Monday, April 20, 2015

Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War

EDITOR'S CHOICE | 20.04.2015 | 11:24
 
A TOP-SECRET U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Interceptconfirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.
Amid fierce European criticism of America’s targeted killing program, U.S. and German government officials have long downplayed Ramstein’s role in lethal U.S. drone operations and have issued carefully phrased evasions when confronted with direct questions about the base. But the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.
The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.
The new evidence places German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position given Germany’s close diplomatic alliance with the United States. The German government has granted the U.S. the right to use the property, but only under the condition that the Americans do nothing there that violates German law.
The U.S. government maintains that its drone strikes against al Qaeda and its “associated forces” are legal, even outside of declared war zones. But German legal officials have suggested that such operations are only justifiable in actual war zones. Moreover, Germany has the right to prosecute “criminal offenses against international law … even when the offense was committed abroad and bears no relation to Germany,” according to Germany’s Code of Crimes against International Law, which passed in 2002.
This means that American personnel stationed at Ramstein could, in theory, be vulnerable to German prosecution if they provide drone pilots with data used in attacks.
While the German government has been reluctant to pursue such prosecutions, it may come under increasing pressure to do so. “It is simply murder,” says Bj√∂rn Schiffbauer of the Institute for International Law at the University of Cologne. Legal experts interviewed by Der Spiegel claimed that U.S. personnel could be charged as war criminals by German prosecutors.
A top-secret slide confirms the central role Germany plays in the U.S. drone war.
RAMSTEIN IS ONE of the largest U.S. military bases outside the United States, hosting more than 16,000 military and civilian personnel. The relay center at Ramstein, which was completed in late 2013, sits in the middle of a massive forest and is adjacent to a baseball diamond used by students at the Ramstein American High School. The large compound, made of reinforced concrete and masonry walls and enclosed in a horseshoe of trees, has a sloped metal roof. Inside this building, air force squadrons can coordinate the signals necessary for a variety of drone surveillance and strike missions. On two sides of the building are six massive golf ball-like fixtures known as satellite relay pads.
In a 2010 budget request for the Ramstein satellite station, the U.S. Air Force asserted that without the Germany-based facility, the drone program could face “significant degradation of operational capability” that could “have a serious impact on ongoing and future missions.” Predator and Reaper drones, as well as Global Hawk aircraft, would “use this site to conduct operations” in Africa and the Middle East, according to the request. It stated bluntly that without the use of Ramstein, drone “weapon strikes cannot be supported.”
“Because of multi-theater-wide operations, the respective SATCOM Relay Station must be located at Ramstein Air Base to provide most current information to the war-fighting commander at any time demanded,” according to the request. The relay station, according to that document, would also be used to support the operations of a secretive black ops Air Force program known as “Big Safari.”
The classified slide deck maps out an intricate spider web of facilities across the U.S. and the globe: from drone command centers on desert military bases in the U.S. to Ramstein to outposts in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Qatar and Bahrain and back to NSA facilities in Washington and Georgia. What is clear is that most paths within America’s drone maze run through Ramstein.
JEREMY SCAHILLfirstlook.org

New Saudi-Led Airstrike Kills At Least 26 Civilians in Yemen

News | 20.04.2015 | 16:08
 
Sputnik - At least 26 people were killed by a Saudi-led bombing in Yemen's capital, including a journalist at a nearby television station headquarters.
At least 26 civilians were killed and over 200 were injured after Saudi-led coalition jets bombed a missile warehouse in Yemen's capital Sanaa, medical sources told Sputnik.
"Over 200 people have been injured, many of them are still trapped under the debris," the source told Sputnik.
According to the source, missiles at the warehouse continue to explode.
The bombing also killed Yemeni television anchor Mohammed Shamsan and several journalists, according to Bahrain's al-Wasat newspaper. The headquarters of the Yemen al-Yaum television channel are located near the bombed site.
Bombings by the Saudi-led coalition began in late March. So far, at least 767 civilians have been killed and 2906 have been injured, according to medical sources.
 

Leader of Shia rebels call on residents of Yemen to pool efforts against Al Qaeda

News | 20.04.2015 | 01:13
 
TASS - The leader of the Yemeni movement Ansar Allah (the Houthi), Sayyid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, on Sunday called on people living in Yemen’s southern provinces to pool efforts to rebuff Al Qaeda terrorists.
"We are not aggressors and we are ready for cooperation with people living in southern provinces to defeat Al Qaeda and rebuff foreign aggression," the leader of Shia rebels who have seized power in Yemen’s northern provinces, said in a televised address from Sana’a.
He said Saudi air strikes had helped terrorists to strengthen their positions in the southeastern province of Hadhramaut, from where they were threatening the rest of the country.
Al-Houthi said the "goal of the aggression" was to transfer power in Yemen to Al Qaeda, so all Yemeni people must "unite to stand up to this plot."
Al-Houthi’s words came on the backdrop of a statement of the General People’s Congress party in support of United Nations Security Council resolution 2216 calling for ceasefire and resuming U.N.-brokered dialogue. The resolutions urged the Houthi rebels to withdraw their units from Sana’a and other provinces, and to surrender arms seized from the governmental troops. The General People’s Congress leader is Ali Abdulla Saleh, who has until recently been seen as a Houthi ally.
Since August 2014, Yemen has been suffering from a severe political and security crisis. In late January 2015, the armed groups of Ansar Allah (Houthi rebels) seized the country’s capital city of Sana’a and forced President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi and the government to announce resignation. The president tried to hide in the port city of Aden but after the Houthi seized this city on March 25 he had to flee the country.
After Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi called for help from the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia’s air force supported by aviation of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates launched an operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis on March 26. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan (NO!?) and Sudan joined the Saudi-led coalition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 643 people were killed and 2,226 were wounded in bombings in a period from March 26 to April 6.