"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

Obama Administration Gets Explicit: The ‘War On Terror’ Is Permanent. “Limitless War” To Continue For ‘At Least’ 10 to 20 More Years

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

http://th08.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2011/140/7/1/1984_the_movie_map_by_33k7-d3gruo4.pngOldspeak: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.” -George Orwell.

Each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name….Each year that passes, millions of young Americans come of age having spent their entire lives, literally, with these powers and this climate fixed in place: to them, there is nothing radical or aberrational about any of it. The post-9/11 era is all they have been trained to know. That is how a state of permanent war not only devastates its foreign targets but also degrades the population of the nation that prosecutes it.

This war will end only once Americans realize the vast and multi-faceted costs they are bearing so that the nation’s political elites can be empowered and its oligarchs can further prosper. But Washington clearly has no fear that such realizations are imminent. They are moving in the other direction: aggressively planning how to further entrench and expand this war.” -Glenn Grunwald

Today in America, 1 in 2 Americans is low-income and/or poverty-stricken. Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the western world. 39% of people who think the Benghazi embassy attack was America’s biggest scandal can’t find it on a map. Poverty of though and life are at historic highs. It is only under conditions like these can 40% percent of Americans be ok with a  U.S.  president asserting the right to act as Remote-controlled Judge, Jury & Executioner of anyone he deems a terrorist, including Americans. (The figure jumps to 65% for non-americans)  Nearly 1 in 5 Americans is on the brink of starvation. War is being waged continuously, secretly, remotely in foreign lands for the sake of  “National Security” to keep our society “intact”.  Many of the conditions that existed in Huxley and Orwell’s dystopic alternate universes exist right now in the real world. In true Orwellian fashion, we’re being told we’re in a “recovery” while many of these conditions are not even acknowledged to exist. While our leaders crow about the end of wars, they continue elsewhere, as plans are made to expand them. U.S.  State Department paid “Private Military Contractors” a.k.a. Mercinaries replace regular U.S. combat personnel, and get paid 3x as much to do a less accountable job of  “force projection” a.k.a occupation of foreign lands.  100o American bases dot the globe, there’s rarely if any talk of closing them.  When will the majority start to question if this is the society we want to remain intact? We will the majority start to seriously consider alternatives to the profoundly corrupt, highly centralized and sociopathic 2 party political farce of governance? Lies are truth. Freedom is slavery, War is peace, Ignorance is strength. All these conditions exist in our real world. Transformational change in essential to our survival.”

By Glenn Grunwald @ The U.K. Guardian:

Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted “disposition matrix”, a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be “disposed of”: indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this “war” – the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired’s Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US’s national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

“Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, ‘At least 10 to 20 years.’ . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

In January, former Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson delivered a highly-touted speech suggesting that the war on terror will eventually end; he advocated that outcome, arguing:

‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’”

In response, I wrote that the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?

The genius of America’s endless war machine is that, learning from the unplesantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America’s innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.

Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world’s largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?

Then there are the threats to Americans’ security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as “A Nation at War” and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years).

And then there’s the most intangible yet most significant cost: each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name. The second term of the Bush administration and first five years of the Obama presidency have been devoted to codifying and institutionalizing the vast and unchecked powers that are typically vested in leaders in the name of war. Those powers of secrecy, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and due-process-free assassination are not going anywhere. They are now permanent fixtures not only in the US political system but, worse, in American political culture.

Each year that passes, millions of young Americans come of age having spent their entire lives, literally, with these powers and this climate fixed in place: to them, there is nothing radical or aberrational about any of it. The post-9/11 era is all they have been trained to know. That is how a state of permanent war not only devastates its foreign targets but also degrades the population of the nation that prosecutes it.

This war will end only once Americans realize the vast and multi-faceted costs they are bearing so that the nation’s political elites can be empowered and its oligarchs can further prosper. But Washington clearly has no fear that such realizations are imminent. They are moving in the other direction: aggressively planning how to further entrench and expand this war.

One might think that if there is to be a debate over the 12-year-old AUMF, it would be about repealing it. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who heroically cast the only vote against it when it was originally enacted by presciently warning of how abused it would be, has been advocating its repeal for some time now in favor of using reasonable security measures to defend against such threats and standard law enforcement measures to punish them (which have proven far more effective than military solutions). But just as happened in 2001, neither she nor her warnings are deemed sufficiently Serious even to consider, let alone embrace.

Instead, the Washington AUMF “debate” recognizes only two positions: (1) Congress should codify expanded powers for the administration to fight a wider war beyond what the 2001 AUMF provides (that’s the argument recently made by the supreme war-cheerleaders-from-a-safe-distance at the Washington Post editorial page and their favorite war-justifying think tank theorists, and the one being made by many Senators from both parties), or (2) the administration does not need any expanded authority because it is already free to wage a global war with very few limits under the warped “interpretation” of the AUMF which both the Bush and Obama DOJs have successfully persuaded courts to accept (that’s the Obama administration’s position). In other words, the shared premise is that the US government must continue to wage unlimited, permanent war, and the only debate is whether that should happen under a new law or the old one.

Just to convey a sense for how degraded is this Washington “debate”: Obama officials at yesterday’s Senate hearing repeatedly insisted that this “war” is already one without geographical limits and without any real conceptual constraints. The AUMF’s war power, they said, “stretches from Boston to the [tribal areas of Pakistan]” and can be used “anywhere around the world, including inside Syria, where the rebel Nusra Front recently allied itself with al-Qaida’s Iraq affiliate, or even what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called ‘boots on the ground in Congo’”. The acting general counsel of the Pentagon said it even “authorized war against al-Qaida’s associated forces in Mali, Libya and Syria”. Newly elected independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said after listening to how the Obama administration interprets its war powers under the AUMF:

This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution today.”

Former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who testified at the hearing, summarized what was said after it was over: Obama officials argued that “they had domestic authority to use force in Mali, Syria, Libya, and Congo, against Islamist terrorist threats there”; that “they were actively considering emerging threats and stated that it was possible they would need to return to Congress for new authorities against those threats but did not at present need new authorities”; that “the conflict authorized by the AUMF was not nearly over”; and that “several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD’s interpretation of the AUMF.” Conveying the dark irony of America’s war machine, seemingly lifted right out of the Cold War era film Dr. Strangelove, Goldsmith added:

Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.”

Nobody really even knows with whom the US is at war, or where. Everyone just knows that it is vital that it continue in unlimited form indefinitely.

In response to that, the only real movement in Congress is to think about how to enact a new law to expand the authorization even further. But it’s a worthless and illusory debate, affecting nothing other than the pretexts and symbols used to justify what will, in all cases, be a permanent and limitless war. The Washington AUMF debate is about nothing other than whether more fig leafs are needed to make it all pretty and legal.

The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.

Related matters

Although I’m no fan of mindless partisan hackery, one must acknowledge, if one is to be honest, that sometimes it produces high comedy of the type few other afflictions are capable of producing.

On a related note: when Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the DOJ’s subpoeans for AP’s phone records – purportedly issued in order to find the source for AP’s story about a successfully thwarted terror attack from Yemen – he made this claim about the leak they were investigating: “if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen.” But yesterday, the Washington Post reported that CIA officials gave the go-ahead to AP to report the story, based in part on the fact that the administration itself planned to make a formal announcement boasting of their success in thwarting the plot. Meanwhile, the invaluable Marcy Wheeler today makes a strong case that the Obama administration engaged in a fear-mongering campaign over this plot that they knew at the time was false – all for the purpose of justifying the president’s newly announced “signature drone strikes” in Yemen.

The key lesson from all of this should have been learned long ago: nothing is less reliable than unchecked claims from political officials that their secret conduct is justified by National Security Threats and the desire to Keep Us Safe.

“Your Regular Dose Of Fear”: The Enemy-Industrial Complex & How To Turn A World Lacking In Enemies Into The Most Threatening Place In The Universe

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm
Bomb at Boston Marathon

Oldspeak:”The U.S… is probably in less danger from external enemies than at any moment in the last century. All these years, we’ve been launching wars and pursuing a “global war on terror.”  We’ve poured money into national security as if there were no tomorrow.  From our police to our borders, we’ve up-armored everywhere.  We constantly hear about “threats” to us and to the “homeland.”… Despite the carnage of 9/11, terrorism has been a small-scale American danger in the years since, worse than shark attacks, but not much else…  Post-9/11, major media outlets were generally prepared to take the enemy-industrial complex’s word for it and play every new terrorist incident as if it were potentially the end of the world.  Increasingly as the years went on, jobs, livelihoods, an expanding world of “security” depended on the continuance of all this, depended, in short, on the injection of regular doses of fear into the body politic… To put this in perspective, consider two obvious major dangers in U.S. life: suicide by gun and death by car.  In 2010, more than 19,000 Americans killed themselves using guns.  (In the same year, there were “only” 11,000 homicides nationwide.)  In 2011, 32,000 Americans died in traffic accidents (the lowest figure in 60 years, though it was again on the rise in the first six months of 2012).  In other words, Americans accept without blinking the equivalent yearly of more than six 9/11s in suicides-by-gun and more than 10 when it comes to vehicular deaths.  Similarly, had the underwear bomber, to take one post-9/11 example of terrorism, succeeded in downing Flight 253 and murdering its 290 passengers, it would have been a horrific act of terror; but he and his compatriots would have had to bring down 65 planes to reach the annual level of weaponized suicides and more than 110 planes for vehicular deaths. And yet no one has declared war on either the car or the gun (or the companies that make them or the people who sell them).  No one has built a massive, nearly trillion-dollar car-and-gun-security-complex to deal with them.  In the case of guns, quite the opposite is true, as the post-Newtown debate over gun control has made all too clear.  On both scores, Americans have decided to live with perfectly real dangers and the staggering carnage that accompanies them, constraining them on occasion or sometimes not at all.” -Tom Engelhardt. This piece was written 2 days ago. In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in Boston, I thought this piece was apropos. We see today, the corporate media doing its job, magnifying fear and threats, we see the attack being framed as a “massacre”,”a national tragedy”, “like 9/11″, “calming the public”, while constantly running video of the explosions and pictures of the aftermath on 24/7 loops. Flags have been lowered nationwide. Moments of silence are being observed.  “Security” is being beefed up. The illusion of safety is being bolstered. Meanwhile, the same day, 37 people died in 20 separate attacks  in Iraq. Coordinated bomb strikes killed 20 in Somalia. Unknown numbers of innocents are killed via randomly executed U.S. drone strikes on a regular basis in Yemem, Somalia, Pakistan, and who knows what other poverty-stricken areas of the world. No wall to wall coverage and analysis of those horrific attacks though.  It’s a sad fact that some lives matter more than others, and if those lives aren’t led in the U.S. of A., they matter that much less. Terrorist attacks in the U.S. matter much more than exponentially more acute threats from guns Americans turn on themselves, and the cars every other commercial is imploring them to buy. This attack perfectly articulates the sad reality, that Americans and most people around the world care about what they’re told to care about. There’s no real discussion of the root causes of terrorism and how addressing them could eliminate it completely. One obvious root cause is poverty. The poverty that find 80% of humanity living on less than 10 dollars a day. If you’ll notice, 99.9% of the areas the U.S. is prosecuting the “War On Terror” are poverty-stricken. It seems logical enough to deduce eliminating poverty would go along way toward eliminating terrorism. As usual though, this event is viewed, wholly de-contextualized. No connection is drawn between, poverty, inequality, structural violence, and the human meat grinding system of capitalism that begets terrorism.  We’re just supposed to be in a perpetual state of fear, anxiety & obedience while we’re told that we’re tough, fearless, and resilient in the face of terror. And that life will go on. Until the next attack provides us with our next dose of fear, and the cycle starts all over again. Terrorism is big business, trillions of  dollars in “security”, “defense”, and surveillance spending depend on it.  Terrorism is the Emmanuel Goldstein of our age, a shape-shifting, nebulous and ever-present enemy we’re vigilantly to focus our attention in the stead of multiple global existential threats. This fear is manufactured and wholly preventable. “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” -Noam Chomsky. We need to understand and internalize this basic truth if we really want to end the “War On Terror”. We need to stop acting like the terrorism we experience occurs in a vacuum. We need to stop acting like the terrorism we experience is not a response to the terrorism done in our names. We need to close the gap between illusion and reality. “Ignorance is Strength.”

