Are CIA Drones Killing Children?
The Obama administration must explain the legal basis for drone
strikes in Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with impunity. The
Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate killing,
in violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan.— Sam Zarifi,
Note: Shortly after I published this article, Pakistan accused American drones
of killing 24 Pakistani troops, calling the drone attacks a "grave infringement"
on the country's sovereignty. Americans should ask themselves how they would
feel if foreign powers like Russia and China tried to "help" the
United States solve its problems with gang violence by using robots to attack
American citizens they deemed to be "criminals" and "terrorists," without the nuisance of fair trials.
The U.S. government immediately expressed its "condolences" over the accidental
deaths, but obviously Americans would not accept such condolences from other
nations, so it seems like wild bigotry if they expect Pakistanis to accept what
they would never accept themselves. But when women and children who are obviously
completely innocent of any possible crimes are killed by mindless, heartless
drones, the problem becomes
almost infinitely worse ...
There have been reports from reputable sources such as The New York
Times, ABC News, The Daily Telegraph and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
that CIA drone attacks have now killed more than 160 children, as many as 775
civilians, and have wounded more than 1,000 other people. And yet the US government
has given the American public and the world the impression that
its drones are highly accurate and seldom (if ever) harm civilians. Is the
US government ignoring or obfuscating the truth? I
heard similar reports from Pakistani newspapers in the past, but had no
way of verifying them. But now it seems there is considerable
evidence from trustworthy sources that large numbers of civilians,
including children, really are being killed and maimed by unmanned drones
piloted by joystick-wielding CIA agents. If so, it seems the CIA has become a
If we are to have real peace in the world,
we shall have to begin with the children.―Mohandas Gandhi
I believe Iain Overton, the editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism,
made an important point when he said: "It comes as no surprise that the US
intelligence services would attack our findings in this way. But to claim our
methodology is problematic before we had even published reveals how they really
operate. A revelation that is reinforced by the fact that they cannot bring
themselves to refer to non-combatants as what they really are: civilians and,
all too often, children."
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in
the holy name of liberty or democracy?—Mohandas Gandhi
A valid and pertinent question is whether the security of Americans is in any
way improved by the killing of children. Frankly, I
doubt it, because the unjust killing of children is likely to produce legions of
angry men seeking vengeance. Perhaps a better question is whether we can morally
justify killing children even if their deaths do improve our security. If my
odds of living are increased by tossing a child into the sea and grabbing the
last seat on a lifeboat, should I become a child killer? But it seems to me that
the "danger" to Americans has been vastly overrated. I believe it is time to
consider this keen observation by a British prime minister wise enough to doubt
some of his advisors:
If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the
theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe.—Lord Salisbury
If the US government is killing large numbers of children and other civilians in
its quest for "justice," something is clearly wrong. That fact that US
intelligence services are unable to refer to civilians and children by their
proper names seems indicative of a terrible soul-destroying disease. Hitler and
his Nazis goons killed children of the "wrong races" indiscriminately.
Ancient barbarians sometimes killed children of other ethnicities indiscriminately. But surely a modern
democracy should be able to discriminate between the perhaps-justifiable
killings of terrorists (how can we be sure everyone our government kills is
really a terrorist?) and
the murders and mutilations of innocents. I am disgusted to learn that what I
feared seems to be true: Americans cannot rely on our government, military or
intelligence services to tell us the truth. Nor can we rely on them to
stop using unmanned drones because they cannot discern between terrorists and
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John
If it was wrong for al-Qaeda to kill American children and other civilians on
9-11, as it obviously was, then surely it is just as wrong for Americans to kill
Pakistani children and other civilians. American civilians did not attack
Al-Qaeda, but neither did Pakistani civilians attack Americans. We cannot
justify killing children just because criminals are hard to find and bring to
justice. And to be brutally honest, it seems that very few of the currently targeted
people are actually "terrorists." Most of them are young foot soldiers who see
American troops as foreign invaders. If armed Pakistanis showed up in the US and
seemed intent on running things the Pakistani way, American men would take up arms and oppose
them. So isn't it past time to abandon jingoism and hypocrisy, and admit that an American military presence on Muslim
soil is bound to produce constant unrest and endless strife? How can we
condemn young Pakistani men for doing exactly what young American men would do,
under similar circumstances? The solution is to remove our troops from the
Middle East, not to keep trying to kill young men who are only trying to defend
their homeland. When we accidentally kill their younger sisters and brothers,
and other civilians, we only make the world a more dangerous place for everyone.
