The Common Good

Quick Read - Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Is Syria Next?

Current and former U.S. officials have told the Los Angeles Times that the CIA is gathering intelligence on Islamic extremists in Syria as part of contingency planning for possible drone strikes. Although drone strikes have not been considered or authorized, according to the Times:

“The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat, the officials said.

“The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking Al Qaeda operatives and fighters in Iraq. U.S. officials believe that some of these operatives have moved to Syria and joined Islamic militias battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

“The CIA effort, which involves assembling detailed dossiers on key militants, gives the White House both lethal and nonlethal options if it concludes that Syria’s 2-year-old civil war — which has caused 70,000 deaths, according to United Nations estimates — is creating a haven for terrorists.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: A Violation of Sovereignty

Following a three-day visit to Pakistan, Ben Emmerson QC, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, warned that continuing U.S. drone strikes are a violation of  that country’s sovereignty. According to the Guardian, Emmerson said,

"The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan 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.

"Pakistan has also been quite clear that it considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalizing a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating the problem of terrorism in the region.”

 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Iran, U.S. Face Off Over Drone

As an Iranian fighter jet approached a Predator surveillance drone over the Persian Gulf earlier this week, it was warned away by a U.S. Air Force jet escort. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“The incident, which was not disclosed for two days, is at least the third time U.S. and Iranian military forces have faced off over American spy drones in the last 15 months, and it inevitably raised concerns of a more serious confrontation.

“The Obama administration has stepped up military and intelligence surveillance flights near Iranian airspace and moved warships and other military assets to the Middle East in connection with the increasing Western pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear development program.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Give Them Up, Mr. President

In an opinion piece this morning, former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta urges President Obama to make available to Congress and the American people the legal opinions governing the targeted drone killing program. Podesta writes:

“In refusing to release to Congress the rules and justifications governing a program that has conducted nearly 400 unmanned drone strikes and killed at least three Americans in the past four years, President Obama is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days. And in keeping this information from the American people, he is undermining the nation’s ability to be a leader on the world stage and is acting in opposition to the democratic principles we hold most important. This is why I say, respectfully: Give them up, Mr. President.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: The Legal Basis for Drone Killings

Eight Members of Congress sent a letter to the president yesterday, requesting a complete report on the legal basis for the targeted killings by the drone program. The letter noted a 2012 GAO study saying that 75 countries and “certain terrorist organizations” now have drones. With this growing reality, the letter said:

“We are growing increasingly concerned that there is a risk that our country’s ‘global war’ doctrine will further corrode the foundations of the international framework for protection of human rights.”

The letter was organized by Rep. Barbara Lee, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force, who said in a press release:

 “It is far past time that the White House openly discuss the drones program. The President has full rein to protect the United States as Commander in Chief, but Congress has a vital oversight role in this issue, and we cannot shy away from those responsibilities. We have to protect the checks and balances that are at the heart of our democracy.”

You can read the full text of the letter HERE

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike in Pakistan

The first reported drone strike in nearly a month is said to have happened Sunday morning in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan. According to The New York Times:

“Two people suspected of being militants were killed Sunday morning in the volatile North Waziristan tribal region by what Pakistani and Taliban officials said was a drone strike. … Two Pakistani officials, one in Peshawar and another in the tribal belt, said that missiles fired from a drone operated by the C.I.A. hit the two people in the village of Degan, about 20 miles from Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.”

The Long War Journal added:

 

“The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a pair of "militants" as they were riding horses in the village of Degan in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The two militants and their horses are reported to have been killed.”

 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH BREAKING: Filibustering Brennan

The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday confirmed White House adviser John Brennan as CIA director on a 12-3 vote. The Democratic Senate leadership is attempting a quick vote, but ran into a problem as a filibuster began. The Associated Press reports:

“Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stalled the chamber as he took to the Senate floor to complain over what he said was President Barack Obama's failure to adequately answer questions about the legality of conducting lethal drone strikes against targets inside the United States. The Obama administration has said it does not intend to conduct such strikes.

"'No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty of a crime by a court,' Paul said. 'How can you kill someone without going to a judge, or a jury?'"

Sen. Paul began speaking about two hours ago, you can watch HERE.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Sandy Hook Dad Testifying Before Congress on Gun Violence

As a mom of two small children – one who is the same age as children killed in Newton – I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for this dad to speak about his loss at the Senate Judiciary Committee recently about a proposed assault weapons ban. Thank you for your courage.

