Tuesday Sep 25, 201206:58 AM GMT
Study: Only 2% of drone deaths are ‘high level’ militants
Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:57AM
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The CIA's program of "targeted" drone killings in Pakistan's tribal heartlands is politically counterproductive, kills large numbers of civilians and undermines respect for international law, according to a report by U.S. academics.

 

The study by Stanford and New York Universities' law schools, based on interviews with victims, witnesses and experts, blames the U.S. president, Barack Obama, for the escalation of "signature strikes" where groups are selected merely through remote "pattern of life" analysis.

 

Families are afraid to attend weddings or funerals, it says, in case U.S. ground operators guiding drones misinterpret them as gatherings of Taliban or al-Qaida militants.

 

"The dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling 'targeted killings' of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false," the report, entitled Living Under Drones, states.

 

The authors admit it is difficult to obtain accurate data on casualties "because of U.S. efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan".

 

The "best available information", they say, is that between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year - of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. The figures have been assembled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which, estimated that a further 1,300 individuals were injured in drone strikes over that period. The Guardian

HIGHLIGHTS

"Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.

 

"These fears have affected behavior. The U.S. practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims."

 

The study goes on to say: "Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the U.S. safer overall is ambiguous at best … The number of 'high-level' militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low - estimated at just 2% [of deaths]. Evidence suggests that U.S. strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks … One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the U.S. an enemy."

 

"U.S. targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents," the report says, questioning whether Pakistan has given consent for the attacks.

 

"U.S. practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase."

 

The report supports the call by Ben Emmerson QC, the UN's special rapporteur on countering terrorism, for independent investigations into deaths from drone strikes and demands the release of the U.S. department of justice memorandums outlining the legal basis for U.S. targeted killings in Pakistan.

 

Fears that U.S. agents pay informers to attach electronic tags to the homes of suspected militants in Pakistan haunt the tribal districts, according to the study. "[In] Waziristan … residents are gripped by rumors that paid CIA informants have been planting tiny silicon-chip homing devices that draw the drones. The Guardian

FACTS & FIGURES

 

The CIA and the U.S. military have used unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones to target and kill those Washington calls “suspected militants” in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

 

In 2008, after Barack Obama won the presidency in the U.S., the drone strikes escalated and soon began occurring almost weekly, later nearly daily, and so became a permanent feature of life for those living in the tribal borderlands of northern Pakistan, according to CBS News.

 

A report released by the United Nations in June 2010 called the drone attacks part of a "strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability."

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken the CIA to court in an attempt to get the agency to hand over documents related to President Obama's controversial "targeted killing" program that uses drones to take out suspected militants.

 

The ACLU says the CIA’s refusal to confirm or deny that it has records on the drone program is unlawful because President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have publicly acknowledged the program’s existence in public interviews.

 

Local sources say more than 2,800 civilians have died in the drone attacks since 2004.

 

ARA/HJ

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