney Rossi was in the courtroom along with his boss, Acting US Attorney Dana Boente. Rossi was the person we met with when we delivered the criminal complaint last June. I don’t suspect that their schedule often allows them to be sitting in on cases in a courtroom, and we wondered why they were there.
There were two other cases that were going to be heard before our case, and this gave us an opportunity to see how the judge operated. During the second case, a young man was before the judge for using cocaine three times while on probation. Judge Ellis went into a long lecture about how some people claim that a drug addiction is a disease. However, Ellis disagrees. He thinks it is a personal choice and that you always have a choice as to whether you take a drug or not. He told the story of his mother who was a smoker. She had surgery four times on her lungs, and it was only after the second surgery that she quit smoking. He said she was addicted to smoking, but the addiction was not a disease, it was a choice. To hear a judge sitting on the bench going against all the scientific medical research that has been done in the important area of addictions was simply astonishing.
Our case began at 10:00 and lasted for less than an hour. Stacy Chaffin represented the government and sitting beside her at the prosecutor’s table was Assistant US Attorney Eugene Rossi. Acting US Attorney Dana Boente was also sitting in the courtroom. It appears they are paying attention to what we are doing.
Judge Ellis began by saying that this was an appeal for an arrest for demonstrating to show opposition to drone attacks. He continued by saying that he doesn’t sit on the bench to determine whether drone attacks are good or bad. Someone at the CIA or in the White House does that. And then he chuckled. That was the first of many inappropriate laughs we heard from him throughout the trial.
Max spoke powerfully about why the responses to our arguments from the prosecutor’s brief did not hold water. The judge had a lot of questions and comments for Max.
One theme that Ellis kept went back to over and over was that we live in a democracy and obviously most people don’t agree with us or we wouldn’t have drone strikes. He also said that we should be going to Congress rather than to the CIA. Max responded that we have made many visits to Congress to talk about this issue.
The judge said if that is the case, then our voices have been heard and we need to just let it go then. He said that some people think drones are good and some people think they are bad. That’s just the way it is in a democracy and if we let our members of Congress know how we feel, then we have done what we can. It seemed very inappropriate for the judge to be arguing about whether drones are good or bad, and whether we should be protesting against them or not.
Max also talked about how we have written letters to various officials, including CIA Director Brennan, and we don’t get a response. The judge lectured about how government officials are not obligated to respond. We can write all the letters we want to, but they don’t have to respond to us.
In the government’s brief it said that our intention was to get arrested. Judge Ellis asked Max if we weren’t there to get arrested. Max responded that we were not. “Was this not an act of civil disobedience?” asked Judge Ellis. Max responded that it was not. Max explained that we were not breaking an unjust law for the purpose of changing it. Rather we were trying to stop our government from breaking the law through the drone assassination program that is responsible for killing thousands of innocent people.
Phil talked eloquently about the Nuremberg Principles and why our actions were an attempt to uphold international law and are binding upon all citizens under customary international law. He also stated that each of us has the duty to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring, even if domestic laws must be broken in the process.
After the government prosecutor made her arguments, the judge handed down his ruling.
Judge Ellis said that he said he did not doubt our sincerity and that we are all intelligent people. However, he said that you could get a group of people who thought drones were good and another group who thought they were bad, and asked who really knows whether they are good or bad. But he did think that probably more people approved of drones than disapproved because otherwise our country wouldn’t be using them. He talked about how there are laws that say our government can use drones. First of all, his arguments didn’t even make sense. It is not simply a matter of opinion about whether using drones to illegally kill innocent people is good or bad. It is bad. Second, there are many legal scholars who would argue that the CIA assassination program is illegal. Third, it is not his job to argue with us about drones, but rather to look at the previous case and determine if procedures were violated during our trial.
Even after Max told him we were not committing an act of civil disobedience, I don’t think the judge understood what Max was saying. He talked about a famous case of nonviolent civil disobedience when Henry David Thoreau did not pay his taxes during the War of 1812. However, the judge got it wrong; it was the Mexican-American war that Thoreau opposed. To me this shows that the judge is not careful in making sure that he knows the facts before he speaks out about something from the bench.
At one point during the hearing Judge Ellis said, “You say innocent people are dying. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t really matter.” This statement was followed by his inappropriate laugh. This was one of the many outrageous statements he made.
It was unclear whether he had really read and studied our brief. In his ruling, he briefly and inadequately addressed our first two arguments. He said again that we do not have the right to a meeting or a response from public officials. He said that the officer testified to the boundaries of the CIA and that was enough evidence to prove we were on CIA property.
Regarding our last argument, he said that Nuremberg does not have the force of law. What is it going to take for our courts to start upholding international law? As David Barrows pointed out after the trial, according to the constitution treaties are the highest law of the land.
We will be appealing this appalling ruling to the next level.
Once the hearing was over, Malachy walked over to US Assistant Attorney Rossi and asked if we could meet with him about the criminal complaint we had filed in May. He said he didn’t have time, though he and the Prosecutor Chaffin went into a room for several minutes, presumably to look up how many days we had to file for the next level of an appeal. Again, he acts like the nice guy in trying to help us, but he refuses to address why we are there. We waited for him in the hallway.
When Rossi came out of the room, he told us we had 14 days to appeal. We tried to talk to him about the criminal complaint and he said over and over like a broken record, “I gotta go. I gotta go.” He refused to listen to anything from us and within a minute or so, he was in the elevator. Jack McHale commented that this is who he really is. He acts like the nice guy, but this is who he is. Rude and controlling. Malachy commented that if he listened to us and didn’t do anything, he would be held accountable. Once you know a crime is being committed, you are responsible and therefore, he totally shut out everything we were trying to say by saying “I gotta go.” Max thinks he may be conflicted and if so, that is what we need to play to in the future.
We spent a couple of hours discussing what had happened and talking about what our next steps are. We have a lot of work to do in filing for an appeal, and continuing our follow up of the criminal complaint.
The next day, Saturday, was the regular monthly vigil against killer drones at the CIA. I was glad to be in town so that I could attend the vigil. It was a moving experience to be at the vigil after the stress and tension of the previous day in the courtroom. It is always wonderful to gather together with friends that I have made through this work and who I have come to know and love like family. We go through so much together and our experiences create strong bonds.
As I approached the CIA and saw the crime scene tape across the driveway, it brought back memories of the day last June when I was arrested there. Several people said a few words and I read a piece about the just war theory. I also shared that in Wisconsin we have five grandmothers who will be on trial soon for attempting to deliver a war crimes indictment to the head of Volk Field during our monthly vigil against drones there last May.
We read the names of children who have been killed by drone strikes and while each name was read we placed a stone on the driveway at the gates of the CIA. This was very moving and made it was important to slow down and really think about why we are really doing all of this with the arrests, going to court, monthly vigils etc. Jack McHale’s 5-year-old granddaughter was there and laid a stone on the driveway representing a child who died. It brought tears to my eyes to think that it is children just like her who we are killing with the drones.
