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Farces Fit For Framing
by ryall Friday, Dec 16 2011, 1:06pm
international / injustice/law / other press

and I didn't intend to alliterate

Two news stories on the wire caught my attention as I was about to turn it in for the evening.

After NATO's many obvious attempts on Col. Gaddafi's life, which resulted instead in the heinous war crime of infanticide; and then the international airing (youtube) of Gaddafi's final grotesque murder at the hands of rebel killers, the totally politicised and partial ICC at the Hague has FINALLY arrived at the conclusion that Gaddafi's summary execution 'MAY' have been a war crime -- DOH!

The other sad case is of a young American hero and prisoner of conscience, Bradley Manning, now standing trial for allegedly alerting the world that the US military is guilty of committing war crimes. The irony of this tragic situation is that the criminal military is conducting the trial against this brave young hero. Fair trial? Not a 'snow flakes' chance!

This is the same psychopathic, amphetamine soaked, steroid hyped, military that refers to innocent children and other civilians killed in illegal Drone strikes as, "Bugsplat!"

That about sums up the lunacy and criminality of the world we live in today -- "BUGSPLAT," indeed -- you sick, sociopathic, vile, AMERICAN scum.

Go back to bed America your government are criminals! However, we all know the REAL truth that we avoid like the plague, we take what we want regardless of the cost in human lives and suffering, how dare the world resist our mighty empire!

Well, dreamboats, I have a message for all of you complicit criminals; the best of the best GLOBALLY are diametrically opposed to your DISGUSTING values and violent methods. They work tirelessly, in the foreground and background, to subvert your criminal rule and restore representative Democracy, Peace, Law and order to OUR WORLD -- the next knock on your door could be that reward you so richly deserve! Your fifth rate defences offer no resistance whatsoever; the world will be restored by the REAL elite, make no mistake. Your days of wanton murder, mayhem and destruction are numbered and you know it! Would you care for a demonstration ...?


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Anatomy of a NATO War Crime
by Franklin Lamb via stele - ICH Saturday, Dec 17 2011, 10:57pm

December 17, 2011 -- It was a warm early Monday morning along the Libyan coast on June 20, 2011.

At approximately 0200 GMT the next day in NATO Headquarters in Brussels and 30 minutes later in its media center in Naples, staffers finished tabulating NATO’s 92nd day of aerial attacks on Libya and began to post the data on its website (

Twenty four hours earlier an Atlantic Alliance command unit, located approximately 30 miles off the Libyan coast, in a direct line with Malta, and NATO’s targeting unit had signed off on 49 bombing missions for June 20th, the last day of spring and the last day of NATO’s original UN bombing mandate.

The authority for NATO’s bombing, which far exceeded earlier estimates ,killing or wounding of between 90,000-120,000 Libyans and foreigners, and the displacement of more than two million Libyans and foreign workers was claimed from the hastily adopted UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and UNSCR 1973. UN resolutions 1970 & 1973 gave NATO UN Chapter 7 authority to enforce a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace, initially for 90 days which ironically ended the day before its bombing at Sorman.

The two UN Security Council Resolutions were insisted upon by their main sponsors, France, the UK, Italy and the US who claimed that ”a limited no-fly zone would protect Libya’s civilian population from the wrath of the government of Libya’s leader, Muammar Kaddafi.” NATO requested and was granted two additional 90 days extensions to continue its Libyan mission which gave its air force until the end of 2011 to continue Operation Unified Protector.

It was early Monday morning, June 20, 2011.

Sorman Libya. A quiet and peaceful Libyan town, Sorman is located 45 miles west of Tripoli, near the Mediterranean coast, in the Zawiya District of the Tripolitania region in northwestern Libya. Many of the town’s children grew up exploring the 3rd Century truly magnificent Roman Ruins at nearby Sabratha. Some archaeologists consider Sabratha, located almost in direct line with Rome across the Mediterranean, and built on a high cliff above the sea, as the most complete extant Roman architecture with only a small part of this large Roman city having been excavated. This observer has visited Sabratha a few times since the mid-1980’s and each visit presents more awe. Families from Sorman and nearby villages regularly visit and picnic there.