By Tom Engelhardt @ Tomdispatch:

The communist enemy, with the “world’s fourth largest military,” has been trundling missiles around and threatening the United States with nuclear obliteration.  Guam, Hawaii, Washington: all, it claims, are targetable.  The coverage in the media has been hair-raising.  The U.S. is rushing an untested missile defense system to Guam, deploying missile-interceptor ships off the South Korean coast, sending “nuclear capable” B-2 Stealth bombers thousands of miles on mock bombing runs, pressuring China, and conducting large-scale war games with its South Korean ally.

Only one small problem: there is as yet little evidence that the enemy with a few nuclear weapons facing off (rhetorically at least) against an American arsenal of 4,650 of them has the ability to miniaturize and mount even one on a missile, no less deliver it accurately, nor does it have a missile capable of reaching Hawaii or Washington, and I wouldn’t count on Guam either.

It also happens to be a desperate country, one possibly without enough fuel to fly a modern air force, whose people, on average, are inches shorter than their southern neighbors thanks to decades of intermittent famine and malnutrition, and who are ruled by a bizarre three-generational family cult.  If that other communist, Karl Marx, hadn’t once famously written that history repeats itself “first as tragedy, then as farce,” we would have had to invent the phrase for this very moment.

In the previous century, there were two devastating global wars, which left significant parts of the planet in ruins.  There was also a “cold war” between two superpowers locked in a system of mutual assured destruction (aptly acronymed as MAD) whose nuclear arsenals were capable of destroying the planet many times over.  Had you woken up any morning in the years between December 7, 1941, and December 26, 1991, and been told that the leading international candidate for America’s Public Enemy Number One was Kim Jong-un’s ramshackle, comic-opera regime in North Korea, you might have gotten down on your hands and knees and sent thanks to pagan gods.

The same would be true for the other candidates for that number one position since September 11, 2001: the original al-Qaeda (largely decimated), al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula located in poverty-stricken areas of poverty-stricken Yemen, the Taliban in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, unnamed jihadis scattered across poverty-stricken areas of North Africa, or Iran, another rickety regional power run by not particularly adept theocrats.

All these years, we’ve been launching wars and pursuing a “global war on terror.”  We’ve poured money into national security as if there were no tomorrow.  From our police to our borders, we’ve up-armored everywhere.  We constantly hear about “threats” to us and to the “homeland.”  And yet, when you knock on the door marked “Enemy,” there’s seldom anyone home.

Few in this country have found this striking.  Few seem to notice any disjuncture between the enemy-ridden, threatening, and deeply dangerous world we have been preparing ourselves for (and fighting in) this last decade-plus and the world as it actually is, even those who lived through significant parts of the last anxiety-producing, bloody century.

You know that feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve had the same recurrent nightmare yet again? Sometimes, there’s an equivalent in waking life, and here’s mine: every now and then, as I read about the next move in the spreading war on terror, the next drone assassination, the next ratcheting up of the surveillance game, the next expansion of the secrecy that envelops our government, the next set of expensive actions taken to guard us — all of this justified by the enormous threats and dangers that we face — I think to myself: Where’s the enemy?  And then I wonder: Just what kind of a dream is this that we’re dreaming?

A Door Marked “Enemy” and No One Home

Let’s admit it: enemies can have their uses.  And let’s admit as well that it’s in the interest of some in our country that we be seen as surrounded by constant and imminent dangers on an enemy-filled planet.  Let’s also admit that the world is and always will be a dangerous place in all sorts of ways.

Still, in American terms, the bloodlettings, the devastations of this new century and the last years of the previous one have been remarkably minimal or distant; some of the worst, as in the multi-country war over the Congo with its more than five million dead have passed us by entirely; some, even when we launched them, have essentially been imperial frontier conflicts, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, or interventions of little cost (to us) as in Libya, or frontier patrolling operations as in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Northern Africa.  (It was no mistake that, when Washington launched its special operations raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, to get Osama bin Laden, it was given the code name “Geronimo” and the message from the SEAL team recording his death was “Geronimo-E KIA” or “enemy killed in action.”)

And let’s admit as well that, in the wake of those wars and operations, Americans now have more enemies, more angry, embittered people who would like to do us harm than on September 10, 2001.  Let’s accept that somewhere out there are people who, as George W. Bush once liked to say, “hate us” and what we stand for.  (I leave just what we actually stand for to you, for the moment.)

So let’s consider those enemies briefly.  Is there a major state, for instance, that falls into this category, like any of the great warring imperial European powers from the sixteenth century on, or Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, or the Soviet Union of the Cold War era?  Of course not.

There was admittedly a period when, in order to pump up what we faced in the world, analogies to World War II and the Cold War were rife.  There was, for instance, George W. Bush’s famed rhetorical construct, the Axis of Evil (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea), patterned by his speechwriter on the German-Italian-Japanese “axis” of World War II.  It was, of course, a joke construct, if reality was your yardstick.  Iraq and Iran were then enemies.  (Only in the wake of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have they become friends and allies.)  And North Korea had nothing whatsoever to do with either of them.  Similarly, the American occupation of Iraq was once regularly compared to the U.S. occupations of Germany and Japan, just as Saddam Hussein had long been presented as a modern Hitler.

In addition, al-Qaeda-style Islamists were regularly referred to as Islamofascists, while certain military and neocon types with a desire to turn the war on terror into a successor to the Cold War took to calling it “the long war,” or even “World War IV.”  But all of this was so wildly out of whack that it simply faded away.

As for who’s behind that door marked “Enemy,” if you opened it, what would you find?  As a start, scattered hundreds or, as the years have gone by, thousands of jihadis, mostly in the poorest backlands of the planet and with little ability to do anything to the United States.  Next, there were a few minority insurgencies, including the Taliban and allied forces in Afghanistan and separate Sunni and Shia ones in Iraq.  There also have been tiny numbers of wannabe Islamic terrorists in the U.S. (once you take away the string of FBI sting operations that have regularly turned hopeless slackers and lost teenagers into the most dangerous of fantasy Muslim plotters).  And then, of course, there are those two relatively hapless regional powers, Iran and North Korea, whose bark far exceeds their potential bite.

The Wizard of Oz on 9/11

The U.S., in other words, is probably in less danger from external enemies than at any moment in the last century.  There is no other imperial power on the planet capable of, or desirous of, taking on American power directly, including China.  It’s true that, on September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers with box cutters produced a remarkable, apocalyptic, and devastating TV show in which almost 3,000 people died.  When those giant towers in downtown New York collapsed, it certainly had the look of nuclear disaster (and in those first days, the media was filled was nuclear-style references), but it wasn’t actually an apocalyptic event.

The enemy was still nearly nonexistent.  The act cost bin Laden only an estimated $400,000-$500,000, though it would lead to a series of trillion-dollar wars.  It was a nightmarish event that had a malign Wizard of Oz quality to it: a tiny man producing giant effects.  It in no way endangered the state.  In fact, it would actually strengthen many of its powers.  It put a hit on the economy, but a passing one.  It was a spectacular and spectacularly gruesome act of terror by a small, murderous organization then capable of mounting a major operation somewhere on Earth only once every couple of years.  It was meant to spread fear, but nothing more.

When the towers came down and you could suddenly see to the horizon, it was still, in historical terms, remarkably enemy-less.  And yet 9/11 was experienced here as a Pearl Harbor moment — a sneak attack by a terrifying enemy meant to disable the country.  The next day, newspaper headlines were filled with variations on “A Pearl Harbor of the Twenty-First Century.”  If it was a repeat of December 7, 1941, however, it lacked an imperial Japan or any other state to declare war on, although one of the weakest partial states on the planet, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, would end up filling the bill adequately enough for Americans.

To put this in perspective, consider two obvious major dangers in U.S. life: suicide by gun and death by car.  In 2010, more than 19,000 Americans killed themselves using guns.  (In the same year, there were “only” 11,000 homicides nationwide.)  In 2011, 32,000 Americans died in traffic accidents (the lowest figure in 60 years, though it was again on the rise in the first six months of 2012).  In other words, Americans accept without blinking the equivalent yearly of more than six 9/11s in suicides-by-gun and more than 10 when it comes to vehicular deaths.  Similarly, had the underwear bomber, to take one post-9/11 example of terrorism, succeeded in downing Flight 253 and murdering its 290 passengers, it would have been a horrific act of terror; but he and his compatriots would have had to bring down 65 planes to reach the annual level of weaponized suicides and more than 110 planes for vehicular deaths.

And yet no one has declared war on either the car or the gun (or the companies that make them or the people who sell them).  No one has built a massive, nearly trillion-dollar car-and-gun-security-complex to deal with them.  In the case of guns, quite the opposite is true, as the post-Newtown debate over gun control has made all too clear.  On both scores, Americans have decided to live with perfectly real dangers and the staggering carnage that accompanies them, constraining them on occasion or sometimes not at all.

Despite the carnage of 9/11, terrorism has been a small-scale American danger in the years since, worse than shark attacks, but not much else.  Like a wizard, however, what Osama bin Laden and his suicide bombers did that day was create an instant sense of an enemy so big, so powerful, that Americans found “war” a reasonable response; big enough for those who wanted an international police action against al-Qaeda to be laughed out of the room; big enough to launch an invasion of revenge against Iraq, a country unrelated to al-Qaeda; big enough, in fact, to essentially declare war on the world.  It took next to no time for top administration officials to begin talking about targeting 60 countries, and as journalist Ron Suskind has reported, within six days of the attack, the CIA had topped that figure, presenting President Bush with a “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” a plan that targeted terrorists in 80 countries.

What’s remarkable is how little the disjuncture between the scope and scale of the global war that was almost instantly launched and the actual enemy at hand was ever noted here.  You could certainly make a reasonable argument that, in these years, Washington has largely fought no one — and lost.  Everywhere it went, it created enemies who had, previously, hardly existed and the process is ongoing.  Had you been able to time-travel back to the Cold War era to inform Americans that, in the future, our major enemies would be in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Libya, and so on, they would surely have thought you mad (or lucky indeed).

Creating an Enemy-Industrial Complex

Without an enemy of commensurate size and threat, so much that was done in Washington in these years might have been unattainable.  The vast national security building and spending spree — stretching from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency erected its new $1.8 billion headquarters, to Bluffdale, Utah, where the National Security Agency is still constructing a $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center for storing the world’s intercepted communications — would have been unlikely.

Without the fear of an enemy capable of doing anything, money at ever escalating levels would never have poured into homeland security, or the Pentagon, or a growing complex of crony corporations associated with our weaponized safety.  The exponential growth of the national security complex, as well as of the powers of the executive branch when it comes to national security matters, would have far been less likely.

Without 9/11 and the perpetual “wartime” that followed, along with the heavily promoted threat of terrorists ready to strike and potentially capable of wielding biological, chemical, or even nuclear weapons, we would have no Department of Homeland Security nor the lucrative mini-homeland-security complex that surrounds it; the 17-outfit U.S. Intelligence Community with its massive $75 billion official budget would have been far less impressive; our endless drone wars and the “drone lobby” that goes with them might never have developed; and the U.S. military would not have an ever growing secret military, the Joint Special Operations Command, gestating inside it — effectively the president’s private army, air force, and navy — and already conducting largely secret operations across much of the planet.

