FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Spies in the Sky

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

It’s all because of the little noticed annual report for 2010 from the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS).  The document was released March 2011.  Some especially interesting language is found on page 26 in a section entitled “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”  It describes how the “Department of State coordinated with the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies to research using Tier 1 (low altitude, long endurance) unmanned aerial vehicles in high-threat locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.  This effort led to a successful test in Iraq in December.  DS plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles to support U.S. Embassy Baghdad in 2011. The program will watch over State Department facilities and personnel and assist Regional Security Officers with high-threat mission planning and execution.”  The “unmanned aerial vehicles” to which the document refers are popularly known as “drones” and have already proved their usefulness in killing, among others Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen.  Now the United States would like to use them for spying. But first, Abdulrahman.

Abdulrahman was born in Denver Colorado but moved with his family to Yemen.  As reported by Time magazine, on September 15 the 16-year old Abdulrahman left his home in Yemen looking for his father, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and radical cleric who was hiding in the southern province of Yemen called Shabwa.  The United States had long targeted his father and during the time Abdulrahman was searching for him his father was killed by a CIA sponsored drone.  Two weeks later another drone attack killed a senior al-Qaeda militant whom the United States had targeted.  The luster of the raid was dimmed because Abdulrahman, one of his cousins and six other people were also killed. They were not targets but, as one U.S. official in a clever, if not particularly sensitive turn of phrase put it when referring to Abdulrahman’s death, he “was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  That was, of course, self-evident.  Now we are privy to discussions about drones used for spying instead of killing.

For years it has been accepted that countries routinely place their intelligence agents under cover in other countries in an attempt to learn what is going on in those countries that may affect the spying country’s interests. Now, thanks to modern science, a country is not limited in its spying on another country to boots on the ground. Instead,  it can use drones.  There is, of course, one small problem with that.  The country over which the drones fly may not react cordially to the idea that the United States can fly drones wherever it wants.  Indeed, it is likely that the United States would not take kindly to learning that Russia was routinely flying drones in U.S. skies for purposes of gathering intelligence.

It has now been disclosed that the United States,  which is responsible for the chaos that reigns in Iraq following the successful conclusion of the war it started, plans to fly drones in order to protect what is the biggest United States embassy in the world.  Formally opened in 2009,  the embassy will house more than 11,000 people and be protected by 5,000 private security contractors and an undisclosed number of drones. The embassy is as big as the Vatican and includes a 16,000 square foot ambassador’s residence and a 9000 square foot residence for the deputy ambassador. At the opening ceremony in 2009, U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker said the opening signaled a “new era for Iraq and United States relations.”   He was probably not thinking of drones.  The Iraqis now are and drones promise to become another nail in the coffin in which a “new era for Iraq and United States relations” lies.

The Iraqis are upset at the idea that the United States believes it has the right to fly its drones wherever it wants.  They don’t think a foreign country,  which the United States is now that its troops have gone home, should have the right to violate its air space.  They think the United States should get permission to operate the drones in Iraqi airspace. Commenting on the proposal to use drones, several key advisors to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said they had not been consulted about the Americans’ plans and one of them who opposes the drone program said:  “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.”  That idea might shock the State Department. Another Iraqi, Mohammed Ghaleb Nasser, an enginer from the northern city of Mosul said:  “If they are afraid about their diplomats being attacked in Iraq, then they can take them out of the country.”  Of course he probably wasn’t thinking of the fact that the embassy is practically brand new.  The United States would be as reluctant to leave the new embassy as Saddam Hussein was to leave his assorted palaces for a prison cell.

Permitting the United States to fly drones wherever it wants is the price a country may have to pay for friendship with the United States.  Some countries may think that price too high.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail