drones

Schiff-Jones Drone Transparency Bill Call-In

A new documentary reveals that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have been carried out by regular U.S. Air Force personnel. Former U.S. drone pilot Brandon Bryant says:

"... the lie is that it's always been the air force that has flown those missions. The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been."

Members of the House can do something very simple to address this. They can co-sponsor the Schiff-Jones bill, which would require the government to report on who is being killed by drone strikes.

Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121, ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, and say:

I’m calling to ask Rep. ____ to co-sponsor H.R.4372, the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act. This bipartisan bill would require the government to report on who is being killed by U.S. drone strikes, including how many civilians. The American people have the right to know what is being done in our name. You can co-sponsor the bill by contacting Rep. Adam Schiff’s office or Rep. Walter Jones’ office.

CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

The following is a press release from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2014
Press Contacts:
Adam Sarvana (Grijalva) – (202) 225-2435
Mike Casca (Ellison) – (202) 225-4755

CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

WASHINGTON — Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement after a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the use of drones:

“Today’s vote at the United Nations reinforces the need for greater oversight of the U.S. drone program. Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate.

“Our national security would be stronger with international standards regarding the use of drones. No country has a monopoly on armed drone technology. As of 2011, 76 nations had drone technology of some kind. It is clearly in our interest to help establish the norms and rules that will govern the use of drones by all nations in the future.

“Similarly, it’s important to ensure that the American people and our allies understand the legal justification and on-the-ground impact of our drone policy. The current lack of transparency harms our relationships with other countries and erodes our ability to collaborate on key global security issues.

No U.S. Drone Strikes in Mali Without Congressional Approval

France has undertaken a major military campaign in Mali. U.S. officials are talking about the possibility of supporting the French military campaign with U.S. drone strikes.

Congress hasn't authorized US military intervention in Mali. In particular, Congress hasn't authorized U.S. drone strikes in Mali.

Urge your Representative and Senators to publicly insist that the Administration obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting drone strikes in Mali.

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/mali-drones

The Washington Post reports: [1]

[A senior U.S.] official said contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated.

Without explicit Congressional authorization, the only U.S. legal authority the Administration could claim for conducting drone strikes in Mali is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the September 11 attacks. This is the legal authority the Administration has invoked for conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia is already very controversial. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Mali should be even more controversial.

Indeed, on November 1, the Washington Post editorial board, which supports the drone strike policy overall, and believes that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are legal overall, wrote: [2]

Senators: Question Brennan and Other Admin Nominees on Drone Policy!

President Obama has announced his new national security team: Chuck Hagel at Defense, John Kerry at State, John Brennan at the CIA. Each of these officials will have a say in whether U.S. drone strike policy will be further entrenched than it is today, or whether U.S. drone strike policy will become more transparent and accountable, and be brought into full compliance with U.S. and international law.

Each of these nominees must face a confirmation hearing in the Senate. When the President's nominees appear before the Senate, they should answer questions from Senators about current drone strike policy, and that should happen in open session, so the questions and answers can be reported in the media, and the public can exercise its right to know.

Sign our petition to the President and the Senate here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

In an editorial, the Washington Post called for the CIA's removal from the drone strike program. [1] Human Rights Watch has been calling for the CIA to be removed from the drone strike program for a year, noting that the CIA is less transparent than the U.S. military and less accountable to U.S. and international law, and that there is no program to compensate civilian victims of CIA paramilitary actions. [2]

The Post has also reported that the Administration has made moves to institutionalize the current program, suggesting the program could be at its midpoint—in other words, the program could go on for another ten years. [3]

Utter Hypocrisy of US Response to Iran Drone Shooting Incident

Yesterday, US media began reporting that Iranian fighter jets had shot at—but did not hit— an unarmed US drone off the coast of Iran last week. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little claimed that the unmanned military plane was over international waters 16 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, and that the drone had never been in Iranian airspace. In response, the US protested the shooting and warned Iran that it has "a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military," available to protect its assets. According to a CNN report, the incident has "raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes."

WaPo calls for more debate on drone strikes! Let's respond

As you are well aware, there's been a disturbing lack of public debate so far about U.S. policy on drone strikes. Guess what? The Washington Post editorial board agrees. In a new editorial, they say: "the means and objectives of drone attacks — and the Obama administration’s steps toward institutionalizing the system — deserve much more debate than they have attracted during the presidential campaign." [1]

Let's show the Washington Post editorial board we agree with their call for more debate by getting some letters into the Post challenging the drone strike policy. We've tried to make it easy for you by setting up a tool for sending them a letter, together with some suggested talking points. You can find that here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/wapo-drones-lte

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Please support our work. Donate for a Just Foreign Policy.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate

References:

1. "Pulling the U.S. drone war out of the shadows," Editorial, Washington Post, November 1, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-drone-war-demands-accountabili...

Something Wicked is Brewing in Washington

The United States may be drawing down its longest war, but its second longest war seems to have just begun. November 3 will mark the tenth anniversary of the US's secret war of targeted killing—but according to a three-part series published in the Washington Post last week, US officials have no plans to draw this war down any time soon. [1] [2]

The Post's description of the program and its de facto head, John O. Brennan, are quite terrifying. A “dispositional matrix” that is said to be in development as a guide for targeting sounds like the title of a bad Hollywood thriller. US officials calling Brennan a “priest-like presence” and lauding his moral depth is not only horrifying, but seems to reflect the frightening moral vacuity of those running the US drone program. [3]

The Post series notes that there is little internal contention over the effectiveness of the drone program. Neither is there any espoused difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney's views on the matter, as evidenced by Romney's zealous endorsement of Obama's drone program during the third presidential debate. [4]

And yet, when pressed, supporters of the US drone program sound inhuman when making their defense. When former White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked recently to justify the killing of Anwar al Awlaki's 16 year old son—who was a US citizen—in a drone attack two weeks after his father was killed in another US drone strike, Gibbs' soulless response was to say that the boy shouldn't have had a terrorist for a father. [5]

Today, polls show that a majority of Americans support US drone strike policy. We're working to change that. Through education and grassroots organizing, we can turn the tide against current US drone policy, just as the tide turned against the Afghan war.

Robert Gibbs Blames Al Awlaki 16 Year Old Son's Death By Drone On His Having A Terrorist For A Father

Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was cornered recently to answer questions on US drone strike policy. One journalist, Sierra Adamson, asked that Gibbs justify the killing of Anwar al Awlaki's 16 year old son—who was a US citizen—in a drone strike two weeks after his father was killed in another US drone attack. Gibbs said al Awlaki shouldn't have had a terrorist for a father.

Here's the transcript:

SIERRA ADAMSON: "Do you think that the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, who was an American citizen, is justifiable?"
ROBERT GIBBS: "I'm not going to get into Anwar al-Awlaki's son. I know that Anwar al-Awlaki renounced his citizenship."
SIERRA ADAMSON: "His son was still an American citizen."
ROBERT GIBBS: "Did great harm to people in this country and was a regional al-Qaeda commander hoping to inflict harm and destruction on people that share his religion and others in this country. And..."
SIERRA ADAMSON: "That's an American citizen that's being targeted without due process of law, without trial. And he's underage. He's a minor."
ROBERT GIBBS: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father. If they're truly concerned about the well-being of their children, I don't think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business."

Inspired By Recent Report, Law & Order: SVU Takes On US Drone Policy

The Law & Order francise has a reputation for plucking stories from newspaper headlines, but few have hit on pressing foreign policy matters quite like this. A recent episode of NBC's Law & Order: SVU featured a character plotting a terrorist attack in the United States. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that the character's father was a doctor in Waziristan—and was killed in a secondary drone strike while attending the victims of the initial US attack. The storyline is obviously inspired by the Stanford/NYU report released last month, which accused the United States of having a policy of conducting secondary drone strikes against first responders in Pakistan. Here's the clip:

Bravo SVU team for helping to promote the report's findings to what is likely a whole new demographic. A June 2012 Pew poll showed that 62% of Americans support US drone strike policy. But where pop culture goes, the American public can't be too far behind.

Success! Now Tell Schieffer and Others to Follow Up on Monday Night's Drone Question

Just Foreign Policy supporters urged Bob Schieffer to ask a question on drones—and he did!

During Monday night's presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer asked a direct question on a candidate's drone strike policy, which is more than had been raised in any previous debate this election season. Unfortunately, Schieffer only asked Mitt Romney the question—and let President Obama completely off the hook.

But that doesn't mean that the question was a failure. Simply raising the issue during the debate has led to a wave of media interest in US drone strike policy. Perhaps the most notable discussion occurred on MSNBC's Morning Joe when Joe Scarborough, the host and a former Republican congressman, challenged Joe Klein's defense of US drone strike policy with a passionate and well-reasoned argument against drone strikes. [1] And that's a true victory.

If Morning Joe can have a substantive debate about drone strikes, then other top news talk programs ought to be able to do so as well.

Tell Bob Schieffer and other talk show hosts to follow up on Monday night's drone question by facilitating a real discussion about drone strike policy.

We learned at least one thing from Bob Schieffer's drone question: Mitt Romney supports President Obama's drone strike policy, and would continue it as president. However, Schieffer didn't press the point with Obama, claiming that “we know President Obama’s position on this.” [2] Schieffer's failure to ask Obama a question on drones was the topic of an article in the Washington Post, [3] and the lack of substantive debate on the issue inspired an article in Time detailing the real controversy drones have caused in Pakistan. [4]