44 thoughts on “US Drone Attacks Baitullah Mehsud

  1. The US policy of targeted killings by drones

    By Asif Haroon Raja

    Unmanned drones were first used by the US military in Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina for surveillance purpose. Currently drones are being employed against combatant civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

    Unmanned drones are supplementing aerial attacks by jets and gunship helicopters and cruise missiles. Prof Marc W. Harold writes in his article that future US wars in third world will involve massive drones to police territory.

    It will employ local satrap forces, like Karzai forces, and once the territory is pacified sufficiently, it will deploy government-ready-to-rule kits.

    It is typical of American style war where only opponents and civilians die, but this kind of technological warfare can only be carried out upon weak opponents lacking industrial capabilities and air defence. Today the US air force has more drone operators in training than fighter and bomber pilots. Those who pull the trigger to fire missiles are located in far off places. Drones used are MQ-1 Predator and more recently MQ-9 Reaper firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The US is resorting to this technique to save its troops, yet indiscriminately inflicting horrendous fatalities upon opponents. Drones were used for target killings against suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen in 2002 which is a close ally of USA. Qaed Salim Senan allegedly involved in killing 17 US sailors in USS Cole warship was killed and the act was justified as a legitimate military target. .

    Among the worst affected countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ironically, while Afghanistan is an occupied country where resistance forces are fighting occupation forces for over nine years, Pakistan is an ally of USA and had helped it in capturing Afghanistan and had also arrested several hundred wanted Al-Qaeda and Taliban key figures. It is not at war with the US and is involved in fighting US dictated war on terror against its own people and is paying a very heavy price. As such CIA operated drones remotely operated from Creech Air Force base in Langley, West Virginia, or from bases in Khost in Afghanistan and Shamsi base in Pakistan cannot be morally justified since the strikes do not discriminate between terrorists and innocent women, children and the elderly. More so, experience has proved that use of drones instead of curbing terrorism fuels it further. It helps the terrorists in their recruitment drive and continuation of cycle of violence.

    Gen Musharraf who had accepted all the seven demands of USA in September 2001 had also agreed to allow employment of drones for acquisition of intelligence. However, unmanned Predator was offensively fired for the first time on June18, 2004 in South Waziristan (SW) to kill Taliban leader Nek Muhammad when he signed a peace deal with the Army. In 2005, two strikes took place on 14 May and 30 November killing seven people. On 13 January 2006, a house in Damadola village in Bajaur was targeted in which several sleeping women and children were killed. Another drone strike was made against a religious seminary in village Chenagai in Bajaur on 30 October 2006 killing 80 young students. This strike was conducted a day before a peace deal was to be signed with the Taliban in Bajaur. The two strikes in Bajaur were intended to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rather than questioning Washington and warning it to refrain from such unfriendly acts, the Army imprudently took the blame to prevent rise of anti-Americanism. It stirred up anti-Army sentiments among people of FATA.

    In 2007, four drone strikes took place in the months of January, April, June and November killing 74 persons. In 2008 the number of attacks rose to 36 resulting in deaths of 296. Most strikes were in North Waziristan (NW) and SW. After Barack Obama replaced George Bush, rate of strikes in January 2009 accelerated to 55 and death toll to 709. The whole brunt came on SW and NW. There were reports in September last that the US military was secretly diverting more drones and weaponry from Afghanistan and deploying along Pakistan border. This was in line with the US stated fears that FATA in general and NW in particular had become the hub centre of terrorism and base of al-Qaeda leadership. In 2010 the death toll reached 1000 as a result of 225 strikes, which was the heaviest. 51 strikes were made between September and December 2010 killing 451 people. Maximum attacks came against NW and SW, with 98% strikes in NW.

    Total drone strikes from 2004 till 13 April 2011 were 246 murdering 2306. Well over 90% of 2306 killed were unarmed civilians. Kenneth Anderson says that Obama administration unambiguously believes in the strategic advantage of drone policy because it offers ‘best hope for regional stability and success in dealing with al-Qaeda and incorrigible Taliban’. The excessive use of drones has turned our tribal belt into killing field. The severe backlash has come in the form of suicide, bomb and terrorist attacks in cities killing over 22000 innocent civilians.

    The policy is domestically saleable in USA since it doesn’t endanger lives of troops on ground. The US is justifying excessive use of drones in NW on the plea that since Pak Army is not launching a military operation in that region, drones are the only substitute available to win war without proclaiming a new war in Pakistan. Drones have been described as the weapons of choice in fighting al-Qaeda. The US has however not been able to offer any legal justification for the attacks but covers it up by saying that these are effective means. The US objects to extra judicial killings of terrorists but feels no compunction in resorting to target killings to kill terrorists and unarmed civilians.

    Worth of a Muslim in the eyes of Americans can be gauged from the discriminatory payment of compensations to families of victims of terrorism. The US pays $2000 to families of civilians killed by US-NATO. The families of those who had been killed in 9/11 blasts received $2 million. Not a single penny has been paid to unarmed civilians killed by drones in FATA.

    Pakistan had experienced wars, insurgencies, bomb attacks and natural calamities but had never experienced suicide attacks or drone attacks. These two which have afflicted Pakistan in the aftermath of 9/11 are much more lethal than any other hazard. Bodies of victims of drones are shred into pieces and flesh and bones collected for burial. While the people of affected area do not have the means to confront the unmanned flying machines, the air force has the capability but cannot respond due to lack of will of the political leadership, which has perhaps secretly given its approval as was disclosed by WikiLeaks and American officials.

    Under intense public pressure the rulers have now started beseeching US officials to put an end to this madness. Ignoring Pakistan’s repeated protests that drones are not curbing but fuelling extremism and terrorism, USA is continuing to use this destructive weapon recklessly. Violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty and killing people amounts to declaring war on Pakistan but the US still hypocritically asserts that Pakistan is its non-NATO ally and a strategic partner and indiscriminate use of drones is in its interest. The US has refused to transfer drone technology to Pakistan. Drone technology has appealed to several countries afflicted with scourge of terrorism since it helps in overcoming laborious and time consuming exercise of locating, capturing and trying the terrorists in courts. Pakistan, Russia, Georgia, Brazil, China and Israel are reportedly acquiring weaponized drone technology.

    Drone attacks abruptly stopped when Raymond Davis a CIA undercover agent was arrested on 27 January. It was found that he and Jonathan Banks, who has fled to USA, were the master coordinators of drone war in Pakistan. Chips used for making the drones home on to intended targets were found on the person of Davis. On the following day of his release on 16 March under dubious circumstances, a deadly drone attack came on a peace Jirga in Dattakhel in NW killing 48 people. The unfortunate incident took anti-Americanism in Pakistan to new heights. The elders of Waziristan belonging to various tribes vowed to avenge the deaths.

    The incident was vociferously condemned by Gen Kayani. A strong message was conveyed by him to his counterpart in Pentagon and by DGISI to Leon Panetta that Pak Army and ISI would cease to cooperate with USA in war on terror if such offensive acts are taken against an ally. They were told in clear terms that Pakistan should not be taken for granted and treated both as an ally and a target suiting US whims. The term used by Colin Powel in September 2001 that ‘you are either with us or against us’ is now applicable to USA itself. Lt Gen Pasha on his recent meeting with Panetta and Mike Mullen at CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia once again pressed the hosts to put an end to counter productive use of drones and also call back CIA undercover agents stationed in Pakistan.

    Drone attack on 13 April in SW broke the 25-day lull and it appears that despite strong objections raised by Pakistan the US is bent upon making use of drones. A strong protest has again been lodged by Foreign Office. Drones have become a core irritant in counter-terror campaign and have tensed Pak-US relations. It is ardently hoped that the US sets aside its hobby of deriving a sadistic pleasure by target killing Muslims with remote controlled drones and become more humane and civilized. Today drone has become a weapon of choice for USA. What happens when this weapon fails and the US makes nuclear bomb a weapon of choice?

    – Asian Tribune –


  2. Report Questions Legality of Drone Strikes
    Posted by Eben Harrell Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Read more: http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2011/06/23/report-questions-legality-of-drone-strikes/#ixzz1QXVU1nPV

    Are the use of targeted drone strikes by the CIA and U.S. military legal? In March, Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, defended the use of drones after complaints by many legal experts and the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions. But Koh’s comments failed to quell criticism of the civilian casualties that accompany the strikes and also the involvement in the CIA in the operations.
    Now, however, a team of international lawyers have made a fresh argument against drone attacks, citing what they claim is an existing but previously unacknowledged requirement in international law for those who use or authorise the use of drone strikes to record and announce who has been killed and injured in each attack.
    A new report, ‘Drone Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict’, was published today by the London-based think tank Oxford Research Group (ORG). It can be found here. It has several main findings:
    • There is a legal requirement to identify all casualties that result from any drone use, under any and all circumstances.
    • The universal human right which specifies that no-one be “arbitrarily” deprived of his or her life depends upon the identity of the deceased being established, as do reparations or compensation for possible wrongful killing, injury and other offences.
    • The responsibility to properly record casualties is a requirement that extends to states who authorise or agree the use of drones, as well as those who launch and control them, but the legal (as well as moral) duty falls most heavily on the latter.
    • There is a legal requirement to bury the dead according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, and this may not be in mass or unmarked graves. The site of burial must be recorded, particularly in the event that further investigation is required.
    • A particular characteristic of drone attacks is that efforts to disinter and identify the remains of the deceased may be daunting, as with any high explosive attacks on persons. However, this difficulty in no way absolves parties such as those above from their responsibility to identify all the casualties of drone attacks.
    • Another characteristic of drone attacks is that as isolated strikes, rather than part of raging battles, there is no need to delay until the cessation of hostilities before taking measures to search for, collect and evacuate the dead.
    It’s authors say the report draws from various instruments of law including the Geneva Conventions; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and other human rights instruments; reports and statements of the United Nations; case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; and the principles of customary international law. “It is high time to implement a global casualty recording mechanism which includes civilians so that finally every casualty of every conflict is identified. The law requires it, and drones provide no exemption from that requirement,” Dr Susan Breau, the report’s lead author and Professor of International Law at Flinders University, said:
    Dr Breau’s wishes aside, it’s unclear how much of an impact the new report will have, and whether it will compel the Obama administration to articulate further its legal justification for targeted killing.. But there’s no doubt that the debate over drones will continue for some time yet.

    Read more: http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2011/06/23/report-questions-legality-of-drone-strikes/#ixzz1QXVC3mQr


  3. Q&A: Targeted Killings

    From the Council on Foreign Relations, January 25, 2006

    Eben Kaplan is a writer for the Council on Foreign Relations website, cfr.org.


    A January 13 attack launched by a CIA-operated unmanned Predator aircraft against targets in the northern Pakistani village of Damadola has raised questions about the legal and policy aspects of such operations. In this case, U.S. officials say intelligence suggested al-Qaeda’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was meeting with a group of extremist associates. Pakistani officials say Zawahiri was not in the village and eighteen civilians were killed setting off angry demonstrations across Pakistan against the United States.

    What are targeted killings?

    Targeted killings are used by governments to eliminate individuals they view as a threat. Generally speaking, a nation’s intelligence, security, or military forces identify the individual in question and carry out an operation intended to kill him or her. Though questionable, the practice has been used by defense and intelligence operations by governments around the world and has been viewed with increased legitimacy since the start of the so-called war on terror. Gary Solis, visiting professor of law at West Point, says “targeted killings are no longer novel.”

    Typically, targeted killings focus on high-profile suspects whose capture is deemed impossible or too great a risk. “It’s a pretty dicey proposition capturing somebody,” says William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at Tufts University. “You can’t do a snatch and grab casually.” An example of a targeted killing took place in November 2002 in Yemen, when a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile into the car carrying Abu Ali al-Harithi, a senior al-Qaeda leader. Along with al-Harithi, five other men died, including one American who was traveling with him.

    Are targeted killings legal?

    In terms of domestic law, the main stumbling block to carrying out targeted killings is Executive Order 12333–issued in 1981 to protect both U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and constitutional rights–which states, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” However, “It is permissible to attack individuals who are heads of [either state or non-state] organizations in combat against the United States,” says Martel.

    A separate question is the constitutional issues of limits to executive power and whether the president has the power to authorize targeted killings. In the case of the 2002 strike in Yemen, then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told reporters, “I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here. There are authorities that the president can give to officials [and] he’s well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority.” During peacetime this might be a more contentious issue, but former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb explains that in this case, “the congressional authorization of force gave [the president] the power to do this.”

    The Bush administration is not the first to attempt this sort of operation. Experts say President Clinton relaxed the executive order banning assassinations to allow for targeted killings. In 1998, following evidence that al-Qaeda was behind twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Sudan and Tanzania, Clinton ordered a missile strike on an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan. Other similar attacks had occurred before 1998, but great care was taken to avoid the appearance of targeting a specific person to avoid violating Executive Order 12333. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. presidents launched a number of missions characterized as punitive air raids or efforts to disrupt enemy operational capacity. Some of these attacks employed bombing from aircraft (Panama 1991, Somalia 1993, Iraq 2003), some used naval gunfire (Lebanon 1984), others used Tomahawk cruise missiles (Iraq 1993 and 2003). In each case, the target was said to be a base or command and control center of a foreign enemy. Probably the most famous example occurred in 1986 after Ronald Reagan authorized the bombing of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s villa following evidence that Libya sponsored an attack on a Berlin disco that killed U.S. soldiers. Qaddafi’s infant daughter died in the attack.

    While the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force…in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States,” is cited by the administration as the legal foundation for these actions, experts suggest such operations still raise several questions with regard to international law. One such issue is that of national sovereignty. Unless attacks are authorized by the nation in which the operations take place, they may well be considered a violation of sovereignty.

    Two customary principles of the Law of Armed Conflict, which is derived from international law, also apply to targeted killings: distinction and proportionality. Distinction requires combatants “distinguish between combatants and non-combatants,” Solis says, while proportionality is the principle stipulating the “destruction of civilian property must be proportional to the military advantage gained.” These principles are intended to limit collateral damage, but targeted killings involving unreliable intelligence or the remote firing of missiles are at a greater risk of causing collateral damage.

    What are some of the issues surrounding the attack on Damadola?

    The attack raises a number of legal, political, and security issues. At least four al-Qaeda members were killed in the attack, according to U.S. and Pakistani government sources. Zawahiri, the principal target, was not present during the attack. Eighteen civilians–including five children–were reportedly killed in the strike, raising both questions of distinction and proportionality. “How many lives is the No. 2 of al-Qaeda worth?” asks Solis. Several policymakers, however, defended the attack. “It’s terrible when innocent people are killed; we regret that,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told CBS. “But we have to do what we think is necessary to take out al-Qaeda, particularly the top operatives. This guy has been more visible than Osama bin Laden lately.”

    Another issue is Pakistani sovereignty. National security analyst William M. Arkin says “there is not a question in my mind that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was privy to [the CIA strike],” pointing out the Predator aircraft took off from Pakistani soil. Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz did not deny this, telling cfr.org only that it was “unclear at this time” if Pakistan received any advance notification of the attack, but added counterterrorism operations in Pakistan are done “in a shared manner.”

    How are targeted killings authorized?

    Experts say a presidential “finding,” a declaration that a covert operation is in the national interest, gives the authority to carry out covert operations such as targeted killings. “It would require the president to say ‘OK,'” says Korb. Following the January 13 Damadola attack, some reports indicated the operation was authorized by CIA Director Porter Goss. Korb says this would only be possible if “the president has delegated authority to him.” Arkin concurs: “The CIA director has to pull the trigger,” he says, “but I think an attack of this type does get presidential approval as well.”

    Is there a review process before authorizing a targeted attack?

    Yes, but the type of review depends on what organization is carrying out the attack. If the U.S. military is involved, there is “a very sophisticated target-review process that checks and cross-checks any potential target with regard to constraints of international law, appropriateness of choice of munitions, blast effects as they relate to collateral damage, etc.” says Scott Silliman, executive director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security. This process is less clearly defined when the attack is carried out by the CIA, though Korb says “you’re going to have to get a lawyer to sign off before the director would sign off.” Likewise, experts say, there is a review process to ensure the accuracy of the intelligence prompting an attack.

    Have recent U.S. attempts at targeted killings gone awry before?

    Two instances are worth noting. The first, originally reported by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, occurred in Afghanistan in October 2001 when a CIA-operated Predator aircraft picked up the convoy carrying ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. At the time, the CIA did not have the authority to launch a missile and deferred the decision to Gen. Tommy Franks, then-commander of United States Central Command, who explained, “My JAG [military lawyer] doesn’t like this, so we’re not going to fire.” Omar escaped and remains at large.

    The second example occurred on April of 2003, when U.S. intelligence suggested Saddam Hussein and his sons were dining in a Baghdad restaurant. U.S. forces rained scores of missiles down on the area, destroying the restaurant and a few nearby homes, only to discover Hussein was not present. The blasts did kill fourteen civilians. While U.S. officials likely knew the attack could harm some civilians, they clearly believed the military advantage gained by Hussein’s death would outweigh the civilian cost.

    Have other nations carried out targeted killings?

    Yes. During the Cold War, Soviet-bloc intelligence services regularly tracked down dissidents and, if they could not be kidnapped, they were often assassinated. One famous instance of this involved the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, killed by a poison-tipped umbrella in London by a suspected KGB agent. Iran, Syria, North Korea, and many other repressive nations have allegedly offed dissidents on foreign soil, too. China and Taiwan have accused each other of assassinating rival activists, and Cuba also has tracked down dissidents thought to be involved in plotting against Fidel Castro.

    More recently, the Israeli government has used targeted killings extensively in its fight against militant Islamic groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Gal Luft, an Arab Affairs expert at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in the Winter 2003 edition of Middle East Quarterly that there had been some eighty such attacks launched by Israel since 2001.

    Another incident took place on March 6, 1988, in Gibraltar, Spain, where British intelligence officers shot and killed three members of the Irish Republican Army they believed had planted a bomb outside the British Governor’s residence. The incident prompted public outcry in Britain but an investigation cleared the British agents of wrongdoing. In 1995, the European Court of Justice overturned that finding, ruling the officers had used excessive force.

    On July 10, 1985, French intelligence operatives detonated limpet mines attached to the side of the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace-operated boat docked in New Zealand, whose multinational crew planned to interfere with French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. The mines were intended to cripple the ship without taking lives, but a photographer drowned when the boat sank. France initially denied involvement, but when local police arrested the French agents, a diplomatic crisis ensued between France and New Zealand, requiring UN mediation to resolve.

    January 25, 2006, NYT


  4. The Use of Drones and Targeted Killing in Counterterrorism

    New Federal Initiatives Project
    December 13, 2010

    Michael W. Lewis, Vincent J. Vitkowsky

    Brought to you by the International & National Security Law Practice Group

    The Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy initiatives. Any expressions of opinion are those of the author or authors. We hope this and other publications will help foster discussion and a further exchange regarding current important issues.

    Shortly after September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush, as Commander in Chief, authorized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to target and kill enemy leaders pursuant to Congress’ Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda.[i] The President designated “Afghanistan and the airspace above” a combat zone,[ii] but the United States also launched drone strikes against al Qaeda targets in other countries. The drone program received widespread attention in November 2002, when the C.I.A. launched a Predator drone strike in Yemen, killing the mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole and six other men. Following the Yemen attack, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions asserted that the attack was “a clear case of extrajudicial killing.”[iii] In response, the U.S. defended the drone strike as permissible under international law of armed conflict, broadly asserting that al Qaeda terrorists who continue to plot attacks may, in appropriate circumstances, be lawful subjects of armed attack without regard to their location.[iv]
    Since taking office, President Obama has expanded the previous administration’s use of drones to target al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta has called the Predator program “the only game in town” in terms of disrupting the al Qaeda leadership.[v] Many have urged the Obama administration to articulate legal justification for the continued use of drones to target and kill terrorists. The administration addressed such concerns on March 25, 2010, when State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh made a speech to the American Society of International Law (ASIL).[vi]
    In his speech, Mr. Koh defended targeted drone killings: “[I]t is the considered view of this Administration . . . that U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.”[vii] Mr. Koh cites both domestic law, under the AUMF,[viii] and international law as proof that the U.S. is engaged in armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces.”[ix] Targeted killings, a vital tool in this war, are justified because they are performed in accordance with the laws of war. The U.S., according to Mr. Koh, conducts targeted strikes consistent with the principles of “distinction” and “proportionality” to ensure that the targets are legitimate and collateral damage minimized.[x]
    Mr. Koh lists four reasons why targeted drone killings are legal. First, enemy leaders are legitimate targets because they are belligerent members of an enemy group in a war with the U.S.[xi] Second, drones are appropriate instruments for such missions, so long as their use conforms to the laws of war.[xii] Third, enemy targets selected through “robust” procedures require no legal process and are not “unlawful extrajudicial” killings.[xiii] Finally, Mr. Koh argues that using drones to target “high level belligerent leaders” does not violate domestic law banning assassinations.[xiv]
    The administration’s arguments raise four important questions about the administration’s targeted killings policy. Who may be targeted? Where may the targeting take place? Does the use of UAVs for targeted killings comport with International Humanitarian Law (IHL)? And finally, are targeted killings illegal assassinations under U.S. domestic law?
    Regarding the question of who may be targeted, IHL divides people into two groups: combatants and civilians.[xv] In order to qualify as a combatant, an individual must belong to a group that has an internal disciplinary system which, inter alia, shall enforce compliance with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.[xvi] Those that are not combatants are civilians, and these civilians may only be targeted when they are “directly participating in hostilities.”[xvii] In his speech, Mr. Koh argued that “individuals who are part of such an armed group [as al Qaeda] are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law.”[xviii] Critics of the policy, on the other hand, argue that international law must be interpreted more narrowly to exclude the targeted killing of non-combatants when they do not present an immediate threat to others.[xix]
    Similarly, critics argue that the U.S. may not attack militants “[o]utside of a battle zone or zone of armed conflict” unless “it is clearly necessary to save lives immediately.”[xx] Because many U.S. strikes in Yemen and Pakistan arguably occur outside of this context, these critics condemn the use of drone strikes in these countries. However, supporters of the policy deny that “armed conflict” can be defined by international boundaries and instead argue that the state must decide the scope of the conflict based on the realities on the ground.
    Some commentators and international figures remain skeptical about whether UAVs conform to the laws of war, but their reservations are generally related more to the accountability and review of targeting decisions than to the use of UAVs specifically.[xxi] Mr. Koh argued in his speech to the ASIL that drone attacks are the best method for missions to kill al Qaeda leaders, due to their precision and the relatively minimal collateral damage caused,[xxii] and the Bush Administration decided to use the drones rather than C.I.A. hit teams to take out such leaders largely because of the lower risk that drones posed to U.S. personnel.[xxiii]
    Finally, as to whether U.S. domestic law prohibits targeted killings because they are assassinations, the U.S. has repeatedly affirmed a ban on assassinations, beginning with an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford.[xxiv] Subsequent executive branch interpretations of this ban have generally defined “assassination” as the killing of public officials[xxv] or killing with a political purpose.[xxvi] Supporters of targeted killings argue that these killings, which are carried out as part of a wartime strategy, therefore are not assassinations, since they are not committed against public officials and are not political killings. Mr. Koh, in his speech, statedp that the killings are not “assassinations” because it is lawful to use weapons systems in this manner “when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict.” There also seems to be widespread agreement among those who consider UAV attacks on terrorist leaders “assassinations” that such attacks are not prohibited by domestic law because the ban on assassinations is only codified in an executive order, which can be altered by the President at any time, and because the executive orders issued by President Ford and later Presidents leave the term “assassination” undefined and open to the President’s interpretation.[xxvii]
    * Michael W. Lewis is a Professor at Ohio Northern University Law School, teaching the Law of War and International Law. He is a Topgun graduate who flew F-14’s for the United States Navy in Operation Desert Storm.
    Vincent J. Vitkowsky is the Chairman of the Federalist Society’s International and National Security Law Practice Group, an attorney in private practice in New York City, and an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Law and Counterterrorism.
    The authors gratefully acknowledge Marc Stepper and Matthew Linder, J.D. candidates at Cornell Law School, for their significant contributions to the research and drafting of this paper.

    [i] S. J. Res. 23, 107th Cong. (2001) (enacted).
    [ii] Exec. Order No. 13,239, 66 Fed. Reg. 64907 (Dec. 14, 2001).
    [iii] Letter from Jeffrey De Laurentis, Chief of Section, Political and Specialized Agencies of the Permanent Mission of the United States of America, to the the secretariat of the Commission on Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, (E/CN.4/2003/3).
    [iv] Id.
    [v] See Pam Benson, U.S. Airstrikes in Pakistan Called “Very Effective,” May 18, 2009, available at http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/18/cia.pakistan.airstrikes/.
    [vi] Harold Koh, Legal Adviser, U.S. Dep’t of State, Address at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (March 25, 2010), available at http://www.state.gov/s/l/releases/remarks/139119.htm.
    [vii] Id.
    [viii] S. J. Res. 23, 107th Cong. (2001) (enacted) (authorizing the use force against “those nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons”).
    [ix] See Koh, supra note 6.
    [x] Id.
    [xi] See id.
    [xii] See id.
    [xiii] See id.
    [xiv] Id.
    [xv] Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, (API) Art. 43 and 51. Article 43 discusses combatants while Article 51 describes civilians and their immunity. Although the United States has not ratified Protocol I, it recognizes much of Protocol I as descriptive of customary international law.
    [xvi] API Art. 43(1).
    [xvii] API Art. 51.
    [xviii] Koh, supra note 6.
    [xix] See Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, No. 10-cv-___ (D.D.C. August 30, 2010) (claiming that the federal government’s “policy of targeted killings violates treaty and customary international law by authorizing, outside of armed conflict, the killing of individuals . . . without judicial process in circumstances in which they do not present concrete, specific, and imminent threats to life or physical safety, and where there are means other than lethal force that could reasonably be employed to neutralize any such threat”).
    [xx] Mary Ellen O’Connell, Respect the Battlefield, CBSNews.com, April 9, 2010, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/08/opinion/main6377556.shtml.
    [xxi] See U.S. Use of Drones Queried by U.N., N.Y. Times, Oct. 28, 2009, at A17, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/world/28nations.html. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions pursued an inquiry into the U.S. drone program over concerns that it “is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of international law.”
    [xxii] See Koh, supra note 6.
    [xxiii] See Pamela Hess, AP Sources: Tenet Canceled Secret CIA Hit Teams, ABC News, 2010, available at http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wirestory?id=8095609&page=2.
    [xxiv] See, e.g., Exec. Order 11,905, 41 Fed. Reg. 1041 (Jan. 6, 1976); Exec. Order 12,036, 43 Fed. Reg. 3674 (Jan. 24, 1978); Exec. Order 12,333, 46 Fed. Reg. 12333 (Dec. 4, 1981) (“No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”).
    [xxv] See Colonel W. Hayes Parks, Memorandum on Executive Order 12333 and Assassination, Nov. 2, 1989 (stating that assassinations are killings carried out unilaterally by agents or agencies against foreign public officials), available at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/cchrp/Use of Force/October 2002/Parks_final.pdf.
    [xxvi] See Kenneth Anderson, Assassination and the Koh Speech, Opinio Juris, Mar. 28, 2010, http://opiniojuris.org/2010/03/28/assassination-and-the-koh-speech/ (quoting a speech by Legal Adviser to the DOS Abraham Sofaer in 1989 in which he defines “assassination” as “any unlawful killing of particular individuals for political purposes”).
    [xxvii] See, e.g., Michael P. Scharf, In the Cross Hairs of a Scary Idea, Wash. Post, Apr. 25, 2004, at B01 (criticizing U.S. “assassination policy,” but recognizing that “since an executive order is not a statute, the president can get around the [assassination] ban simply by approving secret case-by-case exceptions, as we now know Clinton did with respect to bin Laden”).

