4 More Drones! Robot Attacks Are on Deck for Obama’s Next Term

When Barack Obama took office, drone strikes were a once-in-a-while thing, with an attack every week or two. Now, they’re the centerpiece of a global U.S. counterterrorism campaign. Obama institutionalized the strikes to the point where he could hand off to the next president an efficient bureaucratic process for delivering death-by-robot practically on autopilot. Only now he’s the next president. Welcome to Obama’s second-term agenda for dealing with the world. As the Ramones sang: second verse, same as the first.

Early in the first term, then-CIA director Leon Panetta observed that drones were the “only game in town” for attacking al-Qaida in Pakistan. By that he meant invading a country for the third time in a decade was a nonstarter, and the flesh-and-blood spies needed to do a traditional intelligence operation weren’t available in sufficient numbers. So the Obama administration all but crafted its counterterrorism strategy around the drones, turning their surveillance and lethal operations into a bureaucratic apparatus led by White House aides with minimal outside oversight. The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, elite forces that rarely operate visibly, have the lead for implementing the robot-based agenda — and augmenting it with commando raids. Backstopping them are new tools to invade and disrupt enemy data networks.

The strikes have spread from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. And now that Obama’s been reelected, expect them to spread to Mali, another country most Americans neither know nor understand. The northern part of the North African country has fallen into militant hands. U.S.-aligned forces are currently plotting to take it back. The coming arrival of Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the former day-to-day commander of the Afghanistan war, as leader of U.S. forces in Africa is a signal that Obama wants someone experienced at managing protracted wars on a continent where large troop footprints aren’t available. Instead, Rodriguez will have to track, check and erode the spread of al-Qaida in northern and eastern Africa using drones and commando forces, available from his expanding bases in places like Djibouti. If all of this seems routine, that’s the point.

The Obama administration is doing something similar with cyber weaponry. It’s trying to make them a normal part of everyday conflict. Gone are the days when senior officers equivocated in public about their ability to disrupt enemy data networks. Now the Air Force talks openly about spending $10 million on new tools “to destroy, deny, degrade, disrupt, deceive, corrupt, or usurp the adversaries [sic] ability to use the cyberspace domain for his advantage.” The Pentagon’s futurists at Darpa have launched a new “Plan X” to routinize the corruption of enemy networks and the exfiltration of data within normal military operations. Routinization may actually be the wrong word: Darpa wants military malware that works like “the auto-pilot function in modern aircraft.” The Stuxnet worm that messed with Iran’s centrifuges was only the beginning.

All this might seem aggressive for a president who liked to say on the campaign trail that “the tide of war is receding.” But the tide of war never actually goes out. And the wicked-hard problems facing Obama’s national security team may only be getting under way.

First, Obama’s got to help Congress avert 9.4 percent annual, automatic cuts to practically every Defense Department program for the next 10 years, as both he and his defense secretary, Leon Panetta, are on record opposing them.

Next comes Iran. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that he will feel the need to strike Iran by next summer. Obama has a stronger hand with Netanyahu now that he doesn’t have to worry about reelection, but he’s still committed himself rhetorically to preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon. Even if Obama can avert a war, his clear preference, Iran will continue to consume a tremendous amount of the White House and the Pentagon’s attention. The alternative to a massive bombing campaign might not be so benign, either: the point of Stuxnet was to make the Iranians distrust the industrial controls on their nuclear program’s centrifuges.

Then comes Afghanistan, a war that Obama does not discuss candidly. He’s fond of saying, as he did in one of his final ads, that he plans on “ending the war in Afghanistan, so we can do some nation-building here at home.” His real policy is way more complex than that. Yes, Obama is committed to withdrawing most troops and ending a formal U.S. combat role by 2014. Obama plans to keep a residual troop presence in the country, even after the 2014 “withdrawal,” and negotiations with the Afghans about what shape that presence will take — and for what purpose — are supposed to begin shortly. Among the things Obama is likely to seek: Afghanistan’s permission to keep its air bases as launchpads for drone strikes into Pakistan. The charitable interpretation is to say Obama is caveating his out-of-Afghanistan pledge. The uncharitable interpretation is that he’s misleading the country on it.

The Obama administration is still grappling with the implications of its sprawling, robot-led war. Some of its top officials are just starting to question how long the strikes have to persist. But they haven’t addressed concerns about the precedent the U.S. is setting by sending robots to violate the sovereignty of nations, which are unavoidable as drone technology advances and proliferates. Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees a reckoning with the robots on the horizon.

“There is a recognition within the administration that the current trajectory of drone strikes is unsustainable,” Zenko says. “They are opposed in countries where strikes occur and globally, and that opposition could lead to losing host-nation support for current or future drone bases or over-flight rights.” In other words, tomorrow’s America diplomats may find that drones overshadow the routine geopolitical agenda they seek to advance. The trouble is, the administration’s early search for less-lethal policies to supplement or supplant the drones isn’t promising.

Obama’s broader foreign policy agenda keeps getting derailed. He barely talks about his expansive goal of eliminating global nuclear weapons anymore. Any route to an Israeli-Palestinian peace runs through Netanyahu, who only wants to talk about Iran. The much-heralded “pivot” of the U.S. defense posture toward Asia, a relatively modest goal, keeps getting deferred by the crises of the moment: the Navy’s newest and more advanced ships are going to confront Iran, not to preserve the freedom of the Pacific shipping lanes. A former Obama Pentagon official, Rosa Brooks, recently lamented the Obama team’s chronic inability to shape global events.

Civil libertarians rightly point to Obama’s reversals on expanding warrantless surveillance; the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects; military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay; prosecuting whistleblowers; and embracing an expensive definition of the war on terrorism’s executive powers. But there’s little evidence that Obama will change course. In an insightful blog post, the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes writes that Obama’s civil-liberties and national security record is best explained by a policy “consensus” in D.C., running through George W. Bush’s second term and Obama’s first, that basically agrees on a definition of executive power that civil libertarians dislike. It’s uncomfortable with torture, but basically comfortable with expansive domestic spying and detention powers.

As Obama’s second term dawns, it’s time to put away ideological illusions about his approach to foreign affairs. Liberals keep waiting for an agenda that’s less killer-robot-y. Conservatives are unable to see him as anything but a peacenik: “We’ll get to see what jimmy carter’s 2nd term would have looked like,” tweeted Jim Carafano, a defense analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

But the evidence is staring everyone in the face. Obama has elevated a practice of stealthy robotic warfare to the tactic of choice for U.S. security priorities, and built around it a system that operates it practically on bureaucratic inertia. Obama has a powerful incentive of all to continue his trajectory: with the one major exception of the Benghazi consulate disaster, Obama’s handling of global affairs has been notably free of high-profile screwups. That’s the sort of thing that propels a foreign policy agenda — to borrow a term — forward.

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Imran Khan Detained and ‘Interrogated Over Drone Views’ by US immigration

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician, was taken off an international flight from Canada to New York and questioned by US immigration officials over his views on drone strikes and jihad.