What if those young men get their hands on WMDs one day? They may well feel
justified to use them against American civilians, because Americans killed so
many Pakistani civilians.
I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.—Albert
Pakistan did not attack the US. Rather, Pakistan has been an ally of the US in
what is called "the war against terror." So what right do Americans have to keep
killing Pakistani civilians, as they blow up the countryside while searching for
elusive needles in an immense haystack? As Dennis Blair, a former Navy admiral
and Director of National Intelligence, recently pointed out: "We're alienating the countries concerned because we are treating
[them] just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us. We are threatening the prospects of long-term reform."
In other words, we cannot pour out our outrage on people who never attacked us,
killing their children and other civilians, however "accidentally," and expect
those suddenly-destabilized countries to somehow reform and become our allies.
When we shoot and kill other people's children, we
are shooting ourselves in the foot.
If there is one thing that we do worse than any other
nation, it is try and manage somebody else's affairs.―Will Rogers
It seems to me that for every real terrorist the CIA manages to kill, it is
killing or mutilating hundreds of civilians and
ordinary foot soldiers. Those people are not natural enemies of
Americans. But our government, military and intelligence services are creating
legions of new enemies for our children and grandchildren, by bringing
Afghanistan and Pakistan to the verge of ruin while
insisting that Americans have the right to kill anyone who gets in
the way, while
they search for needles in a haystack. We completely lack wisdom and any sense
of justice if we create thousands of
new enemies in the quest to "take out" one or two
hard-to-find-and-harder-to-kill kingpins. It is past time for the US to admit
the limitations of its military and intelligence services, and bring our troops
(and spies) home, because they are only destabilizing the Middle East and making
another event like 9-11 more likely, as the family and friends of the people we
have unjustly killed search for ways to take revenge. Once we pulled out of
Vietnam, the cries for vengeance and hostilities on both sides soon abated. So
the sooner we pull out and let the healing process begin, the better.
CIA Drone Attacks Allegedly Kill 168 Children
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Friday, August 12, 2011
by Rob Crilly, Islamabad
In an extensive analysis of open-source documents, the Bureau of
Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles,
including as many as 775 civilians.
The strikes, which began under President George W Bush but have since
accelerated during the presidency of Barack Obama, are hated in Pakistan, where
families live in fear of the bright specks that appear to hover in the sky
In just a single attack on a madrassah in 2006, up to 69 children lost their
Chris Woods, who led the research, said the detailed database of deaths would
send shockwaves through Pakistan, where political and military leaders
repeatedly denounce the strikes in public, while privately allowing the US to
"This is a military campaign run by a secret service which raised problems of
accountability, transparency and you have a situation where neither the
Pakistanis nor Americans are clear about any agreements in place and where the
reporting is difficult," he said.
"All of this means that when things go wrong there is simply no redress for
the families of those who have been mistakenly killed."
The research, culled from more than 2,000 news reports, leaked documents and
witness statements, show how the drones gradually moved from a rarely used tool,
beginning with a single strike in 2004, to a frontline weapon of war.
Notable successes include the death of Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Pakistan
Taliban, in 2009. Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al-Qaeda figure viewed as a possible
successor to Osama bin Laden, is believed to have died in a drone strike in
However, under President Obama the strikes have been used to target low-level
foot soldiers as well as senior commanders.
Today the attacks are running at a rate of one every four days, mostly
centered on North Waziristan from where members of the Haqqani network launch
cross-border attacks on international forces in eastern Afghanistan.
With Pakistan so far unwilling to bow to US pressure to launch a military
offensive against the bases and with Islamabad ruling out any suggestion that
American troops be deployed, that leaves the CIA's drones, said Imtiaz Gul, an
analyst who has written extensively on the region.
At the same time, he added, they mean a president elected on a manifesto
promising to close Guantanamo Bay does not have hundreds more detainees to
"As long as these peoples sit in jails they remain a problem, a living
liability, so there seems to be a drive to kill them," said Mr. Gul.
Human rights campaigners have long argued that drones represent
Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International, said: "The Obama
administration must explain the legal basis for drone strikes in Pakistan to
avoid the perception that it acts with impunity.
