drones

DRONE WATCH: Kill Less and Spy More

Noah Shachtman points out in Wired’s Danger Room that since 9/11, U.S. intelligence agencies have had counter-terrorism as their primary focus, including hundreds of drone strikes. Then he notes two former heads of the CIA who are urging a return to intelligence-gathering.

“We have been tremendously focused on counterterrorism for the last 11 years [since 9/11]. How do you now begin to make sure that you cover other necessary things without making the country less safe?” asks former CIA director and retired Gen. Michael Hayden.

“Nearly every major international security concern facing Petraeus’ successors is, in essence, a question of intelligence: What is Iran’s nuclear capability, really? Which way will the Syrian civil war go? Why is China building up its Navy so fast? What the hell is Kim Jong-Un up to? “Those are things that you’re not going to learn through diplomacy or through press reporting. And that takes you to intelligence,” notes John E. McLaughlin, the CIA’s former acting director.” 

DRONE WATCH: From Counterinsurgency to Drones

Several weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that the CIA was proposing a “significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones.” The proposal was championed by Director David Petraeus to allow the agency to continue its attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, as well as shift drones to other perceived threats.

With Petraeus’ sudden departure, there are calls for a real debate on the role of drones. Questions and opposition to the drone assassination campaign were already growing, now there are more.

Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, writes in U.S. News & World Report of the need for guidelines on drone use.

“Drones and other forms of remote-control warfare aren't going away. The technological developments that empowered them won't be undone. The very real organizations that do seek to threaten Americans and U.S. interests aren't going to fold up on their own. But we do need, urgently, some theory around which we create legal, ethical, and practical guidelines for remote-control warfare, based on what we know about human nature, and what we have learned about human response to our efforts to date."

DRONE WATCH: Pakistan Developing Drones

As it continues to condemn U.S. drone attacks, it appears that Pakistan is close to manufacturing its own drones. The Guardian reports that at a major arms fair held in Karachi last week, a senior Pakistani defense official briefed allies on their progress.

"The foreign delegates were quite excited by what Pakistan has achieved," said the official, who was closely involved with organising the four-day International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (Ideas). "They were briefed about a UAV that can be armed and has the capability to carry a weapon payload."

“The official said Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to friendly countries, principally Turkey and the Gulf, that it can be self-sufficient in a technology that is revolutionising warfare and which is currently dominated by a handful of countries that do not readily share the capability.”

DRONE WATCH: Rice and Albright Question Drones

Alexis Simendinger at RealClearPolitics reports on an appearance by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright at the Global Financial Leadership Conference In Naples, Fla. While the two disagreed on many topics, they also found some agreement:

“But looking ahead, the duo found issues on which they agree, and the government’s reliance on unmanned drones was one. Albright and Rice concurred that drone warfare saves American lives and is effective, but both expressed worries about the long-range implications and encouraged the Obama administration to focus during its second term on the issues surrounding deployment of such weapons.

“Albright said she was “not sure” about the human targets who wind up on the administration’s drone-strike lists, and she raised concerns about the use of unmanned drones by other nations. Rice predicted the technology “will become ubiquitous,” and she questioned how the United States would be able to protest if Russia decided to use drones domestically in Chechnya, or China used them against targets in Tibet. “It makes me quite uncomfortable,” Rice said.”

The Week in Drones

• After the story broke on CNN, the Defense Department announced Thursday that on Nov. 1, two Iranian fighter jets fired at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace over the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon said the Predator drone was 16 miles off the coast of Iran, international space begins at 12 miles. While not explicitly confirming the charge, a senior Iranian armed forces commander issued a statement saying "The defenders of the Islamic Republic will respond decisively to any form of encroachment by air, sea or on the ground."

Wired reports that the U.S. military has launched 333 drone strikes so far this year in Afghanistan. The secret CIA drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen get more attention because of the legal and ethical questions they raise. But, “it’s worth remembering that the rise of the flying robots is largely occurring in the open, on an acknowledged battlefield where the targets are largely unquestioned and the attending issues aren’t nearly as fraught."

DRONE WATCH: Changing the Nature of War

Tom Roberts in the National Catholic Reporter, writes on questions raised by the rapidly growing use of unpiloted drones.

“Each expansion of drone use magnifies the concerns of the legal and human rights communities about whether the United States is dangerously pressing the limits of -- or even violating -- international law. Just as worrisome, experts say, is whether the increasing use of drones in such circumstances will slowly erode the force of international law, rendering it ineffective.”

DRONE WATCH: Out of the Shadows

In an editorial this morning, the Washington Post sums up the legal and political problems with a continuing war based on “kill lists,” then concludes with its recommendations for greater transparency and accountability:

“Drone strikes should be carried out by military forces rather than by the CIA; as with other military activities, they should be publicly disclosed and subject to congressional review. The process and criteria for adding names to kill lists in non-battlefield zones should be disclosed and authorized by Congress — just like the rules for military detention and interrogation. Before operations begin in a country, the administration should, as with other military operations, consult with Congress and, if possible, seek a vote of authorization. It should seek open agreements with host countries and other allies.

“There may be cases where the president must act immediately against an imminent threat to the country, perhaps from an unexpected place. But to institutionalize a secret process of conducting covert drone strikes against militants across the world is contrary to U.S. interests and ultimately unsustainable.”

 

4 Things We Should Be Talking About Before Nov. 6

Voting symbols, VectorPic, Shutterstock.com
Voting symbols, VectorPic, Shutterstock.com

As the winds and the rain of Hurricane Sandy settle down, one bit of the aftermath is going to be another round of conversation about how climate change is affecting our world.

It’s not a conversation you have heard much of in the presidential campaign this year. Climate change is one of a quartet of issues that will have a huge impact on the future of this nation that have gotten short shrift by both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

Poverty. Guns. . Drones. Climate change.

Bring up any of those issues and watch the candidates make a quick nod of concern and then scamper away from any specifics. Yet those issues will be with us long after Nov. 6, so it is incumbent on those of us in the faith community to be laying the groundwork now for how we will address them in the coming year.

That work has already begun, of course. The challenge is not to let the post-election exhaustion sweep away those concerns like they were potted palms on a pier in the midst of the hurricane.

DRONE WATCH: The Risks of Relying on Drones

Kurt Volker, U.S. ambassador to NATO from July 2008 to May 2009, wrote in the Washington Post on the risks associated with the increasing U.S. reliance on drones as its “principal and permanent component in fighting global terrorism.” According to Volker, these risks are moral, the consequences, the U.S. monopoly on drone warfare will not last, and our national identity. He proposes that we need a standard for the use of drones and suggests

“A more useful standard comes from our country’s basic approach to warfare. For a conventional military engagement, we would take into account the costs and risks of: sending a force to carry out the strike; generating public support; seeking congressional authorization; attracting allies to the cause; the regional effects of military action; and the duration and end of the mission, not just the beginning.”

DRONE WATCH: Rare Strike in Northern Yemen Kills Four.

Reuters reports on a rare drone strike in northern Yemen, near the Saudi border.

“At least four men suspected of being al Qaeda members were killed in what a local official said was a U.S. drone strike on Islamist militants in northern Yemen on Sunday.

“It was a rare attack on al Qaeda-linked targets in northern Yemen, an area dominated by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels battling Yemeni government forces for control of the rugged mountainous region.

“The official said that a drone attacked two houses in the Abu Jabara area in Saada Province, killing four people.”

Pages

Subscribe