End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization
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Darcy Ike, San Diego, CA
WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARAK OBAMA AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND TO COMMANDER COLONEL JIM CLUFF, EVERY DRONE CREW, AND SERVICE MEMBERS at CREECH AIR BASE, WITH CRIMES AGAINST PEACE & 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.
Nevada Desert Experience to serve Creech AFB with a War Crimes Indictment on Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Pay Your Taxes, Go to Gitmo?
Does Paying Taxes Violate the Law against Providing Aid and Support to a Terrorist Organization?
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org)
(April 13, 2014) -- With April 15 fast approaching, I have just finished mailing my 1040. This year, I didn't owe taxes and, boy, am I relieved. Not because I can't afford to cut a check, it's just that I don't want to spend the next six years in a federal prison for violating the provisions of US Code Title 18 -- Crimes and Criminal Procedures.
That's exactly what happened to Ahmed Taalil Mohamud, a cab driver in Anaheim, California, who was sentenced to six years in prison for, as the Associated Press put it, "funneling thousands of dollars to a terrorist organization" in Somalia.
By Jane Stoever
Bearing witness against remote control of reaper drones from U.S. military bases, about 20 protesters rallied Sunday, April 6, at the Spirit Gate entry to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo.
Noting the name Whiteman Air Force Base, former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern in his talk said, "When B2 bombers flew out of here to Afghanistan and Iraq, they weren't killing people who looked like us (white), but who were what the airmen were taught to call 'sand niggers' or 'towel-heads.' White-man is killing brown, black, and other men, women, and children who don't look like us. White-man Air Force Base is a reflection of the American original sin, racism."
McGovern recalled that President Obama on May 17, 2013, said he wished he could stop drone strikes. "Gimme a break," said McGovern. "The president could stop the strikes if he had the backbone." Acknowledging that he was in the Bible Belt, McGovern assailed the silence of the churches about drones. "If the church does not speak out against this wanton slaughter against black and brown people, then the church is the same institution Jesus spoke out against and got killed for doing it."
McGovern, after being introduced by Brian Terrell, said, "It's not often I'm introduced by a prophet!" McGovern thanked Terrell for
serving six months in a federal prison camp for his 2012 protest at Whiteman AFB--the longest sentence any drone resister has received.
Terrell, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, speaking during the rally, asked whether the resisters knew what "Spirit Gate" meant. The name evokes not the third person of the Holy Trinity--the Holy Spirit, not a "higher power," not a spirit that animates and gives life, nor even the Higgs-Bosson particle. "Spirit Gate" and, even more pointedly, the "Spirit Chapel" that can be seen just inside the gate, are named for the nickname the Air Force gives to the B2 Stealth Bomber nestled at Whiteman AFB. The Air Force calls these weapons of mass destruction "Spirit Stealth Bombers."
"This is the 'spirit' that is evoked and worshiped here at Whiteman," said Terrell, co-founder of Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa. "When we were here for the first Trifecta Resista action in 2012, Whiteman personnel were using Predator drones. Now we have Reaper drones--think Grim Reaper--and they are armed with 'Hellfire' missiles. These terms--Spirit, Reaper, Hellfire--are theological terms and, as used here at Whiteman, are shear blasphemy!"
Terrell noted his best times during his six-months imprisonment in South Dakota were spent walking a large circle path outside in the
cold, even in minus-40-degree wind chill, times when no one else was out walking, unlike warm days when the path became Grand Central Station. He called his prison time "highly productive" for thinking/praying/planning. He later asked whether any locals had come forward to say they will do civil resistance during the May 30-June 1 Trifecta Resista that will return to Whiteman AFB. The answer: not yet. For info on that resistance weekend, see www.PeaceWorksKC.org.
Rally organizer Jeff Stack of Columbia, Mo., head of the Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, asked protester Jo Ann Witt of Kansas
City to say a few words about why she came to the rally. "Because so many innocent civilians have been killed by the drones," said Witt, moved to tears.
McGovern thanked Witt for her tears, noting they were the humane response to the horror of drone warfare that the U.S. has unleashed.
Tamara Severns of PeaceWorks-KC arrested by surprise at drone protest
Tamara Severns of Kansas City, Mo., was arrested unexpectedly during an April 6 protest of drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Mo. A member of the PeaceWorks, Kansas City, Board of Directors and a Co-member of the Loretto Community, Tamara was walking toward the Visitors' Center to use the bathroom. She and other resisters had used those facilities with no problem during about five earlier protests. On April 6, Tamara and several others had arrived at the base entry after authorities had warned the resisters not to step across the white line on the entry road. Unaware that "the rules" had
changed, Tamara crossed the line to go toward the Visitors' Center, was taken into custody with no warning, and was handcuffed, searched, and detained on the base about an hour.
"The officer said, 'Turn around. You're being arrested,' and clamped the metal handcuffs on my wrists," Tamara said after her release.
"They gave me no warning to leave the property." Her wrists still showed red marks two hours after the handcuffs were removed. A male officer twisted the chain between her handcuffs to direct her where to walk and to hurt her, Tamara said. "I was scared because he was being so rough."
Tamara received a U.S. District Court Violation Notice for "trespassing on military installation" and expects to be summoned to
court. Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, a speaker at the rally, said later he hoped Tamara would not be taken to court because no date or
location was listed on the notice. Tamara fears she will receive a court date because the officers told her she would, and it says it on
One complicating factor: Officer John Sullivan, who was debriefing the protesters, had gotten inaccurate information from someone else, said Tamara. Sullivan told protest organizer Jeff Stack that another security officer said Tamara had tried to go around the driver's side of the police car toward the Visitor's Center after being advised not to. The truth, said Tamara, was that she never left the sidewalk on the right side of the car and no one said anything except "You're being arrested."
Protester Vicke Hooper Kepling, on her Facebook page April 7, wrote this about Tamara: "She walked to the bathrooms ... like she had done at other protests ... AND GOT TICKETED (detained, felt up, the works). I said "ticketed," but I believe she was actually arrested. I woke up thinking about it. She may face the same fate as the three who intentionally crossed two years ago. One actually did six months in federal prison, and the other got five years probation (reduced to one). I wasn't putting the same weight on it because of her intention (and that she and others had used the restrooms before). But after reconsideration, I bet it's the same."
Former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, who spoke during the rally, said afterwards, "It's so obvious Tamara's civil rights under the First Amendment have been violated. Somebody said to this officer, 'Make an example of Tamara and brutalize her,' and he did."
Campaign Bulletin #9; April 5, 2014
By Nick Mottern
Don't forget: Weekly open conference call for activists every Wednesday, 9 pm EST
(605) 562-3000, Access code - 484539#
- Niagara Falls
- Georgia Tech
- Kick-Off Forum
- BEALE AFB
(Members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) at the April 1 Beale AFB drone protest (l-r); Dr. Richard Gilchrist, Arcata, CA; Dr. Jerry Pederson, Sacramento, CA; John Reiger, President of VFP, Sacramento; Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs, NY; and Michael Kerr, Bayview, Ca.)
On April 1, Elliot Adams, former President of Veterans for Peace (VFP), and another VFP member Richard Gilchrist, were detained for an hour at Beale Air Force Base after crossing into the base to protest its operation of the Global Hawk drone, which is used, among other things, to assist Predator and Reaper drones in targeting.
I use the word “detained” because although it appeared they were arrested, Elliott reports: “Curiously we received no paperwork - no citation, no ban and bar, no appearance date. Maybe something will come via mail later, but it surprised me we didn't get anything.”
This was also true of the demonstrators arrested in an Ash Wednesday action on March 5. One of the arrestees, Sharon Delgado, describes that action in her blog at http://sharondelgado.org/2014/03/05/ash-wednesday-worship-and-arrests-at-beale/.
This may signal a new approach by the base and local courts in handling civil resistance at Beale. For more details, see the Court Action section below.
The Beale protesters, numbering about 15 were met with soaking rain, but their spirits were high, in part because of increasing publicity, particularly article in the Mar. 30 Sacramento Bee that dominated both the front and back pages. This is the front page, with a link where you can read the whole article.
“We are truly growing into a force… they must reckon with,” said Toby Blome, who also reported: “The exchanges with the airmen at the lunch hour was very intriguing. Even if they came on "company mission" they truly seemed engaged in the dialogue.”
Here is a report of that encounter by Barry Binks, a VFP member:
Because they (the airmen) were present some of us felt constrained in what we could say. When they were asked if we could take their pictures they declined. (We take a lot of pictures and post them on Facebook so that was probably the right decision for them) We decided we would go around the circle and introduce ourselves with name, hometown and a little history. Elliott warned the airmen that anything they said could be used against them. They gave us just their basic info, claimed they were not involved in the drone program. We tried to get them more involved in our conversation but they were careful not to say too much. I think all had been deployed in the Middle East at some time in their career and they are all career soldiers. Some of our people explained why they are demonstrating against drones. Both Elliott and Richard presented several arguments against drone warfare, the UN Charter, human rights, civilians killed, etc. The airmen listened, made no excuses and claimed they were not aware of some of the things we told them have happened. They claimed ignorance. When we told them about material to read, etc they had nothing to say and didn’t visibly take any notes. They all had enough pockets and equipment, (cell phones, etc) to have been recording the whole thing. I am personally ambivalent about talking to these people. They always come out right away when we show up to protest and want to know “how many people coming? What are we going to do? How long will it last? etc” I have ignored them or given them vague answers and I think so has every one else. Sometimes being friendly has helped. Last time I was arrested they put on the handcuffs so loose that I was able to slip them off and hand them back, and it wasn’t a problem. They tell us they follow our Facebook pages and keep up with what we are doing. I think this is just part of their job, and if they could get something criminal against us they would, so I don’t volunteer much.
This FaceBook link gives offers more photos of the April 1 action at Beale:
For the next events scheduled at Beale see the Ideas/Planned Events section below.
- NIAGARA FALLS
Also on April 1, about a dozen activists from Western New York Peace Center and Upstate (NY) Drone Action protested on at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on opening day of the new Reaper drone control center there.
Russell Brown, a VFP member, said that Martin Gugino attempted to deliver a letter to the base commander that he had just sent to Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante and the Buffalo News, saying: “The Niagara Falls Airbase has taken an overt act to join in a criminal conspiracy. We ask you to empanel a grand jury in preparation for bringing charges against all involved.” (The full letter is in Attachment A)
Russell reports as follows on Martin’s action: “He walked up to the gate to deliver a copy to the base commander. They have signs out in front of the gates that say no protesters beyond this point. Until Martin walked past the signs there were no police, sheriffs, or base police. After he walked up there a base vehicle pulled up to him with lights. He asked them to take his letter to the commander. They said they weren't mailmen and refused to take the letter. He walked back to us and the sheriffs and police showed up with all their lights on. They were friendly and said not to go on the base and left. Not much happened after that.”
Commenting on the atmosphere at the base, Russell said: “What I realized is that we should bring our VFP flag to that site. We have 3 members that were at the demo. The people leaving the base were not friendly. A couple was down right nasty. But it might be helpful if they realize some of us were veterans, not ‘fucking scumbags’”.
The stunning poster that Russell created to announce the event appears in Attachment B.