Art Laffin led us in song, remembering our hero Pete Seeger by singing If I Had a Hammer at the beginning of the vigil and Step by Step at the end reminding us of the importance of all of us working together for a more peaceful and just world.
Afterwards many of us joined together for lunch at Malachy’s. It was such an enriching experience to spend time together and talk about stories from the resistance, what we learned, and discuss how we could move forward.
Later in the afternoon, Malachy, David, and I watched the movie The Camden 28 about a group of 28 non-violent activists who broke into a local draft board office in 1971. The movie started with one of the defendants asking, “What do you do when a child is on fire? Write a letter?” That statement hit me so hard because there are hundreds of children burning up from drone attacks and this is what compels me to continue working on this issue. What do you do when a child is on fire? Writing letters can be important, but it is a critical and an urgent situation. We have to act now and we have to do more. Children are dying. They are burning, and we must take immediate action. We don’t have time to write letters and wait for and hope others will respond.
I flew back to the sub-zero weather in Wisconsin on Sunday morning thinking about next steps. What is coming up and next is a nationwide Spring Days of Action Against Drones and it is something everyone can and should get involved with. We will be doing some organizing in Wisconsin, and NCNR will be organizing an action at the NSA in April as part of this. It is more important than ever to target the role of the NSA in the killer drone program. Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have just written about the “shocking interplay between digital surveillance [from the NSA] and Obama’s assassination program.” In the fall Campaign Nonviolence and World Beyond War are working to bring people together and act in resistance. This can provide an opportunity to build towards actions against killer drones.
We will definitely be following up with our criminal complaint in Virginia. I feel like filing this criminal complaint with the proper authorities could be a very important path to continue on. I would like to encourage others to think about how you could file a criminal complaint with authorities in your area. This could be an organizing idea to use around the country during Spring Days of Action Against Drones. NCNR will be putting out more information with details on how this can be done. In the meantime, if you want more information or want to talk about how you might do this, please contact me.
What do you do when a child is on fire? This is the reality of life for too many families that are being attacked by drones overseas. We don’t have time to wait. It is NOW we must join together and take action.
On a personal note, my 7th grandbaby will be born in October. It is all the children of the world that we have to continue the resistance for.
A KPFA interview with Robin, aired 2/2/14 at 6pm (From 3:33 to 6:08 minutes):
From the Associated Press:
"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."
Notice those words: "legally" and "policy." No longer does U.S. media make a distinction between the two. Under George W. Bush, detention without trial, torture, murder, warrantless spying, and secret missile strikes were illegal. Under Obama they are policy. And policy makes them "legal" under the modified Nixonian understanding that if the President does it as a policy then it is legal.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the nations in which drone murders take place, treaties to which the U.S. is party, international law, and U.S. statutory law, murdering people remains illegal, despite being policy, just as it was illegal under the less strict policy of some months back. The policy was made stricter in order to bring it into closer compliance with the law, of course -- though it comes nowhere close -- and yet the previous policy remains somehow "legal," too, despite having not been strict enough.
Under that previous policy, thousands of people, including at least four U.S. citizens, have been blown to bits with missiles. President Obama gave a speech last year in which he attempted to justify one of those four U.S. deaths on the basis of evidence he claimed to have but would not reveal. He made no attempt to justify the other three.
The new policy remains that the president can murder anyone, anywhere, along with whoever is near them, but must express angst if the person targeted is a U.S. citizen.
The idea that such lunacy can have anything to do with law is facilitated by human rights groups' and the United Nations' and international lawyers' deference to the White House, which has been carried to the extreme of establishing a consensus that we cannot know whether a drone murder was legal or not unless the president reveals his reasoning, intention, motivation, and the details of the particular murder.
No other possible criminal receives this treatment. When the police read you your rights, you are not entitled to object: "Put those handcuffs away, sir! I have a written policy justifying everything I did, and I refuse to show it to you. Therefore you have no grounds to know for certain that my justification is as insane and twisted as you might imagine it to be based merely on what I've done! Away with you, sir!"
The loss of a coherent conception of law is a grievous one, but that's not all that's at stake here.
Numerous top U.S. officials routinely admit that our drone wars in the Middle East and Africa are creating more enemies than they kill. General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said in June 2010 that "for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies." Veterans of U.S. kill teams in Iraq and Afghanistan interviewed in Jeremy Scahill’s book and film Dirty Wars said that whenever they worked their way through a list of people to kill, they were handed a larger list; the list grew as a result of working their way through it. The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion.
We are shredding the very concept of the rule of law in order to pursue a policy that endangers us, even as it helps to justify the erosion of our civil liberties, to damage the natural environment, and to impoverish us, as it kills many innocent people. Maybe they've secretly got drones doing the thinking as well as the killing.
Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters' Verdict Is In
All found guilty of disorderly conduct but acquitted of trespassing; Order of Protection extended 2 years; Judge decides to send a message
On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found twelve of the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct, but acquitted them of trespassing.They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on Oct. 25, 2012, to bring a Citizens War Crimes Indictment to the base and symbolically block the gates. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Saying, "At some point this has to stop," the judge gave the defendants the maximum sentence - 15 days in jail (starting immediately) and a $250 fine with a $125 court surcharge. He also imposed a two-year Order of Protection, prohibiting the defendants from going to the home, school, business or place of employment of Col. Earl A. Evans, Commander of Hancock's mission support group. Considering that the defendants had never met or knew of him before their arrest, it is clear the intent is to keep people away from the base. Defendant Rae Kramer stated, "No person on the base was intimidated by us, that is clear. But the end result is to deprive me of my 1st Amendment Rights."
In their sentencing statements, the defendants spoke from their hearts and minds. Some reaffirmed their legal duties as citizens to stop war crimes. Clare Grady said, "We went there to stop the war crimes. That was our intent." James Ricks hoped the judge would "sentence us to community service to investigate the war crimes they are committing at the base." Judy Bello said, "The people suffering are so significant. It requires a persistent response," and argued that the international law argument is indeed valid. Mark Scibilia-Carver quoted the Pope saying "violence is a lie," and "Faith and violence are incompatible." Mark Colville challenged the Court, stating, "This court has been found guilty of stopping it's ears to the laws that are in place to protect life. This court has been found guilty of stopping it's ears to the voices of the victims of the drones."
The defendants were prepared for whatever sentence the judge imposed. In the words of Ed Kinane, "Any penalty this court can impose on me is trivial compared to the death sentences imposed on the drone victims."
Of the five defendants not sentenced, one, Elliott Adams, is to be sentenced later. Two others had their cases dismissed on technical grounds, and the remaining two had plead guilty earlier.
The defendants are part of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which seeks to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ-9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base. See upstatedroneaction.org.
Video of the sentencing and sentencing statements will be available soon at www.peacecouncil.net.
Defendants who were sentenced:
- Judy Bello Rochester, NY
- Daniel Burgevin Trumansburg, NY
- Mark Colville New Haven, CT
- Clare Grady Ithaca, NY
- Mary Anne Grady Flores Ithaca, NY
- Martha Hennessy New York, NY
- Brian Hynes Bronx, NY
- Ed Kinane Syracuse, NY
- Rae Kramer Syracuse, NY
- James Ricks Ithaca, NY
- Mark Scibilia-Carver Trumansburg, NY
- Patricia Weiland Northampton, MA
Read or hear their Jan 31 Closing Statements
On Friday, January 31, the Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters trial concluded with Closing Arguments. Eight defendants gave legal and moral Closing Arguments, concluding that they be acquitted of disorderly conduct and trespassing, charges they had received after symbolically blocking the gates of Syracuse's Hancock Air National Guard Base (home of the 174th Attack Wing) on October 25, 2012. Their ongoing nonviolent actions there call for an end to drone warfare.
Legal arguments addressed both international law as well as faults with the charges themselves.
Since drone attacks embody terrorism, the defendants were not defying the law, but rather upholding international law and the U.S. Constitution, which holds that treaties made are the supreme law of the land. While due process is fundamental to the U.S. legal system, drone attack victims are not afforded that luxury, so the defendants acted as first responders to the scene of a crime - Hancock Air Base. They argued that judges even at the local level are bound by international law, as wars of aggression and drone assassinations are crimes against peace and humanity. They challenged Judge Gideon to acknowledge his obligation to acquit them.
On October 25, 2012 the defendants were petitioning their government for redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Three defendants had just returned from meeting drone attack survivors in Pakistan only weeks before the action. Others had been to war-torn Afghanistan. Another had experienced the U.S. "Shock and Awe" attack on Baghdad. They lamented how difficult it was to make the horror of drone attacks real for the judge and prosecutor. One defendant addressed his spirituality, stating that when you see actions that are evil, you must not look away, but instead cooperate with the work of the spirit and do good. Another brought the conversation back home, saying that war has a cost and a face right here at home in the number of people in jails, and that the amount of money going into warfare could be spent much more productively here.
The defendants argued that the elements of the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not actually interfere with traffic since the gates were already closed and Base personnel chose not to open them. Both the prosecution witnesses and the defendants had testified that the action was orderly and nonviolent; the Nonviolent Pledge the defendants had all taken was read aloud. Since there were no base boundaries beyond its surrounding barbed-wire fence marked and no two prosecution witnesses could agree on the exact location of any other boundary, it was impossible to tell if the defendants had been on public or private land.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued that the defendants were well aware of the Base boundaries and that their intent was to block traffic and disrupt business as usual on the base. He did not address the international law or Constitutional issues raised.
The defendants are a part of Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars (also known as Upstate Drone Action) which seeks to educate the public and Hancock personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ9 Reaper drone piloted from Hancock. See upstatedroneaction.org.
Previously two people pled guilty and two had their charges dismissed. The defendants who will be receiving a verdict on Friday are:
Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs NY
Judy Bello, Rochester NY
Dan Burgevin, Trumansburg NY
Mark Colville, New Haven CT
Clare Grady, Ithaca NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca NY
Brian Hynes, Bronx NY
Ed Kinane, Syracuse NY
Rae Kramer, Syracuse NY
James Ricks, Trumansburg NY
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg NY
Patricia Paki Weiland, Northampton MA.
-- carol baum ###
WHO: Citizen activists from the east coast to the west coast will be in court this week defending their actions protesting the United States Military and Central Intelligence Agency weaponized drone program.
The first trial will begin Monday February 3 in Sacramento, California for four activists arrested at Beale AFB in April 2013, while attempting to deliver a letter to the base commander addressing the illegality of US drones which kill innocent people and noncombatants in Pakistan and other countries. The letter is a citizen's declaration charging President Obama and all military personnel involved in the drone program with crimes against humanity and multiple violations of the law, including due process. (Letter is below.)
Meanwhile, in upstate New York, 17 activists are in the midst of an ongoing trial in a DeWitt, NY courthouse for an October 2012 protest at Hancock AFB protesting the use of the Reaper drones piloted from there that activists say perpetuate war crimes, and violations of human rights laws.
On Friday five activists will be in US District Court in Alexandria, VA appealing their trespass conviction at the Central Intelligence Agency in June, 2013 as they attempted to deliver a letter and seek a meeting with CIA Director John Brennan concerning CIA violations of international law related to illegal targeted drone killing in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
WHEN: Monday, February 3 through Friday, February 7, 2014
(Beale AFB case), US Courthouse, 50l I St., Sacramento, CA,
(Hancock AFB case) Courthouse at 400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY,
(CIA case) U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA
WHY: Activists across the country continue to work to bring an end to the illegal and immoral killer drone strikes which have now killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children, around the globe with no due process.
For the last several years citizen activists have engaged in peaceful protests drawing attention to the violations of international law the US drone program is committing in multiple countries including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In protest activities and courtroom testimonies, activists have repeatedly spoken about their obligations under the Nuremberg Principles to oppose the crimes against peace, the violations of international law, and the war crimes the US is committing through its use of weaponized drones.
Beale AFB defendants: Robin Ryan 415-517-5856; Martha Hubert; 415-722-3321; Toby Blome, 510-541-6874
Hancock AFB defendants: Ed Kinane, 315-478-4571; Mary Anne Grady Flores, 607-273-7437
CIA defendants: Malachy Kilbride 571 501-3729, Max Obuszewski 410 366-1637 Joy First 608 239-4327
OPEN LETTER TO BEALE AIR FORCE BASE PERSONNEL (April 30, 2013)
We, the people, charge the US President, Barack Obama and the full military chain of command, to Beale Air Force Base Colonel Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Commander, every drone crew and service member at Beale Air Force Base, and every other U.S. base involved directly or indirectly with the U.S. drone program, with crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the Supreme Law of the Land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians.
US military and CIA Drone attacks have killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the name of combating terrorism against the US, we are terrorizing innocent people and creating many more enemies and potential terrorists in the process.
Our government has become a lawless power, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, just because it can. The US uses remote-controlled drones to kill women in their kitchens, elders meeting in their jirgas, mourners at funerals, and rescuers who try to help the wounded. By most independent studies, the vast majority of those killed are civilians.
We therefore demand:
(1) An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing
(2) A halt to all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia
(3) A prohibition on the sale and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries, in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom, and security, and
(4) An immediate end to this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.
Ed Kinane, CLOSING STATEMENT, Charges: trespass & disorderly conduct, Trial of the "Hancock 17," Judge David S. Gideon presiding, De Witt, NY Town Court, 31 January 2014
Good evening Judge Gideon, prosecutor Mc Namara, court staff, our many supporters here, and my fellow defendants.
I want to thank you, Judge, for your attentiveness throughout this trial and for assuring that each pro se defendant has had ample opportunity to speak and adequate time to do so.
I would also like to thank both you and Mr. McNamara for your patience with our frequently fumbling ways as we amateurs seek to navigate court protocol.