    Related Links

    “Due Process and Targeted Killing of Terrorists,” by Prof. Afsheen John Radsan, William Mitchell College of Law, and Prof. Richard W. Murray, Texas Tech University School of Law, Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 31 (2009)

    “Targeted Killing in U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy and Law,” by Prof. Kenneth Anderson, American University Washington College of Law (May 11, 2009)

    “Suit Over Targeted Killings Is Thrown Out, ” by Charlie Savage, The New York Times (December 7, 2010)


  5. Drone Attacks – The Proliferation Of A New Form Of Warfare
    by Aleksandra Bielska

    August 27, 2010

    According to the Pakistan Daily Times, 13 suspected terrorists and seven civilians died in the most recent US drone attack in the Pakistani region of Northern Waziristan on 24 August 2010. Even though US drone attacks take place almost daily, the international community largely refrains from discussing their long-term consequences, which are highly likely to include the increasingly widespread application of the drone technology.
    It is highly likely that the daily targeting of terrorists by drones operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Department of Defense (DoD), the support of this form of warfare by the current US government, the impression of impunity conveyed by the relatively muted response of the international community, and advantages that drone attacks can have over alternative solutions from the users’ point of view will encourage countries, such as Israel, Iran, Algeria, China, Turkey, India, and non-state actors, such as the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, to increase the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for launching of targeted attacks against their perceived enemies.

    BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — A MQ-1B Predator from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom here, June 12. Since January 2008, more than 1,000 Predator sorties were flown out of Balad, lasting more than 20,000 hours. The MQ-1 Predator carries the Multi-spectral Targeting System with inherent AGM-114 Hellfire missile targeting capability and integrates electro-optical, infrared, laser designator and laser illuminator into a single sensor package. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
    Most recently this trend has been evidenced by the development of UAV capability by Iran which, according to BBC, presented its first drone bomber on 22 August 2010.
    From the beginning of the global war on terror, the US military and the CIA have used drones to target suspected terrorists. There are two separate drone programs: the military one which operates in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the CIA program that extends further, reaching countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In his special report, Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions mentioned that the “first credibly reported” assassination by a CIA drone took place on 3 November 2002. It targeted Qaed Senyan al-Harithi, an al-Qaeda operative allegedly involved in the planning of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
    The use of drones has increased under the administration of President Barack Obama. The use of drones by the CIA has become a hallmark of antiterrorist operations that have been conducted since the Agency has been led by its current director, Leon Panetta. As the New York Times reported, the drone campaign in Pakistan has further intensified since seven CIA agents died in the suicide attack in Afghanistan in December 2010. Since this incident, the number of attacks has increased from one per week to one per day.
    Philip Alston claims that currently “more than 40 countries” have access to drone technology. He adds that some countries, “including Israel, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, the United Kingdom and France either have or are seeking drones that also have the capability to shoot laser-guided missiles ranging in weight from 35 pounds to more than 100 pounds.” Also terrorist groups, such as the Lebanese organization Hezbollah, have obtained drones and may be able to use them not only to conduct surveillance but also to launch targeted attacks.
    Among state actors, the motivation for the increased interest in UAV targeting may vary from user to user. As Michael Boyle from the Scottish University of St. Andrews said, drones can be employed to attack “terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach.” As a result, the increased use of drones is highly likely among countries such as Israel, Algeria, China, Colombia, India or Turkey; that is, among those that struggle with terrorist units that sometimes operate in remote mountainous or desert areas.
    Moreover, as terrorist groups active in these countries often find “safe-heavens” in cross-border territories and neighboring states, the application of UAVs may be seen as a way to reach terrorists hiding abroad. Finally, despite potential moral, ethical, and legal concerns, targeted killing by drones still meets relatively little attention from media and almost no objection from the international community. This contributes to the impression of impunity, which is dangerous as it can be inviting. The apparent lack of serious consequences is evident when we consider experience not only of the US, but also of Israel.
    After the US and Russia, Israel is probably the best known from its use of drones for launching of targeted attacks. Israeli strikes take place mostly on Palestinian territories, primarily in the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, reports saying that Israeli drones spotted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, but that the idea of killing him was finally aborted, suggest that Israel may extend its drone campaign abroad. Israeli experience clearly shows that in comparison with alternative solutions, such as operations of civil or military forces, the use of drones seems to generate less controversy and it appears to be less risky, especially regarding the well-being of foreign relations.
    This is evidenced by the recent affair related to the alleged killing of a Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, which operated in Dubai. The consequences for Israel of the unprecedented investigation into this incident contrast with the relatively mild international response to information about flights of Israeli drones over Lebanon or targeted attacks by US UAVs in Pakistan.
    The killing in Dubai hotel resulted in the thorough investigation during which the local police used CCTV recordings to recreate almost every move of the alleged killers and their victim, from the moment they entered to the moment they left the country. The police described the modus operandi and released photos and personal information of suspected assassins. Authorities in Dubai identified 27 people involved in the strike and Interpol added 11 participants of the operation to its “most wanted” list. All this combined with the use by alleged assassins of fake British, Irish, French, Australian and German passports, a fact to which Great Britain, Australia and Ireland each reacted by expelling one of the local Israeli diplomats.
    As a result of the Dubai affair, regardless of whether Mossad was really involved in the assassination, the environment in which Israeli intelligence services operated has forever changed. While considering their next move, Israeli planners will need to account for the increased vigilance of local police, widespread use of CCTV technologies, attentiveness of the media, and watchfulness of ordinary citizens now alerted for the possibility of encounter with foreign civil special operation units. Needless to say, from the Israeli point of view, these new difficulties can represent another argument in favor of the increased application of drones.
    According to the Washington Times, which relied on information from the Israeli Air Force, the Heron TP drone introduced by Israel in February 2010 has the capability to attack targets in Iran. This Israeli announcement came as a response to the Iranian plans of launching of a UAV bomber that, as Fox News claimed, was intended to reach Israel. Hitherto, however, the Karrar bomber, first drone bomber presented by Iran, has a reach of 1000 km (620 miles) which is too little to attack Israeli targets. Nevertheless, it is sufficient to reach US targets in the Persian Gulf. Moreover, it is likely that this aircraft, called a “messenger of death” by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be a subject of further development, and its capabilities will be upgraded so that it could reach Israeli nuclear facilities and cities as remote as Tel Aviv.
    It appears that in case of a military confrontation between Iran and the US or Iran and Israel, drone technologies will be available to both sides of the conflict. When compared to the unilateral use of UAVs by the US in Pakistan or by Israel in the Gaza Strip, this will be a novel dynamic which surely merits further attention and analysis.
    What once seemed to be a science-fiction-kind of event slowly became a daily reality. Although more decisive criticism of drone attacks by the international community, official investigations into similar incidents, legal actions, or fierce diplomatic reactions by a country whose territory is affected without authorization are likely to slow down the spreading of this form of warfare, they are unlikely to utterly stop the proliferation. Considering advantages that, from the user’s point of view, can relate to the employment of drones, unless drone attacks will be banned by an international agreement, it is unlikely that their application by new actors and in new places will cease.
    In light of the above, the international community needs a UAV-related debate that would include informed analysis of present occurrences and likely future trends. Such a debate should address multifaceted character of the issue, including not only the consideration of moral and legal aspects, but also of the psychological impact that targeted killings have on drone operators (the possible development of “Playstation mentality” mentioned by Alston). It should engage authoritative policymakers, scholars, legal experts and other people with knowledge and understanding relevant to carry out an informed and beneficial discussion aimed at the introduction of international rules that would identify constraints, introduce a well-thought out supervision, and define sanctions helpful in dealing with uncontrolled proliferation of this new form of warfare.

    Aleksandra Bielska is a student of the Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. She works as a research assistant at the Mercyhurst College Institute of Intelligence Studies (MCIIS). In the past, she published her articles through the International Relations and Security Network (ISN). She was also a journalist of the Middle Eastern section of the Polish information website Portal Spraw Zagranicznych (PSZ).


  6. March 18, 2009

    Taliban vs. Predator

    Are Targeted Killings Inside Pakistan A Good Idea?

    Daniel Byman
    DANIEL BYMAN is Director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and the author of the forthcoming book, A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism.

    On March 1, 2009, an unmanned drone reportedly killed eight Taliban and Arab militants in the Sora Rogha area of tribal Pakistan. The strike, the fifth drone attack in Pakistan since late January, demonstrates that the Obama administration is not jettisoning the policies of the Bush administration regarding targeted killings; in fact, it appears to be ramping them up.

    Taliban and al Qaeda militants seek to kill Americans and American allies and are instituting a reign of terror in the parts of Pakistan they control, so few tears should be shed over their demise. However, as the administration moves forward, it should bear in mind lessons from the Israeli experience with similar targeted killing operations, which I discussed in an article [1] in Foreign Affairs in 2006. The Israeli example suggests that the current U.S. campaign of using Predator attacks to go after its enemies is fraught with risks and can neither defeat al Qaeda nor remove it from its stronghold within Pakistan. That said, continued U.S. strikes should help tamp down the threat al Qaeda poses — at least temporarily — making them Washington’s least bad policy choice for the moment.

    In its operations in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel found it hard to kill only terrorists. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, reports that of the 386 Palestinians who died as a result of targeted killing operations, from the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000 through the latest war in Gaza at the end of 2008, 40 percent were not the objects of attack — and some of the unintended victims were children. In spite of all precautions taken, therefore, continued Predator strikes will inevitably kill innocent civilians as well as the enemy.

    To have any chance of hitting their targets, meanwhile, Predator strikes require superb intelligence. Israel has a vast intelligence network, with thousands of informers in the Palestinian territories and a near-constant overhead presence of unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters. In Pakistan’s tribal areas, by contrast, good human intelligence is always in short supply, and constant surveillance is difficult due to the size of the area in question.

    The United States cannot always generate enough good intelligence to sustain Predator operations on its own, but, as The New York Times has reported, Pakistani intelligence has at times given Washington detailed information on the location of militant leaders. Such support is limited, however, because Islamabad is playing a precarious double game. U.S. strikes on Pakistani soil are deeply unpopular, so no political leader wants to line up publicly with Washington. In addition, the militants are tied to powerful Pakistani interest groups, and many in the security elite hope to continue exploiting Islamic militants to serve Pakistani interests in both Afghanistan and Kashmir. This often means that Pakistani officials condemn U.S. actions in public while assisting them in private — risking blows to their already weak standing when their hypocrisy is revealed (as it was last month, when Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-Calif.] disclosed that Predator strikes were being launched from bases in Pakistan).

    Still, despite the Predator campaign’s costs, it also has some benefits. Israel’s experience shows that a sustained campaign of targeted killings can disrupt a militant group tremendously, as slain leaders are replaced by less experienced and less skilled colleagues. This can lead the group to make operational and strategic mistakes, and over time, pose less of a danger. Moreover, constant killings can create command rivalries and confusion. Most important, the attacks force an enemy to concentrate on defense rather than offense. To avoid becoming targets, group leaders must minimize communications, avoid large groups, constantly change their locations, disperse their cells, and take other steps that make it far harder for them to do the sustained, systematic planning required to build large organizations and carry out sophisticated attacks.

    The advantages of targeted killings, however, ultimately reveal the limits of such an approach to counterterrorism. The Predator strikes may force al Qaeda to watch its step in Pakistan, but the terrorists can still carry out some operations. Moreover, their local jihadi partners (such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba) remain unaffected. So far, the strikes have been confined to tribal areas near the Afghan-Pakistani border, meaning that al Qaeda and the Taliban have been able to relocate parts of their apparatus further inside Pakistan, which may work to actually widen the zone of instability. Although Israel achieved some success through its campaign of targeted killings during the second intifada in the early years of this decade, it was able to fully shut down Palestinian terrorism only by reoccupying parts of the West Bank and building a massive security barrier between itself and much of the Palestinian territories — options that are not available to the United States in Pakistan.

    Finally, many of the benefits of targeted killings occur only if they are part of a sustained rapid-fire campaign. As Israel’s experience shows, sporadic one-off killings are usually a mistake. They may spark leadership rivalries — particularly in highly hierarchical groups — but they do not affect a group’s ability to replace lost leaders or force it to divert its resources to counterintelligence.

    What the Obama administration’s reliance on Predator strikes ultimately shows is just how flummoxed U.S. policymakers are when it comes to Pakistan. Stopping al Qaeda from using Pakistan as a base will depend on strengthening the government of Pakistan and stiffening its will to go after its own homegrown jihadis — a tall order indeed. The current political leadership is weak and not fully committed to democracy and true reform. Civilian control over the military is nonexistent, and, in addition to the jihadist problem, bitter ethnic, sectarian, and political divisions threaten Pakistan’s unity. As the Obama administration begins the slow process of addressing these issues, the sad truth is that relying on bolts from the blue to keep al Qaeda and the Taliban weak and off balance is a sensible course to follow.


  7. Do Targeted Killings Work?
    Drone strikes are far from perfect — but they’re also far better than nothing.

    BY DANIEL BYMAN | JULY 14, 2009
    Daniel Byman is director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is author of the forthcoming book, A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism.

    Killing terrorist leaders is difficult, is often ineffective, and can easily backfire. Yet it is one of the United States’ few options for managing the threat posed by al Qaeda from its base in tribal Pakistan. By some accounts, U.S. drone activity in Pakistan has killed dozens of lower-ranking and at least 10 mid- and high-ranking leaders from al Qaeda and the Taliban.

    Critics correctly find many problems with this program, most of all the number of civilian casualties the strikes have incurred. Sourcing on civilian deaths is weak and the numbers are often exaggerated, but more than 600 civilians are likely to have died from the attacks. That number suggests that for every militant killed, 10 or so civilians also died.

    To reduce casualties, superb intelligence is necessary. Operators must know not only where the terrorists are, but also who is with them and who might be within the blast radius. This level of surveillance may often be lacking, and terrorists’ deliberate use of children and other civilians as shields make civilian deaths even more likely.

    Beyond the humanitarian tragedy incurred, civilian deaths create dangerous political problems. Pakistan’s new democratic government is already unpopular for its corruption, favoritism, and poor governance. U.S. strikes that take a civilian toll are a further blow to its legitimacy — and to U.S. efforts to build goodwill there. As counterterrorism expert David Kilcullen put it, “When we intervene in people’s countries to chase small cells of bad guys, we end up alienating the whole country and turning them against us.”

    And even when they work, killings are a poor second to arrests. Dead men tell no tales and thus are no help in anticipating the next attack or informing us about broader terrorist activities. So in any country with a functioning government, it is better to work with that government to seize the terrorist than to kill him outright. Arresting al Qaeda personnel in remote parts of Pakistan, however, is almost impossible today; the Pakistani government does not control many of the areas where al Qaeda is based, and a raid to seize terrorists there would probably end in the militants escaping and U.S. and allied casualties in the attempt.

    When arrests are impossible, what results is a terrorist haven of the sort present along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border today. Free from the threat of apprehension, terrorists have a space in which to plot, organize, train, and relax — an extremely dangerous prospect. In such a haven, terrorist leaders can recruit hundreds or even thousands of potential fighters and, more importantly, organize them into a dangerous network. They can transform idealistic but incompetent volunteers into a lethal legion of fighters. They can also plan long-term global operations — terrorism “spectaculars” like the September 11 attacks, which remain one of al Qaeda’s goals.

    Killing terrorist operatives is one way to dismantle these havens. Plans are disrupted when individuals die or are wounded, as new people must be recruited and less experienced leaders take over day-to-day operations. Perhaps most importantly, organizations fearing a strike must devote increased attention to their own security because any time they communicate with other cells or issue propaganda, they may be exposing themselves to a targeted attack.

    Given the humanitarian and political risks, each strike needs to be carefully weighed, with the value of the target and the potential for innocent deaths factored into the equation. In addition, the broader political consequences must be evaluated; the same death toll can have vastly different political consequences depending on the context. But equally important is the risk of not striking — and inadvertently allowing al Qaeda leaders free reign to plot terrorist mayhem.

    We must not pretend the killings are anything but a flawed short-term expedient that at best reduces the al Qaeda threat — but by no means eliminates it. Even as U.S. strikes have increased, Pakistan has suffered staggering levels of terrorism as groups with few or limited links to al Qaeda have joined the fray. Al Qaeda itself can also still carry out attacks, including ones outside Pakistan in Europe and even the United States. Thanks to the drone strikes, they are just harder to pull off. The real answer to halting al Qaeda’s activity in Pakistan will be the long-term support of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency efforts. While this process unfolds, targeted killings are one of America’s few options left.


  8. Dead Terrorists Tell No Tales
    Is Barack Obama killing too many bad guys before the U.S. can interrogate them?

    Marc A. Thiessen is author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack.

    The CIA reportedly succeeded in killing the head of the Pakistani Taliban — the most recent in a flurry of drone attacks the agency has launched in South Asia and the Middle East. Another strike in Pakistan reportedly took out one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists; another in Pakistan took out a master bomb-maker for the al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf; and a strike in Yemen targeted a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group behind the Christmas Day attack (his fate has yet to be determined).

    President Barack Obama’s escalation of drone strikes is one area in the counterterrorism fight where he has earned plaudits from even his most vocal critics on the right. Hold the applause. Obama’s escalation of the “Predator War” comes at the very same time he has eliminated the CIA’s capability to capture senior terrorist leaders alive and interrogate them for information on new attacks. The Predator has become for President Obama what the cruise missile was to President Bill Clinton — an easy way to appear like he is taking tough action against terrorists, when he is really shying away from the hard decisions needed to protect the United States.

    To be sure, unmanned drones are critical in the struggle against al Qaeda. They allow the United States to reach terrorists hiding in remote regions where it would be difficult for special operations forces to reach them, or to act on perishable intelligence when the only choice is to kill a terrorist or lose him. Constantly hovering Predator (or Reaper) drones also have a psychological effect on the enemy, forcing al Qaeda leaders to live in fear and spend time focusing on self-preservation that would otherwise be used planning the next attack. All this is for the good.

    The problem is that Obama is increasingly using drone strikes as a substitute for operations to bring terrorist leaders in alive for questioning — and that is putting the country at risk. As one high-ranking CIA official explained to me, in an interview for my book Courting Disaster, “In the wake of 9/11, [the CIA] put forward a program that had a lethal component to strike back at the people who did this. But the other component was to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again. And for that, killing people — especially killing senior al Qaeda leaders — is potentially counterproductive in that we can’t know or learn of future attacks. You can’t kill them all, and you don’t want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew.”

    In the years after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA worked with Pakistani and other intelligence services to hunt down senior terrorist leaders and take them in for interrogation. Among those captured were men like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Riduan Isamuddin (aka “Hambali”), Bashir bin Lap, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and others. In all, about 100 terrorists were detained and questioned by the CIA. And the information they provided helped break up terrorist cells that were planning to blow up the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti; explode seven airplanes flying across the Atlantic from London to cities in North America; and fly hijacked airplanes into Heathrow Airport, London’s financial district, and the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

    Today, the Obama administration is no longer attempting to capture men like these alive; it is simply killing them. This may be satisfying, but it comes at a price. With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can’t tell you their plans to strike America.

    The recent strike on Qasim al-Raymi, a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a case in point. After having been caught blind by this terrorist network’s near success in blowing up an airplane over Detroit, why not try to capture and interrogate its senior leaders alive instead of killing them? Wouldn’t it make sense to get these men to reveal whom they have trained, where they have been deployed, and what their plans are for the next attack? But the Obama administration is not even trying to do this.

    Obama’s drone campaign is costing the United States vital intelligence, and it has also exposed him to the charge of hypocrisy. The president has claimed the moral high ground in eliminating the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, saying that he rejects the “the false choice between our security and our ideals.” Yet when Obama orders a Predator or Reaper strike, he is often signing the death warrant for the women and children who will be killed alongside the target — individuals whose only sin is that they are married to, or the children of, a terrorist. Is this not a choice between security and ideals? And why is it a morally superior choice? Is it really more in keeping with American ideals to kill a terrorist and the innocent people around him, when the United States might instead spare the innocent, capture the same terrorist alive, and get intelligence from him that could potentially save many other innocent lives as well?

    It is true that Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush also reportedly increased the use of drone strikes against senior terrorist leaders toward the end of his term. But the Bush administration also maintained and exercised the CIA’s capability to capture and interrogate such leaders. Obama has now dramatically escalated drone strikes while eliminating what is arguably the most important and successful intelligence programs in the war on terror. This is not a sign of Obama’s seriousness. To the contrary, he is using drones as cover for his dangerous decision to eliminate the CIA’s capability to take terrorist leaders in alive and question them effectively for actionable intelligence. That is nothing to praise.

    When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was located in 2003, the United States did not send a Predator to kill him. It captured him alive and got him to give up the details of the plots he had set in motion. That decision saved thousands of lives. The fact that Obama’s administration no longer does this when it locates senior terrorist leaders today means the president is voluntarily sacrificing intelligence that could protect the American people — and that the U.S. homeland is at greater risk of a terrorist attack.


  9. Don’t Fear the Reaper
    Four misconceptions about how we think about drones.

    Charli Carpenter is associate professor of international relations at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and blogs about human security at the Duck of Minerva. Lina Shaikhouni is completing a degree in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with an emphasis on human rights and humanitarian law.

    Killer robots. Video-game warfare. Unlawful weapons. Terminators. Drone-attack commentary has become synonymous with reports of civilian carnage, claims of international-law violations, and worries about whether high-tech robotic wars have become too easy and fun to be effectively prevented. But the debate over drones is misleading the public about the nature of the weaponry and the law. It is also distracting attention from some more important and bigger issues: whether truly autonomous weapons should be permitted in combat, how to track the human cost of different weapons platforms and promote humanitarian standards in war, and whether targeted killings — by drones or SEAL teams — are lawful means to combat global terrorism. Based on our analysis of recent op-eds, we unpack four sets of misconceptions below and offer some sensible ways for the anti-drone lobby to reframe the debate.

    Misconception No. 1: Drones Are “Killer Robots.” This is actually two assumptions; neither is precisely wrong, but both are misleading. First, drones themselves are not necessarily “killers”: They are used for many nonlethal purposes as well. Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) can carry anything ranging from cameras to sensors to weapons and have been deployed for nonlethal purposes such as intelligence gathering and surveillance since the 1950s. Yet the nonlethal applications of drones are often lost in a discussion that treats the technology per se as deadly; 90 percent of the op-eds we analyzed focus solely on drones as killing machines.

    Of course, it’s true that drones can be used to kill. Some drones over Libya are now armed, and armed drones have been launching strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen for years. Second, even weaponized drones are not “killer robots,” despite the frequent reference in the op-eds we studied to “robotic weapons” or “robotic warfare.” Their flight and surveillance systems are able to extract information from their environment and use it to move safely in a purposive manner, but the weapons themselves are controlled by a human operator and are not autonomous. With a human-in-the-loop navigating the aircraft and controlling the weapon, the “killer” aspect of these specific drones may be remote-controlled, but it’s not robotic.

    This important distinction is easily lost on a concerned public, but the distinction matters. Indeed, the debate over “killer robot drones” that actually aren’t autonomous is preventing public attention from being directed to a more ground-breaking development in military technology: preparations to delegate targeting decisions to truly autonomous weapons platforms, many of which are not drones at all. As Brookings Institution scholar Peter W. Singer has argued, a shift toward fully autonomous weapons systems would represent a sea change in the very nature of war. Groups like the International Committee for Robot Arms Control have called for a multilateral discussion to stem or at least regulate these developments. Those worried about drones might usefully refocus their attention to on the debate over whether to keep humans in the loop for unmanned aerial vehicles and other weapons platforms globally. The big issue here is not drones per se. It is the extent to which life-and-death targeting decisions should ever be outsourced to machines.

    Misconception No. 2: Drones Make War Easy and Game-Like, and Therefore Likelier. Remote-controlled violence even with a human in the loop also has people concerned: Nearly 40 percent of the op-eds we studied say that remote-control killing makes war too much like a video game. Many argue this increases the likelihood of armed conflict.

    It’s a variation on an old argument: Other revolutions in military technology — the longbow, gunpowder, the airplane — have also progressively removed the weapons-bearer from hand-to-hand combat with his foe. Many of these advances, too, were initially criticized for degrading the professional art of war or taking it away from military elites. For example, European aristocrats originally considered the longbow and firearms unchivalrous for a combination of these reasons.

    It’s true that all killing requires emotional distancing, and militaries throughout time have worked hard to devise ways to ease the psychological impact on soldiers of killing for the state in the national interest. Yet it’s not so clear whether the so-called Nintendo effect of drones increases social distance or makes killing easier. Some anecdotal evidence suggests the opposite: Drone pilots say they suffer mental stress precisely because they have detailed, real-time images of their targets, and because they go home to their families afterward rather than debriefing with their units in the field. Studies haven’t yet confirmed which view is accurate or whether it’s somehow both.

    Even if some variant of the Nintendo effect turns out to be real, there is little evidence that distancing soldiers from the battlefield or the act of killing makes war itself more likely rather than less. If that were true, the world would be awash in conflict. As former Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has documented, at no time in history has the combination of technology and military training strategies made killing so easy — a trend that began after World War I. Yet as political scientist Joshua Goldstein demonstrates in a forthcoming book, the incidence of international war — wars between two or more states — has been declining for 70 years.

    The political debate over drones should move away from the fear that military advancements mean war is inevitable and instead focus on whether certain weapons and platforms are more or less useful for preventing conflict at a greater or lesser cost to innocent civilian lives. Activists should keep pressure on elected officials, military personnel, and other public institutions to make armed conflict, where it occurs, as bloodless as possible. For example, some human rights groups say the Nintendo effect itself could be harnessed to serve humanitarian outcomes — by embedding war law programming into game designs.

    So the wider issue here, too, is not drones. It is about ensuring that a humanitarian code of conduct in war is protected and strengthened.

    Misconception No. 3: Drone Strikes Kill Too Many Civilians. It’s hard to argue with this value judgment — in some ways, even one dead civilian is indeed “too many.” But it’s hard to single out drones when we know so little about whether they kill more or fewer civilians than manned aerial bombing or ground troops would in the same engagements — which also, in some cases, save lives. So a better question than “how many” is: relative to what, and who’s counting, how?

    Civilians do die in drone attacks, as they do in other types of combat. But accurate reports on drone-strike casualties — and casualties from other types of attack — are very hard to find because no official body is tasked with keeping track. This should change: All collateral damage, not just that caused by drones, needs to be counted and atoned for, and minimized by the governments that inflict it.

    To demonstrate this wider problem, consider efforts to tally drone deaths. These statistics vary wildly among different sources depending on how sources define who is a militant and who is a civilian. Pakistan Body Count, which keeps a dataset based on news reports, defines all drone deaths as civilians unless the report clearly specifies which terrorist organization the dead belonged to. According to its founder, Pakistani computer scientist Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, the resulting numbers suggest civilians account for 88 percent of all drone-strike deaths in Pakistan since 2004.

    But the New America Foundation’s similar dataset, complied by analysts Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, shows drastically different results. They too rely on news reports, but they estimate the civilian fatality rate to be only 20 percent on average since 2004. Moreover, they show this percentage is shrinking over time. Unlike Pakistan Body Count, Bergen and Tiedemann code any individuals whose status is unknown as “militants” rather than civilians. A report from the Jamestown Foundation comes up with an even lower number by excluding all men and teenage boys from the “civilian” category — a problematic maneuver from a war law perspective. It’s not hard to see why the totals end up being different.