For all of this to happen, there had to be an enemy-industrial complex as well, a network of crucial figures and institutions ready to pump up the threat we faced and convince Americans that we were in a world so dangerous that rights, liberty, and privacy were small things to sacrifice for American safety.  In short, any number of interests from Bush administration figures eager to “sweep it all up” and do whatever they wanted in the world to weapons makers, lobbyists, surveillance outfits, think tanks, military intellectuals, assorted pundits… well, the whole national and homeland security racket and its various hangers-on had an interest in beefing up the enemy.  For them, it was important in the post-9/11 era that threats would never again lack a capital “T” or a hefty dollar sign.

And don’t forget a media that was ready to pound the drums of war and emphasize what dangerous enemies lurked in our world with remarkably few second thoughts.  Post-9/11, major media outlets were generally prepared to take the enemy-industrial complex’s word for it and play every new terrorist incident as if it were potentially the end of the world.  Increasingly as the years went on, jobs, livelihoods, an expanding world of “security” depended on the continuance of all this, depended, in short, on the injection of regular doses of fear into the body politic.

That was the “favor” Osama bin Laden did for Washington’s national security apparatus and the Bush administration on that fateful September morning.  He engraved an argument in the American brain that would live on indelibly for years, possibly decades, calling for eternal vigilance at any cost and on a previously unknown scale.  As the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), that neocon think-tank-cum-shadow-government, so fatefully put it in “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” a year before the 9/11 attacks: “Further, the process of transformation [of the military], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”

So when the new Pearl Harbor arrived out of the blue, with many PNAC members (from Vice President Dick Cheney on down) already in office, they naturally saw their chance.  They created an al-Qaeda on steroids and launched their “global war” to establish a Pax Americana, in the Middle East and then perhaps globally.  They were aware that they lacked opponents of the stature of those of the previous century and, in their documents, they made it clear that they were planning to ensure no future great-power-style enemy or bloc of enemy-like nations would arise. Ever.

For this, they needed an American public anxious, frightened, and ready to pay.  It was, in other words, in their interest to manipulate us.  And if that were all there were to it, our world would be a grim, but simple enough place.  As it happens, it’s not.  Ruling elites, no matter what power they have, don’t work that way.  Before they manipulate us, they almost invariably manipulate themselves.

I was convinced of this years ago by a friend who had spent a lot of time reading early Cold War documents from the National Security Council — from, that is, a small group of powerful governmental figures writing to and for each other in the utmost secrecy.  As he told me then and wrote in Washington’s China, the smart book he did on the early U.S. response to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, what struck him in the documents was the crudely anti-communist language those men used in private with each other.  It was the sort of anti-communism you might otherwise have assumed Washington’s ruling elite would only have wielded to manipulate ordinary Americans with fears of Communist subversion, the “enemy within,” and Soviet plans to take over the world.  (In fact, they and others like them would use just such language to inject fear into the body politic in those early Cold War years, that era of McCarthyism.)

They were indeed manipulative men, but before they influenced other Americans they assumedly underwent something like a process of collective auto-hypnotism in which they convinced one another of the dangers they needed the American people to believe in.  There is evidence that a similar process took place in the aftermath of 9/11.  From the flustered look on George W. Bush’s face as his plane took him not toward but away from Washington on September 11, 2001, to the image of Dick Cheney, in those early months, being chauffeured around Washington in an armored motorcade with a “gas mask and a biochemical survival suit” in the backseat, you could sense that the enemy loomed large and omnipresent for them.  They were, that is, genuinely scared, even if they were also ready to make use of that fear for their own ends.

Or consider the issue of Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, that excuse for the invasion of Iraq.  Critics of the invasion are generally quick to point out how that bogus issue was used by the top officials of the Bush administration to gain public support for a course that they had already chosen.  After all, Cheney and his men cherry-picked the evidence to make their case, even formed their own secret intel outfit to give them what they needed, and ignored facts at hand that brought their version of events into question.  They publicly claimed in an orchestrated way that Saddam had active nuclear and WMD programs.  They spoke in the most open ways of potential mushroom clouds from (nonexistent) Iraqi nuclear weapons rising over American cities, or of those same cities being sprayed with (nonexistent) chemical or biological weapons from (nonexistent) Iraqi drones.  They certainly had to know that some of this information was useful but bogus.  Still, they had clearly also convinced themselves that, on taking Iraq, they would indeed find some Iraqi WMD to justify their claims.

In his soon-to-be-published book, Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill cites the conservative journalist Rowan Scarborough on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s growing post-invasion irritation over the search for Iraqi WMD sites.  “Each morning,” wrote Scarborough, “the crisis action team had to report that another location was a bust.  Rumsfeld grew angrier and angrier.  One officer quoted him as saying, ‘They must be there!’  At one briefing, he picked up the briefing slides and tossed them back at the briefers.”

In other words, those top officials hustling us into their global war and their long-desired invasion of Iraq had also hustled themselves into the same world with a similar set of fears.  This may seem odd, but given the workings of the human mind, its ability to comfortably hold potentially contradictory thoughts most of the time without disturbing itself greatly, it’s not.

A similar phenomenon undoubtedly took place in the larger national security establishment where self-interest combined easily enough with fear.  After all, in the post-9/11 era, they were promising us one thing: something close to 100% “safety” when it came to one small danger in our world — terrorism.  The fear that the next underwear bomber might get through surely had the American public — but also the American security state — in its grips.  After all, who loses the most if another shoe bomber strikes, another ambassador goes down, another 9/11 actually happens?  Whose job, whose world, will be at stake then?

They may indeed be a crew of Machiavellis, but they are also acolytes in the cult of terror and global war.  They live in the Cathedral of the Enemy.  They were the first believers and they will undoubtedly be the last ones as well.  They are invested in the importance of the enemy.  It’s their religion.  They are, after all, the enemy-industrial complex and if we are in their grip, so are they.

The comic strip character Pogo once famously declared: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” How true. We just don’t know it yet.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Attack Of The Clones: China Is Developing Its Own Drone Technology – For Its Own Use & For Sale Around The World

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm
UAV

Oldspeak: “While U.S. Drone technology is highly restricted and expensive, China’s drone fleet is growing at a tenth of the cost. So these death machines are sure to proliferate as the world continues to militarize. Just as the U.S. has claimed the right to send remote controlled killing machines into foreign lands it has not declared war with, to kill enemies of the state, China has as well, with its recently planed hit on a drug boss in Myanmar. Just think, some time in the near future,  Americans will know the unique terror of being hunted and killed by foreign-made and operated flying deathbots!  Just as it started the nuclear arms race, with terrible results, the U.S. started the drone arms race. These armed robot chickens will one day come home roost in a really bad way.  It seems the global surveillance and control grid is slowly taking shape. “Skynet” soon come.

By Trefor Moss @ The Diplomat:

Unmanned systems have become the legal and ethical problem child of the global defense industry and the governments they supply, rewriting the rules of military engagement in ways that many find disturbing. And this sense of unease about where we’re headed is hardly unfamiliar. Much like the emergence of drone technology, the rise of China and its reshaping of the geopolitical landscape has stirred up a sometimes understandable, sometimes irrational, fear of the unknown.

It’s safe to say, then, that Chinese drones conjure up a particularly intense sense of alarm that the media has begun to embrace as a license to panic. China is indeed developing a range of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UASs) at a time when relations with Japan are tense, and when those with the U.S. are delicate. But that hardly justifies claims that “drones have taken center stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan,” or that the “China drone threat highlights [a] new global arms race,” as some observers would have it. This hyperbole was perhaps fed by a 2012 U.S. Department of Defense report which described China’s development of UAVs as “alarming.”

That’s quite unreasonable. All of the world’s advanced militaries are adopting drones, not just the PLA. That isn’t an arms race, or a reason to fear China, it’s just the direction in which defense technology is naturally progressing. Secondly, while China may be demonstrating impressive advances, Israel and the U.S. retain a substantial lead in the UAV field, with China—alongside Europe, India and Russia— still in the second tier. And thirdly, China is modernizing in all areas of military technology – unmanned systems being no exception.

New unmanned missions

Nonetheless, China has started to show its hand in terms of the roles that it expects its growing fleet of UAVs to fulfill. In a clear indication that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has an operational armed UAV capability in which it feels relatively confident, last week reports of a plan to send a UAV into Myanmar to assassinate a drug trafficker who had murdered 13 Chinese nationals came to light. The Chinese government ultimately rejected this tactic, but it is evidently tempted to follow Washington’s lead in reserving the right to use UAVs to target enemies of the state, even on foreign soil.

Territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea have also persuaded Beijing to accelerate its deployment of UAVs, which are ideally suited to maritime surveillance missions. UAVs are already used routinely to monitor the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, a PLA general recently claimed. “[Both China and Japan] seem intent on establishing more presence in these disputed zones,” comments Peter Singer, Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution,“both to establish their own claims … and to watch what the other is doing. UAS are helpful in those aims, especially with their longer duration versus traditional manned platforms.” The PLA Air Force has also converted its obsolete J-6 fighters into UAVs; based in Fujian, the J-6s are apparently being used for Diaoyu surveillance, as well as being expendable strike assets in the event of an armed engagement.

Nor is China’s deployment of UAVs limited to the military realm. The government of Liaoning Province is reportedly using UAVs to monitor the North Korean border, and is also said to be establishing two coastal UAV bases from which it will oversee its areas of jurisdiction in the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. Meanwhile, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) – one of China’s main maritime agencies – announced in August that it is setting up 11 UAV bases, one in each of China’s coastal provinces. It expects to have these bases up and running by 2015 (images of some of the SOA’s current UAVs can be seen here). It’s also worth recalling that all of China’s UAV advances have been enabled by the Beidou satellite constellation, which now includes 16 active satellites providing coverage across China and the Asia-Pacific.

If provincial governments and civilian law enforcement agencies plan to induct UAVs in tandem with the PLA, then that’s a large fleet of unmanned aircraft able to perform a variety of different functions that China will need to bring online over the next few years. But, there is no shortage of technology programs competing to make the cut.

China’s UAV programs

Dozens of Chinese UAV concepts have appeared over the years, most of which will never leave the laboratory, let alone the runway. However, the Chinese aerospace sector has clearly devoted a great deal of energy to producing a range of designs from which the PLA has been able to cherry-pick. Chinese engineers have also been able to draw on Israeli technology, having acquired Harpy UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries in the 1990s. “They’ve gone in the last few years from having none in development to at least 25 different models displayed at arms shows,” says Singer.“So, it’s a very ambitious program. But again, it parallels their growth in capabilities and ambitions in many others beyond UAS, from jet fighters to missiles.” He warns against overhyping China’s UAV effort, noting that for now “we’re talking very small numbers [of Chinese UAVs] … and not yet near U.S. capabilities.”

If the example of the U.S military is anything to go by, the PLA should only have operational requirements for around six to ten UAVs. It appears closer to filling some of these operational niches than others.

The China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) has developed a number of ASN series UAVs, at least two of which appear to be in operational use. First is the ASN-15, a small intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) UAV similar to the U.S. RQ-11 Raven, a small, man-portable system able to perform basic battlefield ISTAR duties. Second is the ASN-209 medium altitude and medium endurance UAV comparable to the U.S. ScanEagle, a larger ISR asset than the Raven with up to 20 hours of flight time for longer-range battlefield and maritime surveillance. The ASN-209 is probably the same aircraft as the “Silver Eagle” which was widely reported to have taken part in naval exercises over the South China Sea in 2011.

Vertical takeoff UAVs (VTUAV), which are especially useful for naval ISTAR and fire control, are also beginning to enter service (though the U.S. Navy’s comparable MQ-8 Fire Scout is itself yet to receive operational clearance). A PLA Navy frigate was pictured in 2012 operating what was probably one of the 18 Camcopter S-100s China acquired from Austrian company Schiebel, supposedly intended for civilian use. Another VTUAV, the SVU-200, made its first flight late last year, while a third unmanned helicopter, the V750, recently entered civilian service. The PLA Navy is known to be exploring the possible applications of VTUAVs, including their use in anti-submarine warfare, and to be interested in the use of UAVs more broadly on its new and future aircraft carriers, not least because UAVs can significantly augment China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. “A2/AD places a premium on extending your range of monitoring and tracking targets from afar,” Singer says.“UAS are very helpful in that.”