A press report of the protest, with photos, appears here: http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/x539824010/Vigil-targets-use-of-drones-as-107th-starts-new-mission
Videos of the event may be seen at: http://bit.ly/1hzCOCc
(Buddhist peace walkers on the way from Massachusetts to Washington DC join the Mar. 29 protest of the planned drone control center in Horsham, PA)
Protests against the establishment of a drone control center at the Horsham (PA) Air Guard field resumed on Saturday, March 29, after a two-month winter break. Bob Smith, Staff Coordinator of Brandywine Peace Community, reports:
The last Saturday of the month protest demonstrations to Stop the PA Drone War Command Center at the Horsham PA Air Guard Base, which began in April 2013, re-commenced in a driving, non-stop rain and wind. The protest took the form of walk, entitled “Walk for a New Spring”, beginning at a Friends school two miles from the base. About 25 walkers stepped off at 11:30am in a trek that took them by the old, now closed, Willow Grove Naval Air Station (NAS) from which the Horsham Air Guard and base for the 111th PA Air Guard Fighter Wing was cut out as part of the closure of Naval Air Station two decades ago.
At noon, the walkers arrived at the protest site on northern tip of the base where they met Buddhist monks and nuns, and friends. The Buddhists were on their 13th annual "Walk for a New Spring" that took them from Leverett, MA to Washington, DC. Simultaneously, another 35 or so people arrived, picking up large signs and banners saying "NO!" to the establishment of the drone war command center in Horsham.
So far, virtually nothing has been done in developing the mammoth area left vacant by the closure of the Willow NAS, except for Horsham Air Guard station, which last March announced that it would host a U.S. Air Force drone command center. All money, as noted in the state budget, for the PA Guard and Air National Guard comes through the Federal Budget.
Since the announcement of the establishment of the drone war command center, the Brandywine Peace Community, with the support of the American Friends Service Community, Mennonite churches in the Lancaster, PA area, and a host of groups primarily in Eastern Pennsylvania, have conducted a conscious multi-approach campaign to stop the command center which the Horsham Air Guard is now stating will open in 2015.
Here is a link to other photos of the event: http://artstat.smugmug.com/CFPA/Horsham-Drone-Protest-3292014/
See the Ideas/Planned Events section below for a listing of coming events related to Horsham.
- GEORGIA TECH
A forum entitled “Who Owns the Drone” was held on April 1 at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in which about 10 people participated, including drone researchers at the school.
The event, organized by Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition and Georgia WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) intended to examine who decides how drone research is used and who profits, with a focus on the drone research being done at Georgia Tech in cooperation with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, in Columbus Georgia.
Kevin Caron, one of the organizers of the forum, said that the research includes “lethal autonomy”, how drones can engage targets without needing human intervention, and swarming, a way in which drones can communicate with each other to swarm a target in the way insects do.
A report on the forum by Emilia Kaiser, of WAND, appears here: http://gawand.org/2014/04/03/9366/
- KICK-OFF FORUM
(Madiha Tahir, Carl Dix, Maria LaHood, panelists (l-r) and Debra Sweet, moderator, at the April 2 kick-off forum of Spring Days of Action - 2014.)
On April 2, about 45 people attended the Spring Days of Drone Action kick-off forum at the Community Church in Manhattan, NY, organized by Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait.
Summarizing the presentations:
Madiha Tahir – maker of the film Wounds of Waziristan, said there is a need to press human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to begin calling for a halt to drone attacks rather than calling only for “transparency” about drone attacks. She that it is “time to stop pretending that we don’t know” what is happening with drone attacks that there is plenty of evidence as to what is going on and that it needs to stop. “Anything less” than calling for a halt, she said “is willful blindness.”
Maria LaHood – senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked how President Obama can say his drone strikes are legal while not releasing any significant information about them. She said legislation has just been introduced in Congress for transparency on drone attacks, a small step relative to the harm being done, but it is a step. She said that U.S. courts have refused to intervene to prevent drone killing and to assist families of drone victims trying to prosecute those who have ordered drone attacks. Nor, she said, does the U.S. heed the international community. Since no institution will stop the attacks, she said, “it’s up to us to do it.”
Carl Dix – a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and founder with Cornel West of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network said that the U.S. has been able to say its drone attacks are necessary, legal and just simply by classifying “every male of military age as an insurgent or a combatant…any women and children who get killed well that’s because those enemies were hiding among those women and children.” He said what has happened with the drone attacks is like police violence against black and Latino Americans, it is the “criminalization of whole populations”, and “they are fair game.” What we need, he said, is revolution, but even if one is not ready to undertake that, the drone attacks must be stopped.
In addition, Joan Pluene and Phyllis Cunningham of the Granny Peace Brigade explained what they are doing to win passage of a ban on weaponized drones and drone surveillance in New York City, and their initiative at the United Nations to achieve a global ban.
Here are videos of each presentation, the Q &A and opening and closing remarks:
Granny Peace Brigade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KlUD8HIyoY
Wounds of Waziristan, a 28-minute powerful, personal film, mentioned in the opening video, may be obtained at: http://www.journeyman.tv/66218/short-films/wounds-of-waziristan-hd.html.
On April 1, in Sacramento, CA, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd refused to grant a jury trial to Shirley Osgood to defend herself against a misdemeanor charge for entering Beale AFB in protest of drone operations there.
Shirley’s case is particularly interesting because, there are indications that she is going to trial because this was her second arrest for protesting at Beale and that those being arrested for their first time there are not be charged and prosecuted.
MacGregor Eddy, who was arrested with Shirley at Beale on November 25, 2013, said that charges against her, Flora Rogers and Michael Kerr, member of VFP, have been dropped, and she speculates that this is because the three were first time offenders at the base, unlike Shirley.
(Flora Rogers, MacGregor Eddy, Shirley Osgood and Michael Kerr being arrested at Beale on Nov. 25, 2013.)
This may be the reason that Elliott Adams and Richard Gilchrist were not given citations when they were detained at Beale for entering the base in their April 1 protest, as well as those arrested on March 5. (See Beale report above.)
MacGregor said that Judge Drozd, while denying Shirley the right to offer a necessity defense, did say that Shirley will be able to speak about her motives and intent.
MacGregor thinks that Sacramento is more liberal than some other parts of the state, and this is reflected in the courts. She thinks that one reason that press coverage of the Beale protests has increased is because the arrests of protesters resulted in their cases landing in Sacramento courts. Other factors are that the protests have been going on for 3 ½ years and that protesters have gotten to know reporters and how to do press work. The first civil resistance arrests began a year and a half ago.
