CIA seeking authority to radically expand covert drone campaign in Yemen

By End the Lie

(Image credit: USAF Photo/Lawrence Crespo)

The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is now seeking new authority to expand their covert bombing campaign, which is carried out via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, better known as drones), including the power to murder suspected terrorists in Yemen even when they do not know who the people they are killing actually are.

That’s right, according to U.S. officials quoted by The Washington Post they want to launch attacks “against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who will be killed.”

Keep in mind, Yemen is also where U.S. President Barack Obama first flexed his muscles by carrying out the extrajudicial assassination of Americans.

The CIA is seeking permission to use so-called “signature strikes” which give them the ability to bomb targets based on nothing more than “intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior.”

They claim that some of this might be images showing militants gathering at areas which are known al Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives, although the accuracy of these assessments is highly questionable.

It is well known that the military cannot keep up with the amount of intelligence they are gathering with these drones, and when you throw civilians with little to no accountability into the kill chain, you have a potentially dangerous combination.

The practice of bombing alleged militants without even knowing who they are or who they will kill with the missile strike has been the hallmark of the CIA’s drone activities in Pakistan, which has directly contributed to the large civilian death toll.

The exact numbers are disputed but the New America Foundation puts the number of casualties between 1,717 and 2,680 between 2004 and 2011, while between 293 and 471 of those were civilians.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism out of the UK, on the other hand, says that around 3,000 have been killed by drone strikes and between 391 and 780 of those were civilians.

However, even that larger number is being questioned by a Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is also the co-founder of the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights.

“Most of the victims who are labeled militants might be Taliban sympathizers but they are not involved in any criminal or terrorist acts,” Akbar said. “The Americans often use the fact that someone carries a weapon as proof they’re a combatant. If that’s the criteria, then the U.S. will have to commit genocide, because all men in that area carry AK-47s. It’s part of their culture.”

This statement is still relevant in examining the situation in Yemen, as they would like to begin employing the exact same techniques that have shown such disastrous results in Pakistan.

According to unnamed U.S. officials, CIA Director David Petraeus has requested permission to expand the tactics used in Pakistan to alleged militants in Yemen.

If Petraeus gets his way, it would likely even further ramp up the bombings in Yemen which are already incredibly frequent. Indeed, there have been no less than eight attacks in the last four months, although keep in mind those are only the ones we know about.

The Washington Post claims that Obama endorsing signature strikes would signal a major policy shift with potentially risky consequences since “the administration has placed tight limits on drone operations in Yemen.”

They further claim that this is done “to avoid being drawn into an often murky regional conflict and risk turning militants with local agendas into potential al-Qaeda recruits,” although as we all know that is hardly accurate given that we know that innocent people have been killed in Yemen already.

Another anonymous Obama administration figure refused to discuss American tactics in Yemen while claiming “there is still a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States.”

If this is true, then 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman bin Anwar Al Awlaki, born in Denver, Colorado had “a direct interest in attacking the United States.”

According to a statement from the family, the teenage boy “went out with his friends for dinner in the moonlight and they were struck by an American rocket that killed Abdulrahman and his friends.”

Thankfully, not all officials are jumping behind the idea. “How discriminating can they [signature strikes] be?” One senior U.S. official who is familiar with the proposal pondered.

The official also voiced concern over the United States potentially being seen as taking sides in a civil war as the local insurgency is allegedly “joined at the hip” with the al Qaeda-affiliated group in Yemen.

“I think there is the potential that we would be perceived as taking sides in a civil war,” he said.

The officials stated that the CIA’s proposal has been put before the National Security Council, but no decision has been made as of yet.

Officials from both the CIA and White House would not publicly comment on the matter, although if it is approved, which I believe is quite likely, we might hear some official announcements.

On the other hand, such a policy would be quite easy to enact unofficially while still flatly denying any such activity and ignoring any reports of civilian casualties.

Individuals who support the proposal claim that American intelligence gathering abilities in Yemen have sufficiently improved enough to make it possible to expand the drone campaign and include signature strikes while supposedly still keeping the risk of civilian deaths to a minimum.

Personally, I find this assertion quite dubious at best. If U.S. intelligence collection was sufficient to ensure a minimal risk of civilian casualties, why was a 16-year-old boy from Colorado slaughtered?

Furthermore, a former senior U.S. military official familiar with the drone operations in Pakistan claimed that the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ [meaning kill list people] when they didn’t know they were there.”

Once again, considering the source and the motive to potentially put forth misleading information in this situation makes me hesitant to buy it.

The Washington Post says that Obama ruled out a proposal similar to this one over a year ago, but the CIA still believes that they can be more effective against the supposed terrorists by bombing people without identifying them before they slaughter them.

Personally, I find the entire notion of not only engaging in what should be considered a war without any declarations or Congressional oversight disgusting.

Not to mention the fact that the United States is currently murdering people without even knowing who they are in Pakistan, and somehow this is seen as such a wonderful practice (even though Pakistan is pulling away from the U.S. and the West in general like never before) which should be exported to Yemen.

Unfortunately this is not something we can call our so-called Representatives about as they have nothing to do with it. This is just more unaccountable criminal insanity spewing forth from the White House.

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One Response to CIA seeking authority to radically expand covert drone campaign in Yemen

  1. Anonymous April 22, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    next thing you know they’ll be doing this in the US!

    Reply

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