In the early hours of June 20, 2011 it was dark in Sorman except for some muted half-moon light. A few dim street lights and some partially illumined homes provided some light as residents began to rise and prepare for the Al Fajr (“Dawn”) prayers.

At the homestead of Khaled K. El-Hamedi, the 37 year old President of the International Organization for Peace, Care & Relief (IOPCR), one of Libya’s most active social service organizations everyone was asleep following a rambunctious birthday party for his three year old son. The Hamedi family members included Khaled’s three year old son Khweldi, five year old daughter Khaleda, his beautiful pregnant wife Safa, his aunt Najia, and his six year old niece Salam, among others.

At NATO’s Control and Command Center, the 49 bombing missions planned for early morning of June 20, included a target at Sorman, which would push the number of NATO reconnaissance sorties over Libya to 11,930. This number would become 26,500 by midnight on October 31, when NATO would end its air campaign. The days bombing sorties would also bring the tally of rocket and bombing targets to 4,521. This figure would increase to more than 11,781 by late fall, when NATO was instructed to end OUP (Operation Unified Protector).

NATO’s prepares to bomb Dorman’s “command and control center”

Before the bombs were fired at Khaled K. al-Hamedi compound, NATO staff conducted a six step process the first of which was surveillance using the MQ-9 Reaper UAV, which sometimes is also used to fire missiles. Also above Sorman was the Predator drone with full-motion video. During June 19 and the early hours of June 20, the drones locked on the Hamedi homestead target and relayed updated information to NATO’s command center.

The Hamedi home was not what NATO labels a “time-critical target” so there was plenty of time for its staff to transmit information about the site from unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to intelligence analysts. Almost certainly, according to a source at Jane’s Weekly, NATO UAV’s watched the Hamedi compound over a period of days and presumably observed part of the birthday party being held for three old Huweldi, the day before the order to bomb was issued.

NATO Rules of Engagement for Operation United Protector, constitute a set of classified documents which present specific and detailed instructions about what is a legitimate target and who can approve the target, whether pre-planned or “on the fly” when a pilot happens upon a target of opportunity.

The Sorman attack on the Hamedi home was planned as part of what NATO calls its “Joint Air Tasking Cycle (JATC). A target development team put the Hamedi home on the June 20th daily list of targets. The team used a report from NATO intelligence analysts who determined that retired officer Khaled al Huweldi, Hamedi, one of the original members of the Gadhafi led 1969 coup against King Idris in 1969, and a former member of the Al Fatah Revolution’s Revolutionary Command Council was living on the property. His assassination had been ordered by NATO because they hoped to weaken the regime in some way even though the senior Hamedi was retired and had no decision making role in Libya.

On June 19, the day before the bombing attack on the Hamedi family at Sorman, NATO was obliged by its own regulations and by the international law of armed conflict to conduct a “potential for collateral damage review” of this mission.

There is no evidence that this was ever done.

A requested US Congressional NATO Liaison Office review of the Sorman bombing, initially requested from Libya on August 2, was completed in early September 2011 and found no documentary evidence or other indication that Bouchard or anyone in NATO’s Target Selection Unit, evaluated, discussed, or even considered the subject of potential civilian casualties at the Hamedi home in Sorman.

Following Bouchard’s green light to bomb the Hamedi home, the coordinates were fixed at 32°45′24″N 12°34′18″E . Specific aim points on the Hamedi property were chosen and eight bombs and missiles were readied and attached to the strike aircraft.

At Sorman, NATO used a variety of bombs and missiles including the “bunker busting” BLU-109 (Bomb Live Unit) which is designed to penetrate 18 feet of concrete. NATO also used the American MK series of 500 lb, (MK 81) 1000 lb, (MK-82) and the 2000 lb (MK-84) that Israel used so widely during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. The MK series and the BLU-109 are reportedly being stockpiled in Israel in preparation for both countries anticipated next war in this region.

