Obama's Death Panels... Jeremy Scahill at the Drone Summit

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 3:13am.


Part 1 of 4

The Obama administration is being called out for the use of robotic flying airplanes to conduct remote assassinations around the world in violation of US and International law. ~ Videos - Related articles

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Activists, lawyers, human rights advocates, civil liberties defenders and others came together for a major international summit on drone warfare and the issues created by drone use yesterday.

The summit was co-organized by CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve. An exceptional lineup of speakers addressed participants detailing salient and significant aspects around the Obama administration's expansion of the covert drone wars in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

The day wrapped up with a speech from Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, who has been one of the few journalists to actually travel to these countries where the covert drone war is playing out. Scahill has produced reports on Yemen and Somalia that show how the US is carrying out its "war on terrorism" and using drones to target and kill people.

Scahill opens his speech by saying, "The real death panels that we have in this country were unleashed on our own citizens. Republicans like to talk about death panels having to do with health care. President Obama is the one that is operating secret death panels" that include United States citizens and often include non-US citizens. The vast majority of the victims of this policy around the world are not US citizens.

He strongly condemns the al-Majalah massacre that was authorized by Obama and was a brutal massacre, more brutal than anything that has been done in Yemen in the past decade.

The strike was authorized on a Bedouin village because "intelligence" showed it was an al Qaeda training facility at the time. "Cruise missiles and cluster bombs rained down." The US was not mentioned and did not take credit for the attack.

Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a journalist, who is now imprisoned by order of the Obama administration, went and took photos. His photos gave human rights groups evidence that weapons used were not weapons the Yemen government had.

Then WikiLeaks released cables that "confirmed" what was suspected—that there was a coverup. General David Petraeus conspired with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh to prevent anyone from knowing the US was bombing Yemen.

Noting how the Obama administration has approved expanded authority for the CIA to carry out "signature strikes," which basically is profiling, he explains:

The "signature strikes" are anything but surgical. The idea of the signature strikes is that you can develop a pattern of life and you can study a pattern of life being engaged in by certain people in Yemen and you can determine without knowing their identity or knowing that they've had any connection to terrorism whatsoever that they are a terrorist - because of how they act, because of who they associate with. And that once you develop that pattern of life, you then create a very efficient pattern of death for those people, which is to bring in the drones and take them out.

He mentions how Anwar al-Awlaki was not an al-Qaeda leader. Only after he was killed was he the "head of external operations" for al Qaeda. Obama was able to get away with this because of the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed under President George W. Bush and is still in effect. Al-Awlaki was killed by the President of the United States, who served as "judge, jury and executioner."

Scahill then gave a stirring account of a meeting he had with the mother of Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike that killed al-Awlaki.

She told me about how disturbed he was when he saw the images that came out of Abu Ghraib in the mid-2000s and he started blogging about US policy and eventually he went to Yemen to study Arabic and somehow he got hooked up with Anwar al-Awlaki.

But, the reason I am bringing up is this: the FBI began visiting that family in 2007, when Samir Khan was still living in the United States, and they were concerned about his speech.

They visited Samir Khan's mother and father to express concern about his blogging and the things that he was saying. And they were very clear with the Khans. They said he's engaged in First Amendment-protected activities. And they were sort of incredulous. "Well, then why are you here?" Well, we're just concerned about your son.

And then they got in touch with them multiple other times when Samir was in Yemen. And each time the FBI came to the Khans, they told them that they have no evidence that he had done anything criminal and that he was engaged in First Amendment-protected activities.

The next time they heard from the United States government was the State Department calling them to tell them that Samir had been killed in Yemen. When they asked who killed them, they said we can't talk about that.

The critical nature of this anecdote from Scahill cannot be overstated. Tarek Mehanna, who refused to become an FBI informant, was charged and convicted of "terrorism" for venting his frustrations with US policies.

The FBI has spied on Muslims looking for "suspicious" speech. They have manipulated impoverished and sometimes mentally unstable Muslims and pushed those who have engaged in aggressive rhetoric against the US to take that rhetoric to the next level and engage in "plots" against the US.

The FBI has also targeted activists like Hatem Abuddayeh, who engages in Palestinian solidarity activism. Abuddayeh is one of twenty-three activists in the Midwest to have his home raided by the FBI. He was given a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury. He also has had his bank account frozen by the Treasury Department. This is presumably all because of the "First Amendment-protected activities," which the FBI has "concern" about.

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Organizer's Statement:

Drone Summit Organizer's Statement...

On April 28-29, CODEPINK, Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted the first international Drone Summit in Washington, DC. This statement was prepared by the three organizations to address the widespread and rapidly expanding deployment of both lethal and surveillance drones and the need for national governments and international institutions to quickly move to establish appropriate protections and regulations.

