Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent news organisation based at City University, London, has found that only 12% of victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan could be identified as militants.
In a report, released by the organisation on Thursday, researchers also found that fewer than 4% of those killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda.
Officials in Argentina have used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to locate undeclared mansions in a crackdown on rich tax evaders. The roots of their suspicions that something was amiss were in properties registered as empty lots in a wealthy Buenos Aires area, about 10 miles south of the city, according to a report in The Telegraph, and they sent out $10,000 drones equipped with cameras to take pictures of the properties. Resulting snapshots were of luxurious houses and swimming pools. The Telegraph reported that all in all, tax inspectors found 200 mansions and 100 swimming pools that had not been declared. The missing taxes amount to over $2 million from the hidden mansions and the owners face big fines.
Drone use in South America has been expanding, reported Nick Allen, the Daily Telegraph's US West Coast correspondent, and have been dispatched to support investigations such as identifying routes used by drug smugglers, monitoring crops, and looking for archaeological sites.
The U.S. is not the major provider of drone technology to South America. A number of countries have made use of drone technology from Israel, among other interesting developments. W. Alejandro Sanchez, senior research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), said In a report last year in Upside Down World, "The most basic surveillance drones are small and cost about $600 from a company in Mexico." The prices get higher, he said, "but not as much as most people expect, especially when compared to the cost of a helicopter. Anyone thinking drones are financially unattainable for less developed countries hasn't looked at the latest models."
Upside Down World added that drones are convenient, economical and unlike helicopters and other manned aircrafts, need less maintenance, less fuel, and "less risk to human life in potentially dangerous operations – all while drone prices drop with each passing year." A COHA report earlier this year also recognized that drones can be applied to beneficial use. "Brazil has deployed Israeli-made drones to monitor the Amazon rainforest and crack down on environmental crimes (such as illegal logging and pillaging of natural resources). Moreover, archaeologists in Peru want to utilize the high-resolution cameras on drones for exploration of designated targets because these machines provide a resourceful "eye in the sky" for archaeological digs." (...)
(...) Italian photojournalist Massimo Berruti has been photographing victims of American drone strikes, most of them from the tribal areas, since 2011. The Pakistan Army and militant groups restrict access to North Waziristan, so Berruti can only photograph his subjects when they are able to leave the area. In most cases, he has found, people who have survived drone attacks have little left in the way of support. “Their lives are wiped out, their houses destroyed, their families killed,” Berruti says. “Even if the government provided aid, this kind of loss is not refundable.”
(...) The records were provided to The Washington Post by Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that has worked in Yemen to document civilian casualties of the U.S. drone campaign.
Kat Craig, a legal director for the group, said the records undermine U.S. claims “that the victims of this drone attack were anything other than civilians” and said the size of the payouts suggest that the Yemeni government — among the poorest in the Middle East — is being reimbursed by the United States.
The records indicate that families of those killed were each given Yemeni currency worth approximately $60,000, with smaller amounts paid to those who sustained injuries or whose vehicles were damaged or destroyed. “In Yemen, that is a life-changing amount of money,” Craig said. “I can’t believe those types of figures would be initiated by the Yemeni government.”
U.S. officials declined to comment on the Dec. 12 strike or any U.S. role in the payments but acknowledged offering money to victims and their families when civilians are injured or killed.
“Although we will not comment on specific cases, were non-combatants killed or injured in a U.S. strike, condolence or other ex gratia payments, such as solatia, may be available,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House, said in an e-mailed statement. She also said the U.S. government “takes seriously all credible reports of non-combatant deaths and injuries” and seeks “to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimize such risk to non-combatants.”
Other U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity denied any U.S. involvement in the payments.
Yemeni officials also declined to discuss the Dec. 12 strike or the payments, but a Yemeni government official who viewed the Reprieve documents said they appeared to be authentic.
The records make no mention of the United States or its use of armed drones to carry out strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group’s Yemen-based affiliate is known.
Nevertheless, the documents serve as the only public record associated with the highly classified U.S. drone campaign in Yemen and offer new details of a strike that remains the focus of debate within the United States.
U.S. military officials have defended the attack and indicated that a subsequent investigation determined that al-Qaeda-linked operatives — and no civilians — were killed.
U.S. officials have said that both the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center, which was directed by the White House to review the operation, concluded that civilians were probably injured or killed.
The U.S. military has since abided by a Yemen-imposed suspension of JSOC’s authority to conduct strikes in the country. U.S. officials indicated that the restriction is being reconsidered, but for now only the CIA has authority to launch lethal strikes in Yemen. (...)