Bigger, more advanced UAVs are also now breaking cover. Two in particular appear to be similar to the U.S.’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAVs best known for conducting lethal operations in Pakistan and elsewhere. These are the Yilong/Wing Loong “Pterodactyl”, built by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI), and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s (CASC’s) CH-4. According to a recent Global Times report, the Yilong is primarily regarded as a Reaper-style strike aircraft, while the CH-4 is more of a multi-role aircraft that will be deployed by civilian agencies, as well as by the military, for surveillance purposes, though it can also be weaponized. These two UAVs appear to be in the same class as the CH-91, built by Aerospace Long March International (ALIT), an ISTAR system which is reported to have already entered production, and the more advanced CH-92, which is due to enter production in 2014. A similar class of UAV, the WJ-600, has been showcased by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), though this system – which is jet-powered, unlike the propeller-driven Yilong and the CH-4 – was not seen at the most recent China Air Show.

Finally, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation is working on the Soaring Eagle, an analogue of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Washington’s high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV. Recent pictures of a Soaring Eagle on the runway suggest that its development is moving forward effectively. There are also hints that China is working on a stealthy UAV called the Wing Blade, which is reminiscent of the U.S.’s black-budget RQ-170 Sentinel, while a stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) called the Dark Sword – perhaps along the lines of the U.S. Navy’s experimental X-74B – may also be in development. Chinese technicians are also undoubtedly experimenting with a new generation of nano-UAVs, like the Black Hornet micro-helicopter now in action with the British Army.

China’s drone boom

The aerospace sector must now supply huge demand from both the PLA and civilian authorities. So it is not hard to envisage several of these seemingly competing UAVs, rather than just one winner, being produced in large numbers in order to help the defense industry meet its growing demand. In fact, last November a senior CASIC executive forecast that Chinese UAV sales would double in 2013.

Chinese firms also have high hopes for export sales. The Predator-style CH-4 in particular is being pushed for export, and was displayed at the recent IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi. The system is part of CASC’s CH “Rainbow” family of drones, and is understood to be an upgraded version of the CH-3 UAV, which China has already sold to Pakistan. The Yilong has also “already successfully entered the international market”, according to Chinese sources quoted by RIA Novosti at the recent China Air Show.

China has rightly identified a gap in the market, with relatively few countries having inducted UAVs so far, and few capable of building drones themselves, the low cost of Chinese systems will certainly be an advantage. A U.S. Predator costs around $4.5 million, while a Reaper is closer to $10 million for countries that manage to obtain clearance to buy them. Chinese sources have claimed that their equivalent UAVs cost less than $1 million, making them a highly affordable capability for a host of international customers, especially those unable or unwilling to source U.S. and Israeli technology.

So if there is an alarm bell worth ringing about the emergence of Chinese UAVs, it is probably not the threat they will pose to the U.S. or Japan in the Asia-Pacific – it is the proliferation to the developing world of armed, unmanned systems that China’s low prices, and even lower export barriers, may soon begin to drive.

U.S. “Signature Strikes” Ramdomly Kill Thousands Of Unidentified “Suspicious” Muslims: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Oldspeak: “My Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world. -President Barack Obama, Feburary, 2013. “While four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period. The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual. In these attacks, known as “signature strikes,” drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other “signatures.” According to anonymously sourced media reports, such attacks on unidentified targets account for many, or even most, drone strikes. Despite that, the administration has never publicly spoken about signature strikes. Basic questions remain unanswered. The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.” -Cora Currier and Justin Elliott. One of these things is not like the other.

Related Stories:

Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes

How Does the U.S. Mark Unidentified Men in Pakistan and Yemen as Drone Targets?

By Cora Currier and Justin Elliott @ Pro Publica:

The nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director has prompted intense debate on Capitol Hill and in the media about U.S. drone killings abroad. But the focus has been on the targeting of American citizens – a narrow issue that accounts for a miniscule proportion of the hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in recent years.

Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.

The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual.

In these attacks, known as “signature strikes,” drone operators fire on people whose identities they do not know based on evidence of suspicious behavior or other “signatures.” According to anonymously sourced media reports, such attacks on unidentified targets account for many, or even most, drone strikes.

Despite that, the administration has never publicly spoken about signature strikes. Basic questions remain unanswered.

What is the legal justification for signature strikes? What qualifies as a “signature” that would prompt a deadly strike? Do those being targeted have to pose a threat to the United States? And how many civilians have been killed in such strikes?

The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.

“How, for example, does the Administration ensure that the targets are legitimate terrorist targets and not insurgents who have no dispute with the United States?” asked three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Holder last May.

The legislators sent a second letter in December. Republicans on the committee joined in sending another letter this month. All have gone unanswered, according to committee staff.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently sent his own letter to Brennan asking several pointed questions on signature strikes.

“How do ‘signature strikes’ square with your statement that targeted killing operations are only approved when a targeted individual poses a ‘significant threat to U.S. interests?’” McCain asked, quoting a speech Brennan gave on drone strikes last April.

“How can the Administration be certain it is not killing civilians in areas, like many parts of Yemen and Pakistan, where virtually all men, including civilians, carry weapons?” the letter continued.

A McCain spokesman said the senator had not received a response. The White House declined to comment for this story.

When Obama administration officials publicly address drone strikes, they focus on thwarting imminent threats and targeting Al Qaeda leaders, including U.S. citizens.

Brennan, for example, said at his confirmation hearing that a lethal strike only occurs when “the intelligence base is so strong and the nature of the threat is so grave and serious, as well as imminent, that we have no recourse.” He was talking only about strikes targeting U.S. citizens, not signature strikes.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is now threatening to filibuster Brennan’s nomination until he answers questions on the U.S. citizen issue. And the Justice Department “white paper” leaked to NBC this month outlines the legal rationale for drone strikes, but only in cases when they target U.S. citizens who are also Al Qaeda leaders.

“What about the people who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a list?” asks Naureen Shah, a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.”

The hazy history of ‘signature strikes’

The first public reference to a signature strike appears to have been in February 2008, when the New York Times reported a change in drone strike policy, negotiated between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“Instead of having to confirm the identity of a suspected militant leader before attacking, this shift allowed American operators to strike convoys of vehicles that bear the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run, for instance, so long as the risk of civilian casualties is judged to be low,” the Times reported.

Over the next few years, they became the majority of strikes conducted in Pakistan, according to media reports citing unnamed officials.

The new policy contributed to an increase in strikes in Pakistan – up to a high of about 120 in 2010 – and also to an increase in the number of low-level militants or foot soldiers killed, according to a New America Foundation analysis.

It’s not clear how much evidence is needed to justify a strike. In media reports, U.S. officials have offered scenarios of signature strikes hitting training camps or fighters who might cross the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The CIA reportedly uses drone surveillance and other intelligence to try to ensure those targeted are in fact militants.

Other officials, however, have described the policy more loosely – one calling it a “‘reasonable man’ standard.”

Asked what the standard is for who could be hit, former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter recently told an interviewer: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s – well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

It is also next to impossible to say which attacks are signature strikes.

The names of militant leaders killed in strikes are often confirmed by officials in news reports. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. knew who was there ahead of the strike. One unnamed former military official claimed last year that the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ when they didn’t know they were there.”

Conversely, strikes in which little information emerges on who was killed could be failed attempts to hit specific individuals. (According to the New Yorker, it took as many as 16 strikes to kill Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in 2009.)

The outcomes of strikes are often disputed. In one apparent signature strike two years ago, unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press that they had targeted a group that “was heavily armed, some of its members were connected to Al Qaeda, and all ‘acted in a manner consistent with AQ (Al Qaeda)-linked militants.’” The U.S. said about 20 militants were killed. But Pakistani officials said it had been a meeting of tribesmen and villagers provided evidence to the AP that 38 civilians were killed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the attack prompted a debate in the White House about whether signature strikes and strikes on low-level fighters were worth the diplomatic risks.

The pace of strikes in Pakistan has tapered off since 2010, in large part because of deteriorating diplomatic relations with Pakistan, according to Bill Roggio, who tracks strikes for the Long War Journal.

Last spring the U.S. reportedly expanded signature strikes to Yemen, though administration officials said there were stricter standards than in Pakistan and evidence of a threat to the U.S. or U.S. interests was required. Officials referred to the attacks with a new phrase, “Terror Attack Disruption Strikes.”

That tighter standard is reportedly also part of the Obama administration’s new guidelines for the targeted killing program. (The CIA’s strikes in Pakistan will be exempt from any new rules for at least another year, according to the Washington Post.)

The legal debate

Brennan was asked about signature strikes last April but sidestepped the question. He replied: “You make reference to signature strikes that are frequently reported in the press. I was speaking here specifically about targeted strikes against individuals who are involved.”

He continued that “everything we do, though, that is carried out against Al Qaeda is carried out consistent with the rule of law, the authorization on the use of military force, and domestic law… that’s the whole purpose of whatever action we use, the tool we use, it’s to prevent attack [sic] and to save lives.”

The idea of killing members of an enemy force without knowing their identities isn’t itself controversial.

“In a traditional conflict, there is no requirement that you know every single person’s identity before you strike, so long as there are reasonable grounds for determining that the target is part of the enemy force,” said Jennifer Daskal, a professor at Georgetown Law School and a former attorney in the Justice Department during the first Obama administration.

But legal observers hotly debate the bounds of the drone war, and who qualifies as a member of the enemy force. “In the conflict with a clandestine enemy like Al Qaeda, that determination is much harder,” said Daskal.

While President Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to be more transparent about drone policy, the administration appears to maneuvering to avoid sharing additional information with Congress.

According to the New York Times, the administration may opt to share information on last year’s Benghazi attack with Republican senators to avoid revealing any more legal memos on the drone war to Democratic senators.

Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has said that her committee reviews videos of strikes.But she also recently said that the committee has long sought all of the legal opinions on drone strikes – and that the administration has withheld most of the opinions.

U.S. Department Of Justice “White Paper” Justifies Obama Administration Broader Powers To Execute Americans; Engage In Preemptive Cyber-War

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Oldspeak: “Secret Courts”, “Secret Evidence”, “Secret Interpretations of Laws”, “Secret National Security Directives”, Due process/evidence-free, unconstitutional surveillance, indefinite detention, &  execution of citizens accused of being “terrorists”.  These are classic conditions that exist in totalitarian/police states.  Basic rights assured for hundreds of years,  have slowly in this post 9/11 world have been stripped away. Largely in secret. All while the power of the Unitary Executive expands.”

By Washington’s Blog:

Bush and Obama Have Set Us Back 800 Years

NBC News reports:

Legal experts expressed grave reservations Tuesday about an Obama administration memo concluding that the United States can order the killing of American citizens believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida — with one saying the White House was acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”

Anyone should be concerned when the president and his lawyers make up their own interpretation of the law or their own rules,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and an authority on international law and the use of force.

“This is a very, very dangerous thing that the president has done,” she added.

***

Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer who writes about security and liberty for the British newspaper The Guardian, described the memo as “fundamentally misleading,” with a clinical tone that disguises “the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.”

“If you believe the president has the power to order U.S. citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it’s truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable,” he wrote.

Senator Wyden said:

Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.

Top constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley notes:

In plain language, [the Obama administration memo]  means that [any Americans can be assassinated if] the President considers the citizens to be a threat in the future. Moreover, the memo allows killings when an attempt to capture the person would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel. That undue risk is left undefined.

I think I’ve seen that movie before

Given that drones are being deployed in the American homeland, some fear that the war is coming home.

Indeed, the military now considers the U.S. homeland to be a battlefield.  The U.S. is already allowing military operations within the United States.    The Army is already being deployed on U.S. soil, and the military is conducting numerous training exercises on American streets.  (For more background, see this, this, this, this, and this.)

