British government attacks free speech


This video from England says about itself:

10 July 2012

4th of July Independence FROM America demonstration at the US base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, organised by CAAB: the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases.

We hear a lot about US occupations of other countries, but little about the military occupation of Britain by the US. Menwith Hill is run by America as a spy base, with the ability to listen in to all our phone calls and intercept our emails, and claims the name ‘RAF Menwith Hill‘ rather than the more appropriate ‘USAF’ on account of its sole British military officer. All the rest are American.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

New anti-protest law is an attack on democracy

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Government revives 120-year-old legislation to stop campaigners targeting US military bases

A Labour MP launched a scathing attack yesterday on the introduction of new draconian laws targeting protesters at US military bases in Britain – without Parliament’s approval.

The government is using legislation enacted over 120 years ago to bypass Parliament and leave protesters open to “arrest without warrant.”

Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who has challenged the laws in the Commons, branded the laws “outrageous and undemocratic” and said he believed they were being implemented at the behest of the United States.

The laws ban activity such as putting up a tent near the bases, using a caravan, taking photographs and bizarre “offences” such as failing to clean up after a dog defecates.

Peace campaigners say two of the US bases targeted for the laws are currently unoccupied and unused.

They fear the laws are being introduced to prepare the ground for the bases’ use as the US military steps up deployment of unmanned drones to attack targets around the world.

The two deserted bases are at Croughton near Milton Keynes and an adjacent site at Barford St John.

Nominally the two are RAF bases, owned by the Ministry of Defence, but like dozens of other such bases in Britain they are handed over to the United States military.

The by-laws are being introduced at 150 military facilities by the Ministry of Defence through the Military Lands Act 1892, which enables it to bypass Parliament.

Long-time peace campaigner Lindis Percy said the by-laws themselves are not draconian – by-laws carry limited punishments, and exclude imprisonment.

But Ms Percy, who is co-ordinator of the Yorkshire-based Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), queried why the laws were being introduced, particularly at unused bases.

Ms Percy said: “I went to Barford St John a couple of months ago. It was very insecure, just a sheep fence. The security cameras are not working. There is nobody there.”

She said one “obvious answer” for the new by-laws was an anticipated increase in deployment of drones for US warfare.

And Mr Hamilton said: “I think that is a very plausible explanation. I would not be surprised.”

Mr Hamilton, who has raised questions in the Commons about the lack of accountability of US bases in Britain many times, said: “We have handed over parts of England to a foreign power with no legitimacy or democratic accountability to the people of this country. Part of the sovereign territory of our country is no longer under the control of democratically elected representatives.

“Who has debated introduction of these by-laws? No-one. I think it is outrageous. I am not being anti-American. I just care deeply about accountability and democracy. The Americans would never allow this to happen on their territory.”

See also here.

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US drone kills wedding guests in Yemen


This video says about itself:

Drone strike kills 15 wedding-goers instead of Al-Qaeda convoy in Yemen

12 Dec 2013

Fifteen people who had been heading to a wedding in Yemen have been killed in an air strike. Local media reported that a drone attack had been responsible, and the party-goers had been hit instead of an Al-Qaeda convoy.

From killing people at a funeral in Pakistan … to killing wedding guests in Iraq … to killing wedding guests in Afghanistan … to killing a newly married couple in Somalia … to now …

In this, the United States armed forces, instead of all that bloodshed, should rather follow the example of the Israeli army … rather, not all of that army, but those Israeli soldiers who reacted to a Palestinian wedding not by shooting at it, but by joining in the dancing (and who were subsequently disciplined for that).

From the BBC:

12 December 2013 Last updated at 19:44 GMT

Yemen wedding hit by deadly air strike

At least 13 people have been killed by an air strike on a wedding convoy in southern Yemen, say officials.

The attack happened near the town of Radda in al-Bayda province, a known stronghold of al-Qaeda.

It was unclear what aircraft carried out the attack, though local people said it was a drone.

The US has acknowledged using drones as part of its support for Yemen’s efforts to tackle militant extremists, but does not comment on individual strikes.

Human rights groups say US drone attacks in Yemen constitute unlawful killings.

From Reuters:

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake: officials

SANAA Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:34pm EST

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

“An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said. …

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

We’re Number One… In Obliterating Wedding Parties; by Tom Engelhardt: here.