"The Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate
killing, in violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan." The US
refuses to acknowledge the existence of its drones program.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2011
Drone War Exposed – the complete picture of CIA strikes in Pakistan
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
August 10, 2011
by Chris Woods
CIA drone strikes have led to far more deaths in Pakistan than previously
understood, according to extensive new research published by the Bureau. More
than 160 children are among at least 2,292 people reported killed in US attacks
since 2004. There are credible reports of at least 385 civilians among the dead.
In a surprise move, a counter-terrorism official has also released US
government estimates of the numbers killed. These state that an estimated 2,050
people have been killed in drone strikes – of whom all but an estimated 50 are
The Bureau’s fundamental reassessment of the covert US campaign involved a
complete re-examination of all that is known about each US drone strike.
‘The Obama administration must explain the legal basis for drone strikes in
Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with impunity. The Pakistan
government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate killing, in
violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan,’ Sam Zarifi,
The study is based on close analysis of credible materials: some 2,000 media
reports; witness testimonies; field reports of NGOs and lawyers; secret US
government cables; leaked intelligence documents, and relevant accounts by
journalists, politicians and former intelligence officers.
The Bureau’s findings are published in a 22,000-word database which covers
each individual strike in Pakistan in detail. A powerful search engine, an
extensive timeline and searchable maps accompany the data.
The result is the clearest public understanding so far of the CIA’s covert
drone war against the militants. Yet US intelligence officials are understood to
be briefing against the Bureau’s work, claiming ‘significant problems with its
numbers and methodologies.’
Iain Overton, the Bureau’s editor said: ‘It comes as no surprise that the US
intelligence services would attack our findings in this way. But to claim our
methodology is problematic before we had even published reveals how they really
operate. A revelation that is reinforced by the fact that they cannot bring
themselves to refer to non-combatants as what they really are: civilians and,
all too often, children’.
The Bureau’s data reveals many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets
than previously reported. At least 291 US drone strikes are now known to have
taken place since 2004.
The intended targets – militants in the tribal areas – appear to make up the
majority of those killed. There are 126 named militants among the dead since
2004, though hundreds are unknown, low-ranking fighters. But as many as 168
children have also been reported killed among at least 385 civilians.
More than 1,100 people are also revealed to have been injured in the US drone
attacks – the first time this number has been collated.
In the wake of the Bureau’s findings Amnesty International has called for
more CIA transparency. ‘The Obama administration must explain the legal basis
for drone strikes in Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with
impunity. The Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for
indiscriminate killing, in violation of international law, that occurs inside
Pakistan,’ said Amnesty’s Director of Asia Pacific Sam Zarifi.
The Bureau’s key findings:
291 CIA attacks have taken place in Pakistan – 8% more than previously
Under President Obama alone there have been 236 strikes – one every
Between 2,292 and 2,863 people are reported to have died in the attacks –
most of them militants
The minimum number of reported deaths is far higher than previously believed
– with 40% more recorded casualties.
Most of those killed are likely to be
126 named militants have so far been killed.
The Bureau has collated credible news reports of 385-775 civilians being
killed in the attacks.
The Bureau has identified credible reports of 164 children killed in the
Under President Bush, one in three of all attacks is reported to
have killed a child.
For the first time the Bureau has compiled accurate details of recorded
injuries in drone strikes, revealing that at least 1,114 people have been
Civilian deaths: With the US military unable to operate overtly inside
Pakistan, the Obama administration has come to rely heavily on CIA drone strikes
to attack alleged militants in the country’s western tribal areas. To date, at
least 236 drone attacks have been ordered in Obama’s name, the Bureau’s research
At least 1,842 people have been reported killed in the Obama strikes, most of
Recently, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan stated that
the president has ‘insisted’ that Pakistan drone strikes ‘do not put… innocent
men, women and children in danger’. Yet at least 218 of those killed in drone
attacks in Obama’s time in office may have been civilians.
More than 160 children are among at least 2,292 people reported killed in US
attacks since 2004. There are credible reports of at least 385 civilians among
Civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year. Yet the Bureau
still found credible evidence of at least 45 civilians killed in some ten
strikes in this time. The US continues to insist that it ‘can’t confirm any
noncombatant casualties’ in the past year.
