Tag Archives: Extrajudicial Killing of Americans

In Drone Strikes, US Often Unsure Who Will Die

Strikes Often Carried Out With Little or No Intelligence

by Jason Ditz, April 24, 2015

Despite President Obama’s outspoken praise for the intelligence community in the wake of revealing a pair of Western hostages killed in January, the drone war which has become a centerpiece of his foreign policy is often carried out in an intense fog.

There have been occasional inquiries in the past about “signature strikes,” the administration’s policy of carrying out strikes on totally unidentified people they think are acting like terrorists might act.

All this language really means, however, and it’s something that’s becoming increasingly apparent, is that when President Obama signs off on a strike and some CIA agent pushes a button, the US often has no real idea who they’re about to kill.

The January hostage killings reveal this in more ways than one, as the US struck what it figured was an “al-Qaeda compound,” which is the official way of saying they blew up a house. They had no idea who was inside, except that there might be al-Qaeda.

And in this case there were. The strike killed six people, including the two hostages. Also killed were a pair of American al-Qaeda members, neither of whom had been put on the president’s already legally dubious kill list, meaning they were likewise extrajudicial killings of American citizens.

Indeed, after all this we still don’t know who the other two out of the six were, though the fact that the administration isn’t presenting this as an “all’s well that ends well” situation indicates they, like most of the victims of US drone strikes, were nobody of any consequence.

That’s the US drone war all over. A lot of people are killed, only a handful are ever identified at all, and when the US does happen to kill some real al-Qaeda leader, they seem as surprised as anybody, because they sure didn’t know they were aiming at him.

Obama Admits January Drone Strikes Killed US Hostage, 2 American Terror Suspects

At a Thursday press conference, seen in the above-embedded video provided by The Washington Examiner, President Obama admitted and expressed regret that United States drone strikes, conducted in January of this year, accidentally killed two al-Qaeda hostages, 73-year-old American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto. The strikes also reportedly killed two American terror suspects, Adam Gadahn, who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list, and Ahmed Farouq.

Said President Obama about the deaths of the hostages, “I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the US government I offer my deepest apologies to the families… As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement cited by MSNBC, “Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qaeda hostage since 2012. Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages… The operation targeted an al-Qaeda-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”

According to CNN, Warren Weinstein, who appeared as a captive in a 2013 al-Qaeda video in which he begged Obama for help, was captured by al-Qaeda in 2011 in Pakistan where he had been working with the United States Agency for International Development. He had previously worked with the Peace Corps.

Elaine Weinstein, Warren’s wife, called the US government’s efforts to save her husband “inconsistent and disappointing” but placed blame for her husband’s death on Pakistan’s government and his captors. Said Elaine Weinstein, “The cowardly actions of those who took Warren captive and ultimately to the place and time of his death are not in keeping with Islam and they will have to face their God to answer for their actions… I am disappointed in the government and military in Pakistan. Warren’s safe return should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country, but they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these.”

The White House indicated that neither of the American terror suspects that were killed in the drone strikes were intentional targets. Adam Gadahn had been accused of becoming a chief propagandist for al-Qaeda after leaving the US in 1998. Ahmed Farouq was allegedly the leader of a new Indian al-Qaeda offshoot.

Back in 2011, three Americans, Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were killed in US drone strikes overseas.