Here’s the bottom line on the American drone strike that slaughtered as many as seventeen people in a wedding party in Yemen last week: the CIA, which carried out the attack, had no comment. The State Department didn’t say anything. And the White House, ignoring outcries in Yemen, says merely, “We obviously cooperate closely with the government of Yemen on counterterrorism, have in the past and will continue in the future to do that”: here.

Yemeni parliament in non-binding vote against drone attacks: here.

Compensation plan for drone victims’ relatives raises eyebrows: here.

Total oil workers strike in South Yemen: here.

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Yemeni poets, graffiti artists against US drone strikes


A Yemeni boy looks at graffiti depicting a U.S. drone at a street in Sana'a, Yemen, Nov. 6, 2013. Photo: Yahya Arhab / EPA

From TIME magazine in the USA:

Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry

Street artists and poets in Yemen campaign against American drone strikes

By Tik Root / Sana’a, Nov. 30, 2013

An American drone hovers along a main thoroughfare in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. Not a real drone, but rather a 7 foot-long rendition of an unmanned aircraft spray-painted near the top of a whitewashed city wall. Below it, a stenciled-on child is writing: “Why did you kill my family?” in blood-red English and Arabic script.

Painted by Yemeni artist Murad Subay, the Banksy-esque mural sits beside three others also admonishing the United States’ use of drones in Yemen to track and kill terrorism suspects. This drone art is part of Subay’s latest campaign, “12 Hours”, which aims to raise awareness about twelve problems facing Yemen, including weapons proliferation, sectarianism, kidnapping and poverty. Drones are the fifth and arguably most striking “hour” yet completed.

“Graffiti in Yemen, or street art, is a new device to communicate with the people,” says Subay, 26, who after taking up street art two years ago in the wake of Yemen’s Arab Spring revolution has almost single-handedly sparked the growing Yemeni graffiti movement. “In one second, you can send a message.”

The anti-drone chorus in Yemen has grown louder since the Obama Administration took office in 2009. All but one of the dozens of reported drone strikes in Yemen have been carried out since Obama came to office (although strikes here and in Pakistan have been more sporadic in recent months). Operations are rarely acknowledged by American officials but have nonetheless stirred a global debate about the strikes’ legality, morality and effectiveness.

Proponents argue that drones offer an efficient way of fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of the global terrorist network. The Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has endorsed the program, praising ongoing U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism cooperation and the “high precision that’s been provided by drones.” Human rights activists in Yemen and the families of many victims are outraged by the so-called “drone war” in the country, which the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates has resulted in between 21 and 56 civilian deaths. Aside from more conventional methods of protest - such as demonstrations, media campaigns, and the production of often scathing reports – activists are increasingly employing art as a medium through which to express their anger.

“We [have] tried to be a little bit more creative on ways [that] we can really combat the fact that drones are hovering over our cities and villages,” said Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist and project coordinator for the British-based organization Reprieve, which advocates for the rights of prisoners to receive a fair trial. Taking their lead from Yemen’s reputation for recitation, the group organized an anti-drone poetry contest earlier this month. The top prize: $600 or, in Reprieve’s words, “1% of the cost of a hellfire missile.”

A panel of Yemeni poets whittled the more than 30 submissions down to six finalists and a winner. Frontrunners gathered on a recent Tuesday afternoon to share their work. One by one, contestants read their poems aloud. Some delivered their verse – containing lines such as “From above, Death descends upon us,” “Drones are the friend of our enemy” and “Do you fight terrorism with terrorism?” – more fluently than others, but the small audience of mostly friends and fellow activists greeted all of the contestants with equally boisterous applause. The winner: Drones Without Rhyme, a catchy free verse poem with a familiar theme. The winning poet, Ayman Shahari, beamed as he walked on stage.

Despite not winning, Raghda Gamal, a journalist and author of the entry Death Flying Around!, was glad that she had participated. “It’s great to use such art to send your case,” she said. “We can use a lot of tools rather than weapons.”

Reprieve’s Shiban says that creative events like this help broaden discussions in Yemen, a country with high rates of illiteracy and limited Internet penetration. “It’s a way of engaging more sectors of society,” he says.

Subay agrees. “[Art] galleries in Yemen belong to one class. Graffiti is for all people,” he says. Two years ago there was hardly a stencil to be seen on public walls but today, thanks largely to Subay’s campaigns, they are plastered across some of the country’s most trafficked areas. Subay estimates that, in all, millions of citizens have now been exposed to street art.

