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Interview with Scott Horton, New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, an expert in the law of armed conflict, a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine where he covers legal and national security issues and writes No Comment, a widely read blog about human rights and international law. He also lectures at Columbia Law School and is a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia
This is John Robles. I am speaking with Scott Horton, New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, especially human rights law and a law of armed conflict. He is a lecturer at Columbia Law School.
Hello, Mr. Horton. Nice to be speaking with you and thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
Great to be with you.
I’d like to ask you some questions regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012. Why is a provision that would allow indefinite detention of even American citizens being pushed through in this bill?
That’s an excellent question. In fact, the Obama administration has been celebrating the success of military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the president’s senior advisors talk about a victory over Al-Qaeda, they say the number of terrorist combatants has been reduced into the hundreds. But Republicans in the Senate had been pushing quite aggressively for a measure designed to declare a forever war, basically war that has no end and to designate the American homeland itself as part of the battlefield and in that connection both of those matters are somewhat controversial but in connection with this effort they’d also introduced sections designed to give the U.S. a statutory basis to the president’s authority to detain American citizens and I think that’s had quite a bit of negative backlash in the United States both among conservatives and among liberals.
Why would the U.S. want an open-ended war?
There is no military reason for this and in fact most of the generals in Pentagon consider it to be not very smart. Of course, they’d rather define a war in terms that it could be won, that they could claim victory. So, this is purely a partisan political exercise, which has been driven largely by the Republicans and in this case I think they have a number of different points: one is to prevent the administration claiming victory in the current conflict; but another is to force Barack Obama to keep Guantanamo open forever to prevent him from delivering on his campaign pledge to close Guantanamo. There are whole series of provisions designed to do this.
Who’s benefiting from this endless war on terror?
The bottom-line here is people who press an idea: boundless executive power and authority at the expense of civil liberties come up on top because these measures basically undermine the Bill of Rights and the protections in the Bill of Rights by elevating the role of military law and the role of the military in the criminal justice system so that bills produce a much more powerful presidency and weaken the position of the judiciary and the normal civil administration of justice.
How does this fly in the face of Habeas Corpus: the 4th Amendment regarding unreasonable seizure, the 5th Amendment, which prohibits the deprivation of liberty, the 6th Amendment, the universal declaration of human rights, etc.?
It’s all basically designed to establish the precedence of military law, that is law of war, law of conflict over civil liberties, particularly the civil liberties that are found in the American Bill Of Rights but also international doctrines, international goverments and international customary law.
What’s really going on here?
The defenders of the legislation say they are not doing anything new, that all they are doing is stating the law that already exists and the president has the power to arrest American citizens who are fighting for the enemy. In war time, of course, during World War II in fact, there were Americans who fought on the side of the Germans and the Italians during the war who were captured and held as prisoners of war. I think they are correct about that, but the concern we have here is that this war is really rather loosely defined, it’s war against terrorists, terrorist groups; groups that are associated with them are the enemy and the definition of who would be an enemy changes all the time, so I think we get a lot of borderline cases where for political reasons organizations are described suddenly as the enemy and people who had anything to do with them are described as having provided material support to them and they can be treated as an enemy in this
sense. So, I think the changing definition, departures from traditional laws of war are what cause the real concern here.
So, I mean, basically they could come in with tanks and just take control of any city if they want?
That’s one of the major concerns civil libertarians have raised about this legislation because at the end of the American Civil War there was a statute issued, the Posse Comitatus Act, which outlawed the use of the military as a domestic police force in the United States.
And I think these measures seem to be undermining the Posse Comitatus Act; they seem to be opening the door for the use of the military for police purposes on the territory of the United States. That’s a big concern. And I think a lot of the procedures we see: American citizens being tried and others being tried before military tribunals.
If we look at examples around the world where democratic societies had deteriorated into dictatorships – in Latin America, also in Europe between the wars, and in South-East Asia and other places – it consistently follows a pattern like this when we see a termination or suspension of civilian justice and we see the introduction of military justice procedures, so what’s been done in the statute is chilling.
