Human rights lawyers Reprieve, acting on behalf of two Yemeni men whose relatives were accidentally killed by drones, have brought a complaint against BT, filed with the British government on 19 August.
The charge is that the $23m (£13m) fibre-optic circuit built by BT in 2012 was installed to facilitate air strikes in Yemen and Somalia by US air force drones.
The circuit runs from RAF Croughton, a base where US air force personnel run a command, control, communications and computer support hub for global operations organised by the US military to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti where the Pentagon has established an important base for drone operations – “the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East”.
A series of investigations published by Computer Weekly shows that BT’s Camp Lemonnier cable is part of the US military’s Defence Information Systems Network (DISN) on which – according to the US Defence Department, drones rely for global distribution of mission data and for long-range command & control functions.
Reprieve’s charge is that BT’s cable may therefore be supporting round-the-clock drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia operated by the United States air force and the CIA as part of its “targeted killing” programme: adding: “Without a declared war, these drone strikes are used in an opaque and secretive manner without any supervision or accountability, a clear violation of international law.”
This year, in Yemen alone, confirmed drone attacks have killed an estimated 71 people, including a child, according to data gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The bureau believes there have been 60 confirmed drone attacks in Yemen since 2012, with 385 killed, including 47 civilians and five children.