Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Spies in the Sky

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.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail