Drones round-up

IssueMarch 2014
News by Gabriel Carlyle
  • On 23 January, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that ‘Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in five years – five times as many as were launched in the entire George W Bush presidency [ie 51 strikes in four years]’. According to the Bureau these strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of whom were reportedly civilians.
  • On 5 February, Pakistani drone investigator Karim Khan was abducted from his home by around 20 men, some in police uniform, just days before he was due to testify before parliamentarians in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Khan, whose brother and teenage son were killed in a December 2009 drone strike in Waziristan, was released on 14 February, after being beaten, tortured and told not to speak to the media.
  • On 10 February, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was ‘weighing whether to approve a lethal strike against a U.S. citizen’ accused of being part of al-Qa’eda.
    According to a leaked April 2013 US department of justice document, the US grants itself the right to kill any US citizen it deems an ‘imminent threat’. Moreover, this latter condition ‘does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future’. Needless to say, non-US citizens have even less protection from assassination.
  • France and Britain have agreed to launch a two-year £120m programme to ‘develop the concepts and technologies to provide an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle for our Armed Forces’. The two countries will sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the project at this year’s Farnborough air show (19-20 July).
  • Leading British arms dealer BAE Systems has announced that the first flight of its much-heralded Taranis drone took place, at an undisclosed location, on 10 August 2013. Unlike the Reaper and Predator drones flown in Afghanistan, Taranis is autonomous: capable of taking off, flying a mission and returning to land all by itself.