Similarly, the White House has claimed the unilateral power to launch pre-emptive cyber-strikes against foreign nations.  As FireDogLake notes:

Like with the drone program, President Barack Obama is presiding over the creation and development of a power that previous presidents never imagined having. The national security state is effectively appointing him and all future presidents the proverbial judge, jury and executioner when it comes to cyber warfare.

As Greenwald makes clear, virtually all of the U.S. efforts regarding so-called “cyber-security” are actually efforts to create offensive attack capabilities.

And given that the government may consider normal Americans who criticize any government policy to be terrorists – and that the military is fighting against dissent on the Internet  – it is obvious that the cyber-attack capabilities are coming home to roost.

Of course, indiscriminate drone strikes are war crimes (and here and here) , and cyber-attacks are a form of terrorism. But that won’t stop the U.S. … because it’s only terrorism when other people do what we do.

As Greenwald noted last year:

We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

Greenwald notes in an article today:

The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to “terrorists” when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.

Time and again, it emphasizes that the authorized assassinations are carried out “against a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or its associated forces who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” Undoubtedly fearing that this document would one day be public, Obama lawyers made certain to incorporate this deceit into the title itself: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida or An Associated Force.”

This ensures that huge numbers of citizens – those who spend little time thinking about such things and/or authoritarians who assume all government claims are true – will instinctively justify what is being done here on the ground that we must kill the Terrorists or joining al-Qaida means you should be killed. That’s the “reasoning” process that has driven the War on Terror since it commenced: if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death.

But of course, when this memo refers to “a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida”, what it actually means is this: someone whom the President – in total secrecy and with no due process – has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US”.

This is the crucial point: the memo isn’t justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo – and those who defend Obama’s assassination power – willfully ignore it.

Those who justify all of this by arguing that Obama can and should kill al-Qaida leaders who are trying to kill Americans are engaged in supreme question-begging. Without any due process, transparency or oversight, there is no way to know who is a “senior al-Qaida leader” and who is posing an “imminent threat” to Americans. All that can be known is who Obama, in total secrecy, accuses of this.

(Indeed, membership in al-Qaida is not even required to be assassinated, as one can be a member of a group deemed to be an “associated force” of al-Qaida, whatever that might mean: a formulation so broad and ill-defined that, as Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller argues, it means the memo “authorizes the use of lethal force against individuals whose targeting is, without more, prohibited by international law”.)

The definition of an extreme authoritarian is one who is willing blindly to assume that government accusations are true without any evidence presented or opportunity to contest those accusations. This memo – and the entire theory justifying Obama’s kill list – centrally relies on this authoritarian conflation of government accusations and valid proof of guilt.

They are not the same and never have been. Political leaders who decree guilt in secret and with no oversight inevitably succumb to error and/or abuse of power. Such unchecked accusatory decrees are inherently untrustworthy (indeed, Yemen experts have vehemently contested the claim that Awlaki himself was a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat to the US). That’s why due process is guaranteed in the Constitution and why judicial review of government accusations has been a staple of western justice since the Magna Carta: because leaders can’t be trusted to decree guilt and punish citizens without evidence and an adversarial process. That is the age-old basic right on which this memo, and the Obama presidency, is waging war.

We’ve previously pointed out the absurdity of the government’s circular reasoning in the context of indefinite detention:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

The Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves, as the separation of powers they fought and died for is being destroyed.  We’ve gone from a nation of laws to a nation of powerful men making laws in secret, where Congressional leaders themselves aren’t even allowed to see the laws, or to learn about covert programs.  A nation where Congressmen are threatened with martial law if they don’t approve radical programs.

Indeed, Bush and Obama have literally set the clock back 800 years … to before the signing of the Magna Carta.

Somali-American Mohamed Osman Mohamud Convicted Of Terrorism In Oregon Christmas Tree Bomb Plot; FBI Provided Encouragement, Guidance, Money & Materials Needed For Attack

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Oldspeak:No one was hurt, and authorities say the public was never in real danger“. “detonate fake bombs”. “Provided by the “government agency here”.  When you see these words in a story about a “foiled” terrorist operation, understand that it is not a real terrorist attack. It is usually one instigated by agents of the government posing as terrorists, who’ve targeted an isolated, distressed, poor, young, impressionable, usually Muslim man who they’ve “coached” to “lead” the “attack”.  This time the man’s (well boys, as the FBI began tracking him at 15 years old) name was Mohamed Osman Mohamud. Peruse the related stories and you’ll see the script remains the same. Long term surveillance. Heavy FBI involvement in planning, financing and execution of the plot.  Rather than steering potential terrorists away from committing crime, law enforcement is encouraging it, and participating in it , creating a crime to ‘solve it’. Here’s the thing about real terrorists: They don’t use fake bombs. If they are leading an operation, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be 3 times sure the bomb will go off when they press a button. They’re intimately involved in every aspect of the operation. They’ll make an effort to check the backgrounds and associations of those they conspire with.   This boy, like the many others before him, has been used by U.S. government agencies to continue to instill perpetual fear in the populace of “the enemy” in this case “Islamic Terrorists”, and justify the perpetual prosecution of a phantom “War On Terror”.  Left undiscussed in the coverage of this story, is the disturbing normality of ever-increasing prosecution/surveillance/criminalization of youth. We live in a society where 15 year olds are perceived as threats. And the only way these threats are to be dealt with is with prosecution, conviction, lifetime incarceration or execution. “Radicalization” is apparently an incurable infection. Little thought is given to improving the conditions, the structural, cultural and social inequality that make radicalization likely. Most resources are devoted to enforcement, incarceration and or assassination. This “War Is Peace” policy continues ironically under our Nobel Peace Prize winning Commander-In-Chief, President Obama.

Related Stories

New York Federal Reserve ‘Bomb’ Plotter Ensnared In FBI Sting: FBI Provided Encouragement, Guidance, Money & Materials Needed For Attack

Al-Qaida “Underwear Bomber” Was Working For The C.I.A. : The Yemen Bomb Plot & Other Hobgoblins

The Informants: How The FBI’s Massive Informant Network Actually Created Most Terrorist Plots “Foiled” In U.S. Since 9/11

Fake Terror Plots Using Paid Informants: The Tactics Of FBI ‘Entrapment’ Questioned

The Spectacle Of Terrorism And Its Vested Interests

By Teresa Carson @ Reuters:
A Somali-American man was found guilty on Thursday of trying to blow up a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Oregon using a fake bomb supplied to him by undercover agents posing as Islamist militants, the public defender’s office said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Oregon State University student, faces a possible life prison term on his conviction on a single charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Sentencing is set for May 14.

Mohamud was arrested shortly after attempting to use his cell phone to remotely detonate an artificial car bomb planted near a Portland square crowded with thousands of people attending the ceremony the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.

No one was hurt, and authorities say the public was never in real danger.

During a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, defense attorneys argued that overzealous law enforcement officers posing as al Qaeda militants invented a crime and entrapped their client.

But the jury agreed with the prosecution’s argument that Mohamud, 19 years old at the time of the crime, was already radicalized and could have backed out of the bomb plot at any point.

On the morning of the planned bombing, Mohamud reportedly told a friend that it was “the greatest morning of my life.” Hours later, he dialed a cell phone that he thought would trigger the bomb and kill thousands of people.

“Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years – choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence,” Greg Fowler, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Portland division, said in a statement.

“His actions showed little regard for the rights and responsibilities that come with being an American or respect for the lives that he was prepared to take,” he added.

LONELY WITH LITTLE MONEY

The case, closely watched by many in the nation’s Muslim American community, was one of several sting operations in recent years in which individuals were tracked by undercover FBI agents and later tried to detonate fake bombs in various locations.

“We are disappointed with the verdict,” federal public defender Steven Wax said, adding that he planned to appeal. “There are a number of issues that will be raised.”

Defense lawyers had tried to paint a picture of Mohamud, who spent months with the undercover agents, as a young man who was particularly vulnerable to entrapment, which legal experts had earlier said was always a tough case to prove.

At trial, one of the undercover agents testified that he and a fellow agent were aware that Mohamud was lonely, had little money and that his family was in distress. He said Mohamud wept during their first meeting and that he heard his partner tell Mohamud on many occasions, “I love you.”

The agent also acknowledged that he and his partner had coached Mohamud on what he should say in a videotaped “goodbye” message they filmed of him weeks before the planned attack.

In the video, shown to the jury by prosecutors, Mohamud is seen solemnly saying to the camera: “A dark day is coming your way … your people will not remain safe.”

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the case could alienate the Muslim community, but was quick to say that “nobody wants to see any possibility of any sort of violence by a lone wolf.”

“I think convictions in these kinds of cases are almost forgone conclusions based on the government’s actions. They are the same in each case,” he said.

Somali-American convicted of terrorism in Oregon Christmas tree bomb plot; was 17 at time

By NIGEL DUARA @ The Associated Press:

Three hours before they handed down a sentence that could put an Oregon man in prison for life, deliberating jurors sent a note to a trial judge with a question.

Did the man whose fate they were deciding need to have envisioned the specific crime for which he was accused? Or did he merely need to be inclined toward some kind of terroristic act?

Their question more broadly reflects the central debate at the heart of the trial of Mohamed Mohamud, a 21-year-old Somali-American found guilty on Thursday of attempting to bomb a Portland Christmas tree-lighting in November 2010.

Prosecutors were met by a claim of entrapment by Mohamud’s defense team, and needed to convince jurors that he was predisposed to terrorism by the time an FBI informant began discussing radical jihad with him over emails.

The judge, Garr King, told jurors Thursday that Mohamud only had to be likely to commit the offense or one like it, and he did not specifically have to be thinking about a bomb at the specific time and place at which he and two undercover FBI agents decided to plant one.

The bomb was a fake, supplied by the agents posing as jihadis.

Jurors were given starkly different portraits of the man who was 17 when the FBI began to focus on him. In the prosecution’s description, Mohamud was a powder keg in search of a spark, an angry teenager with the right combination of anti-Western sentiment and a plausible cover story as an Oregon college student.

In the defense’s telling, he was confused, broke and suffering under the weight of parental expectations. Gullible and eager to please, he fell into a plot entirely of the FBI’s making, following along with men he imagined were like family, Mohamud’s attorneys said.

Mohamud sat still as King read the verdict in a slow, deliberate cadence. His parents, who attended every day of the trial, were absent, leaving the seating reserved for family entirely empty throughout the announcement of the verdict.

After the verdict, the FBI asserted again that Mohamud would indeed have found a way to commit a violent act had agents not intervened.

“Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years — choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence,” said Greg Fowler, who leads the FBI office in Portland. “His actions showed little regard for the rights and responsibilities that come with being an American or respect for the lives that he was prepared to take.”

Mohamud’s attorney, Steve Sady, later said an appeal was being planned after the scheduled May 14 sentencing.

“We are disappointed with the verdict,” Sady said. “We, obviously, thought he was entrapped.”

Prosecutors argued that Mohamud was predisposed to terrorism as early as 15 years old. Mohamud traded emails with an al-Qaida lieutenant later killed in a drone strike. He also told undercover agents he would pose as a college student while preparing for violent jihad.

Mohamud was never called to testify. Instead, the jurors saw thousands of exhibits and heard hours of testimony from friends, parents, undercover FBI agents and experts in counterterrorism, teenage brain development and the psychology of the Muslim world.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told the jury earlier this week that the decision would be easy. Mohamud pressed a keypad button on a black Nokia cellphone and intended to kill people. Whatever else they might think about the methods of undercover agents or the government’s decision to investigate a teenager, the underlying decision was Mohamud’s and the motivation was hatred of the West.

Sady had argued that Mohamud wasn’t radicalized by online recruiters or friends with jihadist leanings, but rather by a Justice Department hungry for convictions that ignored every caution sign along the way. Sady said undercover agents manipulated Mohamud’s faith and plied him with praise and the promise of a life leading other jihadis.

