British government arrests anti-drone activist as ‘terrorist’


This video from the USA is called As Obama Shuns Hearing, Yemeni Says U.S. Drone War Terrifying Civilians, Empowering Militants.

By Jordan Shilton:

Britain uses anti-terror powers to detain Yemeni activist

28 September 2013

Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist who has campaigned against the use of drones, was detained by British authorities on Monday and questioned under anti-terror legislation.

Shiban’s detention comes just one month after police detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who collaborated with former National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden in exposing mass surveillance by US and UK spy agencies.

Miranda’s, and now Shiban’s detention confirms the increasing use of anti-terrorist legislation to target political opponents.

Shiban was detained at Gatwick airport by border agents under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which permits the holding of an individual for up to nine hours without access to a lawyer. Shiban was held for over an hour, during which time he was questioned on his political views and activities. He was threatened with a longer period of detention if he did not cooperate by answering questions as to the nature of his political work in Yemen.

Shiban works for the legal charity Reprieve, which is based in London and campaigns for human rights and the rule of law. As head of the organisation’s operations in Yemen, he has led investigations into the impact of drone killings on civilians in that country, something which has become a regular occurrence under the Obama administration. The US government has stepped up its use of drones in Yemen, killing a US citizen, Anwar al-Alawki, in 2011. Shiban’s organisation supports the victims of drone attacks, including with legal proceedings.

According to a Guardian article, Reprieve had recently discovered evidence revealing the complicity of British authorities in US drone strikes in Yemen. Britain provided the intelligence and communications infrastructure to facilitate the attacks. Shiban was questioned on this by his interrogators, stating to the Guardian that he was told, “Your organisation has obviously been causing a lot of problems to your country. The relations between your government and the UK are vital for us.”

In a further exchange, he was asked, “What if your organisation did something bad to your government, and you are here because of the bad things your organisation has done to your government? I want to know, because the relations between Yemen and the UK are important. I want to know that your organisation is not disrupting that.”

The targeting of Shiban is an attempt by the UK government to intimidate all opposition to its imperialist military operations abroad in alliance with the US. To this end, all political opponents face being designated as terrorists in order to deny them the most basic legal and democratic rights. As Shiban put it in his Guardian piece, “Even we in Yemen heard of David Miranda’s nine hours in custody. Then I was stopped. Who will be the next human rights worker caught in the net of schedule 7?”

The extensive powers at the disposal of the state not only to detain individuals, but also to examine any of their possessions, were demonstrated by the detention of Miranda last month. Abetted by the courts, the police have been granted virtually unhindered access to his personal belongings on the grounds of “national security” considerations.

Miranda had been travelling back from Berlin to Brazil, and was carrying leaked documents on the UK’s intelligence operations. He faces the prospect of having criminal charges brought against him.

Following Shiban’s detention, Greenwald revealed internal US intelligence documents leaked by Snowden which illustrate the hostility with which opponents of the use of drones are viewed. In one of the documents, part of a posting on an internal web site, the authors list a series of “threats” to drone use, including weather conditions, air defence systems and electronic warfare. In addition, there is what the document refers to as “propaganda campaigns which target UAV (drone) use.” Any such activity is considered by the spy agencies as “adversary propaganda themes.”

The document contains a blunt justification for the undermining of basic legal principles by the Obama administration and its allies in the UK and other countries, above all on the right of due process. The intelligence document states, under the heading “nationality of target vs. due process,” that “Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process.”

As Greenwald states, “In the eyes of the US government, ‘due process’—the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of propagandists.”

In a related development, Greenwald reported on the case of Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer with Reprieve based in Pakistan who is currently suing the US government over its drone killings of civilians there. The Obama administration refused to grant Akbar a visa this week to enter the US, where the lawyer was to have testified before Congress on the US government’s drone programme.

The Reprieve activists were portrayed as supporters of terrorism. In his questioning by border agents, Shiban reported that he was accused of aiding terrorists because he had dared to criticise the “counterterrorism” operations of the western powers.

The presentation of opponents of drone strikes as supporters of terrorism is particularly dishonest, coming from the very governments who are not only committing terrorist acts by using drones, but also collaborating so intimately with terrorist groups with close links to Al Qaeda in a proxy war in Syria.

Evidence exists showing that British intelligence played a key role in fomenting the “rebels” in their war against the Assad regime. Although it was forced to temporarily pull back from a military strike, the US has stepped up its funding of these organisations, including by supplying arms.