Khan, who has been at the forefront of a high-profile campaign as leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI) to end US drone strikes in northern Pakistan, had been in Canada to give a speech and was on his way to a fundraising dinner in the US on Friday.

Khan recently attempted to lead a high-profile march into south Waziristan which included US peace activists from the Code Pink group with some 15,000 of his supporters.

He claims that the drone strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians – a claim denied by the US.

“I was taken off from plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan tweeted yesterday after his questioning.

He added: “Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance.”

A US state department spokeswoman confirmed Khan’s questioning. “We are aware that Imran Khan was briefly delayed in Toronto before boarding the next flight to the United States,” she told Pakistani media.

“The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States.”

US immigration authorities refused to comment on Khan’s case but a spokeswoman quoted by the Toronto Sun newspaper said: “Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband,” said CBP spokesman Joanne Ferreira.

“Under US immigration law, applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.”

Some Canadian commentators have speculated that Khan’s questioning was because of groups who have been protesting his visit to the US, including a group called the American Islamic Leadership Coalition which reportedly wrote to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton asking her to revoke the US visa granted to Khan.

“The US embassy made a significant error in granting this Islamist leader a visa,” the group said in a statement.

“Granting individuals like Khan access to the US to fundraise is against the interest of the people of Pakistan and the national security interests of the US.”

Ali Zaidi, an official in Khan’s party demanded “a prompt and thorough inquiry into this sordid episode” and “an unconditional apology from the US government”.

via Guardian.co.uk


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Biometric Voice-Identification Technology Leads to Arrests of Terrorist Suspects in Europe

Officials who apparently thwarted an alleged terror plot against Europe used voiceprinting technology to catch several suspects.

The British Government Communications Headquarters, which snoops on criminal suspects and works with MI6 spies, used voice identification technology to help uncover the plot, AP says. Several of the voices were recorded along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Voiceprinting compares known voice recordings to new conversations to determine who is speaking. It involves recording words to capture the frequencies associated with a person’s voice, and using statisical models to extrapolate speech patterns. Advocates say it is as accurate as a fingerprint, and can be more useful especially for monitoring overseas suspects.

“Advances in these types of technology have been key in thwarting plots and catching suspects,” an anonymous British government official said.

Critics say voiceprints can be inaccurate, however, because a person’s voice is affected by variables like mood and health.

The reputed plot involved Britain, France and Germany, sparking travel warnings this week. Suspects reportedly spoke of a Mumbai-style shooting spree, recalling the 2008 attacks that killed 166 people.

Police in southern France arrested 12 suspects Tuesday, AP reports.

The recent arrests are the not the first time criminals’ own voices have betrayed them. In 2007, police arrested Colombian drug kingpin Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, who used plastic surgery and multiple aliases to dodge authorities, after the US Drug Enforcement Agency matched his voice to a tape recording made by Colombian authorities. The Pentagon even uses voiceprinting in Iraq.

Law enforcement agencies are reportedly considering how a voice database could help prevent future plots, AP says. An Interpol official said voice samples could be stored and shared with its 188 member countries.

via PopSci

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America’s Deadly Double Tap Drone Attacks Are ‘killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan’
  • Study found war against violent Islamists has become increasingly deadly
  • Researchers blame common tactic now being used – the ‘double-tap’ strike
  • Drone strikes condemned for their ineffectiveness in targeting militants
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.

And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.

The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.

Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘

There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.

‘These strikes are becoming much more common,’ Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents victims of drone strikes, told The Independent.

‘In the past it used to be a one-off, every now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.’

The study is the product of nine months’ research and more than 130 interviews, it is one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to understand – and evaluate – Washington’s drone wars.

Despite assurances the attacks are ‘surgical’, researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is ‘ambiguous at best’.

Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.

They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike programme or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over.

They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.

The Obama administration is unlikely to heed their demands given the zeal with which America has expanded its drone programme over the past two years.

Washington says the drone program is vital to combating militants that threaten the U.S. and who use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.

The number of attacks have fallen since a Nato strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Pakistan wants the drone strikes stopped – or it wants to control the drones directly – something the U.S. refuses.

Reapers and Predators are now active over the skies of Somalia and Yemen as well as Pakistan and – less covertly – Afghanistan.

But campaigners like Mr Akbar hope the Stanford/New York University research may start to make an impact on the American public.

‘It’s an important piece of work,’ he told The Independent. ‘No one in the U.S. wants to listen to a Pakistani lawyer saying these strikes are wrong. But they might listen to American academics.’

Today, Pakistani intelligence officials revealed a pair of missiles fired from an unmanned American spy aircraft slammed into a militant hideout in northwestern Pakistan last night.

The two officials said missiles from the drone aircraft hit the village of Dawar Musaki in the North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan to the west.

Some of the dead were believed to be foreign fighters but the officials did not know how many or where they were from.

The Monday strike was the second in three days. On Saturday a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four suspected militants.

That attack took place in the village of Mohammed Khel, also in North Waziristan.

North Waziristan is the last tribal region in which the Pakistan military has not launched an operation against militants, although the U.S. has been continually pushing for such a move.

The Pakistanis contend that their military is already overstretched fighting operations in other areas but many in the U.S. believe they are reluctant to carry out an operation because of their longstanding ties to some of the militants operating there such as the Haqqani network.

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Notre Dame Law Professor Leads Lonely Campaign Against Drone Strikes

A law professor at Notre Dame leads a lonely campaign to stop the targeted killings in Pakistan and elsewhere, insisting they violate international law.

Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell is a leading critic of the U.S. targeted-killing program against Al Qaeda militants. (Los Angeles Times, Ken Dilanian / October 9, 2012)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell was in her office last month when Imran Khan, a former cricket star who could be Pakistan’s next prime minister, phoned to ask for help.

Pakistanis are furious about the CIA‘s covert campaign of drone missile strikes, Khan told her. Was she aware that the CIA often doesn’t know who it is killing?

“Yes, of all Americans, I think I have a pretty good handle on the facts,” she replied, recounting the call.

O’Connell, a fierce critic of America’s drone attacks outside a war zone, insists the targeted killings are illegal under international law.

“We wouldn’t accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone,” O’Connell said. “And yet that’s the authority we’re asserting.”

O’Connell, 54, has led a lonely campaign to stop the drones since she wrote a paper branding the first CIA drone strike, in 2002, as unlawful. She rejected claims by the George W. Bush administration that the attack, which killed several Al Qaeda militants and a U.S. citizen, was a legitimate act of self-defense in the war on terrorism.

Since then, President Obama has sharply increased drone attacks, and O’Connell has jousted with government officials, debated other academics and outlined her critique in scholarly publications.

“Her views are definitely taken seriously,” said Sean Murphy, a former State Department lawyer who argues the drone strikes are permitted under the law. “She’s on the leading edge of this argument.”