Here is a report on this week’s conference call:
MacGregor Eddy – California – called in to call attention to the mass protest that is being organized at Beale AFB by Veterans for Peace April 28 – 29. (See events listing below.) She also discussed court handling of arrests at Beale, mentioned above.
Dave Lambert – Fort Wayne, IN – said that his group has been leafleting Raytheon and ITT facilities and that there will be a “Fly Kites Not Drones” event this Sunday, April 6. Dave reported that Indiana has passed a drone control law that is awaiting the governor’s signature. He said also that although Indiana and Ohio were not chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to be included among the six new drone test zones, politicians from both states continue to plump for drone business. See:
Kevin Caron – Atlanta, GA – reported on the drone forum at Georgia Tech (See above report). He was heading to Loyola University in New Orleans for the 6th Annual Student Peace Conference where he was to give a lecture on April 4 entitled “Killer Drones: Vehicle of Empire?”
Andrew Dalton and Barbara Kidney – Hudson Valley – Andrew reported that anticipated rain is causing them to postpone until April 12 the “Fly Kites Not Drones” event they are planning to hold at the center of Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. They are also continuing to try to get Quaker meetings to host memorial services for drone victims, which is proving very difficult. Barbara is interested in approaching the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York asking for prosecution of drone war crimes, as has been done in Virginia by members of the National Campaign for Non-violent Resistance. (See Bulletin #8), and she is exploring the idea of having her community create a “sister city” relationship with a community that has been attacked by drones.
Daniel Riehl – Lancaster, PA – said that protests are resuming on the last Saturday of each month in Horsham, PA, at the site of a planned drone control center and that he is among a group of Mennonites who have been carpooling to travel 70 miles to participate on a regular basis. He said four Mennonite churches are involved and that they will be screening Wounds of Waziristan.
Daniel recommends Bill Quigley’s presentation “Illegality of US Drone Killings”.
Sun., April 6 – 2 pm
“Ground the Drones” peace demonstration (in Knob Noster, MO about 90 miles from greater Kansas City), with speakers Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, and Brian Terrell, Catholic Worker, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and drone activist who served six months in Federal prison after his arrest in a drone protest at Whiteman in 2012.
For more information, contact Jeff Stack with the Mid-MO Fellowship of
Reconciliation at: 573-499-4585.
Sat., April 12 – Fri., April 18
The Sacred Peace Walk (SPW) is Nevada Desert Experience's premier event. This 65-mile, annual pilgrimage to the Nevada Test Site (the NTS, now officially the Nevada National Security Site) begins on April 12th with an orientation in Las Vegas and preparation for our six-day walk starting on April 13th (Sunday). The Walkers arrive at Peace Camp on Thursday, April 17th after a day walking in Vegas and three days in the desert. In between is a day of reflection at the Sekhmet Temple, vigils against drones at Creech Air Force Base, and a "Peace-over" Seder. The SPW concludes on "Good Friday," as we greet the sunrise with the Western Shoshone and conclude with a Good Friday liturgy and procession to the entrance to the NTS later in the morning.
“Fly Kites Not Drones” – Poughkeepsie, NY
Sat. April 12 – 2:45 pm
Gather on either side of the Walkway Over the Hudson (the very high, converted Poughkeepsie – Highland Railroad Bridge) Feel free to bring kites, balloons, your dog on a leash, drums, musical instruments and, of course, friends and family. Rain date: April 13. Info: (845) 699-3051.
Friday, April 18:
International Peace Activist, Kathy Kelly, to join Good Friday Vigil at Beale - 3-5pm, Main (Schneider Gate), North Beale Rd. (Kathy will attend Good Friday action at Livermore Labs that afternoon, and will speak in Grass Valley at 1pm on Saturday, April 19.) More Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mon. April 28-Tues. April 29:
Veterans United Against Drone Warfare and Militarism
Sacramento Veterans for Peace is calling for a mass convergence of veterans and supporters to join in a united front against drone warfare and global militarization. More Info: Barry Binks email@example.com
Sat. May 17 – Tues. May 27:
A 10-day “Walk to Peace; Resist Global Militarization/Drone Warfare" from San Francisco to Beale AFB. More details soon. To sign up for one or more days: www.facebook.com/events/1380107975587685/?ref=22
Impelled to penetrate the secrecy with which the U.S. government has attempted to conceal the intent and consequences of its drone wars, Joe Scarry and 14 organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are advocating passage of H.R. 4372 (Attachment C), entitled the “Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act”. https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/02/joint-statement-support-targeted-lethal-force-transparency-act
The introduction of the bill on April 2 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) comes after the Mar. 28 release of a statement by leaders of the House’s Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) criticizing the Administration for boycotting a discussion by the UN Human Rights Council on drone use and calling for more Congress oversight of the U.S. drone wars. They speak of annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties as “a good start.” http://ellison.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/ellison-grijalva-un-vote-proves-we-need-more-transparency-on-drones
Joe is working to have a Call-In Day in support of the Schiff bill, and he has also been working to build political support for the Ellison-Grijalva statement. (See Attachment D)
The Ellison-Grijalva statement and the Schiff statement in support of his bill
show a worthy intention to require the Administration to reveal more information about it drone attacks. But an examination of the meaning of the language of the bill suggests that passage would establish dangerous precedents while yielding little, if any, useful information.
First, it is obvious that the bill does nothing to stop drone attacks.
But, if one accepts that the bill has this shortcoming, what does the bill do?
One thing it appears is to do is to implicitly establish that “targeted lethal force” otherwise known as assassination, is fundamentally a legitimate activity of the U.S. government, in this case by drone.
While, in my opinion, the bill says implicitly that assassination by drone is permissible anywhere, it says that reporting on these killings and numbers of those injured in drone attacks will not be required for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has conducted the most drone attacks, or “in a foreign country described by a future declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force.”