Following the infernal at Sorman, NATO denied responsibility but the next day NATO admitted carrying out an air strike somewhere in Sorman but denied that there were civilian deaths even as its drones filmed the scene close up. NATO’s media office in Naples issued a statement claiming “A precision air strike was launched against a high-level command and control node in the Sorman area without collateral damage.” NATO spokespersons also told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that “the facility was a legitimate military target and that all necessary precautions were taken before conducting the strike which minimized any potential risk of causing unnecessary casualties".

The official NATO record of its bombing of Libya for June 20, 2011 reads as follows and remains unchanged:

“Allied Joint Force Command NAPLES, SHAPE, NATO HQ.

Over the past 24 hours, NATO has conducted the following activities associated with Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR:

Air Operations Sorties conducted 20 JUNE: 149

Strike sorties conducted 20 JUNE: 52

Key Hits

20 JUNE: In the vicinity of Tripoli: 1 Command & Control Node, 8 Surface-To-Air Missile Launchers,

1 Surface-To-Air Missile Transport Vehicle. In the vicinity of Misratah: 3 Truck-Mounted Guns, 2 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns, 1 Tank. In the vicinity of Tarhunah: 1 Military Equipment Storage Facility. In the vicinity of Al-Khums: 1 Military Vehicle Storage Facility. In the vicinity of Zintan: 1 Rocket Launcher.”

Oddly, NATO records for June 20th as well as subsequent reports of bombing attacks listed for June 20th and June 21st in its daily logs have never included the bombing attack on Sorman or the attack on the Al-Hamedi residence which indisputably killed 15 civilians.

Just before the bombs hit, eye witnesses, reported seeing red specks in the sky and then flashes of intense light, immediately followed by thunderous ear splitting blasts as eight American bombs and rockets pulverized their neighbors homestead.

In an instant Khaled El-Hamedi’s family was dead. The children were crushed, blown apart or shredded into pieces, along with friends and extended family members who had slept overnight.

Khaled was working late, attending meetings with displaced Libyans driven from their homes and urgently in need of IOPCR help. As he returned home, Khaled saw from his car window the sky light up and heard exploding bombs. He was frozen in horror as entered his property and observed rescue workers frantically digging and futilely trying to move the thick concrete slabs of his home hoping against hope that they would miraculously find survivors.

Libyan government spokesman Mousa Ibrahim announced the death of 15 people, including three children, were killed at Sorman. He slammed the NATO bombing as a "cowardly terrorist act which cannot be justified." Investigators, who visited Sabratha hospital 10 kilometers from Sorman, saw nine bodies, including three young children. They also saw body parts including a child's head.

For those who visited the Al-Hamidi family compound back in June following the NATO bombings, as this observer did less than a week after the crime as part of an international delegation, the scene was one of total devastation.

Collapsed and blown apart concrete and tiled homes, small body parts, and bits of family belongings and memorabilia, trees, some blown over, others bending and nearly denuded of their foliage, dead, terrified and dying petting zoo animals, including exotic birds, Ostrich, Deer, small animals and large moose killed or left near death and most in a blind stupor staring blankly from what remained of their shelters while dying of wounds and from trauma.

Outside one of the bombed houses I noticed crushed cartons of spaghetti pasta and cans of tomato sauce, stockpiled for distribution to the needy as part of the work of IOPCR during the summer and in preparation for the coming Holy month of Ramadan observances which included doing and performing charitable works and individual humanitarian acts.

Under growing pressure from the international community including NATO member states, NATO HQ claimed equipment malfunction, missed target, poor intelligence and pilot errors. Finally US Defense secretaries Gates and his replacement, Leon Panetta admitted that NATO lacked effective intelligence on the ground to identify military targets with certainty. Former Defense Secretary Gates, in criticizing NATO’s operation in Libya implied that NATO used a bomb first ask questions later paradigm in Libya. And this appears to have been the case. These excuses in no way absolve NATO and its 28 NATO member states of responsibility.

Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard insists to this day that only Libya’s military was targeted: "This important strike will greatly degrade Gadhafi regime forces' ability to carry on their barbaric assault against the Libyan people,” he told the media from his office in Brussels. The civilian deaths at Sorman came just hours after NATO acknowledged that one of its missiles had gone astray early on Sunday, hitting a residential neighborhood of Tripoli.

At the request of Khaled al-Hamedi, himself being sought by Libya’s new government, and aware that I was going to return to Sorman, I felt honored as I made my way to his loved ones gravesites on the family homestead where he and I first met, in order to deliver a message from him to his loved ones.

Picking my way through debris in the dark, under the cold and suspicious eyes of a couple of local militiamen, I stood at the same spot, where on June 27th his family’s freshly dug graves bore witness to what Khaled was describing to our shocked delegation concerning the details of the horror and hellfire that NATO unleashed upon his family.

Back in June I had moved to the rear of our group as Khaled spoke to us about the loss of his babies, his beauties and his precious pregnant wife. I was embarrassed because for some reason, uncontrollable tears would not stop streaming down my face and, despite averting my eyes, I saw that Khaled noticed. I was touched when this young man, to whom I was a total stranger, came to me and put his arm around my shoulder in comfort. Clearly he understood that each of us can feel the pain of others, even of strangers, as well as connect them with our own losses of loved ones in life.

Later, as I learned more about Khaled’s family and saw their most expressive and revealing photos, I came to believe that with respect to the wanton criminal aggression that caused thousands of needless deaths of innocents over the period of nearly nine months against this simple, gentle society, that Najia, Safa, Salam, Khaleda, and Khweldi, and the others slaughtered at Sorman, are forever iconic representatives of all the innocent civilians who were slaughtered in Libya since March 2011.

During my recent visit to Sorman, I stood at the same location as last June. I surveyed the area and then approached the graves of Najia, Safa, Salam, Khaleda, and Khweldi. In the cold darkness, and the piles of rubble still in place,it was eerie

I knelt close, felt a strange source of warmth and looked over my shoulder.

I whispered in the silent night that I had a message from your loving Husband, Father, Uncle and Nephew that he asked me to deliver to you.

I read to them the message entrusted to me. And I left a copy in Arabic, pinned to a bouquet of flowers:

The message read:

“Please say a very big hello to them and tell them I am coming.

Please tell them “I won't leave you alone

And I miss each of you so very much.”

And please write them each a note.

Najia, Safa, Salam, Khaleda, and Khweldi.

Franklin, Tell them, “You are my life.

You are my love.

I miss you very, very much.

Life without you is so painful, so hard and completely empty.

I won’t stay and live away from you. I promise.

I’ll return and be close to you. Baba will be back.

I love you.

As I made my way back to the main road in search of a taxi, a militiaman stopped me and interrogated me about why I was there, confiscated my camera and ordered me to leave the area at once.

I paused for a moment and looked back toward what had been a loving family home, a petting zoo and bird sanctuary that had delighted the children in this neighborhood.

A little boy and girl, perhaps siblings, maybe six or seven years old, approached me with their Ethiopian nanny and asked: “Wien, (where is) Khaleda? Wien Khweldi? metta yargeoun ila Al Bayt (when will they come home?)

“When will they come home?”

Unable to speak, I kissed and patted their sweet heads and continued on my way.

Khaled K. Al-Hamedi is strong, deeply religious, and fatalistic. He has pledged to family and friends around the world that he will continue his work with the International Organization for Peace, Care & Relief in spite of the life shattering loss of his loved ones.

An honorable family, a peaceful and welcoming town, a devastated country, and a shocked and angry international community demand justice from those who sent ‘Unified Protector’ and NATO’s no-fly zone to destroy Libya in order to “protect the civilian population.”

Author retains copyright

The Trial of Bradley Manning — Rule of Law or Rule of Intimidation, Retaliation & Retribution
by Ann Wright via sal - ICH Saturday, Dec 17 2011, 11:13pm

December 17, 2011 -- Yesterday, forty supporters of Bradley Manning saw him in person in the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland and another 60 saw him on a video feed from the court, the first time Manning has been seen by the public in 19 months. Over 100 other supporters, including 50 from Occupy Wall Street who had bused down from New York City, were at the front gates of Fort Meade in solidarity with Manning.