She remains in a small minority of U.S. legal scholars, but her views are gaining currency as targeted killings continue.

A report issued last month by researchers at the law schools of New York University and Stanford University argued that many U.S. drone strikes appear unlawful because they don’t meet the strict legal test for killing outside a war zone — to stop an imminent threat to life when no other means is available.

In June, Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, told a conference in Geneva that “double tap” drone strikes, in which a second missile is fired at people coming to aid the wounded, could constitute a war crime. Pakistan claims several such attacks have occurred in its tribal areas.

O’Connell and her intellectual allies agree the United States is fighting a lawful war in Afghanistan because it gave shelter to terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. But they argue that killing militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is not a legitimate part of that conflict, and thus violates laws of war intended to protect noncombatants.

If the U.S. government has a case against an Al Qaeda militant in Yemen or Somalia, they argue, it must try to arrest him and give him a chance to surrender unless lives are in immediate danger.

That view strikes O’Connell’s many critics as a naive reading of international law that fails to account for modern stateless terrorists. But the U.S. government held a similar view until the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

U.S. officials criticized Israel for killing Palestinian militants on the West Bank in the 1990s, for example, and CIA officials believed they lacked the authority to kill Osama bin Laden even after he was indicted for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment for this article, but he noted that White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan publicly explained the administration’s view on targeted killings in April.

“As a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense,” Brennan said.

Under Obama, the United States has launched 284 drone missile strikes in Pakistan and 49 in Yemen, according to independent groups that track reported attacks. That’s up from 46 in Pakistan and one in Yemen under Bush. Strikes have also been reported in Somalia.

So-called high-value targets typically are named on a classified “kill list,” which is reviewed by lawyers from the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon and other agencies. Many others are killed in “signature strikes” that target unidentified militants based on activities deemed suspicious.

In September, Obama sought to explain who gets targeted and why.

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” Obama told CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”

O’Connell and other critics say no evidence suggests that all those killed met Obama’s standard. Drone strikes have killed up to 3,000 people, according to the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington.

O’Connell sees her effort as an exercise in moral suasion, similar to the public outcry that erupted after news reports detailed how the CIA had used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques against several Al Qaeda detainees after Sept. 11.

A trim woman with brown hair, O’Connell isn’t a pacifist. Her husband is a former Army interrogator who served in the first Gulf War. They met while she was working for the Defense Department, teaching soldiers about international law.

O’Connell praises the Navy SEAL mission that killed Bin Laden, and supports using drones to target enemy fighters in Afghanistan. “I do think drones can be a more accurate weapon, and I’m all in favor of saving our troops’ lives,” she said.

Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution fellow who supports the drone strikes, put O’Connell on the defensive in a debate two years ago by challenging her to take her position to its logical conclusion — as he put it, “that President Obama is a serial killer.”

She fumbled her response. But upon reflection, she sees some parallels to the abortion debate. One can believe, as she does strongly, that abortion is deeply immoral, without labeling women who have abortions as murderers.

“I feel the same way about targeted killing,” she said. “I understand that Americans don’t … see it, but we want the practice to end. I don’t think President Obama should go to jail for it.”

via LATimes

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Mysterious Bird-like Drone Captured In Iraq and Pakistan, Origins Still Unknown

The quite strange unarmed bird-like drone which was recovered by Pakistani forces in August of 2011 apparently did not just fly over Pakistan, but was also apparently spotted by Iraqi insurgents at least two years before making its way to Pakistan.

One might jump to the conclusion that the drone belongs to the United States since the U.S. is involved a great deal of drone operations in Pakistan – which the Pakistani parliament has unanimously declared must end. It also appears to be similar to some of the drone projects which are leaning towards designs influenced by birds and insects.

A reader of The Aviationist tipped them off to a video posted on May 28, 2009 showing the drone captured by the Iraqi Hezbollah in Iraq which is eerily similar to the drone which was captured in Pakistan.

The providence of the drone is shrouded in a thick veil of mystery since no nation would take responsibility for the device which has, according to Danger Room, “silver wings and a span about the size of a grown man’s outstretched arms, the drone was clearly more than a hobbyist’s toy: the remains of a camera were near the crash site, a camera that fit into the robotic bird’s belly, ostensibly for spying on insurgents.”

Danger Room points out that the drone is quite similar to, but definitely not exactly the same as, Festo’s “SmartBird” drone.

The dimensions of the two drones are similar and the designs obviously look alike as well although, “It’s clearly not the same drone, as the wings are obviously different: the mystery drone’s wings are straighter and more sharply angled than the SmartBird’s sleeker, more rounded wings, which mimic those of the gull,” according to Danger Room.

The nation or entity behind the drone is difficult to determine outside from speculation based on the nations currently involved in operations in Pakistan.

However, Danger Room seems to think it belong so the U.S. in writing, “Iraqi Hezbollah date its photos of the mystery drone to May 2009 in Basra, a major city in southern Iraq. Back then, U.S. troops were training their Iraqi counterparts on new-line intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Hmm.”

While the video and screenshots don’t reveal any technical information on the drone which is all that new, it does show that the drone in Iraq and that in Pakistan are closely related.

Both have a design which relies on flapping wings, a trapezoidal tail feather and a spherical camera placed in the belly of the bird.

However, the drone recovered in Pakistan has a tailfin on the underside of the rear feather which the drone in Iraq is missing and the version found in Iraq is a duller color than the reflective silver drone in Pakistan.

“The fact that it was probably already flying in Iraq two years before crashing in Pakistan, proves that the bird-like UAV is not a toy but a small combat proven spy drone,” writes The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti.

This deals a significant blow to those who have repeatedly claimed that it was actually just a DIY drone, evidenced by Danger Room tagging the latest post with “DIY Drones.”

However, since we really have no idea who made the drone or who was operating it, one cannot say with certainty that it is not a DIY creation of some group somewhere although I find this quite unlikely.

That being said, it wouldn’t be all that damaging for the United States to confirm that it is our drone given that we are already running deadly drone operations around the globe.

Ultimately, it’s impossible to speculate on the issue with any degree of certainty since we know very little about the drone and its origin but it will be fascinating to see if more information comes out or if more appearances of the strange device begin to surface.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

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War Toys: US Kicks-off Global Drones Race – Ultimately to Collect Data and Search Citizens

Last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez showcased his country’s first unmanned drone. It seems that an international race to dominate the sky has gone underway and the South American country has become a player in the game of drones with the help of Iran, Russia and China. Retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor joins us to explain why more and more countries are rushing to get their hands on an unmanned aircraft.

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Air Force Set to Be Deployed Inside U.S. to Collect Data and Search Citizens


By Alex Thomas
June 7, 2012

The United States Air Force, through the use of unmanned aerial drones, is set to be deployed inside the United States to collect data, investigate places of interest, and share data with local police agencies.

An unclassified Air Force Memo from late April documents the fact that the military is operating drone aircraft domestically and that, through a complete end run around the Constitution, can essentially share it with local law enforcement even if it has no relation to terrorism.

