Last Wednesday, the U.S. military did something it had not done before, inviting a sizable delegation of local leaders to a secretive $110 million drone base it’s building in Niger. The Nigerien group was led by the governor of the Agadez region, and the visit was the first for many members of the group, which included religious leaders, civil society members, and a handful of journalists, according to a report by a local radio station, Studio Kalangou.
The invitations were sent out on Tuesday, just one day before the visit, according to Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, a journalist who participated in the tour. That was just two days after the Intercept published a lengthy investigative article exploring how the base could be a destabilizing factor for the country, raising military tensions in the Sahara, and that it might even be illegal under the Nigerien constitution. The story noted that the U.S. military had conducted very little outreach to the local community, and that the residents of Agadez had little idea why the base was being built next to their airport and expected little benefit from it, if not harm. (...)
The number of US air strikes jumped in Yemen and Somalia in 2017, pointing to an escalation of the global war on terror.
President Donald Trump inherited the framework allowing US aircraft to hit suspected terrorists outside of declared battlefields from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Bar some tinkering, his administration has largely stuck within the framework set by the previous one.
However, the quantity of operations has shot up under President Trump. Strikes doubled in Somalia and tripled in Yemen. (...)
Five years ago, I made a simple iPhone app. It would send you a push notification every time a U.S. drone strike was reported in the news.
Apple rejected the app three times, calling it “excessively objectionable or crude content.”
Over the years, I would occasionally resubmit the app, changing its name from Drones+ to Metadata+. I was curious to see if Apple might change its mind. The app didn’t include graphic images or video of any kind — it simply aggregated news about covert war.
At its core was a question: do we want to be as connected to our foreign policy as we are to our smartphones? My hypothesis was no. Americans don’t care about the drone war because it is largely hidden from view.
In 2014, after five rejections, Apple accepted the app. It remained in the App Store for about a year. According to Apple’s internal statistics, Metadata+ was downloaded by more than 50,000 people.
But the following September, Apple decided to delete the app entirely. They claimed that the content, once again, was “excessively objectionable or crude.” (...)
Update: 2:32pm : Apple has removed Metadata from the App Store.
In a long-anticipated gesture at transparency, the Obama administration on Friday released an internal assessment of the number of civilians killed by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not officially at war.
According to the data, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya killed between 64 and 116 civilians during the two terms of the Obama administration — a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings catalogued by reporters and researchers over the same period. The government tally also reported 2,372 to 2,581 combatants killed in U.S. airstrikes from January 20, 2009, to December 31, 2015.
Releasing the figures — which appeared on a Friday afternoon, on a holiday weekend, after seven years of selective leaks and official secrecy — along with an executive order prioritizing the protection of civilian life in counterterrorism operations, reflected core American principles, the president asserted. (...)
Nabila’s favorite memories of her grandmother come from weddings. It didn’t matter who was getting married – relative or neighbor – her grandmother, Mamana, was an active participant, owing to her matriarchal perch above their village.
Mamana was as responsible as she was festive. An uneducated woman, she was the local midwife, and served as an impromptu primary care physician, even a veterinarian, when the need arose.
On a fall afternoon in 2012, Mamana called Nabila and a squad of her siblings and cousins outside to the family’s okra fields, part of their sprawling garden in tribal Pakistan. It was about to be the Eid festival and the Rehman family needed to gather and prepare vegetables. Nabila, nine years old, had set to work when the drone fired its missiles.
A dark plume of dust rose from the garden and mixed with acrid smoke. It spared Nabila and the other children the sight of their grandmother’s mutilated corpse. (...)
Just 10 of the scores killed by US drones in Pakistan last year have so far been identified, according to data collected by the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project.
The names for all 10 came from either terrorist propaganda or the US government, with officials from Pakistan’s government, military and intelligence services declining to provide any names of those killed by the CIA for the first time since strikes started in 2004.
Only a minority of those killed are ever identified, but the number of those named in 2015 was particularly low. In total, according to Bureau research, of the minimum 2,494 people killed by US drones since 2004, only 729 have been named. At least 1,765 victims remain nameless.
The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project is an attempt to identify more of these victims to better ensure accountability for the drone strikes. The CIA continues to carry out signature strikes in Pakistan – attacks on people it claims are terrorists from extensive surveillance and data analysis operations – but the targets’ names are often not known. (...)
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