| Drone blowback: Imran Khan’s party exposes top CIA station-chief in Pakistan!

CIA’s most senior officer in Pakistan ‘unmasked’ by Imran Khan’s party ~  in Islamabad, theguardian.com.

PTI party names man in letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of those responsible for drone strike.

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA‘s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

The US embassy said it could not comment but was looking into the matter. The CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the station chief’s name and declined to immediately comment, AP reported.

If his identity is confirmed it will be the second time anti-drone campaigners have unmasked a top US spy in Pakistan.

In 2010 another CIA station chief, Jonathan Banks, was named in criminal proceedings initiated after a drone strike. Banks was forced to leave the country.

As with the Banks case, questions will be raised about how the PTI came to know the identity of the top US intelligence official in the country.

Although nearly all foreign spies in Pakistan use diplomatic cover stories to hide their occupation, many, including station chiefs, are declared to the country’s domestic spy agency.

Anti-drone protest in Pakistan

Supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party protest in Karachi against drone strikes at the weekend. Photograph: Fareed Khan/AP

The letter signed by the PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari demanded the named agent be prevented from leaving the country so that he could be arrested. The PTI said it hoped he would reveal “through interrogation” the names of the remote pilots who operated the drone.

“CIA station chief is not a diplomatic post, therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan,” the letter said.

The accusation comes at a time when drones have once again become a matter of intense controversy in Pakistan.

The country’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, denounced a drone strike in early November. Although the attack killed the much hated chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, Nisar said it had wrecked the government’s efforts to hold peace talks with militant groups.

And it infuriated Khan, who has built much of his political platform around opposition to drones, which he claims are largely responsible for the upsurge of domestic terrorism in Pakistan in recent years – a suggestion disputed by many experts.

The 21 November strike was even more provocative as it was one of the first ever strikes outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where nearly all attacks by the unmanned aircraft have taken place in the past.

The attack on a religious seminary associated with the Haqqani Network was in Hangu, an area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province where Khan’s PTI leads a coalition government.

Khan responded with a massive rally in the provincial capital of Peshawar and ordered PTI activists to block vehicles carrying supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan.

However, party workers have struggled to identify Nato cargo amid all the sealed containers plying the roads to Afghanistan. The exercise has received no support from the national government and the police have tried to stop PTI workers blocking lorries.

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STOP DRONE WARa

| Pakistan Taliban name Mullah Fazlullah new leader!

Pakistan Taliban name Mullah Fazlullah new leader ~ BBC.

Pakistan‘s Taliban have named Mullah Fazlullah as their new leader, after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone attack, a spokesman has said.

Mullah Fazlullah is a hardline chief from the Swat area whose men reportedly shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

Mehsud was killed when missiles struck his vehicle in the North Waziristan region on 1 November.

Pakistan’s government accused the US of destroying its attempts to start peace talks with the Taliban.

Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan said that the drone strike was “not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts”.

The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Islamabad says Mullah Fazlullah is likely to be very much opposed to any peace initiative.

One Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, told Reuters: “There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government.”

Mehsud clanThe announcement was made by the Taliban’s caretaker leader Asmatullah Shaheen at a press conference at an undisclosed location.

There was reportedly heavy celebratory gunfire in the Miranshah area when the news was announced.

Mullah Fazlullah led a brutal campaign in Swat between 2007 and 2009, enforcing hardline Islamic law that included burning schools, and public floggings and beheadings.

A military operation was launched to retake the area.

Mullah Fazlullah reportedly fled over the border into Afghanistan but Islamabad says he has continued to orchestrate attacks in Pakistan.

He was known for his radio broadcasts calling for strict Islamic laws and earning him the nickname “Mullah Radio”.

Prior to the latest announcement, the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad said that Mullah Fazlullah was not a member of the Mehsud clan and, if appointed, would face a challenge to control the Mehsud fighters, who make up the bulk of the Taliban’s manpower.

A Pakistani delegation had been due to fly to North Waziristan to discuss peace talks with Hakimullah Mehsud but he was killed in the drone strike the day before.

