Wednesday, July 31, 2013

US drone strike kills seven in North Waziristan

From:  Dawn

PESHAWAR: A suspected US drone strike has killed seven people and injured three others in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.
Intelligence officials say two missiles hit the Shawal area of North Waziristan Sunday evening.
The missile strike was carried out in the Shinkai Narai village in North Waziristan. The drone strike targeted a compound and destroyed it completely.
Intelligence officials have told that among the suspected militants killed in the strikes, four included foreigners of Arab origin who were preparing for Iftar when the drone struck the compound.
Officials have said there is a possibility that a high profile figure was killed in the attack.
North Waziristan is home to a mix of Pakistani, Afghan and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants.
The US drone program is a source of extreme tension between the two countries.
Washington says it needs to send drones after dangerous militants because the Pakistani government refuses to engage them militarily.
Pakistan charges that the drone strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.

Monday, July 29, 2013


From:  WND

COMMENT - Another compelling argument for localizing all government and instituting full accountability for present wrong-doing for corporates and those in government.  

I don’t know what’s more threatening to liberty and privacy – the National Security Agency’s monstrous eavesdropping efforts and satellite surveillance on American citizens or the plans for massive expansion by local, state and federal governments of spying on us from the air with drones.
Steve Peacock reports in WND the federal government is gearing up to ensure drones will soon be everywhere across the country in a plan to enforce regulations on the citizenry.
The latest discovery is that the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recently acquired Puma UAS – a type of drone the U.S. Navy also uses – for operations off the coast of Los Angeles.
“ONMS now is enlisting contractor support in expanding UAS use in California, Hawaii, Florida, and Washington state,” reports Peacock. “Vendors experienced in working with law enforcement and military personnel are needed for this endeavor, according to a solicitation that WND located through routine database research.”
This is just one more expansion of drone surveillance. The U.S. Army is also evaluating contractor proposals to train operators of drones, specifically for Puma and Raven vehicles. As WND reported in late June, the Army says vendors will help it maintain nearly 1,800 Puma and Raven systems “currently fielded, and alternative medium and long range systems procured in the future.”  MORE

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

US drone strikes in Yemen cast a long shadow over life on the ground

From:  TheGuardian


Unmanned aircraft create refugees and resentment among civilians as remote provinces become a battleground

yemen drone strike
Wreckage … boys gather near a car destroyed by a drone strike targeting
suspected al-Qaida militants in the province of Shabwa, Yemen. Photograph: Khaled
Tiny, bright-red flashes twinkle in the night sky over Obeiraq, accompanied by a short, sharp detonation then a heavy thud. It shakes the houses and their windows. Smoke rises from the valley below. It makes the women "sick" and they stay indoors, but the menfolk strut around in the streets, flaunting their indifference to the unmanned aircraft. "We're not afraid of drones," they say.
Obeiraq, population 2,500, stands at the eastern extremity of Dhamar province, 150km south-east of the capital of Yemen, Sana'a. Its rocky volcanic landscape, peppered with fragrant shrubs, and surrounded by an unbroken chain of mountains, is a battleground for drones.
yemen drone strikes
Drone zones: areas under fire. Photograph: Graphic
For the past year the neighbouring governorate of al-Bayda has been constantly targeted by US drones. Other provinces – Abyan, Shabwa, Mareb and Jawf – have suffered a similar fate. Rada'a and Manasseh, outposts in eastern Yemen for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have been besieged by the Yemeni military for months. Every now and then one or the other side claims victory. Obeiraq is just on the edge of this deluge of firepower.

Standing in a doorway a policeman is questioning an Ethiopian migrant who entered Yemen illegally. Tapping him on the shoulder, he asks: "Where are you going next? You're not going to become a terrorist?" The man shakes his head. "OK, we'd better take care of you," the officer concludes. In the middle of the main square a local man points to a long-haired motorcyclist carrying a Kalashnikov, claiming he is an AQAP combatant. Everyone smiles. The supposed terrorist offers us a ride to take a closer look at the fighting round Manasseh, then rides off on his own.  MORE

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

COMMENTS -  How much should drone contractors pay for the damage they cooperate to make possible? 

