Tag Archives: drones

The Price of Conscience — Hale Sentenced to 45 Months, by Chris Hedges

As Orwell said, truth is dangerous in the empire of lies, especially to the truth teller. From Chris Hedges at consortiumnews.com:

Drone warfare whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison on Tuesday for telling the American people the truth.

Daniel Hale, a former intelligence analyst in the drone program for the Air Force who as a private contractor in 2013 leaked some 17 classified documents about drone strikes to the press, was sentenced Tuesday to 45 months in prison.

The documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

The Justice Department coerced Hale, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison.

Continue reading→

Bless the Traitors, by Chris Hedges

Daniel Hale’s conscience wouldn’t let him keep secret what he knew about the US military’s drone programs. Too bad so many in the military and intelligence have no such qualms. From Chris Hedges at consortiumnews.com:

Daniel Hale, an active-duty Air Force intelligence analyst, stood in the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 in his military uniform. He held up a sign that read “Free Bradley Manning,” who had not yet announced her transition. It was a singular act of conscience few in uniform had the strength to replicate. He had taken a week off from his job to join the protestors in the park.

He was present at 6:00 am on Oct. 14 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first attempt to clear the park. He stood in solidarity with thousands of protestors, including many unionized transit workers, teachers, Teamsters and communications workers, who formed a ring around the park. He watched the police back down as the crowd erupted into cheers. But this act of defiance and moral courage was only the beginning.

At the time, Hale was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few months later he deployed to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He would later learn that that while he was in Zuccotti Park, Barack Obama ordered a drone strike some 12,000 miles away in Yemen that killed Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of the radical cleric and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier.

The Obama administration claimed it was targeting the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Banna, who it believed, incorrectly, was with the boy and his cousins, all of whom were also killed in the attack. That massacre of innocents became public, but there were thousands more such attacks that wantonly killed noncombatants that only Hale and those with top-security clearances knew about.

Starting in 2013, Hale, while working as a private contractor, leaked some 17 classified documents about the drone program to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, although the reporter is not named in court documents. The leaked documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people.

Continue reading→

The Overlapping Infrastructure of Urban Surveillance, and How to Fix It , by Matthew Guariglia

Would you like to know who’s monitoring you, and how they’re doing it? From Matthew Guariglia at activistpost.com:

Between the increasing capabilities of local and state police, the creep of federal law enforcement into domestic policing, the use of aerial surveillance such as spy planes and drones, and mounting cooperation between private technology companies and the government, it can be hard to understand and visualize what all this overlapping surveillance can mean for your daily life. We often think of these problems as siloed issues. Local police deploy automated license plate readers or acoustic gunshot detection. Federal authorities monitor you when you travel internationally.

But if you could take a cross-section of the average city block, you would see the ways that the built environment of surveillance—its physical presence in, over, and under our cities—makes this an entwined problem that must be combated through entwined solutions.

Thus, we decided to create a graphic to show how—from overhead to underground—these technologies and legal authorities overlap, how they disproportionately impact the lives of marginalized communities, and the tools we have at our disposal to halt or mitigate their harms.

A cityscape showing 13 types of common surveillance

Continue reading→

Armies Of Unidentified Drones Are Appearing Over The Western U.S. At Night, And It Is Really Freaking People Out, by Michael Snyder

Nobody has explained why masses of drones are flying over parts of the midwest and west at night. From Michael Snyder at endoftheamericandream.com:

Since just before Christmas, armies of unidentified drones have been appearing each night in the skies above Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.  The drones are approximately 6 feet wide and they have red and white lights, but nobody knows where they are from or who owns them.  This is a story that is now receiving national attention, and the FBI, the FAA and the U.S. Air Force are all investigating this mystery.  According to eyewitnesses, these drones can move “much faster than a regular aircraft”, and that would seem to indicate that they are highly sophisticated.  So far, the U.S. military, every government agency that has been asked, and many of the major companies in the area have all denied operating the drones.  Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have been doing all that they can to solve this mystery, but so far they have come up completely empty.

And even though these drones are now receiving so much attention, they just keep coming back night after night.  According to one northern Colorado resident, when the drones come out it looks like “something from a movie”

For the last week, Michelle Eckert has spotted a high-flying, night-time mystery above her rural northern Colorado home. She has seen drones, sometimes a dozen or more with wingspans 6 feet wide.

“The sky is lit up with Christmas lights basically,” she told CBS News. “There’s lights and things flying all over. It reminded me of something from a movie.”

Continue reading

Watch Chile Protesters Kill a Police Drone Using Hundreds of Laser Pointers, by Elias Marat

This sort of thing should be encouraged. From Elias Marat at themindunleashed.com:

A police drone was disabled and fell to the ground after hundreds of protesters aimed their laser pointers at it.

Chile Protesters Drone Laser

As the people of Chile enter the second month of massive protests against the neoliberal government of President Sebastian Piñera, clashes have continued unabated between demonstrators and the militarized security forces of the South American state.

The protests, which began October 14 as a response to rising public transit costs, have quickly become radicalized as social movements, students, workers’ unions, and a vast cross-section of Chilean society have focused their anger on high levels of inequality in the country, rising living costs, and a constitution inherited from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Continue reading→

 

New weapons and the new tactics which they make possible: three examples, by the Saker

New weapons always lead to new strategies, at least on the part of those who have them. The US is not adopting either its rhetoric or its strategies to Russia’s new weapons. From the Saker at saker.is:

New weapons and the new tactics which they make possible: three examples

There are probably hundreds of books out there about the so-called “Revolution in Military Affairs”, some of them pretty good, most of them very bad, and a few very good ones (especially this one).  For a rather dull and mainstream discussion, you can check the Wikipedia article on the RMA.  Today I don’t really want to talk this or similar buzzwords (like “hybrid warfare” for example).  Frankly, in my experience, these buzzwords serve two purposes:

  1. to sell (books, articles, interviews, etc.)
  2. to hide a person’s lack of understanding of tactics, operational art and strategy.

This being said, there *are* new things happening in the realm of warfare, new technologies are being developed, tested and deployed, some extremely successfully.

In his now famous speech, Putin revealed some of these new weapons systems, although he did not say much about how they would be engaged (which is quite logical, since he was making a political speech, not a military-technical report).  For those would be interested in this topic, you can check here, here, here, here, here and here.

The recent Houthi drone and missile strike on the Saudi oil installations has shown to the world something which the Russians have known for several years: that even rather primitive drones can be a real threat.  Sophisticated drones are a major threat to every military out there, though Russia has developed truly effective (including cost-effective, which is absolutely crucial, more about that later) anti-drone capabilities.

Continue reading→

 

 

How the Saudi Oil Field Attack Overturned America’s Apple Cart, by Conn Hallinan

Saudi Arabia has the world third largest defense budget, $68 billion, with which it buys some of the world’s best weapons, but it can’t stop a drone and missile attack on one of its most valuable oil installation. The Houthi attack, if it was indeed the Houthis, may be the moment when the world first became generally aware of a development in the making since World War II: the decentralization of cheap but very violent weaponry. The implications are enormous. From Conn Halinan at antiwar.com:

For all their overwhelming firepower, the U.S. and its allies can cause a lot of misery in the Middle East, but still can’t govern the course of events.

In many ways it doesn’t really matter who – Houthis in Yemen? Iranians? Shiites in Iraq? – launched those missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia. Whoever did it changed the rules of the game, and not just in the Middle East. “It’s a moment when offense laps defense, when the strong have reason to fear the weak,” observes military historian Jack Radey.

In spite of a $68 billion a year defense budget – the third highest spending of any country in the world – with a world-class air force and supposed state-of-the-art anti-aircraft system, a handful of bargain basement drones and cruise missiles slipped through the Saudi radar and devastated Riyadh’s oil economy. All those $18 million fighter planes and $3 million a pop Patriot antiaircraft missiles suddenly look pretty irrelevant.

Continue reading

Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen, by Moon of Alabama

The Saudi war on Yemen is only over if somebody in the Saudi leadership, notably Mohammad bin Salman, has half a brain. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:

Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis economic lifelines. This today was the decisive attack:

Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.

The Saudi acknowledgement of the attack came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming.

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces
Today’s attack is a check mate move against the Saudis. Shaybah is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory. There are many more important economic targets within that range:

The field’s distance from rebel-held territory in Yemen demonstrates the range of the Houthis’ drones. U.N. investigators say the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai’s busy international airport within their range.Unlike sophisticated drones that use satellites to allow pilots to remotely fly them, analysts believe Houthi drones are likely programmed to strike a specific latitude and longitude and cannot be controlled once out of radio range. The Houthis have used drones, which can be difficult to track by radar, to attack Saudi Patriot missile batteries, as well as enemy troops.