There had been some hope the new leader of the Taliban would be more open to the peace initiative.

Regional Taliban commander Khan Said Sajna, said to favour such a move, had been touted as a favourite before the latest announcement.

Map

| Another Murderous American Drone Strike!

Another Murderous American Drone Strike. ~ Peter Koenig, ICH.

The Western media are happily touting the success of another murderous American drone strike – killing Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud – and 25 other Pakistani – just collateral damage, no more. Glorifying drone strikes. Glorifying killing. The West is used to it. Deep inside they may even like it.

Under the Obama Regime, assassinations are the order of the day.

Obama – so he proudly says, controls personally who has to die and who may live. He blesses the trigger boys.

That has never happened in US history before. Not even in the hell of the Bush years.

Washington has not only become the capital of a failed state – but the capital of a willing killing machine, lying around the world about terrorism that justifies eradication by random and cruel killing. It justifies the CIA, NSA and the US military as the good-doers of the world – which is basically what the US Senate accepted these last days after their soft questioning of NSA chief, Keith Alexander.

And the Western drugged-like indoctrinated populace buys it.

Not realizing that the only way this country, self-styled US empire, can survive is when its military-security killing complex – that swallows more than 50% of the state budget and spits out about two thirds of the American blood-soaked GDP – keeps assassinating people randomly, and is waging ‘freedom’ wars, one after one – keeping the military industrial complex – and the dollar printing presses alive.

We, the People, must halt this gruesome empire, this horrifying killing machine.
It must be stopped.

One assassination must be the last one.

We, the people, have an obligation, we the People – our future is at stake, our free and creative thinking, our countries ‘ sovereignty – our planet’s and children’s future is in danger – we the People, must act now.

Let me take the liberty to call upon the leaders of Russia and China, to do another humanitarian act, as they did before when they saved Syria from the immediate threat of US aggression – now again – — the only way the US does retreat from their criminal actions, is if their sick greed economy is jeopardized.

We the people want no more bloodshed. No more wars. We want to stop the killing. We want to ground the drones at once. We want the elite’s puppet, Obama’s criminal functions paralyzed at once. Once and for all.

We want to halt American aggressions, abuse and supremacy of one nation over the rest of the world.

We want equality.

Sovereign countries and people.

Freedom.

The Western economy is based on greed – economics of greed. Human greed is so strong – as Edward Bernays knew well, when he invented the almighty propaganda machine – that a sheer threat to its feeding economy may succeed. It will prompt a retreat – just to postpone as long as possible the feeder of greed, the fodder for greed – its sick economy.

We need an alternative economy – one of peace and equality, protecting our planet, one of justice and one that offers our children a future.

That’s why we ask the Russian and Chinese Governments for another humanitarian act. This time more than a threat – the actual launching of a new economy – abandoning the dollar, replacing it with local moneys and eventually with a new common currency – a new currency emerging from a basket of currencies initiated by the BRICS – and eventually of all those sovereign nations that participate.

The world will flock to this basket.

The American killing machine and the economy of greed that drives it will implode.

Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world and writes regularly forInformation Clearing House and other internet sites.

See also –

US Kills 25 people in Pakistan: The head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan on Friday. “Among the dead, are Hakimullah’s personal bodyguard Tariq Mehsud and his driver Abdullah Mehsud, two of his closest people,” said one intelligence source, adding at least 25 people were killed in the strike.

Pakistan Taliban secretly bury leader, vow bombs in revenge: “Every drop of Hakimullah’s blood will turn into a suicide bomber,” said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.

Khan Said is the new leader of the Taliban: Pakistan’s Taliban has chosen a veteran insurgent with a reputation for brutality as its new leader after a US drone strike killed Hakimullah Mehsud.

Pakistan accuses US of ‘scuttling’ Taliban talks with drone strike, summons ambassador:“Brick by brick in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you (the US) done?” Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, Ali Khan said. “You have scuttled it”

Pakistan reviews US relationship over Taliban drone kill: The Pakistani government is holding a high-level meeting to review its ties with the US. The country’s top officials were infuriated with the US drone assassination of a Taliban commander, who was about to engage in talks with Islamabad.