    An even bigger problem with all these estimates, however, is that they do not measure actual deaths but rather “reported deaths,” relying on news reports. Not all journalists, however, are trained to accurately distinguish civilians deaths from combatants. Reports often conflate militants with “suspected militants” and pool them in the same category, an assumption that discounts civilian casualties. Numbers in media reports are also sometimes vague, leaving it to the discretion of the number crunchers how to interpret them. (Pakistan Body Count translates the term “many civilians” into eight and “several civilians” into four.) Moreover, many of these reports draw on statements by the governments that are doing (or facilitating) the bombing — governments that have an incentive to minimize civilian casualty counts.

    Ultimately, the problem here is bigger than drones. It is the absence of a global regime for systematically estimating how many civilians suffer deaths and injuries due to incidental harm from military operations in general. Knowing whether drones constitute the best tool for conducting certain operations requires more than counting drone-strike casualties. The question is not how much collateral damage drones cause, but whether that damage is greater or less than that from aerial attacks by manned aircraft or from ground troops.

    Such data is necessary to make the case that drones either are or aren’t a suitably discriminate weapon. The world needs a standardized reporting system for tracking civilian and combatant deaths globally in order to really understand the effects of different weapons technologies on civilians. Only then can we have an informed debate about how to minimize war’s impact on civilians — while enabling governments to use force when necessary and legitimate. Until then, we’re really just guessing.

    Misconception No. 4: Drones Violate the International Law of Armed Conflict. No, they don’t — at least, no more so than any other weapons platform when it is used improperly or in the wrong context.

    The Hague and Geneva conventions actually place very few restrictions on specific weapons. Nothing in the laws of war, for example, requires that weapons make killing difficult or that they level the playing field. Value judgments aside, the treaties allow for a significant amount of injury and harm both to combatants and civilians. They ask only that harm to combatants be as humane as possible and that harm to noncombatants be minimized.

    Weapons have been banned outright when by design they fail on one of these criteria. Chemical weapons and certain types of land mines and cluster munitions are considered to be inherently indiscriminate because they can’t be controlled once deployed. Blinding lasers were banned not because they are indiscriminate (quite the opposite) but because international society judged that permanently blinding a soldier or airman constituted superfluous suffering beyond that required by military necessity.

    Weaponized drones are not themselves weapons, but rather are platforms for launching air-to-ground kinetic weapons that kill through blasts and explosions. They differ from other types of bombing platforms only in that they are remotely controlled. Although some have argued that explosive weapons used in civilian population areas do not meet the proportionality test — meaning the benefits of their use don’t outweigh the humanitarian damage they cause — bombing is currently an accepted practice in international society. It is hard to argue that remotely controlled drone-fired missiles are any more unnecessarily injurious than bombs launched from the air by human pilots.

    Military operations inside Pakistan do pose international legal problems, but it’s not because of the drones. It’s because the United States is technically not at war with Pakistan and because U.S. drone operations in Pakistan are being conducted by the CIA rather than the armed forces. The former violates the U.N. Charter; the latter arguably violates the rules on lawful combat in the Geneva Conventions. These dynamics create legal problems for U.S. military operations in Pakistan whether they are carried out by drones or by SEAL teams on the ground, as in the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. A drone, in short, can be one means by which international law is violated, but it itself is not the source of the violation.

    The legal debate over drones needs to refocus on what drones are being used for, not on the nature or effects of the weapons themselves. The real issue is not drones, but the summary execution of suspected criminals without evidence or trial, in complete secrecy, at perhaps an unacceptable cost to innocent lives. Whether this is happening with or without the consent of the Pakistani or Yemeni government is irrelevant. Whether it is being conducted by the CIA or by the U.S. military is irrelevant. Whether it is occurring with remotely piloted drones, manned aircraft, special operations forces, or death squads is irrelevant. What matters is whether extrajudicial execution is or is not the best way to protect citizens against terrorist attacks.

    Those who oppose the way drones are used should shift focus to one of the big normative problems touched by the drone issue: the military robotics revolution, collateral-damage control, and the return of extrajudicial execution. Focusing on the drones themselves misses this bigger picture.


  10. US ‘extends drone strikes to Somalia’
    First such attack reported in east African nation reportedly wounds two leaders of anti-government group al-Shabab.
    Last Modified: 30 Jun 2011 20:06 – Al Jazeera

    A US drone aircraft is reported to have fired upon two senior members of al-Shabab, the Islamist anti-government armed group, in Somalia last week, marking the first time a US unmanned plane has been used for such an attack inside the country.

    The strike, said to have been carried out on June 23, is believed to have targeted a convoy of fighters belonging to al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s weak Transitional National Government and impose Islamic law.

    The attack was not immediately identified as a drone strike, but a senior US military official familiar with the operation told the Washington Post newspaper on Thursday that it had come from such an aircraft.

    The strike would make Somalia the sixth country where the US has reportedly used drones to conduct air strikes.

    They have also been used in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and most extensively in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The strike hit the convoy as it drove along the cost in Kismayo, a southern port town, the AP news agency reported. Two fighters were wounded.

    Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, the deputy defence minister, declined to identify who the fighters were or who carried out the attack, except to say it had been done by a “partner country”.

    In 2009, a raid involving US special operations troops succeeded in killing Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan national wanted for a 2002 truck bombing at a tourist hotel in Mombasa.

    Al-Shabab, which is believed to maintain links with al-Qaeda franchises, is growing stronger as it consolidates its hold on the majority of Somali territory, including more than half of the capital, Mogadishu.

    “They have become somewhat emboldened of late, and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities,” the US official told the Post. “They were planning operations outside of Somalia.”

    The Somali Transitional National Government, led by President Sharif Ahmed, relies on international funding and military support from the African Union to maintain its tenuous hold on power.


  11. Bin Laden document trove reveals strain on al-Qaeda

    By Greg Miller, Saturday, July 2, 7:49 AM

    Toward the end of his decade in hiding, Osama bin Laden was spending as much time exchanging messages about al-Qaeda’s struggles as he was plotting ways for the terrorist network to reassert its strength.

    Over the past year, the al-Qaeda leader fielded e-mails from followers lamenting the toll being taken by CIA drone “explosions” as well as the network’s financial plight, according to U.S. officials who have completed an exhaustive review of the trove of bin Laden files collected at his compound after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed him.

    Bin Laden approved the creation of a counterintelligence unit to root out traitors and spies, only to receive a complaint in mid-2010 from the unit’s leader that it was losing the “espionage war” and couldn’t function on its paltry budget.

    Just months before the Arab Spring took hold, bin Laden warned affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere that it was too soon to create an Islamic state. The Saudi native, whose family had made its fortune in construction, concluded that there wasn’t “enough steel” in al-Qaeda’s regional support structures to warrant even tentative steps toward reestablishing the caliphate.

    Such sober assessments and references to setbacks are among the fine-grained details that U.S. intelligence analysts have gleaned to assemble a new and more nuanced portrait of al-Qaeda and its founder in the aftermath of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

    Analysts at the CIA and other agencies are likely to continue poring over the bin Laden files for years. But the multi-agency task force that was set up to review what officials have described as the largest cache of terrorism records recovered to date finished its job and was disbanded last month.

    “We believe the materials will continue to yield new insights on al-Qaeda for years to come,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the task force’s work. “But the task force is done.”

    The group produced more than 400 intelligence reports in a span of six weeks and prompted public warnings of al-Qaeda plots against trains and other targets. U.S. officials said the findings also triggered a small number of operations overseas, including arrests of suspects who are named or described in e-mails that bin Laden received.

    But officials said that the main value of the data is in enabling analysts to construct a more comprehensive portrait of al-Qaeda and that many of the most recent files found on bin Laden’s computers depict an organization beset by mounting problems even as its leader remained singularly focused on delivering a follow-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes.

    “The trove makes it clear that bin Laden’s primary goal — you can call it an obsession — was to attack the U.S. homeland,” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official. “He pushed for this every way he could.”

    The official was one of several who agreed to discuss the conclusions of the bin Laden task force — and provide new details on specific messages sent and received by the al-Qaeda leader — on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

    One of bin Laden’s principal correspondents was Atiyah abd al-Rahman, who served as No. 3 in al-Qaeda before bin Laden’s death. A 2010 message from Rahman expressed frustration with the CIA drone campaign, a source of particular concern because many of his predecessors in the third-ranking slot had been killed in strikes by the unmanned aircraft.

    “He was saying in the letter that their guys were getting killed faster than they could be replaced,” the U.S. counterterrorism official said.

    Other messages sounded a similar theme. At least two came from the head of al-Qaeda’s security unit, a group that had been established to protect against penetrations by informants who might provide targeting tips to the CIA. The group is thought to be behind executions of dozens of suspected informants. In some cases, corpses were found with notes attached declaring that the deceased was an American spy.

    The unit leader complains “about having a very low budget, a few thousand dollars,” the official said. The letter refers to “ideas” about how to better guard against informants and electronic eavesdropping. But the most obvious solutions, including restricting meetings and movements, would also hamper al-Qaeda’s ability to function.

    Other messages make frequent mention of the organization’s financial hardships, including e-mails in which bin Laden himself complains about the lack of funds. One bin Laden message sent in spring 2010 “instructed a deputy to form a group that would get money through kidnapping and ransom of diplomats,” the U.S. official said.

    The message was sent to Rahman.

    “The term ‘financial hardship’ was used” in the message, the U.S. official said. But there are no files that provide specific figures or a comprehensive picture of al-Qaeda’s financial position. “There’s not a bank sheet for al-Qaeda,” the official said. “There is some insight into time periods when money was coming in and when it wasn’t and what they were trying to do to get more.”

    Kidnappings had been embraced by other militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban, which abducted the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan as well as a New York Times reporter in 2008.

    Several messages contain mentions of militants seen as suitable candidates for al-Qaeda operations, information that has led to an undisclosed number of arrests by other governments overseas, the officials said.

    The exchanges read like status updates between a headquarters and a satellite branch, officials said, with bin Laden pressing far-flung followers for more information on their plans, then waiting, sometimes for weeks, for replies.

    The cache contains correspondence between bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who recently succeeded bin Laden as al-Qaeda’s leader. The two express frustration that the conflict between al-Qaeda and the United States is not more widely perceived among Muslims as the front of a religious war. They also voice concern about how insurgent killings of civilians in Iraq and elsewhere could undermine al-Qaeda’s standing among Muslims.

    U.S. officials said nothing in the messages indicates that either knew where the other was hiding.

    Bin Laden repeatedly prods al-Qaeda’s affiliates to put off their regional ambitions to remain focused on attacking the United States. A 2010 message sent to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said that Yemen “was ripe for establishing an Islamic state but that it wasn’t the right time,” a U.S. official said.

    AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, had already launched high-profile but unsuccessful attacks against U.S. targets, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

    The group expressed interest in moving faster to establish local institutions that would enforce sharia law. But bin Laden cautioned against such efforts, saying they didn’t have adequate support, and said the group needed to stay focused on attacking the United States.

    Bin Laden’s messages were mostly composed on computers, then smuggled out on small disks or thumb drives by couriers, who would then copy the contents into e-mails that could be sent securely to followers — whether they were mere miles from bin Laden’s compound or overseas.

    The analytic task force was based at a CIA facility in Northern Virginia. Officials declined to disclose the current location of the more than 15 computers and 100 storage devices recovered from the bin Laden compound, except to say that they are in FBI custody.

    Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
    Washington Post


  12. New plan to defeat al-Qaida: ‘Surgical’ strikes, not costly wars
    White House doctrine says land invasions feed narrative that US wants to occupy the Muslim world

    msnbc.com staff and news service reports
    updated 6/30/2011 6:06:30 AM ET

    White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan predicted that strikes targeting al-Qaida would eventually leave the network unable to “replenish their ranks with the skilled leaders that they need to sustain their operations.”

    WASHINGTON — The United States will push ahead with more targeted drone strikes and special operations raids and fewer costly land battles like Iraq and Afghanistan in the continuing war against al-Qaida, according to a new national counterterrorism strategy unveiled Wednesday.
    Two years in the making, the doctrine comes in the wake of the successful special operations raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in May, and a week after President Barack Obama’s announcement that U.S. troops will begin leaving Afghanistan this summer.
    The document is a purposeful departure from the Bush administration’s global war on terror. The worldwide hunt for terrorists that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks focused first on Afghanistan, and small numbers of al-Qaida are still active there.
    White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the reworked doctrine acknowledges the growing threat of terrorism at home, including al-Qaida attempts to recruit and attack inside the United States.
    ‘Hit al-Qaida hard’
    Brennan told a Washington audience Wednesday that more resources would be spent on the fight at home to spot would-be militants and their recruiters, and the U.S. would resist al-Qaida’s attempts to bleed it economically by drawing it into costly invasions overseas.
    “Our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad, but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us,” Brennan said at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
    “If we hit al-Qaida hard enough and often enough, there will come a time when they simply can no longer replenish their ranks with the skilled leaders that they need to sustain their operations,” Brennan said, according to The New York Times.
    His speech echoed arguments outlined in a document released by the White House Wednesday entitled “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” the Times reported.
    Brennan said the strategy relies on “surgical” action against specific groups to decapitate their leadership and deny them havens, and rejects costly wars like Iraq and Afghanistan that feed al-Qaida’s narrative that America is out to occupy the Muslim world.
    He said the U.S. would work whenever possible to help host countries fight al-Qaida so the U.S. didn’t have to, just as it was trying to hand over responsibility to the Afghans.
    The operations Brennan describes are almost solely the province of the intelligence and military special operations agencies, especially the CIA and elite forces of the Joint Special Operations Command that worked together to carry out the bin Laden raid, but also including the special operations trainers that work with host nations’ militaries.
    Brennan, who is a former CIA officer, did not make specific mention of the covert armed drone program that targets militants in Pakistan and, on rare occasions, in countries like Yemen.
    But he referred to the administration’s work to rush what he called “unique capabilities” to the field, an oblique reference to classified programs like the stepped-up construction of a CIA drone-launching base in the Persian Gulf region to use the unmanned aircraft to hunt militants in Yemen.
    Bush White House veteran Juan Zarate questioned the wisdom of singling out al-Qaida as the main American enemy, “inadvertently aggrandizing them when they are in decline, by making them the focus of the strategy.”
    He also questioned the decision to “focus very mechanically on al-Qaida,” with less emphasis on the violent Islamist ideology that drives the group.
    “You might miss a movement that is developing or … evolving into a global platform” like al-Qaida, said Zarate, former White House deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.
    Zarate also said that although the Obama administration may be dropping the world “global” from the war on terror, it still seems to be targeting terror cells on almost every continent.
    Retired Brig. Gen. Russ Howard, who was credited with helping inspire the Bush administration’s pre-emptive strike doctrine, said the message the strategy sends to allies is that the U.S. does not want to be involved if the going gets too expensive, as in Iraq or Afghanistan.
    “Nations will question whether U.S. will be a reliable ally because we’ve just said we won’t get involved with anything new, and we won’t stay” where we already are, said Howard, founding director of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.
    In another apparent swipe at the Bush administration, Brennan said the White House was using every “lawful tool and authority available” in the fight against terrorists, describing Obama’s rejection of the Bush administration’s interrogation of terror suspects by methods such as waterboarding.
    “The United States of America does not torture,” Brennan said, “and it’s why he (Obama) banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which did not work.”
    Brennan repeated the administration’s mantra that it wants to “safely” close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after either prosecuting terror suspects in the U.S. or by military commissions, or by releasing them to their home nations.


  13. Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities

    By William Wan and Peter Finn, Published: July 5, Washington Post

    At the most recent Zhuhai air show, the premier event for China’s aviation industry, crowds swarmed around a model of an armed, jet-propelled drone and marveled at the accompanying display of its purported martial prowess.

    In a video and map, the thin, sleek drone locates what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group near an island with a striking resemblance to Taiwan and sends targeting information back to shore, triggering a devastating barrage of cruise missiles toward the formation of ships.

    Little is known about the actual abilities of the WJ-600 drone or the more than two dozen other Chinese models that were on display at Zhuhai in November. But the speed at which they have been developed highlights how U.S. military successes with drones have changed strategic thinking worldwide and spurred a global rush for unmanned aircraft.

    More than 50 countries have purchased surveillance drones, and many have started in-country development programs for armed versions because no nation is exporting weaponized drones beyond a handful of sales between the United States and its closest allies.

    “This is the direction all aviation is going,” said Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University who studies the legal questions surrounding the use of drones in warfare. “Everybody will wind up using this technology because it’s going to become the standard for many, many applications of what are now manned aircraft.”

    Military planners worldwide see drones as relatively cheap weapons and highly effective reconnaissance tools. Hand-launched ones used by ground troops can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Near the top of the line, the Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, costs about $10.5 million. By comparison, a single F-22 fighter jet costs about $150 million.

    Defense spending on drones has become the most dynamic sector of the world’s aerospace industry, according to a report by the Teal Group in Fairfax. The group’s 2011 market study estimated that in the coming decade global spending on drones will double, reaching $94 billion.

    But the world’s expanding drone fleets — and the push to weaponize them — have alarmed some academics and peace activists, who argue that robotic warfare raises profound questions about the rules of engagement and the protection of civilians, and could encourage conflicts.

    “They could reduce the threshold for going to war,” said Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield in England. “One of the great inhibitors of war is the body bag count, but that is undermined by the idea of riskless war.”

    China on fast track

    No country has ramped up its research in recent years faster than China. It displayed a drone model for the first time at the Zhuhai air show five years ago, but now every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to drones, according to Chinese analysts.

    Much of this work remains secret, but the large number of drones at recent exhibitions underlines not only China’s determination to catch up in that sector — by building equivalents to the leading U.S. combat and surveillance models, the Predator and the Global Hawk — but also its desire to sell this technology abroad.

    “The United States doesn’t export many attack drones, so we’re taking advantage of that hole in the market,” said Zhang Qiaoliang, a representative of the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, which manufactures many of the most advanced military aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army. “The main reason is the amazing demand in the market for drones after 9/11.”

    Although surveillance drones have become widely used around the world, armed drones are more difficult to acquire.

    Israel, the second-largest drone manufacturer after the United States, has flown armed models, but few details are available. India announced this year that it is developing ones that will fire missiles and fly at 30,000 feet. Russia has shown models of drones with weapons, but there is little evidence that they are operational.

    Pakistan has said it plans to obtain armed drones from China, which has already sold the nation ones for surveillance. And Iran last summer unveiled a drone that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the “ambassador of death” but whose effectiveness is still unproven, according to military analysts.

    The United States is not yet threatened by any of these developments. No other country can match its array of aircraft with advanced weapons and sensors, coupled with the necessary satellite and telecommunications systems to deploy drones successfully across the globe.

    “We are well ahead in having established systems actively in use,” said retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the former deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at the Air Force. “But the capability of other countries will do nothing but grow.”

    Raising alarm

    In recent conflicts, the United States has primarily used land-based drones, but it is developing an aircraft carrier-based version to deploy in the Pacific. Defense analysts say the new drone is partly intended to counter the long-range “carrier killer” missile that China is developing.

    With the ascendance of China’s military, American allies in the Pacific increasingly see the United States as the main bulwark against rising Chinese power. And China has increasingly framed its military developments in response to U.S. capabilities.

    A sea-based drone would give the United States the ability to fly three times the distance of a normal Navy fighter jet, potentially keeping a carrier group farther from China’s coast.

    This possible use of U.S. drones in the Pacific has been noted with alarm in news reports in China as well as in North Korea’s state-run media.

    There are similar anxieties in the United States over China’s accelerating drone industry. A report last November by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted that the Chinese military “has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat.”

    In the pipeline, the report said, China has several medium- and high-altitude long-endurance drones, which could expand China’s options for long-range surveillance and attacks.

    China’s rapid development has pushed its neighbors into action. After a diplomatic clash with China last fall over disputed territories in the South China Sea, Japan announced that it planned to send military officials to the United States to study how it operates and maintains its Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drones. In South Korea, lawmakers this year accused China of hacking into military computers to learn about the country’s plans to acquire Global Hawk, which could peer into not only North Korea but also parts of China and other neighboring countries.

    On top of the increasing anxieties of individual countries, there also are international concerns that some governments might not be able to protect these new weapons from hackers and terrorists. Sharkey, the University of Sheffield professor who also co-founded the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, noted that Iraqi insurgents, using a $30 piece of software, intercepted live feeds from U.S. drones; the video was later found on the laptop of a captured militant.

    Relaxing U.S. export controls

    But with China and other countries beginning to market their drones, the United States is looking to boost its sales by exploring ways to relax American export controls.

    Vice Adm. William E. Landay III, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency overseeing foreign military sales, said at a Pentagon briefing recently that his agency is working on preapproved lists of countries that would qualify to purchase drones with certain capabilities. “If industry understands where they might have an opportunity to sell, and where they won’t, that’s useful for them,” Landay said.

    General Atomics, the San Diego-based manufacturer of the U.S. Predator drones, has received approval to export to the Middle East and Latin America an unarmed, early-generation Predator, according to company spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz. The company is now in talks with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, among others, she said.

    At the same time, U.S. officials have sought to limit where others sell their drones. After Israel sold an anti-radar attack drone to China, the Pentagon temporarily shut Israel out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to register its disapproval.

    In 2009, the United States also objected to an Israeli sale of sophisticated drones to Russia, according to diplomatic cables released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. A smaller co-production deal was later brokered with the Russians, who bristled when Georgia deployed Israeli surveillance drones against its forces during the 2008 war between the two countries.

    But for China, there are few constraints on selling. It has begun to show its combat drone prototypes at international air shows, including last month in Paris, where a Chinese manufacturer displayed a craft, called the Wing-Loong, that looked like a Predator knockoff. Because of how tightly China controls its military technology, it is unclear how far along the Wing-Loong or any of its armed drones are from actual production and operation, defense analysts say.

    According to the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, it has begun offering international customers a combat and surveillance drone comparable to the Predator called the Yilong, or “pterodactyl” in English. Zhang, of the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, said the company anticipates sales in Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa.

    However, he and others displaying drones at a recent Beijing anti-terrorism convention played down the threat of increasing Chinese drone technology.

    “I don’t think China’s drone technology has reached the world’s first-class level,” said Wu Zilei, from the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., echoing an almost constant refrain. “The reconnaissance drones are okay, but the attack drones are still years behind the United States.”

    But Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, said such statements are routine and intended to deflect concern about the nation’s expanding military ambitions.

    “The Chinese are catching up quickly. This is something we know for sure,” Fisher said. “We should not take comfort in some perceived lags in sensors or satellites capabilities. Those are just a matter of time.”


  14. Increased U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killing few high-value militants

    By Greg Miller
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, February 21, 2011; A01

    CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two.

    Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased.

    Even more generous counts – which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 “high-value targets” – suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.

    After a year in which the CIA carried out a record 118 drone strikes, costing more than $1 million apiece, the results have raised questions about the purpose and parameters of the campaign.

    Senior Pakistani officials recently asked the Obama administration to put new restraints on a targeted-killing program that the government in Islamabad has secretly authorized for years.

    The CIA is increasingly killing “mere foot soldiers,” a senior Pakistani official said, adding that the issue has come up in discussions in Washington involving President Asif Ali Zardari. The official said Pakistan has pressed the Americans “to find better targets, do it more sparingly and be a little less gung-ho.”

    Experts who track the strikes closely said a program that began with intermittent lethal attacks on al-Qaeda leaders has evolved into a campaign that seems primarily focused on lower-level fighters. Peter Bergen, a director at the New America Foundation, said data on the strikes indicate that 94 percent of those killed are lower-level militants.

    “I think it’s hard to make the case that the 94 percent cohort threaten the United States in some way,” Bergen said. “There’s been very little focus on that question from a human rights perspective. Targeted killings are about leaders – it shouldn’t be a blanket dispensation.”

    Even former CIA officials who describe the drone program as essential said they have noted how infrequently they recognized the names of those killed during the barrage of strikes in the past year.

    The CIA declined to comment on a program that the agency refuses to acknowledge publicly. But U.S. officials familiar with drone operations said the strikes are hitting important al-Qaeda operatives and are critical to keeping the United States safe.

    “This effort has evolved because our intelligence has improved greatly over the years, and we’re able to identify not just senior terrorists, but also al-Qaeda foot soldiers who are planning attacks on our homeland and our troops in Afghanistan,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

    “We would be remiss if we didn’t go after people who have American blood on their hands,” the official said. “To use a military analogy, if you’re only going after the generals, you’re likely to be run over by tanks.”

    The data about the drone strikes provide a blurry picture at best, because of the reliance on Pakistani media reports and anonymous accounts from U.S. government sources. There are also varying terms used to describe high-value targets, with no precise definitions.

    Even so, the data suggest that the ratio of senior terrorism suspects being killed is declining at a substantial rate. The New America Foundation recently concluded that 12 “militant leaders” were killed by drone strikes in 2010, compared with 10 in 2008. The number of strikes soared over that period, from 33 to 118.

    The National Counterterrorism Center, which tracks terrorist leaders who are captured or killed, counts two suspects on U.S. most-wanted lists who died in drone strikes last year. They are Sheik Saeed al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s No. 3, and Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali, who was indicted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa before serving as al-Qaeda’s chief of paramilitary operations in Afghanistan.

    According to the NCTC, two senior operatives also were killed in drone strikes in each of the preceding years.

    When the Predator was first armed, it was seen as a weapon uniquely suited to hunt the highest of high-value targets, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. For years, the program was relatively small in scale, with intermittent strikes.

    U.S. officials cite multiple reasons for the change in scope, including a proliferation in the number of drones and CIA informants providing intelligence on potential targets. The unmanned aircraft have not gotten the agency any closer to bin Laden but are regarded as the most important tool for keeping pressure on al-Qaeda’s middle and upper ranks.

    Officials cite other factors as well, including a shift in CIA targeting procedures, moving beyond the pursuit of specific individuals to militants who meet secret criteria the agency refers to as “pattern of life.”

    In its early years, the drone campaign was mainly focused on finding and killing militants whose names appeared on a list maintained by the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But since 2008, the agency has increasingly fired missiles when it sees certain “signatures,” such as travel in or out of a known al-Qaeda compound or possession of explosives.

    “It’s like watching ‘The Sopranos’: You know what’s going on in the Bada Bing,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, referring to the fictional New Jersey strip club used for Mafia meetings in the HBO television series.

    Finally, CIA drone strikes that used to focus almost exclusively on al-Qaeda are increasingly spread across an array of militant groups, including Taliban networks responsible for plots against targets in the United States as well as attacks on troops in Afghanistan.

    In recent weeks, the drone campaign has fallen strangely silent. The last reported strike occurred Jan. 23 south of the Pakistani city of Miram Shah, marking the longest pause in the program since vast areas of Pakistan were affected by floods last year. Speculation in that country has centered on the possibility that the CIA is holding fire until a U.S. security contractor accused of fatally shooting two Pakistani men last month is released from a jail in Lahore.

    U.S. officials deny that has been a factor and describe the lull as a seasonal slowdown in a program expected to resume its accelerated pace.

    The intensity of the strikes has caused an increase in the number of fatalities. The New America Foundation estimates that at least 607 people were killed in 2010, which would mean that a single year has accounted for nearly half of the number of deaths since 2004, when the program began.

    Overall, the foundation estimates that 32 of those killed could be considered “militant leaders” of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or about 2 percent.