Likewise I must acknowledge your patience as, over several days, we’ve sought to mesh the efforts of the 15 or 16 of us who, coming from all over the map, often couldn’t consult together much before coming to court.
As pro se defendants, we are probably naive about how the U.S. “justice” system works.
We understood from our charges that any alleged trespass must occur on private property.
We further understood that any alleged annoyance, any alleged disturbance, any alleged recklessness, construed as disorderly conduct, must occur on public property.
Squaring that circle, we’ve been thinking, would surely result in at least one of those charges being dropped.
But that has yet to happen.
In my opening remarks on December 3, eight weeks ago, I noted that our defense would take two paths: that of conscience and that of legalism.
Our hope remains that this court will move along those two paths, paths bound for justice.
For as Clare Grady in her January 3rd Opening suggested, the law is meant to serve humans and not humans sacrificed to law.
Each of our testifiers spoke out of their consciences, some suggesting that their consciences were shaped by their own personal faith tradition.
Others cited personal experience as impelling them to gather outside the Hancock drone base on October 25, 2012.
I myself in my Opening alluded to having survived the murderous 2003 bombardment of Baghdad, Iraq -- an ancient city of several million non-combatants widely viewed as a cradle of civilization.
It was that bombardment which the Pentagon boastingly and terrifyingly called “shock and awe.”
It would be impossible to count the number of “shock and awe” casualties – the Pentagon expressing supreme indifference to such numbers.
So I speak from analogous firsthand experience when I say that airborne killing and destruction typified by the weaponized drone – whether in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan -- are terrifying.
And I speak first hand when I say that the Trespass and Disordered Conduct of those drones are not a defense against terrorism, but rather embody terrorism and may well generate retaliatory terrorism – an endless cycle of violence.
Others defendants – James Ricks, Patricia Weiland and Judith Bello -- spoke of participating in a risky October 2012 human rights fact-finding delegation to Pakistan – a nation, supposedly a U.S. ally, terrorized by the robotic, lethal drones.
On this delegation they met drone survivors, non-combatant human beings who were maimed or had neighbors and close relatives killed.
Judith Bello shared with the court a short video interview with one of those survivors she met – a young man named Raz Mohammed.
Hopefully that video helped personalize the horror of those cowardly drone attacks.
James, Patricia and Judith testified that such encounters helped shape their state of mind on October 25, 2012 as they stood outside the gates of the Hancock drone base.
Their vivid reports on their Pakistan experience also helped shape the state of mind of other Hancock co-defendants on October 25th.
Many of my co-defendants who testified spoke to the layers of law we sought to uphold that morning.
These included the Nuremburg mandate for citizens of all nations to expose the war crime of her or his government.
Those layers also included aspects of international and U.S. Constitutional law, with the latter’s First Amendment right to assemble, to speak out, and to petition our government for a redress of grievance.
That Constitutional law cited also included Article Six, the Supremacy clause, specifying that treaties the U.S. Government enters into become the highest law of the land.
Such law governs the judiciary at all levels -- national, state and local.
Sadly, it appears that some U.S. courts unilaterally pick and choose the international treaties they’ll recognize.
For example, as we stand here on stolen Onondaga Nation land, it’s clear that New York State courts fail to honor the U.S./Onondaga Nation treaty.
By contrast international trade treaties like NAFTA – i.e. commercial international law so kind to corporations – tend to be treated as legitimate in U.S. courts.
It’s a curious inconsistency.
Several of our testifiers referred to the grievance about which we were petitioning and for which we sought redress – that grievance being the protracted war crime committed or being prepared for 24/7 at Hancock by those piloting weaponized Reapers in Afghanistan and who knows where else.
Our petition at Hancock on October 25th against such war crime took the form of a people’s indictment co-authored with us by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark.
As you ponder a just outcome for this trial, Judge Gideon, we urge you to carefully weigh that indictment.
That document, entered into evidence here, specified the layers of law we sought to uphold on that October 25th.
On that date we were not defying law, we were seeking to uphold law.
Some testifiers noted that no one from the base inquired as to what our business was there and none spoke to us claiming we were trespassing.
Certainly no base personnel ordered us to leave.
Nor did any base personnel, including military police, tell us that the area near the base entrance from which we were petitioning the government was somehow exempt from the First Amendment.
Under questioning, both prosecution and each of our own witnesses noted that there was no NO TRESPASSING signage visible or in place between the Hancock main entrance gate and East Molloy Road in the town of DeWitt.
As each prosecution witness acknowledged, there was no line demarcating any trespass zone.
The prosecution’s own witnesses couldn’t seem to agree on where base property began.
In fact, the prosecution provided no documentation regarding base boundaries.
Curiously, while the prosecution initially sought to put into evidence a map of the base, when the defense asked for a copy of that map, the prosecution withdrew its request.
It does seem like the base command, for reasons of its own, prefers to keep base boundaries ambiguous.
No testifier for the defense indicated we knew where, besides at that fortified gate or at the barbed-wire fence surrounding the base, base property could properly be said to have begun.
Obviously, not only the authorities, but the defendants were in the dark regarding the whereabouts of the base property line – so much for our knowingly trespassing.
Pledge of Nonviolence
As each defense witness testified, all of us read aloud together a Pledge of Nonviolence on the morning of October 25, 2012 before embarking for the Hancock Reaper base.
Each defense witness testified that that Pledge faithfully reflected her or his frame of mind on October 25th.
Each also testified that their own behavior was consistent with that Pledge.
Further, neither our witnesses nor any of the arresting officers testified that they saw any of the defendants engage in behavior inconsistent with the Pledge.
In fact some of the arresting officers told of the congenial interactions between themselves and those they arrested.
Having been entered into evidence, and having referred to the Pledge numerous times while questioning our witnesses, I would like to read aloud the Pledge here.
It consists of seven short sentences. But first let me quickly put the Pledge into context.
Since 2009 appalled citizens have been seeking to educate the public, the media, law enforcement, and base personnel about the ongoing war crimes originating at Hancock. This campaign, coordinated by our grassroots group Upstate Drone Action, involves a range of tactics – including some that have led to arrest, trial and incarceration. Our entire campaign has been scrupulously nonviolent in the spirit and tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. – both victims of assassination.
Thus before each civil resistance action participants commit ourselves to the following Pledge:
We are committed in the campaign to nonviolence in all of our words, symbols and actions. Our purpose is to publicize and hopefully deter the war crimes perpetrated from Hancock AFB by hunter/killer Reaper drones piloted by Hancock personnel over Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Accordingly, at today’s event at Hancock our attitude will be one of respect toward all – including police, military personnel, the public, and each other.
We will not resist or evade arrest and if prosecuted, we will use the judicial process to continue our anti-drone campaign. Where possible we will put the Pentagon’s and CIA’s use of hunter/killer drones itself on trial.
Today’s Action is part of an ongoing, protracted campaign. We will return to our communities and continue our work to end Reaper assassination, civilian killing and other such acts of state terrorism.
