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Tuesday, Jul 22nd

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John Brennan and the truth about drones

Truth about dronesWhen I read the news that John Brennan was set to appear before the Senate in hopes of becoming of the C.I.A. director, I thought of the group of villagers I met at a seaside hotel in Yemen two years ago. They had driven many miles to see me, coming from the Yemen countryside in a pair of battered taxis, and they were waiting in the hotel parking lot.

There were about a dozen of them in all. It was a beautiful hotel, called the Mercure, with panoramic views of Aden harbor. The villagers, dressed in robes and rags, looked out of place, but they’d come to talk.

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Afghan Children Deaths: Hundreds Killed By U.S. In Last Five Years, UN 'Alarmed' By Civilian Casualties

Afghan childrenA UN committee has expressed "alarm" over reports that hundreds of children have been killed by US military forces in Afghanistan in the past five years.

US forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), which leads the NATO fight against Taliban insurgents, dismissed the committee's concerns as "categorically unfounded".

The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the deaths were "due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force". It gave no precise statistics.

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Support grows for U.S. "drone court" to review lethal strikes

Drone court consideredDuring a fresh round of debate this week over President Barack Obama's claim that he can unilaterally order lethal strikes by unmanned aircraft against U.S. citizens, some lawmakers proposed a middle ground: a special federal "drone court" that would approve suspected militants for targeting.

While the idea of a judicial review of such operations may be gaining political currency, multiple U.S. officials said on Friday that imminent action by the U.S. Congress or the White House to create one is unlikely. The idea is being actively considered, however, according to a White House official.

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Afghan corruption, opium, and the strange case of Kam Air

Kam AirKam Air, an airline owned by a politically-connected Afghan businessman, was blacklisted by the US military in Afghanistan for opium smuggling. Then the Afghan government complained.

In late January, the US military blacklisted Afghanistan's Kam Air from winning contracts with the US in Afghanistan, with the head of a US military anticorruption unit asserting that the airline was involved in bulk opium smuggling on commercial flights to Tajikistan.

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Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans

Legal explanation for dronesA confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

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The Fake Catch-22 of Drone-War Apologists

dronesThere's a Columbia University grad who runs a Tumblr I follow called "The Political Breakdown." I can't remember why I started reading it, but I am glad I did. I am glad because of the post, "Breakdown: The Truth about Drone Strikes."

What I love about it is how perfectly it captures the mindset of apologists for President Obama's drone war. The approach the blog takes is to summarize all the facts about a controversy. The summary on drones is pretty good. The anonymous author cites many of the same excellent sources that I rely upon, has a similar understanding of the facts, and reaches a conclusion that leaves me flabbergasted.

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US Ramps Up Pakistan Drone Strikes

dronesA bomb targeting paramilitary soldiers killed 12 people in southwest Pakistan on Thursday, while five suspected militants died in a U.S. drone strike in the country's northwest, officials said.

Separately, an explosion ripped through a crowded mosque in the northwest city of Mingora, killing 21 people and injuring more than 70 others, said hospital official Mian Gul Aleem. The blast was caused by a gas cylinder that exploded, said senior police official Gul Afzal Khan.

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