    The problem does not appear to be one of precision. Even as the number of strikes has soared, civilian casualty counts have dropped. The foundation estimates that the civilian fatality rate plunged from 25 percent in 2004 to 6 percent in 2010. The CIA thinks it has not killed a single civilian in six months.

    Defenders of the program emphasize such statistics and say that empirical evidence suggests that the ramped-up targeting of lesser-known militants has helped to keep the United States safe.

    The former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official said the drone campaign has degraded not only al-Qaeda’s leadership, but also the caliber of the organization’s plots.

    Thwarted attacks traced back to Pakistan over the past two years – including a botched attempt to blow up a vehicle in New York’s Times Square – are strikingly amateurish compared with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and other airline plots that followed, the argument goes.

    “Pawns matter,” the former official said. “It’s always more dramatic to take the bishop, and, if you can find them, the king and queen.”

    Staff writer Karen DeYoung and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


  15. Privacy issues hover over police drone use

    By Peter Finn, Published: January 23, 2011, Washington Post

    AUSTIN – The suspect’s house, just west of this city, sat on a hilltop at the end of a steep, exposed driveway. Agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety believed the man inside had a large stash of drugs and a cache of weapons, including high-caliber rifles.

    As dawn broke, a SWAT team waiting to execute a search warrant wanted a last-minute aerial sweep of the property, in part to check for unseen dangers. But there was a problem: The department’s aircraft section feared that if it put up a helicopter, the suspect might try to shoot it down.

    So the Texas agents did what no state or local law enforcement agency had done before in a high-risk operation: They launched a drone. A bird-size device called a Wasp floated hundreds of feet into the sky and instantly beamed live video to agents on the ground. The SWAT team stormed the house and arrested the suspect.

    “The nice thing is it’s covert,” said Bill C. Nabors Jr., chief pilot with the Texas DPS, who in a recent interview described the 2009 operation for the first time publicly. “You don’t hear it, and unless you know what you’re looking for, you can’t see it.”

    The drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is entering the national airspace: Unmanned aircraft are patrolling the border with Mexico, searching for missing persons over difficult terrain, flying into hurricanes to collect weather data, photographing traffic accident scenes and tracking the spread of forest fires.

    But the operation outside Austin presaged what could prove to be one of the most far-reaching and potentially controversial uses of drones: as a new and relatively cheap surveillance tool in domestic law enforcement.

    For now, the use of drones for high-risk operations is exceedingly rare. The Federal Aviation Administration – which controls the national airspace – requires the few police departments with drones to seek emergency authorization if they want to deploy one in an actual operation. Because of concerns about safety, it only occasionally grants permission.

    But by 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground – high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.

    Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras.

    One manufacturer already advertises one of its small systems as ideal for “urban monitoring.” The military, often a first user of technologies that migrate to civilian life, is about to deploy a system in Afghanistan that will be able to scan an area the size of a small town. And the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence to seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity.

    But when drones come to perch in numbers over American communities, they will drive fresh debates about the boundaries of privacy. The sheer power of some of the cameras that can be mounted on them is likely to bring fresh search-and-seizure cases before the courts, and concern about the technology’s potential misuse could unsettle the public.

    “Drones raise the prospect of much more pervasive surveillance,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “We are not against them, absolutely. They can be a valuable tool in certain kinds of operations. But what we don’t want to see is their pervasive use to watch over the American people.”

    The police are likely to use drones in tactical operations and to view clearly public spaces. Legal experts say they will have to obtain a warrant to spy on private homes.

    FAA authorization

    As of Dec. 1, according to the FAA, there were more than 270 active authorizations for the use of dozens of kinds of drones. Approximately 35 percent of these permissions are held by the Defense Department, 11 percent by NASA and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security, including permission to fly Predators on the northern and southern borders.

    Other users are law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, as well as manufacturers and academic institutions.

    For now, only a handful of police departments and sheriff’s offices in the United States – including in Queen Anne’s County, Md., Miami-Dade County, Fla., and Mesa County, Colo. – fly drones. They so do as part of pilot programs that mostly limit the use of the drones to training exercises over unpopulated areas.

    Among state and local agencies, the Texas Department of Public Safety has been the most active user of drones for high-risk operations. Since the search outside Austin, Nabors said, the agency has run six operations with drones, all near the southern border, where officers conducted surveillance of drug and human traffickers.

    Some police officials, as well as the manufacturers of unmanned aerial systems, have been clamoring for the FAA to allow their rapid deployment by law enforcement. They tout the technology as a tactical game-changer in scenarios such as hostage situations and high-speed chases.

    Overseas, the drones have drawn interest as well. A consortium of police departments in Britain is developing plans to use them to monitor the roads, watch public events such as protests, and conduct covert urban surveillance, according to the Guardian newspaper. Senior British police officials would like the machines to be in the air in time for the 2012 Olympics in London.

    “Not since the Taser has a technology promised so much for law enforcement,” said Ben Miller of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, which has used its drone, called a Draganflyer, to search for missing persons after receiving emergency authorization from the FAA.

    Cost has become a big selling point. A drone system, which includes a ground operating computer, can cost less than $50,000. A new police helicopter can cost up to $1 million. As a consequence, fewer than 300 of the approximately 19,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States have an aviation capability.

    “The cost issue is significant,” said Martin Jackson, president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. “Once they open the airspace up [to drones], I think there will be quite a bit of demand.”

    The FAA is reluctant to simply open up airspace, even to small drones. The agency said it is addressing two critical questions: How will unmanned aircraft “handle communication, command and control”? And how will they “sense and avoid” other aircraft, a basic safety element in manned aviation?

    Military studies suggest that drones have a much higher accident rate than manned aircraft. That is, in part, because the military is using drones in a battlefield environment. But even outside war zones, drones have slipped out of their handlers’ control.

    In the summer, a Navy drone, experiencing what the military called a software problem, wandered into restricted Washington airspace. Last month, a small Mexican army drone crashed into a residential yard in El Paso.

    There are also regulatory issues with civilian agencies using military frequencies to operate drones, a problem that surfaced in recent months and has grounded the Texas DPS drones, which have not been flown since August.

    “What level of trust do we give this technology? We just don’t yet have the data,” said John Allen, director of Flight Standards Service in the FAA’s Office of Aviation Safety. “We are moving cautiously to keep the National Airspace System safe for all civil operations. It’s the FAA’s responsibility to make sure no one is harmed by [an unmanned aircraft system] in the air or on the ground.”

    Officials in Texas said they supported the FAA’s concern about safety.

    “We have 23 aircraft and 50 pilots, so I’m of the opinion that FAA should proceed cautiously,” Nabors said.

    Legal touchstones

    Much of the legal framework to fly drones has been established by cases that have examined the use of manned aircraft and various technologies to conduct surveillance of both public spaces and private homes.

    In a 1986 Supreme Court case, justices were asked whether a police department violated constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure after it flew a small plane above the back yard of a man suspected of growing marijuana. The court ruled that “the Fourth Amendment simply does not require the police traveling in the public airways at this altitude to obtain a warrant in order to observe what is visible to the naked eye.”

    In a 2001 case, however, also involving a search for marijuana, the court was more skeptical of police tactics. It ruled that an Oregon police department conducted an illegal search when it used a thermal imaging device to detect heat coming from the home of an man suspected of growing marijuana indoors.

    “The question we confront today is what limits there are upon this power of technology to shrink the realm of guaranteed privacy,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 2001 case.

    Still, Joseph J. Vacek, a professor in the Aviation Department at the University of North Dakota who has studied the potential use of drones in law enforcement, said the main objections to the use of domestic drones will probably have little to do with the Constitution.

    “Where I see the challenge is the social norm,” Vacek said. “Most people are not okay with constant watching. That hover-and-stare capability used to its maximum potential will probably ruffle a lot of civic feathers.”

    At least one community has already balked at the prospect of unmanned aircraft.

    The Houston Police Department considered participating in a pilot program to study the use of drones, including for evacuations, search and rescue, and tactical operations. In the end, it withdrew.

    A spokesman for Houston police said the department would not comment on why the program, to have been run in cooperation with the FAA, was aborted in 2007, but traffic tickets might have had something to do with it.

    When KPRC-TV in Houston, which is owned by The Washington Post Co., discovered a secret drone air show for dozens of officers at a remote location 70 miles from Houston, police officials were forced to call a hasty news conference to explain their interest in the technology.

    A senior officer in Houston then mentioned to reporters that drones might ultimately be used for recording traffic violations.

    Federal officials said support for the program crashed.


  16. 21 killed in suspected drone strikes in Pakistan

    Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region killed 21 alleged militants Tuesday, intelligence officials said.

    Two Pakistani intelligence officials said one suspected drone fired four missiles, killing 13 people at an alleged militant hideout in the area of Shawal in South Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

    The second strike occurred hours later on another suspected militant hideout in North Waziristan. Eight people were killed, the officials said.

    The officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

    On Monday, a similar attack killed 10 suspected militants in North Waziristan.

    The overwhelming majority of drone strikes have targeted areas in North and South Waziristan. Analysts say the areas are havens for militants fueling the insurgencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The United States does not comment on suspected drone strikes. But it is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones — which are controlled remotely.

    Journalist Saboor Khattak contributed to this report.


  17. http://newamerica.net/events/2011/drones_targeting_and_law

    On Thursday, February 24, 2011, the New America Foundation, American Society of International Law, and the Arizona State University’s Center for Law, Science and Innovation hosted a conference on drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Four panels addressed a variety of topics associated with the technology, including their applications and limits as well as legal issues surrounding their use. Accounts ranged from academic to the anecdotal.

    Panel I on the “The Use and Impact of Drones in South Asia,” included experiences from panelists who had seen first-hand the impact of drone technology in South Asia. Panelists Rohde and Shah offered their stories and confirmed that the drone program produced fear within Taliban ranks—the sound of drone engines hovering above was and remains haunting for civilians and insurgents. Others offered their assessment of the drone’s effectiveness in counter-insurgency and its perception within individual warzones.

    Panel II, on “Drones and the Law of War,” was particularly informative, as Col. Bitzes and Charles Blanchard detailed the drone targeting and acquisition process employed by the US Air Force. Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch and William Banks rounded out the panel by emphasizing the legal framework in which violence is permissible.

    Luncheon Panel on “The Challenge of Thinking Clearly About the Impact of Emerging Technologies”

    Panel III on “Drones and Today’s Policy Challenges”

    Panel IV on “Drones and the Future of War”

    Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” spoke about the broader implications for war once altered by technology. Singer challenged the assumption that new systems could sterilize violence. Beyond this, his comments focused on the weakness of today’s public debates as they relate to science, technology, and ethics. His closing statement highlighted the value of the conference.


  18. U.S. officials believe al-Qaeda on brink of collapse

    By Greg Miller, Published: July 27, Washington Post

    U.S. counterterrorism officials are increasingly convinced that the killing of Osama bin Laden and the toll of seven years of CIA drone strikes have pushed al­Qaeda to the brink of collapse.

    The assessment reflects a widespread view at the CIA and other agencies that a relatively small number of additional blows could effectively extinguish the Pakistan-based organization that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — an outcome that was seen as a distant prospect for much of the past decade.

    U.S. officials said that al-Qaeda might yet rally and that even its demise would not end the terrorist threat, which is increasingly driven by radicalized individuals as well as aggressive affiliates. Indeed, officials said that al­-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen is now seen as a greater counterterrorism challenge than the organization’s traditional base.

    President Obama has steadily expanded the clandestine U.S. campaign against that Yemen group, most recently by approving the construction of a secret Persian Gulf airstrip for armed CIA drones. But recent setbacks, including a botched U.S. military airstrike on American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, underscore the difficulties that remain.

    Nevertheless, the top U.S. national security officials now allude to a potential finish line in the fight against al-Qaeda, a notion they played down before bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a May 2 raid in Pakistan.

    Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta declared during a recent visit to Afghanistan that “we’re within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda.” The comment was dismissed by skeptics as an attempt to energize troops while defending the administration’s decision to wind down a decade-old war.

    But senior U.S. officials from the CIA, the National Counterterrorism Center and other agencies have expressed similar views in classified intelligence reports and closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill, officials said.

    “There is a swagger within the community right now for good reason,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee.

    “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is nowhere near defeat,” Chambliss said, referring to the Yemen-based affiliate. “But when it comes to al-Qaeda [core leadership in Pakistan], we have made the kind of strides that we need to make to be in a position of thinking we can win.”

    Even those who winced at Panetta’s word choice agree with his broader observation. “I’m not sure I would have chosen ‘strategic defeat,’ ” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, who cautioned that even if al-Qaeda is dismantled, its militant ideology has spread and will remain a long-term threat.

    “But if you mean that we have rendered them largely incapable of catastrophic attacks against the homeland, then I think Panetta is exactly right,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. “We are within reach of rendering them to that point.”

    A turning point

    U.S. officials said that bin Laden’s death was a turning point, in part because he remained active in managing the network and keeping it focused on mounting attacks against the United States, but also because his charisma was key to al-Qaeda’s brand and the proliferation of franchises overseas.

    Largely because of bin Laden’s death, “we can even see the end of al-Qaeda as the global, borderless, united jihad,” said another U.S. official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “What that doesn’t mean is an end to terrorists and people targeting the United States.”

    Officials also point to the cumulative effect of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Missiles fired by the unmanned aircraft have killed at least 1,200 militants since 2004, including 224 this year, according to figures compiled by the New America Foundation. Many of the strikes have been aimed at al-Qaeda allies also accused of attacking American targets; those allies include the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban.

    Beyond bin Laden, “we have eliminated a number of generations of leaders,” said the senior U.S. counterterrorism official. “They have not had a successful operation in a long time. You at some point have to ask yourself, ‘What else do we have to do?’ ”

    Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded bin Laden as leader of al-Qaeda, is among a handful of “high-value targets” left in Pakistan, U.S. officials said. Zawahiri is seen as a divisive figure who may struggle to prevent al-Qaeda from splintering into smaller, more regionally focused nodes.

    AQAP, as the Yemen-based group is known, has emerged as the most dangerous of those affiliates. The group is responsible for recent plots, including the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and the attempt to mail parcels packed with explosives to U.S. addresses last year.

    The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the elite military unit that carried out the bin Laden raid, has led the pursuit of AQAP with Special Operations advisers working alongside Yemeni forces, and both piloted and drone aircraft patrolling from above.

    Just days after bin Laden was killed, JSOC was in position to deliver a follow-on blow to AQAP. At least three U.S. aircraft, including a drone, fired rockets at a pickup truck in which Aulaqi was traveling. Despite the barrage, the New Mexico native known for fiery online sermons was able to switch vehicles and escape.

    U.S. officials described the miss as a major setback. “We missed the opportunity to do two quick kills of senior al-Qaeda guys,” said a senior U.S. military official familiar with JSOC operations.

    CIA’s role in Yemen

    In part because of such struggles, the Obama administration is bolstering the CIA’s role in Yemen, seeking to replicate its pursuit of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The agency is expected to work closely with Saudi Arabia, exploiting the kingdom’s close ties to Yemen’s most influential tribes in an effort to develop new networks of sources on AQAP.

    At the same time, the agency is building a desert airstrip so that it can begin flying armed drones over Yemen. The facility, which is scheduled to be completed in September, is designed to shield the CIA’s aircraft, and their sophisticated surveillance equipment, from observers at busier regional military hubs such as Djibouti, where the JSOC drones are based.

    The Washington Post is withholding the specific location of the CIA facility at the administration’s request.

    More broadly, U.S. officials warn that al-Qaeda’s influence is likely to outlast its status as a functioning network. “Terrorist organizations, even more than enemy armies, are capable of reconstituting,” the senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. “The thing we absolutely don’t want to do is hang out another ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign.”




    What happened that night in Abbottabad.
    by Nicholas Schmidle

    AUGUST 8, 2011

    Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.

    Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistan’s radars—“It’s not where the radars are or aren’t”—he said that the American infiltration was the result of “technological gaps we have vis-à-vis the U.S.” The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters’ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening “skin.”

    The SEALs’ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border. Situated north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Abbottabad is in the foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, and is popular in the summertime with families seeking relief from the blistering heat farther south. Founded in 1853 by a British major named James Abbott, the city became the home of a prestigious military academy after the creation of Pakistan, in 1947. According to information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency, bin Laden was holed up on the third floor of a house in a one-acre compound just off Kakul Road in Bilal Town, a middle-class neighborhood less than a mile from the entrance to the academy. If all went according to plan, the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.

    The helicopters traversed Mohmand, one of Pakistan’s seven tribal areas, skirted the north of Peshawar, and continued due east. The commander of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, whom I will call James, sat on the floor, squeezed among ten other SEALs, Ahmed, and Cairo. (The names of all the covert operators mentioned in this story have been changed.) James, a broad-chested man in his late thirties, does not have the lithe swimmer’s frame that one might expect of a SEAL—he is built more like a discus thrower. That night, he wore a shirt and trousers in Desert Digital Camouflage, and carried a silenced Sig Sauer P226 pistol, along with extra ammunition; a CamelBak, for hydration; and gel shots, for endurance. He held a short-barrel, silenced M4 rifle. (Others SEALs had chosen the Heckler & Koch MP7.) A “blowout kit,” for treating field trauma, was tucked into the small of James’s back. Stuffed into one of his pockets was a laminated gridded map of the compound. In another pocket was a booklet with photographs and physical descriptions of the people suspected of being inside. He wore a noise-cancelling headset, which blocked out nearly everything besides his heartbeat.

    During the ninety-minute helicopter flight, James and his teammates rehearsed the operation in their heads. Since the autumn of 2001, they had rotated through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, at a brutal pace. At least three of the SEALs had participated in the sniper operation off the coast of Somalia, in April, 2009, that freed Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, and left three pirates dead. In October, 2010, a DEVGRU team attempted to rescue Linda Norgrove, a Scottish aid worker who had been kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan by the Taliban. During a raid of a Taliban hideout, a SEAL tossed a grenade at an insurgent, not realizing that Norgrove was nearby. She died from the blast. The mistake haunted the SEALs who had been involved; three of them were subsequently expelled from DEVGRU.

    The Abbottabad raid was not DEVGRU’s maiden venture into Pakistan, either. The team had surreptitiously entered the country on ten to twelve previous occasions, according to a special-operations officer who is deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid. Most of those missions were forays into North and South Waziristan, where many military and intelligence analysts had thought that bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders were hiding. (Only one such operation—the September, 2008, raid of Angoor Ada, a village in South Waziristan—has been widely reported.) Abbottabad was, by far, the farthest that DEVGRU had ventured into Pakistani territory. It also represented the team’s first serious attempt since late 2001 at killing “Crankshaft”—the target name that the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, had given bin Laden. Since escaping that winter during a battle in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan, bin Laden had defied American efforts to trace him. Indeed, it remains unclear how he ended up living in Abbottabad.

    Forty-five minutes after the Black Hawks departed, four MH-47 Chinooks launched from the same runway in Jalalabad. Two of them flew to the border, staying on the Afghan side; the other two proceeded into Pakistan. Deploying four Chinooks was a last-minute decision made after President Barack Obama said he wanted to feel assured that the Americans could “fight their way out of Pakistan.” Twenty-five additional SEALs from DEVGRU, pulled from a squadron stationed in Afghanistan, sat in the Chinooks that remained at the border; this “quick-reaction force” would be called into action only if the mission went seriously wrong. The third and fourth Chinooks were each outfitted with a pair of M134 Miniguns. They followed the Black Hawks’ initial flight path but landed at a predetermined point on a dry riverbed in a wide, unpopulated valley in northwest Pakistan. The nearest house was half a mile away. On the ground, the copters’ rotors were kept whirring while operatives monitored the surrounding hills for encroaching Pakistani helicopters or fighter jets. One of the Chinooks was carrying fuel bladders, in case the other aircraft needed to refill their tanks.

    Meanwhile, the two Black Hawks were quickly approaching Abbottabad from the northwest, hiding behind the mountains on the northernmost edge of the city. Then the pilots banked right and went south along a ridge that marks Abbottabad’s eastern perimeter. When those hills tapered off, the pilots curled right again, toward the city center, and made their final approach.

    During the next four minutes, the interior of the Black Hawks rustled alive with the metallic cough of rounds being chambered. Mark, a master chief petty officer and the ranking noncommissioned officer on the operation, crouched on one knee beside the open door of the lead helicopter. He and the eleven other SEALs on “helo one,” who were wearing gloves and had on night-vision goggles, were preparing to fast-rope into bin Laden’s yard. They waited for the crew chief to give the signal to throw the rope. But, as the pilot passed over the compound, pulled into a high hover, and began lowering the aircraft, he felt the Black Hawk getting away from him. He sensed that they were going to crash.

    One month before the 2008 Presidential election, Obama, then a senator from Illinois, squared off in a debate against John McCain in an arena at Belmont University, in Nashville. A woman in the audience asked Obama if he would be willing to pursue Al Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan, even if that meant invading an ally nation. He replied, “If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable, or unwilling, to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national-security priority.” McCain, who often criticized Obama for his naïveté on foreign-policy matters, characterized the promise as foolish, saying, “I’m not going to telegraph my punches.”

    Four months after Obama entered the White House, Leon Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., briefed the President on the agency’s latest programs and initiatives for tracking bin Laden. Obama was unimpressed. In June, 2009, he drafted a memo instructing Panetta to create a “detailed operation plan” for finding the Al Qaeda leader and to “ensure that we have expended every effort.” Most notably, the President intensified the C.I.A.’s classified drone program; there were more missile strikes inside Pakistan during Obama’s first year in office than in George W. Bush’s eight. The terrorists swiftly registered the impact: that July, CBS reported that a recent Al Qaeda communiqué had referred to “brave commanders” who had been “snatched away” and to “so many hidden homes [which] have been levelled.” The document blamed the “very grave” situation on spies who had “spread throughout the land like locusts.” Nevertheless, bin Laden’s trail remained cold.

    In August, 2010, Panetta returned to the White House with better news. C.I.A. analysts believed that they had pinpointed bin Laden’s courier, a man in his early thirties named Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Kuwaiti drove a white S.U.V. whose spare-tire cover was emblazoned with an image of a white rhino. The C.I.A. began tracking the vehicle. One day, a satellite captured images of the S.U.V. pulling into a large concrete compound in Abbottabad. Agents, determining that Kuwaiti was living there, used aerial surveillance to keep watch on the compound, which consisted of a three-story main house, a guesthouse, and a few outbuildings. They observed that residents of the compound burned their trash, instead of putting it out for collection, and concluded that the compound lacked a phone or an Internet connection. Kuwaiti and his brother came and went, but another man, living on the third floor, never left. When this third individual did venture outside, he stayed behind the compound’s walls. Some analysts speculated that the third man was bin Laden, and the agency dubbed him the Pacer.

    Obama, though excited, was not yet prepared to order military action. John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told me that the President’s advisers began an “interrogation of the data, to see if, by that interrogation, you’re going to disprove the theory that bin Laden was there.” The C.I.A. intensified its intelligence-collection efforts, and, according to a recent report in the Guardian, a physician working for the agency conducted an immunization drive in Abbottabad, in the hope of acquiring DNA samples from bin Laden’s children. (No one in the compound ultimately received any immunizations.)

    In late 2010, Obama ordered Panetta to begin exploring options for a military strike on the compound. Panetta contacted Vice-Admiral Bill McRaven, the SEAL in charge of JSOC. Traditionally, the Army has dominated the special-operations community, but in recent years the SEALs have become a more prominent presence; McRaven’s boss at the time of the raid, Eric Olson—the head of Special Operations Command, or SOCOM—is a Navy admiral who used to be a commander of DEVGRU. In January, 2011, McRaven asked a JSOC official named Brian, who had previously been a DEVGRU deputy commander, to present a raid plan. The next month, Brian, who has the all-American look of a high-school quarterback, moved into an unmarked office on the first floor of the C.I.A.’s printing plant, in Langley, Virginia. Brian covered the walls of the office with topographical maps and satellite images of the Abbottabad compound. He and half a dozen JSOC officers were formally attached to the Pakistan/Afghanistan department of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, but in practice they operated on their own. A senior counterterrorism official who visited the JSOC redoubt described it as an enclave of unusual secrecy and discretion. “Everything they were working on was closely held,” the official said.

    The relationship between special-operations units and the C.I.A. dates back to the Vietnam War. But the line between the two communities has increasingly blurred as C.I.A. officers and military personnel have encountered one another on multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. “These people grew up together,” a senior Defense Department official told me. “We are in each other’s systems, we speak each other’s languages.” (Exemplifying this trend, General David H. Petraeus, the former commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now the incoming head of the C.I.A., and Panetta has taken over the Department of Defense.) The bin Laden mission—plotted at C.I.A. headquarters and authorized under C.I.A. legal statutes but conducted by Navy DEVGRU operators—brought the coöperation between the agency and the Pentagon to an even higher level. John Radsan, a former assistant general counsel at the C.I.A., said that the Abbottabad raid amounted to “a complete incorporation of JSOC into a C.I.A. operation.”

    On March 14th, Obama called his national-security advisers into the White House Situation Room and reviewed a spreadsheet listing possible courses of action against the Abbottabad compound. Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included coöperating with the Pakistani military; some did not. Obama decided against informing or working with Pakistan. “There was a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond,” a senior adviser to the President told me. At the end of the meeting, Obama instructed McRaven to proceed with planning the raid.

    Brian invited James, the commander of DEVGRU’s Red Squadron, and Mark, the master chief petty officer, to join him at C.I.A. headquarters. They spent the next two and a half weeks considering ways to get inside bin Laden’s house. One option entailed flying helicopters to a spot outside Abbottabad and letting the team sneak into the city on foot. The risk of detection was high, however, and the SEALs would be tired by a long run to the compound. The planners had contemplated tunnelling in—or, at least, the possibility that bin Laden might tunnel out. But images provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency showed that there was standing water in the vicinity, suggesting that the compound sat in a flood basin. The water table was probably just below the surface, making tunnels highly unlikely. Eventually, the planners agreed that it made the most sense to fly directly into the compound. “Special operations is about doing what’s not expected, and probably the least expected thing here was that a helicopter would come in, drop guys on the roof, and land in the yard,” the special-operations officer said.

    On March 29th, McRaven brought the plan to Obama. The President’s military advisers were divided. Some supported a raid, some an airstrike, and others wanted to hold off until the intelligence improved. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the most outspoken opponents of a helicopter assault. Gates reminded his colleagues that he had been in the Situation Room of the Carter White House when military officials presented Eagle Claw—the 1980 Delta Force operation that aimed at rescuing American hostages in Tehran but resulted in a disastrous collision in the Iranian desert, killing eight American soldiers. “They said that was a pretty good idea, too,” Gates warned. He and General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, favored an airstrike by B-2 Spirit bombers. That option would avoid the risk of having American boots on the ground in Pakistan. But the Air Force then calculated that a payload of thirty-two smart bombs, each weighing two thousand pounds, would be required to penetrate thirty feet below ground, insuring that any bunkers would collapse. “That much ordnance going off would be the equivalent of an earthquake,” Cartwright told me. The prospect of flattening a Pakistani city made Obama pause. He shelved the B-2 option and directed McRaven to start rehearsing the raid.

    Brian, James, and Mark selected a team of two dozen SEALs from Red Squadron and told them to report to a densely forested site in North Carolina for a training exercise on April 10th. (Red Squadron is one of four squadrons in DEVGRU, which has about three hundred operators in all.) None of the SEALs, besides James and Mark, were aware of the C.I.A. intelligence on bin Laden’s compound until a lieutenant commander walked into an office at the site. He found a two-star Army general from JSOC headquarters seated at a conference table with Brian, James, Mark, and several analysts from the C.I.A. This obviously wasn’t a training exercise. The lieutenant commander was promptly “read in.” A replica of the compound had been built at the site, with walls and chain-link fencing marking the layout of the compound. The team spent the next five days practicing maneuvers.