Closing Argument presented on Janurary 31, 2014, by Judith Bello on trial as of those who protested at Hancock Air Base in New York State on October 25, 2012
I would like to begin, Judge Gideon, by thanking you for your attention to our unique argument, and support for our learning process with regard to formal court procedures as pro se defendants.
I will preface my remarks by saying that we are ever grateful for the right and privilege given to us by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which says that:
“Congress shall make no law [. . .] abridging the freedom of speech . . . ; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
We would not be here today if this were not the law of the land. I will argue that I went to Hancock Base on the 25th of October, 2012, that as far as I know, we all assembled at Hancock Base on October 25th, 2012 to exercise our right and privilege of free speech to ask our government for redress of grievance; specifically to uphold international laws that prohibit wars of aggression, targeted assassination and the reckless endangerment of civilian populations around the world.
You have heard testimony that Weaponized Drones, including those flown from Hancock Air National Guard Base are on the front line of illegal wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries around the world. You have heard testimony that Armed Drones threaten civilian populations in these countries, and contrary to government assertions, kill indiscriminately, leaving a trail of dead civilians in their wake. Even the oft affirmed ‘militant’ target is a civilian in most cases, perhaps in every case depending whether American combatants can be said to be engaged in a legal war. According to Customary International Law and numerous treaties which I will now elaborate, these wars of aggression are illegal,
Therefore, my presence, our presence at Hancock Air National Guard Base is justified under NYS Penal Law 35.05, Subsection 1)
"Unless otherwise limited by ensuing provisions of this article defining justifiable use of physical force, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when: 1) Such conduct is required or authorized by a law or judicial decree . . . "
In light of Article. VI of the US Constitution, which says:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
We turn to the following passages from the Nuremberg Judgment which has been designated as a Federal Rules Decision, thereby incorporated into United States Law as well as the United States Army Field Manual:
on pg 19 under THE COMMON PLAN OR CONSPIRACY AND AGGRESSIVE WAR:
The esteemed justices of the Nuremberg Court say:
". . . War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world.
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
on Pg 42 under VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES:
The court continues in the same vein. It says that the waging of an aggressive war is a crime regardless of whether any signed treaty has been violated.
"The Charter defines as a crime the planning or waging of war that is a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties. [ . . . ] This makes it unnecessary to discuss the subject in further detail, or even to consider at any length the extent to which these aggressive wars were also "wars in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.""
In other words, since we are agreed that prosecuting a war of aggression is a crime, we do not need any further Treaties to justify our verdict.
on Pps 44-47 of the Nuremberg Judgment, under THE LAW OF THE CHARTER: The Nuremberg judges state:
"The Charter is not an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the victorious nations, but in the view of the Tribunal, as will be shown, it is the expression of international law existing at the time of its creation; and to that extent is itself a contribution to international law."
The United States must have agreed with this at the time because the Judgment was admitted to US Law as a Federal Rules Decision. They go on to say that it is a matter of justice that a criminal act is understood in reference to the law. So they proceed to name the Treaties on which they have based their judgment. First and foremost, the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, also called The Pact of Paris because the United States and France were the makers of the treaty, and the charter signatories:
“This view is strongly reinforced by a consideration of the state of international law in 1939, so far as aggressive war is concerned. The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War of August 27th 1928, more generally known as the Pact of Paris or the Kellogg-Briand Pact, was binding on sixty-three nations, including Germany, Italy and Japan [and, I might add, the United States] at the outbreak of war in 1939. [ . . . ]
The first two articles of Kellogg-Briand are as follows:
"Article I: The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations to one another."
"Article II: The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arrive among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."
In case we don't take this seriously, the Nuremberg judges go on to quote Henry L. Stimson, US Secretary of State in 1932, as follows:
"War between nations was renounced by the signatories of the Kellogg-Briand Treaty. This means that it has become throughout practically the entire world ... an illegal thing. Hereafter, when nations engage in armed conflict, either one or both of them must be termed violators of this general treaty law....We denounce them as law breakers."
I have been told that the Kellogg-Briand Treaty is obsolete and irrelevant. No one pays any attention to it. However the United States has not withdrawn her signature from Kellogg-Briand, as she has, for instance, from the International Court of Justice. Kellogg-Briand is not only a basis for the Nuremberg Judgment, which is accepted as a Federal Rules Decision, but is a direct creation of US diplomacy of which the United States is a charter signatory. Perhaps it should be taken more seriously.
Clearly, Kellogg-Briand does not codify particular penalties for particular variants or degrees of the crime of aggressive war. The Nuremberg judges respond to this concern as follows:
“But it is argued that the pact does not expressly enact that such wars are crimes, or set up courts to try those who make such wars. [. . . ] In interpreting the words of the Pact, it must be remembered that international law is not the product of an international legislature, and that such international agreements as the Pact of Paris have to deal with general principles of law, and not with administrative matters of procedure. The law of war is to be found not only in treaties, but in the customs and practices of states which gradually obtained universal recognition, and from the general principles of justice applied by jurists and practiced by military courts.”.
Here we have an argument that International Law is a foundation of global justice, and should be enforced through understandings and procedures defined by Customary Law, which has evolved through the consensus of nations over a period of centuries.
Armed Drones, which are currently a critical tactical method in support of our many wars of aggression, are engaged in the commission of crimes, Crimes Against Peace in so far as they facilitate illegal wars, and War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in so far as they facilitate indiscriminate killing of civilians and targeted assassinations which are illegal under US Law.
It is a matter of particular concern that United States officials are attempting to change Customary International Law to their advantage by changing the facts on the ground through the introduction of new technologies and social classifications. Terrorists and terrorism supposedly represent a class of individuals who perpetuate a condition not anticipated by Customary International law nor standing Treaties. However, the United States duplicity in both fighting 'terrorists' and supporting the same individuals under different names shows that this is not the case. The use of new technologies i.e. armed drones, to 'terrorize' civilians while supposedly hunting so called 'terrorists' is frivolous, hypocritical and completely illegal.
Terrorists and the armed drones that hunt them are social and technical constructs designed to disrupt international law and the social structures on which it is founded. This is clearly succeeding as can be seen by the confusion evidenced in recent statements by the United Nations Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Killing and on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, and by the conclusions drawn by NGO Reports on Drone attacks released by the Human Rights NGOs this Fall by Amnesty International  and Human Rights Watch.
Drones are asserted to be a device that is not constrained by Customary International Law as we have understood it in the past. The claim is that they are so advanced as to require new laws for new situations. Indeed they say:
- Drones can hover quietly at great heights, out of view of those o the ground and out of reach to retaliation by populations without air power and are claimed to be primarily used for surveillance
- Since drones aren't manned, they have not violated the boundaries and borders they have illegally crossed.
- Since a Drone can be piloted from a faraway location that is not in the clear zone of war, then pilots are not at risk and not liable for their actions
- Drones are able to discriminate their targets more effectively than other delivery systems for missiles
To me, the above list of special features can be subsumed under a single classification, IMPUNITY. The latter point in particular has clearly proven not to be the case. It takes more than a stable image from 2 miles away to provide meaningful clues to an operator 10,000 miles away. Drones are used to conduct illegal wars invisibly. Even so, new laws aren't necessary to constrain armed drones. What is necessary is that their owners and users be called to obey the existing laws.