July 22nd, 2013 | by 

Copyright AFP/Getty. Deputy chief minister of Pakistan's Nort
Pakistan officially denied that 81 civilians including children died in this 2006 CIA drone strike – but a leaked document says otherwise. (Photo: Getty Images).
A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.
The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.
The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.
Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.
The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Can you imagine the uproar that would be caused anywhere else in the world if 94 children were reported murdered in just three years?’ 
Jemima Khan
Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. Five attacks alleged to be carried out by Nato or other unspecified forces are also listed.
The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings. New CIA director John Brennan has described claims to the contrary as ‘intentional misrepresentations‘.
The document shows that during the 2006-09 period covered, when Pakistan’s government and military were privately supporting the CIA’s campaign, officials had extensive internal knowledge of high civilian casualties.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Bureau the present Pakistani government opposes drone strikes: ‘Pakistan’s position on drone strikes has been stipulated on several occasions. The drone strikes violate our sovereignty and international law. These also entail human rights and humanitarian implications.’
A former Political Agent for North Waziristan who was shown the leaked report by the Bureau says he does not believe the casualty figures to be exaggerated.
‘There was no benefit in officials “cooking the books” here, since this document was clearly never intended to be seen outside the civilian administration,’ said Rauf Khan Khattak, who also recently served in Pakistan’s caretaker government.
Three separate sources
The leaked document – which the Bureau obtained from three separate sources – is based on field reports by government officials rather than on media coverage. The Bureau understands that the document is continually updated as attacks occur – although the copy obtained ends with a strike on October 24 2009.

Prepared for the FATA Secretariat – the political administration of the tribal areas – the document was never intended for public release. Since no individual victims are named, the Bureau has assessed that it is safe to publish the paper in its entirety.
Of 746 people listed killed in the 75 drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of those are said to be children.
The document often includes fresh information on strikes, for example confirming the location and target of a September 2 2008 CIA attack, only previously alluded to in a US intelligence document.
The newly released paper gives a precise location and casualty count for that strike, noting:
Predator attack was made on the house of Bakhtawar Khan Daur, Mohammad Khel, Tehsil Datta Khel Miranshah. One injured.
According to former officials familiar with the process, the internal casualty data listed in the document would have been collated through an extended network of government contacts.
Each tribal area such as North Waziristan is administered by a Political Agent and his assistants. Beneath them are agents known as tehsildars and naibs who gather information when drone strikes occur – the names and identities of those killed, damage to property and so on. Additional information is also drawn from the khassadar – the local tribal police – and from paid informants in villages.
‘What you end up with in these reports is reasonably accurate, because it comes from on-the-ground sources cultivated over many years. And the political agent is only interested in properly understanding what actually happened,’ says former official Rauf Khan Khattak.
Key document
Both the US and Pakistani authorities have historically been wary of releasing casualty data for the ‘secret’ CIA campaign.

However in March, UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC – who is carrying out an investigation into drone strikes – said that Pakistani officials had now produced estimates of civilians killed in CIA drone attacks.
What you end up with in these reports is reasonably accurate, because it comes from on-the-ground sources cultivated over many years.’ 
Rauf Khan Khattak, former FATA Political Agent
Emmerson stated that Islamabad ‘has been able to confirm that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, and that a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants. Officials indicated that due to under-reporting and obstacles to effective investigation on the ground these figures were likely to be under-estimates of the number of civilian deaths.’
In contrast, leaked US intelligence documents recently obtained by news agency McClatchy show the CIA rarely admits to civilian deaths in Pakistan.
Yet the internal document obtained by the Bureau shows that for years Pakistani officials were noting privately what news media and researchers were already reporting publicly – that significant numbers of civilians were indeed being killed in CIA attacks.
In a US strike on the village of Damadola in January 2006, for example, officials noted: ’05 children 05 women and 6 mens [sic] all civilians’ died. Press reports at the time indicated that between 10 and 18 civilians had died.
Strike in Damadola, January 25 2006. Copyright AFP/Getty
The leaked report details 16 civilian deaths in this January 2006 drone strike. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