Now it's time to ask Congress to show some courage and enact sensible measures to prevent gun violence. Too many parents have already lost their children.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Our Disappearing Privacy

The Federal Aviation Administration is scheduled to begin issuing commercial drone permits in 2015, allowing for a massive use of domestic drones. But according to Reuters, It’s already happening.

“They hover over Hollywood film sets and professional sports events. They track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California. They inspect miles of industrial pipeline and monitor wildlife, river temperatures and volcanic activity.

“They also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.

“Tens of thousands of domestic drones are zipping through U.S. skies, often flouting tight federal restrictions on drone use that require even the police and the military to get special permits.”

We live in a world where privacy barely exists. Almost everything about each of us in monitored – what we buy, which websites we visit, where we go. And the coming of the drone age will only accelerate that reality.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Congressional Concern About Drone Policy

The House Judiciary Committee yesterday held one of the first public hearings on U.S. drone strikes, with Democratic and Republican members expressing concern about the secret program. Reuters reports:

“The public congressional hearing on "drone-kill policy" was noteworthy: government officials refrained for years from even uttering the word "drone" when talking about the use of armed, pilotless aircraft because such operations were classified.

“But in the past year, the White House has sought more publicly to present its justifications for drone strikes, through comments by officials like Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who has been nominated to become CIA director.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Take Their Citizenship First

While the U.S. continues to debate whether the president has legal authority to order the drone killing of American citizens, it seems the British have found their answer to the question. According to The Independent:

“The Government has secretly ramped up a controversial programme that strips people of their British citizenship on national security grounds – with two of the men subsequently killed by American drone attacks.

“An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has established that since 2010, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals, many of whom are alleged to have had links to militant or terrorist groups.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Defending the Gun Market

Mary Sanchez, op-ed writer for the Kansas City Star, offers in her column something many of us probably didn’t know:

“There’s a little-known fact about guns in America, and it’s one that the firearms industry and its political allies don’t like to dwell on: The rate of gun ownership in America is declining.

“This has been the case for decades. Rates peaked way back in the 1970s, the era of disco balls and bell bottoms. In 1977, 54 percent of American households reported owning guns. In 2010, the last time the General Social Survey data was compiled, the percentage had shrunk to 32.”

Sanchez concludes that the strong opposition to anti-gun violence measures is driven more by the need of gun manufacturers to sustain their market than it is about the Second Amendment.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drones? What Drones?

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Up w/ Chris Hayes, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in an interview that when he took that position, he was told not to discuss the government’s secret drone program or even acknowledge its existence. According to Gibbs:

“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.'” 

He added:

“Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition: you’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program … pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

At this point, after a leaked Justice Department memo, the John Brennan hearings, several ongoing U.N. negotiations, and coverage by most major news organizations, any denial of a drone program is laughable. It does exist, it is not a secret, and it is regularly killing people in several countries. 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Base in Niger

With a short note to the Congressional leadership, President Barack Obama announced last week that a total of 100 U.S. troops are now in Niger to “provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali.”

The Washington Post reported:

“A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide details about military operations, said that the 40 troops who arrived in Niger on Wednesday were almost all Air Force personnel and that their mission was to support drone flights.

“The official said drone flights were “imminent” but declined to say whether unarmed, unmanned Predator aircraft had arrived in Niger or how many would be deployed there.”

The Predator drones will be unarmed and carry out surveillance missions. But The Post noted that theadministration had not ruled out arming the Predators with missiles in the future.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strikes in Afghanistan Increase

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan released its annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan on Tuesday, finding a decrease from 2011. According to the Guardian, the U.N. also reported that 506 weapons were fired by drones in 2012, compared with 294 in 2011. Five cases resulted in civilian casualties, with 16 deaths and three wounded. Although drone attacks have become controversial in Pakistan, the Guardian writes:

 “They have not been a prominent issue in Afghanistan, however. While drone attacks have occurred, they have largely been in support of ground troops during operations and have not been singled out by President Hamid Karzai's administration in its campaign against international air strikes.

“The steep rise in the number of weapons fired from unmanned aerial aircraft – the formal term for drones – raises the possibility that may change as US forces become more dependent on such attacks to fight al-Qaida and other insurgents as combat missions are due to end by the end of 2014.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence