Pakistan: CIA Drones Kill Large Groups Without Knowing Who They Are

November 4, 2011

  • Drone warfare-The expansion of the CIA’s undeclared drone war in the tribal areas of Pakistan required a big expansion of who can be marked for death. Once the standard for targeted killing was top-level leadership in al-Qaeda or one of its allies. That’s long gone, especially as the number of people targeted at once has grown.This is the new standard, according to a blockbuster piece in the Wall Street Journal: “men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups. The article does not define the standards are for “suspicion” and “association.”

Strikes targeting those people — usually “groups” of such people — are called “signature” strikes. “The bulk of CIA’s drone strikes are signature strikes,” the Journal’s Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes report.

And bulk really means bulk. The Journal reports that the growth in clusters of people targeted by the CIA has required the agency to tell its Pakistani counterparts about mass attacks. When the agency expects to kill 20 or more people at once, then it’s got to give the Pakistanis notice.

Determining who is a target not a question of intelligence collection. The cameras on the CIA fleet of Predators and Reapers work just fine. It’s a question of intelligence analysis — interpreting the imagery collected from the drones, and from the spies and spotters below, to understand who’s a terrorist and who, say, drops off the terrorists’ laundry. Admittedly, in a war with a shadowy enemy, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Fundamentally, though, it’s a question of policy: whether it’s acceptable for the CIA to kill someone without truly knowing if he’s the bombsmith or the laundry guy.

The Journal reports that the CIA’s willingness to strike without such knowledge — sanctioned, in full, by President Barack Obama — is causing problems for the State Department and the military. Continue reading

A Week of Action to Ground the Drones

Drone Wars UK

1-8 October 2011

The Drones Campaign Network in the UK is calling for a week of action to protest the growing use of armed drones from 1st – 8th October.  The week will be part of the international ‘Keep Space for Peace Week’, which this year is focusing on the use of drones.

Recently, Libya has been added to the list of countries subjected to  drone strikes by US and British forces, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and  Iraq.  Gaza, too it hardly needs to be said, has regularly faced drone strikes by Israeli forces.  Unfortunately, the list of countries facing these kind of remote attacks is only likely to grow as US military procurement plans,  released in June show that the Pentagon is planning to double its arsenal of large military drones over the next decade.   The UK has also announced plans to double the number of armed drones in its arsenal.

Protests against drone strikes are growing in Pakistan and Yemen and the peace and human rights community in the UK needs to add their voices to this call to Ground the Drones

Members of the network will be organising protests at various sites connected to the drone wars throughout the UK.  Details will be announced nearer the time.

However if you can’t attend one of these events you may well want to organise something in your local area.  Suggestions include meeting with your local MP, organising a speaker meeting about drones or having a stall in your local high street with information and letter/petition signing.

Further details and resources will be available here as we get closer to the event.

Please put the dates in your diary NOW and begin thinking about what you can do locally to Ground the Drones