On four other occasions, tribal officials privately reported civilian deaths where the media had reported none.
On June 14 2009, for example, FATA officials secretly noted that an attack on a vehicle which killed three people was on ‘a civilian pickup truck’. No Urdu or English-language media at the time reported any civilian deaths.
Most controversially, tribal officials reported back to Islamabad in October 2006 that 81 civilians, all but one of whom were described as children, were killed in a single drone strike on a religious school in Bajaur Agency.
According to officials, the casualties were ’80 children 01 men all civilian’.  It was widely reported at the time that scores of children had died: Pakistani newspaper The News published the names and ages of 69 children, under the UN definition of a child as being under 18 years old. The discrepancy appears to be because the FATA Secretariat has also classified older students killed as children.
As with all early CIA drone strikes, Pakistan’s military had initially claimed it was responsible for the 2006 Bajaur strike. As word of civilian deaths began to emerge, the army reversed its position and denied carrying out the attack, although it has consistently claimed that only militants died that day.
Most controversially, tribal officials reported back to Islamabad in October 2006 that 81 civilians, all but one of whom were described as children, were killed in a single drone strike on a religious school.’
In June 2012, Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf told journalist Jemima Khan: ‘In the media, they said it was all children. They were absolutely wrong. There may have been some collateral damage of some children but they were not children at all, they were all militants doing training inside.’
Jemima Khan is associate editor of British magazine the New Statesman and also the former wife of Pakistani politician Imran Khan – who campaigns vociferously against US drone strikes. 
‘Can you imagine the uproar that would be caused anywhere else in the world if 94 children were reported murdered in just three years?’ Ms Khan told the Bureau.
Ms Khan said that she was angered to learn that senior military and government officials were denying the deaths of children at Bajaur, even as they privately knew otherwise.
‘This leaked document proves what many have suspected all along – that US and Pakistani politicians have been lying to us,’ she said.
Former officials agree that the leaked document is most likely accurate: ‘You can’t distort that kind of information. If children hadn’t been killed, we’d have had people coming to us from all over Bajaur who would have told us so,’ former FATA agent Rauf Khan Khattak insists.
Unnamed dead
The secret government papers are revealing, but they also have some puzzling omissions.

None of those killed are named in the document – either civilians or alleged or known militants. Even where prominent militant commanders were killed – such as Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP), who died in August 2009 – no reference is made to the target.
Reports of civilian deaths also disappear entirely for most of 2009, after President Obama took office.
In part this is because officials occasionally note that ‘details of casualties are yet to be ascertained.’ But many credible reports of civilian deaths are simply missing.
The Bureau’s own research shows that civilian deaths have been credibly reported in at least 17of the 53 CIA drone strikes in Obama’s first year in office.
Yet FATA officials report civilian deaths in only three incidents in 2009.
On January 23 that year, for example, the secret file notes only that five people died in a strike in South Waziristan – with no indication of civilian deaths.
However, a letter from the South Waziristan Political Agency – obtained in 2010 by the Center for Civilians in Conflict (right) – clearly notes four civilian deaths in that attack. President Obama is also reported to havebeen informed of civilian deaths in this and another strike on the same day.
For the years 2006 to 2008, the internal document far more closely matches media reports of civilian deaths. Yet measured against the public record, it is unclear why references to civilian deaths in the report disappear almost entirely after Obama’s election.
‘No such documents’
Ambassador Rustan Shah Mohmand, who was a senior administrator in the tribal areas for 25 years between 1973 and 1998, cautions that the released file might not be the fullest data available.