In fact, International Law has addressed this very situation more than 100 years ago. Initially, the Martens Clause, as it is called, was introduced into the prologue of Hague Convention II in 1899, later the substance was incorporated into the Hague Convention IV in 1907. The Martens Clause states:
Until a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents (we would say civilians and combatants) remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and the requirements of the public conscience.
In other words, you cannot create an instrument that smashes the existing rules and boundaries and then claim that new boundaries must be drawn around it. Rather, the use of new technologies must be required to remain within the boundaries of existing law until such time as the international community can come to a consensus on a new structure of law to accommodate them. Then their use can be expanded into the new legal space. We must act under the empire of international law rather than under the law of the empire.
-------- Conclusion ---------------
We cannot ignore the fact that these laws are often broken; often restated in new language. It seems to me that war is much like an addiction, deadly and difficult to end. We vow to quit, then fail, and recover and relapse again and again. This does not mean that we should cease trying. Every treaty and promise to repudiate the deadly violence of war, and restrain the instruments that make it easy for us to engage in war, must be held up and honored, over and over again until justice prevails, and we are at last free to live as civilized human beings in peace and security with other individuals and other nations.
That is why I was at Hancock Base on October 25, 2012 and that is why I am here today. I am not asking you, Judge Gideon, to try defendants under these laws as the Nuremberg Judges were required to do. That is not your job. What I am asking is that you acknowledge our obligations under these laws, along with my obligation and privilege to uphold them under the Constitution and acquit me and my companions of the current charges under Penal Code 35.05 which says that we may justify an act that would otherwise constitute an offense when it is authorized by a law or judicial decree.
TRIAL DATE: Monday, Feb. 3, 9:00 am
OPEN LETTER TO BEALE AIR FORCE BASE PERSONEL (April 30, 2013)
We, the people, charge the US President, Barak Obama, and the full military chain of command, to Beale Air Force Base Commander Colonel Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, every drone crew, and service members at Beale Air Force Base, and every other U.S. base involved directly or indirectly with the U.S. drone program with crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the Supreme Law of the Land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians.
US military and CIA Drone attacks have killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the name of combating terrorism against the U.S. we are terrorizing innocent people, and creating many more enemies and potential terrorists in the process.
Our government has become lawless powers, acting as judge, jury and executioner, just because it can. The U.S. uses remote-controlled drones to kill women in their kitchens, elders meeting in their jirgas, mourners at funerals, and rescuers who try to help the wounded. By most independent studies, the vast majority of those killed are civilians.
We therefore, demand:
(1) An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing
(2) A halt all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia
(3) A prohibition on the sale, and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom and security and
(4) An immediate end to this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.
Today we issue an international call for Spring Days of Action – 2014, a coordinated campaign in April and May to:
End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization
The campaign will focus on drone bases, drone research facilities and test sites and drone manufacturers.
The campaign will provide information on:
1. The suffering of tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza who are under drone attack, documenting the killing, the wounding and the devastating impact of constant drone surveillance on community life.
2. How attack and surveillance drones have become a key element in a massive wave of surveillance, clandestine military attacks and militarization generated by the United States to protect a global system of manufacture and oil and mineral exploitation that is creating unemployment and poverty, accelerating the waste of nonrenewable resources and contributing to environmental destruction and global warming.
In addition to cases in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, we will examine President Obama's "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific, where the United States has already sold and deployed drones in the vanguard of a shift of 60% of its military forces to try to control China and to enforce the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership. We will show, among other things, how this surge of "pivot" forces, greatly enabled by drones, and supported by the US military-industrial complex, will hit every American community with even deeper cuts in the already fragile social programs on which people rely for survival. In short, we will connect drones and militarization with "austerity" in America.
3. How drone attacks have effectively destroyed international and domestic legal protection of the rights to life, privacy, freedom of assembly and free speech and have opened the way for new levels of surveillance and repression around the world, and how, in the United States, increasing drone surveillance, added to surveillance by the National Security Agency and police, provides a new weapon to repress black, Hispanic, immigrant and low-income communities and to intimidate Americans who are increasingly unsettled by lack of jobs, economic inequality, corporate control of politics and the prospect of endless war.
We will discuss how the United States government and corporations conspire secretly to monitor US citizens and particularly how the Administration is accelerating drone surveillance operations and surveillance inside the United States with the same disregard for transparency and law that it applies to other countries, all with the cooperation of the Congress.
The campaign will encourage activists around the world to win passage of local laws that prohibit weaponized drones and drone surveillance from being used in their communities as well as seeking national laws to bar the use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance.
The campaign will draw attention to the call for a ban on weaponized drones by RootsAction.org that has generated a petition with over 80,000 signers
and to efforts by the Granny Peace Brigade (New York City), KnowDrones.org and others to achieve an international ban on both weaponized drones and drone surveillance.
The campaign will also urge participation in the World Beyond War movement.
The following individuals and organizations endorse this Call:
Lyn Adamson – Co-chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Dennis Apel – Guadalupe Catholic Worker, California
Judy Bello – Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars
Medea Benjamin – Code Pink
Leah Bolger – Former National President, Veterans for Peace
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Sung-Hee Choi – Gangjeong Village International Team, Jeju, Korea
Chelsea C. Faria – Graduate student, Yale Divinity School; Promoting Enduring Peace
Sandy Fessler – Rochester (NY) Against War
Bruce K. Gagnon - Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Holly Gwinn Graham – Singer/songwriter, Olympia, WA.
Regina Hagen - Darmstaedter Friedensforum, Germany
Kathy Kelly – Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Marilyn Levin and Joe Lombardo – Co-Coordinators, United National Antiwar Coalition
Tamara Lorincz – Halifax Peace Coalition, Canada
Nick Mottern – KnowDrones.org
Agneta Norberg – Swedish Peace Council
Pepperwolf – Director, Women Against Military Madness
Lindis Percy, Coordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases CAAB UK
Mathias Quackenbush – San Francisco, CA
Lisa Savage – Code Pink, State of Maine
Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck- Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen, Germany
Lucia Wilkes Smith – Convener, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – Ground Military Drones Committee
David Soumis – Veterans for Peace; No Drones Wisconsin
Debra Sweet – World Can’t Wait
David Swanson - WarisACrime.org
Brian Terrell – Voices for Creative Nonviolence
United National Antiwar Coalition
Veterans for Peace
Dave Webb – Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)
Curt Wechsler – Fire John Yoo! (a project of World Can’t Wait) – San Francisco, CA
Paki Wieland, Northampton (MA) Committee to Stop War(s)
Loring Wirbel – Citizens for Peace in Space (Colorado Springs, CO)
Women Against Military Madness
Ann Wright – Retired US Army colonel and former diplomat
Leila Zand - Fellowship of Reconciliation
Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), the body appointed to chart a post-revolutionary course for the country, has recommended that the new Yemeni constitution make a criminal offence of extra-judicial killing. The recommendations, issued today by the National Issues and Transitional Justice Working Group, would outlaw the US drone strikes that have killed and injured hundreds of people in Yemen, including the December targeting of a wedding party that killed 12 and injured 14.