“This case has been a difficult case for the city of Portland. It’s been a particularly difficult case for Mohamed Mohamud’s community, for his family, for the Somali community,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon. “We are hopeful that this will bring closure and healing to all of us here in Portland.”

Somali-American On Trial Over Christmas Tree Bomb Plot

By Stephanie Rice @ Agence France-Presse:

A Somali-American accused of trying to blow up a crowded US Christmas-tree lighting ceremony went on trial, more than two years after being arrested in an FBI sting operation.

Arguing in court just blocks from the site of the tree lighting in the US state of Oregon, lawyers presented rival pictures of Mohamed Mohamud, either as a troubled youth tricked by undercover agents or a hardened Islamist terrorist.

The 21-year-old’s defense lawyer claimed Mohamud never would have attempted to detonate the “bomb” — a harmless fake supplied by FBI agents — on November 26, 2010 if agents posing as terrorists hadn’t coerced the confused then-teenager into it.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation “created a crime that never would have happened without them,” attorney Stephen Sady told the 16-strong jury which will decide Mohamud’s fate, in the long-awaited trial.

“He wasn’t a perfect human being,” added. “But he wasn’t someone who was sitting around thinking about blowing up his hometown.”

The “entrapment” argument is crucial to Mohamud’s defense and likely his only shot at avoiding life in prison on the charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Under US law, authorities cannot trick someone into committing a crime. That means the government must prove Mohamud was predisposed to violence before undercover agents ever approached him.

The government counters that Mohamud wasn’t tricked and willingly chose to press the button on a cell phone that he believed would kill thousands gathered in downtown Pioneer Square.

“He said he would push the button because it would make him happy to have bodies torn everywhere,” Assistant US Attorney Pamala Holsinger told jurors.

“By the time he met FBI agents he had already decided that violence against civilians, in or out of the US, was justified,” she said.

Mohamud watched the proceedings from a table with his attorneys, taking notes on a legal pad. At one point he seemed to become emotional, and an attorney put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

About 10 family members sat on the other side of the packed courtroom, occasionally coming and going from the courtroom with what appeared to be a prayer rug.

The high-profile trial, expected to last at least several weeks, has all the makings of a cloak-and-dagger spy drama.

Undercover agents testifying in disguise will give a rare glimpse into the world of FBI sting operations. Jurors will tour the van the government packed with phony explosives and gave to Mohamud, telling him it was the real thing.

The terror case is highly unusual for this West Coast city known for its laid back, quirky culture — the informal city motto is “Keep Portland weird” – and not on anyone’s list of top terror targets.

It has raised questions not only about where an attack can happen, but also about how authorities pursue potential threats while protecting the civil liberties of US citizens.

Undercover FBI Agents Recount Christmas Bomb Plot

By Stephanie Rice @ Agence France-Presse:

FBI tactics in investigating a Somali-American accused of plotting to blow up a US Christmas tree lighting ceremony took center stage, as undercover agents began testifying.

Giving evidence in disguise and visible only to jurors, one agent maintained that Mohamed Mohamud was prone to violence from the beginning and spoke of plans to “wage war” on the United States.

To test Mohamud’s resolve, the agent — who was posing as an Al-Qaeda recruiter named “Youssef” — said that in his first meeting with Mohamud, he gave the then-teenager five examples of how he could be “a good Muslim.”

According to Youssef — whose real name was withheld in court — Mohamud stopped short of the most extreme option, martyrdom, but chose violence over praying five times a day or raising money for extremists.

“He said he would like to become operational,” Youssef testified.

Mohamud, now 21, faces life in prison for allegedly attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction — a harmless fake supplied by FBI agents — near the crowded 2010 pre-Christmas ceremony in Portland, Oregon.

But in many ways, the FBI is also on trial as the defense argues agents coerced a gullible kid into a violent act.

Under US law, it is illegal for authorities to trick someone into a crime.

The defense has argued that sophisticated FBI agents such as Youssef used powerful psychological tools to brainwash a confused teenager, giving him specific instructions on how to plan an attack he wasn’t capable of on his own.

But Youssef said he was simply trying to assess whether Mohamud was truly capable of acting on his violent rhetoric.

In his early meetings with Mohamud, Youssef said he was not sure the young man would go forward with his plans. “I thought it was all talk,” he added.

Ultimately, Youssef and another agent gave Mohamud a fake bomb and a cell-phone detonator, telling him it would kill thousands gathered at a Christmas tree lighting in downtown Portland once he pressed the button.

After Mohamud tried twice to detonate the bomb on November 26, 2010, the FBI arrested him.

The undercover agents’ initial interactions with Mohamud are crucial to the case.

The young man’s fate hinges on whether jurors believe he was already predisposed to violence when agents posing as terrorists approached him and offered help in plotting an attack.

Also testifying in court, the FBI official in charge of the sting operation said authorities were alarmed by Mohamud’s previous interactions with Al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan.

US-born Khan was later reportedly killed in the same CIA drone strike that felled radical Yemeni-US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, previously linked to a US Army major who killed 13 people at a Texas military base, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25, 2009.

In 2009, Mohamud wrote four articles for a magazine run by Khan called Jihad Recollections, ranging from workout tips for violen extremists to why Europe would be an ideal place for an attack.

At one point, Special Agent Miltiadis Trousas said, Mohamud wanted to include a photo of the burning towers on 9/11 with a story. Khan said it was too violent.

Trousas noted that Mohamud also sought advice from Khan on relationships and faith.

In one instance, according to Trousas, Mohamud asked Khan: “If my family are not following the Islamic law, how am I supposed to obey them?”

Khan advised Mohamud not to live with his family if he could not “persuade them,” Trousas said.

The trial continues this week with more testimony from undercover agents.

 

 

Barack Obama Signs Pact With Hamid Karzai To Keep U.S. Troops In Afghanistan Through 2024

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Oldspeak:”I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”  Candidate Barack Obama, October 27, 2007 Welp. So much for ending the war in Afghanistan. Keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan virtually guarantees this war will continue until 2024.  The Taliban has no interest in negotiating peace while  American troops are in Afghanistan. I’m sure this development will make the Military Industrial Complex very happy. No comment on the 1,000 of mercenaries and private army soldiers there too.  Or the TAPI Pipeline that needs to be protected.  Yet another campaign promise, broken. This resource war trumps that promise. This is the nature of a Unitary Executive. Making “surprise trip” to a war zone to Sign a war pact that affect us all with no input from constituents, or their “representatives” in Congress.  I have no words.”

By Ben Farmer @ The U.K. Telegraph:

The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.

The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.

It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council.

A withdrawal of American troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.

But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.

Both Afghan and American officials said that they hoped to sign the pact before the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in December. Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai agreed last week to escalate the negotiations and their national security advisers will meet in Washington in September.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Mr Karzai’s top security adviser, told The Daily Telegraph that “remarkable progress” had been made. US officials have said they would be disappointed if a deal could not be reached by December and that the majority of small print had been agreed.

Dr Spanta said a longer-term presence was crucial not only to build Afghan forces, but also to fight terrorism.

“If [the Americans] provide us weapons and equipment, they need facilities to bring that equipment,” he said. “If they train our police and soldiers, then those trainers will not be 10 or 20, they will be thousands.

“We know we will be confronted with international terrorists. 2014, is not the end of international terrorist networks and we have a common commitment to fight them. For this purpose also, the US needs facilities.”

Afghan forces would still need support from US fighter aircraft and helicopters, he predicted. In the past, Washington officials have estimated a total of 25,000 troops may be needed.

Dr Spanta added: “In the Afghan proposal we are talking about 10 years from 2014, but this is under discussion.” America would not be granted its own bases, and would be a guest on Afghan bases, he said. Pakistan and Iran were also deeply opposed to the deal.

Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, said: “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.

“I don’t understand why such bases are needed. If the job is done, if terrorism is defeated and peace and stability is brought back, then why would you need bases?

“If the job is not done, then several thousand troops, even special forces, will not be able to do the job that 150,000 troops couldn’t do. It is not possible.”

A complete withdrawal of foreign troops has been a precondition for any Taliban negotiations with Mr Karzai’s government and the deal would wreck the currently distant prospect of a negotiated peace, Mr Avetisyan said.

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, deputy leader of the peace council set up by Mr Karzai to seek a settlement, said he suspected the Taliban had intensified their insurgency in response to the prospect of the pact. “They want to put pressure on the world community and Afghan government,” he said

Western Justice And The Refusal To Provide Transparency

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Anwar Awlaki and Barack Obama

Oldspeak:”In totalitarian states, government sanctioned extrajudicial killing passes with barely a stir. “On Saturday in Somalia, the U.S. fired missiles from a drone and killed the 27-year-old Lebanon-born, ex-British citizen Bilal el-Berjawi. His wife had given birth 24 hours earlier and the speculation is that the U.S. located him when his wife called to give him the news.” This is how the U.S. does business now. Judge, jury and executioner, while refusing to reveal alleged evidence justifying ‘targeted assassination’ of ‘terrorists’. Charging people with terrorism and making it impossible for them to contest charges, because doing so could precipitate their deaths. This policy, this assassination program, perfectly illustrates the barbarically low value Americans place on the lives of “others”. This policy purports that a 27 year old man, who just had a baby, is incapable of change. Once labeled a terrorist, this man has can never be anything else, and he must be utterly destroyed, expeditiously.  This policy allows to go unexamined, the conditions that exist in the globalized scarcity/austerity/cruelty dominated world that drive desperate and disenfranchised people to turn to terrorism to force their participation in the world community. Ten years ago, a neocon Bush Ambassador to Israel said “The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.” 9/11 was the moment we went to the dark side, as illustrated in a scene out of the 1999 film the “The Siege” God help us if we don’t find our way back.

By Glenn Grunwald @ Salon:

On Saturday in Somalia, the U.S. fired missiles from a drone and killed the 27-year-old Lebanon-born, ex-British citizen Bilal el-Berjawi. His wife had given birth 24 hours earlier and the speculation is that the U.S. located him when his wife called to give him the news. Roughly one year ago, El-Berjawi was stripped of his British citizenship, obtained when his family moved to that country when he was an infant, through the use of a 2006 British anti-Terrorism law — passed after the London subway bombing — that the current government is using with increasing frequency to strip alleged Terrorists with dual nationality of their British citizenship (while providing no explanation for that act). El-Berjawi’s family vehemently denies that he is involved with Terrorism, but he was never able to appeal the decree against him for this reason:

Berjawi is understood to have sought to appeal against the order, but lawyers representing his family were unable to take instructions from him amid concerns that any telephone contact could precipitate a drone attack.

Obviously, those concerns were valid. So first the U.S. tries to assassinate people, then it causes legal rulings against them to be issued because the individuals, fearing for their life, are unable to defend themselves. Meanwhile, no explanation or evidence is provided for either the adverse government act or the assassination: it is simply secretly decreed and thus shall it be.

Exactly the same thing happened with U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki. When the ACLU and CCR, representing Awlaki’s father, sued President Obama asking a federal court to enjoin the President from killing his American son without a trial, the Obama DOJ insisted (and the court ultimately accepted) that Awlaki himself must sue on his own behalf. Obviously, that was impossible given that the Obama administration was admittedly trying to kill him and surely would have done so the minute he stuck his head up to contact lawyers (indeed, the U.S. tried to kill him each time they thought they had located him, and then finally succeeded). So again in the Awlaki case: the U.S. targets someone for death, and then their inability to defend themselves is used as a weapon to deny their legal rights.

The refusal to provide transparency is also the same. Ever since Awlaki was assassinated, the Obama administration has steadfastly refused to disclose not only any evidence to justify the accusations of Terrorism against him, but also the legal theories it is using to assert the power to target U.S. citizens for death with no charges. A secret legal memo authorizing the Awlaki assassination, authored by Obama lawyers David Baron and Marty Lederman, remains secret. During the Bush years, Democratic lawyers vehemently decried the Bush DOJ’s refusal to release even OLC legal memoranda as tyrannical “secret law.” One of the lawyers most vocal during the Bush years about the evils of “secret law,” Dawn Johnsen (the never-confirmed Obama appointee to be chief of the OLC) told me back in October: “I absolutely do not support the concealment of OLC’s Awlaki memo . . . .The Obama administration should release either any existing OLC memo explaining why it believes it has the authority for the targeted killings or a comparably detailed legal analysis of its claimed authorities.”