While many articles have already been published detailing the fact that the military is or will be sharing information they collect with local law enforcement, a more startling fact has been largely ignored by the corporate controlled media. (until now)

In a recently published op-ed, Andrew Napolitano outlined the fact that once the military identifies something of interest they can apply to a military commander for permission to conduct searches of American property and or citizens which in turn is a form of martial law.

“It gets worse. If the military personnel see something of interest from a drone, they may apply to a military judge or “military commander” for permission to conduct a physical search of the private property that intrigues them. And, any “incidentally acquired information” can be retained or turned over to local law enforcement. What’s next? Prosecutions before military tribunals in the U.S,” wrote Napolitano.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also publicly commented on the fact that the Air Force is now openly recording information on the American people in domestic situations.

“We’ve seen in some records that were released by the Air Force just recently, that under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations,” explained Jennifer Lynch, of the EFF.

Madison Ruppert, writing for EndtheLie.com, detailed the broad exceptions to a guideline that is supposed to limit the military from non-consensual surveillance.

While the U.S. Air Force’s guidelines claim that drones are not allowed to carry out “non-consensual surveillance” on U.S. citizens or property, there are plenty of exceptions to this allowing such surveillance to occur.

Some of these many exceptions outlined in the Air Force documents include:

– Investigating or preventing clandestine intelligence activities by foreign powers, international narcotics activities, or international terrorist activities

– Protecting DoD employees, information, property and facilities

– Preventing, detecting or investigating other violations of law

Seems pretty broad, doesn’t it? “Other violations of law” leaves the door wide open for the drones to be used for just about everything. After all, jaywalking is a violation of law. Does this mean that if a drone captures someone jaywalking, the use of military drones in U.S. airspace is somehow justified?

That’s right, the Air Force now has the authority to carry out drone surveillance on American citizens for essentially any violation of law.

Sadly, we now live in a country were 30,000 drones are set to be launched by various law enforcement agencies, the military, and private companies.

The idea of the military not being used against the American people has now been completely thrown out the window with the only hope citizens of this country have left being the support of individual military members who choose to go against these Unconstitutional directives.



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Black Ops and Blood Money – Raymond Davis, Agent In Pakistan

When a CIA operation in Pakistan went bad, leaving three men dead, the episode offered a rare glimpse inside a shadowy world of espionage. It also jeopardized America’s most critical outpost in the war against terrorism.

Raymond Davis’s car now sits inside a police compound in Lahore. But the five bullet holes in the windshield tell the tale of that day in January. Photograph by Matthew Teague

Hearing the American’s name whispered in his ear, the chief of police in Lahore, Pakistan, turns from his desk and nods toward a nondescript side door in his office. His desk sits surrounded by concentric rings of chairs, occupied by visitors hoping for a moment of Chief Aslam Tareen’s time. Lahore is a city of 10 million people, and justice demands constant attention. But before he’ll discuss the American — perhaps the most notorious American in Pakistan’s history — Tareen needs privacy. He leaves his desk and slips through the side door into a smaller, more secluded office. A bed is in the corner, along with a television, and an attendant brings a pair of slippers and sets them before the chief’s leather recliner. In Pakistan the truth is like a woman; it stays veiled in public, only fully revealing itself behind closed doors. And this particular subject is a treacherous one.

“Raymond Davis,” Tareen says, settling into his chair. “Spy.”

Davis, in Pakistan, being escorted to court. (“I don’t know who they were,” he says of the men who drew guns on him and whom he shot.) Photograph by Hamza Ahmed/AP Photo


Davis operated in the darkest shadows of the war against terrorism. He worked for the CIA as an independent contractor, gathering information on the jihadist group behind some of the most cruel and spectacular attacks in recent years. The intelligence operation collapsed violently in January when two Pakistani men accosted Davis on a crowded street and he shot them both dead with a skill rarely seen outside spy novels. A botched attempt to rescue him in the -aftermath left a third man dead and Davis under arrest.

The episode inflamed the Pakistani people and set up a tricky showdown between two governments. It also pierced the cloak covering a clandestine world, exposing a realm of surveillance and countersurveillance, suspicion and political exploitation. For the United States, the consequences were profound: Pakistan is the CIA’s most important arena, a hiding spot for Al Qaeda and home of a dangerous, rising terrorist militia called Lashkar-e-Taiba. But Davis’s eventual release cost America much more than the money that was paid to compensate victims’ families: Backroom deals have forced the withdrawal of CIA operatives from the heartland of terrorism.

In the days after the incident, Police Chief Tareen announced to an outraged public that the American had murdered young Pakistani men “in cold blood.” But now, in his private chamber, Tareen can’t disguise a tone of professional admiration.

He had questioned Davis himself, but “from day one to day 14, he would not talk,” he says. Two weeks of silence. And then?

“He was in solitary,” Tareen says. “He said he wanted something to read.” They gave him magazines.

“He was very well trained,” says the chief. “Very calm.”

But what about the incident, I ask — the one that brought on the greatest intelligence crisis in America’s history with Pakistan? What about the shooting?

Tareen smiles.

“The shooting was expert.”

Spying works like this: The CIA sets up an office within the American embassy in Paris, for instance, or Nairobi. An agency case officer works undercover as a passport-pushing, visa-stamping bureaucrat. Meanwhile, he or she runs agents — that is, finds and grooms local players to gather information for the case officer, who then sends it home for analysts to examine. These local agents are valuable because they have connections in a world where American officers don’t. They can look the part, speak the language, move freely, ask more questions.

The problem is that in a country like Pakistan — a fractured, duplicitous place that may be an ally or may be an enemy or both — the CIA can’t just set up shop in the embassy and let case officers work in the usual way. Places like Pakistan require a different sort of person altogether. A person like Raymond Davis.

Some particulars of the 36-year-old’s work remain cloaked in classification, but a search for answers in Pakistan and the U.S. — and eventually, a brief interview with Davis himself — give a good sense of who he is and what happened to him. He likely worked alongside the CIA’s Special Activities Division, the agency’s paramilitary wing. The SAD works in hostile environments — the ones where running agents is risky, if not impossible — gleaning intelligence through covert means. That can include anything from tapping wires to snatching suspects to influencing politicians through propaganda. Davis’s particular role focused on operational security. Whether it was a clandestine meeting between a case officer and a source or an eavesdropping or other black op, his job would be to work closely — but not too closely — with the case officer, in case the scene shifted in some perilous way. During a meeting in a hotel lobby, for instance, an operator like Davis would try to remain far enough away from the exchange to not draw attention, but near enough to watch for hostile movement. If someone were to attack, protocol calls for two essential actions: Shoot any attackers until they’re down for good, and clear out immediately, along with any other Americans and agents.