President Obama Reportedly Told His Aides That He’s ‘Really Good At Killing People‘: This will not go over well for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner. According to the new book “Double Down,” President Barack Obama told his aides that he’s “really good at killing people” while discussing drone strikes.

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STOP DRONE WARa

| Pakistan reviews US relationship over Taliban drone kill!

Pakistan reviews US relationship over Taliban drone kill ~ RT.

The Pakistani government is holding a high-level meeting to review its ties with the US. The country’s top officials were infuriated with the US drone assassination of a Taliban commander, who was about to engage in talks with Islamabad.

The gathering on Sunday is to hammer out Islamabad’s response to the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a US drone attack on Friday, hours before a planned meeting with a group of cleric mediators and ahead of an invitation to start talks with the Pakistani government.

“The murder of Hakimullah is the murder of all efforts at peace,” Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisa said earlier, as he was decrying the drone attack.

“Brick by brick, in the last seven weeks, we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you [the US] done?” he said.

 

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar (AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar (AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)

 

The killing of the Taliban commander sparked the worst-in-months outcry in Pakistan over American actions in the country. Some politicians called for a blockade of US truck convoys, which deliver supplies to the NATO-led coalition fighting in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government halted the US transportation of military cargoes for seven months last year, in response to the botched US raid on two checkpoints in November, which left 24 Pakistani troops killed. Pakistan also ordered US troops to vacate the Shamsi airbase, which the Americans used for its Pakistan operations, including drone surveillance and strikes.

The threat to cut supply lines may be quite serious ahead of the planned pullout of troops from Afghanistan. However, Washington has considerable leverage over its uneasy ally, providing financial aid to cash-strapped Pakistan.

Under normal circumstances, the people of Pakistan would have celebrated the death of Mehsud, but the timing and means in which the Taliban leader died has made it very difficult for “Pakistanis to swallow”, Sultan M. Hali, a retired Pakistani Air Force officer and journalist, told RT.

Hali says one theory popularized within Pakistan is that the United States does not want fully withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, but would rather leave a 20,000 strong contingent until 2024.

“It appears that everyone else is on board as far as the American plan is concerned except for Pakistan, so perhaps [the assassination of Mehsud] may be a move to destabilize Pakistan, to force them to withdraw whatever tacit approval or support they have for the Taliban, so that the American plans may continue. That is one of the major conspiracy theories going around, and there may be some credence to it.”

Meanwhile the Pakistani Taliban leaderships are going to choose a successor to Mehsud. Some reports said on Saturday that 38-year-old Khan Said, known as Sajna, had been chosen, but later comments said no final decision had been taken. The main competitor to Said, who is thought to be relatively moderate, is Mullah Fazlullah, a strictly conservative commander.

Following the killing the Taliban called off rapprochement with official Islamabad and pledged a campaign of retaliation bombings. If Fazlullah is chosen over Said, experts say, any attempts of peace talks with the radical movement is likely to be buried for months.

In a similar incident in Afghanistan, American military action last month ruined Kabul’s attempts to engage with the Afghan branch of the Taliban. US forces captured the Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud, who was Hakimullah Mehsud’s lieutenant, the man the Afghan government hoped could help them negotiate with the movement.

Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud. (AFP Photo)

Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud. (AFP Photo)

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| Pakistan Government releases inaccurate figures on drone victims!

Pakistan Government releases inaccurate figures on drone victims ~ Reprieve.

Figures released by the Government of Pakistan today regarding the number of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes are shown to be inaccurate by a report provided to the courts by Pakistan’s authorities earlier this year, it has emerged.

A report submitted to the Peshawar High Court in early 2013 by the Political Agents of North Waziristan – the central Government’s representative in the region – stated that 896 Pakistani civilians had been killed in drone strikes in the area in the last five years.  The court also found that a further 553 civilians were killed in South Waziristan over the same period.  However, according to the Associated Press, the Ministry of Defense today claimed that just 67 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, and none at all in 2012 or 2013.

