A Former Ambassador to Pakistan Speaks Out


Former Ambassador Cameron Munter testified on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Sept. 23, 2010. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo).
Mr. Munter had been urging Washington to selectively launch CIA drone strike against militants on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. His rare request, was forwarded to the head of the CIA, who dismissed it.
US officials said Leon Panetta’s decision who was then heading the CIA was driven by anger at Pakistan for imprisoning Raymond Davis for so long and a belief that the militants being targeted were too important to pass up.
The deadly March 17 attack helped send the US-Pakistan relationship into a tailspin from which it did not recover for a long time. Such were the things which led the former ambassador to be relinquished of his job.

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AMERICA’S FORMER AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN TALKS ABOUT HIS BATTLE WITH THE CIA OVER DRONES.

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by Tara McKelvey

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Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, looked suntanned, but not rested, as he sat in a Foggy Bottom bar a few blocks from the State Department on a fall evening. He placed an Islamabad Golf baseball cap on the table, a souvenir from a decades-long career that had recently ended in a public flameout.

This past May, it was announced that Munter would be leaving his post. At the time, a State Department spokesman said he had made “a personal decision” to step down. But a few weeks after the announcement, The New York Timesin an article about counterterrorism policyquoted one of Munter’s colleagues saying the ambassador “ didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.”

That didn’t sound like the man I had met several months earlier at a party in Washington—back then, he seemed to relish his job as ambassador. I wondered why Munter’s colleague had said that, and I also wanted to know why he had resigned. He agreed to meet me at a bar to tell his side of the story, explaining that the Times had been wrong about him. It made him sound like a softie, he said, a mischaracterization that he wanted to correct.

Munter—who grew up in Claremont, Calif.—was no stranger to geopolitical hot spots even before he took the Pakistan job. He had been ambassador to Serbia from 2007 to 2009 and later served as deputy chief of mission in Baghdad.

It was Richard Holbrooke, then serving as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, who initially approached Munter about the ambassadorship to Pakistan. He arrived in Islamabad in October 2010; less than three months later, Holbrooke was admitted to a Washington hospital for heart surgery, and two days after that he was dead. “I miss him every day,” says Munter. “The only reason I took that damn job is because he talked me into it, and then he died.

Holbrooke had handed off an important but tough assignment. For months, the Obama administration’s relations with Pakistan had been in steady decline. Instead of diplomacy, Washington was increasingly employing brass-knuckle techniques, such as threatening to cut back on aid. “When I get calls from the White House, they say, ‘Dial up the pain,’” Munter tells me. “In Islamabad, they don’t respond well to dialing up the pain.”

Soon, Americans and Pakistanis were fighting over the drone program, a contentious issue they had previously worked together on. And this would also become a major source of tension between Munter and Washington officials.

“The use of drones is a good way to fight the war. But you’re going to kill drones if you’re not using them judiciously.”

It wasn’t that Munter was against drone strikes. “We prevented major attacks,” Munter tells me. “To me, that’s my job, and I’m proud we did it.” He also thinks allegations that drone strikes kill civilians are trumped up. “We have people who bring us the bodies of little girls,” he says, stretching out his arms as if he were carrying a small corpse, “and say drones killed them. They’re making it up, or they’re willfully believing lies.”

What Munter did want, however, was a more selective use of drones, coupled with more outreach to the Pakistani government—in short, a bigger emphasis on diplomacy and less reliance on force. “What they’re trying to portray is I’m shocked and horrified, and that’s not my perspective,” he said, referring to The New York Times article. “The use of drones is a good way to fight the war. But you’re going to kill drones if you’re not using them judiciously.” Munter thought the strikes should be carried out in a measured way. “The problem is the political fallout,” he says. “Do you want to win a few battles and lose the war?”

“What is the definition of someone who can be targeted?” I asked. “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” Munter replied. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s—well, a chump who went to a meeting.”

Munter wanted the ability to sign off on drone strikes—and, when necessary, block them.

Then-CIA director Leon Panetta saw things differently. Munter remembers one particular meeting where they clashed. “He said, ‘I don’t work for you,’ and I said, ‘I don’t work for you,’” the former ambassador recalls. (George Little, a former CIA spokesman who is now at the Pentagon—where Panetta is currently serving as Defense secretary—disputed this account. “I’ve heard these rumors before,” he said. “That’s exactly what this is: rumor. [Panetta] has had productive relationships with Ambassador Munter and other ambassadors with whom he has worked.”)

Tara McKelvey, a 2011 Guggenheim fellow, is a correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. She is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and the author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War (Basic Books).
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Spy-Butterfly: Israel developing insect drone for indoor surveillance


Biomimicry is one of the smartest contemporary approaches to design, so it was inevitable that Israeli researchers would apply this science to their military designs. Like the Iranian home that mimics a snail’s form in order to stay cool and a bottle inspired by the Namib desert beetle that can harvest water in one of the driest places on earth, Israel Aerospace Industries’ (AIA) latest insect drone, their smallest to date at only 20 grams, takes its intelligence, form and other properties from one of nature’s finest creatures: the butterfly.
The Butterfly drone can perform tricks that have never before been achieved by a surveillance device. It can fly indoors, thereby enabling covert information gathering during meetings inside buildings, at train stations and other public buildings as well as outdoors, and it is equipped with a tiny 0.15 gram camera that takes color photographs.
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ISRAELI “BUTTERFLIES” CAN OBSERVE ANYTHING FROM TRAIN STATIONS, AIRPORT TERMINALS – OR OFFICE BUILDINGS TO EVEN FORESTS  OF SAY SOUTHERN LEBANON

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by Russia Today

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The future is here and this is not a butterfly on your wall, as Israeli drones are getting tiny. Their latest project – a butterfly-shaped drone weighing just 20 grams – the smallest in its range so far – can gather intelligence inside buildings.

­The new miniscule surveillance device can take color pictures and is capable of a vertical take-off and hover flight, just like a helicopter, reports the daily Israel Hayom. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says this may come in handy in ground clashes, when a soldier would merely take it out of a pocket and send behind the enemy’s line.

The insect-drone, with its 0.15-gram camera and memory card, is managed remotely with a special helmet. Putting on the helmet, you find yourself in the “butterfly’s cockpit” and virtually see what the butterfly sees – in real time.

The butterfly’s advantage is its ability to fly in an enclosed environment. There is no other aerial vehicle that can do that today,” Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI’s mini-robotics department, told Israel Hayom.

Structures under observation can be anything from train stations or  airport terminals – or office buildings – to battlefields and even  forests in, say, southern Lebanon, where Israel believes Hezbollah hides  its ambush squads.

The virtually noiseless “butterfly” flaps  its four wings 14 times per second. Almost translucent, it looks like an  overgrown moth, but is still smaller than some natural butterflies.

This  is bio-mimicry, when technology imitates nature. And this has proved to  hide a trap. When the device was tested at a height of 50-meters, birds  and flies tended to fall behind the device arranging into a flock.

Israeli “butterfly” UAV. Image courtesy: Israel Hayom (Image from http://www.israelhayom.co.il)

The  IAI, Israel’s major aerospace and aviation manufacturer, needs two more  years to polish their “butterfly” project. The product seems to fall  into the trend of reducing drone size. Their recent models promoted for  city observation and conflicts were the Ghost, weighing 4 kg, and  Mosquito, which weighs only 500 grams.

While the “butterfly” may  bring “a real technological revolution,” as the developer predicts, to  the military field, questions remain how it will change the civil life.  The drone is also propped up for police use and there is little doubt  that secret services will be only too happy to grab such an intricate  weapon.

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US military surveillance future: Drones now come in swarms?


 
The University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab showed off a network of 20 nano-quad rotors capable of agile flight, which could swarm and navigate in an environment with obstacles.
This is another step away from bulky heavily armed aerial vehicles or humanoid robots to a much smaller level of tiny remote-control devices. While current drones lack manoeuvrability, can’t hover and move fast enough, these new devices will be able to land precisely and fly off again at speed. One day the military hope they may prove a crucial tactical advantage in wars and could even save lives in disasters. They can also be helpful inside caves and barricaded rooms to send back real-time intelligence about the people and weapons inside.
A report in NetworkWorld online news suggests the research is based on the mechanics of insects, which potentially can be reverse-engineered to design midget machines to scout battlefields and search for victims trapped in rubble
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AFTER THE BIG AND DEADLY, NOW THE NANO DRONES: TINY BUT NO LESS DANGEROUS

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by Russia Today

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A small insect or a mosquito over your ear may now be much more than simply annoying. Those could easily be micro drones which now come in a swarm of bug-sized flying spies.

In an effort to create a hard-to-detect surveillance drone that will operate with little or no direct human supervision in out of the way and adverse environments, researchers are mimicking nature.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQIMGV5vtd4

The University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab showed off a network of 20 nano-quad rotors capable of agile flight, which could swarm and navigate in an environment with obstacles.

This is another step away from bulky heavily armed aerial vehicles or humanoid robots to a much smaller level of tiny remote-control devices. While current drones lack manoeuvrability, can’t hover and move fast enough, these new devices will be able to land precisely and fly off again at speed. One day the military hope they may prove a crucial tactical advantage in wars and could even save lives in disasters. They can also be helpful inside caves and barricaded rooms to send back real-time intelligence about the people and weapons inside.

A report in NetworkWorld online news suggests the research is based on the mechanics of insects, which potentially can be reverse-engineered to design midget machines to scout battlefields and search for victims trapped in rubble.

In an attempt to create such a device, scientists have turned to flying creatures long ago, examining their perfect conditions for flight, which have evolved over millions of years.

Zoologist Richard Bomphrey has told the British Daily Mail newspaper he has conducted research to generate new insight into how insect wings have evolved over the last 350 million years.

“By learning those lessons, our findings will make it possible to aerodynamically engineer a new breed of surveillance vehicles that, because they are as small as insects and also fly like them, completely blend into their surroundings,”

the newspaper quotes him as saying.

The US Department of Defense has turned its attention to miniature drones, or micro air vehicles long ago.

Image from video of a swarm of Nano Qardrotors, posted at GRASP Laboratory website

As early as in 2007 the US government was accused of secretly developing robotic insect spies when anti-war protesters in the US saw some flying objects similar to dragonflies or little helicopters hovering above them. No government agency has admitted to developing insect-size spy drones though some official and private organizations have admitted that they were trying.

In 2008, the US Air Force showed off bug-sized spies as “tiny as bumblebees” that would not be detected when flying into buildings to “photograph, record, and even attack insurgents and terrorists.”

The same year US government’s military research agency (DARPA) conducted a symposium discussing ‘bugs, bots, borgs and bio-weapons.’

Around the same time the so-called Ornithopter flying machine based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs was unveiled and claimed they would be ready for roll out by 2015

Lockheed Martin’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratories unveiled “maple-seed-like” drones called Samarai that also mimic nature. US troops could throw them like a boomerang to see real-time images of what’s around the next corner.

The US is not alone in miniaturizing drones that imitate nature: France, the Netherlands and Israel are also developing similar devices.

US military surveillance future: Drones now come in swarms?

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Published in: on 22/06/2012 at 10:44 pm  Comments (2)  

A brief history of drones [3 of 3]


The real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones—and the names reinforce this—is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence.
Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target—a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills Anwar al-Awlaki, or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence—the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination—while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.

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DRONES: A WORD FOR YOU – NO JOKE THEY PROVOKE COUNTER ATTACKS SEEN AS LEGITIMATE DEFENSE

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by Joh Sifton

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What, in the final analysis, is troubling about the CIA’s use of drones? Drones are only one weapon system among many, and the CIA’s role, while disturbing, is not the primary cause for alarm. Certainly the legal identity of drone operators, CIA or military, matters little to the victims of a Hellfire strike. So what is it about the drone, really, that draws the attention of victims, insurgent propagandists, lawyers and journalists, more than other forms of kinetic violent force? Why do drones interest us, fascinate us or disturb us?

Perhaps one clue comes from the linguistics. The weapons’ names suggest ruthless and inhumane characteristics. The first drone aircraft deployed by the CIA and Air Force after 2001 was the Predator, a rather coarse name even for a weapons system, suggestive that the enemy was not human but merely prey, that military operations were not combat subject to the laws of war but a hunt.

(Some of the computer software used by the military and the CIA to calculate expected civilian casualties during airstrikes is known in government circles as Bug Splat.)

The Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper, a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones’ payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness.

But the real issue is the context of how drones kill. The curious characteristic of drones—and the names reinforce this—is that they are used primarily to target individual humans, not places or military forces as such. Yet they simultaneously obscure the human role in perpetrating the violence. Unlike a missile strike, in which a physical or geographic target is chosen beforehand, drones linger, looking precisely for a target—a human target. And yet, at the same time, the perpetrator of the violence is not physically present. Observers are drawn toward thinking that it is the Predator that kills Anwar al-Awlaki, or its Hellfire missiles, not the CIA officers who order the weapons’ engagement. On the one hand, we have the most intimate form of violence—the targeted killing of a specific person, which in some contexts is called assassination—while on the other hand, the least intimate of weapons.

This characteristic, the distance between targets and CIA executive officers at Langley, is the defining characteristic of drones. They are the zenith of the technological quest that runs back to the invention of slings and arrows thousands of years ago, efforts of the earliest perpetrators of violence to get away from their victims. That process, which brought catapults and later artillery, reached its first peak with the development of intercontinental nuclear missiles; but those are weapons of limited tactical use and have never been used. Drones allow all the alienation of long-range missions but with much more flexibility and capacity for everyday use. The net result is everyday violence with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs. This is disturbing perhaps because alienation is disturbing.

The work of animal behaviorists like Konrad Lorenz sheds some light on why. Lorenz—a onetime member of the Nazi party who later renounced his politics and won the Nobel Prize in the 1970s—spent much of his life studying violence in animals. His book On Aggression posited a theory whereby many animals, male and female, have a natural “drive” to be aggressive against opponents, including members of their own species.

The aggression drive, Lorenz posited, was often limited within species by a “submission” phenomenon, whereby potential victims turn off the aggressive drive in others by displaying signs of submission. In this way, most animal violence is checked before it occurs. Lorenz suggested that in humans, the submission safety valve was blunted by the technological creation of weapons, which emotionally “distanced” the killer from his victim. When a spear or sling is used to kill, victims lose the opportunity to engage in submission and trigger the aggression “off switch.” The drone represents an extreme extension of that process. Drones crossed into a new frontier in military affairs: an area of entirely risk-free, remote and even potentially automated killing detached from human behavioral cues.

Military research seems to back this up. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a psychologist and former professor at West Point, has written extensively on the natural human aversion to killing. His 1995 book On Killing contains a collection of accounts from his research and from military history demonstrating soldiers’ revulsion with killing—in particular, killing at close range. He tells the story of a Green Beret in Vietnam describing the killing of a young Vietnamese soldier: “I just opened up, fired the whole twenty rounds right at the kid, and he just laid there. I dropped my weapon and cried.” The most telling accounts are with the “close” kills of hand-to-hand combat. Grossman tells of a Special Forces sergeant from the Vietnam War describing a close kill: “‘When you get up close and personal,’ he drawled with a cud of chewing tobacco in his cheek, ‘where you can hear ‘em scream and see ‘em die,’ and here he spit tobacco for emphasis, ‘it’s a bitch.’”

