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State Department Is Keeping Pakistani Drone Victim’s Lawyer Out of the Country So Survivors Won’t Testify in Front of Members Of Congress (with Video and Petition)

The State Dept. prevented the lawyer challenging U.S.-led drone attacks from appearing before Congress.
September 24, 2013  |
Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer challenging US-led drone warfare in Pakistan, has been blocked by the U.S. Department of State from appearing before a Congressional ad hoc hearing with his clients who have survived drone strikes in their town. Rafiq ur Rehman – a teacher in a primary school in North Waziristan – lost his mother in the same October 2012 drone attack that hospitalized his children Nabila and Zubair.
It is necessary for Mr. Akbar  to accompany  his client Mr. Rehman and his two children,  in order for them to come to D.C. Such testimony would be the first time that drone victims from Pakistan have come to Capitol Hill to present the on-the-ground reality of America’s drone policy.

Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) has requested that the State Department give Shahzad Akbar a visa to bring his clients to testify. He explained: “Congress would like to conduct an ad hoc hearing on drones, and it is very important for us to hear from victims of drone strikes. Rafiq ur Rehman, a school teacher in Pakistan, lost his 67-year old mother in a drone strike, and two of his children also suffered drone-strike-related injuries. The State Department has granted the visas of Rafiq and his children to  travel to the U.S. and share their stories with Congress. However, it has not yet issued a visa for the family’s lawyer and translator, Shahzad Akbar. Without Mr. Akbar, Rafiq and his children will not be able to travel to the U.S.. I encourage the State Department to approve Mr. Akbar’s visa immediately.”

Robert Greenwald, who is the director of the forthcoming documentary  Unmanned  met and interviewed  Mr. Akbar and Mr. Rehman in Pakistan and shared their stories with Congressman Grayson.

Greenwald recounts:  “While filming  Unmanned in Pakistan, I saw first-hand the critical role Mr. Akbar is playing in reaching, protecting, and encouraging those, like Rafiq and his family, affected by tragic drone attacks to use the legal system – not violence. This man should be welcomed and celebrated, not silenced.”

“I also met and interviewed Rafiq and his family and know that if Mr. Akbar were allowed into America by the State Department, Congress and the American people would be as moved as I was about the plight of these survivors in a covert war.”

Greenwald’s film,   Unmanned: America’s Drone War investigates the impact that U.S. drone strikes have across the globe—the violation of international law, the loss of life, the far-reaching implications for the communities that live under drones, and blowback the United States faces.

For the film,  Greenwald traveled to Pakistan in the fall of 2012 and interviewed more than 35 victims, witnesses, psychiatrists, and Pakistani leaders. The film will include  exclusive footage  from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, Jirgas, and  interviews with many drone policy experts.

As for Mr. Akbar – who is a  legal fellow at Reprieve, an international  justice organization  —  he explained  that before his work with drone victims, he freely traveled to the US:

“Before I began representing civilian victims in 2010, I used to travel regularly to the U.S. My visa would be processed in 3 working days. Then, in 2011, I applied for a visa to talk at a conference about my work with drone strike victims. Suddenly, I was told my visa required additional processing which took 14 months. This time, the denial is to stop me from talking to American lawmakers who have invited me to speak about what I have witnessed. I hope to tell them about the impact of drone strikes  and also to shed light on the fact that policies like drone strikes are actually a challenge to America’s national security.

Akbar represents  156 civilian drone strike victims and families, families he says   who have lost children, parents, and siblings, are now trying through legal means to achieve justice.

Watch a one-minute clip of Rafiq ur Rehman interviewed in the forthcoming documentary Unmanned.  Sign the petition urging the State Department to give a visa to Mr Akbar.

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The NYU Student Tweeting Every Reported US Drone Strike Has Revealed A Disturbing Trend

Michael Kelley | Dec. 12, 2012, 4:36 PM | 213,787 | 214
US drone afghanistan

AP

NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.

Known as the “double tap,” the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.

A 2007 report by the Homeland Security Institute called double taps a “favorite tactic of Hamas” and the FBI considers it a tactic employed by terrorists.

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Christof Heyns said that if there are “secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.”

The U.S. refuses to discuss the merits of its overtly covert drone program, but the reports featured on @dronestream clearly document that U.S. hellfire missiles have intentionally targeted funerals and civilian rescuers.

Obama’s torture policy

January 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines returns:

[youtube http://youtu.be/IcDFrBUA-5I?]
As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised a new direction. Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

But what will it really take to dismantle the Bush administration’s legacy of torture when there is the same leadership at the Pentagon, the same rhetoric about protecting “state secrets”, and the same refusal to allow victims of rendition to file lawsuits in US courts – not to mention a fully functional US military prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan?

Among other things, since taking office, the Obama administration has asserted in court that prisoners held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their detentions in US courts, pre-empted a supreme court ruling on whether a legal US resident can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial, and argued to dismiss cases brought by alleged victims of rendition on the grounds that they might pose a threat to US “national security”.

The litany of disappointing actions on human rights and civil liberties seems to be growing longer every day.

This week on Fault Lines, we talk to people on all sides of the so-called “war on terror” – from human rights lawyers to former Bush administration officials; from a former US detainee who was rendered to torture to the CIA analyst who helped author his fate.

Where at first glance the US appears to be heading in a new direction, to what extent has the Obama administration turned its back on the abusive

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DRONE WARS : THE DRONE LANDSCAPE

PART ONE:

Drone warfare has increased dramatically since 2008 and there are over 60 bases across the globe engaging in a US drone missions. US drones are currently deployed in the skies of over 14 different countries, some for surveillance and others for attacking ground targets. The area of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, known as Waziristan is the locus of much of the drone operations. But are these weapons keeping us safe, or do they just incite further terrorist attacks? And is their use a violation of the Geneva Conventions?

[youtube http://youtu.be/SwE-b6RxhHI?]

PART TWO

The forerunners of drones that are currently targeting people on the ground were once themselves targets. They have since evolved into reconnaissance vehicles, and more recently as weapons platforms. Predator drones are manufactured in Poway, near San Diego, where over 4,000 people are employed at General Atomics at the taxpayers’ expense. We examine the implications of this kind of warfare, and the loop of finance that rewards contractors and the politicians they support.

[youtube http://youtu.be/biYFFGWDMFA?]

PART THREE

Who bears responsibly for lethal action when weapons are fully automated? Can a machine have a code of ethics? While their accuracy might, in theory, minimize innocent deaths, drones also enable illegal political assassinations, and by keeping US troops out of harm’s way they also make war easier. A serious debate on these topics is long overdue.

[youtube http://youtu.be/7GAlQHbB0XM?]

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