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April 09, 2013

Top Secret Intelligence Reports Show Obama’s Drones Aren’t Only Deployed Against Al Qaeda Leaders

Posted in: Drones

Creative Commons-licensed Photo on Flickr (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

United States government officials like now-CIA director John Brennan have asserted individuals must be a “legitimate target under the law” in order to be targeted and killed. However, top secret intelligence reports indicate “drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere” to such a standard.

From McClatchy‘s Jonathan Landay, who happens to be one of two establishment journalists who challenged the presidential administration of George W. Bush’s propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq War, reports:

The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”

The reports reviewed, according to McClatchy, involved “drone strikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2011.” The period between 2010-2011 featured a “surge in drone operations against suspected Islamist sanctuaries on Pakistan’s side of the border that coincided” with Obama’s “buildup of 33,000 additional US troops in southern Afghanistan.”

The documents, Landay writes, show “drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been ‘exceedingly rare.’”

The review additionally found the following:

– At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists. Drones killed only six top al Qaida leaders in those months, according to news media accounts.

—Forty-three of 95 drone strikes reviewed for that period hit groups other than al Qaida, including the Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as “foreign fighters” and “other militants.”

—During the same period, the reports estimated there was a single civilian casualty, an individual killed in an April 22, 2011, strike in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

– At other times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.

During Brennan’s April 30, 2012, speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, he unequivocally stated:

First and foremost, the individual must be a legitimate target under the law.  Earlier, I described how the use of force against members of al-Qaida is authorized under both international and U.S. law, including both the inherent right of national self-defense and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which courts have held extends to those who are part of al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces.  If, after a legal review, we determine that the individual is not a lawful target, end of discussion.  We are a nation of laws, and we will always act within the bounds of the law.

This stellar example of investigative journalism by Landay and McClatchy demonstrates what Brennan said is not true. Drone strikes are not only targeting people from al Qaeda. But, with the strikes happening covertly, with little to no oversight from Congress, with the Obama Administration defending secrecy around the program in US courts and with the power to decide who lives and who dies concentrated in the Executive Branch of the US government, there is little that can check this egregious and flagrant abuse of power and force the Obama administration to end such targeted killing operations.

Read the full story from McClatchy here.

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