We are almost out of time, I am sorry. So, president Obama originally threatened to veto this bill, then apparently he changed his mind.
He objected to the limitations on his authority as commander-in-chief. There are also raised questions about some of the civil liberties issues. But the bottom-line is that this is an appropriation’s bill that contains the salary for military officers, their pensions – these questions put a lot of pressure on him to find a way to accommodate and we are expecting, I think, in the next couple of days to see a signing statement issued by the president, which is going to state how he interprets it, and I think a lot of us now are expecting that he will try to address some of the concerns in the civil liberties area winning sides legislation. If not, there’s going to be a lot of disappointment among his followers. The very important consideration here is Guantanamo: what’s going to happen with this Guantanamo facility. We might call this statute the Guantanamo Forever Act that seems designed to force the administration to keep Guantanamo opened
forever and to send new people there, which I think is very disagreeable to Barack Obama who, of course, pledged to close it but seems to be facilitating the political objectives of the Republicans.
Thank you very much, sir. I really appreciate speaking with you.
Good luck and Happy New Year.
Romania: U.S.-NATO Missile Deployment Project Comes Into Force
Voice of America News
January 4, 2011
U.S.-Romania Missile Defense Comes Into Force
This agreement provides for the deployment of a U.S. ballistic missile defense interceptor site to Romania.
The United States and Romania have announced that the U.S.-Romania Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement has entered into force. This agreement provides for the deployment of a U.S. ballistic missile defense interceptor site to Romania. The interceptor site will be located at Deveselu Air Base as a part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense, the U.S. contribution to NATO missile defense. The base, said both countries, represents a significant contribution to the NATO missile defense capability Allies agreed to develop at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon.
…As President Barack Obama has said, “Our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to ***protect the U.S. homeland*** against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies.”
There are four phases to the full deployment of the missile defense system in Europe. Phase one consists of Aegis ballistic missile defense-capable ships in the Mediterranean and a land—based missile defense radar in Turkey.
Phase two will expand coverage against short- and medium-range threats with fielding of the land-based missile defense interceptor site in Romania. 2015 is the timeframe for completion of this phase.
Phase three in 2018 will improve coverage against medium- and intermediate-range missile threats with an additional land-based interceptor site in Poland and the deployment of a more advanced SM-3 interceptor.
And finally in about 2020, phase four will enhance the ability to counter medium- and intermediate-range missiles and potential future inter-continental ballistic missile threats to the United States from the Middle East through the deployment of more advanced SM-3 interceptors.
Raytheon Delivers First Upgraded Patriot Missile Radar To Kuwait
January 4, 2012
Raytheon Delivers First Upgraded Patriot Radar to Kuwait
TEWKSBURY, Mass. – Raytheon Company completed its first Configuration-3 Patriot radar upgrade for the State of Kuwait. This is the first of six radar modernization deliveries due under contract to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
“These upgrades to the latest Patriot Configuration will boost Kuwait’s capability…against tactical ballistic missile attacks. They also highlight the continuing efforts by Kuwait Air Defense to maintain Patriot readiness and effectiveness to counter evolving regional threats,” said Sanjay Kapoor, vice president for Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) business. “We continue to modernize the Patriot system and are committed to providing our partners with increased system reliability and reduced life-cycle costs.”
Patriot is the world’s most capable air and missile defense system…It is the system of choice for 12 nations around the globe.
Work under this contract is being performed by Raytheon at the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, Mass. Raytheon is the prime contractor for both domestic and international Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems and is the system integrator for Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.
U.S. Employs Drones To Counter China
January 5, 2012
U.S. turns to drones to counter China
By Michael Richardson
-At present, jet fighters and bombers on U.S. carriers must take off within 800 km of their target, leaving the carriers within range of land-based missiles and combat aircraft. However, the new generation of sea-based drones bring developed by the U.S. could operate as far as 2,500 km from the carrier, putting the ships out of range.
-In fact the U.S. is now training more pilots to operate drones than to fly conventional fighters and bombers. Most of these pilots will work from bases in the continental U.S., often half a world away from the places where their planes are active.
America currently has a big lead in the number and sophistication of drones, and the sensors and weapons they carry. An estimated 7,000 drones are in service.
SINGAPORE: A recent offer by the Seychelles to refuel and replenish Chinese naval ships on anti-piracy patrols in the northwest Indian Ocean was seen as the latest sign of China’s expanding naval power.
But it obscured an even more significant development: U.S. deployment of a mini-air force of long-range, remotely-piloted aircraft from a network of airfields in the Seychelles, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula…
Use of the civilian airport in Victoria by several U.S. Reaper drones underscores a development that is changing the nature of military and intelligence operations in many Asia-Pacific countries as well as the West. Reapers can fly nearly 1,850 km from base, conduct their mission and return home. If armed, they can unleash Hellfire missiles as well as guided 227-kg bombs…
Increasing reliance on drones indicates that the future of airpower is likely to be largely unmanned, as governments seek to reduce combat casualties and remove as many of their expensive manned warships and aircraft as possible from hostile range.
The U.S. military has become so concerned at China’s rapidly growing arsenal of anti-access and area-denial weapons that just over two years ago it authorized the navy and air force to collaborate on ways to off-set the Chinese challenge to America’s capacity to project power and sustain its alliances and military partnerships in Asia.
In a 2010 report, Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, wrote that with the spread of advanced technologies and their exploitation by other countries, especially China and to a lesser extent Iran, U.S. ability to “preserve military access to two key areas of vital interest, the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, is being increasingly challenged.”
To move out of harm’s way, the United States aims to deploy sea-based drones on its aircraft carriers in the Pacific by 2018. “They will play an integral part in our future operations in this region,” according to Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Pacific and Indian oceans. “Carrier-based unmanned aircraft systems have tremendous potential, especially in increasing the range and persistence of our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as our ability to strike targets quickly.”
At present, jet fighters and bombers on U.S. carriers must take off within 800 km of their target, leaving the carriers within range of land-based missiles and combat aircraft. However, the new generation of sea-based drones bring developed by the U.S. could operate as far as 2,500 km from the carrier, putting the ships out of range.
U.S. deployment of land-based drones has expanded rapidly in the past few years. Widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have also been flown extensively over Pakistan in the hunt for militants, despite periodic protests from the government.
In fact the U.S. is now training more pilots to operate drones than to fly conventional fighters and bombers. Most of these pilots will work from bases in the continental U.S., often half a world away from the places where their planes are active.
America currently has a big lead in the number and sophistication of drones, and the sensors and weapons they carry. An estimated 7,000 drones are in service. Most are unarmed.
Although the biggest, such as Global Hawk, can easily fly across the Pacific and remain aloft for days, many are small and can be hand-launched to provide troops with instant video imagery of the battlefield, day or night. The U.S. Army is already buying 1,300 radio-controlled Raven planes each year. They are the size of a large model aircraft.
The California company that makes them has also started mass production of a new tube-launched, man-portable drone for the U.S. Army. In addition to surveillance, it will also work as an explosive-packed kamikaze missile that can be armed and locked on target by the controller to attack dug-in or fortified infantry positions, enemy missile teams and mortar emplacements.
As electronic systems for small drones are miniaturized and improved, production costs are falling and capabilities increasing. Ravens currently cost around $56,000 each. By contrast, the U.S. Predator drone, widely used for surveillance and attack in Afghanistan and Pakistan, costs at least $5 million, and another $5,000 an hour to fly. The Predator is about the size of a piloted light aircraft.
…The Australian government plans to buy up to seven high-altitude, long-endurance Global Hawks from the U.S. at an estimated cost of up to AU$2 billion. The opposition wants to increase the number to 15. Japan and South Korea are also talking to the Pentagon about possible bulk buys of Global Hawks.
Critics contend that drone proliferation may lead to unauthorized operation in foreign airspace, mounting civilian casualties and collateral damage, strained inter-state relations, and eventually result in the technology falling into the hands of terrorists. But despite possible risks, drones seem set to play an expanding military and intelligence role.
One firm that tracks defense and aerospace markets says global spending on research and procurement of drones over the next decade is expected to amount of more than $94 billion, including $9 billion on remotely piloted combat planes.
Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.
U.S. Navy Testing Long-Range Drones Near Persian Gulf
Stars and Stripes
January 4, 2012
Navy testing long-range drone that tracks suspicious vessels
By Seth Robson
-While being piloted from afar, the unmanned aircraft will be assigned to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, 5th Fleet in the Middle East, and 7th Fleet in the Pacific.
Four of the new drones will be based on the Pacific island of Guam, where the Air Force already flies its unmanned Global Hawk. Four will be at Sigonella, in Sicily, four will be at a secret location in the Middle East…
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan: The Navy is testing a long-range drone that hovers 70,000 feet above aircraft carriers and allows fleet commanders to track suspicious vessels across vast expanses of sea.
A prototype of the as-yet-unnamed drone, referred to as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system, is in action with the Navy’s 5th Fleet and, according to one naval expert, could help keep tabs on any Iranian threats to shipping in the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s army chief, Gen. Ataollah Salehi, on Tuesday warned American aircraft carriers not to return to the Gulf…
Navy officials won’t talk specifics about the missions the unmanned maritime aircraft is taking part in around the region, saying only that the drone flies a 24-hour long mission every three days and is providing more than half of 5th Fleet’s aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information.
But the Navy could use the BAMS Demonstrator – an RQ-4 Global Hawk equipped with modified Air Force radar, a high resolution camera and infra-red sensors – to track hundreds of suspicious vessels in the Gulf, according to Jan Van Tol, a retired U.S. Navy captain who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C.
“This is obviously an important mission, especially in view of current tensions,” he said.
Potential Iranian threats include submarines, torpedoes, missiles, mines and small boats that might be packed with explosives to attempt swarming attacks on U.S. ships. The BAMS and other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets would have plenty of time to spot suspicious vessels because the entrance to the Persian Gulf is about 20 miles wide at its narrowest point, Van Tol said.
The first BAMS aircraft off the production line will make a maiden flight in June, with a target date on entering the service in 2015, according to its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman.
The drone, in combination with new manned P-8A Poseidon jets, will replace the Navy’s aging fleet of 250 P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, representing a sea change in the service, according to Capt. James Hoke, program manager for the Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office in Patuxent River, Md.
“It’s the first time we are really going forward with… unmanned replacement for a manned aircraft,” Hoke said.
The P-3, which began service in the 1960s, is one of only a few aircraft that have been operated by the U.S. military for more than 50 years.
The Navy will purchase 117 Poseidons from Boeing, with the first of the modified 737 commercial jets operational from 2013. Twenty of the new long-range maritime surveillance drones will be fielded from 2015 with all of the aircraft operational by 2019, Hoke said.
The new planes will join a patrol and reconnaissance group at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., Hoke said, with personnel spending part of their time flying drones and part of it piloting the P-8s.
While being piloted from afar, the unmanned aircraft will be assigned to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, 5th Fleet in the Middle East, and 7th Fleet in the Pacific.
Four of the new drones will be based on the Pacific island of Guam, where the Air Force already flies its unmanned Global Hawk. Four will be at Sigonella, in Sicily, four will be at a secret location in the Middle East, Hoke said. And Walt Kreitler, Northrop’s director of business development for the new drone, said he expects four of the Navy drones to fly out of Beale Air Force Base, Calif. and four to fly out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
The Navy drones have stiffer wings that allow them to dive below 10,000 feet to get a closer look at targets floating on the water. At that altitude there are strong wind gusts that could tear a Global Hawk to pieces. To survive in rough weather the Navy drones will also add de-icing equipment, Hoke said.
The system that will be fielded in 2015 also will include state-of-the-art maritime radar and sensors that can rotate 360 degrees and capture full-motion video, according to Cmdr. Craig Dorrans, who is helping lead the drone project.
The Navy’s demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information about what’s going on in the world’s oceans is almost unlimited, Kreitler said.
Northrop’s initial contact, to develop and build the first two drones for the Navy, is worth $1.6 billion. The company expects to manufacture 68 aircraft but it is still negotiating the price, Kreitler said.