In addition the reporting requirements apply only to drone attacks outside the United States. No reporting is required by the bill for the use of “targeted lethal force” by special operations units, cruise missile, airplanes or other means.
Examining the bill’s language through the lens of the Viet Nam War, it appears that it would have abetted the assassinations that were central to the Phoenix Program, which was intended, among other things, to systematically kill leaders of the Viet Cong.
In establishing “targeted lethal force” as a legitimate activity, the bill ignores the issue of due process, which has been one of the casualties of the U.S. drone program. Further, the bill implicitly denies that there are issues of due process within declared war zones.
The statement of the 14 organizations endorsing the bill suggests an unarticulated discomfort with the bill in relation to due process when it says “we do not necessarily agree that the terms ‘combatant’ and ‘civilian’ apply”, apparently referencing the essence of the bill which calls for annual government reporting on “civilians” and “combatants” killed by drones.
By establishing categories of “civilian’ and ‘combatant’, and giving an Administration the opportunity to define the categories, the bill implicitly legitimizes the killing of people deemed “bad” by administrative decision, not open judicial process, assuming capital punishment is acceptable.
It is obvious that supporters of the Schiff bill agree with the laudable view expressed in the 14-organization statement that: “The Executive Branch should openly acknowledge and investigate reports of potentially unlawful killings, and ensure accountability for any violations of the law.” The groups call on Congress to pass the bill, and “take this modest yet crucial step toward ending excessive secrecy about U.S. drone strikes.”
But while there is a need to learn everything we can about drone attacks, we know that secrecy is not so much the problem as the attacks themselves. We have to be aware of the possibility that the Schiff bill may provide political and legal cover for assassination and drone attacks, protection that these actions don’t have now.
There is a wish on the part of some to make elimination of drone secrecy a legislative baby step that will open a window to drone atrocities that will bring a level of public revulsion that will lead to an end to U.S. drone attacks and drone surveillance.
The Schiff bill is unlikely to achieve that because full disclosure of the workings and effects of the drone program are not its goals.
More troubling is the fact the leaders of the Progressive Caucus and the aforementioned 14 organizations have not said that ending drone secrecy is the first step in ending drone attacks and drone surveillance. What seems to be envisioned is a vague, multi-year process of limited disclosure that will in no way adequately challenge what is clearly an entrenched, growing, global U.S. program of drone execution and spying.
People now living under drones are unlikely to be patient with what appear to be imperatives of U.S. politics, as perceived by politicians in Washington DC.
I asked Madiha Tahir, maker of the film Wounds of Waziristan, to comment on the Schiff bill, and this is her response:
“As citizens of an ostensibly democratic state, governmental transparency is a laudable goal; we should know what our government are doing in our name. But, let's be clear: such transparency does little, if anything, for the victims and survivors of American militarism. Allowing the U.S. to forego transparency for its attacks on Afghanistan (and perhaps by extension, Pakistan), effectively legitimizes U.S. violence on, and occupation of, that country under the rubric of "armed conflict." The convergence between U.S. militarism and those who claim to advocate for its victims as typified in the Transparency Act is deeply troubling.”
(A personal note: I write the above with a certain amount of regret because I value greatly the counter-drone war work that Joe Scarry is doing as well as that of many others in the organizations that have endorsed the Schiff bill.)
Here is a video by Jill McLaughlin, a member of World Can’t Wait in San Francisco, that carries a powerful message as we enter the Spring Days of Action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff4oCdbOt6E&feature=youtu.be
In solidarity, and with thanks to all for the work you are doing so courageously,
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have called the U.S. on the carpet for dodging the call from the international community to come clean about its drone killings.
Now it's time for all 62 other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to step up to the plate.
Grijalva and Ellison's initiative creates an opportunity for all of us to demand of our progressive representatives that they, too, take a stand. It's a simple yes-or-no, no-ifs-ands-or-buts question:
"Have you signed on to the CPC co-chairs' demand
that 'our intelligence agencies provide
an annual public accounting
of the number of civilian casualties
caused by drone strikes overseas'?"
The Grijalva-Ellison demand was provoked by a series of events at the United Nations.
First, in October, 2013, a pair of long-awaited reports by the U.N. special rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and on extrajudicial executions were published. The included an unambiguous demand for a full accounting of drone killings.
This was followed by a little-publicized General Assembly vote that use of drones in counter-terrorism must comply with international law.
By early 2014, people were beginning to realize that the government was succeeding in quashing debate about its extrajudicial executions simply through its silence. A consensus began to build around the key point of pressure: the need to bear down on the U.S. government to come clean about its drone killings.
When the U.N. Human Rights council convened in March to take up the matter of the drone killings, the U.S. government had a simple solution: boycott.
And thus it was the sight of the U.S. government fleeing a U.N. convocation into human rights that provoked the call by Reps. Grijalva and Ellison. "Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate," they said in their statement.
"Today’s vote highlights the need for Congress to play a larger role in overseeing and regulating the use of lethal force abroad. Requiring that our intelligence agencies provide an annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes overseas — a measure included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act — would be a good start," they said. (Emphasis added)
Reps. Grijalva and Ellison issued their call in their capacity as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The clear next step is for every other member of the CPC to join the call. This is a simple but unambiguous assertion by Congress of authority in the U.S. drone killing program, and it is vital that there be unanimous support by the CPC.
Please look at the list below and write personally to the member who represents you. Now is the time for us to insist on public statements from every member of Congress that they unreservedly support the call for the U.S. to come clean about its drone killings.
And if you live in Arizona or Minnesota . . . you have a thank you note to send.