Moreover, if the British and American authorities are suggesting that any opposition to drone strikes automatically equates to support for “terrorism” and places individuals in the “enemy” camp, this must be their view of the vast majority of the population. In a 2012 survey, the Pew research centre found that more than half of the population in 17 of the 20 countries surveyed was opposed to drone strikes. In Greece, 90 percent were opposed, in Egypt 89 percent, Jordan (85 percent), Turkey (81 percent), Spain (76 percent), Brazil (76 percent) and Japan (75 percent). Even in countries where support was higher, such as Britain, 47 percent of people still rejected drone killings.

The increasingly authoritarian methods being employed by the state against activists and human rights campaigners are ultimately aimed at the widespread opposition in the working class to their policies of imperialist war abroad and devastating social cuts at home.

Like Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, a Yemeni activist was also interrogated under the schedule 7 provision of the Terrorism Act 2000 on Tuesday: here.

Pakistani drone survivor teacher not allowed to speak in the USA


Robert Greenwald from the USA writes about this video:

Let them speak

It’s been almost a year since I traveled to Pakistan to investigate, film, and interview drone victims and their families. While there, I met Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, who shared with me the story of how Rafiq’s 67 year-old mother, the children’s grandmother, was killed by a drone strike. Not only did Rafiq lose his mother that day, but his daughter Nebila, 9, and son Zubiar, 13, were also injured.

Rafiq’s situation moved me deeply. It was clear that this was no abstract instance of collateral damage. As a father of four, I am haunted daily by the stories of children being injured or killed by drone strikes. The story of Rafiq and his children was so powerful that I wanted to be sure that Congress heard it from Rafiq and his heroic lawyer, Shahzad Akbar. All applied for visas to enter the U.S., to share their story with members of Congress and the American public. Reprieve, an international organization fighting for justice across the globe, has been working tirelessly to get the necessary documents so that we in the U.S. can hear first hand from a family whose loved one was killed by a U.S. drone strike.

While Rafiq and his children’s visas were approved, the visa request for their lawyer, guide, and mentor, Shahzad Akbar, has been held up in “administrative processing.” This means that their ad-hoc hearing has been indefinitely postponed, as the Department of State has delayed approval of his visa, despite Congressional interest. Without Shahzad, Rafiq and his family will be unable to come to DC, and their story will never be heard. You can help Rafiq speak with members of Congress – but we need you to act today.

Is the State Department delaying approval of Shazhad Akbar’s visa to try to silence drone victims? Shazhad used to regularly travel to the United States and was even a consultant with USAID. It wasn’t until 2010, when he began representing drone victims and their families, that the Department of State began holding up his visa requests.

The State Department needs to hear from us now, here are three simple ways to help with the campaign:

  1. Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
  2. Follow up with an email demanding the State Dept. issue a visa for Shahzad
  3. And sign our petition now to demand that the drone victims be allowed to speak in the U.S.

Congressman Alan Grayson issued this statement: “I encourage the State Department to approve Shahzad Akbar’s visa immediately, so that Rafiq ur Rehman and his family can share their stories with Congress and the American public.” The time for Rafiq and his family to speak in front of Congress is running out.  Sign the petition and join with others to urge the Department of State to immediately approve Shazhad Akbar’s visa. Without it, Rafiq and his children won’t be heard.

See also here.

News of the world is becoming palpably more relevant to the day-to-day experiences of American readers, and it is rapidly disappearing: here.

More British drone strikes in Afghanistan


This video from the USA is called Drone Strikes Kill Numerous Civilians.

From AFP news agency, September 6, 2013:

Sharp rise in British drone use in Afghanistan

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions

The British military fired nearly seven times as many missiles from unmanned drones in Afghanistan last year as it did five years earlier, according to official data released on Friday.

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions — more than 10 percent of all sorties, junior defence minister Andrew Robathan said in a written statement to parliament.This compares to 2008 when the hi-tech unmanned Reaper aircraft flew 296 missions, firing weapons just five percent of the time, on 14 occasions.Used to target suspected insurgents in Afghanistan, Britain’s Reaper drones are capable of carrying laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

Heavy use of drones by the United States has been one of the most controversial aspects of its fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond.

Drone fire has killed top leaders from both Islamist networks, but it has also been blamed for scores of civilian deaths.

Yemen’s revolution and drone war


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

By Ramzy Baroud:

The crisis in Yemen

Monday 12 August 2013

The US panic and embassy closure in Yemen last week drew eyes towards this poverty-stricken country.

Although it is much less discussed than the crippling political upheavals in Egypt or even the unfolding crisis in Tunisia, Yemen’s ongoing conflict – complete with regular US drone killings – is as complex as either.