Hundreds of supporters will gather today, Saturday, December 17, for a large rally and march.

For his first court appearance, Bradley was in what looked to be a new military uniform and typically military, he had a fresh haircut. He was not in shackles in the courtroom, but it appeared in a photo that he was shackled in the van that brought him to the court. Manning talked freely with his civilian defense counsel and his two military legal counsels.

He did not turn around and look at the people in the court, but as he was brought in and taken out during the various recesses of the court, he no doubt noticed supporters in Bradley Manning t-shirts.

Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 19 months, since May, 2010, without a trial. Yesterday, December 16, 2011, an Article 32 hearing began at Fort Meade, Maryland, in which an investigating officer will determine whether there is sufficient evidence of the crimes with which the military has charged him for the case to be referred to a General court-martial.

In July, 2010, Manning was charged with transferring classified information onto his personal computer and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source. 22 more crimes were charged in March 2011, including "aiding the enemy," a capital offense. Defense Department prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. In April, 2011, Manning was found fit to face a court martial.

Defense Challenges Impartiality of Investigating Officer

On Friday, December 16, Manning’s civilian lawyer, David Coombs challenged the impartiality of the investigating officer US Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, citing Almanza’s civilian employment as a lawyer in the Department of Justice which has conducted investigations on Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. The defense team had requested that 38 witnesses be allowed to testify in the Article 32 hearing. Coombs also said that the decision of Almanza to allow only two defense witnesses other than the10 the prosecution wanted demonstrated a bias by Almanza.

Coombs told Almanza, “That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, ‘I question your impartiality.’ ” Stating that his office of child exploitation in the Department of Justice had nothing to do with the Wikileaks investigation or with national security issues, Almanza denied Coombs’ request for recusal.

Almanza told Coombs and Manning, “I do not believe a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would be led to the conclusion that my impartiality would be reasonably questioned. I thus deny the defense request to recuse myself.”

After that, Coombs filed a writ with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the proceedings until a decision can be made on whether Almanza should continue to preside. According to military law experts, the hearing can proceed while the appeals court makes its determination.

Manning under harsh imprisonment at Quantico reeked of intimidation and retaliation

The military’s treatment of Manning has reeked of intimidation and retaliation.

Until citizen activist protests six months ago in March, 2011, brought sufficient attention to the harsh conditions of his pre-trial confinement, the US military was treating him as if he were beyond the scrutiny of the law — as if he were an "enemy combatant" in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture expressed great concern about the conditions under which Manning was being held — in a maximum-security, single-occupancy cell, placed on a prevention-of-injury order and allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock at night.

Independent UN expert on torture calls for unrestricted access to Manning and other US detainees

On July 12, 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that it was "vital for him to have unmonitored access to Bradley Manning." Mendez said,

"I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning's prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico, however, in addition to obtaining firsthand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid."
At the request of Mr. Mendez and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense said it would allow him to visit Mr. Manning, but warned that the conversation would be monitored.

Mendez said such a condition violated long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mr. Mendez, through Mr. Manning's counsel, offered to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer Manning declined.

Mr. Mendez said, "The question of my unfettered access to a detainee goes beyond my request to meet with Mr. Manning -- it touches on whether I will be able to conduct private and unmonitored interviews with detainees if I were to conduct a country visit to the United States."

Additionally, Mr. Mendez has requested several times since his appointment in November, 2010, that the US Government allow him to visit the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, the US government has not responded to his requests.

Best Military Legal System in the World?

Despite the military’s mantra of having the best military legal system in the world, the past treatment of Manning—keeping him in solitary confinement, forcing him to stand naked while in pre-trial confinement and the lack of compliance with the norms of the military legal system of a "speedy" trial have added to the low points of Abu Gharib and Guantanamo in the history of military “justice.”

The federal courts have long established mechanism of dealing with classified information in national security cases.

The military’s contention that it took 19 months to figure out how to try him while protecting classified materials reeks of intimidation, retribution and retaliation.