The most recently reported civilian fatality was on July 12. Abdul Jalil, a
migrant worker home on leave from Dubai, was ‘collateral damage’ when the CIA
attacked a car carrying eight alleged militants, the Bureau’s researchers in
Internal US figures: The US government’s own internal estimates of those
killed in the drone strikes total about 2,050, the Bureau has learnt. All but 50
of these are militants, and that no ‘non-combatants’ have died in the past year,
a US counter-terrorism official noted. The Bureau’s own minimum suggested
casualty figure is 2,292.
Yet a US counter-terrorism official told the Bureau that its numbers were
‘way off the mark’. The Washington-based official said: ‘These actions target
militants planning actively to kill Afghans, Pakistanis, Europeans, and
Americans among others, and most often the operations occur when they’re
training or on the move, getting ready to attack. Over 4,000 Pakistani civilians
have been killed by terrorists since 2009—the threat is clear and real.’
Reprieve, the legal action charity which campaigns on human rights issues
said: ‘With the Bureau’s findings, at last we have a hard and comprehensive look
at the facts. It is a great start. From now on, Reprieve hopes people will read
official propaganda about drone warfare with a grain of salt—and ask themselves
whether drones are radicalizing as many young men as Guantánamo did.’
CIA drone attacks will remain secret
September 11, 2011
The CIA is not legally required to inform the public about the use of
unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists, US District Judge Rosemary Collyer
The ruling was made on Friday in a case in which the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) challenged the CIA's decision to reject a Freedom of Information
Act request on the issue, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The CIA had said that anything about the relevant records is basically
The federal judge also rejected the ACLU's argument that "former CIA Director
Leon Panetta had officially acknowledged the agency's use of drones."
The ACLU noted that media outlets have been covering the use of drones by the
US, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for years.
The ACLU pointed out that when Panetta, who is currently the US defense
secretary, was asked about the credibility of such attacks, which also endanger
many civilian lives, he said, "I think it does suffice to say that these
operations have been very effective because they have been very precise."
Despite the ACLU's argument, Judge Collyer ruled, "These comments by Director
Panetta did not officially disclose the CIA's involvement in the drone strike
program. Director Panetta spoke generally of his knowledge of 'covert and secret
operations' in Pakistan and his assessment that those operations had been
precise with minimal collateral damage."
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2010, Panetta "appeared to speak
to the joint efforts of the military and non-military agencies of the US
government… Director Panetta merely admitted that the CIA's operations in
Pakistan, left undefined, were the most aggressive ever undertaken by the CIA,"
the judge said.
Former intelligence chief Dennis Blair questions the amount of
money being spent to capture or kill a small number of people
July 29, 2011
by MARTHA RADDATZ (@martharaddatz) and RYM MOMTAZ
Former intelligence chief Dennis Blair said in an interview Thursday that the
terror threat from al Qaeda is a "narrow problem" and questioned the amount of
money spent to capture or kill a small number of people.
Blair's critical comments on Obama administration policy were the harshest
yet from the former Director of National Intelligence, who was pushed out of his
post by President Obama in May 2010 after just 16 months on the job.
Blair, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, estimated there were 4,000 al
Qaeda members around the globe, with much of a yearly intelligence budget of $80
billion devoted to catching them.
"That's $20 million for every one of these 4,000 people," said Blair. "The
objective is to disrupt and destroy al Qaeda. … You think, wow, $20 million is a
lot, is that proportionate?"
Blair noted that in the past decade terrorists have killed fewer than 20
Americans inside U.S. borders, most of them in a single attack at Fort Hood
Texas in late 2009. He contrasted the terror body count with deaths from car
accidents and street crime, which killed more than one million Americans in the
same time frame.
"What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem versus
the other ways we have to protect American lives?" asked Blair. "I think that's
sort of the question we have to think ourselves through here at the 10th year
Said Blair, "I think we need to reexamine what our fundamental goals are. I
think by concentrating only on al Qaeda itself we get ourselves in this numbers
game ... and I don't think that we can kill al Qaeda members and end this threat
from Jihadist terrorism."
Blair also said he felt the unmanned CIA drone program, in which terrorists
are targeted by missiles in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, was counterproductive.
The former Navy admiral said that the drone strikes are more of a nuisance to al
Qaeda than a threat, and that they harm the relationship between Pakistan and
the United States.