Since the 2011 revolution deposed strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, a “transition” under Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi with the backing of the motley tyrannies of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has been underway.

But a real transition would involve sincere efforts at reconciliation between the army, tribal militias and other forces battling it out in the country, as well as a rigorous challenge to the undeclared US war in the south. Alas, none of the parties of the Yemeni establishment has the sway, desire or moral authority to lead such an effort.

In one fortnight – from July 27 to August 9 this year – 34 people were killed in Yemen in US drone attacks.

The US mechanically considers all those killed to be al-Qaida terrorists, even when civilians are confirmed among the dead and wounded.

The media sometimes qualifies such statements by describing victims as “suspected militants.”

But it’s left to international human rights groups and the enraged Yemeni people themselves to try to count the civilian dead.

Entire Yemeni communities are in a constant state of panic because of the buzzing metal monsters that operate with complete disregard for international law or the country’s own sovereignty.

Frankly, it is hard to think of Yemen as either a sovereign or territorially unified nation. The country’s foreign policy has long been held hostage to the whims of outsiders.

There is a lack of trust in the central government, which has historically been corrupt and inept, and indeed has often allowed non-state actors to move in and fill the economic and security vacuums in large swathes of the country.

Prior to the January 2011 rebellion the US was the most influential outside power in Yemen. Its goal was to conduct its so-called war on terror unhindered by such irritants as international law, or even objections from the government in Sana’a.

Then president Saleh, Yemen’s dictator for 30 years, obliged. He too had his personal wars to fight and needed US consent for his family-controlled power apparatus.

Just weeks before the revolt US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Sana’a. She applied gentle pressure on Saleh to dissuade him from trying to eliminate term limits on his presidency, but the point of her mission was something else.

The US was seeking expansion of its “counter-terrorism” campaign. This bloody US venture involving the Pentagon and CIA has been under-reported in the West. It’s never classified as a war, partly because it is conducted under political cover from the Yemeni government and presented as mere military co-operation by two countries against their common enemy, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap).

The reality is slightly different. Much of Saleh‘s supposedly anti-Aqap efforts were in fact channelled against revolutionary forces and the political opposition that would assemble in their millions to overthrow him.

In fact, Aqap expansion was unprecedented during Yemen’s revolution – though not because of the revolution itself.

Saleh seems to have made a decision to withdraw troops from much of the country, allowing al-Qaida to launch a sudden drive to acquire territory.

Within a few months Aqap was occupying large areas in the southern governorates. This helped to strengthen Sana’a’s official line that the revolution was simply an act of terrorism. Crushing it could be part of the US “war on terror.”

The revolution persisted despite the many massacres but Saleh‘s plan did allow for increased US military involvement in the country.

Unlike in Egypt, the US in Yemen does not simply buy loyalty with a fixed subsidy and sustain a friendly rapport with the country’s army.

It requires greater control so it can conduct whatever military strategies it deems necessary. But unlike Afghanistan, Yemen is not an occupied country.

So the US has to strike a balance between military firmness and political caution. This explains the leading role it has played in negotiating a safe path for the central government, army and ruling elite – with the cosmetic exception of Saleh himself, though his son retains enormous power – to elude the uncompromising demands of the revolutionaries.

So far, the US has largely succeeded. Part of this success is due to the existing political and territorial fragmentation of Yemen.

Large parts of the north are controlled by the Houthi Shi’ite rebels. Much of the south is in the grip of the Haraki separatists.

Aqap militants have infiltrated the bulk of the country, and the political opposition in the capital lags behind the better organised and much more progressive politics of the streets.

More perhaps than with any of the other countries hit by the great upheavals of 2011, Yemen’s revolution was not treated as an opportunity for real change but as a crisis that needed management.

The GCC-brokered “power transfer initiative” was the supposed road map out of this crisis, but it hasn’t done much except replace Saleh with Hadi and open the National Dialogue Conference, which has been underway since March 18.

All this takes place under the watchful eyes of the “Friends of Yemen,” so that the process leading up to scheduled elections in 2014 needs the blessing of those foreign players with an interest in the country.

It hardly helps that the opposition is almost irrevocably split, with widening differences between the coalition partners in the Joint Meeting Parties. The army’s overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, for example, met with protests from the Islah Party which is considered an ally of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, but public celebrations from the other members and the Houthis.

Even if the revolution has yet to reap tangible results, the national mood is unlikely to accept half-baked solutions of the sort the US seeks.

The revolutionaries are still unbowed, the militants are regaining strength and the US intervention and drone war are escalating.