Daily Beast report today says that the Obama administration “is finally going to break its silence” on the Awlaki killing, but here’s what they will and will not disclose:

In the coming weeks, according to four participants in the debate, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is planning to make a major address on the administration’s national-security record. Embedded in the speech will be a carefully worded but firm defense of its right to target U.S. citizens. . . .

An early draft of Holder’s speech identified Awlaki by name, but in a concession to concerns from the intelligence community, all references to the al Qaeda leader were removed. As currently written, the speech makes no overt mention of the Awlaki operation, and reveals none of the intelligence the administration relied on in carrying out his killing. 

In other words, they’re going to dispatch Eric Holder to assert that the U.S. Government has the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination by-CIA-drone, but will not even describe a single piece of evidence to justify the claim that Awlaki was guilty of anything. In fact, they will not even mention his name. As Marcy Wheeler said today:

This is simply an asinine compromise. We all know the Administration killed Awlaki. We all know the Administration used a drone strike to do so. . . .

The problem–the problem that strikes at the very heart of democratic accountability–is that the Administration plans to keep secret the details that would prove (or not) that Awlaki was what the Administration happily claims he is under the veil of anonymity, all while claiming that precisely that information is a state secret.

The Administration seems to be planning on making a big speech on counterterrorism–hey! it’s another opportunity to brag again about offing Osama bin Laden!–without revealing precisely those details necessary to distinguish this killing, and this country, from that of an unaccountable dictator.

The CIA seems to have dictated to our democratically elected President that he can’t provide the kind of transparency necessary to remain a democracy. We can kill you–they appear to be planning to say–and we’ll never have to prove that doing so was just. You’ll just have to trust us!

That, of course, is the heart and soul of this administration’s mentality when it comes to such matters, and why not? Between Republicans who always cheer on the killing of Muslims with or without any explanation or transparency, and Democrats who do so when their leader is the assassin, there is little political pressure to explain themselves. If anything, this planned “disclosure” makes the problem worse, since we will now have the spectacle of Eric Holder, wallowing in pomp and legal self-righteousness, finally defending the power that Obama already has seized — to assassinate U.S. citizens in secret and with no checks — but concealing what is most needed: evidence that Awlaki was what the U.S. Government claims he is. That simply serves to reinforce the message this Government repeatedly sends: as Marcy puts it, “We can kill you and we’ll never have to prove that doing so was just. You’ll just have to trust us!”The Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen added: “The US legal opinion on Awlaki is one thing, but it rests on assumptions made by the intelligence community, which won’t be revealed.”

This no longer seems radical to many — it has become normalized — because it’s been going on for so long now and, more important, it is now fully bipartisan consensus. But to see how extreme this all really is, to understand what a radical departure it is, just consider what George Bush’s neocon Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, told the Israelis in 2001, as flagged by this Guardian Op-Ed by Mary Ellen O’Connell comparing Obama’s assassinations to Bush’s torture program:

The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.

What George Bush’s Ambassador condemned to the Israelis’ face just a decade ago as something the nation was steadfastly against has now become a staple of government policy: aimed even at its own citizens, and carried out with complete secrecy. And those who spent years mocking the notion that “9/11 Changed Everything” will have no choice but to invoke that propagandistic mantra in order to defend this: what else is there to say?

Tarek Mehanna Convicted For Words, Not Deeds, After 3 Years Surveillance, Failed Inducement To Commit Terrorist Acts & Turn Informant For FBI

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Oldspeak:“Ripped from the pages of “1984″ we see the use of the “material support for terrorism clause”  to suppress unpopular ideas, dissent, free speech and in effect ‘disappear’ people.  This man has been in solitary confinement for 793 days. This man could be you. You can by law be detained, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for the rest of your life for what you say, the media you consume, and who you associate with if it is deemed ‘terrorist’ in nature. Let that sink in. First think about the fact that Department of Defense now defines exercising First Amendment rights via protest and political activism as “low-level terrorism”, and let it sink in some more. Second, think about the fact that American citizens are subject to ‘rendition’, essentially being disappeared to any number of the vast network of black site prisons around the world indefinitely. And let it sink in that much more. It’s pretty profound isn’t it. You’re 1st amendment right are being criminalized. Your ability to resist tyranny is being neutralized. And the wild thing about this case is the FBI tried to recruit this man as an informant, he refused. The FBI tried to provide him with the means to carry out a terrorist plot, he refused. In essence, this man, Tarek Mehanna was convicted for refusing to cooperate with the government, spy on his people, and become a terrorist. This is all part of a disturbing pattern of behavior  by American law enforcement.  Manufacturing terrorism to coerce the  populace into relinquishing more and more of their civil and privacy rights. “Ignorance Is Strength”

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Free Tarek Mehanna

By Patrick Tracey @ Salon:

Call it “the week that was” when it comes to shredding the Constitution. First the Senate passes a rider to the defense bill that would make it legal for the military to arrest American citizens anywhere in the world, including U.S. soil, at the whim of the executive branch — this or any future executive branch.

Then comes the conviction yesterday of a Massachusetts man for viewing and translating jihadi videos online. The eight-week trial featured starkly contrasting portrayals of the bearded Muslim, Tarek Mehanna, a Sudbury, Mass., fundamentalist who traveled to Yemen and has made no secret of his contempt for U.S. foreign policy.

His Boston legal team haloed him as a kind and loving man, if an angry and opinionated intellectual type. They argued he was being persecuted for his disapproval of  U.S. foreign policy. The government countered with the belief that Mehanna was just the sort of hater who’d take glee in seeing Americans getting gunned down in bloody shopping malls.

American Muslims took it on the chin big-time this week, between the Mehanna case, the more troubling rider to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act now waiting for the president’s signature, to say nothing of home improvement chain Lowe’s yanking sponsorship of the “All American Muslim” show on TLC.  If the president signs the defense bill unamended, it will represent the single biggest civil liberties betrayal of his presidency.

The implications are profound and simple.

“They both came out the same week, but they are part of a pattern of putting to one side the fundamental freedoms we’ve taken for granted. We’re into a whole new legal terrain,” said Nancy Murray of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ”As the Senate gutted the Bill of Rights, just as it gutted the right to due process and the right to trial by jury, the whole notion of presumption of innocence goes out the window. And the scary thing is that it could be applied to all U.S. citizens.”

When not watching Lowe’s ads on the popular reality show, Muslim parents are sure to hit the pause button for a quiet word with their children about expressing strident opinions online. And they won’t mean maybe, either, because sentencing for Mehanna is set for as soon as April 12, and he may never see the light of day again — he could be sentenced to life in prison.  The message is unequivocal: You’d better watch your Muslim mouth. 

Mehanna made no bones about watching jihadi videos and translating them for friends; no bones about lending CDs to people in the Boston area in order, as the prosecution asserted, to create like­-minded youth; no bones about  discussing with friends his views of suicide bombings, the killing of civilians, and dying on the battlefield in the name of Allah. He translated texts that were freely available online and looked for information there about the 19 9/11 hijackers too. He even inquired into how to transfer files from one computer to another, and how to keep those files from being hacked.

However unpopular those acts may be, civil libertarians say they fall well within the margins of First Amendment protection. They are bracing themselves for repeal, but their immediate concern is the ending of posse comitatus, a far more serious matter. If the president, a constitutional scholar, signs the Senate-passed defense bill as is, then in the stroke of a pen he’ll have re-answered the age-old joke: “Is this a free country, or what?” The answer will be a resounding “or what,” but it’s no joke. Coming on the same week that the Bill of Rights had its 220th anniversary, you have to ask what’s more depleted these days: America’s outrage or its unkeen sense of irony?

The ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a brief in the Mehanna case, but it was refused by Judge O’Toole, who felt it was not suitable for this trial. The amicus curiae urged the court to proceed with the utmost care to prevent protected speech from constituting the sole basis for charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorist groups. The brief said Mehanna had “engaged in discussions and watched and translated readily available media on the topics of global politics, wars, and religion, all of which are topics of public concern. That his views may be offensive or disagreeable, or that they may ‘create like-minded youth,’ is of no consequence to the heightened protection to which his expression is entitled as a result of the First Amendment.”

Through such acts Mehanna was convicted yesterday of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida. If such speech is not protected as a free expression under the First Amendment, “then the government’s implicit view that such speech could alone support conviction threatens to render the material support statute a vehicle for the suppression of unpopular ideas, contrary to the dictates of the First Amendment and fundamental American values.”

Civil liberties advocates make the “slippery slope” argument. In the 2010 case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which decided whether providing nonviolent aid like legal advice to terrorist groups constitutes material support for terrorism, the Supreme Court ruled that you can advocate as an individual, but if your advocacy is coordinated with an outfit on a terrorist list, then it’s criminal conspiracy and you can be convicted of giving terrorist support.

The ACLU believes that Mehanna’s activities were not shown to meet that test, “so the real reason for convicting him seems to be missing,” Murray said. “The trial featured all sorts of allegations of traveling but there was no hard proof that his advocacy was coordinated with a group.”

Grounds for appeal appear to be more than ample. “For one thing,” said Murray, “the courts should be very worried that it criminalizes unpopular speech. The First Amendment should’ve protected his translating material that he read on the internet. Unless they could’ve said he was doing that at the behest of a terrorist group, they’ve never actually made that direct connection.”

America’s Secret Empire Of Drone Bases: Its Full Extent Revealed For The First Time

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Oldspeak:“Behold! The future of war in America! Remote-controlled, automated, outsourced and cheaply produced for your viewing pleasure! Hey! The Libyan intervention/regime change only cost 2 Billion Dollars! Sooo much cheaper than the Iraq War! Drones are awesome, they’re cheaper and save American lives! It’s come to this. Cheering the fact that Humanity is slowly and surely being phased out of the war making business. A terribly slippery slope to tread. When wars begin to be defined in terms of dollars and cents instead of the untold millions of lives negatively affected and outright lost because of them; it becomes crystal clear what war is all about. Money. Arms Sales. Business. Repeat Business. Industry. Cost-Effectiveness. The Bottom Line. “The U.S. Government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world todayDr Martin Luther King. Business is BOOMING. Soon robots will fight our wars for us.  When humans are phased out of war-making, the costs of war seem smaller, even if in reality they’re growing larger with each remote-controlled vehicle and robot built, each unnamed woman or child or bride or husband killed  largely out of public view. Perpetual War becomes routine. War becomes entertainment. War Is glamorized. War is commercialized. Was is a drug. “Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink in the coming years, expansion of America’s empire of drone bases is a sure thing in the years to come.  Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.” -Nick Turse. No significant discussion of  the conditions created to facilitate waging war, or policies which could be employed to minimize the outbreak and sustenance of war. “War Is Peace”.

By Nick Turse @ Alter Net:

 

They increasingly dot the planet.  There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth that almost no one talks about at an air base in the United Arab Emirates.

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide.  Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of America’s ever-widening undeclared wars and a spate of stories on drone bases in Africa and the Middle East, most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous — until now.

Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their proxies, these bases — some little more than desolate airstrips, others sophisticated command and control centers filled with computer screens and high-tech electronic equipment — are the backbone of a new American robotic way of war.  They are also the latest development in a long-evolving saga of American power projection abroad — in this case, remote-controlled strikes anywhere on the planet with a minimal foreign “footprint” and little accountability.

Using military documents, press accounts and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by AlterNet has identified at least 60 bases integral to U.S. military and CIA drone operations.  There may, however, be more, since a cloak of secrecy about drone warfare leaves the full size and scope of these bases distinctly in the shadows.