Noting that Pakistan’s military is responsible for security in FATA, he told the Bureau: ‘Tribal documents might present a broad picture. But any accuracy is dependent on what data the military chooses to release to or withhold from the political agents. In the last eight years, for example, no precise casualty figures have ever been submitted to Pakistan’s parliament.’
Rumours have been circulating for many months of internal Pakistani documents detailing drone strike casualties. The Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court, Dost Muhammad Khan, began demanding in mid 2012 that the FATA Secretariat release all casualty data it held.
Khan presided over a successful civil case against the CIA brought by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. FATA officials at first claimed that no such internal documents existed, though in August 2012 an official presented the court with limited details of CIA strikes up to 2008.
Rumours have been circulating for many months of internal Pakistani documents detailing drone strike casualties.’
In his final judgment Chief Justice Khan, citing ‘Political Authorities’ in FATA, said that 896 civilians had been killed by the CIA between 2007 and 2012 in North Waziristan, with a further 533 civilian deaths in South Waziristan.
Those figures indicate that FATA officials may now be claiming a far higher civilian death toll than that reported by the leaked document -  although the source for those claims is not clear.
‘How come the same civil servants are feeding one kind of data to the Peshawar High Court and another kind of data to the FATA secretariat?’ asked Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow at charity Reprieve and the Pakistani barrister behind the successful Peshawar case. ‘Are they fudging the numbers based on who was on the receiving end?’
US counter-terrorism officials declined to comment on the specifics of the leaked document, though referred the Bureau to recent comments by both President Obama and CIA Director Brennan stating that the US goes to great lengths to limit civilian deaths in covert drone strikes.
Follow Chris Woods on Twitter.

Related links:

Self-Assembling Autonomous Drones Launched

COMMENT - Clearly, you do not have to have a conscience to be involved with the development of production of drones. 

Nicholas West

The use of drones is finally well out into the open. Some aspects of drones are still seen as fringe, however. The idea of autonomous drones is one area that still hasn't emerged into mainstream media. So, as the debate still rests upon whether or not to use drones in America - or if they should be weaponized or not, scientists are already working on the next level of drone evolution.

The military has announced the success of autonomous drones in the following areas:

But how about autonomous drones that can self-assemble, with each individual component deciding for itself how to create its flight design and path? It's called a Distributed Flight Array, and it is poised to redefine the potential drones of the future. reports:
Researchers at ETH Zurich have demonstrated an amazing capability for small robots to self-assemble and take to the air as a multi-rotor helicopter. Maximilian Kriegleder and Raymond Oung worked with Professor Raffaello D’Andrea at his research lab to develop the small hexagonal pods that assemble into flying rafts. (Source)

 The individual units begin with an eerie mating dance, as they spin around one another and interlock. Once connected, each unit will use its sensors to determine what will offer the best elements and pattern for flight. Some of the results can be seen here:

For now, the Distributed Flight Array appears somewhat limited, but with an ongoing investment in self-replication and self-assembly, the sky's the limit.

Here is another good example of self-assembling flying robots with some background about how this trend in "Spatially Targeted Communication and Self-Assembly" is developing:

Read other articles by Nicholas West Here

Friday, July 19, 2013

U.S. 98 reopens following drone crash // Detour Map

From:  The News Herald

COMMENT - It was just a small self-destruct charge, no need to worry - Right?  

Drone traffic
Eastbound traffic on 98 is being turned around at Tyndall AFB after a drone crash.
Andrew Wardlow / The News Herald
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM.
MEXICO BEACH — Tyndall Air Force Base security reopened U.S. 98 at midday Thursday, ending a long detour for many commuters between Bay and Gulf counties.
The highway had been closed after the crash of an unmanned Air Force drone Wednesday.
Col. Mark O’Laughlin, 325th Fighter Wing vice commander, reiterated Thursday what officials had said since the crash, that the closing of the road was precautionary.
“This closure was done strictly as a precautionary measure due to a small self-destruct charge carried on board the target,” O‘Laughlin said. “We understand that the closure of Highway 98 was a huge inconvenience to our local community and we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we put the safety of first responders and populace as the top priority.”