Shiban is optimistic that cultural forms of protest like poetry and graffiti could be a step on the path toward ending drone strikes and affecting other changes in Yemen. Subay, however, is skeptical that art will alter policy, saying that the United States’ counterterrorism strategy will likely “carry on” regardless.

“Maybe I don’t expect any action [from the U.S.],” said Subay. “But I’ll always keep hoping.”

Whether or not the anti-drone poetry and graffiti influences American policy in Yemen, one thing seems clear: for a region whose people have so often lived under dictators and through times of violence, peaceful protest of this sort can only be healthy.

British government bans Pakistani drone survivors


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

Apparently, the David Cameron government in Britain sees not only journalists, but also drone attack survivors as “terrorists”

Once more, from daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Witnesses On Drones Denied Entry Visas

Thursday 7th November 2013

Three Pakistani men prevented from giving evidence to Parliament

Three Pakistani men will be prevented from giving evidence to Parliament regarding Britain’s alleged role in CIA drone strikes after they were refused entry to the country.

The men, including Noor Khan, who is currently suing Britain over its alleged role in a CIA attack which killed his father, had been invited to address the all-party parliamentary group on drones yesterday.

Also due to address the meeting was Kareem Khan, whose son and brother were killed in a drone strike on New Year’s Eve 2009.

Mr Khan is suing former CIA station chief in Pakistan Jonathan Banks and ex-CIA general counsel John Rizzo over the killings.

Noor Behram, a journalist who has been investigating and photographing drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost six years, had also been scheduled to attend. Yet they were prevented from doing so after their visa applications were rejected.

The family of another Pakistani drone victim recently gave evidence to a congressional hearing in the US having been granted visas to do so and campaigners have urged Britain to extend the same courtesy.

Legal justice charity Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider, whose organisation represents Mr Khan, said: “It is an unfortunate coincidence that David Cameron is refusing to grant a visa to the very same man who is suing his government over its role in the drone strike that killed his father.

“Just last week the Rehman family were able to tell their story to the US yet the UK seems unwilling to extend a similar courtesy to these three victims of the drone programme. The British government must reconsider and grant the men visas.”

Labour MP Tom Watson, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on drones, had written letters supporting the three men’s visa applications.

Mr Watson said: “It’s very disappointing that visas have not been granted in time for the drone victims invited by the parliamentary group on drones to speak today.

“The Rehman family testified to Congress about their grandmother who was killed by a CIA drone.

“The UK must allow Noor Khan and other survivors into the country so that we too can hear these lost voices.”

See also here.

The US and Pakistan: An incompatible couple: here.

Tony Magliano: Two new reports tell horrific tales of drones’ actions in the Middle East, and we should be disturbed: here.

US Drone Attacks Pakistani Religious School, Killing Eight. US Had Just Promised Today to Hold Off on Future Drone Strikes: here.

A US drone strike on a seminary in the Hangu district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed at least six people Thursday, including several civilians: here.

Thousands protest against drone strikes in Peshawar: here.

Abducted Pakistani drone activist freed: here.

Who tried to silence drone victim Kareem Khan? Here.

CIA’s Pakistan Drones Strikes Carried out by U.S. Air Force Personnel: here.

Pakistani drone survivors will speak with US Congress, Tuesday


This video says about itself:

27 Nov 2012

Robert Greenwald, Filmmaker/Producer & Founder-Brave New Films, joins Thom Hartmann. The US government says that drone attacks in the Middle East are targeted – and don’t put innocent civilians in harm’s way. Yet – our drones have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. When do we say enough is enough with drone warfare?

From Robert Greenwald & The War Costs Team in the USA:

“I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” – Nabila, 8-year-old granddaughter of drone strike victim Mamana Bibi

On Tuesday, October 29, at 10AM EST, Rafiq ur Rahman – a primary school teacher in Pakistan – will appear at a briefing called by Representative Alan Grayson (FL-09), along with his children Nabila and Zubair. In October 2012, Nabila and Zubair were injured in the same drone strike that killed their grandmother – Rafiq’s mother – while she was tending crops in her garden. This landmark briefing marks the first opportunity for Congress to hear in-person accounts from drone strike survivors.