A Galaxy of Bases

Over the last decade, the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has expanded exponentially as has media coverage of their use.  On September 21st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military has deployed missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on the “island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia.” A day earlier, a Washington Post piece also mentioned the same base on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, as well as one in the African nation of Djibouti, another under construction in Ethiopia, and a secret CIA airstrip being built for drones in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (suspected of being Saudi Arabia).

Post journalists Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock reported that the “Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.”  Within days, the Post also reported that a drone from the new CIA base in that unidentified Middle Eastern country had carried out the assassination of radical al-Qaeda preacher and American citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen.

With the killing of al-Aulaqi, the Obama Administration has expanded its armed drone campaign to no fewer than six countries, though the CIA, which killed al-Aulaqi, refuses to officially acknowledge its drone assassination program.  The Air Force is less coy about its drone operations, yet there are many aspects of those, too, that remain in the shadows.  Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes recently told AlterNet that, “for operational security reasons, we do not discuss worldwide operating locations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, to include numbers of locations around the world.”

Still, those 60 military and CIA bases around the world, directly connected to the drone program, tell us a lot about America’s war-making future.  From command and control and piloting to maintenance and arming, these facilities perform key functions that allow drone campaigns to continued expanding as they have for more than a decade.  Other bases are already under construction or in the planning stages.  When presented with our list of Air Force sites within America’s galaxy of drone bases, Lieutenant Colonel Haynes responded, “I have nothing further to add to what I’ve already said.”

Even in the face of government secrecy, however, much can be discovered .  Here, then, for the record is a AlterNet accounting of America’s drone bases in the United States and around the world.

The Near Abroad

News reports have frequently focused on Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas as ground zero in America’s military drone campaign. Sitting in darkened, air conditioned rooms, 7,500 miles from Afghanistan, drone pilots dressed in flight suits remotely control MQ-9 Reapers and their progenitors, the less heavily-armed MQ-1 Predators. Beside them, sensor operators manipulate the TV camera, infrared camera, and other high-tech sensors on board.  Their faces lit up by digital displays showing video feeds from the battle zone, by squeezing a trigger on a joystick one of these Air Force “pilots” can loose a Hellfire missile on a person half a world away.

While Creech gets the lion’s share of attention — it even has its own drones on site — numerous other bases on U.S. soil have played critical roles in America’s drone wars.  The same video-game-style warfare is carried out by U.S and British pilots not far away at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the home of the Air Force’s 2nd Special Operations Squadron (SOS).  According to a factsheet provided to AlterNet by the Air Force, the 2nd SOS and its drone operators are scheduled to be relocated to the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida in the coming months.

Reapers or Predators are also being flown from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, March Air Reserve Base in California, Springfield Air National Guard Base in Ohio, Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas, the Air National Guard base in Fargo, North Dakota, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York.  Recently, it was announced that Reapers, flown by Hancock’s pilots, would begin taking off on training missions from the Army’s Fort Drum, also in New York State.  While at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to a report by the New York Times earlier this year, teams of camouflage-clad Air Force analysts sit in a secret intelligence and surveillance installation monitoring cell phone intercepts, high altitude photographs, and most notably, multiple screens of streaming live video from drones in Afghanistan — what they call “Death TV” — while instant-messaging and talking to commanders on the ground in order to supply them with real-time intelligence on enemy troop movements.

CIA drone operators also reportedly pilot their aircraft from the Agency’s nearby Langley, Virginia headquarters.  It was from here that analysts apparently watched footage of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, for example, thanks to video sent back by the RQ-170 Sentinel, an advanced drone nicknamed the “Beast of Kandahar.”  According to Air Force documents, the Sentinel is flown from both Creech Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Predators, Reapers, and Sentinels are just part of the story.  At Beale Air Force Base in California, Air Force personnel pilot the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned drone used for long-range, high-altitude surveillance missions, some of them originating from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam (a staging ground for drone flights over Asia).  Other Global Hawks are stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, while the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio manages the Global Hawk as well as the Predator and Reaper programs for the Air Force.

Other bases have been intimately involved in training drone operators, including Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base, as is the Army’s Fort Huachuca in Arizona which is home to, according to a report by National Defense magazine, “the world’s largest UAV training center.”  There, hundreds of employees of defense giant General Dynamics train military personnel to fly smaller tactical drones like the Hunter and Shadow.  The physical testing of drones goes on at adjoining Libby Army Airfield and “two UAV runways located approximately four miles west of Libby,” according to Global Security, an on-line clearinghouse for military information.

Additionally, small drone training for the Army is carried out at Fort Benning in Georgia while at Fort Rucker, Alabama — “the home of Army aviation” — the Unmanned Aircraft Systems program coordinates doctrine, strategy, and concepts pertaining to UAVs.  Recently, Fort Benning also saw the early testing of true robotic drones – which fly without human guidance or a hand on any joystick.  This is considered, wrote the Washington Post, the next step toward a future in which drones will “hunt, identify, and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans.”

The Army has also carried out UAV training exercises at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and, earlier this year, the Navy launched its X-47B, a next-generation semi-autonomous stealth drone, on its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  That flying robot — designed to operate from the decks of aircraft carriers — has since been sent on to Maryland’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River for further testing.  At nearby Webster Field, the Navy worked out kinks in its Fire Scout pilotless helicopter, which has also been tested at Fort Rucker, Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, and Florida’s Mayport Naval Station and Jacksonville Naval Air Station.  The latter base was also where the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial system was developed and is now, along with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State, based.

Foreign Jewels in the Crown

The Navy is actively looking for a suitable site in the Western Pacific for a BAMS base, and is currently in talks with several Persian Gulf states for one in that region, as well.  It already has Global Hawks perched at its base in Sigonella, Italy.

The Air Force is now negotiating with Turkey to relocate some of the Predator drones still operating in Iraq to the giant air base at Incirlik next year.  Many different UAVs have been based in Iraq since the American invasion of that country, including small tactical models likeRaven-B’s  that troops launched by hand from Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Shadow UAVs that flew from Forward Operating Base Normandy in Baqubah Province, Predators operating out of Balad Airbase, miniature Desert Hawk drones launched from Tallil Air Base, and Scan Eagles based at Al Asad Air Base.

Elsewhere in the Greater Middle East, according to Aviation Week, the military is launching Global Hawks from Al Dhafra Air Base in theUnited Arab Emirates, piloted by personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to track “shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Arabian Sea.”  There are unconfirmed reports that the CIA may be operating drones from that country as well.  In the past, at least, other UAVs have apparently been flown from Kuwait’s Ali Al Salem Air Base and Al Jaber Air Base, as well as Seeb Air Base in Oman.

At Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the Air Force runs an air operations command and control facility, critical to the drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The new secret CIA base on the Arabian peninsula, used to assassinate Anwar al-Aulaqi, may or may not be an airstrip inSaudi Arabia whose existence a senior U.S. military official recently confirmed to FOX News.  In the past, the CIA has also operated UAVs out of Tuzel, Uzbekistan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, drones fly from many bases including Jalalabad Air Base, Kandahar Air Field, the air base at Bagram, Camp Leatherneck, Camp Dwyer, Combat Outpost Payne, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Edinburgh and FOB Delaram II, to name a few. Afghan bases are, however, more than just locations where drones take off and land.

It is a common misperception that U.S.-based operators are the only ones who “fly” America’s armed drones.  In fact, in and around America’s war zones, UAVs begin and end their flights under the control of local “pilots.”  Take Afghanistan’s massive Bagram Air Base. After performing preflight checks alongside a technician who focuses on the drone’s sensors, a local airman sits in front of a Dell computer tower and multiple monitors, two keyboards, a joystick, a throttle, a rollerball, a mouse, and various switches and oversees the plane’s takeoff before handing it over to a stateside counterpart with a similar electronics set-up.  After the mission is complete, the controls are transferred back to the local operators for the landing.  Additionally, crews in Afghanistan perform general maintenance and repairs on the drones.

In the wake of a devastating suicide attack by an al-Qaeda double agent that killed CIA officers and contractors at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost in 2009, it came to light that the facility was heavily involved in target selection for drone strikes across the border in Pakistan.  The drones themselves, as the Washington Post noted at the time, were “flown from separate bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Both the Air Force and CIA have conducted operations in Pakistani air space, with some missions originating in Afghanistan and others from inside Pakistan.  In 2006, images of what appear to be Predator drones stationed at Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province were found on Google Earth and later published.  In 2009, the New York Times reported that operatives from Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, had taken over the task of arming Predator drones at the CIA’s “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Following the May Navy SEAL raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, that country’s leaders reportedly ordered the United States to leave Shamsi.  The Obama administration evidently refused and word leaked out, according to the Washington Post, that the base was actually owned and sublet to the U.S. by the United Arab Emirates, which had built the airfield “as an arrival point for falconry and other hunting expeditions in Pakistan.”

The U.S. and Pakistani governments have since claimed that Shamsi is no longer being used for drone strikes.  True or not, the U.S. evidently also uses other drone bases in Pakistan, including possibly PAF Base Shahbaz, located near the city of Jacocobad, and another base located near Ghazi.

The New Scramble for Africa

Recently, the headline story, when it comes to the expansion of the empire of drone bases, has been Africa.  For the last decade, the U.S. military has been operating out of Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti.  Not long after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it became a base for Predator drones and has since been used to conduct missions over neighboring Somalia.

For some time, rumors have also been circulating about a secret American base in Ethiopia.  Recently, a U.S. official revealed to theWashington Post that discussions about a drone base there had been underway for up to four years, “but that plan was delayed because ‘the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.’” Now construction is evidently underway, if not complete.

Then, of course, there is that drone base on the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.  A small fleet of Navy and Air Force drones began operating openly there in 2009 to track pirates in the region’s waters.  Classified diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, however, reveal that those drones have also secretly been used to carry out missions in Somalia.  “Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport,” the Post reports, the base consists of three or four “Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.”

The U.S. has also recently sent four smaller tactical drones to the African nations of Uganda and Burundi for use by those countries’ own militaries.

New and Old Empires

Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink in the coming years, expansion of America’s empire of drone bases is a sure thing in the years to come.  Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.

During the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, as the U.S. was building up its drone fleets, the country launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out limited strikes in YemenPakistan, and Somalia, using drones in at least four of those countries.  In less than three years under President Obama, the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  It maintains that it has carte blanche to kill suspected enemies in any nation (or at least any nation in the global south).

According to a report by the Congressional Budget office published earlier this year, “the Department of Defense (DoD) plans to purchase about 730 new medium-sized and large unmanned aircraft systems” over the next decade.  In practical terms, this means more drones like the Reaper.

Military officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Reaper “can fly 1,150 miles from base, conduct missions and return home… the time a drone can stay aloft depends on how heavily armed it is.”  According to a drone operator training document obtained by AlterNet, at maximum payload, meaning with 3,750 pounds worth of Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 or GBU-30 bombs on board, the Reaper can remain aloft for 16 to 20 hours.  Even a glance at a world map tells you that, if the U.S. is to carry out ever more drone strikes across the developing world, it will need more bases for its future UAVs.  As an unnamed senior military official pointed out to a Washington Postreporter, speaking of all those new drone bases clustered around the Somali and Yemeni war zones, “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

Earlier this year, an analysis by TomDispatch.com determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe — a shadowy base-world that provides plenty of existing sites that can, and no doubt will, host drones.  But facilities selected for a pre-drone world may not always prove optimal locations for America’s current and future undeclared wars and assassination campaigns. So further expansion in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is likely.

What are the Air Force’s plans in this regard?  Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes was typically circumspect.  “We are constantly evaluating potential operating locations based on evolving mission needs,” he said.  If the last decade is any indication, those “needs” will only continue to grow.

 

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a senior editor at AlterNet. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso). You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook

This article marks another of Turse’s joint Alternet/TomDispatch investigative reports on U.S. national security policy and American empire.

 

© 2011 AlterNet and TomDispatch All rights reserved.
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