Concerns rise about growing use of domestic drones

From:  USA Today

COMMENT - We need accountability for the use of drones and to ensure the government does not use them.  

FRANKFORT, Ky. — If you fret about the possibility that drones soon may be hovering over your neighborhood, you may want to avoid Blue Eye Investigations' website.
Under a headline touting it as "authorized to operate aerial drone surveillance," is a photo of Blue Eye's eye-in-the-sky — which looks like a large, mechanical spider lifted by four rotor blades, carrying a video camera under a glass dome.

Richard Travelstead, owner of Blue Eye in Louisville, Ky., confesses that his site's message contains what he calls a bit of marketing, given that no one authorized him to use his drone.
In fact, no authorization is required for the kind of drone he uses, a fairly sophisticated personal or hobby drone with limited range that anyone can buy online or at an electronics store.
But concerned about an emerging technology with many untapped commercial and public safety applications, Kentucky, like dozens of other states, is exploring laws to monitor and limit drone use.
"I am alarmed by media reports that the FAA predicts that between 10,000 to 30,000 drones could be lurking in our skies by 2020," state Rep. Diane St. Onge, a Republican from Lakeside Park, Ky., said in April.  MORE

US drone strikes unpopular across globe: Survey

COMMENT - Amazing.  People don't like to see small children blown up and countries traumatized.  How much did it cost to figure this out?  

And how much did Dan O'Dowd personally make for each child murdered?  

Islamabad, July 19 — The Obama administration's use of drone strikes targeting extremists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia faces broad opposition around the world, says a report by an American think tank.

The Pew Research Center in Washington conducted a survey on the issue in 39 countries, the Dawn reported Friday.

The report said that half or more in 31 of these countries disapprove of US drone attacks against extremist groups.

"In most of the nations polled, there continues to be extensive opposition to the American drone campaign against extremist leaders and organisations," the report said.

In 31 nations, at least half disapprove of the US conducting drone missile strikes targeting extremists in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

At least three-in-four people hold this view in 15 countries, including from the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

The only three countries where the majority supported the drone campaign are Israel (64 percent), Kenya (56 percent) and the US itself (61 percent).

In the US, Republicans (69 percent) were especially likely to endorse this policy, although most independents (60 percent) and Democrats (59 percent) also approve.

Opinions on the drone issue are divided in Australia, Canada and Germany.


This article was distributed through the NewsCred Smartwire. Original article © IANS / Daily News 2013

Federal judge questions government drone program

From:  USA Today 

COMMENT -  And I continue to say, take away the drone contractors and the military will have to use paper planes.  

Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A federal judge expressed deep reservations Friday about the authority of the government to carry out targeted killings of Americans in counterterrorism drone strikes abroad and appeared to reject a Justice Department argument that the courts had no role in one of the most controversial parts of the nation's security strategy.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer did not immediately rule on a government request to dismiss legal challenges to the killings of three Americans, including al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, brought by civil rights advocates and Anwar's father, Nasser al-Awlaki. But she strongly questioned the government's assertion that the courts were "not in a position to second-guess'' security officials when faced with an imminent threat.
"Your argument is that the court has no role in this — none, none none,'' U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer told Brian Hauk, deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Civil Division. "I find that a little disconcerting. The scope of your argument concerns me. It gobbles up all the air in the room. ... The most important part of the United States is that it is a nation of laws.''
The advocates, representing the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Anwar's father, allege that the killings of al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, the force behind the influential jihadist magazine known as Inspire, violated U.S. law.
"The killings were part of a broader program of 'targeted killing' by the United States outside the context of the armed conflict and based on vague legal standards, a closed executive process and evidence never presented to the courts,'' the groups said.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that four Americans had been killed in counterterrorism drone strikes since 2009, including the al-Awlakis and Khan.  MORE