Obviously the primary advantage of the drone is that it insulates its operators from risk. Yet one can’t help wondering whether aversion to the unpleasantness of violence is another factor making drones popular with the military and CIA. Drones make the nasty business of killing a little easier. Or do they?

There are reports of military drone operators suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and studies showing that those who conduct strikes or watch videos of strikes suffer from “operational stress,” which officials believe is the result of operators’ long hours and extended viewing of video feeds showing the results of military operations after they have occurred—i.e., dead bodies. Still, these reports pale in comparison with those of PTSD among combat veterans. And there is no public information about stress among those ordering the strikes—the CIA strike operators or the decision-makers at Langley.

A little-noticed 2011 British Defense Ministry study of unmanned drones discusses some of these points: from concerns about drone operators’ potential alienation from violence to the propaganda opportunities for enemies (noting that drones’ use “enables the insurgent to cast himself in the role of underdog and the West as a cowardly bully—that is unwilling to risk his own troops, but is happy to kill remotely”).

The paper also discusses concerns raised by military analyst Peter Singer, who has written on “robot warfare” and the risk that drones might acquire the capacity to engage enemies autonomously. The report envisions a scenario where a drone fires on a target “based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.”

The authors note that in warfare, the risks of the battlefield and the horror that comes from carrying out violence can act as controls on brutality. Citing the oft-quoted adage of Gen. Robert E. Lee, reportedly uttered after the battle of Fredericksburg, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would grow too fond of it,” the authors then ask:

If we remove the risk of loss from the decision-makers’ calculations when considering crisis management options, do we make the use of armed force more attractive? Will decision-makers resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously?

The issue is not that armed drones are more terrible or deadly than other weapons systems. On the contrary, the violence of drones today is more selective than many forms of military violence, and human rights groups recognize that drones, in comparison with less precise weapons, have the potential to minimize civilian casualties during legitimate military strikes.

Nor is the issue the remote delivery of weapons: alienation from the effects of violence reached a high-water mark in World War I. What makes drones disturbing is an unusual combination of characteristics: the distance between killer and killed, the asymmetry, the prospect of automation and, most of all, the minimization of pilot risk and political risk.

It is the merging of these characteristics that draws the attention of journalists, military analysts, human rights researchers and Al Qaeda propagandists, suggesting something disturbing about what human violence may become. The unique technology allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion.

Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.

In this sense, drones foretell a future that is very dark indeed.

Concluded.

Previous  : From development of lethal war planes to outright assassinations

Page       3

John Sifton, is the Asia Advocacy Director, and works on South and Southeast Asia. Previously, he was the director of One World Research. Sifton spent six years at Human Rights Watch, first as a researcher in the Asia division, focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then as the senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism.
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A brief history of drones [2 of 3]


Ten years later, the CIA works side by side with the military, launching kinetic strikes from Pakistan to Somalia. Few concerns are raised anymore, except by a handful of academics and activists who worry that the CIA is less accountable than the military for its targetting (and, as we saw in Zhawar Kili, for its mistakes). Still, many people seem to be leery of drones in the abstract—whether they are used in armed conflict or in targeted killings.
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FROM DEVELOPMENT OF LETHAL WAR PLANES TO OUTRIGHT ASSASSINATIONS

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by John Sifton

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Air warfare has been with us for a hundred years, since the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, and the development of drones was in the works from the start. The reason is simple: even with all the advantages offered by air power, humans still needed to strap themselves into the devices and fly them. There were limits to the risks that could be taken. Whatever an airplane was used for, it ultimately had to return to base with its pilot. Not surprisingly, from the start of the development of airplanes for use in war, engineers labored to circumvent this limitation.

During World War I, the Navy hired Elmer Ambrose Sperry, the inventor of the gyroscope, to develop a fleet of “air torpedoes,” unmanned Curtis biplanes designed to be launched by catapult and fly over enemy positions.