The Congressional briefing will be available to watch via live stream. RSVP today to witness as Rafiq, Nabila, and Zubair share their intimate account of living through a drone strike, the loss they experienced, and the devastating aftermath.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the drone strike victims,” said Congressman Grayson. “When it comes to national security matters like drone strikes, it’s important that we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims. They have a unique perspective to share with Congress, and I hope that my colleagues will attend this important event on October 29th.”

Rafiq ur Rehman has traveled from North Waziristan to tell his story before Congress because he believes that more people should know that these strikes are killing and terrorizing innocent families. It is imperative that Congress and the White House know that the implementation of U.S. drone strikes abroad are fueling anti-American sentiment and serving as a tool for terrorist recruitment.

Don’t miss this historic event. – RSVP* now to watch as drone survivors, for the first time, share their story with Congress.

Sincerely,

Robert Greenwald & The War Costs Team

*Every person that RSVP’s to stream this live event will automatically be signed up to receive a FREE link on October 30th to watch our upcoming documentary UNMANNED: America’s Drone Wars.

Why Did America Kill My Mother? Pakistani Drone Victim Comes To Congress For Answer: here.

Malala Yousafzai tells Obama drones are ‘fueling terrorism’: here.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is caught between Pakistan’s strategic alliance with the US on the one hand and mass popular opposition to the criminal drone war on the other: here.

Confessions of a Drone Warrior: here.

Hundreds of Pakistanis rallied against an army operation in the North Waziristan tribal area which they say killed many civilians: here.

Britain: Human rights campaigners condemned a London court’s “shameful” decision yesterday to strike down the case of Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a US-led bombing in Pakistan’s North Waziristan in 2011: here.

Drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen are war crimes, Amnesty says


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

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Amnesty says US officials should face war crimes charges over drone strikes

Joint report with Human Rights Watch judges attacks in Yemen and Pakistan to have broken international human rights law

Jon Boone in Islamabad

Tuesday 22 October 2013

US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones.

The reports are being published while Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.

Getting to the bottom of individual strikes is exceptionally difficult in the restive areas bordering Afghanistan, where thousands of militants have settled. People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.

There is also a risk of militants attempting to skew outside research by forcing interviewees into “providing false or inaccurate information”, the report said.

But Amnesty mounted a major effort to investigate nine of the many attacks to have struck the region over the last 18 months, including one that killed 18 labourers in North Waziristan as they waited to eat dinner in an area of heavy Taliban influence in July 2012. All those interviewed by Amnesty strongly denied any of the men had been involved in militancy. Even if they were members of a banned group, that would not be enough to justify killing them, the report said.

“Amnesty International has serious concerns that this attack violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial executions,” the report said. It called for those responsible to stand trial.

The US has repeatedly claimed very few civilians have been killed by drones. It argues its campaign is conducted “consistent with all applicable domestic and international law”.

The Amnesty report supports media accounts from October last year that a 68-year-old woman called Mamana Bibi was killed by a missile fired from a drone while she was picking okra outside her home in North Waziristan with her grandchildren nearby. A second strike minutes later injured family members tending her.

If true, the case is striking failure of a technology much vaunted for its accuracy. It is claimed the remote-controlled planes are able to observe their targets for hours or even days to verify them, and that the explosive force of the missiles is designed to limit collateral damage. As with other controversial drone strikes, the US has refused to acknowledge or explain what happened.

Amnesty said it accepts some US drone strikes may not violate the law, “but it is impossible to reach any firm assessment without a full disclosure of the facts surrounding individual attacks and their legal basis. The USA appears to be exploiting the lawless and remote nature of the region to evade accountability for its violations,” it said.

In Yemen, another country where US drones are active, Human Rights Watch highlighted six incidents, two of which were a “clear violation of international humanitarian law”. The remaining four may have broken the laws of armed conflict because the targets were illegitimate or because not enough was done to minimise civilian harm, the report said.

It also argued that some of the Yemen attacks breach the guidelines announced by Obama earlier this year in his first major speech on a programme that is officially top secret. For example, the pledge to kill suspects only when it is impossible to capture them appears to have been ignored on 17 April this year when an al-Qaida leader was blown up in a township in Dhamar province in central Yemen, Human Rights Watch said.

An attack on a truck driving 12 miles south of the capital Sana’a reportedly killed two al-Qaida suspects but also two civilians who had been hired by the other men. That means the attack could have been illegal because it “may have caused disproportionate harm to civilians”.

The legal arguments over drones are extremely complex, with much controversy focusing on whether or not the places where they are used amount to war zones.