Copyright applies.

Bradley Manning hearing: court told of Iraq unit's intelligence security chaos
by Ed Pilkington via reed - The Guardian UK Monday, Dec 19 2011, 1:43am

A shocking lack of basic discipline and intelligence security at the unit in which Bradley Manning worked before his arrest for allegedly transferring the largest trove of state secrets in American history to WikiLeaks has been revealed at his pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Under cross-examination by Manning's defence team, the head of the intelligence unit at the military base in Iraq where Manning was posted painted a picture of staggeringly loose controls. Soldiers were allowed to store movies on secure computer databases, were permitted to bring in commercial music CDs to areas where secure computers were in operation, DVDs were left strewn about and there was no system for checking that classified information was not removed from the building.

Captain Steven Lim told the hearing that he was shocked when he was presented with a set of memorandums from Manning's immediate supervisor, Master Sergeant Paul Atkins. The memorandums chronicled emotional behaviour on Manning's behalf dating back to before he was deployed to Iraq in October 2009.

Yet Atkins did not warn Lim, or any of his other superiors in the chain of command, about Manning's problems until 3 June 2010 – after his May 25 arrest. The memorandums gave details of an email that Manning had sent Atkins in April that year in which the soldier confessed that he was suffering severe psychological problems including gender identification disorder that was making it difficult for him to do his job, to interact with other people or even to think.

Manning included a picture with the email of himself dressed as a woman.

The memorandums also itemised a series of incidents in which Manning had displayed emotional outbursts. He assaulted a woman supervisor and was demoted shortly before his arrest to the rank of private first class.

In December 2010 he had to be restrained after he flipped over a table and made to grab a gun from a gun rack. In another incident he was found curled up in a foetal position on the floor of the unit.

Questioned by Manning's defence lawyer, David Coombs, Lim admitted that the incident with the gun rack was not a "minor" disciplinary matter as earlier suggested by the prosecution. Had he known about it at the time, Lim said, he would have recommended that Manning be issued with a "derog" – a disciplinary complaint that would probably have seen him removed from the intelligence unit and stripped of his security clearance.

That in turn, Lim admitted, would have meant that Manning would no longer have had access to the huge databases of state secrets from which he allegedly made his WikiLeaks downloads.

Because of his dereliction of duty in failing to pass on crucial information about Manning's state of mind to his superiors – at a key time in the soldier's alleged leaking to WikiLeaks – Atkins was demoted earlier this year to the rank of sergeant first class.

At the time of the WikiLeaks dump of classified information, Manning was working as an intelligence analyst inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad. His task was to pore over information about Shia attacks on US forces and draw from it patterns of behaviour that commanders would find useful in determining future deployments.

He was known as a "35 Fox" – indicating that he had received intelligence training and had security clearance.

Inside the SCIF he had the use of a so-called D-Sig computer – a secure machine through which he could gain access to secure databases of classified information including one called SIPRNet and another CIDNE. He was called an "all source analyst" in that he had access to all types of intelligence.

But Lim revealed that the culture within the SCIF was extraordinarily lax, with soldiers regularly allowed to behave in contravention of the military rule book governing the handling of sensitive information.

CDs and DVDs should all have been clearly labelled for classified information and registered with the head of security for the unit – but they weren't. Soldiers were allowed to insert CDS into D-Sig computers and to take them out of the unit without any reference to their supervisors.

Manning is accused of downloading a massive trove of secrets, including more than 250,000 US embassy cables, from the secure databases. He is alleged to have stored them on a Lady Gaga CD while lip-synching to her music.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

Rights Group Demands End To Criminal CIA Drone Strikes and Targeted Assassinations
by staff report via gan - Human Rights Watch Tuesday, Dec 20 2011, 12:41am

WASHINGTON - December 19 - The US government should transfer Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) command of aerial drone strikes to the armed forces and clarify its legal rationale for targeted killings, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Barack Obama and in a questions and answers document. A dramatic increase in the use of CIA drone strikes underscores the need for the US to demonstrate that the CIA adheres to international legal requirements for accountability, Human Rights Watch said.