All contribute to burgeoning discontent and anti-US sentiment.

Yemen seems likely to embark on a new struggle. One whose consequences will be too serious for any disingenuous political “transitionists” to manage.

Since July 28, the US has launched nine drone strikes against targets in Yemen, killing at least 3 dozen people. The US carries out operations from bases surrounding Yemen, including installations in Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and the Seychelles. Washington has carried out 79 drone attacks against Yemen since 2002: here.

Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America? When U.S. allies in Yemen needed help targeting an alleged al-Qaeda operative for an American drone strike, evidence suggests they turned to one of the people closest to him: here.

Stop drone strikes campaign


Robert Greenwald from the USA writes about this video:

Dear Friend –

Last year, many of you helped fund my trip to Pakistan to investigate, interview, and film the devastation that the U.S.’s use of drones has caused in the region. I saw, first hand, the destruction that drones have caused, including the loss of innocent lives and dismantled families and communities. I was able to collect incredible footage and interviews because of your continued support.

Since then the conversation about drones has increased and more people are aware of the devastating effects the Obama Administration policy has had on Pakistani civilians. But there are more stories to tell and we are producing a full length documentary so everyone can see them. We are using Indiegogo’s well-established crowd funding platform to help us raise enough money to finish the film. We are offering a great selection of ‘perks’, including a tour of our studios here in LA as well as an opportunity to join me for lunch.

With your help and Indiegogo’s expertise, we will be able to finish our film on drones and expose the truth. Please support and share our campaign.

Thanks for your support,

Robert Greenwald

Brave New Foundation · 10510 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232, United States

Yemeni journalist, jailed for drone report, freed


Democracy Now! in the USA writes about this series of two videos:

Yemeni Reporter Who Exposed U.S. Drone Strike Freed from Prison After Jailing at Obama’s Request

Prominent Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye has been released from prison after being held for three years on terrorism-related charges at the request of President Obama. Shaye helped expose the U.S. cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children in December 2009.

Then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced his intention to pardon Shaye in 2011, but apparently changed his mind after a phone call from Obama. In a statement, the White House now says it is “concerned and disappointed” by Shaye’s release.

“We should let that statement set in: The White House is saying that they are disappointed and concerned that a Yemeni journalist has been released from a Yemeni prison,” says Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation, who covers Shaye’s case in “Dirty Wars,” his new book and film by the same name. “This is a man who was put in prison because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children.”

We’re also joined by Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American activist who co-founded the Support Yemen media collective and campaigned for Shaye’s release.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Letter to Obama and Hadi on Yemeni drones: here.

US drones have been attacking targets in Yemen almost every day since intensified operations began on July 27: here.

The Drone Gender Gap: Big Differences in How Men and Women View Strikes: here.

Drones kill Pakistani civilians, again


This video from the USA says about itself:

Signature Strike Investigation

Published on June 19, 2013

Tell Congress to move now to end these signature strikes, save innocent lives, protect America from the blowback of killing innocent civilians, and restore the rule of law.

Sign and share this petition to end signature drone strikes.

Follow the campaign @WarCosts and fb.com/warcosts.

Robert Greenwald and the War Costs team in the USA write about this:

Dear Friend –

“The entire leadership of our tribe was wiped out, over 40 civilians killed by your drones. Why would you kill our elders who were meeting peacefully?”  This is only one example of the questions I was asked during my time in Pakistan while collecting interviews for our upcoming War Costs film and investigation on drones.

Each person with a different perspective – some were badly injured, some had relatives killed, some whose friends were obliterated. But they all came together to tell the same story: a community wiped out and destroyed by drones. How did this happen? WHY did this happen? See Brave New Foundation’s latest investigative video with exclusive interviews and footage directly from the tribal area. And remember the words ‘signature strike’ as you watch this investigative video.

When talking with tribal leader Jalal Manzar Khail to uncover the truth about Datta Khel, Jalal remembers seeing the drones hovering in the sky that entire morning- sizing up their target. Minutes into the discussion, drone strikes rained down on the gathering killing over 40 members of their families and community. If you think having your cell phones and emails monitored is invasive, try having an armed drone circle your neighborhood 24/7. With the ability to kill or maim you, your neighbors, and your loved ones at any moment.

A majority of the public currently support drone strikes but are unaware of their consequences and that we are killing civilians. We must join together to change the narrative – just like we did with the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Sign this petition today asking Congress to end signature strikes. If we get enough signatures, we will use the petition to get a Member of Congress to introduce legislation ending signature strikes that kill innocent civilians.