"We're alienating the countries concerned because we are treating the
countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us," said
Blair. "We are threatening the prospects of long-term reform."
He suggested giving Pakistan more say in picking targets. "We should offer
the Pakistanis to put two hands on the trigger," said Blair. "That would make
our job in Afghanistan more difficult for a while but it would make it a lot
easier over the long term."
Pakistan has come under serious criticism since the successful Navy SEAL raid
on Osama bin Laden for allegedly sheltering terrorists and tipping off militants
to upcoming U.S. attacks. Bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad, Pakistan for
years without interference by Pakistani officials, and when the U.S. forces
raided his compound and killed him, the raid was conducted without Pakistani
After the raid, CIA director Leon Panetta confronted Pakistani officials with
photographic evidence that they had allegedly tipped off Islamic militants in
advance of other U.S. raids.
The Director of National Intelligence is designated as the principal
intelligence to the White House and the chief of 16 different federal
intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency.
Blair, who was forced to resign from his post and was replaced by James Clapper,
said in Aspen that the White House had chosen to side with the CIA over him in
an internal power struggle.
Obama White House v. CIA; Panetta Threatened to Quit
ABC World News
August 24, 2009
by MATTHEW COLE, RICHARD ESPOSITO and BRIAN ROSS (@brianross)
A "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House involving CIA Director
Leon Panetta, and the expected release today of another damning internal
investigation, has administration officials worrying about the direction of its
newly-appoint intelligence team, current and former senior intelligence
officials tell ABC News.com.
Amid reports that Panetta had threatened to quit just seven months after
taking over at the spy agency, other insiders tell ABCNews.com that senior White
House staff members are already discussing a possible shake-up of top national
"You can expect a larger than normal turnover in the next year," a senior
adviser to Obama on intelligence matters told ABCNews.com.
Since 9/11, the CIA has had five directors or acting directors.
A White House spokesperson, Denis McDonough, said reports that Panetta had
threatened to quit and that the White House was seeking a replacement were
According to intelligence officials, Panetta erupted in a tirade last month
during a meeting with a senior White House staff member. Panetta was reportedly
upset over plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal
investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law in carrying out
certain interrogation techniques that President Obama has termed "torture."
A CIA spokesman quoted Panetta as saying "it is absolutely untrue" that he
has any plans to leave the CIA. As to the reported White House tirade, the
spokesman said Panetta is known to use "salty language." CIA spokesman George
Little said the report was "wrong, inaccurate, bogus and false."
Another source of contention for Panetta was today's public release of an
investigation by the CIA inspector general on the first two years of the
agency's interrogation and detention program. The report has been delayed by an
internal administration debate over how much of the report should be kept
One CIA official said colleagues involved in the interrogation program were
preparing for a far-reaching criminal investigation.
In addition to concerns about the CIA's reputation and its legal exposure,
other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives
to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration's intelligence
structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of
National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said
Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.
"Leon will be leaving," predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official,
citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also
"uncomfortable" with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he
did not know about until he took the job.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the CIA had planned to use the
private security contractor Blackwater to carry out assassinations of al Qaeda
Six other current and former senior intelligence officials said they too had
been briefed about Panetta's frustrations in the job, including dealing with his
former Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives.
One of the officials said the White House had begun informal discussions with
candidates who were runners-up to Panetta in the CIA director selection process
One of the candidates reportedly has begun a series of preparatory briefings.
"It would be a shame if such as talented a Washington hand as Panetta were to
leave after one year," said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant who worked on
the national security team for the Clinton and Bush administrations and served
as an adviser to President-elect Obama.
"It takes that long for any senior bureaucrat to begin to understand what
needs to get done and how to do it, "said Clarke. "The CIA needs some
ACLU Sues U.S. Government Over Awlaki's Hit List Designation
Aug. 3, 2010
by JASON RYAN (@JasonRyanABC)
The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) are suing Treasury
Secretary Tim Geithner over the government's decision to put radical Muslim
cleric Anwar Awlaki on a hit list and freeze his U.S. assets.
Awlaki, a U.S. citizen now living in Yemen, has been linked to the Fort Hood
shootings, the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest 253 and the failed
car bombing of Times Square. He is on a U.S. intelligence hit list, and has
already survived at least one cruise missile strike. In July, the Treasury
Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) formally labeled Awlaki a
"Specially Designated Global Terrorist" so that it could freeze his assets.