The news comes amid an apparent ramping up of US drone strikes in Yemen; there have been eight strikes in the last two months alone. Last week, a Yemeni delegation to the United Nations admitted that the Government has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of trauma caused by drone attacks in the country is so high.
Meanwhile, a growing clamour of voices is urging the US government to reconsider the controversial policy. This week, former US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal told the BBC that drone strikes risked creating “a tremendous amount of resentment” in places like Yemen.
The NDC was established in 2012 as part of an internationally-sponsored initiative that led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down in February 2012, following the 2011 uprising. It was designed to be representative of all Yemeni society, and met throughout 2013 to agree a way forward for a new constitution for Yemen.
Baraa Shiban, a Reprieve Associate based in Yemen and a leading member of the group, said:
“To date, there has been little to no accountability in Yemen for the suffering caused by drone strikes, which have terrorised local populations.
“We welcome this move to take real steps towards protecting the rights and security of Yemen’s citizens, and urge the Yemeni Government to ensure that these recommendations are included in the country’s new constitution.
“It’s disheartening, however, to see the US intensifying drone strikes in Yemen at the very moment the Yemeni people are working to criminalise them. The US has supported the NDC process, but persists in ignoring its outcomes when inconvenient.”
Former US commander General Stanley McChrystal has warned that the US’s controversial drones programme creates “a tremendous amount of resentment” among “helpless” people in the areas it targets. McChrystal’s last post before retiring was overseeing NATO forces in Afghanistan, where drone strikes feature prominently in operations.
Asked by the BBC’s flagship radio programme Today what the future was for drone warfare, McChrystal talked of the dangers of seeing the drones programme as “antiseptic”:
“There’s a danger that something that feels easy to do and without risk to yourself, almost antiseptic to the person shooting, doesn’t feel that way at the point of impact. And so if it lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there’s danger in that.
“And then the other part is there’s a perception of arrogance, there is a perception of helpless people in an area being shot at like thunderbolts from the sky by an entity that is acting as though they have omniscience and omnipotence, and you can create a tremendous amount of resentment inside populations, even not the people that are themselves being targeted, but around, because of the way it appears and feels.
“So I think that we need to be very very cautious; what seems like a panacea to the messiness of war is not that at all.”
McChrystal’s comments come just days after a Yemeni delegation to the United Nations admitted it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of trauma caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high.
The former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan joins a growing number of critics of the drone programme from the US military, intelligence and diplomatic establishments:
Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, recently asked: “How many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them [?]”
Meanwhile, the former US Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, has warned that “the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones.”
Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at legal charity Reprieve, which represents civilian victims of drone strikes, said: “For a former commander of General McChrystal’s reputation and experience to be speaking so forcefully on drones is damning. By terrorising populations in places like Yemen and Pakistan, drones create a breeding ground of resentment against the US and its allies. It is high time President Obama heeded the warnings of just how counter-productive the covert drone programme is, and put a stop to it.”
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 / 66 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. General Stanley McChrystal was speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The programme can be accessed on the BBC website: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/
3. Robert Grenier’s comments can be found at the Al Jazeera website: http://www.aljazeera.com/
4. Nabeel Khoury’s comments can be found at the website of the Cairo Review: http://www.aucegypt.edu/gapp/
Jan 23/24 - Thursday & Friday 5pm
Town of De Witt Court, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY.
The Hancock 17 trial began January 3, 2014 and will continue this week on January 23 and most likely January 24. Please come in support!
After 12 hours in the courtroom on January 3rd and 6th, the prosecution case is nearly complete. With one exception, the defendants are going pro se, which means that they are defending themselves. Their defense is based on the fact that they were not at the base to break the law, but rather to uphold the U.S. Constitution and international law.
Listen to the powerful opening statements of Ed Kinane and Clare Grady at http://upstatedroneaction.org/
It is expected that the defense case will begin Thursday, January 23, most likely continuing on the Friday the 24th. The defendants' case is supported by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, international law experts Francis Boyle and Mary Ellen O'Connell, and a an Afghani man whose brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike.
On October 25, 2012, they had been arrested for symbolically blocking the three gates at Hancock Air National Guard Base, from which MQ 9 Reaper drones are piloted over Afghanistan and where MQ9 Reaper pilots, sensor operators and technicians are trained. They stood in front of the gates with banners and and signs calling for an end to drone warfare, and read a Citizen's War Crimes Indictment to the base personnel. They called for an end of attacks on civilians that are illegal under international war.
After more than two hours outside the gates, they were arrested and arraigned on charges of Trespass and Disorderly Conduct (both violations) and were issued Orders of Protection for Col. Earl Evans which require them to stay away from the base (his place of work). Violating these Orders of Protection carries potential misdemeanor or even felony charges.
Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs, NY
Judy Bello, Rochester, NY
Daniel Burgevin, Trumansburg, NY
Mark Colville, New Haven, CT
Paul Frazier, Syr. & Rochester, NY
Clare Grady, Ithaca, NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca, NY
Martha Hennessy, New York, NY
Brian Hynes, Bronx, NY
Ed Kinane, Syracuse, NY
Rae Kramer, Syracuse, NY
Andrea Levine, Trumansburg, NY
Michael Perry,Trumansburg, NY
James Ricks, Enfield, NY
Mark Scibilia-Carver, Trumansburg,NY
Patricia Weiland, Northampton, MA
A Yemeni delegation to the UN yesterday admitted that it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of traumatisation caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high.
At a periodic review of Yemen by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child yesterday, the Yemeni delegation was asked by the Committee about the psychological impact of drone strikes on children. The Yemeni official said that following a drone attack on a residential area, they had found it necessary to set up a counselling centre.
The delegation also stressed that the country's Parliament has voted to stop US drone strikes, saying:
“The Yemeni Parliament one month ago adopted a prohibition of American drones carrying out attacks in Yemen and we will continue to review and discuss this issue.”
When asked by a member of the committee how Yemen is trying to prevent drone strikes, the delegation said:
“We have signed an agreement with the US and other countries to fight terrorism…We will fight terrorism wherever it occurs in conformity with our agreement with the US.” The delegation then went on to admit that, “Of course mistakes have been made.”
These statements follow on from a report from UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon to the Security Council last year by stating that drones were violating a range of children’s rights from their right to life to their right to education.
CIA drone strikes in Yemen have killed an estimated 42 children. In March last year Dr Peter Schaapveld, an expert in psychological trauma assessment and treatment told British MPs, following a trip assessing victims and communities in Yemen, that US drones in the country were “causing a psychological emergency.”