Amnesty said some of the strikes in Pakistan might be covered by that claim, but rejected a “global war doctrine” that allows the US to attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world.

“To accept such a policy would be to endorse state practices that fundamentally undermine crucial human rights protections that have been painstakingly developed over more than a century of international law-making,” the report said.

See also here.

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals: here.

On Syria, Obama went to Congress over military action. But in Yemen, the US has joined a counter-insurgency without a word: here.

NSA spying and global drone war


This video is called 80% of drone strike victims innocent civilians.

By Thomas Gaist:

NSA surveillance programs facilitate global drone war

18 October 2013

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published in the Washington Post Wednesday show that NSA surveillance operations play a key role in the global campaign of assassinations being waged by the Obama administration.

The Post’s report, “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program,” testifies to the integration of the surveillance apparatus exposed in recent months into US imperialism’s global military operations. Officials cited by the Post said that the NSA has deployed analysts to work along side Central Intelligence Agency personnel at the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at “every major US embassy or military base overseas.”

The report further documents the NSA’s systematic attempts to overcome encryption, including the extraction of PGP encryption keys from targets. …

According to the report, the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations,” a cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering program, conducts surveillance of targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and throughout Africa. TAO runs programs such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR, which launch cyber attacks using “software implants” to grab sensitive data such as keystroke logs and audio files.

ArsTechnica reported in August that advanced software used by TAO enables operatives to tap directly into hardware such as “routers, switches and firewalls,” and that TAO’s activities are integrated into data systems such as XKeyscore.

Information gathered by the NSA has been used in particular in the course of the CIA’s drone war in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. As summarized by the Post, the NSA has “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan.” One US intelligence official told the Post, “NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA.” To date, at least 3,000 people have been killed as a result of US drone operations in Pakistan, including hundreds of civilians.

Both the NSA surveillance and the policy of drone war that it facilitates are criminal operations, carried out in violation of international law. The Obama administration asserts the right to kill anyone in the world without due process, including US citizens, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Among those killed have been US citizens including Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

A full accounting of the Pakistanis murdered by US drones may never be completed. However, a study published by Stanford University and New York University earlier this year showed that large sections of the population living in the FATA suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the buzzing of drones overhead and the never-ending barrage of ordnance raining down on the area.

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson wrote in March of this year, “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent, and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The Post described the leaked NSA documents as “self-congratulatory in tone” and “drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities.” According to Fox News, the Post withheld substantial information about the drone strikes “at the request of US intelligence officials.”

The Post report highlights the case of Hassan Ghul, who was killed as a direct result of intelligence acquired through electronic surveillance operations run by the NSA. After his capture in 2004, Ghul was held at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe until 2006, where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), including slapping, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

In 2006, Ghul was transferred to Pakistan, where he was released and rejoined Al Qaeda militants in Waziristan. Ghul worked to set up logistical networks for Al Qaeda after being freed, according to a Treasury Department document from 2011. No explanation has been offered by US or Pakistani authorities for Ghul’s release.

Ghul was then killed in 2012 by a drone strike in Mir Ali, after having been monitored for a year prior to his death by a secret NSA unit called the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC), which specializes in finding high priority targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Ghul’s location was discovered through analysis of an email sent to him by his wife. His death was never officially acknowledged by the US government, despite the fact that his interrogation supposedly provided intelligence about an Al Qaeda courier named al-Kuwaiti, which supposedly led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The scope of the integration of the NSA, CIA, military and police agencies extends far beyond what is taking place in Pakistan. The entire world is the subject both of the intelligence-gathering operations of the NSA and the drone strikes of the CIA.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA’s surveillance operations gather the communications of every telephone and Internet user on the planet, US citizens and non-citizens alike. This week has already seen new evidence emerge that the NSA is stealing address books—which often contain large amounts of personal information—from various web platforms and storing them in its archives. (See “ NSA ‘harvesting’ electronic address books and contact lists”)

The possibility of strikes being launched against American targets has been raised by top officials, and drones are already deployed on non-strike missions over the US. In a letter of March 4, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial,” saying that in certain cases such action would be “necessary and appropriate.”

If and when such operations are initiated, the state will have no shortage of data with which to target Americans, whose communications are subject to constant scrutiny by the surveillance apparatus.

NSA spying on 35 foreign leaders: here.

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.