The Washington Standard| Four former Air Force drone pilots went public, exposing that many of the Obama administration’s drone strikes have been indiscriminate murder that has nothing to do with fighting Islamic terrorism. Since then, they have had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen by the federal government that they blew the whistle on.
The four men, Michael Haas, 29, Brandon Bryant, 30, Cian Westmoreland, 28, and Stephen Lewis, 28, who served as drone operators in the US Air Force, blew the whistle on the corruption and indifference towards civilian casualties, which are a part of the drone program. The men’s attorney Jesselyn Radack tweeted:
— unR̶A̶D̶A̶C̶K̶ted (@JesselynRadack) November 22, 2015
In an open letter to Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, the four men provided details about drone strike missions.
“We are former Air Force service members,” the four men begin in their letter. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruiting tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
The Obama administration’s kill list was revealed several years ago when John Brennan became Obama’s assassination czar. A government kill list was formed by the Obama administration following the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year’s Day 2012. Obama was confronted on the kill list during the 2012 presidential race.
When Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs was confronted on an attack that took the life of a 16-year-old American boy, who was in Yemen, he snarled that the boy should have had a “more responsible father.” Even some Republican congressmen agreed with Gibbs, including Rep. Peter King, who called Obama’s kill list “totally constitutional.”
The Obama Justice Department doubled-down on their drone strike policy stating that they really didn’t need clear evidence of them being terrorists to assassinate Americans with drones.
As I just finished reporting, even Arabs understand that the problem mainly resides in the Islamic culture, where they have been killing each other for over 1,000 years. However, there is no doubt that what the men have expressed is true.
“We kill four and create ten,” Bryant said during a November 19 press conference, referring to potential terrorists. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”
I do get that sentiment. It would be the same for me and I’m guessing the same for those who read this article.
William Grigg adds some of the issues the men have faced, especially Mr. Bryant:
Among the burdens Bryant now bears is the knowledge that he participated in the mission that killed a fellow U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki. Identified as a Muslim cleric and accused of offering material support for al-Qaeda, al-Awlaki was executed by a drone strike in Yemen. His 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed in a separate drone strike a few weeks later while sitting down to dinner at the home of a family friend. Asked about the killing of a native-born U.S. citizen – who, at age 16, was legally still a child – former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs appeared to justify that act by blaming it on the irresponsibility of the innocent child’s father.
As Bryant points out, as a matter of law the elder al-Awlaki was innocent, as well.
“We were told that al-Awlaki deserved to die, he deserved to be killed as a traitor, but article 3 of section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that even a traitor deserves a fair trial in front of a jury of his peers,” Bryant notes, lamenting that his role in the “targeted killing” of a U.S. citizen without a trial was a violation of his constitutional oath.
Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill has produced evidence suggesting that the White House-approved killing of Anwar al-Awlaki’s son may have been carried out as retaliation against the family for refusing to cooperate in the search for the cleric. There are indications that the government has tried to intimidate the whistleblowers by intimidating their families.
In October, while Brandon Bryant was preparing to testify about the drone program before a German parliamentary committee, his mother LanAnn received a visit in her Missoula, Montana home from two representatives of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. The men claimed that her personal information was in the hands of the Islamic State, which had placed her name on a “hit list.” She was also told not to share that disclosure with anyone – a directive she promptly ignored by informing Ms. Radack, who represents Brandon and the other whistleblowers.
While I am not against using drones to deal with actual enemies of America on the battlefield, the question does have to be asked exactly who is being killed and for what reason. After all, many of the military engagements we find ourselves in around the world are unconstitutional. Congress has not declared war, something they must do under our Constitution before the President can mobilize and send troops into war, in the various regions we have military personnel in. In fact, war has not been declared by Congress since World War II,according to the congressional record! So, why are we engaged in a war with no end in sight without following our own rule of law? Does the Military Industrial Complex have anything to do with it?
Now, reports are that drone pilots are quitting in record numbers. Within a 12 month period, the Air Force lost 240 trained pilots! Now, theLA Times is reporting that the Air Force is hiring civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones, and are boosting the pay for new drone pilots.