The claim of no civilian casualties at all in 2012 is especially problematic, as the relatives of a 67-year-old grandmother killed in an October 2012 drone strike yesterday testified before the US Congress.  Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, told members of Congress how his mother, Mammana Bibi, was killed in the strike, which also injured two of his children who testified with him at the briefing:  Zubair (13) and Nabila (9). There are several other strikes in 2012 which killed civilians and have been widely reported by independent sources: two such strikes were in July 2012, where rescue workers were targeted, killing more than 20 civilians.

These strikes were also profiled in a recent report by human rights organisation Amnesty International.

The claims of no civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes over the course of two years are also reminiscent of CIA Director (and then-counter-terrorism adviser) John Brennan’s 2011 claim that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” due to the drone programme – a claim which a USAF Colonel with drone expertise said “does not sound to me like reality,” and which President Obama was subsequently forced to abandon.

Today, members of Senate in Pakistan rejected the figures submitted by the government and asked the minister concerned to withdraw his answer in order to verify them; after which the Opposition walked out of the Senate in protest.

Commenting, Shahzad Akbar, Fellow of human rights charity Reprieve and a lawyer for civilian victims of drone strikes including the Rehman family, said: “The latest figures from the Pakistani Government are clearly wrong and the Federal Minister is lying to Parliament.  It is absurd to suggest there has not been a single civilian casualty for two years, especially when some of those victims just yesterday gave evidence to the US Congress. They are also undermined by the far higher figures the Government provided to the Peshawar High Court earlier this year.  The Government needs to correct its mistake, and apologise to my clients, the Rehman family, for the shameful way in which they have ignored their suffering.   It is also interesting to note that a Pakistani minister is giving such a statement after the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US, where the United States released over $ 1 billion to Pakistan.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The Pakistani Government’s figures on drone strikes have been reported by the Associated Press:http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/pakistan-percent-drone-deaths-civilians-20725123

3. The 2013 Peshawar High Court judgement on drones can be found here – see p4 for numbers of civilian casualties:http://www.peshawarhighcourt.gov.pk/images/wp%201551-p%2020212.pdf

4. John Brennan’s comments on civilian casualties from drones can be found here:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 

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DroneEerie1

STOP DRONE WARa

| Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother!

Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother ~

    • theguardian.com.

      Momina Bibi was a 67-year-old grandmother and midwife from Waziristan. Yet President Obama tells us drones target terrorists

    • The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children’s clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.

      Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.

      Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.

      My three children – 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma – were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the “militants” the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother’s children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.

      But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.

      I care, though. And so does my family and my community. We want to understand why a 67-year-old grandmother posed a threat to one of the most powerful countries in the world. We want to understand how nine children, some playing in the field, some just returned from school, could possibly have threatened the safety of those living a continent and an ocean away.

      Most importantly, we want to understand why President Obama, when asked whom drones are killing, says they are killing terrorists. My mother was not a terrorist. My children are not terrorists. Nobody in our family is a terrorist.

      My mother was a midwife, the only midwife in our village. She delivered hundreds of babies in our community. Now families have no one to help them.

      And my father? He is a retired school principal. He spent his life educating children, something that my community needs far more than bombs. Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breeds more terrorism. But education – education can help a country prosper.

      I, too, am a teacher. I was teaching in my local primary school on the day my mother was killed. I came home to find not the joys of Eid, but my children in the hospital and a coffin containing only pieces of my mother.

      Our family has not been the same since that drone strike. Our home has turned into hell. The small children scream in the night and cannot sleep. They cry until dawn.

      Several of the children have had to have multiple surgeries. This has cost money we no longer have, since the missiles also killed our livestock. We have been forced to borrow from friends; money we cannot repay. We then use the money to pay a doctor, a doctor who removes from the children’s bodies the metal gifts the US gave them that day.

      Drone strikes are not like other battles where innocent people are accidentally killed. Drone strikes target people before they kill them. The United States decides to kill someone, a person they only know from a video. A person who is not given a chance to say – I am not a terrorist. The US chose to kill my mother.