“CIA drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence around the world, but little is known about who is killed and under what circumstances,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as the US resists public accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be conducting targeted killings.”

In the decade since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush and Obama administrations have engaged in a campaign of “targeted killings” – deliberate, lethal attacks aimed at specific individuals under the color of law. Estimates of the number of deaths of alleged al Qaeda members, other armed group members, and civilians from US targeted killings range from several hundred to more than two thousand. Most of these attacks are believed to have occurred in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs.

The lawfulness of a targeted killing hinges in part on the applicable international law, which is determined by the context in which the attack takes place, Human Rights Watch said. The laws of war permit attacks during situations of armed conflict only against valid military targets. Attacks causing disproportionate loss of civilian life or property are prohibited. During law enforcement situations, international human rights law permits the use of lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save human life. Individuals cannot be targeted with lethal force merely because of past unlawful behavior, but only for imminent or other grave threats to life when arrest is not reasonably possible.

The CIA’s increasing role in targeted killings using drones in Pakistan and other countries with no transparency or demonstrated accountability raises grave concerns about the lawfulness of the attacks, Human Rights Watch said. While the laws of war do not prohibit intelligence agencies from participating in combat operations, states are obligated to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and provide redress for victims of unlawful attacks. The US government’s refusal to acknowledge the CIA’s role in targeted killings or to provide information on strikes where there have been credible allegations of laws-of-war violations leaves little basis for determining whether the US is meeting its international legal obligations.

“Unsupported claims by administration officials that all US agencies involved in targeted killings are complying with international law are wholly inadequate,” Ross said. “By failing to adopt policies and practices that demonstrate compliance with international law, the US raises doubts among its allies about the lawfulness of its actions and creates a dangerous model for abusive governments.”

Since the US has not demonstrated a readiness to hold the CIA to international legal requirements, the use of drones for attacks should be exclusively within the command responsibility of the US armed forces, Human Rights Watch said. The military has more transparent procedures for investigating possible wrongdoing, although it too needs to make clear that it is conducting attacks in accordance with international legal requirements.

Ending the CIA’s command of targeted killing operations would be consistent with the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission, which in 2004 specifically urged that “[l]ead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department.” In November, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair called for military control over the armed drone program, noting that the armed forces have an open set of procedures, while CIA operations require secrecy, which is not sustainable over the long term: “If something has been going for a long period of time, somebody else ought to do it, not intelligence agencies."

Human Rights Watch also called upon the US government to clarify fully and publicly its legal rationale for conducting targeted killings and the legal limits on such strikes. The US should explain why it believes that specific attacks are in conformity with international law and make information public, including video footage, on how particular attacks comply with those standards. To ensure compliance with international law, the United States should conduct investigations of all targeted killings where there is credible evidence of wrongdoing, provide compensation to all victims of unlawful strikes, and discipline or prosecute as appropriate those responsible for conducting or ordering illegal attacks.

The Obama administration, through public statements by senior officials, has provided an outline of its legal justification for using force against al Qaeda and associated organizations. However, the administration has yet to clearly explain where it draws the line between lawful and unlawful targeted killings, Human Rights Watch said.

In asserting that targeted attacks on alleged anti-US militants anywhere in the world are lawful, the US undermines the international rules it helped craft over the past half-century. This sets a dangerous precedent for abusive regimes around the globe to conduct drone attacks or other strikes against anyone labeled a terrorist or militant, and undercuts the ability of the US to criticize such attacks.

About 40 other countries currently possess basic drone technology, and the number is expected to expand significantly in coming years. These drones are primarily used for surveillance. China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom either have or are currently seeking drones with attack capability.

Copyright applies.

Prosecutors claim Bradley Manning wanted to remove 'the fog of war'
by Dominic Rushe and Matt William via gan - The Guardian UK Tuesday, Dec 20 2011, 10:31am

Investigators say they found references to Julian Assange using the alias 'Press Association' about release of secret documents.