Last month Awlaki's father Nasser Al-Awlaki asked the ACLU and the Center for
Constitutional Rights to challenge the government's placement of his son on a
list of U.S. citizens who can be assassinated by U.S. forces and intelligence
services for ties to terrorism.
However, when an individual has been designated a terrorist by OFAC, it is
illegal for anyone to represent that person legally, and thus contest the
designation or the freezing of assets, unless OFAC grants special permission.
The suit filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington challenges the legal
restrictions put in place as part of OFAC's terrorist designation.
"Unless the government grants the ACLU and CCR a specific license," notes the
suit, "OFAC's regulations make it a criminal offense for ACLU and CCR attorneys
to file a lawsuit on Mr. Awlaki's father's behalf seeking to protect the
constitutional rights of his U.S. citizen son. In other words, under the
regulations at issue in this case, the same government that is seeking to kill
Anwar al-Awlaki has prohibited attorneys from contesting the legality of the
government's decision to use lethal force against him."
The suit said that OFAC's restrictions are "particularly severe" since "they
prevent designed individuals . . . from vindicating their rights in court
without the express permission of the U.S. government."
"We've been concerned about the OFAC scheme for many, many months." ACLU
Executive Director Anthony Romero said on a conference call with reporters.
Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico but has lived in Yemen since 2004, has
become a prominent member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Accused Fort
Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan exchanged emails with him prior to the massacre at
the Texas Army base, and convicted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad said he
was "inspired" by Awlaki. Intelligence sources also say accused "Underwear
Bomber" Umar Abdulmutallab was allegedly in touch with Awlaki.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration formally placed Awlaki on a list
for assassination by US intelligence and special operations forces in the US
military, US officials told ABC News. In February former Director of National
Intelligence Dennis Blair said the intelligence community had the authority to
target American citizens for assassination if they present a direct terrorist
threat to the United States.
In December, according to U.S. officials, Awlaki was at a meeting with
leaders of the terror group when the U.S. knowingly launched a cruise missile
strike to eliminate the terror leaders. Several people were killed but Awlaki
"President Obama is claiming the power to act as judge, jury and executioner
while suspending any semblance of due process," said Vince Warren, the Executive
Director of CCR.
C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan
The New York Times
September 27, 2010
by MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the
mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are
part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the
Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in
As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks
with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single
month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air
campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American
casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its
Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also
evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based
The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the
United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in
dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In
particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are
unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for
Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks
against troops in Afghanistan. Some Pakistani troops have also been diverted
from counterinsurgency missions to help provide relief to victims of the
country’s massive flooding.
Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other
ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three
airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50
people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani
network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American
Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said
Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three
raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base
just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a
new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign
against the Taliban and Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military
and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds
while American "surge" forces are in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying
that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in
As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H.
Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled
warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch
unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to
dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American
"Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens," said one senior
administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. "He has
pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more."
Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border
raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials
said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats
to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside
Pakistan, an ally.
But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful
in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European
intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing
evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have
bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.
"We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a
more diverse set of threats," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
before a Senate panel last week.
The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to
attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters, but also to disrupt any plots directed from
or supported by extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas that were aimed at targets
in Europe. "The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity," the official
The 20 C.I.A. drone attacks in September represent the most intense
bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the C.I.A. carried out 11
strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base
in eastern Afghanistan.
According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks
have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have
already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the C.I.A. drone campaign.
Over all the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according
to the Web site The Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes. A vast majority
of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles
or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.
The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the C.I.A.’s drone
program, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by American spies.
According to The Long War Journal, the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched
nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush
One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several
groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The
United States, he said, hopes to "keep the pressure on as long as we can."
But the C.I.A.’s campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are
fueling anger in the Muslim world. The man who attempted to detonate a truck
filled with explosives in Times Square told a judge that the C.I.A. drone
campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.
In a meeting with reporters on Monday, General Petraeus indicated that it was
new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the
militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.
In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance
blimps that can hover over hide-outs thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern
and southern Afghanistan.
The intelligence technology, General Petraeus said, has also enabled the
expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban
operatives in those areas.
Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul,
Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.