CA02 - Jared Huffman
CA11 - George Miller
CA13 - Barbara Lee
CA17 - Michael Honda
CA20 - Sam Farr
CA27 - Judy Chu
CA34 - Xavier Becerra
CA37 - Karen Bass
CA40 - Lucille Roybal-Allard
CA41 - Mark Takano
CA43 - Maxine Waters
CA44 - Janice Hahn
CA47 - Alan Lowenthal
CO02 - Jared Polis
CT03 - Rosa DeLauro
DC00 - Eleanor Norton
FL05 - Corrine Brown
FL09 - Alan Grayson
FL22 - Lois Frankel
FL24 - Frederica Wilson
GA04 - Henry Johnson
GA05 - John Lewis
IA02 - David Loebsack
IL04 - Luis Gutierrez
IL07 - Danny Davis
IN07 - André Carson
MA02 - James McGovern
MA04 - Joseph Kennedy
MA07 - Michael Capuano
MD04 - Donna Edwards
MD07 - Elijah Cummings
ME01 - Chellie Pingree
MI13 - John Conyers
MN08 - Richard Nolan
MO05 - Emanuel Cleaver
MS02 - Bennie Thompson
NJ06 - Frank Pallone
NJ12 - Rush Holt
NV04 - Steven Horsford
NY07 - Nydia Velázquez
NY08 - Hakeem Jeffries
NY09 - Yvette Clarke
NY10 - Jerrold Nadler
NY12 - Carolyn Maloney
NY13 - Charles Rangel
NY15 - José Serrano
NY25 - Louise Slaughter
OH11 - Marcia Fudge
OR01 - Suzanne Bonamici
OR04 - Peter DeFazio
PA02 - Chaka Fattah
PA17 - Matt Cartwright
RI01 - David Cicilline
TN09 - Steve Cohen
TX18 - Sheila Jackson Lee
TX30 - Eddie Johnson
VA08 - James Moran
VI00 - Donna Christensen
VT00 - Peter Welch
WA07 - Jim McDermott
WI02 - Mark Pocan
WI04 - Gwen Moore
A 2013 U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.
The reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made. As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.
(See Drone Killings: Come Clean )
An Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms: linchpin races, scandal, principle, drone testing, and some "special" cases.
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
A group of people who have lost loved ones to US drone strikes in Yemen will next week (Tuesday April 1) launch a national organisation with the aim of supporting affected communities and highlighting the civilian impact of the covert programme.
The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), which is the first of its kind in Yemen, was founded by Mohammad al-Qawli, an Advisor to the Ministry of Education. Mr al-Qawli lost his brother, an elementary school-teacher, in a January 2013 drone strike in Khawlan, a district near the country’s capital Sanaa.
The launch will bring together a number of families who have lost relatives or friends to drone attacks, including: victims of the December 2013 strike which hit a wedding party in Radaa; and Faisal Ali Bin Jaber, whose brother-in-law, an imam who preached against Al-Qaeda, and nephew were killed in an August 2012 strike.
According to Mr al-Qawli the organisation will seek to investigate and publish facts about drone strikes and their effects on communities with the aim of changing government policy regarding the secretive US programme. While the Yemeni parliament has passed a resolution criminalising drone strikes, they continue with the approval of the Yemeni administration. The past year has seen a surge, with as many as eleven taking place in the first few months of 2014 alone.
The organisation will also seek to assist affected communities with the after-effects of drone strikes including: the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners; psychological trauma—particularly in children; and physical injuries.
NODV founder and president Mohammad al-Qawli said: “I founded the NODV in memory of my brother Ali because it was clear that the voices of victims of the US drone programme in Yemen need to be heard and the affected communities need support. There is so much misinformation spread about these attacks and almost no notice paid to the lasting, devastating affect they have on communities throughout Yemen. These attacks are making us all less safe: not only are innocents killed, but drone strikes create instability and radicalisation. By bringing victims together we have the chance to uncover facts regarding the strikes and their consequences and work together towards ending the illegal use of drones in Yemen and preventing further bloodshed.”
UK votes against greater transparency around drones at UN
The UK today voted against a UN resolution seeking to “ensure transparency” around drone strikes, just days after an influential Parliamentary committee called for “greater transparency” around the UK’s role in the US’ covert drone programme.
The resolution, which was voted on at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)today, also“express[ed] deep concern” at civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes.
The UK’s no vote comes just days after the House of Commons’ Defence Committee called for “greater transparency” from the British Government over its reported involvement in the US programme of secret drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
The UNHRC resolution, which passed despite opposition from the US, UK and other European states, also raised concerns over “the interruption of education, the undermining of religious and cultural practices and the reluctance to assist the victims of drone strikes for fear of being caught in secondary strikes.” It called upon states using drones – currently the US, UK and Israel – to ensure transparency in their use of drones and “to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation of international law.”
Ireland was the only European member state to vote in favour of the resolution – it was opposed by France, while Germany – whose intelligence sharing links with the US are reportedly supporting the covert drone programme – abstained. Last month members of the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming landslide of 534 to 49 to ban covert drone strikes.
Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at Reprieve, said: “While the British and European Parliaments have recently made it crystal clear that they want to increase transparency around drone strikes, the governments of these countries seem happy to ignore the voice of the people. This ‘no’ vote from the UK shows that the Government is happy to support US drone strikes without any transparency or accountability. The British people deserve to know what is being done in their name to civilian communities in Yemen and Pakistan.”
JUSTICE DENIED: CITIZEN ACTIVISTS, ON BEHALF OF DRONE VICTIMS, LOCKED OUT AND REFUSED ENTRY TO US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
By Ellen Grady
Those who delivered the indictment today at the 132 National Guard Base in Iowa; Ruthie Cole, Eddie Bloomer, Elliot Adams, Julie Brown, Michelle Naar-Obed, Chet Guinn, Steve Clemens. Charged with criminal trespass.
We come to the Des Moines Air National Guard base, today, as members of faith based and Catholic Worker communities and the Veterans for Peace who annually join for a week of nonviolent resistance to war and injustice. This week, we aim to raise a call against the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commonly known as drones. We recognize that the slaughter of war always requires war makers to dehumanize the victims. Reliance on drones exacerbates the dehumanization because the technology allows
war makers to kill a target without identifying clearly who the person is or what the person has done or is doing.