    On April 18th, the DEVGRU squad flew to Nevada for another week of rehearsals. The practice site was a large government-owned stretch of desert with an elevation equivalent to the area surrounding Abbottabad. An extant building served as bin Laden’s house. Aircrews plotted out a path that paralleled the flight from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. Each night after sundown, drills commenced. Twelve SEALs, including Mark, boarded helo one. Eleven SEALs, Ahmed, and Cairo boarded helo two. The pilots flew in the dark, arrived at the simulated compound, and settled into a hover while the SEALs fast-roped down. Not everyone on the team was accustomed to helicopter assaults. Ahmed had been pulled from a desk job for the mission and had never descended a fast rope. He quickly learned the technique.

    The assault plan was now honed. Helo one was to hover over the yard, drop two fast ropes, and let all twelve SEALs slide down into the yard. Helo two would fly to the northeast corner of the compound and let out Ahmed, Cairo, and four SEALs, who would monitor the perimeter of the building. The copter would then hover over the house, and James and the remaining six SEALs would shimmy down to the roof. As long as everything was cordial, Ahmed would hold curious neighbors at bay. The SEALs and the dog could assist more aggressively, if needed. Then, if bin Laden was proving difficult to find, Cairo could be sent into the house to search for false walls or hidden doors. “This wasn’t a hard op,” the special-operations officer told me. “It would be like hitting a target in McLean”—the upscale Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

    A planeload of guests arrived on the night of April 21st. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, along with Olson and McRaven, sat with C.I.A. personnel in a hangar as Brian, James, Mark, and the pilots presented a brief on the raid, which had been named Operation Neptune’s Spear. Despite JSOC’s lead role in Neptune’s Spear, the mission officially remained a C.I.A. covert operation. The covert approach allowed the White House to hide its involvement, if necessary. As the counterterrorism official put it recently, “If you land and everybody is out on a milk run, then you get the hell out and no one knows.” After describing the operation, the briefers fielded questions: What if a mob surrounded the compound? Were the SEALs prepared to shoot civilians? Olson, who received the Silver Star for valor during the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” episode, in Mogadishu, Somalia, worried that it could be politically catastrophic if a U.S. helicopter were shot down inside Pakistani territory. After an hour or so of questioning, the senior officers and intelligence analysts returned to Washington. Two days later, the SEALs flew back to Dam Neck, their base in Virginia.

    On the night of Tuesday, April 26th, the SEAL team boarded a Boeing C-17 Globemaster at Naval Air Station Oceana, a few miles from Dam Neck. After a refuelling stop at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, the C-17 continued to Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul. The SEALs spent a night in Bagram and moved to Jalalabad on Wednesday.

    That day in Washington, Panetta convened more than a dozen senior C.I.A. officials and analysts for a final preparatory meeting. Panetta asked the participants, one by one, to declare how confident they were that bin Laden was inside the Abbottabad compound. The counterterrorism official told me that the percentages “ranged from forty per cent to ninety or ninety-five per cent,” and added, “This was a circumstantial case.”

    Panetta was mindful of the analysts’ doubts, but he believed that the intelligence was better than anything that the C.I.A. had gathered on bin Laden since his flight from Tora Bora. Late on Thursday afternoon, Panetta and the rest of the national-security team met with the President. For the next few nights, there would be virtually no moonlight over Abbottabad—the ideal condition for a raid. After that, it would be another month until the lunar cycle was in its darkest phase. Several analysts from the National Counterterrorism Center were invited to critique the C.I.A.’s analysis; their confidence in the intelligence ranged between forty and sixty per cent. The center’s director, Michael Leiter, said that it would be preferable to wait for stronger confirmation of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Yet, as Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, put it to me recently, the longer things dragged on, the greater the risk of a leak, “which would have upended the thing.” Obama adjourned the meeting just after 7 P.M. and said that he would sleep on it.

    The next morning, the President met in the Map Room with Tom Donilon, his national-security adviser, Denis McDonough, a deputy adviser, and Brennan. Obama had decided to go with a DEVGRU assault, with McRaven choosing the night. It was too late for a Friday attack, and on Saturday there was excessive cloud cover. On Saturday afternoon, McRaven and Obama spoke on the phone, and McRaven said that the raid would occur on Sunday night. “Godspeed to you and your forces,” Obama told him. “Please pass on to them my personal thanks for their service and the message that I personally will be following this mission very closely.”

    On the morning of Sunday, May 1st, White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco, and transformed the Situation Room into a war room. At eleven o’clock, Obama’s top advisers began gathering around a large conference table. A video link connected them to Panetta, at C.I.A. headquarters, and McRaven, in Afghanistan. (There were at least two other command centers, one inside the Pentagon and one inside the American Embassy in Islamabad.)

    Brigadier General Marshall Webb, an assistant commander of JSOC, took a seat at the end of a lacquered table in a small adjoining office and turned on his laptop. He opened multiple chat windows that kept him, and the White House, connected with the other command teams. The office where Webb sat had the only video feed in the White House showing real-time footage of the target, which was being shot by an unarmed RQ 170 drone flying more than fifteen thousand feet above Abbottabad. The JSOC planners, determined to keep the operation as secret as possible, had decided against using additional fighters or bombers. “It just wasn’t worth it,” the special-operations officer told me. The SEALs were on their own.

    Obama returned to the White House at two o’clock, after playing nine holes of golf at Andrews Air Force Base. The Black Hawks departed from Jalalabad thirty minutes later. Just before four o’clock, Panetta announced to the group in the Situation Room that the helicopters were approaching Abbottabad. Obama stood up. “I need to watch this,” he said, stepping across the hall into the small office and taking a seat alongside Webb. Vice-President Joseph Biden, Secretary Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed him, as did anyone else who could fit into the office. On the office’s modestly sized LCD screen, helo one—grainy and black-and-white—appeared above the compound, then promptly ran into trouble.

    When the helicopter began getting away from the pilot, he pulled back on the cyclic, which controls the pitch of the rotor blades, only to find the aircraft unresponsive. The high walls of the compound and the warm temperatures had caused the Black Hawk to descend inside its own rotor wash—a hazardous aerodynamic situation known as “settling with power.” In North Carolina, this potential problem had not become apparent, because the chain-link fencing used in rehearsals had allowed air to flow freely. A former helicopter pilot with extensive special-operations experience said of the pilot’s situation, “It’s pretty spooky—I’ve been in it myself. The only way to get out of it is to push the cyclic forward and fly out of this vertical silo you’re dropping through. That solution requires altitude. If you’re settling with power at two thousand feet, you’ve got plenty of time to recover. If you’re settling with power at fifty feet, you’re going to hit the ground.”

    The pilot scrapped the plan to fast-rope and focussed on getting the aircraft down. He aimed for an animal pen in the western section of the compound. The SEALs on board braced themselves as the tail rotor swung around, scraping the security wall. The pilot jammed the nose forward to drive it into the dirt and prevent his aircraft from rolling onto its side. Cows, chickens, and rabbits scurried. With the Black Hawk pitched at a forty-five-degree angle astride the wall, the crew sent a distress call to the idling Chinooks.

    James and the SEALs in helo two watched all this while hovering over the compound’s northeast corner. The second pilot, unsure whether his colleagues were taking fire or experiencing mechanical problems, ditched his plan to hover over the roof. Instead, he landed in a grassy field across the street from the house.

    No American was yet inside the residential part of the compound. Mark and his team were inside a downed helicopter at one corner, while James and his team were at the opposite end. The teams had barely been on target for a minute, and the mission was already veering off course.

    “Eternity is defined as the time between when you see something go awry and that first voice report,” the special-operations officer said. The officials in Washington viewed the aerial footage and waited anxiously to hear a military communication. The senior adviser to the President compared the experience to watching “the climax of a movie.”
    After a few minutes, the twelve SEALs inside helo one recovered their bearings and calmly relayed on the radio that they were proceeding with the raid. They had conducted so many operations over the past nine years that few things caught them off guard. In the months after the raid, the media have frequently suggested that the Abbottabad operation was as challenging as Operation Eagle Claw and the “Black Hawk Down” incident, but the senior Defense Department official told me that “this was not one of three missions. This was one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night.” He likened the routine of evening raids to “mowing the lawn.” On the night of May 1st alone, special-operations forces based in Afghanistan conducted twelve other missions; according to the official, those operations captured or killed between fifteen and twenty targets. “Most of the missions take off and go left,” he said. “This one took off and went right.”

    Minutes after hitting the ground, Mark and the other team members began streaming out the side doors of helo one. Mud sucked at their boots as they ran alongside a ten-foot-high wall that enclosed the animal pen. A three-man demolition unit hustled ahead to the pen’s closed metal gate, reached into bags containing explosives, and placed C-4 charges on the hinges. After a loud bang, the door fell open. The nine other SEALs rushed forward, ending up in an alleylike driveway with their backs to the house’s main entrance. They moved down the alley, silenced rifles pressed against their shoulders. Mark hung toward the rear as he established radio communications with the other team. At the end of the driveway, the Americans blew through yet another locked gate and stepped into a courtyard facing the guesthouse, where Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, lived with his wife and four children.

    Three SEALs in front broke off to clear the guesthouse as the remaining nine blasted through another gate and entered an inner courtyard, which faced the main house. When the smaller unit rounded the corner to face the doors of the guesthouse, they spotted Kuwaiti running inside to warn his wife and children. The Americans’ night-vision goggles cast the scene in pixellated shades of emerald green. Kuwaiti, wearing a white shalwar kameez, had grabbed a weapon and was coming back outside when the SEALs opened fire and killed him.
    The nine other SEALs, including Mark, formed three-man units for clearing the inner courtyard. The Americans suspected that several more men were in the house: Kuwaiti’s thirty-three-year-old brother, Abrar; bin Laden’s sons Hamza and Khalid; and bin Laden himself. One SEAL unit had no sooner trod on the paved patio at the house’s front entrance when Abrar—a stocky, mustachioed man in a cream-colored shalwar kameez—appeared with an AK-47. He was shot in the chest and killed, as was his wife, Bushra, who was standing, unarmed, beside him.

    Outside the compound’s walls, Ahmed, the translator, patrolled the dirt road in front of bin Laden’s house, as if he were a plainclothes Pakistani police officer. He looked the part, wearing a shalwar kameez atop a flak jacket. He, the dog Cairo, and four SEALs were responsible for closing off the perimeter of the house while James and six other SEALs—the contingent that was supposed to have dropped onto the roof—moved inside. For the team patrolling the perimeter, the first fifteen minutes passed without incident. Neighbors undoubtedly heard the low-flying helicopters, the sound of one crashing, and the sporadic explosions and gunfire that ensued, but nobody came outside. One local took note of the tumult in a Twitter post: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1 AM (is a rare event).”

    Eventually, a few curious Pakistanis approached to inquire about the commotion on the other side of the wall. “Go back to your houses,” Ahmed said, in Pashto, as Cairo stood watch. “There is a security operation under way.” The locals went home, none of them suspecting that they had talked to an American. When journalists descended on Bilal Town in the coming days, one resident told a reporter, “I saw soldiers emerging from the helicopters and advancing toward the house. Some of them instructed us in chaste Pashto to turn off the lights and stay inside.”

    Meanwhile, James, the squadron commander, had breached one wall, crossed a section of the yard covered with trellises, breached a second wall, and joined up with the SEALs from helo one, who were entering the ground floor of the house. What happened next is not precisely clear. “I can tell you that there was a time period of almost twenty to twenty-five minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on,” Panetta said later, on “PBS NewsHour.”
    Until this moment, the operation had been monitored by dozens of defense, intelligence, and Administration officials watching the drone’s video feed. The SEALs were not wearing helmet cams, contrary to a widely cited report by CBS. None of them had any previous knowledge of the house’s floor plan, and they were further jostled by the awareness that they were possibly minutes away from ending the costliest manhunt in American history; as a result, some of their recollections—on which this account is based—may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute.

    As Abrar’s children ran for cover, the SEALs began clearing the first floor of the main house, room by room. Though the Americans had thought that the house might be booby-trapped, the presence of kids at the compound suggested otherwise. “You can only be hyper-vigilant for so long,” the special-operations officer said. “Did bin Laden go to sleep every night thinking, The next night they’re coming? Of course not. Maybe for the first year or two. But not now.” Nevertheless, security precautions were in place. A locked metal gate blocked the base of the staircase leading to the second floor, making the downstairs room feel like a cage.

    After blasting through the gate with C-4 charges, three SEALs marched up the stairs. Midway up, they saw bin Laden’s twenty-three-year-old son, Khalid, craning his neck around the corner. He then appeared at the top of the staircase with an AK-47. Khalid, who wore a white T-shirt with an overstretched neckline and had short hair and a clipped beard, fired down at the Americans. (The counterterrorism official claims that Khalid was unarmed, though still a threat worth taking seriously. “You have an adult male, late at night, in the dark, coming down the stairs at you in an Al Qaeda house—your assumption is that you’re encountering a hostile.”) At least two of the SEALs shot back and killed Khalid. According to the booklets that the SEALs carried, up to five adult males were living inside the compound. Three of them were now dead; the fourth, bin Laden’s son Hamza, was not on the premises. The final person was bin Laden.

    Before the mission commenced, the SEALs had created a checklist of code words that had a Native American theme. Each code word represented a different stage of the mission: leaving Jalalabad, entering Pakistan, approaching the compound, and so on. “Geronimo” was to signify that bin Laden had been found.

    Three SEALs shuttled past Khalid’s body and blew open another metal cage, which obstructed the staircase leading to the third floor. Bounding up the unlit stairs, they scanned the railed landing. On the top stair, the lead SEAL swivelled right; with his night-vision goggles, he discerned that a tall, rangy man with a fist-length beard was peeking out from behind a bedroom door, ten feet away. The SEAL instantly sensed that it was Crankshaft. (The counterterrorism official asserts that the SEAL first saw bin Laden on the landing, and fired but missed.)

    The Americans hurried toward the bedroom door. The first SEAL pushed it open. Two of bin Laden’s wives had placed themselves in front of him. Amal al-Fatah, bin Laden’s fifth wife, was screaming in Arabic. She motioned as if she were going to charge; the SEAL lowered his sights and shot her once, in the calf. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside. He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him. In the end, neither woman was wearing an explosive vest.

    A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”

    Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”

    Relaxing his hold on bin Laden’s two wives, the first SEAL placed the women in flex cuffs and led them downstairs. Two of his colleagues, meanwhile, ran upstairs with a nylon body bag. They unfurled it, knelt down on either side of bin Laden, and placed the body inside the bag. Eighteen minutes had elapsed since the DEVGRU team landed. For the next twenty minutes, the mission shifted to an intelligence-gathering operation.

    Four men scoured the second floor, plastic bags in hand, collecting flash drives, CDs, DVDs, and computer hardware from the room, which had served, in part, as bin Laden’s makeshift media studio. In the coming weeks, a C.I.A.-led task force examined the files and determined that bin Laden had remained far more involved in the operational activities of Al Qaeda than many American officials had thought. He had been developing plans to assassinate Obama and Petraeus, to pull off an extravagant September 11th anniversary attack, and to attack American trains. The SEALs also found an archive of digital pornography. “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan,” the special-operations officer said. Bin Laden’s gold-threaded robes, worn during his video addresses, hung behind a curtain in the media room.

    Outside, the Americans corralled the women and children—each of them bound in flex cuffs—and had them sit against an exterior wall that faced the second, undamaged Black Hawk. The lone fluent Arabic speaker on the assault team questioned them. Nearly all the children were under the age of ten. They seemed to have no idea about the tenant upstairs, other than that he was “an old guy.” None of the women confirmed that the man was bin Laden, though one of them kept referring to him as “the sheikh.” When the rescue Chinook eventually arrived, a medic stepped out and knelt over the corpse. He injected a needle into bin Laden’s body and extracted two bone-marrow samples. More DNA was taken with swabs. One of the bone-marrow samples went into the Black Hawk. The other went into the Chinook, along with bin Laden’s body.

    Next, the SEALs needed to destroy the damaged Black Hawk. The pilot, armed with a hammer that he kept for such situations, smashed the instrument panel, the radio, and the other classified fixtures inside the cockpit. Then the demolition unit took over. They placed explosives near the avionics system, the communications gear, the engine, and the rotor head. “You’re not going to hide the fact that it’s a helicopter,” the special-operations officer said. “But you want to make it unusable.” The SEALs placed extra C-4 charges under the carriage, rolled thermite grenades inside the copter’s body, and then backed up. Helo one burst into flames while the demolition team boarded the Chinook. The women and children, who were being left behind for the Pakistani authorities, looked puzzled, scared, and shocked as they watched the SEALs board the helicopters. Amal, bin Laden’s wife, continued her harangue. Then, as a giant fire burned inside the compound walls, the Americans flew away.

    In the Situation Room, Obama said, “I’m not going to be happy until those guys get out safe.” After thirty-eight minutes inside the compound, the two SEAL teams had to make the long flight back to Afghanistan. The Black Hawk was low on gas, and needed to rendezvous with the Chinook at the refuelling point that was near the Afghan border—but still inside Pakistan. Filling the gas tank took twenty-five minutes. At one point, Biden, who had been fingering a rosary, turned to Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman. “We should all go to Mass tonight,” he said.

    The helicopters landed back in Jalalabad around 3 A.M.; McRaven and the C.I.A. station chief met the team on the tarmac. A pair of SEALs unloaded the body bag and unzipped it so that McRaven and the C.I.A. officer could see bin Laden’s corpse with their own eyes. Photographs were taken of bin Laden’s face and then of his outstretched body. Bin Laden was believed to be about six feet four, but no one had a tape measure to confirm the body’s length. So one SEAL, who was six feet tall, lay beside the corpse: it measured roughly four inches longer than the American. Minutes later, McRaven appeared on the teleconference screen in the Situation Room and confirmed that bin Laden’s body was in the bag. The corpse was sent to Bagram.

    All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden’s corpse into the sea—a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth. They had successfully pulled off a similar scheme before. During a DEVGRU helicopter raid inside Somalia in September, 2009, SEALs had killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of East Africa’s top Al Qaeda leaders; Nabhan’s corpse was then flown to a ship in the Indian Ocean, given proper Muslim rites, and thrown overboard. Before taking that step for bin Laden, however, John Brennan made a call. Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, phoned a former counterpart in Saudi intelligence. Brennan told the man what had occurred in Abbottabad and informed him of the plan to deposit bin Laden’s remains at sea. As Brennan knew, bin Laden’s relatives were still a prominent family in the Kingdom, and Osama had once been a Saudi citizen. Did the Saudi government have any interest in taking the body? “Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.

    At dawn, bin Laden was loaded into the belly of a flip-wing V-22 Osprey, accompanied by a JSOC liaison officer and a security detail of military police. The Osprey flew south, destined for the deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson—a thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing in the Arabian Sea, off the Pakistani coast. The Americans, yet again, were about to traverse Pakistani airspace without permission. Some officials worried that the Pakistanis, stung by the humiliation of the unilateral raid in Abbottabad, might restrict the Osprey’s access. The airplane ultimately landed on the Vinson without incident.

    Bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white burial shroud, weighted, and then slipped inside a bag. The process was done “in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices,” Brennan later told reporters. The JSOC liaison, the military-police contingent, and several sailors placed the shrouded body on an open-air elevator, and rode down with it to the lower level, which functions as a hangar for airplanes. From a height of between twenty and twenty-five feet above the waves, they heaved the corpse into the water.

    Back in Abbottabad, residents of Bilal Town and dozens of journalists converged on bin Laden’s compound, and the morning light clarified some of the confusion from the previous night. Black soot from the detonated Black Hawk charred the wall of the animal pen. Part of the tail hung over the wall. It was clear that a military raid had taken place there. “I’m glad no one was hurt in the crash, but, on the other hand, I’m sort of glad we left the helicopter there,” the special-operations officer said. “It quiets the conspiracy mongers out there and instantly lends credibility. You believe everything else instantly, because there’s a helicopter sitting there.”
    After the raid, Pakistan’s political leadership engaged in frantic damage control. In the Washington Post, President Asif Ali Zardari wrote that bin Laden “was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone,” adding that “a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden.”

    Pakistani military officials reacted more cynically. They arrested at least five Pakistanis for helping the C.I.A., including the physician who ran the immunization drive in Abbottabad. And several Pakistani media outlets, including the Nation—a jingoistic English-language newspaper that is considered a mouthpiece for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or I.S.I.—published what they claimed was the name of the C.I.A.’s station chief in Islamabad. (Shireen Mazari, a former editor of the Nation, once told me, “Our interests and the Americans’ interests don’t coincide.”) The published name was incorrect, and the C.I.A. officer opted to stay.

    The proximity of bin Laden’s house to the Pakistan Military Academy raised the possibility that the military, or the I.S.I., had helped protect bin Laden. How could Al Qaeda’s chief live so close to the academy without at least some officers knowing about it? Suspicion grew after the Times reported that at least one cell phone recovered from bin Laden’s house contained contacts for senior militants belonging to Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a jihadi group that has had close ties to the I.S.I. Although American officials have stated that Pakistani officials must have helped bin Laden hide in Abbottabad, definitive evidence has not yet been presented.

    Bin Laden’s death provided the White House with the symbolic victory it needed to begin phasing troops out of Afghanistan. Seven weeks later, Obama announced a timetable for withdrawal. Even so, U.S. counterterrorism activities inside Pakistan—that is, covert operations conducted by the C.I.A. and JSOC—are not expected to diminish anytime soon. Since May 2nd, there have been more than twenty drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, including one that allegedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a top Al Qaeda leader, while he was sipping tea in an apple orchard.

    The success of the bin Laden raid has sparked a conversation inside military and intelligence circles: Are there other terrorists worth the risk of another helicopter assault in a Pakistani city? “There are people out there that, if we could find them, we would go after them,” Cartwright told me. He mentioned Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader of Al Qaeda, who is believed to be in Pakistan, and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric in Yemen. Cartwright emphasized that “going after them” didn’t necessarily mean another DEVGRU raid. The special-operations officer spoke more boldly. He believes that a precedent has been set for more unilateral raids in the future. “Folks now realize we can weather it,” he said. The senior adviser to the President said that “penetrating other countries’ sovereign airspace covertly is something that’s always available for the right mission and the right gain.” Brennan told me, “The confidence we have in the capabilities of the U.S. military is, without a doubt, even stronger after this operation.”

    On May 6th, Al Qaeda confirmed bin Laden’s death and released a statement congratulating “the Islamic nation” on “the martyrdom of its good son Osama.” The authors promised Americans that “their joy will turn to sorrow and their tears will mix with blood.” That day, President Obama travelled to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the 160th is based, to meet the DEVGRU unit and the pilots who pulled off the raid. The SEALs, who had returned home from Afghanistan earlier in the week, flew in from Virginia. Biden, Tom Donilon, and a dozen other national-security advisers came along.

    McRaven greeted Obama on the tarmac. (They had met at the White House a few days earlier—the President had presented McRaven with a tape measure.) McRaven led the President and his team into a one-story building on the other side of the base. They walked into a windowless room with shabby carpets, fluorescent lights, and three rows of metal folding chairs. McRaven, Brian, the pilots from the 160th, and James took turns briefing the President. They had set up a three-dimensional model of bin Laden’s compound on the floor and, waving a red laser pointer, traced their maneuvers inside. A satellite image of the compound was displayed on a wall, along with a map showing the flight routes into and out of Pakistan. The briefing lasted about thirty-five minutes. Obama wanted to know how Ahmed had kept locals at bay; he also inquired about the fallen Black Hawk and whether above-average temperatures in Abbottabad had contributed to the crash. (The Pentagon is conducting a formal investigation of the accident.)

    When James, the squadron commander, spoke, he started by citing all the forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan that had been named for SEALs killed in combat. “Everything we have done for the last ten years prepared us for this,” he told Obama. The President was “in awe of these guys,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser, who travelled with Obama, said. “It was an extraordinary base visit,” he added. “They knew he had staked his Presidency on this. He knew they staked their lives on it.”

    As James talked about the raid, he mentioned Cairo’s role. “There was a dog?” Obama interrupted. James nodded and said that Cairo was in an adjoining room, muzzled, at the request of the Secret Service.
    “I want to meet that dog,” Obama said.

    “If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” James joked. Obama went over to pet Cairo, but the dog’s muzzle was left on.

    Afterward, Obama and his advisers went into a second room, down the hall, where others involved in the raid—including logisticians, crew chiefs, and SEAL alternates—had assembled. Obama presented the team with a Presidential Unit Citation and said, “Our intelligence professionals did some amazing work. I had fifty-fifty confidence that bin Laden was there, but I had one-hundred-per-cent confidence in you guys. You are, literally, the finest small-fighting force that has ever existed in the world.” The raiding team then presented the President with an American flag that had been on board the rescue Chinook. Measuring three feet by five, the flag had been stretched, ironed, and framed. The SEALs and the pilots had signed it on the back; an inscription on the front read, “From the Joint Task Force Operation Neptune’s Spear, 01 May 2011: ‘For God and country. Geronimo.’ ” Obama promised to put the gift “somewhere private and meaningful to me.” Before the President returned to Washington, he posed for photographs with each team member and spoke with many of them, but he left one thing unsaid. He never asked who fired the kill shot, and the SEALs never volunteered to tell him. ♦

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle?printable=true&currentPage=all#ixzz1TpTBgrFC


  20. The Truth About al Qaeda

    Bin Laden’s Files Revealed the Terrorists in Dramatic Decline

    John Mueller

    JOHN MUELLER is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession and a co-author, with Mark Stewart, of the forthcoming book Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security. He is also editor of the webbook Terrorism Since 9/11: The American Cases.

    The chief lesson of 9/11 should have been that small bands of terrorists, using simple methods, can exploit loopholes in existing security systems. But instead, many preferred to engage in massive extrapolation: If 19 men could hijack four airplanes simultaneously, the thinking went, then surely al Qaeda would soon make an atomic bomb.

    As a misguided Turkish proverb holds, “If your enemy be an ant, imagine him to be an elephant.” The new information unearthed in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggests that the United States has been doing so for a full decade. Whatever al Qaeda’s threatening rhetoric and occasional nuclear fantasies, its potential as a menace, particularly as an atomic one, has been much inflated.

    The public has now endured a decade of dire warnings about the imminence of a terrorist atomic attack. In 2004, the former CIA spook Michael Scheuer proclaimed on television’s 60 Minutes that it was “probably a near thing,” and in 2007, the physicist Richard Garwin assessed the likelihood of a nuclear explosion in an American or a European city by terrorism or other means in the next ten years to be 87 percent. By 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused that what keeps every senior government leader awake at night is “the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.” Few, it seems, found much solace in the fact that an al Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that the group’s budget for research on weapons of mass destruction (almost all of it focused on primitive chemical weapons work) was some $2,000 to $4,000.

    In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, officials now have more al Qaeda computers, which reportedly contain a wealth of information about the workings of the organization in the intervening decade. A multi-agency task force has completed its assessment, and according to first reports, it has found that al Qaeda members have primarily been engaged in dodging drone strikes and complaining about how cash-strapped they are. Some reports suggest they’ve also been looking at quite a bit of pornography.