A secret program was run out of a small outfield in central Long Island, New York. A New York Times report from 1926, when the secret was revealed, said that the planes were “automatically guided with a high degree of precision” and after a predetermined distance were supposed to suddenly turn and fly vertically downward, carrying enough TNT to “blow a small town inside out.”

The program ran out of steam because the war ended in 1918. In reality, according to a Navy history, the planes rarely worked: they typically crashed after takeoff or flew away over the ocean, never to be seen again.

In World War II a different approach was taken: the Navy launched a new program, called Operation Anvil, to target deep German bunkers using refitted B-24 bombers filled to double capacity with explosives and guided by remote control devices to crash at selected targets in Germany and Nazi-controlled France. Remote control technology was still limited—involving crude radio-controlled devices linked to motors—so actual pilots were used for takeoff: they were supposed to guide the plane to a cruising altitude and then parachute to safety in England, after which a “mothership” would guide the plane to its target. In practice, the program was a disaster. Many planes crashed, or worse. John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, was one of the program’s first pilots: he was killed in August 1944 when a drone-to-be that he was piloting exploded prematurely over Suffolk, England.

And here lies a small irony in history. The target of that particular mission of Kennedy’s was a Nazi site where scientists were working on technology in the same vein, the remote delivery of explosives: the world’s first military rocket program. Indeed, German engineers had switched to rocketry, given the difficulties in building full-scale pilotless airplanes. They worked extensively on rockets during the war, and after the war US and Russian governments carried on their work. (In the late 1940s and ’50s, hundreds of former German rocket engineers and other Nazi scientists were brought to the United States and granted citizenship in exchange for their help on rocket engineering efforts—some despite clear ties to Holocaust-related atrocities. Stanley Kubrick’s character Dr. Strangelove was a caricature of an expatriate Nazi scientist.)

The development of drones stagnated for decades because there was little need for them, thanks to developments in rocketry. By the late 1950s, the US military had developed, in addition to many rockets, a slew of slower but more guidable “cruise missiles”—which, in their own way, were like little airplanes. Cruise missiles maintain airplanelike “lift” on stubby little wings, unlike ballistic missiles, which move through a long curve of flight comprising a launch and rise followed by a guided fall.

Cruise missiles were, in a sense, proto-drones, miniature versions of what the military had attempted as far back as 1917.

They could be dispatched and guided in flight; some had cameras; and, in some incarnations, could even change target midflight. But cruise missiles could not linger over a battlefield in the manner of a holding pattern, nor could they return to base. And their weapons delivery was blunt and inflexible; the delivery was the missile itself, its single warhead. So in the 1960s and ’70s, Air Force engineers continued to tinker with unmanned aircraft—in particular for use in surveillance flights, which don’t engage in complex flight maneuvers and require less sophisticated piloting. Only with major improvements in computing and electronic controlling systems in the 1980s and ’90s were modern-day drones made possible. And it wasn’t until the late ’90s that the Air Force began working on the technical aspects of arming unmanned aircraft with missiles.

The CIA, which had been using the drones for surveillance, became involved with the military effort to arm them after September 11. Although the agency had been authorized to support military operations even before the attacks, the legal parameters governing its involvement in military or paramilitary operations were murky, then as now. There were questions about who was allowed to “pull the trigger” and in what settings. Outright assassinations were illegal under a presidential executive order in the wake of CIA scandals from the Nixon period, and the laws of armed conflict contained complicated provisions on the circumstances in which civilian personnel—CIA officers not in uniform—could use lethal force.

So government attorneys worried back in 2001.

Ten years later, the CIA works side by side with the military, launching kinetic strikes from Pakistan to Somalia. Few concerns are raised anymore, except by a handful of academics and activists who worry that the CIA is less accountable than the military for its targetting (and, as we saw in Zhawar Kili, for its mistakes). Still, many people seem to be leery of drones in the abstract—whether they are used in armed conflict or in targeted killings.

Contd…

Next: Drones: A word for you – NO joke -They provoke counter attacks seen as legitimate defense

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