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Dec 282016

There is an interesting video from 33c3 dealing with drone killings :-

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As an aside, one of the thing that makes the Chaos Computer Club congress more interesting than many security conferences is the attention given to more “political” issues.

Drones offer the enticing possibility of tackling terrorist groups without putting people at risk, but the reality is somewhat different.

  1. Drone killings are in effect an act of war against the citizen(s) of a foreign country; very often where war has not been declared. To put it into perspective what if the UK operated drones in the 1970s and targeted US citizens who were helping to fund the IRA? And sometimes these actions resulted in “regrettable collateral damage”?
  2. Why is it not possible to provide information on targets to the law enforcement officials in the country where the target is living? It is possible that the law enforcement officials are compromised in some way of course (for example the US authorities were often against dealing with IRA terrorism), but not in all cases.
  3. Who decides that a target is so evil that they deserve death from the sky? The obvious solution here is a higher court order rather than an arbitrary decision by the military, although secret court orders are almost as bad as arbitrary military decisions. At the very least, such court orders must be made public after the death of the target.
  4. Just how reliable are drone killings anyway? How many times have we heard of “collateral damage” (the sanitised version of “Ooops! We killed the wrong people.”)? And how many times have we not heard of collateral damage? Many videos of drone killings show vehicles being targeted which leads to the most obvious problem – you do not know that the target is within the vehicle and you do not know that he or she is alone in the vehicle.
  5. “Spinning” the effectiveness of drone killings by counting all “military aged males” as militants unless they can be demonstrated to be innocent (i.e. guilty until proven innocent) is about as despicable as it gets. You cannot claim to be in the right if you resort to such claims.

It is all too easy to claim that we’re all under threat from terrorism and that anything that might reduce that threat is justified. But criminal activity by governments is never justified.

Sep 082015

The big story of the day is the news that a UK drone strike took out an ISIS terrorist in Syria; one who used to be a UK citizen. After all, ISIS claims to be a nation state and so their "fighters" (actually terrorists) could be said to have given up their previous citizenship.

Arguing about whether it was justified is completely pointless without access to all of the relevant information which we won't get. It would be a very good idea for someone sensible (i.e. not a sleezy politician) outside of the intelligence community to review that secret information and to be the one authorising such activities.

But is a drone strike self-defence? It may well be under military terminology or even under international law.

In terms of ordinary understanding of self-defence, it is not – in terms of someone assaulting you, it is self-defence to break someone's arm as they are striking you; it is not self-defence to break their arm because they have promised to assault you tomorrow.As ordinary people understand the term, a drone strike is not self-defence.

It might be somewhat less contraversial to call a spade a spade and term this attack a "pre-emptive defence againt an imminent mass terrorist act" (or whatever phrase would fit the facts). On the face of it, using a drone strike to kill two terrorists only who are about to launch a terrorist attack, is the least-worst action. 

That does not justify so-called "collateral damage" (in honest spade terms, that would be the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians), and anyone who authorises drone strikes that results in murder should be prosecuted.

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