Therefore today we bring to this base the faces of several who have been killed as well as the desire of a young Afghan friend who says, "We want to live without war."
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "In a free society, few are guilty but all are responsible." If weaponized drones are flown from this base, we, along with RPA crews, share responsibility for consequences including death of targeted victims and whatever trauma is sustained by those who operate the drones.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: Getty Images
In a long-awaited moment in a hotly contested zone currently occupied by the Russian military, Ukraine's citizens living in the peninsula of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia.
Earlier this month, I spoke at a panel in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. During the talk, I showed a photo of a young Yemeni boy in the province of Mareb (which was hit by five drone strikes this month), demonstrating how he ducked in his school as soon as he heard the sound of a plane. He was not sure whether it was a drone or a fighter jet, but he has become used to ducking this way ever since his village was hit and his friend hit with a shrapnel.
The next day, I received an e-mail from David Swanson who was on the same panel. He pointed out that the photo of the Yemeni boy reminded him of the photo below, of children in the US in the 1950s ducking in schools for fear of a nuclear explosion.
|photo on left via David Swanson from http://airminded.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/brighton-tech-1942.jpeg, photo on right by Atiaf Alwazir, taken in Mareb on Feb 28, 2013|
The two photos are strikingly similar, both children ducking to save themselves from bombs that kill, wound, and displace people. From the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War, the US government taught "duck and cover" to generations of school children and adults as a method of personal protection in the event of a nuclear war.
In 1951, the American Civil Defense film, "Duck and Covered" geared towards children, portrayed the act of ducking and covering by Bert The Turtle. Wouldn't it be ironic, if we use the lyrics of this American film to teach children in Yemen today how to "duck and cover" from American planes?!
|A Duck and Cover movie poster, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Bert2.png|
Yemeni children living in areas of conflict have the same feeling of fear that has engulfed millions of children around the world. However, unlike their brothers and sisters around the globe, their own government has also abandoned them. No films are being made to teach methods of self protection, no warnings given before US and Yemeni planes strike, and when wounded or when their houses are demolished, no apology or compensation is given.
It shouldn't matter where the person is from, where he/she is living, what religion they follow or don't; human lives are equal, and they all deserve a chance to live in peace and with freedom to move and enjoy this earth that we call home.
The European Parliament today overwhelmingly condemned the covert drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.
In a vote this morning, a majority of 534 to 49 MEPs supported a resolution demanding that EU Member States “do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states”, and calling on them to “oppose and ban practices of extra judicial targeted killings.”
Today’s vote will put further pressure on countries such as the UK and Germany to disclose the full extent of their involvement in the covert US programme, both through intelligence-sharing and the provision of infrastructure at US airbases on their soil.
The resolution, sponsored by the Green group of MEPs with cross-party support, also notes that:
- “drone strikes by a State on the territory of another State without the consent of the latter constitute a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country”
- “thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed or seriously injured by drone strikes [but] these figures are difficult to estimate, owing to lack of transparency and obstacles to effective investigation”
- “drone strike policies have been documented as causing considerable harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians in the countries concerned, including deep anxiety and psychological trauma, disruption of economic and social activities and reduced access to education among affected communities.”
Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the involvement of NATO member states in facilitating strikes in Pakistan. The complaint highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan. Mr Khan has in recent days met with Parliamentarians from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands to discuss the impact of drone strikes in the area.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Today’s vote represents a triumph of conscience by MEPs, who have issued a clear call to national European governments to come clean on their complicity with the CIA’s illegal drones programme, and bring it to an immediate halt. This should be a wake-up call to countries like the UK and Germany; they need to clean up their act not only by ensuring that they stop cooperating with extrajudicial killings, but also by pressuring the US for greater transparency and accountability.”
Kareem Khan said: “As I prepare to return home, I will take with me this heartening news – that Europe is listening to those who have been harmed by America’s illegal drone war. Not just innocents like my brother and son, but all those who are terrorised daily by the drones circling overhead. Drone strikes are not the answer. Today, Europe has taken a first step to bringing a stop to these illegal, unaccountable killings; I hope that national governments will follow suit, so that one day I may finally get justice.”
Green MEP and chair of the Parliament's sub-committee on human rights Barbara Lochbihler said: "The European Parliament has today raised serious concerns with the use of military drones and the deaths of thousands of civilians resulting from drone strikes. MEPs have delivered a strong rebuke to the practice of targeted aerial killings outside a declared war zone, as well as the use of armed drones in war situations outside of the international legal framework. The EU needs to address the legal, ethical and security challenges posed by the increasing use of drones, including the urgent need to secure complete transparency and accountability. The resolution also stresses that EU member states should strictly refrain from participating in or facilitating extrajudicial targeted killings, for instance by sharing relevant information with countries such as the US."
More videos likely to be posted here.
This Friday, Feb. 28th at 11:00 AM (EST), the Fellowship of Reconciliation will co-host an exciting and innovative live video discussion on militarized and weaponized drones. You are invited to participate in this live program from the comfort of your own home.
FOR will host a roundtable discussion on the legality of U.S. drone strikes, featuring:
- Judith Bello, just released from an 8-day jail sentence in upstate New York for protesting drones at Hancock Air Force Base (Judy's blog)
- Noor Mir, former anti-drones campaign coordinator at CODEPINK (Noor on Twitter)
- Nick Mottern, coordinator of the national Know Drones coalition (follow this anti-drones network on Twitter)
- Moderated by Leila Zand, FOR Northeast regional coordinator/organizer and FOR anti-drones campaign coordinator (Leila on Twitter)
The discussion will be held on Friday at 11:00 AM (EST) using a web-based platform called Vonvo.com. RSVP for the event now via Facebook.
Vonvo recommends using the internet browser Google Chrome (download Chrome here) for its programs.