In Pakistan, Davis’s near-translucent official cover was as a “technical consultant” to the American consul general. But in reality he and his CIA team sought to do something difficult and dangerous: to surveil and report on the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Like so many extremist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, first sprouted in the fertile soil of Afghanistan in the 1980s, planted and tended by the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. The two spy agencies fought together against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan’s mountains, and in the course of that fight, the Pakistani government quietly created a group of militant Islamists, radical jihadists fine-tuned to battle godless Communism. They called the group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Army of the Pure.

Eventually, the Soviet Union crumbled and the spies of America and Pakistan parted ways, but Lashkar-e-Taiba carried on. The Pakistani government refocused on the highlands of Kashmir, where it wielded LeT as a low-profile proxy military against the nation’s old nemesis, India. With time Lashkar distinguished itself even among terrorist groups for the ruthlessness of its attacks; in 1998, LeT members killed 23 Kashmiri villagers in their homes, including four children, shooting a one-year-old 18 times.

Lashkar first caught the West’s full attention in November 2008, when 10 LeT operatives arrived on India’s coastline in rubber speedboats. They injected themselves periodically with a mix of cocaine and LSD calibrated to keep them energized and awake for what lay ahead: a three-day, nonstop stream of gunfire and explosions that shook Mumbai. The young men had trained for the operation months in advance in an LeT camp and had been supported, in part at least, by Pakistani authorities. They attacked, shot, blew up, burned, tortured, and finally killed almost 200 people of 10 nationalities.

At first Pakistan’s government denied any involvement by its citizens. But faced with a mass of evidence — phone calls, e-mails, the confession of the lone surviving attacker — Pakistan relented and made a few half-hearted arrests of low-level terrorist associates. Otherwise, LeT remained untouched and largely unknown. It hardly went underground, though; to this day, it maintains a massive headquarters in the Lahori suburbs with almost 200 acres that includes a mosque, a madrassa, and a farm.

In the days after the Mumbai bombings, investigators from the U.S. and India sprinted along the electronic trail left by the bombers and found LeT’s list of potential targets. Mumbai was one of more than 300, not just in India but scattered throughout the Western world. Authorities never released the target list, but arrests in Denmark and Spain appeared to be linked. The investigation illustrated how far apart the ideologies of America’s and Pakistan’s security services had drifted. Former allies against the Soviets had become something murkier. And now Lashkar-e-Taiba, it turned out, had global ambitions.

Raymond Davis first arrived in Pakistan, authorities believe, within a month of the Mumbai bombings. But his career had started far away, geographically and figuratively, from the intrigues and illusions of Central Asian spooks.

In the hills of southwest Virginia, the state cinches up like a topographical coin purse, with West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina all drawing close. In the center stands a lump of rock called Stone Mountain, in which a small white-water river has cut a big stone gap. Where the river surges out of the gap, there’s a town: Big Stone Gap.

It’s a nice old town, built with long-vanished coal-mining money. On the road up and out of town, there’s a smaller place yet, called Strawberry Patch, which is a collection of farms on the mountainside, high enough that on most days the sheep disappear into the clouds. And higher yet there is what locals call Wampler Holler, a curving valley that features two homesteads. On one side is the relatively grand home of Mr. Wampler himself. On the other, there’s a bare spot where, years ago, a small clapboard house once stood. That’s where Raymond Allen Davis came of age.

David Wampler, a retired farmer, has spent his entire life in the hollow and says there’s little to do but hunt and shoot. “It’s what young people do. Heck, I reckon my daughter can outshoot most any man.”

Davis was the son of a bricklayer and a cook, and the family was poor. Raymond, like his older brother and sister, inherited broad shoulders and a bearish, shuffling gait. “They didn’t have much,” says Brian Collins, a childhood friend from Strawberry Patch. “God, was he nice, though.”

In school Davis dominated his weight class as a wrestler and played both offense and defense in football, as a guard and defensive tackle. He steadily grew thicker and stronger than his classmates, even while he developed a reputation for humble deference. Shawn Eldridge works for the Big Stone Gap fire department now, but in high school he weighed just 119 pounds. To this day, he remembers how Davis stood up to bullies on his behalf.

Davis’s own hardship at home kept him humble, friends say. Every year at school, for instance, the football coach would hand each player a sack containing a few T-shirts and sweatpants, to wear at practice through the season. “That largely made up Raymond’s wardrobe. He just didn’t have much else to wear,” Collins, his old friend, remembers. “But he never complained about it. He just kept his head down and kept working hard.”

Davis’s future, it seemed at the time, was in bricklaying. He made a small stir, locally, when he won a national bricklaying competition. “He wanted to follow his father in the mason work,” Collins says. He looks at his feet and fidgets with a piece of gravel. “Guess things don’t always work out.” Midway through high school, Raymond’s father died. All these years later, Collins remembers the blow his young friend sustained. “Hard, hard,” he says. “But Raymond was quiet. He kept his feelings to himself.”

Typical Raymond, he says. Always so calm.

I ask if he felt surprised to find out his friend from Wampler Holler, outside Strawberry Patch, outside Big Stone Gap, had gone on to work undercover for the CIA on the other side of the world.

“No,” he says.

Davis joined the Army after high school, did basic training in Georgia, then served six months in Macedonia with a United Nations peacekeeping force. Eventually, he joined the Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Special Forces work in teams of a dozen or so elite soldiers, prepared to fight anywhere in the world on short notice. Davis was his team’s weapons specialist.

After 10 years in the Army, Davis formed his own company, Hyperion Protective Services, which offered “risk and loss management” services and through which he worked as a private-security contractor. For a short time he did jobs for the CIA through the now-infamous Blackwater Worldwide, but after abuses by the company surfaced in Iraq, Davis left it to contract directly with the CIA in Pakistan, making $200,000 per year.

He worked in some of the most difficult terrain in the world, stationed in Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where the countryside is largely controlled by various factions of the Taliban. Between his arrival in late 2008 and his eventual arrest, he traveled back to the United States — he had married and moved to Colorado by then — nine times.

Davis’s latest assignment found him stationed in Lahore, a city near the eastern border with India that’s often called the “heart of Pakistan.” It’s much different than the high country on the Afghan border and treacherous for any American working around the edges of the terrorism scene. There’s a rough east-west divide among Pakistan’s extremist groups: Western groups are often factions of the Taliban and to a large extent composed of foreign fighters hiding in the mountainous country on the Afghan border. For years the ISI — Pakistan’s security service — has tolerated the CIA’s unmanned Predator drone strikes on western extremists because those outfits are uncontrollable and, thus,  less useful to Pakistani state interests. To the east, though, extremist outfits tend to be more closely tied — or even fostered by — the Pakistani state and the ISI. Outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba.

According to Pakistani authorities, Davis made his most recent return to Lahore on January 20. He flew into Allama Iqbal International Airport and went directly to the Scotch Corner neighborhood, to a safe house used by the U.S. consulate. Later that day, five more American civilians showed up at the same address.