US army prosecutors claim to have found email correspondence between alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website.

Manning is said to have expressed hope in an email to Assange that publishing a file of hundreds of thousands of classified reports on Iraq and Afghanistan would prove "one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare".

Prosecutors made the allegation on the fourth day of a hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, on whether the suspect will face a court-martial for alleging leaking thousands of classified documents while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

The email is said to have been discovered on a memory card found in the soldier's belongings after they were shipped back to his aunt's house. It contained 400,000 records of "significant activities" from Iraq and 91,000 from Afghanistan.

The author suggested the recipient might want to "sit on this information to figure out how best to release such a large amount of data".

Other files found on either the memory stick or Manning's personal laptop contained contact information for Assange and instructions on how to upload data to WikiLeaks, the court was told.

Mark Johnson, a computer forensics expert, testified that his investigations found computers used by Manning had been used to send information to WikiLeaks.

Johnson said he had also found reference on a chat room "buddy list" to a contact using the alias "Press Association" – the name of a UK news agency. This, it was claimed, was an alias for Assange.

As proceedings continued in public and private sessions, two supporters of Manning fell foul of the military authorities. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, was escorted out of court when he approached Manning during a recess to introduce himself. He was later allowed to return.

Daniel Choi, a soldier kicked out of the military for acknowledging his sexuality when it was prohibited under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, was ejected from Fort Meade after allegedly ignoring a warning not to heckle military police. Choi denied heckling, and said he was treated roughly by police.

Hearings continued in public and occasionally private sessions, in a small courtroom with seats for only about 50. Seven of the witnesses testified by phone from Hawaii, Germany, Arizona and other locations, their voices coming over a speaker phone on the witness stand. Computer logs and other documents are projected on a huge screen and two large-screen monitors.

Manning appeared to be taking the proceedings calmly. During one of several recesses, he leaned back and sat casually in his chair, chatting with a soldier from the defence team.

Until Monday, Manning's defence attorneys largely focused on painting him as an emotionally troubled, gay solider serving in the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" era.

They have have yet to acknowledge or deny his responsibility for the leak of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, and a classified military video of an American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 people.

But on Monday defence lawyers began to raise the question of whether Manning was responsible for the leaks at all.

Manning's attorneys questioned Johnson and his boss David Shaver, an agent with the US army's computer crime investigative unit, about who could have used the soldier's computers. Johnson said Manning's computer was not password protected and that he "could not put anybody at the keyboard".

He acknowledged there was no forensic evidence to show that Manning sent any of the information that ended up being published by Wikileaks.

A further 10,000 cables stored in one file found on Manning's computer did not match any of those published by Wikileaks. Shaver said the file was damaged. "The file was corrupted and would have needed special tools for anyone to open," he said.

The defence has also pointed to a lack of security at the Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq where Manning was stationed. No passwords were required to access the cables and there was no prohibition on downloading cables, Shaver confirmed.

The USB ports on Manning's computers were blocked as part of army policy so he could not transfer material using a memory stick. But Manning had downloaded Roxio, a program for burning CDs, on to both of his computers and on Sunday Shaver told the hearing that he found a program on Manning's computer designed to allow the speedy downloading of files.

According to the prosecution Manning was able to download huge quantity of documents using the program, called Wget. Manning started using the program in early March 2010 and used it hundreds of times to illegally download classified files, according to the government.

The hearing also heard from Manning's former roommate in Iraq, Eric Baker, a military police officer. Baker portrayed manning as a loner computer geek. "I would wake up in the middle of the night and he would be using his computer," he told the court.

The pair began sharing a room on deployment to Baghdad in October 2009, but once he suspected Manning was gay, Baker broke off their conversations. "The gist of what you said to him was it is best we did not talk?" David Coombs, Manning's lawyer, asked. "Yes," the soldier replied.

Baker added that Manning once confided in him a desire to leave the army. "I remember him saying this wasn't for him," he told the court.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act. Aiding the enemy is a capital offence, but army prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty. If convicted, Manning could be sentenced to life in prison.

The hearing is due to end on Friday.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

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