Together with other arms firms that provide core military components for drones deployed by the US, General Dynamics exhibited its products at NATO’s summit in Wales last week.
Defence companies paid up to £300,000 to exhibit their military wares at the conference in Newport. According to Defense News the decision to charge industry so much at the Celtic Manor golf resort hosting the summit angered some executives, although others said the level of political and military access available may justify the high price tag.
According to a British government press release, among the firms present were General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and MBDA:
- General Dynamics manufacture Hellfire missiles – seen below – utilized in most US drone strikes
- Raytheon make the targeting system for the Reaper drone deployed by the CIA and other actors to conduct strikes across the globe.
- Lockheed Martin operates as a contractor to provide select support services for both the Reaper and Predator, and
- MBDA is a European company that manufactures the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Brimstone – a variant of the Hellfire missile.
Strikes carried out by Predators and Reapers flown by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have proved controversial as they have been carried out in countries with which or in which the US is not at war – such as Yemen and Pakistan. As a result, they are said to be in violation of both international and domestic law.
The attack by the United States took place close to the border with Pakistan on Sunday. Afghan officials identified the dead as Pakistani nationals. Other reports put the death toll at seven. Washington claims the targets of the drone attacks are al-Qaeda militants.
Local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of the attacks over the past few years.
The first systematic study of the US government’s covert drone program and its impact on civilian populations was carried out in 2012. Claims of precision and the low number of civilian casualties while not disproven, deflect key questions about civilian harm in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia and the flood of video data is hard to corroborate, making it difficult to ascertain who was actually killed or injured.
Signature strikes—strikes that target individuals based on patterns of behavior identified by US intelligence—are particularly risky for civilians. According to The Civilian Impact of Drones, without an understanding of the local context, power dynamics, and cultural practices, drone operators may interpret routine behavior as suspicious, and mistakenly target civilians.
The CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have taken a lead role in these campaigns that, due to government secrecy, the public knows little about. Neither organization has ever described the rules and mechanisms it employs to protect civilians, track deaths or investigate reports of civilian harm. Even high-level policymakers do not always know which organization is responsible for a strike, or which to hold accountable for civilian harm. Civilians have no one to turn to if their loved ones are harmed or if their homes are destroyed.
The report recommends that the White House establish an interagency task force to evaluate the impact of drone strikes, and calls on the CIA and Department of Defense to disclose their policies on civilian protection and response to civilian harm. Congress should review these agencies’ policies and procedures and intensely scrutinize claims by the CIA and JSOC that strikes have a limited impact on civilian populations, in light of credible reports to the contrary.
Download this report (PDF) Download the summary & Recommendations (PDF)