- Make sure you are using the browser Google Chrome or Firefox (preferably Chrome)
- Strong internet connection on your COMPUTER (mobile connection will not work)
- Login in with your Facebook account to actively participate (not required)
- Go to www.vonvo.com using Google Chrome
- Click the "log in with Facebook" button and sign in
- Scroll down to the "Fellowship of Reconciliation" channel
- Click the "Join Live Vonvo" button (dropdown menu will appear)
- Click the "View Live Vonvo" button
- Enjoy the discussion!
We look forward to your participation in this important conversation this Friday!
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Northeast Regional Coordinator/Organizer
GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES
Greens oppose Defense Sec. Hagel's plan for a "more drones" Armed Forces, continue to urge an end to the Afghanistan War and deep cuts in military spending
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Green Party called for an immediate halt to all drone warfare and for the Obama Administration to comply with the Constitution's assignment of war powers to Congress.
"The White House has usurped the legislative branch's control over war, by having the CIA wage targeted drone warfare against Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia outside of Congress's oversight," said Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for Governor of New York. Mr. Hawkins is from Syracuse, where drones on combat missions are controlled out of Hancock Air National Guard Base.
"The Obama Administration says it's reducing the use of drones. We demand a complete end to drone strikes, which are killing civilians and, by inciting hostility against the U.S., placing Americans at potential risk of reprisal," said Mr. Hawkins.
Greens said that President Obama has kept Congress and the public in the dark on drone warfare, because the CIA is an intelligence service and part of the executive branch of the federal government. The White House obstructed the CIA from briefing a recent joint closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee and refused to grant the latter clearance for hearing CIA testimony (http://takingnote.blogs.
The Green Party opposes all drone strikes, whether by the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan or by the CIA in undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The party has called for an end to the Afghanistan War and for deep cuts to the military budget (http://www.gp.org/index.php/
Only 2% of people killed and maimed by combat drones in Pakistan have been Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. The rest are either noncombatants or low-level military personnel. The casualties include nearly 200 Pakistani children killed since 2004. Drones also cause widespread terror and disruption of civilian life in areas of deployment, as well as resentment by Pakistanis and Yemenis against their own governments for allowing U.S. drone attacks within their borders.
Green Party leaders noted further troubling use of drone technology, in targeted assassinations of U.S. civilians, without judicial review, under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and in domestic surveillance of law-abiding civilians.
"Drones have emerged as the favorite weapon of the 21st century, because they allow devastating remote-control 'video game' assaults in distant countries without putting U.S. personnel at risk. But drones are creating new enemies around the world. The inevitable global proliferation of drone technology is all too likely to backfire against the U.S.," said Starlene Rankin, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.
"We have little doubt that the expansion of drone warfare under President Obama and the current war-powers grab would have met widespread and angry protest if it had happened under President Bush," said Ms. Rankin.
Medea Benjamin, in Eurasia Review, notes that "As of today, only the United States, the UK, and Israel have used weaponized drones, but there is already a multi-billion-dollar arms race going on. Israel is the No. 1 drones exporter, followed by the United States and China. Over 80 nations possess some form of drones, mostly for surveillance purposes. Between 10 and 15 nations are working on weaponizing their drones." ("The Dangerous Seduction of Drones," Feb. 19,http://www.eurasiareview.
"Complaint filed at International Criminal Court over NATO allies' complicity in US drone strikes"
By David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org, February 19, 2014
"U.S. Drone Strikes Kill, Injure and Traumatize Pakistani Civilians, Report Finds"
Living Under Drones: press release, September 25, 2012
"Human rights group claims US drone strike killed civilians"
By Mario Trujillo, The Hill, February 20, 2014
MEPs will this week vote on a resolution condemning EU Member States’ complicity in the covert US drones programme.
A draft resolution sponsored by the Green group of MEPs and enjoying cross-party support will be debated today (Wednesday) and voted on tomorrow (Thursday) between 12 and 2pm. The resolution condemns the extrajudicial killings resulting from drones strikes, notes an increase in strikes in recent years in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and demands full transparency from those Member States that possess drones technology (such as the UK).
The strikes represent both a violation of the sovereignty of targeted countries and spread terror among the civilian population, says the resolution; they are therefore illegal under international law. The text further criticises the “opaque and unaccountable” nature of drone strikes, concluding that they pose a grave threat to global peace and security.
Today’s move comes amid growing calls for greater scrutiny of the covert US programme, including the use of US bases in countries such as Germany and the UK to support the strikes. Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning NATO member states’ role in facilitating the drone programme in Pakistan. The complaint, which followed recent revelations that the UK and Germany support the drone strikes through intelligence-sharing, highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
Mr Khan has in recent days met with MEPs such as Sajjad Karim (Con) as well as UK, German and Dutch parliamentarians to discuss the impact of drone strikes on North Waziristan. The CIA campaign in the area is estimated to have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians including children.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said:
“Today’s debate is a welcome step towards greater accountability in the illegal drone war that is currently being waged by the US, with the full complicity of its European partners. The drone programme has killed thousands of civilians, and terrorised many more - in absolute secrecy and with a total lack of accountability, both at the international and domestic level. We hope that tomorrow, MEPs will recognise this wrong, and do what they can to right it.”
Kareem Khan said:
“The US’ secret drones programme has killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan alone – including my own son and brother – and continues to terrorise many more. Visiting Europe to tell MPs and MEPs about my experiences, I’ve been heartened by the understanding and sympathy of many. I urge MEPs voting tomorrow to think about the devastating impact of strikes in places like Waziristan, and recognise that Europe has real power to stop them.”
Jennifer Gibson, a U.S. lawyer, leads Reprieve’s drones work in Pakistan. Prior to joining Reprieve, Jennifer was at Stanford University, where she co-authored, Living Under Drones -- one of the most comprehensive accounts of the impact of drones in Pakistan to date. She has brought drone victims to testify in Congress and to meet with members of various European parliaments, and recently to the International Criminal Court to file a complaint against the U.K., Germany, and Australia for their complicity in U.S drone murders. Learn more: http://Reprieve.org.uk
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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.”