    The full story is not out yet, but it seems breathtakingly unlikely that the miserable little group has had the time or inclination, let alone the money, to set up and staff a uranium-seizing operation, as well as a fancy, super-high-tech facility to fabricate a bomb. It is a process that requires trusting corrupted foreign collaborators and other criminals, obtaining and transporting highly guarded material, setting up a machine shop staffed with top scientists and technicians, and rolling the heavy, cumbersome, and untested finished product into position to be detonated by a skilled crew, all the while attracting no attention from outsiders.

    The documents also reveal that after fleeing Afghanistan, bin Laden maintained what one member of the task force calls an “obsession” with attacking the United States again, even though 9/11 was in many ways a disaster for the group. It led to a worldwide loss of support, a major attack on it and on its Taliban hosts, and a decade of furious and dedicated harassment. And indeed, bin Laden did repeatedly and publicly threaten an attack on the United States. He assured Americans in 2002 that “the youth of Islam are preparing things that will fill your hearts with fear”; and in 2006, he declared that his group had been able “to breach your security measures” and that “operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished.” Al Qaeda’s animated spokesman, Adam Gadahn, proclaimed in 2004 that “the streets of America shall run red with blood” and that “the next wave of attacks may come at any moment.”

    The obsessive desire notwithstanding, such fulminations have clearly lacked substance. Although hundreds of millions of people enter the United States legally every year, and countless others illegally, no true al Qaeda cell has been found in the country since 9/11 and exceedingly few people have been uncovered who even have any sort of “link” to the organization.

    The closest effort at an al Qaeda operation within the country was a decidedly nonnuclear one by an Afghan-American, Najibullah Zazi, in 2009. Outraged at the U.S.-led war on his home country, Zazi attempted to join the Taliban but was persuaded by al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan to set off some bombs in the United States instead. Under surveillance from the start, he was soon arrested, and, however “radicalized,” he has been talking to investigators ever since, turning traitor to his former colleagues. Whatever training Zazi received was inadequate; he repeatedly and desperately sought further instruction from his overseas instructors by phone. At one point, he purchased bomb material with a stolen credit card, guaranteeing that the purchase would attract attention and that security video recordings would be scrutinized. Apparently, his handlers were so strapped that they could not even advance him a bit of cash to purchase some hydrogen peroxide for making a bomb. For al Qaeda, then, the operation was a failure in every way — except for the ego boost it got by inspiring the usual dire litany about the group’s supposedly existential challenge to the United States, to the civilized world, to the modern state system.

    Indeed, no Muslim extremist has succeeded in detonating even a simple bomb in the United States in the last ten years, and except for the attacks on the London Underground in 2005, neither has any in the United Kingdom. It seems wildly unlikely that al Qaeda is remotely ready to go nuclear.

    Outside of war zones, the amount of killing carried out by al Qaeda and al Qaeda linkees, maybes, and wannabes throughout the entire world since 9/11 stands at perhaps a few hundred per year. That’s a few hundred too many, of course, but it scarcely presents an existential, or elephantine, threat. And the likelihood that an American will be killed by a terrorist of any ilk stands at one in 3.5 million per year, even with 9/11 included.

    That probability will remain unchanged unless terrorists are able to increase their capabilities massively — and obtaining nuclear weapons would allow them to do so. Although al Qaeda may have dreamed from time to time about getting such weapons, no other terrorist group has even gone so far as to indulge in such dreams, with the exception of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, which leased the mineral rights to an Australian sheep ranch that sat on uranium deposits, purchased some semi-relevant equipment, and tried to buy a finished bomb from the Russians.

    That experience, however, cannot be very encouraging to the would-be atomic terrorist. Even though it was flush with funds and undistracted by drone attacks (or even by much surveillance), Aum Shinrikyo abandoned its atomic efforts in frustration very early on. It then moved to biological weapons, another complete failure that inspired its leader to suggest that fears expressed in the United States of a biological attack were actually a ruse to tempt terrorist groups to pursue the weapons. The group did finally manage to release some sarin gas in a Tokyo subway that killed 13 and led to the group’s terminal shutdown, as well as to 16 years (and counting) of pronouncements that WMD terrorism is the wave of the future. No elephants there, either.

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    Return to Article: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68012/john-mueller/the-truth-about-al-qaeda


  21. Drones Alone Are Not the Answer
    Mechanicsburg, Pa.
    Aug 14, 2011 NYT

    OVER the past two years, America has narrowed its goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan to a single-minded focus on eliminating Al Qaeda. Public support for a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan has waned. American officials dealing with Pakistan now spend most of their time haggling over our military and intelligence activities, when they should instead be pursuing the sort of comprehensive social, diplomatic and economic reforms that Pakistan desperately needs and that would advance America’s long-term interests.

    In Pakistan, no issue is more controversial than American drone attacks in Pakistani territory along the Afghan border. The Obama administration contends that using drones to kill 10 or 20 more Qaeda leaders would eliminate the organization. This is wishful thinking.

    Drone strikes are no longer the most effective strategy for eliminating Al Qaeda’s ability to attack us. Past American drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan to a fearful, hunted cadre that did not have the time or space to plan, train and coordinate major terrorist acts against the United States.

    But the important question today is whether continued unilateral drone attacks will substantially reduce Al Qaeda’s capabilities. They will not.

    Instead, we must work with Pakistan’s government as an equal partner to achieve our common goals while ensuring that the country does not remain a refuge for Taliban fighters.

    Qaeda officials who are killed by drones will be replaced. The group’s structure will survive and it will still be able to inspire, finance and train individuals and teams to kill Americans. Drone strikes hinder Qaeda fighters while they move and hide, but they can endure the attacks and continue to function.

    Moreover, as the drone campaign wears on, hatred of America is increasing in Pakistan. American officials may praise the precision of the drone attacks. But in Pakistan, news media accounts of heavy civilian casualties are widely believed. Our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented in a country that cannot duplicate such feats of warfare without cost to its own troops.

    Our dogged persistence with the drone campaign is eroding our influence and damaging our ability to work with Pakistan to achieve other important security objectives like eliminating Taliban sanctuaries, encouraging Indian-Pakistani dialogue, and making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more secure.

    Reducing Al Qaeda to a fringe group of scattered individuals without an organizational structure will only succeed if Pakistan asserts control over its full territory and brings government services to the regions bordering Afghanistan.

    Washington should support a new security campaign that includes jointly controlled drone strikes and combines the capabilities of both countries. Together, the American and Pakistani governments can fashion a plan that meets the objectives of both without committing to broader joint campaigns that would not be politically viable at the moment.

    We can help Pakistan with logistics, transport and intelligence; Pakistan can help us by deploying security forces and improving local government on the ground. Drone strikes targeting Qaeda leaders and other terrorists would be conducted by mutual agreement.

    The raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May showed Pakistan that the United States would respect its sovereignty only so far. A cooperative campaign against common enemies offers them the best chance of controlling American actions in their country. And Pakistani participation in the targeting of drone strikes would remove a major source of anti-American resentment.

    If we are ever to reduce Al Qaeda from a threat to a nuisance, it will be by working with Pakistan, not by continuing unilateral drone attacks.

    Dennis C. Blair, a retired admiral, was director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010.


  22. The C.I.A. and Drone Strikes

    Perfection is rare in life; in war, rarer still. Yet the Central Intelligence Agency says it has a yearlong perfect record of no civilian deaths from its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan. We find that hard to believe. So do many Pakistanis, journalists and independent experts, including those who support the drone program. Lacking proof, the claim fuels skepticism about American intentions and harms United States-Pakistani relations.

    The Obama administration has vastly expanded the shadow war against terrorists, using the military and the C.I.A. to track down and kill them in a dozen countries. Pakistan — home base to Taliban and Al Qaeda militants — is the leading edge of robotic warfare.

    According to The Times’s Scott Shane, the C.I.A. says that since May 2010 drones have killed more than 600 militants in Pakistan and not a single noncombatant. Since 2001, the totals are almost as striking: 2,000 militants, and 50 noncombatants.

    A new report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University in London tells a different story. It says that most of the 1,842 people killed in more than 230 strikes ordered by President Obama in Pakistan since 2008 were militants, but at least 218 may have been civilians. And while “civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year,” the bureau still found “credible evidence” of at least 45 noncombatants killed.

    It is almost as if there were parallel realities. The C.I.A. contends that a May 6 strike on a pickup truck along the Afghan border wiped out only the intended targets: nine militants and their bomb-making materials. But British and Pakistani journalists say the missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house — killing 12 militants and six civilians.

    There is no question that the drone program has been successful, enabling the United States to disrupt Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s lawless border region. It is true that the precision technology and American efforts have kept noncombatant deaths to a minimum. And in the remote region of North Waziristan, where most strikes occur, it is hard to find the truth. But no civilian casualties?

    The strikes have long been controversial in Pakistan, fueling anti-American sentiments. Washington’s refusal to be more transparent about the program is counterproductive. It should provide as much public detail as possible, including civilian casualties. Pakistan’s government needs to end its duplicity: privately allowing the strikes, yet publicly condemning them.

    Drones are becoming central to modern warfare. The United States needs to be honest about what it can do and about its failings as well. It will have little ground on which to fault other countries for strikes that cause civilian casualties if it does not own up to its own errors, compensate victims’ families and keep working hard to make fewer errors in the future.

    NYT Aug 13 2011


  23. The death of Atiyah
    BY BRIAN FISHMAN Monday, August 29, 2011 – 4:19 PM

    The world shook when Osama bin Laden was killed, but it has taken less notice of reports that a CIA drone in Pakistan reportedly killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman al-Libi, now ubiquitously referred to as “al-Qaeda’s number two.” And while there is no doubt that bin Laden’s death was the more significant blow politically, Atiyah’s death may have a larger impact on how the al-Qaeda network functions.

    Since 2001, al-Qaeda has evolved from being structured hierarchically — with bin Laden at the top — into a network with bin Laden as one branch of the overall organization. Bin Laden’s continued authority was a function of his reputation within the network and, critically, his ability to communicate effectively. That ability to communicate is where Atiyah came in: if bin Laden was the most politically important branch of the al-Qaeda network, Atiyah was the node that connected his branch to the others. That also meant coordinating between al-Qaeda’s central leadership and potential al-Qaeda operators, such as Bryant Neal Vinas, in Europe and the United States.

    Atiyah’s central role in the al-Qaeda network has been clear since the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in 2006 released a declassified letter from Atiyah to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. That letter indicated not only that Atiyah had been an influential player in jihadi circles for years, but that he had a freedom of movement from Pakistan into Iran that was, if not unique, then very rare. Such freedom of movement was important not just for communications with Zarqawi and the al-Qaeda faction in Iraq, but for communications from al-Qaeda members held under house arrest in Iran, most importantly Sayf al-Adel, who has continued to play a key strategic role for al-Qaeda despite not having absolute freedom.

    When you consider that Atiyah reportedly was also a key interlocutor between al-Qaeda’s central leaders and jihadis in North Africa (likely because of his ability to communicate with Zarqawi, who was the first al-Qaeda point of contact for the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC), as well his time spent in contact with Algerian and Libyan jihadis during the 1990s), Atiyah’s centrality in the overall al-Qaeda network becomes clear. Atiyah was not the ultimate decision-maker, but he was the information crossroads.

    In a covert network, the ability to transmit messages reliably is power. It is now an over-used trope that al-Qaeda has become a horizontally-organized network that communicates virtually, and often transparently. But the reality is that al-Qaeda’s covert communication networks have played a critical role in the group’s strategic evolution, as declassified communications indicate. Al-Qaeda’s operators have been held together not just by the virtual affirmation offered on Internet forums, but private communication distributed carefully and covertly or in public forums using coded language and personas (see Atiyah’s letter to Zarqawi, in which he references (pg. 17) an object known only to the two of them, an object that would serve as an identifier in online forums).

    Trust also matters in covert networks if communication is to be effective. And Atiyah had that trust with many of al-Qaeda’s key actors and affiliates; that is why he will be hard to replace — perhaps even more so than current al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri is a critical leader of the organization, but he operates within a structure that increasingly emphasizes the ability to move information rather than generate authoritative commands. In other words: in al-Qaeda, connectedness is more important than authority and Atiyah was connected.

    Atiyah’s death, if confirmed, will hasten the demise of al-Qaeda as a functional covert network. Although one must assume Atiyah prepared for his death, his contacts must nevertheless now wonder what U.S. intelligence personnel knew his activities and communications that might now put them at risk. In a network reliant on trust, that suspicion creates a host of challenges for regenerating Atiyah’s functional role. The door is open for intelligence agencies to play all sorts of tricks on folks in Atiyah’s network — and his contacts must know that.

    The end result is not likely to be the demise of specific al-Qaeda cells around the world — at least in the short-run — but Atiyah’s death will hasten al-Qaeda’s inexorable shift into a social movement that shares strategic guidance overtly but operates in self-contained cells. Analysts have exaggerated this trend in al-Qaeda for years; in this case, however, life is imitating commentary.

    Brian Fishman is a Counterterrorism Research Fellow at the New America Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @brianfishman.


  24. Three Is the Loneliest Number
    What does the killing of al Qaeda’s No. 3, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, mean for Osama bin Laden?
    BY BRUCE RIEDEL | JUNE 2, 2010

    The death of Mustafa Ahmed Mohammad Uthman Abu al-Yazid, also known as Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, al Qaeda’s operational commander in Afghanistan, in a drone attack in Pakistan last month is a significant but not fatal setback for the group — and another sign that the Obama administration’s stepped-up pressure is having a real impact and disrupting the group’s activities. Al Qaeda announced his death in a message released on May 31 — and though the terrorist group is hurting, it is likely far from being on the ropes.

    A bit of background: Yazid was an Egyptian close to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s “No. 2.” He was involved, like Zawahiri, in the plot to assassinate Anwar Sadat in 1981 and, following their release from prison in the mid-1980s, the two created the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. That group merged with al Qaeda in 1998, and since then Yazid has worked as a fundraiser and has appeared often as a spokesman and commentator. He was actively involved in planning the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    According to some reports, he was also al Qaeda’s third-highest ranking officer. If so, then he is (by my count) the seventh individual identified by U.S. intelligence as al Qaeda’s “No. 3” since 2001 who has been killed or captured. Being No. 3 is clearly a dangerous job. For its part, al Qaeda itself has never identified anyone as the third man in its chain of command, and most likely there is more than one individual, at any one time, who reports to Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden directly.

    Whether or not he was No. 3, Yazid was a key al Qaeda operative. Yazid was likely involved in al Qaeda’s plot last year to attack the New York City metro system with three suicide bombers at rush hour on the Monday after the 9/11 anniversary. Two Afghan-Americans have pleaded guilty to that plot and have said they were being directed by al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.

    And, in his role as chief of operations in Afghanistan, Yazid would have been directly involved in the planning of the Dec. 30 suicide-bomber attack on the CIA’s forward operating base in Khost, which killed six officers and a senior Jordanian intelligence officer. In terms of loss of life, it was the second-worst day in CIA history, but as far as operational readiness was affected, it clearly did not interrupt drone strikes significantly.

    But drones, like the one that killed Yazid, are only one part of Barack Obama’s strategy to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda — and the U.S. president is far from achieving that goal. At best, the new pressure is impacting the terrorists’ operational tempo, but has not stopped them from planning and staging attacks on U.S. targets.

    One example is Zawahiri himself. Since December, he has appeared only once in al Qaeda’s propaganda output, a brief message last month eulogizing the death of two senior al Qaeda commanders in Iraq. Before this year, Zawahiri was a frequent commentator on al Qaeda audio and video messages, often appearing every other week. His absence is probably related to the Khost attack: He was the bait that al Qaeda dangled before the CIA operatives — a prize so tempting that routine procedures were overlooked, allowing a suicide bomber fatal access to the base. Zawahiri’s absence from the airwaves has been noted in the jihadi underworld, but his ability to direct attacks on U.S. and Western targets has likely been diminished only slightly.

    As for bin Laden, the most wanted man in history and the target of the largest manhunt ever conducted, CIA drones have not yet been able to get close to him, either. The last time U.S. intelligence had eyes on al Qaeda’s No. 1 was in 2001. For almost nine years since then, he has been off the radar — avoiding telephones, using trusted couriers to send messages, and receiving protection from powerful interests. But he has appeared in four audio messages so far this year, so reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

    Thus, though Yazid’s death is a significant scalp, both bin Laden and Zawahiri are still very much active. The drones will not defeat al Qaeda by themselves. Nor are they intended to; Obama’s strategy uses them as one tool in a broader diplomatic and military offensive. But this campaign, which is showing signs of progress, has a long way to go yet.


  25. Al Qaeda After Atiyya
    What the Death of al Qaeda’s Number Two Means for the Jihadists
    By William McCants
    August 30, 2011

    This past weekend, the U.S. government confirmed the death of Abu Abd al-Rahman Atiyyat Allah, otherwise known as Atiyya, a senior al Qaeda leader who was likely killed by a drone strike in Waziristan. Although he was not well known outside of jihadi circles, Atiyya played a critical role in al Qaeda. He was a trusted adviser to, and intermediary for, Osama bin Laden and a strategist second only to Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor. One CIA official told me that Atiyya’s death might prove even more significant than Zawahiri’s would.

    The killing of Atiyya, then, is a severe blow to al Qaeda. It illustrates how badly the organization has been compromised by the documents captured in the May raid that killed bin Laden. And, as I wrote in my recent Foreign Affairs article (“Al Qaeda’s Challenge,” September/October 2011), it comes at a time when al Qaeda is reeling from the loss of its founder and desperately trying to remain relevant amid the changes sweeping the Arab world. Atiyya was one of the few senior leaders in al Qaeda with enough experience, pragmatism, and patience to help it ride out the storm.

    Most of what the public knows about Atiyya’s role in the organization is taken from secondhand accounts of the documents confiscated in the bin Laden raid. One document allegedly reveals discussions between bin Laden and Atiyya about the possibility of a truce with Pakistan. Another is a memo from Atiyya to bin Laden about al Qaeda in Yemen’s request to install Anwar al-Awlaki as its leader. Further documents reveal that bin Laden and Atiyya explored together the feasibility of attacking the United States on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

    Beyond the documents, U.S. officials have disclosed that Atiyya was one of the handlers of Bryant Neal Vinas, a U.S. citizen who plotted to bomb the Long Island Rail Road in 2008, and that Atiyya issued bin Laden’s instructions to carry out a Mumbai-style attack in Europe in the fall of 2010. And sometime in the mid-2000s, bin Laden had appointed Atiyya to be his representative in Iran. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Atiyya built a supply chain there to funnel money and operatives from the Middle East to South Asia, sometimes with the collusion of the Iranian government.

    Atiyya had a strong pragmatic streak that he tried to impart to his compatriots. As Atiyya’s stature rose in the organization, he became a key strategist for al Qaeda, often advocating for patience and caution. He developed this prudence after traveling to Algeria in the early 1990s as bin Laden’s emissary to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the Islamic faction then waging a civil war against the Algerian government. During his mission, Atiyya witnessed firsthand the carnage of the unrestricted jihad that the GIA was waging; it allegedly massacred entire villages and killed thousands of civilians. Imprisoned by the GIA for criticizing its extreme violence, Atiyya eventually left Algeria convinced that whatever tactical victories the jihadis had gained through their bloodshed paled in comparison to the strategic damage of their resulting loss of public support.

    Atiyya’s wariness of excessive violence was on display during the height of the Iraq war, when he attempted to rein in the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was bullying Sunni tribal leaders into submitting to his quest to establish an Islamic state. In a 2005 letter, Atiyya wrote to Zarqawi on behalf of al Qaeda’s central leadership, urging the AQI leader to avoid alienating the Iraqi public with gratuitous violence and to instead build broad coalitions with Sunni leaders, including religious moderates. Much like Zawahiri in his own correspondence with Zarqawi, Atiyya was concerned that AQI’s excesses would diminish its public standing and thus undermine its attempt to build an Islamic state.

    Although Atiyya idealistically took the lead in defending the founding of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq in 2006, which some hard-line Salafis criticized as premature, he did have a strong pragmatic streak, which he tried to impart to his compatriots. For example, in a 2008 book on Hezbollah, he sought to convince his jihadi audience that Iran’s foreign policy is not based on religion alone but is also highly pragmatic and opportunistic (a stance that perhaps hints at his own dealings with the Iranian government). In a 2010 booklet, he urged his fellow jihadis to be more cautious in excommunicating other Sunnis for theological or legal infractions so as not to alienate potential allies. More recently, at the beginning of the uprising in Libya, Atiyya forecasted that the true battle would come after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi, and he called on Islamists there to begin planning for the establishment of an Islamic state in advance.

    Such strategic forbearance is rare in al Qaeda circles. This will make it difficult for Zawahiri to find a replacement for Atiyya, especially during this time of crisis for the organization. Atiyya’s death must also make Zawahiri worry that he will be next. Indeed, if he were, al Qaeda Central might completely collapse, increasing the likelihood that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent claim that the United States is “within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda” will come to pass. Even if al Qaeda manages to survive this period, the loss of Atiyya will leave it without a crucial strategic planner and voice of reason to wage the major intellectual and political battles that the organization must now fight to survive and maintain its influence.


  26. ‘US raids kill al-Qaeda fighters’ in Yemen
    Yemeni sources say up to 20 suspects dead following a drone attack in the southern Abyan province.
    Last Modified: 01 Sep 2011 14:40
    Al Jazeera

    Sources tell Al Jazeera that at least 20 al-Qaeda suspects have been killed in US air attacks and clashes with Yemeni soldiers in the southern province of Abyan.

    A military official confirmed on Thursday the deaths of the al-Qaeda-linked fighters, but refused to comment on whether there was any US involvement.

    The air raids freed a Yemeni military unit besieged in Abyan for several weeks by al-Qaeda groups.

    A medical official said four Yemeni military officers were also killed in clashes on Wednesday and Thursday.

    The official said Yemeni troops had pushed back al-Qaeda groups from an area about 8km outside the southern city of Zinjibar.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the press.

    Yemen has repeatedly said its forces are making gains against groups who are suspected of ties to al Qaeda and have taken over two large cities in Abyan, a flashpoint province.

    But the army has yet to regain control since the region was plunged into almost daily violence some months ago, bloodshed that has driven away some 90,000 residents.

    President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government has lost control of some parts of the south amid rising political turmoil, as mass protests demanding an end to his 33-year rule.

    The US and neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia fear that spreading chaos in Yemen is giving the branch of al-Qaeda entrenched there more room to operate.

    Saleh’s opponents accuse his government of exaggerating the al-Qaeda threat in Yemen and even encouraging armed groups in order to pressure Riyadh and Washington to back his continued rule.

    Saleh is still recovering in Saudi Arabia from severe wounds during a June bomb attack but has vowed to return to Yemen, a course of action Washington has advised him not to pursue.


  27. Secret drone base set for Persian Gulf
    The United States is building a secret CIA air base in the Persian Gulf region to target terrorists in Yemen, preparing for the possibility…

    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON — The United States is building a secret CIA air base in the Persian Gulf region to target terrorists in Yemen, preparing for the possibility that an anti-American faction may take over Yemen and ban U.S. forces from hunting a lethal al-Qaida faction there, The Associated Press has learned.

    The anti-al-Qaida effort in Yemen is being run by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the top U.S. military counterterrorism outfit, and the CIA provides intelligence support. JSOC forces have been allowed by the Yemeni government to conduct limited strikes there since 2009 and recently have allowed expanded strikes by U.S. armed drones and even war planes against al-Qaida targets who are taking advantage of civil unrest to grab power and territory in the Gulf country.

    The new CIA base provides a backstop, if al-Qaida or other anti-American rebel forces gain control, one senior U.S. official explained. The White House already has increased the numbers of CIA officers in Yemen, in anticipation of that possibility. And it has stepped up the schedule to construct the base, from a two-year timetable to a rushed eight months.

    The Associated Press has withheld the exact location at the request of U.S. officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because portions of the military and CIA missions in Yemen are classified.

    Drones like Reapers and Predators are unmanned aircraft that can be flown from remote locations and hover over a target before firing a missile. Yemeni officials have indicated their preference toward drones, versus allowing U.S. counterterror strike teams on Yemeni soil, saying they are less apt to anger the local population.

    The planned CIA base suggests a long-term U.S. commitment to fighting al-Qaida in the region, along the lines of the model used in Pakistan, where CIA drones hunt extremists with tacit, though not public, Pakistani government approval.

    Its construction also indicates a possible shift in the internal debate in the administration over whether U.S. special-operations forces should keep leading the fight in Yemen, U.S. officials said.

    While that policy debate plays out in Washington, U.S. special-operations forces based just outside Yemen are taking aim almost daily at a greater array of targets that have been flushed into view by the unrest.

    Other U.S. forces have stepped up their targeting as well, because of the besieged Yemeni government’s new willingness to allow U.S. forces to use all tools available — from armed drones to war planes — against al-Qaida as a way to stay in power, the U.S. officials said.

    The Obama administration has been working for months in concert with the mediation efforts of Yemen’s Gulf neighbors to persuade President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power. Saleh was evacuated for emergency-medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, after being hit by explosive devices planted in the presidential mosque more than a week ago.

    The United States has continued to press for a deal in the hope that a political solution could pre-empt any plan by the Yemeni leader of 33 years to return. That, officials fear, could lead to further instability.

    With al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula essentially in control of large swathes of Yemeni territory, the Yemeni government now hopes U.S. targeting will remove some of the enemies threatening the Saleh regime.

    More al-Qaida operatives are exposing themselves as they move from their hide-outs across the country to command troops challenging the Saleh regime, moves U.S. forces also are monitoring.

    That has led to the arrests of al-Qaida operatives by Yemeni forces, guided by U.S. intelligence intercepts, and those operatives are talking under joint U.S.-Yemeni interrogation, providing key information on al-Qaida operations and locations, U.S. officials said.

    That, in turn, led to the best opportunity in more than a year to hit U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in early May. Three separate attempts, by two types of unmanned-armed drone-craft and war planes all failed, prompting some grousing among intelligence agencies that CIA-led strikes might net better results.

    Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had long urged al-Qaida not to directly challenge Saleh but to keep Yemen as a haven from which to launch attacks against the United States, while al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula leaders argued that they should overthrow the Yemeni government.

    A record of that debate between bin Laden and the Yemeni al-Qaida leadership was found among the records at the compound in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces May 2.

    Also: Yemeni officials said that militants had seized parts of the southern city of Houta in a dawn attack Wednesday.


  28. CIA shifts focus to killing targets

    By Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: September 2
    Washington Post

    Behind a nondescript door at CIA headquarters, the agency has assembled a new counterterrorism unit whose job is to find al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. A corresponding commotion has been underway in the Arabian Peninsula, where construction workers have been laying out a secret new runway for CIA drones.

    When the missiles start falling, it will mark another expansion of the paramilitary mission of the CIA.

    In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the agency has undergone a fundamental transformation. Although the CIA continues to gather intelligence and furnish analysis on a vast array of subjects, its focus and resources are increasingly centered on the cold counterterrorism objective of finding targets to capture or kill.

    The shift has been gradual enough that its magnitude can be difficult to grasp. Drone strikes that once seemed impossibly futuristic are so routine that they rarely attract public attention unless a high-ranking al-Qaeda figure is killed.

    But framed against the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks — as well as the arrival next week of retired Gen. David H. Petraeus as the CIA’s director — the extent of the agency’s reorientation comes into sharper view:

    ●The drone program has killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001, a staggering figure for an agency that has a long history of supporting proxy forces in bloody conflicts but rarely pulled the trigger on its own.

    ●The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which had 300 employees on the day of the attacks, now exceeds al-Qaeda’s core membership around the globe. With about 2,000 on its staff, the CTC accounts for 10 percent of the agency’s workforce, has designated officers in almost every significant overseas post and controls the CIA’s expanding fleet of drones.