We have worked together on other important battles in the past but it’s time for us to stand together again and demand action.

Take a moment to send this video to your friends and family and help us get 10,000 people to sign this petition so that we can tip the balance in this campaign and show elected officials that the public demands change.

Exclusive: Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes: here.

Activists in northwest Pakistan, some armed with clubs, have been forcibly searching trucks in an effort to halt NATO supplies in protest over US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt. The unofficial checkpoints began on November 24 after a call to blockade NATO supplies by Khan, the head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) political party: here.

Britain is up to its neck in US dirty wars and death squads. The war on terror is now an endless campaign of drone and undercover killings that threatens a more dangerous world: here.

Vatican’s rep at UN warns US about the moral pitfalls of drones killing program: here.

I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on. Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t): here.

Drones kill Pakistani civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sep 24, 2012 by bravenewfoundation

http://www.warcosts.com

Since 2004, up to 884 innocent civilians, including at least 176 children, have died from US drone strikes in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. A new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan.

In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Many interviewees told the researchers they didn’t know what America was before drones. Now what they know of America is drones, death and terror. Follow the conversation @WarCosts #UnderDrones

Robert Greenwald from the USA writes:

Keep the Obama Drone Momentum Going!

Become a Producer Now

Dear Friend –

On Thursday President Obama spoke before the American people giving a powerful and eloquent speech on the use of drones. Unfortunately the speech leaves many of the basic assumptions of a policy based on trying to kill our way to safety still in place. Help us change that.

Last year, I traveled to Pakistan and saw firsthand the damage that these drones are doing to families, businesses and the safety of our own country. Were the innocent men, women and children considered ?a significant threat? or did the drones malfunction? The program is still shrouded in secrecy, so all we know for sure is that countless of innocent Pakistanis are dead and the families they left behind are grieving and angry. We have some important and unique interviews but we can’t finish the film without your help.

Koch Brothers Exposed, Iraq for Sale and War on Whistleblowers were all finished because you chipped in to make it happen! Donate $25 now to become a Producer on our film and see it for free when it is completed.

Thanks as always for your support.

Best,

Robert

First US drone strike in Pakistan since Obama’s drone speech kills seven: here.

Drone ‘Signature Strike’ Witness Responds To Obama Speech: ‘I Don’t Trust A Single Word’: here.

Amnesty against drone strikes


This video says about itself:

May 24, 2013

In Pakistan alone, it is estimated that more than 3,000 people have died in drone attacks since 2003 – many of them civilians.

Pakistan’s Government has repeatedly condemned drone strikes and the man poised to become the next Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has called on Washington to end strikes inside the country.

Shahzad Mirza Akbar, a human rights lawyer based in Pakistan, speaks to Al Jazeera about US drone strikes.

He says Sharif has to convince the US to stop the use of drones, otherwise he will be facing legal consequences for not protecting his own citizens.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Amnesty: US drone strikes seem illegal

Thursday 23 May 2013

Amnesty International has delivered a damning indictment of the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes overseas and questioned its legality.

Amnesty said on Wednesday that US drone policy, which is shrouded in secrecy, appears to carry out extrajudicial killings that violate international rights laws.

“Our view is that the legal basis is quite unclear,” said secretary general Salil Shetty.

“We have issues with how the US defines the ‘theatre of war,’ a very broad definition which allows it free rein to use drones and other weapons under a very wide set of circumstances.”

Mr Shetty said its researchers found that people in Pakistan are “living in constant fear even in very remote areas.”

In a wide-ranging report on civil rights, Amnesty said that “available information, limited by secrecy, indicated that US policy permitted extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law under the US theory of a ‘global war’ against al-Qaida and associated groups.”

President Obama defended his administration’s reliance on drone strikes in a speech at the National Defence University today.

On the eve of the speech, US Attorney-General Eric Holder acknowledged for the first time that four US citizens had been killed by drone strikes since 2009.

The US government has targeted and killed one US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and three other US citizens killed by drones were not targeted.

They were Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as Mr Awlaki, Mr Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

Civil liberties groups and an unusual coalition of Democrats and Republicans have criticised the White House for keeping details of the drone programme secret.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits against the government over the drone attacks that killed the three US citizens in Yemen in 2011.

A vast majority of Pakistanis resent American drone strikes, which they believe have killed hundreds of innocent citizens since the program began in 2004: here.

Killing Americans: Jeremy Scahill on Obama Admin’s Admission 4 U.S. Citizens Died in Drone Strikes: here.

Obama makes limp drone attack pledge: here.