Another country, another allegation of intelligence sharing

Allegations of UK complicity in US drone strikes have been emerging for some time.  For example, in March, the Daily Mail highlighted concerns that UK airbases were being used by the US for drone strikes, a claim boosted by the revelation that British Telecom is supplying a cable between Camp Lemonnier, the US’ drone base in Africa, and RAF Croughton.   Subsequent Parliamentary Questions refuted these allegations but left a question as to the level of oversight that RAF Commanders had over US activities on UK soil.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s in-depth work drew attention to the correlation between the stripping of citizenship and subsequent targeting of former Britons in US drone strikes.  Further, the Noor Khan case, in which a community gathering was targeted in a US drone strike in NW Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of over 50 people, alleged that GCHQ supplied locational information to the United States.  While permission was refused for a full judicial review of the lawfulness of any British assistance for the US drone programme, it served to shine a spotlight on the US-UK intelligence sharing relationship. Continue reading

All in a word

The word drone conjures up interesting images in the minds of the general public: of sci-fi style killer robots heralding a new dawn in automated warfare or of the destruction wrought in rural villages in  Pakistan.  It is no wonder then that media coverage of a drone convention, held last week in Washington DC, made much of the industry’s dislike of the term including the anecdote that the wifi password at the event was “DontSayDrones”.  Those present seemed to prefer the term unmanned aerial vehicles or remotely piloted aircraft.  These more scientific, clinical sounding terms are seen as a method to ease public fear of drones and to make a positive contribution to the current commercial drive by manufacturers and suppliers for civil, domestic use. Continue reading

Those FATA surveys….

In an excellently timed response from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to a Freedom of Information request from the APPG asking for information about the surveys carried out in the FATA region of Pakistan, cited by Alistair Burt in a Parliamentary Question from Nicholas Soames, it appears that the surveys are available online.  Leaving aside gripes that this is not exactly the most obvious location for this information to be held, and the disappointment that the FCO has not carried out any additional analysis of the information from these surveys or fed this information into policy development, the surveys are worth looking at.  Undertaken by Community Appraisal & Motivation Programme (CAMP), a Pakistani NGO, the Understanding FATA series seek to “reveal the thinking and the opinions of the people so that policy makers and influential actors in government, civil society, the international community, academics, journalists and the broader Pakistani citizenry will have useful, actionable information”.  Continue reading

Nurturing the seeds of insecurity?

Much of the debate on drone use in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere rightly focuses on those killed and injured by this technology.  Areas for concern, in the context of Afghanistan for example, include the lack of casualty recording and the failure to adequately protect civilians from harm.  However, less attention has been paid to the impact that the use of drones has on sustainable economic, social and political development in these areas.  We know from the media, and independent NGO reports, that drone strikes cause: the internal displacement of communities, changes to the patterns of community life, for example, deciding not to attend funerals; declining school attendance,  and negative health impacts including the destruction of health facilities.  Most recently, an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has shown that attacks on rescuers by the CIA in Pakistan, known as “double-tap” strikes, have been revived.  As well as being a crime against humanity, this tactic undermines the ability and willingness of assistance to be provided to victims of drone strikes, leading, potentially, to increased deaths and injuries. Continue reading