    ●Even the agency’s analytic branch, which traditionally existed to provide insights to policymakers, has been enlisted in the hunt. About 20 percent of CIA analysts are now “targeters” scanning data for individuals to recruit, arrest or place in the cross­hairs of a drone. The skill is in such demand that the CIA made targeting a designated career track five years ago, meaning analysts can collect raises and promotions without having to leave the targeting field.

    Critics, including some in the U.S. intelligence community, contend that the CIA’s embrace of “kinetic” operations, as they are known, has diverted the agency from its traditional espionage mission and undermined its ability to make sense of global developments such as the Arab Spring.

    Human rights groups go further, saying the CIA now functions as a military force beyond the accountability that the United States has historically demanded of its armed services. The CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules.

    “We’re seeing the CIA turn into more of a paramilitary organization without the oversight and accountability that we traditionally expect of the military,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    CIA officials defend all aspects of the agency’s counterterrorism efforts and argue that the agency’s attention to other subjects has not been diminished. Fran Moore, head of the CIA’s analytic branch, said intelligence work on a vast range of issues, including weapons proliferation and energy resources, has been expanded and improved.

    “The vast majority of analysts would not identify themselves as supporting military objectives,” Moore said in an interview at CIA headquarters. Counterterrorism “is clearly a significant, growing and vibrant part of our mission. But it’s not the defining mission.”

    Agency within an agency

    Nevertheless, those directly involved in building the agency’s lethal capacity say the changes to the CIA since Sept. 11 are so profound that they sometimes marvel at the result. One former senior U.S. intelligence official described the agency’s paramilitary transformation as “nothing short of a wonderment.”

    “You’ve taken an agency that was chugging along and turned it into one hell of a killing machine,” said the former official, who, like many people interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters. Blanching at his choice of words, he quickly offered a revision: “Instead, say ‘one hell of an operational tool.’ ”

    The engine of that machine is the CTC, an entity that has accumulated influence, authority and resources to such a degree that it resembles an agency within an agency.

    The center swelled to 1,200 employees in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and nearly doubled in size since then.

    The CTC occupies a sprawling footprint at the CIA campus in Langley, including the first floor of what is known as the “new headquarters” building. The chief of the center is an undercover officer known for his brusque manner, cigarette habit and tireless commitment to the job.

    A CIA veteran said he asked the CTC chief about the pace of strikes against al-Qaeda last year and got a typically profane reply: “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.”

    The headquarters for that hunt is on a separate floor in a CTC unit known as the Pakistan-Afghanistan Department, referred to internally as PAD. Within the past year, the agency has created an equivalent department for Yemen and Somalia in the hope that it can replicate the impact of PAD.

    Inside the PAD entrance is a photographic tribute to the seven CIA employees who were killed by a suicide bomber in December 2009 at a remote base in the Afghan city of Khost. Two were former targeters who had worked in the CTC.

    Beyond that marker is a warren of cubicles and offices. On the walls are maps marked with the locations of CIA bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as whiteboards with lists of pending operations and code names of spies. Every paid informant is given a unique “crypt” that starts with a two-letter digraph designating spies who are paid sources of the CTC.

    PAD serves as the anchor of an operational triangle that stretches from South Asia to the American Southwest. The CIA has about 30 Predator and Reaper drones, all flown by Air Force pilots from a U.S. military base in a state that The Post has agreed, at the request of agency officials, not to name. The intelligence that guides their “orbits” flows in from a constellation of CIA bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    CIA officials insist that drone strikes are among the least common outcomes in its counter­terrorism campaign.

    “Of all the intelligence work on counterterrorism, only a sliver goes into Predator operations,” a senior U.S. official said. The agency’s 118 strikes last year were outnumbered “many times” by instances in which the agency provided tips to foreign partners or took nonlethal steps.

    “There were investigations, arrests, debriefings . . . these are all operational acts,” the official said.

    The Obama administration dismantled the CIA’s system of secret prisons, but it continues to use foreign partners to apprehend suspects in some countries, including Somalia.

    The CIA also was heavily involved in the raid by U.S. Special Operations troops on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May. Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, but the operation was carried out under CIA authority, planned in a room at agency headquarters and based on intelligence gathered over a period of years by the CTC.

    Growing collaboration

    The assault was the most high-profile example of an expanding collaboration between the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the nation’s elite military teams.

    Their comingling at remote bases is so complete that U.S. officials ranging from congressional staffers to high-ranking CIA officers said they often find it difficult to distinguish agency from military personnel.

    “You couldn’t tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors,” said a senior U.S. official after a recent tour through Afghanistan. “They’re all three blended together. All under the command of the CIA.”

    Their activities occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations. Sometimes their missions are considered military “preparation of the battlefield,” and others fall under covert findings obtained by the CIA. As a result, congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view.

    Hybrid units called “omega” or “cross matrix” teams have operated in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, according to senior U.S. military officials.

    Those employed in Afghanistan were “mostly designed against specific high-value targets with the intent of looking across the border” into Pakistan, said a former senior U.S. military official involved in Special Operations missions. They wore civilian clothes and traveled in Toyota Hilux trucks rather than military vehicles.

    “They were designed to develop sources and leads” but also to “be prepared if necessary to be the front end of a more robust lethal force.”

    On at least five occasions, officials said, Special Operations units working closely with the CIA ventured into Pakistan in exercises designed to test their ability to close in on a target without being detected by Pakistani authorities. The operations, which took place between 2002 and 2006, amounted to early rehearsals of the bin Laden raid.

    The CIA’s post-Sept. 11 arsenal has also included elite Afghan militias trained and led by the agency’s Special Activities Division, its paramilitary branch. In a measure of the murkiness surrounding such programs, the purpose of the Counterterror Pursuit Teams is a source of disagreement among senior officials in government.

    “They can fire in self-defense, but they don’t go out to try and kill a target,” a U.S. official familiar with CIA operations in Afghanistan said. “They’re mostly arresting people and turning them over to” the Afghan security services.

    But the former senior U.S. military official said the teams’ objectives were “more kill-capture” than capture-kill. “It wasn’t always high-value targets,” he said. “They were trying to pursue and kill sometimes lower-hanging fruit.”

    In some cases, the pursuit teams used more indiscriminate means, including land mines, to disrupt insurgent networks, the former official said. Two current U.S. military officials said one of the CIA’s pursuit teams was disbanded after a botched assault in which it killed the wrong target.

    A U.S. intelligence official disputed that account, and said none of the teams were ever shut down. The official acknowledged that Pash­tun-dominated militias have been used by the CIA to gather intelligence inside Pakistan. Any need to use them to pursue targets has been diminished by the expanding lethal reach of the drones.

    Given the scope of the CIA’s paramilitary activities, human rights groups say the death toll over the past decade from CIA-
    directed operations undoubtedly exceeds the casualty count associated with strikes from drones.

    U.S. intelligence and congressional officials insist that the number of people killed in CIA operations outside the drone campaign is negligible, but say they have never seen an agency-produced casualty count that includes other categories of operations.

    “That’s a very small number — I’m struggling to come up with a single example,” said a U.S. official involved in overseeing CIA operations since 2004.

    The demands of the counterterror mission have affected the organization in more subtle but pervasive ways. A U.S. official who worked closely with former CIA director Leon E. Panetta said the then-chief spent at least 30 percent of his time on counterterrorism matters.

    Panetta’s predecessor, Michael V. Hayden, answered questions about his priorities with a jumble of letters, “CTCPROW,” meaning counterterrorism, counterproliferation and, finally, rest of the world.

    CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said, “While we don’t discuss the details of our counterterrorism operations, the fact that they are a top priority and effective is precisely what the American people expect.”

    Yet officials describe a distortion effect in collecting intelligence. Dependence on counterterrorism cooperation from a country such as Egypt makes it more risky to engage in activities that might jeopardize that relationship, such as gathering intelligence on corruption in the government or its fragile hold on power.

    Senior officials also voice concern about changes in the agency’s analytic branch, where 35 percent are now in jobs where their main function is to support operators and 10 percent are deployed abroad.

    “We were originally set up with a more singular focus on policymakers,” said Moore, the head of the CIA’s analytic branch. But for a growing number of analysts, “it’s not just about writing for the president. It’s about gaining leads.”

    Putting analysts alongside operators gives them a clearer view of sources and the quality of raw intelligence. In turn, the analysts can help operators vet sources and gain a complex understanding of their adversaries.

    But the collaboration also carries risks, including a concern that analysts may become too invested in the outcomes of operations, too eager to be part of the agency’s counterterrorism team.

    There is also a self-serving aspect to the arrangement.

    “When CIA does covert action, who does the president turn to to judge its effectiveness?” a former senior U.S. intelligence official. “To the CIA.”

    In this new operation-focused era, targeters play a critical role. The job is more complex than it sounds, and involves assembling vast quantities of data on terrorist networks or other organizations to pinpoint their most vulnerable points. It could be a source for the CIA to recruit or a shipment that an illicit nuclear weapons program can’t do without.

    In counterterrorism operations, it also means placing militants in the remotely controlled sights of Predator and Reaper drones.

    The CIA’s skill and efficiency at doing so has given the drone program a momentum of its own. More broadly, an agency that some argued should be dismantled after failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war has achieved a standing as an indispensable counterterrorism tool.

    U.S. officials said President Obama’s decision to approve the agency’s new drone base in the Arabian Peninsula and begin Predator patrols over Yemen was driven by the agency’s unique authorities and capabilities.

    JSOC has been flying armed drones over Yemen for much of the past year. But those flights fall under conventional military authorities that require permission or at least a level of acquiescence from Yemen. The CIA is in a better position to keep flying even if that cooperation stops.

    The administration is also counting on the lethal proficiency of the targeters settling into their cubicles in the latest addition to the sprawling offices of the CTC, a department focused exclusively on Yemen and Somalia.

    “The kinetic piece of any counterterror strike is the last 20 seconds of an enormously long chain of collection and analysis,” said a U.S. official involved in the creation of the new department. “Traditional elements of espionage and analysis have not been lost at the agency. On the contrary. The CT effort is largely an intelligence game. It’s about finding a target . . . the finish piece is the easy part.”


  29. An Open Secret: Drone Warfare In Pakistan

    Drone warfare is now one of the most fundamental features of the U.S. battle against its enemies. Just don’t ask anyone in the government to talk about it.

    Since 2004, the United States military has fired about 270 missiles into Pakistan, killing thousands of militants, according to the U.S. government. Dozens of so-called high-value targets have been eliminated, like al-Qaida’s No. 2, who was killed in an attack last month.

    But since the CIA runs these attacks, they are secret. As a result, no one in the government is supposed to admit they’re happening.

    “This is the least well-kept secret in the history of secrecy,” says Peter Bergen, director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C., which has compiled extensive data on the U.S. drone strikes.

    EnlargeShah Khalid/AP
    A Pakistani villager holds the wreckage of a suspected surveillance drone that crashed in the Pakistani town of Chaman along the Afghanistan border on Aug. 25. The number of drone strikes has increased fivefold during the Obama administration.
    “Everybody knows these are happening. Everybody knows the Pakistanis are involved in some way. Everybody knows we’re doing it,” Bergen says.

    Dramatic Increase In Attacks

    The drone strikes — part of a covert U.S. war in the northwest part of Pakistan — have changed the way the U.S. fights terrorism in the decade since the attacks of Sept. 11.

    Started under the Bush administration, the strikes into Pakistan have increased fivefold under President Obama. Last year, there were 118.

    What accounts for the dramatic increase? According to former U.S. officials, the Obama administration made a decision to step up the drone campaign. The technology has gotten better — drones can now hover for days at a time. As a result, the strikes are working and key militant leaders are being killed.

    Peter W. Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative and a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, explains:

    This is the least well-kept secret in the history of secrecy. Everybody knows these are happening. Everybody knows the Pakistanis are involved in some way. Everybody knows we’re doing it.
    – Peter Bergen, national security analyst at the New America Foundation
    “In a lot of cases, they’ll track that target not just for minutes, but for hours or days, getting a pattern of life — who’s coming and going from that compound, where are they? And then you get the strike,” he says.

    And the strikes aren’t just against al-Qaida’s leadership. In 2008, the Bush administration broadened the campaign to include lower-ranking foot soldiers. They also started targeting groups that Pakistan saw as threats. The Obama administration did the same thing.

    Risk Of Backlash

    U.S. officials say the strikes are crucial to keeping al-Qaida off balance. But that tactical success comes at a cost.

    “There is the potential for backlash,” notes Frances Townsend, who served as President Bush’s homeland security adviser. “And in each case, you’re making a policy decision about the potential gain versus those risks.”

    One big risk is that the attacks have fueled anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Officials there have allowed the drone operations; but at the same time, Pakistan resents the U.S. for carrying out strikes on its territory.

    As a result, the U.S. and Pakistan are locked in a toxic marriage where neither partner trusts the other, but walking away isn’t an option.

    Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair argues it’s time to make the Pakistanis an equal partner in the strikes — putting “two hands on the trigger” — so they feel more invested in the outcome.

    EnlargeMohammad Sajjad/AP
    Supporters of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami protest in Peshawar, Pakistan, against U.S. drone strikes in the country’s northwest in April. The drone attacks have further fueled anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.
    There is another problem: civilian deaths. It’s unclear how many innocent people have died in the strikes — between 50 and 300, depending on who’s counting. But Townsend says the secrecy of the drone campaign is a liability of sorts. Neither the U.S. nor Pakistan will admit the strikes are happening, which makes defending them almost impossible.

    “I do think there’s an opportunity now for the administration to have, at least in a minimal way, some public discussion about the necessity of the tool, the care with which it is deployed, if we are to expect that the American people will continue to support such a program,” Townsend says.

    Need For The ‘Knockout Punch’

    For now, the U.S. government has no plans to ease up on the drone strikes, talk about them, or give Pakistan more say in how they’re done. Far from it: A couple of months ago, a top security adviser to President Obama, Doug Lute, was asked about the drone strikes at a security conference. He said Osama bin Laden’s death makes the strikes even more important.

    “So this is a period of turbulence in an organization which is our archenemy. This is a period, therefore, that all military doctrine suggests you need to go for the knockout punch,” he said.

    Lute acknowledged that the U.S. does need a real partnership with Pakistan. But, he said, “I’m not ready to switch gears in the next six months when we’ve got a chance of a lifetime.”


  30. Drones Evolve Into Weapon in Age of Terror

    Intelligence Services Overcome Philosophical, Legal Misgivings Over Targeted Killings; Pilotless Attacks Doubled in 2010


    The Sept. 11 attacks triggered a revolution in U.S. spycraft as the intelligence services shattered a longstanding taboo by launching an expansive program of targeted killings by remote control.

    The intelligence failures that preceded 9/11 rocked U.S. intelligence, prompting an expansion of surveillance in the U.S., and spawning new communications-intercept programs overseas.

    But the greatest shift both in tactics and mindset has been the embrace of the pilotless, hunter-killer aircraft known as drones.

    Fighting terrorists who acknowledge no boundaries, the CIA has in many ways returned to its World War II roots. Its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, was formed in 1942 under William “Wild Bill” Donovan to collect intelligence for the military, organizing guerrilla operations, parachuting into enemy territory and orchestrating sabotage.

    “CIA has never looked more like its direct ancestor, the OSS, than it does right now,” said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. “It is as intensely operational as it’s ever been.”

    The CIA, which doesn’t formally acknowledge the covert program, has killed about 2,000 militants with drones, U.S. officials say, most in the past two years as President Barack Obama’s national security team aggressively expanded the program.

    In 2010, the number of drone strikes more than doubled, to 114, and this year, drone campaigns are expanding. The CIA now plans flights in Yemen, and the military is using drones to kill militants in Somalia.

    “The United States has been fighting al Qaeda for more than a decade now, so it’s only logical that counterterrorism would be a top objective for the CIA,” said agency spokeswoman Marie Harf. “When the country goes to war, its intelligence agencies do, too. That’s always been true, from the days of the OSS in World War II until now.”

    Legal challenges to the drone program have secured little traction. The main debate inside the government has been over how to execute the campaign without irreversibly damaging Pakistani cooperation.

    American citizens can be targets, too. Under the legal authority for the drone program, the CIA must consult the National Security Council before capturing an American posing an imminent threat, but no additional consultation is required to kill an American, a former senior intelligence official said.

    “The reason there hasn’t been more of an outcry about it is, it’s the Obama administration defending this authority,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer. “But the authority is going to be used not just by this administration but the next one, and not just the war on terror but the next war.”

    As the reliance on the drone campaign grows, some intelligence veterans are quietly questioning whether the remote-control killings violate ethical boundaries. “They shouldn’t be judge, jury and executioner,” said a former U.S. official. “It’s an important program, but are there checks and balances?”

    American unease with assassination dates back to the CIA’s 1960s-era plots to kill figures such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, which spurred President Gerald Ford to issue an executive order banning political assassination.

    CIA officials split in the 1980s over how to interpret the ban, according to Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor and author of a forthcoming paper on the topic. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan authorized CIA “action teams” to kill terrorists if an attack was imminent, and officials at the time debated what that meant.

    The rise of the drone program can be dated to about a decade later, when in 1998 President Bill Clinton authorized the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his senior associates. But White House and CIA officials disagreed on whether they could kill the terrorist leader.

    The next year, with al Qaeda hiding in Afghanistan, a handful of CIA officers looked into using Predator drones to peer into the unreachable territory. The CIA gussied up the Air Force’s castoff surveillance Predators and spotted bin Laden in Afghanistan.

    “We thought, we need to be able to see him and kill him at the same time,” said then-White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

    The CIA group set out to arm the Predator and had a version in the summer of 2001. But officials decided not to launch it. Some felt that the technology wasn’t proven, and others worried that it would be seen as a lethal weapon theCIA didn’t have sufficient authority to use..

    “We built it, and everyone was getting in a tizzy because it was an ‘assassination tool,’ ” recalled the former U.S. official. Mr. Clarke agreed.

    There also were disagreements over who should pay for it, other former officials said. In addition, questions lingered about the craft’s missile-firing technology, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet.

    After Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush moved to authorize covert action, including for those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Armed-drone testing grounds quickly moved from the Nevada desert to the mountains of Afghanistan.

    In 2002, the CIA and military split drone responsibilities, with the CIA taking Pakistan and the military taking Afghanistan. The U.S. agreed to consult with Pakistan before pulling the trigger, unless it found bin Laden or his No. 2, the former official said.

    But by 2006, the U.S. relationship with Pakistan was growing more difficult. The Pakistanis started cutting peace deals with militants in the tribal regions and were slow to respond to drone-hit requests, several American officials said. The U.S. also believed Pakistani intelligence tipped off al Qaeda targets, they said.When there were zero strikes in 2007, then-CIA director Hayden began lobbying Mr. Bush to end the agreement to check with the Pakistanis first. “The frustration with the Pakistanis was the key factor,” said one U.S. official. The CIA also wanted to go after militant groups that were targeting U.S. troops on the other side of the border in Afghanistan. After Mr. Bush approved the ramp-up, there were 28 strikes in the second half of 2008.

    Mr. Obama had campaigned on refocusing the terrorism fight on al Qaeda. He and his team quickly sought to expand the drone program after his election in 2008. At the same time, the Obama team and worked to reduce civilian casualties. Pakistanis and human rights groups contest CIA claims that civilian deaths have been minimal. On Jan. 1, 2009, the CIA killed two top Al Qaeda planners, reinforcing the importance of the program for the incoming Obama team. Another hit that renewed the administration’s commitment, a U.S. official said, was the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009.

    That fall, Mr. Obama approved a doubling of the CIA’s predator fleet from seven to 14 drone orbits, which usually consist of three planes.


  31. Taliban commander killed after US chopper crash: Nato
    Posted By AFP On September 22, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    KABUL: A Taliban commander who was the target of an operation last month in which 30 US troops died in a helicopter crash has been killed in an air strike, the Nato-led force in Afghanistan said Thursday.

    Qari Tahir was killed in an air strike Tuesday in Wardak province, central Afghanistan, six weeks after the helicopter crash caused the biggest single loss of life for foreign forces in ten years of war.

    Washington has said it had killed those behind the helicopter’s downing, but a senior Afghan government official told AFP that it was Tahir who had lured US forces to the scene by tipping them off about a Taliban meeting.

    “Tahir… was the target of a previous combined operation on Aug. 5, 2011, that resulted in the loss of the CH-47 Chinook last month,” the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

    “He led a group of insurgent fighters throughout the valley and was known to use roadside bombs and rockets to intimidate the local populace.”

    The US helicopter was shot down killing 38 people including 30 US troops, 25 of whom were special forces.

    Many of the victims belonged to the US Navy’s “Team Six”, the special forces unit that killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his Pakistani hideout in May. Sources said they were not part of the team that killed the 9/11 mastermind.

    Days after the crash, General John Allen, the US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, said that those who shot the Chinook down had been hunted down and killed in a bombing raid by an F-16 fighter jet.

    This claim was denied by the Taliban and a senior Afghan government official told AFP that it was Tahir who was responsible for luring US forces to the scene.

    Speaking anonymously, he said Tahir had set a trap for the aircraft to be shot down.

    US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded to the crash, which raised doubts over the international mission in Afghanistan, by vowing to “stay the course”.

    The fatal operation had been targeting the leadership of an “enemy network” within the remote and hostile Tangi Valley, southwest of the capital Kabul, Allen said.

    The Afghan police and army have struggled to counter the Taliban in the Tangi valley, according to officials and local people, with insurgents controlling the area.

    There are around 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about 100,000 of them from the US, fighting a Taliban-led insurgency.

    All foreign combat forces are due to leave in staged withdrawals leading up to a deadline at the end of 2014, at which point Afghan security forces will assume responsibility for their country.

    A string of recent spectacular attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul in recent months has highlighted the strength of the insurgency.

    They include Tuesday’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president tasked with leading Afghan government efforts to talk peace with the Taliban, who was killed by a man with explosives hidden in his turban.


  32. US uses drones to target al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa
    21 September 11 20:58 GMT

    By Frank Gardner
    BBC security correspondent

    Quietly, with as little fanfare as possible, the US is trying to confront the twin challenges of terrorism and piracy in and around the Horn of Africa.

    Amongst other means, the Americans are increasing using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), known as drones.

    It is a controversial policy – the CIA is most worried by Somalia and Yemen, so it is no coincidence they are coming under the most surveillance from the air.

    Those nations are also experiencing a rising number of unpopular missile strikes by armed MQ-9 Reaper drones, successor to the earlier Predators.

    Crippling al-Qaeda

    Counter-terrorism officials say that in failed or failing states, the drones are a precision-guided weapon to target al-Qaeda operatives, where the host country will not allow the US to put forces on the ground.

    They point to Pakistan’s tribal territories, which border Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama’s administration has ordered a massive increase in drone strikes.

    These have resulted in the crippling of much of al-Qaeda’s fugitive leadership, but also in large numbers of civilian casualties.

    In Yemen’s tribal provinces of Shabwa, Abyan and Marib, recent drone strikes have certainly kept up the pressure on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP).

    Antipathy generated

    But the strikes there have often killed civilians, including tribal leaders, and generated enormous antipathy towards the US.
    In some cases, the air strikes, frequently based on faulty or out-of-date intelligence, have actually driven Yemeni tribesmen reluctantly closer to al-Qaeda.

    This has united them against what they see as common enemies – the United States and their own government – in a nation already in the grip of a slow-burning rebellion against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    The US set up its base in the Horn of Africa in late 2002, putting nearly 1,000 servicemen and women into a former French Foreign Legion base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, and calling it the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).

    Operations intensified

    At the same time the CIA conducted its first ever drone strike on the Arabian mainland, killing the al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, Abu Ali Al-Harithi, in November 2002.

    After a long pause, drone operations in the region have resumed and intensified.

    There is now reported to be a launch base in the Ogaden in Ethiopia and another in the Seychelles.

    A spokesman for the Pentagon’s Africa Command (Africom) said on Wednesday that MQ-9 Reaper flights from the Seychelles had resumed this month but said the aircraft were not armed.

    He added: “The Reapers do, however, have the capability to be configured for both surveillance and strike.”


  33. Azerbaijan Steps Up National UAV Production

    Azerbaijani Armed Forces to receive 60 new UAVs by the end of 2011

    10:30 GMT, September 22, 2011 defpro.com | The Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan will take delivery of 60 license-built tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the end of 2011. As Rashad Suleymanov of the Azeri Press Agency (APA) recently reported (see http://goo.gl/sfUa7), the Israeli-designed small unmanned aircraft are currently being manufactured and assembled by the Baku-based Azad Systems Company, a joint venture between the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence Industry (MDI) and Israeli UAV manufacturer Aeronautics Defense Systems.

    Aeronautics, which is Israel’s third-largest UAV manufacturer after IAI and Elbit Systems, provided Azerbaijan with its Aerostar and Orbiter 2M UAV systems. The Orbiter 2M mini UAV operates at a height of 4 to 6 kilometres with a maximum of 5 hours in flight. The somewhat larger Aerostar UAV provides the Azerbaijani Army with situational awareness from a height of approximately 10 kilometres and offers an endurance of up to 12 hours.

    Azad Systems currently manufactures these UAVs at its Baku facility and plans to deliver 60 of the small aircraft to the Armed Forces by the end of this year. The latter will use the aircraft primarily for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes. However, Azerbaijani Minister of Defence Industry Yavar Jamalov told APA that the country is also considering the production of armed UAVs that could actively engage ground targets. According to the Minister, this project is scheduled to be implemented within the next two years.

    Suleymanov told defpro.com that the technical characteristics of licence-built UAVs are very similar to the original Israeli design. While 30 per cent of the equipment is being manufactured in Azerbaijan, the majority of the systems’ elements are being produced abroad and delivered to Azerbaijan for final assembly.

    Azerbaijan launched studies on the domestic production of UAVs in late 2009. According to APA, several Turkish companies, including TAI, Baykar Makina and Global Teknik, as well as Israeli companies, submitted proposals for a joint production. The Azerbaijani MDI’s decision in favour of Israeli designs, supported by the fact that armed forces’ already operate Israeli-built UAVs, resulted in the establishment of Azad Systems in March 2011.

    While Israeli-Turkish relations are currently experiencing tough times, Israel’s defence industry has closely worked with the small but oil-rich Muslim country located by the Caspian Sea during recent years. The bilateral ties have flourished, in particular, since Azerbaijan became one of the largest crude-oil suppliers to Israel in 2006. Defence programmes with a major involvement of Israeli industries include communications and satellite systems, as well as artillery systems and UAVs.

    The Azerbaijani Armed Forces already operate Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 and IAI’s Searcher reconnaissance UAVs, as well as a number of Aeronautics’ Aerostar and Orbiter UAVs. Some of the Armed Forces’ unmanned assets were displayed during a military parade in Baku in June 2011.

    Due to country’s long-standing dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which was occupied by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh War that ended in 1994, Azerbaijan is undertaking great efforts to modernise its armed forces. To accomplish this aim, the relatively small country is seeking close industrial co-operation with regional and international partners in all major sectors of defence manufacturing. Among the most important partners are Turkey and Israel. However, countries such as the Czech Republic (modernisation of Azerbaijan’s L-29 and L-30 aircraft) and South Africa are also involved in important modernisation programmes.

    Azerbaijan’s antagonist, Armenia, has also engaged in the national production of UAVs. Among the results of this effort is the Armenian-made Krunk drone, which was presented to the public during a military parade in Yerevan on September 21 dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.