The next day Davis made his way to the U.S. consulate, driving away in a black Land Cruiser. A few days later, on January 24, he returned and switched to a white, late-model Honda Civic. In the course of the week, he met with locals, switched safe houses, and exchanged about $300 for Pakistani rupees at a bank. He was likely preparing for a job — a meeting, a drop, a wiretap — with his team.

On January 27, Davis loaded his car with equipment — a ski mask, a GPS unit, a Glock handgun, ammunition, first aid supplies, a small telescope — and set to work. He carried a camera full of photographs he had taken of sensitive sites, including shots of several military installations on the Indian border, and a mobile phone that contained contacts for apparent sources within terrorist groups from across Pakistan.

About 2:15 that afternoon, he drove alone along a busy street, Jail Road, in a rough part of the city. Maybe he was running an operation; maybe he was simply getting to know the neighborhood. But at some point he realized he was being shadowed by two men on a black Honda motorcycle. Both young and both armed with pistols.

It’s impossible to know who employed Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad or what motivated them. The options were limited, though: religion, nationalism, money.

They lived near each other on the outskirts of Lahore, beyond the warren of streets and alleys, in a poor but placid cluster of houses surrounded by fields of green hay. They were both in their 20s, and both had a vague work history, as described by family and neighbors, that included selling mobile phones and vending fruit.

“They did nothing wrong,” says Ijaz Ahmed, Haider’s cousin. Ahmed is a weaver who lives in his shop and likes to sip tea while he thinks. “Never in trouble.”

What brought them alongside Raymond Davis’s car on January 27? Ahmed shrugs.

Were they robbers? “No, no, no.”

Later, Pakistani authorities would declare that Shamshad and Haider were employed in some capacity by the ISI. Then, in unison, those same authorities changed their story to describe the two men not as agents of any sort but as “youths” and “innocent boys.” But other than claiming they were “never in trouble,” no one seems able to say what exactly Shamshad and Haider did do for a living. So their purpose remains unclear. They could have been robbers. They could have been hired muscle for LeT. Or they could have been spies.

Ahmed takes another sip of tea and gives a beneficent smile. “They were illiterate,” he says. “How could they be ISI?”

Davis didn’t have time to ponder their motives. The intersection of Jail and Ferozepur roads was packed with cars, bicycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians; the motorcycle pulled around his car and stopped just ahead of it. Shamshad, on the back of the bike, turned. He raised his pistol. He cocked it.

There is a switch inside the minds of men who work as Special Forces soldiers. It toggles between the perception of another person as “friend” or “enemy.” In one setting, it inspires a fierce and even noble protectiveness. But the moment the switch is flipped to “enemy,” vision narrows and everything but the target fades away.

Shamshad’s gun cocked, and Davis’s switch flipped.

In an instant he raised his own pistol, a semiautomatic Glock, and fired a series of five rounds straight through his windshield. The bullets punched neat holes through it, leaving only a sprinkling of green glass cubes and trapezoids on Davis’s dashboard.

He shot Shamshad in the stomach, behind his right ear, in the back, in the left arm, and in the left thigh. Shamshad fell onto the motorcycle and dropped his weapon. Haider ran toward the intersection and made it about 50 feet to a brick-and-grass island in the road. Davis opened his door, stepped from his car, and shot him five times, including twice in the back, as Haider ran. It was an unbelievable feat of marksmanship.

Anwar Khan, the manager of a restaurant on the intersection, was washing his hands in the men’s room when he heard the first shots. They sounded strange. Muffled. “I thought it was a customer firing,” he says. He ran into the restaurant as more shots barked from the street. These sounded sharper. Khan watched, amazed, as Davis walked back to his car, retrieved a camera, and then walked to each of the bodies. He photographed them with the calm of a scholar documenting some historical artifact. No hurry. No tremor.

“He was so confident,” Khan says, shaking his head.

As a crowd formed, Davis radioed his team for backup. He waited for them in his car, but the crowd became a mob and smashed out his rear window, raining glass onto the backseat. Davis couldn’t wait any longer. He dropped the car into gear, cranked the steering wheel, and somehow maneuvered away from the crowd and the intersection.

Khan, the restaurateur, stood astonished as the white Honda revved, leaping and gunning its way through dense traffic. “It did not feel real,” he says. “It was like an American movie.”

He was still standing at his restaurant’s window a few minutes later when he heard the approach of a second hard-revving vehicle. A Land Cruiser charged into view, just a few feet in front of the restaurant, which meant it was on the wrong side of the road. And behind it came a wave of people on foot, running and shouting. Only later would he find out why.

A few minutes earlier and about a quarter mile down Jail Road, Zahid Chaudhry, a car salesman, had stepped outside his small dealership and noticed the Land Cruiser. Traffic was backed up, heading toward the big intersection to his right. The Land Cruiser, stuck in the unmoving mass, lurched sideways and climbed over the foot-tall cement traffic divider. The driver — a foreigner, he could see — then turned upstream against oncoming traffic, swerving and surging toward the intersection.

“Look at him!” Chaudhry told a colleague. “He must have killed someone.”

Then, as though to prove him right, the Land Cruiser smashed head-on into a motorcycle. In a sliver of a moment, its rider, a young man named Ibad-ur Rehman, hit head-first into the hood of the Land Cruiser, buckling it.

The Land Cruiser stopped, as everyone on the street watched. Its driver backed up but couldn’t dislodge the bike or its rider. They were both stuck to the grill. So, facing a sickening dilemma, the driver decided to continue forward, racing once more toward the intersection. After a hundred yards or so, Rehman and his motorcycle came loose, and when bystanders ran to his side, they found him dead. They turned — a hundred or more people now — and ran after the Land Cruiser, calling for police and memorizing its license plate number, which turned out to be counterfeit.

When the vehicle arrived at the intersection where Davis had fled minutes earlier, it stopped a moment as the driver and a passenger scanned the scene for Davis. A man approached the Land Cruiser and pulled open the driver’s door. The driver, according to people who witnessed it, swung up a weapon — some said a compact assault rifle of some sort, others said a large pistol — and pressed its muzzle to the man’s head. The man backed away, and the Land Cruiser tore ahead, swinging right at the intersection and toward the American consulate.

Along the way, police said, the vehicle’s occupants jettisoned a bizarre sort of litter: bullets, batteries, a pair of gloves, a baton, and a scrap of cloth bearing an American flag.

The Land Cruiser disappeared behind the walls of the consulate, and the two men inside were spirited back to the U.S. before Pakistani authorities could get their hands on them.

Davis fared worse. Peering around the cluster of bullet holes obscuring his view, he wove through more than a mile of heavy traffic, crunching broken glass and shell casings as he worked the pedals. He was, according to Police Chief Tareen, “a very good driver,” with keen evasive skills. But along the way, he overturned a rickshaw and knocked into a motorcyclist. In minutes the whole city seemed to converge on him; a traffic warden saw the chaos and, along with a gathering crowd on the street, blocked his escape. Police showed up before the crowd could tear Davis apart and took him to a nearby station and into a room for questioning. Someone — Davis or an arresting officer — turned on a camera and recorded part of his interrogation, which leaked to local media. In the video, the police question Davis while he shows them a series of identification cards on a lanyard around his neck. Davis remains outwardly calm, but there’s an undercurrent of desperation:

Davis: I need to tell the embassy where I’m at.
Police, examining Davis’s ID: You’re from America?
Davis: Yes.
Police: You belong to American embassy?
Davis: Yes, but my passport —
Police: Raymond?
Davis: — at the site, I showed the police officer. It’s somewhere. It’s lost.