      Several US congressmen invited me to come to Washington, DC to share my story with members of Congress. I hope by telling my story, America may finally begin to understand the true impact of its drone program and who is on the other end of drone strikes.

      I want Americans to know about my mother. And I hope, maybe, I might get an answer to just one question: why?

      • Editor’s note: Momina Bibi’s age when she died was originally given in the body text and standfirst as 65; this was amended to 67 at 1.30pm (ET) on 25 October

    • Pakistani ribesmen from Waziristan protest against US drone attacks, outside parliament in Islamabad
      Tribesmen from Waziristan protest against US drone attacks, outside Pakistan’s parliament in Islamabad, in 2010. Photograph: T Mughal/EPA
    •  ________________________________________________________________  

    • U.S. Drones: Will I be next? ~ AmnestyInternational, YouTube.

    • On a sunny fall afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala, North Waziristan was blasted into pieces before their very eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive even any acknowledgment from US authorities that she was killed, let alone justice or compensation for her death.

      Amnesty International’s investigations into drone strikes in north western Pakistan have shown that some of these drone strikes could amount to war crimes.

      It is time for the USA to come clean about drone killings in Pakistan: time to investigate those responsible and give Mamana Bibi’s family and others like them justice.

    • ________________________________________________________________________ 

    • DroneEerie1

 

 

STOP DRONE WARa

| Pakistani drone victims’ lawyer accuses US of blocking his visit to Congress!

Pakistani drone victims’ lawyer accuses US of blocking his visit to Congress ~ theguardian.com.

Shahzad Akbar says visa hold-up means he cannot take his clients to Capitol Hill to testify on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

The US government is being accused of derailing a congressional hearing that would be the first to hear testimony from survivors of an alleged CIA drone strike by failing to grant the family’s lawyer a visa.

Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow with the British human rights group Reprieve and the director of the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, says the state department is preventing him from taking his clients to Capitol Hill next week. The hearing would mark the first time US lawmakers heard directly from drone strike survivors.

Akbar’s clients, Rafiq ur-Rehman, his 13-year-old son, Zubair, and his nine-year-old daughter, Nabila, are from the tribal regions of north Waziristan. The children were injured in the alleged US strike on the village of Tappi last year. Their grandmother – Rehman’s mother, Mamana – was killed.

Rehman and his children have spent months making preparations to visit Washington after being invited by US representatives to testify in the ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.

According to Akbar, his clients’ visas for the trip have been approved, but his has not. He believes the hold-up is political.

“It’s not like my name is scratched because there is some sort of confusion. My name is blocked,” Akbar told the Guardian. “Before I started drone investigations I never had an issue with US visa. In fact, I had a US diplomatic visa for two years.”

This is the third tangle Akbar has experienced with US authorities over a visa since 2011, a year after he began investigating drone strikes. In April, Akbar said he was being prevented from speaking at a human rights conference in Washington because of a delay processing his application. He was eventually granted entry.

Florida congressman Alan Grayson, who helped spearhead the effort to bring the Rehman family to the US, told the Guardian that the state department had not given “a specific reason as to why [Akbar]’s having trouble getting in”.

“I don’t know why the State Department has taken this action, but I think it’s extremely important that when it comes to a national security matter like drone attacks, we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims,” Grayson said.

“We have a chronic problem in Congress that when the administration is involved in one side of the issue, we rarely hear about the other side of the issue.

“This is true with regard to NSA domestic spying. This is true with regard to proposed military intervention in Syria. And it’s also true with regard to the drone attacks in Pakistan and in Yemen.”

He added: “I think Congress and the American people simply need to hear both sides of the story, and that’s why we invited these witnesses to come and testify.”

Akbar is an internationally-known critic of US drone strikes in Pakistan, representing over 150 survivors of alleged US strikes and their family members in litigation against CIA and government officials in Pakistan.

His most recent request for visa approval began last month. Documents reviewed by the Guardian show he submitted his non-immigrant state department visa application on 26 August, while Rehman and his children submitted theirs on 28 August.