Continue reading

NGA: The Massive Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard Of, by Alice Salles

You’ve probably never heard of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Neither had SLL. From Alice Salles at theantimedia.org:

(ANTIMEDIA) If you’re one of the countless Americans who was distraught to learn of the revelations made by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, the mere idea that there might be yet another agency out there — perhaps just as powerful and much more intrusive — should give you goosebumps.

Foreign Policy reports that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is an obscure spy agency former President Barack Obama had a hard time wrapping his mind around back in 2009. But as the president grew fond of drone warfare, finding a way to launch wars without having to go through Congress for the proper authorization, the NGA also became more relevant. Now, President Donald Trump is expected to further explore the multibillion-dollar surveillance network.

Like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), the NGA is an intelligence agency, but it also serves as a combat support institution that functions under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

With headquarters bigger than the CIA’s, the building cost $1.4 billion to be completed in 2011. In 2016, the NGA bought an extra 99 acres in St. Louis, building additional structures that cost taxpayers an extra $1.75 billion.

Enjoying the extra budget Obama threw at them, the NGA became one of the most obscure intelligence agencies precisely because it relies on the work of drones.

As a body of government that has only one task — to analyze images and videos captured by drones in the Middle East — the NGA is mighty powerful. So why haven’t we heard of it before?

To continue reading: NGA: The Massive Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard Of

The Trojan Drone, An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance, by Rebecca Gordon

The US has embraced extrajudicial drone assassinations on foreign soil, and sometimes the victims are either misidentified or the wrong people are murdered. From Rebecca Gordon at tomdispatch.com:

Think of it as the Trojan Drone, the ultimate techno-weapon of American warfare in these years, a single remotely operated plane sent to take out a single key figure. It’s a shiny video game for grown ups — a Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty where the animated enemies bleed real blood. Just like the giant wooden horse the Greeks convinced the Trojans to bring inside their gates, however, the drone carries something deadly in its belly: a new and illegal military strategy disguised as an impressive piece of technology.

The technical advances embodied in drone technology distract us from a more fundamental change in military strategy. However it is achieved — whether through conventional air strikes, cruise missiles fired from ships, or by drone — the United States has now embraced extrajudicial executions on foreign soil. Successive administrations have implemented this momentous change with little public discussion. And most of the discussion we’ve had has focused more on the new instrument (drone technology) than on its purpose (assassination). It’s a case of the means justifying the end. The drones work so well that it must be all right to kill people with them.

The Rise of the Drones

The Bush administration launched the assassination program in October 2001 in Afghanistan, expanded it in 2002 to Yemen, and went from there. Under Obama, with an actual White House “kill list,” the use of drones has again expanded, this time nine-fold, with growing numbers of attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, as well as in the Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian war zones.

There’s an obvious appeal to a technology that allows pilots for the CIA, Joint Special Operations Command, or the Air Force to sit safely in front of video screens in Nevada or elsewhere in the U.S., while killing people half a world away. This is especially true for a president running a global war with a public that does not easily accept American casualties and a Congress that prefers not to be responsible for war and peace decision-making. Drone assassinations have allowed President Obama to spread the “war on terror” to ever more places (even as he quietly retired that phrase), without U.S. casualties or congressional oversight and approval.

One problem has, however, dogged the drone program from the beginning: just like conventional air strikes, remotely targeted missiles and bombs tend to kill the wrong people. Over the last seven years, the count of civilians killed by drones has been mounting. Actual figures are hard to come by, although a number of nongovernmental organizations and journalists have done a good job of collating information from a variety of sources and offering reasonable estimates.

Analysis from all these sources suggests that there are at least three reasons why civilians die in such attacks.

1. The intelligence information on the individual targeted is often wrong. He isn’t where they think he is, or he isn’t even who they think he is. For example, in 2014 a British human rights organization, Reprieve, compiled data on drone strikes that targeted specific individuals in Yemen and Pakistan. According to the Guardian, Reprieve’s work

“indicates that even when operators target specific individuals — the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls ‘targeted killing’ — they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014].”

To continue reading: The Trojan Drone, An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance

 

%d bloggers like this: