UK Drones to Double as US Court Delivers “Dangerous” Drone Decision

During a visit to Afghanistan this week, David Cameron pledged to double the number of armed Reaper drones in service with British forces at a cost of £135m. While this seemed to be news to many,  we reported that fact over a monthly ago.  (Revealed: details of British drone attacks & plans to purchase more Reapers – sorry we have to blow our trumpet sometimes!)  The MOD later said that these drones, to be in service by 2013, would enable three British Reapers to be airborne at the same time.

While the commitment to purchasing and developing new drones has the British military industry salivating they are also peeved that money is going to US companies, hence following written exchange from Hansard:

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will have discussions with the Defence Manufacturers Association for the purposes of ensuring that future unmanned aerial vehicles are procured from UK manufacturers. [21701]

Nick Harvey: Our primary objective is to provide our armed forces with the equipment and support they need, at the right time, and at a cost that represents value for taxpayers’ money. We continue to believe the best approach to delivering value for money is through purchasing goods and services from the global market, in which UK companies compete, including off-the-shelf where appropriate. The Ministry of Defence has a number of future unmanned aerial vehicle requirements at different stages of development. MOD regularly has discussions about its future requirements with interested companies, trade bodies and the National Defence Industries Council.

Meanwhile in the US, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s legal suit on behalf of the father of Anwar al-Aulaqi, a Yemeni-born US citizen who is on a kill-or-capture list of terrorists, has been dismissed.   The targeting and execution by armed drone of a number of terrorist suspects has been questioned by many including the UN Special R on Extra Judicial Killing.

In a surprising decision,  U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said that the court “ lacked the jurisdiction to review the targeting of a U.S. citizen abroad for death”.

“This Court recognizes the somewhat unsettling nature of its conclusion – that there are circumstances in which the Executive’s unilateral decision to kill a U.S. citizen overseas is . . . judicially unreviewable. But this case squarely presents such a circumstance.”

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said it would be “a profound mistake” to allow the government “unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere.  It would be difficult to conceive of a proposition more inconsistent with the Constitution or more dangerous to American liberty.”  

In response to the decision Human Rights Watch have written to President Obama asking him “to clarify [the] legal rationale for targeted killings, including the use of Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems (drones), and the procedural safeguards it is taking to minimize harm to civilians”.

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