The room erupts in Urdu, and there’s another round of examination of the laminated cards around his neck.

Police: You are now working at the consul general? In Lahore?
Davis: Yes.
Police: As a…?
Davis: I just work as a consultant there.

Then a senior officer walks in, and the whole discussion restarts with a renewed interest in Davis’s ID cards.

The haphazard interrogation started Davis’s sojourn in the Pakistani legal system. He was taken to a courtroom — a small cement room with fluorescent lights — where a judge handed him over to a prison called Kot Lakhpat. It’s a vast brick monolith outside the city, run by a warden named Malik Mushtaq. He sat in his office recently, looking swollen and sullen, a uniformed toad.

“I will not talk about Raymond Davis,” he says, toying with his oversize watch. Then he carries on talking about Raymond Davis. “We kept him in a place for terrorists.”

They placed him in a cell alone so that he couldn’t harm another prisoner and set video cameras to record him around the clock.

Then again, they thought, maybe it was Davis who was in the most danger. Thousands of people had taken to the streets of Lahore calling for his head, and also in Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad, and elsewhere. They printed posters of Davis wearing a noose and hung banners that demanded police turn him over to the public for execution. They hung him in effigy, burned him in effigy, and sometimes simultaneously hung and burned his effigy. The outrage only escalated when Shamshad’s widow, Shumaila, swallowed insecticides in protest. As she lay dying at the hospital, a television camera — there is nothing more lurid than Pakistani television news — zoomed in on her young face as she declared her reasoning shortly before her death: “The killer is being treated as a guest at the police station. I need justice and blood for the blood of my husband.”

Religious extremists seized the moment, preaching sermons about Davis’s role in a magnificent American-Indo-Zionist conspiracy. A conspiracy, they said, to steal Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and sneak them to Al Qaeda, then await the inevitable mushroom cloud. All this, they pronounced without irony, would be a pretext for the Americans to invade Pakistan.

Perhaps worse, the Pakistani public had long ago grown tired of the CIA drone strikes in the tribal areas to the west. The strikes had decimated villages there. Increasingly, the newspapers had covered their front pages with photos of the destruction. That wasn’t lost on the CIA; after a steady rate of three to four strikes per week, the drone attacks suddenly stopped as soon as Raymond Davis disappeared into the corridors of Kot Lakhpat. The CIA knew that Davis had come to embody the agency’s presence in the country and didn’t want to provoke the public any further.

So Davis’s jailers emptied a section of the prison and put him in it, where even his fellow prisoners could not reach him.

But what about the prison staff? On several occasions in the past, guards had killed prisoners at Kot Lakhpat. Now any man who murdered the American in his cell would be a civic and religious hero. So administrators took away the weapons of guards in Davis’s section as a precaution.

The CIA, of course, was also a concern. Who could be more eager than the agency to see Davis fall forever silent? Jailers worried the CIA might try to poison him in some stealthy way, so they prevented any personal contact with anyone who might potentially be a CIA officer. When U.S. officials arrived to see Davis, prison staff put up a special pane of glass to separate them. They formed a committee to oversee preparation of his meals.

Then again, committees can be infiltrated. So dogs tasted the American’s food first, to make sure.

When two men on a motorcycle — whether spies or robbers — accosted Raymond Davis on a Thursday afternoon, the encounter set in motion all of Pakistan’s many factions, all angling to use him as a lever for power or money or prestige. The ISI wanted to keep Davis as a bargaining chip with their U.S. counterparts. Religious extremists wanted the spectacle of an execution. The government’s opposition parties wanted to parade Davis as evidence of President Asif Ali Zardari’s acquiescence to CIA meddling. And the government itself needed to shuffle Davis back to his homeland without causing a popular uprising like the ones in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. No government official wanted to make that decision.

At first American authorities asserted that Davis was a diplomat and enjoyed immunity under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. President Obama himself cited the convention in an address, calling Davis “our diplomat.” But the notion of Davis, who was clearly a spy, skipping away because of diplomatic niceties only further inflamed Pakistani anger. Back in Virginia, Davis’s sister, Michelle, watched the news unfold on television, and it looked bad. The Internet looked worse. “This is my little brother,” she told me. “I just had to turn it off and stop watching. I prayed instead.”

Negotiators from both sides faced what seemed to be an impossible set of requirements. They needed a solution that would simultaneously allow Davis to go free, preserve a sense of sovereignty for Pakistan, rescue politicians from any painful decisions, and undercut the mullahs’ ability to whip up anger in the streets. Little light shone through a forest of frightening potential outcomes. Then Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. and an Islamic legal expert, offered U.S. politicians an idea so brilliantly counterintuitive that it just might solve all their problems at once: Invoke shari’a, he said. He suggested that the Americans appeal to Islamic law, which provides an opportunity for the accused to pay diyah, or blood money, to the families of his victims, who can in turn forgive the transgression in court.

Meanwhile, privately — in phone calls and in a meeting at a luxury hotel in Oman — the top soldiers and spies of each country hammered out a deal of their own. The CIA wanted its man back in America. The Pakistani military wanted him gone too. In fact, the Pakistanis wanted all CIA contractors back on American soil and for the CIA to sharply draw down its personnel and plans in Pakistan altogether. Pakistan said the CIA can simply route any future human intelligence gathering through the ISI, instead of acting on its own. The question, of course, is how much the CIA can trust the ISI. In the days following Davis’s arrest — and the confiscation of his mobile phone — Pakistani newspapers ran reports of militant groups rounding up and assassinating several locals for “cooperating with the CIA.”

On March 16 representatives from both countries, along with a judge and 18 relatives of Shamshad and Haider, as well as those of Rehman, met at Kot Lakhpat prison. The families told the judge that they had accepted diyah — about three quarters of a million dollars per family —and they forgave Davis. The judge fined him $235 for carrying an unregistered firearm, and called the case closed. Davis left the prison and went directly to the airport, where a jet waited to wing him to an American air base in Afghanistan, then on to the U.S.

“I’m just relieved,” his wife, Rebecca, told me over the phone from their home in Colorado. “I just kept telling myself it was like any other assignment and that he’d come home again. And he did.”

Initially family members felt that Davis wouldn’t want to talk to the media about the episode. Rebecca herself hadn’t asked him questions, because “he wants to put it behind him.” But eventually, after some time at home, Davis agreed to address a few critical points by phone, the first time he’d talked to the press.