Akbar says he and his clients’ visa interviews were booked through the American Express offices in Islamabad and held in the US embassy there; his on 4 September, his clients’ on 6 September.

Akbar said his interview got off to an atypical start when an American official escorted him to a separate room for questioning. “Normally when you go to the embassy, there are different counters in the big hall and everyone is interviewed at the counter, and this is where the victims – Rafiq and his children – were interviewed, but I was interviewed in a separate room,” Akbar said.

“They got the result within a week and I’m still waiting for my visa.”

Akbar said the woman who interviewed him told him he had been “flagged.”

“She said they know me very well, so they don’t need really to clarify anything. They were aware that I was coming. They were aware of the invitation from the congressman,” Akbar said.

He claimed the woman told him her job was to identify immigration or flight risks, neither of which he was, then said that because his “history” with the US, “my visa has been flagged.”

A State Department spokeswoman said “two agents” were reviewing questions concerning Akbar’s visa submitted by the Guardian but did not respond with answers before publication.

“I keep checking and they still tell me that it’s in administrative process,” Akbar said. “They say they cannot tell me how long it will take.” A state department information sheet indicates the total wait time for a non-immigrant visa in Islamabad, including the appointment interview and processing, should not exceed 13 days. Akbar began the process one month ago.

Akbar believes another government agency may be blocking his visit. “We brought litigation, civil litigation and civil charges, against CIA officials in Pakistan for their role in drone strikes. I think it’s pretty clear that I have been blacklisted because of that.”

 

The Rehman family had been invited to Congress to describe the afternoon of 24 October, when their village was hit by four missiles, allegedly fired by drones that had been buzzing overhead for days.

Nabila was playing outside when the munitions struck. She tried to run but was burned by the blast. She and Zubair were hospitalized for injuries they sustained. Zubair required surgery to remove the shrapnel from his leg.

Their father, who was finishing work when the attack happened, returned home to find a smoking crater, bleeding children and dead cattle. Scattered in a field a considerable distance from the blast site were the remains of his 67-year-old mother.

Initial reports citing unnamed security officials claimed as many as four “militants” were killed in the attack. North Waziristan is well-known for its militant population and has been a consistent target of the CIA’s drone campaign.

But Rehman says his mother – the wife of a retired headmaster – was the only person killed in the strike, and maintains there were no fighters present when the missiles were fired. Akbar said he was able to make contact with Rehman a week after the strike and, as a result, managed to collect a substantial body of evidence indicating it was unlawful.

“There is no evidence of any militant killed,” Akbar said. He said the only people injured were children; a total of nine, three seriously. Neither US nor Pakistani officials have disclosed the names or any other details of the militants they claim were the targets.

Akbar said Rehman and his children agreed to travel to the US on the condition he would join them as their lawyer, and they are now considering abandoning the trip. “This was a big plunge for these people,” he said.

Robert Greenwald, a US filmmaker, was introduced to the Rehman family through Akbar while working on an forthcoming documentary, Unmanned, examining US drone strikes. On Tuesday, Greenwald’s organization, Brave New Films, released a one-minute video featuring Rehman and his children, that called on the state department to allow Akbar to accompany his clients on their trip to the US.

“It’s very, very upsetting that the efforts of the state department may really stop something that’s pure democracy,” Greenwald told the Guardian.

Shahzad Akbar drones Pakistan

Shahzad Akbar, right, has represented more than 150 survivors of alleged US drone strikes and their family members. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP
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STOP DRONE WARa

| US to reopen 18 of 19 embassies closed amid security concerns!

U.S. to reopen 18 of 19 embassies closed amid security concerns ~ Reuters.

(Reuters) – Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies closed this month due to worries about potential terrorist attacks will reopen on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

“Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The United States will also keep its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, shuttered, Psaki said, adding it closed on Thursday due to a “separate credible threat.”

On August 2, the U.S. shut the 19 embassies in the Middle East, saying it had picked up information through surveillance and other means about unspecified terrorist threats.