Drone Summit Declaration

April 29, 2012

This statement emerged from the first international Drone Summit held in Washington, DC on April 28-29, 2012.

We recognize that rapid advances in robotic technology and related communications and imaging technology create the opportunity for many peaceful and beneficial uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.

Lethal and spy drones, however, are proliferating in our home countries and internationally without adequate public input, ethical frameworks, or governmental and intergovernmental oversight and rulemaking. This represents a pressing threat to human life, the rule of law, civil liberties, human rights, ethical standards and international peace and security.

Governments and international organizations have a history of formulating new rules, conventions and control regimes to regulate the use of new technologies. Drone proliferation, however, represents the advance of technology ahead of the democratic process and international legal and ethical frameworks.

Citizens worldwide have expressed deep concerns about the misuses and abuses of drones, and demand the national governments and international institutions quickly move to establish appropriate protections and regulations.


Drones have quickly become favored instruments of war-fighting, surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering because of the lack of direct risk to the lives of soldiers and other government agents.

But the use of lethal drones causes the death and injury of valuable victims' lives, may violate national sovereignty, radicalize local populations, increase popular support for anti-American terrorists and precipitate more terrorist incidents and international conflicts.

In the United States, the CIA and the U.S. military's covert unit Joint Special Operations Command maintain "kill lists" of individuals suspected of terrorism, including U.S. citizens, who are being targeted for death outside of zones of armed conflict, without charge, trial, or conviction.

The U.S. government argues that targeted killing outside of war zones is permissible because the U.S. government is fighting a "global war" against Al Qaeda but this justification not only distorts long-standing and internationally accepted laws of war but also sets a dangerous precedent for rendering the entire world a potential battlefield.

The U.S. lethal drones strikes outside war zones stand in direct violation of U.S. Constitution and international law, notably the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no one shall be deprived of life without due process and human rights law that similarly protects against arbitrary deprivation of life and generally prohibits killings by states without judicial process - unless an individual presents an imminent threat of death or serious physical harm and lethal force is a last resort.

The United Nations Charter permits the use of military force only if authorized by the Security Council or if a state is acting in self-defense after suffering an armed attack - a condition does not apply to U.S drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The targeted assassination program using drones, which started under President Bush and expanded under the Obama administration, essentially grants the executive the power to kill any U.S. citizen deemed a threat, without any judicial oversight, or any of the rights afforded by our Constitution.

The executive branch of the U.S. government must not be allowed to claim the extraordinary power to secretly kill anyone it categorizes as a terrorist suspect, anywhere in the world, without transparency or judicial oversight.

The U.S. executive branch, by substituting its own bureaucratic process for the due process required by the Constitution and international law, is assuming the role of judge, jury, and executioner.

The gross overreaches of power by the executive branch in its drone strikes sets the stage for increasing violations of civil liberties and the rule of law not only in international but also in domestic affairs.


Drone surveillance in rapidly increasing at home in border security, public safety, homeland security, immigration enforcement, and drug control operations in the absence of rules and regulations,

Drones, equipped with the latest imaging technology such as facial recognition and see-through-walls capabilities, constitute a new threat to privacy and Fourth Amendment rights.

Increasing drone surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security and by federal and local police will have a restrictive effect on the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.

The Department of Homeland Security, in closely cooperation with U.S. military bases, is using drones for surveillance at home, along our land and seas borders, and increasingly for local law enforcement purposes. This represents a dangerous merger of law enforcement, homeland security, and national security strategies and operations and increases the potential for greater U.S. military presence in domestic affairs.

With their capacity to undertake constant, persistent, and undetected surveillance at higher altitudes than traditional aircraft, drones represent a new threat to privacy.

While technology has been advancing at a rapid pace, privacy law has stagnated and a sea change in the thinking about privacy and surveillance is needed.

Therefore, we urge:


1) The United States should support the convening of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to develop binding legal standards for the use of drone systems, including a prohibition on the use of autonomous lethal drones. Any military use of drones must be strictly in compliance with the principles of international law, as specified in the UN Charter, the laws of armed conflict, and international humanitarian law and human rights law.

2) The U.S. government should end drone strikes outside of armed conflict, except where there is a present concrete, specific, and imminent threats to life or physical safety; when there are no means other than lethal force that could reasonably be employed to address the threats; and when there are comprehensive and effective oversight mechanisms to ensure that individuals targeted represent an actual and direct threat to the United States.

3) The U.S. government should follow the War Powers Resolution in all future armed conflicts, whether or not U.S. military personnel and government agents are directly at risk, and the U.S. Congress should properly exercises the authority provided by the War Power Act for oversight and authorization of U.S. war-fighting.