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “In places like Yemen, the US drone programme is terrorising entire civilian populations, nearly half of which are children. President Hadi's agreements with the US are trumping Yemen's responsibility to protect its children. Instead of allowing the US to bomb his country to pieces and then setting up a recovery centre, President Hadi should listen to his Parliament and stop the drone strikes.”
On January 25, 2012, 17 people were arrested for symbolically blocking the gates at Hancock National Air Guard Base which is a site where MQ 9 Reaper drones are piloted over Afghanistan, and the domestic center for training MQ9 Reaper pilots and technicians. They stood in front of the gates with banners and and signs calling for an end to drone warfare, and read an Indictment for Crimes Against Peace and attacks on civilians that are illegal under international war.
After more than two hours outside the gates, the protesters were arrested and arraigned on charges of Trespass and Disorderly Conduct, both violations. The protesters were also issued Orders of Protection for Col Earl Evans which require them to stay away from the base. Violating these OOPs, as they call them, carries potential misdemeanor or even felony charges.
On January 2nd of this year (2014) the Hancock 17 went to trial in DeWitt, NY. Fifteen defendants are going before the court Pro Se, i.e. they are representing themselves before the court. They have prepared a defense based on the fact that they were not at the base to break the law, but rather to uphold the law. The way the drones are used in Afghanistan violates Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. There is little coverage of Afghan casualties in the mainstream news but according to a report by Press TV, there were 500 drone attacks in Afghanistan in the last year.
After 12 hours in the courtroom on January 2nd and 6th, the prosecution case is nearly complete. The defendants had an opportunity to cross examine Col Evans, a civil engineer responsible for material operations at the base, and the Security Chief at some length. There were a number of questions about the handling of events occurring outside the Military Installation (denoted by the fence) of the Base and in the Easement which includes a public thoroughfare.
It is expected that the defense case will begin on January 23 and continue on the 24th. The defendants' case is supported by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Mary Ellen O'Connell of Notre Dame who is an expert on Drones and International Law, and by witness from an Afghan youth whose brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike in Maidan Shahr Wardak, Afghanistan.
For more information, please go to http://upstatedroneaction.org/
Baraa Shiban, an investigator in Yemen for human rights charity Reprieve, received an anonymous death threat yesterday (Thursday) relating to his investigation of a US drone strike which killed 12 wedding guests and injured 14 others in al-Baydah province, on December 12, 2013.
The anonymous caller demanded that Mr. Shiban abandon his investigation of the drone strike and then threatened his life.
The investigation to which the caller referred exposed that the drone strike had hit a wedding procession, rather than Al-Qaeda militants as the US and Yemeni governments had initially claimed. The findings of Reprieve’s investigation, which were broadcast on the US network NBC on Tuesday, have sparked the US administration to launch an internal investigation.
Reprieve has written to governmental officials calling on them to investigate the threat and take any steps required by Yemeni law. Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Our primary concern is, of course, for the safety of our colleague. We have asked President Hadi to take a stand to protect Baraa and other human rights advocates who are so vital to Yemen’s democratic transition. But the nature of the threat, and the proximity of it to the high profile coverage of this recent strike procured by Baraa, only makes us more determined to continue our work to expose the unlawfulness of drones in Yemen, how they are killing civilians and terrorising entire communities. We hope that the Yemeni and international community will continue to assist our colleague in his brave work.”
from Scarry Thoughts
Now's the time of year for New Year's resolutions.
Let no one doubt that Barack Obama has one resolution for 2014 and that is to win back control of the House of Representatives.
As the nationwide -- and, increasingly, global -- movement to ground the drones looks ahead to 2014, what will its New Year's resolution be?
I suggest that if we want to be heard on this issue, we need to be where Obama and his crew are paying daily attention: the highly-contested races in the 2014 midterms.
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"
Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.
I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.
The US and British militaries insist that this is an expert program, but it's curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.
What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: "The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon?" I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle.
It's also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analysing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.
But here's the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren't reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.
Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain's secretary of state for defence, Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within a year of leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.
The UAVs in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.
By Debra Sweet. Last week 17 people died from a U.S. drone strike in a remote area of Yemen as they drove in a convoy returning from a wedding. People in the area had heard the drone overhead since the day before. As to what really happened, we are fed a lot of speculation by the US news media, because, of course, the U.S. military won't comment... “those killed were linked to al Qaeda, and therefore legitimate targets... the government of Yemen is running the war, and they choose the targets... the drone strike targeted that convoy by ‘mistake.’”
Very rarely does our government ask us what to have a war on. The proposal for missile strikes into Syria was a rare occasion when public pressure and other factors compelled Congress to demand a say. Public pressure then compelled Congress to say No.
But daily drone buzzings over various nations aren't occasions for public debate. We aren't being asked about another decade in Afghanistan or cooking up a future war on Iran. And our current president and his predecessor combined have wiped out eight wedding parties (six in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and one in Yemen earlier this month) without our having ever been asked about any of them.
What if we were?
There are various ways a debate over whether to launch a war could go. In a highly-informed debate, we might investigate whether a war would violate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. We might ask how many adults, children, and infants would likely be killed, injured, and traumatized, how many refugees created, what sort of environmental damage, what economic cost, what erosion of our civil liberties, what heightened secrecy in government, what increase in violence throughout our culture and the country attacked, what likely blowback for decades to come, and what obvious alternatives are available to violence. But, of course, if we asked all that, then we'd never have any wars.
In a more plausible scenario, we might expect a debate to squeeze its way onto our televisions that would ask questions like: How many U.S. troops will die? How much will it cost? Why are we on the same side as al Qaeda this time? How will it end once begun? How does bombing more people express our support for suffering people? Or, depending on the circumstances, maybe even this: Haven't we been arming that dictator for decades -- why the urgency to overthrow him now?
But how would a debate over whether to send hellfire missiles screaming into a wedding party look? What if such a debate were to develop in our news media this Christmas season?
In areas of frequent drone strikes, people are often afraid to get together in large numbers. In Yemen, parents resort to home schooling for fear of letting their children out of the house. Few and far between are the events deemed important enough to risk violating that rule. One such event is a wedding.
How much, we might hear our pundits ask, could be saved by killing 15 people at a wedding as opposed to killing them each separately? (If the missiles alone cost $1 million each, the answer is well over $14 million.) What element of surprise might be gained in obliterating people whose minds are distracted by love and friendship and an important
right rite of passage? What fear and respect might be placed into the minds of the survivors? Let's say one of the wedding couple survives and the other doesn't; which one would it be most desirable to let live? Does it matter what kind of dress the bride is wearing? Should fashion consultants be brought in by the Pentagon, or should morning talk shows contribute that analysis as part of their patriotic duty? Should the missiles hit just as little kids bearing flowers enter the scene?
The debate may sound absurd, but its creation would actually be a significant step toward sound government. We ought to vote on or be represented by officials who vote on important decisions for us. We ought to be informed, engaged, and consulted. Therefore, a debate before the next wedding strike is a perfectly reasonable proposal -- unless of course we're going to unilaterally stop blowing up weddings. Far be it from me to suggest anything that rash.