    By Nicolas von Kospoth, Managing Editor


  34. UN official criticises US over drone attacks
    2 June 2010 Last updated at 18:22 GMT
    BBC News

    The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says.
    Philip Alston said that the US in particular was doing damage to rules designed to protect the right of life.

    Mr Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, feared a “Playstation” mentality could develop.

    His report to the UN Human Rights Council also brings renewed scrutiny of Israel and Russia.

    Both nations are also reported to have carried out targeted killings of alleged militants and insurgents. President Barack Obama has increased the use of Predator drones to attack militants in Pakistan.

    ‘Hundreds of killings’

    The UN report comes days after the US hailed news of the death of Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s third in command in Pakistan, who was reportedly killed by a drone strike in May, along with his family.
    Mr Alston reserves particular criticism for CIA-directed drone attacks, which he said had resulted in the deaths of “many hundreds” of civilians.

    “Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” the report says.

    Mr Alston also suggests that the drone killings carry a significant risk of becoming war crimes because intelligence agencies “do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law”.

    And he adds: “Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.”

    ‘Law of 9/11’

    In Mr Alston’s view, there are circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal.

    But his report also expresses concern that the US has put forward what hedescribes as “a novel theory that there is a law of 9/11”, enabling it to legally use force in the territory of other states as part of its inherent right to self-defence.

    This interpretation of the right to self-defence, he says, would “cause chaos” if invoked by other nations.

    BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that Mr Alston clearly believes that the rules of conflict need updating to encompass weapons that may strike a long way away from any traditional definition of the battlefield.

    However, some security analysts are concerned that this could jeopardise highly sensitive counter-terrorism operations.

    Michael Boyle, a lecturer in strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying: “The drones programme is effective in terms of getting terrorist operatives in places where there’s limited reach or where, if you were to do it any other way, the political cost or the human cost would be too high.”


  35. 9/11 and war on terror sparked an explosion in UAV technology
    06:57 GMT, October 4, 2011

    Hummingbird drones fly at 11 mph and can perch on windowsills. The 3-foot-long Raven can be tossed into the air like a model airplane to spy over the next hill in Afghanistan. The U.S. Air Force’s new Gorgon Stare aerial drone sensor technology can capture live video of an entire city. From the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-1 Predator to considerably smaller aerial drones in recent years, the Air Force has experienced an unmanned aircraft revolution in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001.

    “Remotely piloted aircraft was one of the most important developments since 9/11,” Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Mark Maybury said. “They’ve been instrumental in increasing our ability to extend our persistence. A natural consequence of extending persistence is an ability to increase your tactical patience. That has a very positive impact on increasing knowledge because you have a chance to loiter and see more things, and the unintended, but very positive consequence of reducing civilian casualties by providing the time necessary to ensure positive identification.”

    The Air Force proposed in the “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, 2009-2047” to use next-generation, unmanned aircraft in a number of new ways, such as air strikes, aerial refueling, cargo transport and long-range bombing.

    “UAVs have become such an important tool for our decision makers — operational battlefield decision makers and strategic decision makers,” retired Lt. Gen. Victor E. “Gene” Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command from 2007 to 2010, said in a Pentagon Channel interview. “They have become an accepted part of our inventory.”

    Long before 9/11, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper, then U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, envisioned giving unmanned aerial vehicles offensive capability that would allow immediate action when their surveillance cameras spotted high-value targets. In 1999, RQ-1 Predators flew over Kosovo 24 hours per day in surveillance of hostile forces.

    Almost seven months before 9/11, a Predator successfully fired a Hellfire missile in flight near Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The same Predator was among the first three UAVs to deploy overseas on Sept. 12, 2001. By the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, Jumper told Congress he wanted to buy every Predator the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego could build, and the Air Force announced it would buy 144 Predators and increase the squadrons of robotic spy planes from three to 12 in the next five years.

    “It seemed obvious to me that if you have a vehicle out there that is staring at a target, it probably ought to have something on board that can do something about it,” Jumper said. “This was, again, a little bit of a clash of cultures between the intelligence community and operations community, but we’ve ended up in the right place. When we do find things that are of high value, fleeting and perishable, we have the ability to take action with the vehicles that are very capable of carrying ammunitions.”

    Jumper was deputy chief of staff for air and space operations at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force when three new UAVs came on board in 1996. Of the three, the Global Hawk, Predator and Dark Star, it soon became obvious the first two held the most promise because of their capabilities for 24-hour streaming video. Their performance in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past decade confirmed that promise, even when the UAV role in place of manned aircraft met some resistance.

    “It always amuses me that people think UAVs are the enemies of pilots when guys like myself and [former Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald] Fogleman are the guys who were most enthusiastic about bringing them on board,” Jumper said. “The people I know who fly airplanes are delighted when they find a Predator down there that can tell them exactly where their target is. So these are some of the myths we have to overcome. But these things will help redefine the future in a lot of different ways, and the Air Force, as it always has [been], is very ready to accept the changes that are inevitable.”

    Since 9/11, UAV capabilities have rapidly advanced with technological progress like miniaturization and real-time digital imagery, Maybury said. One problem that has developed with the advancements has been the millions of minutes of video collected by aircraft like the Predator. Every day, the Air Force must process almost 1,500 hours of full-motion video and 1,500 photographs from around-the-clock combat air patrols. Military archives hold 24 million minutes of footage, but analysts have difficulty accessing information that could be useful.

    “We’ve been very active with 57 continuous remotely piloted aircraft on station and 400 firefights in the past year alone, and 30,000 hours of full-motion video and 11,000 high-fidelity images, just in the past month,” Maybury said.

    “So we have massive amounts of collection across heterogeneous sensors, and that’s unprecedented. The Air Force is leading the charge in this area. We’re expected to provide large amounts of real-time surveillance across broad areas, demanding intelligent automation to accelerate sensor data fusion and exploitation to enhance the productivity of valuable analysts.”

    The service branches recently began looking at the same technology used by ESPN, the NFL and TV news broadcasts to catalog information provided by UAV cameras. Jumper predicts even more unmanned aircraft development and expansion in the decades to come.

    “I think we will have even more capability with the networked UAVs and to be better organized about how we search,” Jumper said. “The cloud technology that’s become available today will allow platforms like the Predator and the Global Hawk to sort of deposit information in a place where it can be readily pulled. Even the nature of data storage today, where you can fit terabytes of information in the size of a shoebox, allows you to store things on board rather than transmit all of it, and provide what’s called for. These are all technologies that are going to make a profound difference, not only in the way we transmit data, but also in the way we organize our bandwidth from our communications satellites and our reach-back. It’s going to make a profound impact.”

    By Randy Roughton, Airman Magazine


  36. The scary prospect of global drone warfare
    By David Cortright, Special to CNN
    October 19, 2011 — Updated 1826 GMT (0226 HKT)


    David Cortright: Up to 50 nations developing, buying drones, including China, Iran, Pakistan
    The prospect is a world in which every nation has drone warfare capability, he writes
    Cortright: Drones give nations false impression wars can be waged with less risk, costs
    Drones precise, but kill civilians: up to 775 Pakistanis. We must rethink military trend, he writes
    Editor’s note: David Cortright is director of policy studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

    (CNN) — Drone technology is spreading rapidly. As many as 50 countries are developing or purchasing these systems, including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

    Even non-state actors are involved. Hezbollah reportedly has deployed an Iranian-designed drone. Iran is developing a new drone aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles. These systems are used mostly for surveillance, but it is not difficult to equip the aircraft with missiles and bombs. Recently in Massachusetts, a man was arrested for plotting to place explosives on a drone aircraft and fly it into the Pentagon or the Capitol building. Private contractors are getting into the business as well. We now have companies offering drones-for-hire.

    What kind of a future are we creating for our children? We face the prospect of a world in which every nation will have drone warfare capability, in which terror can rain down from the sky at any moment without warning.
    Military planners are developing technologies for autonomous drones, aircraft that are supposedly “intelligent” and can make their own decisions on when to unleash lethal force. Will we give machines the power to kill people?

    David Cortright

    The development of drone weapons raises profound moral questions about the future of war. U.S. officials are fond of drone weapons because they are inexpensive and seem to make the waging of war less costly. They allow leaders to conduct military operations without risking the lives of U.S. soldiers or drawing public disapproval. They give the false impression that war can be waged with fewer costs and risks.

    Any development that makes war appear to be easier or cheaper is dangerous and morally troubling. It lowers the political threshold of war. It threatens to weaken the moral presumption against the use of armed force.

    The use of drone aircraft perpetuates the illusion that military force is an effective means of countering terrorism and resolving political differences. We should know better by now. After 10 years of combat in Afghanistan the threat of terrorist attack and insurgent violence remains as great as ever. May 2011 was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since the U.N. began keeping records in 2007, the agency’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported. June’s death toll was almost as high.

    Terrorism is essentially a political phenomenon. It cannot be defeated by military means. The RAND Corporation’s 2008 report “How Terrorist Groups End”shows that the most effective tools against violent extremism are political processes and police operations.

    The U.S. government claims that drone strikes are an effective tool against al Qaeda leaders, but most of those being killed are low-level militants.

    Many important legal questions have been raised about drone strikes. The U.S. government arguably has legal authority to conduct military operations in Afghanistan, based on the original congressional authorization adopted after 9/11. It is questionable, however, whether this authority extends to Pakistan, a country that is supposedly an ally of the United States. Nor do we have legal authority to launch military strikes in Yemen, Somalia and other countries where the United States is not officially engaged in armed hostilities.

    Force may be used by soldiers against combatants in legally authorized armed conflicts, but this right does not extend to civilians. The U.S. covert counterterrorism drone campaign is managed and operated by the CIA, an agency notorious for its past policy failures and violations of the law. Those who are conducting these raids operate in secret beyond the restraints of military discipline and are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    Drone weapons are very precise, but they do not eliminate the problem of civilian casualties. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed in June that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan in the last year because of drone strikes. The White House quickly backed away from that outlandish claim, but administration officials continue to insist that so-called collateral damage is very low.

    Precise information about civilian casualties is impossible to obtain, but a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK sheds important light on the subject. Their figures show that civilian casualties occur in about one fifth of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. Since the drone war began in Pakistan in 2004, more than 2,000 people have been killed in these strikes, with as few as 386 and as many as 775 civilians among the dead, including as many as 170 children.

    Drone weapons raise many troubling security, legal and moral questions. Rather than pushing ahead to develop more of these systems, our government should pause to consider the consequences of this new revolution in military technology.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Cortright.


  37. Unmanned Aircraft: Bringing A Switchblade To A Knife Fight

    17:07 GMT, October 20, 2011 In a recent story for Bloomberg Businessweek, Tony Capaccio, one of the best defense reporters in Washington, broke the story about the use by Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan of a Switchblade. As the capitalization of the word might indicate, the Switchblade to which I am referring is not the knife made famous in Hollywood B movies. Rather, it is an ingenious, miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is also a weapon. According to Capaccio’s sources, just under a dozen Switchblades have been employed to date with great effect and SOF has asked for almost a dozen more. The fielding of Switchblade is the leading edge of what is likely to be the broader, even wholesale, weaponization of unmanned systems.

    The public is much more familiar with the Reaper, the variant of the Predator UAV equipped with Hellfire missiles that has been employed with increasing frequency and great effect against many terrorist targets including, most recently, Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The Predator/Reaper UAV is a medium-altitude, long-endurance platform that can loiter for hours while tracking a target. It is controlled by operators who can be half a world away. The only UAV in the U.S. inventory bigger than the Predator/Reaper is the Global Hawk which is a large, high-altitude, long-endurance system that does not yet carry any weapons but rather an array of advanced sensors. Both the Predator/Reaper and the Global Hawk operate essentially as unmanned airplanes, taking off and landing at established airfields.

    The Switchblade is at the other end of the spectrum. It is a very short-range, low-altitude, lightweight, tube-fired UAV that is carried and deployed by individual warfighters. As its name implies, the utility of Switchblade is in the close-in fight, particularly in rugged and complex environments when U.S. combatants need to engage hostile forces that are behind barriers, around the corner of a building or in a cave. In a knife fight the advantage goes to the combatant with the longer reach and the ability to seek out an opponent’s vulnerable points. These are the advantages Switchblade provides.

    What is perhaps most remarkable about the 24 inch, six pound Switchblade is that its optical sensor and network allow an individual soldier to fly the mini-UAV just like its bigger, older brothers. Because Switchblade can loiter for a period of time, the user is able to observe potential targets and pick the optimum moment to strike. Currently, the Switchblade’s warhead is described as being like a shotgun blast, useful primarily against individual adversaries and soft targets. Switchblade is almost the ultimate precision-guided munition, allowing the user to see his potential target “through the tip of the bullet.”

    The future for armed unmanned systems is enormous. Switchblade could be carried as a weapon on other, somewhat larger UAVs. The Pentagon has been investigating deploying several existing precision munitions on those same platforms. The Navy is looking at arming the unmanned surface and subsurface platforms under development as part of the Littoral Combat Ship’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare mission modules. In the near-future, the Army could deploy lethal mini-UAVs on its combat vehicles and armed helicopters, using them to counter anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired missiles. There is research being done on even smaller unmanned systems, the size of small birds and insects. The result could be the ultimate assassin bug.

    Daniel Goure, Ph.D.
    Early Warning Blog, Lexington Institute


  38. Bin Laden and Awlaki: Lawful Targets

    October 26, 2011 by Major Shane Reeves and Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Marsh
    Created 10/26/2011 – 16:23

    “Major Shane Reeves is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy and Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Marsh is an Assistant Professor and Senior Military Faculty member in the Department of Law at the United States Air Force Academy. Prior to these assignments, both taught as Associate Professors for the International and Operational Law Department at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, VA.

    The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the official positions of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force, or the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of either service.”

    Many have challenged the legality of the 2011 United States’ operations that resulted in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. Pakistan condemned the Bin Laden operation as a violation of international law; human rights advocates asserted that each man should have been captured instead of killed; and others claimed the operations were unlawful “assassinations” or, in the case of Awlaki, a violation of his constitutional rights as an American citizen. These criticisms are all without merit.

    An important threshold question to answer in determining the legality of both attacks is whether al-Qaeda is a transnational criminal enterprise or an organized armed group at war with the United States. If al-Qaeda is a transnational criminal organization, akin to the American-Sicilian mafia, then domestic criminal law controls and capturing members is required save in extreme cases of individual self-defense. However, if the United States and al-Qaeda are at war, than the laws of war control and lethal targeting is allowed. Critics of both operations assume that the applicable legal framework is one of criminal law enforcement and international human rights law. This assumption is wrong. The answer to this question is well-established: since September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in a congressionally-authorized armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to its inherent right of self-defense.

    This inherent right, recognized by the United Nations Security Council after 9/11, provides an exception to the legal principle that no nation may use military force to violate the sovereign territory of another nation. Pakistan is quick to claim a violation of its sovereignty. International law, however, permits the United States to pursue its right of self-defense in a safe harbor nation if that nation is “unwilling or unable” to effectively deal with the threat. Given Bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad for the past five years, it is quite obvious that Pakistan was in fact unwilling and/or unable to address the threat. Therefore, the United States lawfully entered Pakistan’s sovereign territory in order to carry out this military operation.

    Similarly, the United States’ incursion into Yemen clearly complies with international law. Unlike Pakistan, the United States targeted Awlaki at the invitation of the Yemeni government and therefore an “unwilling or unable” determination was unnecessary. Yemen’s consent to the Awlaki operation obviates any legal sovereignty debates and pre-empts any future allegations that the United States violated Yemen’s territorial sovereignty.

    Even if the United States can pursue self-defense in Pakistan and Yemen, one must consider whether they can do so as part of an armed conflict. In September 2010, in court filings related to the possible targeting of Awlaki in Yemen, the Obama Administration made clear that the armed conflict against al-Qaeda includes the authority to target, and kill, belligerents away from the “hot” battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. The realities of globalization, coupled with the proliferation of transnational terrorism, provide belligerents opportunities to successfully carry out hostile activities far away from an active battlefield. It defies international law, logic, and practicality to give such belligerents legal protection from targeting based on their location. Instead, armed conflict, and the targeting authorities associated with it, must follow the belligerents.

    Lawful targets are generally easy to recognize in an armed conflict between two nations. National armed forces, such as the United States Army, are comprised of uniformed individuals, who openly carry weapons, comply with the laws of war, and operate within a recognized chain of command. These individuals, known as “combatants,” may be attacked at any time or place regardless of the threat they pose to the enemy assuming they are not wounded or attempting to surrender. All others on the battlefield are protected from attack unless they decide to forfeit this protection by directly participating in the hostilities. This clear delineation between combatants and non-combatants allows for concrete determinations of who is or is not a lawful target while simultaneously protecting civilians from the brutality of warfare.
    In contrast, the United States’ armed conflict with al-Qaeda involves a traditional armed force engaging an unaffiliated armed group whose members conduct hostilities without uniforms while mixing with civilians. Al-Qaeda’s intermingling with civilians obviously poses a challenge to the United States in discerning who is a lawful target. However, once positively identified, simply looking like a civilian does not afford al-Qaeda members protection from attack as, similar to a conflict between nations, their choice to engage in hostilities makes them lawful targets.

    The law distinguishes between those individuals who sporadically participate in hostilities in support of a non-state-affiliated armed force, such as a farmer paid to occasionally shoot at American soldiers, and those individuals who consistently perform hostile acts, such as a fully integrated member of al-Qaeda. Under international law, the farmer is only exposed to attack for the limited time in which he or she is directly participating in hostilities. In essence, such a person can move in and out of combatant status. This “revolving door” between civilian and combatant status however does not apply to those al-Qaeda operatives who continuously function in a combat role by repeatedly taking part in the hostilities. These individuals, much like a combatant in an armed conflict between nations, are lawful targets irrespective of their location or immediate activities.

    As the commander of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden long ago forfeited any protections from targeting. His leadership role of an organized armed group amounted to a continuous combat function, enabling him to be targeted, and killed, based on his status, not his conduct. Consequently, it is irrelevant whether he was armed and resisting when he was killed. In addition, there was no duty for the SEAL team to attempt capture. This was not a domestic policing action requiring arrest, but rather a wartime decision governed by the laws of war, which clearly permit the use of deadly force against a lawful target as a first resort. Unless he plainly manifested an intent to surrender, or was wounded, the United States had clear legal authority to kill Bin Laden.

    Like Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki was an operational leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an organized armed group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Though some believe Awlaki was a mere propagandist, his active involvement in the planning and direction of the November 2009 attack on Fort Hood, the 2009 Christmas day (underwear) bomb attempt, the May 2010 Times Square bomb attempt, and the more recent attempt to load explosives onto cargo flights bound for the United States dispel any claims that he was not acting in a combat role. Awlaki’s operational leadership role in these and other combat activities make him, like Bin Laden, the equivalent of an “enemy combatant,” whom the United States could lawfully target and kill.

    Unlike Osama Bin Laden, however, Awlaki was an American citizen whose death was the result not of a Special Forces raid but of a Predator “drone” strike. Despite complaints to the contrary, these facts do not alter the legal conclusion. As discussed above, the laws of war permit the targeting and killing of enemy combatants or those who continuously function in a combat role. Citizenship is not a factor in this determination. On more than one occasion, the United States Supreme Court has confirmed that a citizen who chooses to conduct hostilities against his home nation becomes an enemy combatant and is afforded no greater protection than any other enemy belligerent. Citizenship does not provide blanket immunity from targeting nor preclude a nation from defending itself.

    Further, the United States use of a remotely-piloted vehicle (“drone”) is undeniably a lawful means of attack. Once an individual gains enemy combatant status, or its equivalent through a continuous combat function, any means of attack that complies with the law of war principles of distinction, proportionality, and unnecessary suffering is allowed. As the strike against Awlaki occurred in a remote Yemen desert with precision weaponry, the operation complied with all applicable law of war restrictions regarding targeting. Awlaki’s American citizenship and the use of a “drone” are, therefore, immaterial for targeting purposes and do not alter the conclusion that this was a lawful attack.

    The fact that the United States could target and kill Bin Laden and Awlaki in the locations and manner in which it did so admittedly makes some uncomfortable. The laws of war are based on a delicate balance between military necessity, the wartime necessity of killing and destroying military objectives in pursuit of a nation’s right of self-defense, and humanity, the wartime requirement of preventing unnecessary suffering and protecting the civilian population. Military necessity is what permitted the attacks on Bin Laden and Awlaki. Moreover, because these killings occurred as part of an armed conflict, they did not violate the US domestic law ban on assassination, which forbids murder for political purposes, not the targeting of lawful military objectives.

    The killings of Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki were legal under both international law and US domestic law. Pakistan’s complaints are not supported by international law and are a smokescreen to hide their embarrassment and internal instability. Further, those who argue that Bin Laden and Awlaki were illegally “executed,” “assassinated,” or should have been captured and tried ignore the unfortunate reality that in armed conflict, military necessity legally justifies the lethal targeting of those belligerents who choose to participate. Bin Laden and Awlaki both made this choice and, in turn, the United States exercised its legal prerogative to kill them.


  39. U.S. Army acquires recoilless, shoulder-fired weapon

    09:53 GMT, January 10, 2012 (Released Jan. 6, 2012) WASHINGTON | The U.S. Army Soldiers in Afghanistan are now firing an 84mm, reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition able to destroy enemy targets hidden behind rocks, trees and buildings , service officials said.

    The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, said Bhuvanesh Thoguluva, chief of Vehicle Protection, Rockets & Shoulder Fired Weapons Branch, Munition Systems & Technical Directorate, Armament Research Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

    The Carl-Gustaf, which is manufactured by Saab, includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round, Thoguluva said.

    “The HE round does have an airburst capability. It is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system,” he said.

    Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.

    Several Carl Gustaf’s are already in Afghanistan as part of a limited operational assessment, which may indeed result in more deliveries. The Army purchased the weapon by joining with U.S. Special Operations Command in a combined purchase from Saab.

    “Thus far, the weapon has been very effective,” said Thoguluva.

    The weapon, now being evaluated by the Army, has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s, Thoguluva said.

    The anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute, said Wes Walters, executive vice pesident for marketing, Saab North America.

    “It is not a guided munition,” Walters explained, adding that the weapon can utilize thermal sight to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.

    The Carl Gustaf is also able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Thoguluva explained.

    “The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off,” he said.

    Kris Osborn, ASA(ALT)


  40. U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan Reportedly Kills Three Militants
    Published January 10, 2012 | FoxNews.com

    A U.S. drone strike has occurred in Pakistan, killing three militants in the town of Miranshah in the North Waziristan tribal region on Wednesday, according to eyewitness reports.

    U.S. officials confirm to Fox News that this is the first drone strike in the region since a November NATO cross-border air attack last year left 24 Pakistani troops dead.

    Civilian and military officials in the U.S. have called the friendly fire incident a tragedy caused by mistakes on both sides, but insists that Pakistan fired first and refuses to outright apologize for the deaths.

    Pakistan denies firing first and has called the airstrike an unprovoked attack.

    Anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan has been running high since the Nov. 26 incident and Pakistan continues to close all land routes into Afghanistan — halting the U.S. military supply routes that used to pass through Pakistan territory.

    Pakistan has already stopped billing the United States for its anti-terror war expenses under the 10-year-old Coalition Support Fund, set up by Washington after the 9/11 attacks to reimburse its many allies for their military expenses fighting terrorists worldwide and touted by the U.S. as a success story.

    Pakistan will further reduce the number of U.S. military people in Pakistan, limit military exchanges with the United States and rekindle its relationship with neighbors, such as China, which has been a more reliable ally, according to Islamabad. Earlier this year Pakistan signed a deal with China for 50 JF-17 aircraft with sophisticated avionics, compared by some, who are familiar with military equipment, to the U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets.

    Pakistan kicked the U.S. out of an air base it used to facilitate drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Both U.S. and Pakistani officials expect more fallout, most likely in the form of additional tolls or taxes on NATO supplies into Afghanistan through Pakistan. There could also be charges for use of Pakistani airspace, said some officials in Pakistan.

    Pakistan also asked the U.S. not to send any high-level visitors to Pakistan for some time, the U.S. official said.

    After past crises, including the flare-up of anti-U.S. anger following the killing of Usama bin Laden by U.S. forces in May, Pakistan had accepted top-level U.S. officials for a public peace-making session rather quickly.

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the then-top U.S. military official visited Pakistan less than a month after the bin Laden raid, and pledged continued cooperation on several fronts.

    U.S. officials said they would like to mend fences quickly, but the senior administration official and others said they assume there will be less contact, fewer high-profile joint projects and fewer American government employees living and working in Pakistan.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/10/us-drone-strike-in-pakistan-reportedly-kills-three-militants/print#ixzz1j7DqR47y


  41. This is after a lull of two months when the drones are suspended due to on-going investigations to the death of the Pakistanis.


  42. Pakistan Taliban Leader Reportedly Killed in U.S. Drone Strike
    Published January 15, 2012 | Associated Press

    Intercepted militant radio communications indicate the leader of the Pakistani Taliban may have been killed in a recent U.S. drone strike, Pakistani intelligence officials said Sunday. A Taliban official denied that.

    The report coincided with sectarian violence — a bomb blast in eastern Pakistan that killed 14 people in a Shiite religious procession.

    The claim that the Pakistani Taliban chief was killed came from officials who said they intercepted a number of Taliban radio conversations. In about a half a dozen intercepts, the militants discussed whether their chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed on Jan. 12 in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some militants confirmed Mehsud was dead, and one criticized others for talking about the issue over the radio.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

    Pakistani Taliban spokesman Asimullah Mehsud denied the group’s leader was killed and said he was not in the area where the drone strike occurred.

    In early 2010, both Pakistani and American officials said they believed a missile strike had killed Hakimullah Mehsud along the border of North and South Waziristan. They were proved wrong when videos appeared showing him still alive.

    The Pakistani Taliban is linked to attacks against U.S. targets. They trained the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square in 2010 and is tied to a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents at an Afghan base in 2009.

    There was no claim of responsibility for Sunday’s bombing that killed 14 people during a Shiite observance in Punjab province in the east — the latest of a series of sectarian attacks in volatile Pakistan.

    Hundreds of Pakistani Shiites gathered in the town of Khanpur in Punjab province for a traditional procession to mark the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered seventh-century figure.

    The explosion went off as the mourners left a mosque, said District Police Chief Sohail Chatta. The bomb appeared to have been planted ahead of time in the path of the procession, he said.

    The Pakistani Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups have in the past claimed responsibility for the bombings of Shiite religious sites and ceremonies. Many Sunni extremists in Pakistan regard Shiites as heretics.

    The Taliban and other groups have carried out hundreds of bombings over the last five years that have killed thousands of Pakistani troops and civilians as part of a campaign to install a hard-line Islamist government.

    The attacks are so common that the country’s interior minister in December actually thanked the Taliban for acting on what he said was a “request” not to stage attacks during the Shiite rituals of Ashoura that month.

    Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah said police investigators were still examining the area of Sunday’s bombing for clues. Security was provided for the procession, but it was breached, Sanaullah said.

    The continuing strikes by presumed religious extremists come during a political crisis that pits the Pakistani civilian government against the military, sparking rumors of an impending coup.

    Last week the military warned the government of possible “grievous consequences” ahead, and President Asif Ali Zardari took a one-day trip to Dubai that renewed speculation that he might flee the country.

    Analysts say the military may be looking for the Supreme Court to push out Zardari rather than risk an outright takeover.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/15/pakistan-taliban-leader-reportedly-killed-in-us-drone-strike/print#ixzz1janXKzU5


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