A worldwide alert said that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in the Middle East and North Africa.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government this week warned its citizens to avoid traveling to Pakistan, while some American diplomats from Yemen were evacuated and U.S. nationals were told to leave the country immediately.

President Barack Obama, during a White House press conference, declined to comment on reports of drone strikes in Pakistan that targeted militants in that country.

The State Department did not indicate when its facilities in Sanaa and Lahore might reopen, saying it will continue to evaluate the “threats.”

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)

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TerrorismB

TERRORb

| “I guess Glenn Greenwald was right” – The ‘Signature Strikes’ Program!

The ‘Signature Strikes’ Program ~ ANDREW ROSENTHAL, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times.

Toward the end of a May 27 article in The Times about President Obama’s speech in which, among other things, he mentioned setting new standards for ordering drone strikes against non-Americans, there was this rather disturbing paragraph:

“Even as he set new standards, a debate broke out about what they actually meant and what would actually change. For now, officials said, ‘signature strikes’ targeting groups of unidentified armed men presumed to be extremists will continue in the Pakistani tribal areas.”

As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, those two sentences seem to contradict the entire tenor of Mr. Obama’s speech, and of a letter to Congress from Attorney General Eric Holder.

Both men seemed to be saying that the administration would stop using unmanned drones to kill targets merely suspected, due to their location or their actions, of a link to Al Qaeda or another terrorist organization. Who were, say, just congregating in places where people who don’t like the United States congregate. Those strikes have resulted in untold civilian casualties that have poisoned America’s relationship with Yemen and Pakistan. (Listen to this Morning Edition interview with a former Air Force pilot who operated drones for several years.)

Mr. Obama talked at some length about civilian casualties, and also said that the need to use drone strikes against “forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces” will disappear once American forces withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Mr. Holder was even more specific, saying that the standards applied to strikes against American citizens would be applied to all orders to kill suspected terrorists who cannot be captured or otherwise neutralized. Targets, he said, must pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans.”

We took that as a very positive step in our editorial on the speech. But so what to make of that paragraph in the May 27 article?

I asked the White House. What I got in response was part of a background briefing given after the president’s speech that repeated the language about how the need for signature strikes will fade after the withdrawal.

The official who gave the briefing said: “Given the two principal changing circumstances in our effort against terrorism — the winding down of the war in Afghanistan and the demise of Al Qaeda core — the need for the types of strikes that we’ve taken generally over the course of the last several years will be reduced over time.”

When I asked for more clarification, a senior administration official emphasized that the president wants to see the number of strikes reduced even before the withdrawal.

But I guess Glenn Greenwald was right. The president’s speech did not signal a specific, immediate change in the administration’s policy on signature strikes — just a promise that they will decline over time. That’s a shame.

Demonstrators protested against the use of drones on May 28, 2013, in Atlanta. 

David Goldman/Associated Press

Demonstrators protested against the use of drones on May 28, 2013, in Atlanta.
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| Pakistan: Peshawar High Court declares US drone strikes as illegal!

Pakistan court declares US drone strikes as illegal ~ Press Trust of IndiaNDTV.

Islamabad: US drone strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt are illegal, a top court declared on Thursday and directed the Foreign Ministry to move a resolution in the UN against such attacks.

The Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused collateral damage.

Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhuman and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court observed that the strikes must be declared a war crime as they kill innocent people.

“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said. It asked the Foreign Ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.

“If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.

US officials have said the drones target Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan’s tribal regions who are blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan insists that the US spy planes kill innocent people, damage civilian property and are counter-productive to the war on terror.

The US has rejected Pakistan’s calls for halting drone strikes.

The Peshawar High Court had earlier reserved its verdict after the completion of arguments by lawyers for the federal government and the petitioners, including the Defence of Pakistan Council, an amalgamation of religious groups, tribal elders and rights groups.

The petitioners had asked the court to direct the government to make public any secret deal with the US on drone strikes, stop drone strikes by force, take the issue to the UN Security Council and pay compensation to families of people killed in missile attacks.

US President Barack Obama has stepped up CIA drone strikes targeting Al Qaida and Taliban elements in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region since 2009.

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