4) Regarding the CIA, a secretive agency that is supposed to focus on intelligence gathering, the U.S. government should divest the CIA of its authority and capability to carry out clandestine killings by drones.

5) The U.S. government should demilitarize its counterterrorism strategy while increasing its conflict-resolution initiatives and prioritizing a law enforcement approach to prevent and eliminate terrorist threats, thereby following the nonmilitary approaches in the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

6) Congress should prohibit the sale of drones to countries that systematically violate human rights.


1) Drones in U.S. airspace should be subject to strict regulation to ensure that their use does not eviscerate the privacy that Americans have traditionally enjoyed and rightly expect. Drones should be prohibited for indiscriminate mass surveillance.

2) Federal Aviation Administration should address the privacy threats associated with the increased use of drones in the United States as part of its response to congressional and industry pressure to open national airspace to drones.

3) Federal Aviation Administration should give the public the opportunity to comment on the public safety and privacy issues raised by increased drone presence in U.S. skies.

4) Drones should only be deployed: a) where there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the aerial surveillance will collect evidence relating to a specific instance of criminal wrongdoing, b) where the government has obtained a warrant based on probable cause, c) where there is a geographically confined, time-limited emergency situation in which particular individuals' lives are at risk, or d) for reasonable non-law enforcement purposes by non-law enforcement agencies (such as geological inspections), where privacy will respected.

5) The policies and procedures for the domestic use of aerial surveillance technologies should be explicit and written, and should made public. While it is legitimate for the police to keep the details of particular investigations confidential, policy decisions regarding overall deployment policies—including the privacy tradeoffs they may entail—are a public matter and should be openly discussed.

6) Purchases and deployment of drones by local law enforcement agencies should be determined by democratic processes, which involve public comments, rather than being made autonomously by government directory or as the result grants from the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS should terminate its spending on new drones, associated payloads, and operating crews until it conducts a clear, systemic examination of the costs and benefits involved.

7) Similarly, new drone operations by DHS should be suspended until the department can conclusively demonstrate that these operations improve the security of the homeland.

Finally, we urge the U.S. government to:

1) Chart a course to promote the ethical and constructive use of drones and to establish the standards and control regimes to ensure that drone proliferation does not result in a surge of foreign interventions and wars. Without having first established these legal and ethical frameworks, the president and the U.S. security apparatus lack credibility in their defense of U.S. drone attacks and spying.
2) Begin the process of formulating the legal and ethical guidelines to regulate, shape, and constrain drone proliferation at home, thereby establish a model for other nations interested in protecting civil liberties, privacy of their citizens, and the integrity of the rule of law.

Summit Statement

Drone Summit Statement...

On April 28th and 29th, people from across the United States and around the world gathered in Washington to learn about the disturbing increase in the use of remotely piloted aircraft (drones) for illegal warfare killing and surveillance and discuss what we could do together to bring these issues into greater public debate, to bring the use of drones under democratic control, and to ensure that the use of drones complies with the prohibitions against illegal war and killing and illegal surveillance in international law, the U.S. Constitution, and other U.S. law.

We pledge:

- to educate the American public about civilian deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere as a result of the use of drones for illegal killing;

- to educate the American public about the increasing use of drones for surveillance that violates Americans' right to privacy;

- to agitate with Members of Congress, President Obama, federal agencies, and state and local governments to restrict the use of drones for illegal killing and surveillance;

- to agitate with news media to report on civilian casualties from the use of drones for illegal killing, and to report on violations of privacy rights by the use of drones for surveillance;

- to support legal efforts to make the use of drones legally accountable, and to use such efforts to educate the public and news media;

- to support campaigns to pressure corporations to dissociate themselves from the use of drones for illegal killing and illegal surveillance;

- to work with faith communities to raise the issue of the increasing use of drones for illegal killing and surveillance in their communities;

- to support students and faculty members in raising the issue of drones on campus, including educational activities, pledges to refrain from research on drone and robotics weapons; divestment from companies involved in the research, production and maintenance of drones for illegal killing and illegal surveillance;

- to support direct action to educate the American public and media about drones;

- to support U.S. delegations to countries where the U.S. government is killing civilians with drones, to raise the profile of such delegations, and to help people who participate in such delegations share their experiences

- to stay in communication with other individuals and groups in our network, sharing information about and supporting each others' actions.

Reprieve UK
The Center for Constitutional Rights
Just Foreign Policy
Global Exchange
Veterans for Peace
and more to follow!


Alexander Higgins - April 30, 2012 - AlexanderHiggins


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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 3:13am.