A former CIA case officer had told me that the whole operation in Lahore fell apart — from a tactical perspective — when Davis failed to leave immediately after shooting the two men. If he had, everything that followed might have been averted. So I asked Davis why he spent so much time at the scene photographing, radioing, waiting, instead of fleeing right away into the embrace of the American consulate. The truth, Davis told me, had less to do with John le Carré than John Q. Public.

“Traffic,” Davis said. “I just couldn’t move. Traffic was packed into the intersection, and it took me forever to find my way out.”

The other question central to the affair: Who were the men Davis shot? Were they robbers? Spies? Something between? “I don’t know who they were,” he told me. “I just don’t know.”

The Pakistani press, police, and public based their case for murder largely on the claim that Davis shot Haider as he tried to run away. Why hadDavis done that?

“It didn’t happen that…” he started. He sighed. “It didn’t happen how they portrayed it. I want so badly to talk about this in detail.”

But he can’t, for now. During negotiations for his release, the U.S. Department of Justice vowed to the Pakistanis that it would open its own examination of the shooting. “Let’s wait until the investigation finishes,” Davis told me.

There is evidence in Haider’s autopsy report, though, that Haider wasn’t merely running away. It shows one shot entering his chest. Another grazed him on the front thigh.

As he waits for the results of the investigations, Davis has other concerns. “I just hope I can find work.”

Back in pakistan, the balance of influence between American spies and their targets — particularly the quasi-official Lashkar-e-Taiba — shifts every moment now further toward the terrorists.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. agreed to the demands of the ISI, packing up more than 330 CIA and Special Operations personnel in order to win back Davis. There’s no way to know what percentage of CIA staff that includes, but it does involve all contractors as well as case officers whose missions were unclear to the Pakistani government. It’s a crippling blow and leaves the agency dependent on intelligence gathered from drones and satellites. One former CIA case officer told me the entire Davis debacle — the posturing by the government, the outrage of the leading clerics, all of it — was simply a bit of opportunistic stagecraft by the ISI. “It was a pretext to shut down the CIA,” he said. The Pakistanis had grown weary of the drone attacks and now had a bit of leverage against the Americans.

And what did the terrorists make of the whole fiasco? Through an intermediary, I contacted Yahya Mujahid, one of the most vocal leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba. He agreed to leave the group’s sprawling suburban acreage to meet at a Pakistani-owned hotel in the city.

He spoke with grand confidence about LeT’s charity through a front organization called Jamaat-ud-Dawa. It is building hospitals, schools, providing relief for Pakistani victims of last year’s horrific floods. It runs an enormous fleet of ambulances, he said. It develops programs for the country’s illiterate, often-jobless young men —young men like Shamshad and Haider.

All those efforts make the group palatable to a public that isn’t being adequately served by its government. I spoke with one middle-aged, middle-class Lahori who said he wouldn’t mind if the radical Islamists took over Pakistan if they could just stop the criminals.

Mujahid, the LeT man, held up dismissive hands when I asked about the American maneuvers to spring Davis from prison. “This is shari’a,” he said. One man’s release seemed trifling to him, unimportant compared with what it had cost the Americans. After all, he said, there was a new matter to protest that night. A new outrage to preach: A very important American figure in the state of Florida, he said, had burned a copy of the Koran.

In Pakistan, anger, like the sun, rises every day and fills the public square. And two days after Davis’s release, following six weeks of silence in the sky, the Predator drone strikes began again.


By: Matthew Teague, June 1, 2011

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Obama’s First Paper Airplane – No Casualties

Barack Obama at 6 Years Old after making his first paper airplane, flying it over a part of town where he’s never been before, and being disappointed that it didn’t kill a bunch of people he didn’t know.


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Calling out the CIA: Secrecy Killings

Today Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times published a thoughtful columndiscussing the untenable position taken by the government in response to the ACLU’s two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking information about the CIA’s targeted killing drone strike program, including its targeting of U.S. citizens. As Rosenthal explains, “the government is blocking any consideration of these petitions with one of the oldest, and most pathetic, dodges in the secrecy game. It says it cannot confirm or deny the existence of any drone strike policy or program.”

Rosenthal goes on to highlight the reasons why the government’s position is untenable:

That would be unacceptable under any condition, but it’s completely ridiculous when you take into account the fact that a) there have been voluminous news accounts of drone strikes, including the one on Mr. Awlaki, and b) pretty much every top government official involved in this issue has talked about the drone strikes in public.

He also highlights the arguments made in the ACLU’s latest legal brief in the cases, excerpting from our “13 pages of examples of how ‘the government has already specifically and officially acknowledged the program that the CIA now says is secret.'”

Perhaps most telling is Rosenthal’s comment about how little progress we have made since the worst secrecy abuses of the Bush era:

Governments have good reasons for keeping secrets – to protect soldiers in battle, or nuclear launch codes, or the identities of intelligence sources, undercover agents and witnesses against the mob. (Naturally that’s not an exhaustive list.) Governments also have bad reasons for keeping secrets – to avoid embarrassment, evade oversight or escape legal accountability.

The Bush administration kept secrets largely for bad reasons: It covered up its torture memos, the kidnapping of innocent foreign citizens, illegal wiretapping and other misdeeds. Barack Obama promised to bring more transparency to Washington in the 2008 campaign, but he has failed to do that. In some ways, his administration is even worse than the Bush team when it comes to abusing the privilege of secrecy.

He concludes:

So this is not a secret program, but the government continues to hide behind the secrecy shield to avoid turning over the legal document justifying (or at least rationalizing) it. It’s even using the “can’t confirm or deny” fabrication about the existence of the document itself.

My guess is that the Obama administration just wants to avoid public disclosure, scrutiny and accountability. I’d ask someone at the Justice Department, but they wouldn’t be able to tell me, because it’s a secret.

Rosenthal’s column joins the chorus of voices calling for greater transparencyaround targeted killing and for a sensible government response to the ACLU’s FOIA requests. The government must provide the public with the information it needs to assess the legality and wisdom of the CIA’s global targeted killing campaign.


By: Nathan Freed Wesser, March 29, 2012

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US Military Drones targeting Rescue Workers and Funerals in Pakistan

The CIA’s drone campaign targeting suspected militants in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to rescue victims or were attending funerals. So concludes a new report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It found that since President Obama took office three years ago, as many as 535 civilians have been killed, including more than 60 children. The investigation also revealed that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. We speak to Chris Woods, award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “We noted that there were repeated reports at the time, contemporaneous reports in publications like New York Times, news agencies like Reuters, by CNN, that there were these strikes on rescuers, that there were reports that there had been an initial strike and then, some minutes later, as people had come forward to help and pull out the dead and injured, that drones had returned to the scene and had attacked rescuers,” Woods says. “We’ve been able to name just over 50 civilians that we understand have been killed in those attacks. In total, we think that more than 75 civilians have been killed, specifically in these attacks on rescuers and on mourners, on funeral-goers.” [includes rush transcript]




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