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Nic Robertson | CNN

The Sabaoon School for boys in northern Pakistan is anything but average.

Nestled amid the bucolic charm of the Swat Valley’s fertile terraced fields and steeply rising crags it looks idyllic. But if you get up close, a harsher reality becomes clear.

Two army check-posts scrutinize visitors entering the sprawling site. Once inside, the high razor wire-topped walls around the classroom compounds create a feeling reminiscent of a prison.

The boys here, aged 8 to 18, were all militants at some point. Some are killers, some helped build and plant improvised explosive devices, and others were destined to be suicide bombers until they were captured or turned over to the Pakistani army. All of them are at the school to be de-radicalized.

Ninety-nine percent of the boys, I am told, have never heard of Osama bin Laden, despite the fact he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in the next valley over from here. What has radicalized these boys instead, the school’s director says, is what turns teenagers the world over to crime: poverty, poor education, limited prospects and often lack of parental control.

It is in this setting that the boys have made ready recruits for Taliban scouts who wean them on tales of the U.S. drone strikes that have killed scores of Pakistani women and children over the past few years. Read More

Terry Frieden | CNN

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator UAV assigned to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, on January 7, 2012. Iranian jets fired on a Predator drone on November 1 over the Persian Gulf, an incident the Air Force says took place over international waters.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator UAV assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, on January 7, 2012. Iranian jets fired on a Predator drone on November 1 over the Persian Gulf, an incident the Air Force says took place over international waters.

Attorney General Eric Holder is not entirely ruling out a scenario under which a drone strike would be ordered against Americans on U.S. soil, but says it has never been done previously and he could only see it being considered in an extraordinary circumstance.He began to winnow the list of those possible extraordinary circumstances Wednesday. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Holder whether he believed it would be constitutional to target an American terror suspect “sitting at a cafe” if the suspect didn’t pose an imminent threat.

“No,” Holder replied.

But he also said the government has no intention of carrying out drone strikes inside the United States. Echoing what he said in a letter to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, he called the possibility of domestic drone strikes “entirely hypothetical.”

That letter, released Tuesday, was prompted by questions raised over the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Specifically, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee sought the Obama administration’s legal rationale for its use of drones to kill terror suspects overseas.

But Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who has said he would do what he could to hold up Brennan’s nomination until he got a full answer to his query, wanted to know whether the administration considered that policy applicable domestically.

In a letter to Paul dated on Monday, Holder said it was possible, “I suppose,” to imagine an “extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate” under U.S. law for the president to authorize the military to “use lethal force” within the United States.

However, Holder said the question was “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur.” Read More

Josh Bell | ACLU

Speaking passionately in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Nasser al-Awlaki talked on television for the first time about the drone strike that killed his 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman. The teenager, an American citizen born in Denver, was killed by a U.S. missile in 2011.

“I want to know why Abdulrahman was killed,” al-Awlaki said via satellite from Cairo. You can watch the full interview here:
http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/05/grandfather-grieves-teenage-grandson-killed-by-u-s-drone/

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights represent Nasser al-Awlaki ina lawsuit challenging the targeted killing of Abdulrahman as well as two other Americans killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier: Abdulrahman’s father Anwar and Samir Khan. Read More

 Mirza Shahzad Akbar | CNN

Drones such as this U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator have reportedly killed more than 3300 people over the last nine years

Editor’s note: Mirza Shahzad Akbar is Reprieve legal fellow in Pakistan, director and founder of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, and a practicing human rights lawyer in Islamabad. He represents a number of families of victims affected by drone strikes.

Islamabad (CNN) — On Tuesday, the United States votes to elect its next president. For Americans, the choice is about which candidate will improve the economy, healthcare, the employment rate and ensure better living standards.

However, for Pakistani citizens living in the country’s northwest, especially for the 800,000 people in the tribal region of Waziristan, the American election is a question of life and death.

Malik Jalal Khan lives in Datta Khel, a small town in North Waziristan, and is an elder of the Mada Khel tribe. He told me that more than 200 people from his tribe have been killed through the CIA-run clandestine drone program in the last seven years.

Thanks to Pakistani local channels which translated all three presidential debates into Urdu, Malik Jalal has paid close attention to every word uttered by President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.

Just like these candidates, Malik Jalal is also responsible for the wellbeing of his people. He has to ensure that his tribe’s young have stable jobs, children can go to school and sick people are treated in the best possible way. Malik Jalal listened very carefully when Obama said he would further strengthen health care, improve employment, raise taxes on the rich and improve public education. Such promises were doubled by Romney, who said that he would do even better if elected president.

Read More

Mirza Shahzad Akbar | CNN

Editor’s note: Mirza Shahzad Akbar is Reprieve legal fellow in Pakistan, Director and Founder of Foundation for Fundamental Rights and a practicing human rights lawyer in Islamabad. He represents a number of families of victims affected by drone strikes.

The United States has conducted hundreds of drone missions in Pakistan since 2004

Islamabad (CNN) — On March 17, 2011 a drone attack killed at least 40 members of a Wazir tribal Jirga, which was resolving a land ownership dispute among sub-tribes in Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwest Pakistan, according to local media reports.

The reports claimed the Jirga was not the intended target and the predator was chasing a car before finally executing five people without any trial or due process near the Jirga. While this predator was hovering in the area, sophisticated cameras allegedly picked up images of a bigger gathering. Without appearing to have any intelligence or knowledge of its target, it fired four more missiles at the congregation.

In the same month, a joint investigation by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and the Sunday Times newspaper cited Pakistan’s military commander in Waziristan at the time, Brigadier Abdullah Dogar: “We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting, we’d got the request 10 days earlier. It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga — they have their people attending — but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?”

There should never be doubts. A big gathering in Waziristan does not mean they must be Taliban.

To put it in perspective: My clients say drone attacks are now happening almost twice a week on Pakistani soil.

Read More

Madison Park | CNN

A three-month-old infant receives polio vaccination drops from his mother at a camp in Jalozai, Pakistan on July 13.

A ban on polio vaccinations imposed by the Taliban could affect about 280,000 children living in tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

Last month, local Taliban militants prohibited polio vaccines over the United States’ use of drone strikes in the region.

When a three-day nationwide effort to administer polio vaccines began this week,health workers and volunteers weren’t able to immunize children in North and South Waziristan.

Under this security situation, they “obviously cannot operate,” said Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser in the Pakistani prime minister’s polio program. “We’re hoping that the campaign will resume in the near future.”

Throughout the rest of the country, vaccination efforts continued as 180,000 health workers and volunteers fanned throughout communities trying to immunize 34 million children, under the age of 5.

Read More

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