US drones target low-level militants who pose no threat
Top secret documents show that half of those killed in a year were 'unknown extremists'
by Terri Judd
The US government was accused of hiding the truth about its drone programme after leaked intelligence files revealed that it was targeting unidentified militants who posed no immediate threat to the United States.
Despite President Barack Obama's public promise that the CIA's armed Predators and Reapers were only firing on those suspected of plotting against America, top-secret documents show that in one year alone almost half of those killed were simply listed as “unknown extremists”.
The documents, obtained by US news agency McClatchy, also reveal Pakistan's intelligence agency was co-operating with the US at the same time as its government was condemning drone strikes on its soil.
“There is now mounting evidence that the Obama administration is misleading the American public – and the world at large – about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan,” said Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer working with the British human rights charity Reprieve.
“The reports show a significant number of the strikes have nothing to do with al-Qa'ida. Instead, they may have been a quid pro quo exchange between two countries' spy agencies. The result is that the US often doesn't know who it is killing.”
The US has come under increasing international pressure to open up its decision-making process to scrutiny following claims that the drone programme has killed hundreds of civilians among an estimated death toll of 2,500, predominantly in Pakistan and Yemen. Preparations are in place to transfer more control of the programme from the CIA to the Pentagon, in a move said to herald greater transparency.
The US intelligence reports leaked to McClatchy covered, its reporters said, most of the drone strikes in Pakistan during 2006 to 2008 as well as 2010 to 2011. Most of the attacks targeted al-Qa'ida but many were aimed at the Haqqani network and factions of the Pakistani Taliban.
At least 265 of the 482 people killed by the CIA programme in the 12 months up to September 2011 were listed as Afghan, Pakistani or “unknown extremists”.
This contrasts sharply with US administration's claim that drones are only used to target “senior operational leaders” in al-Qa'ida, those involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks or individuals plotting imminent attacks on the US.
Last night a spokesman for the US Department of Defence said neither they nor the CIA commented on intelligence matters.
Even in pro-gun states, bid to arm teachers stalls
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — When a gunman killed 26 children and staff at a Connecticut grade school, Missouri state Rep. Mike Kelley quickly proposed legislation that would allow trained teachers to carry hidden guns into the classroom as a "line of defense" against attackers.
Similar bills soon proliferated in Republican-led states as the National Rifle Association called for armed officers in every American school.
Yet less than four months later, the quest to put guns in schools has stalled in many traditionally gun-friendly states after encountering opposition from educators, reluctance from some governors and ambivalence from legislative leaders more focused on economic initiatives.
The loss of momentum highlights how difficult it can be to advance any gun legislation, whether to adopt greater restrictions or expand the rights to carry weapons.
Since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., legislators in at least four states — Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and New York — have passed significant gun-control measures. The Newtown attack came less than five months after a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 at a Colorado movie theater.
So far, South Dakota is the only state to respond with a new law allowing school personnel to carry guns into elementary and high schools. Similar legislation is awaiting the governor's signature in Kansas. And Arkansas has enacted a new law allowing colleges to let staff with concealed gun permits bring their weapons on campus.
But Kelley has shelved legislation that would have let Missouri school staff carry firearms if they have concealed gun permits. His legislation never received a public hearing even though he is a House majority whip responsible for rallying Republican support for bills.
Kelley, an NRA member, tried to cast the bill's demise in a positive light.
"It's done the No. 1 thing that I wanted, and that's to bring awareness to schools about some of their safety issues," he said.
House Speaker Tim Jones vowed this past week that Missouri's Republican supermajorities would still pass some sort of pro-gun measure this year. But it's unlikely to involve arming teachers.
In Oklahoma, where pro-firearms measures usually get a warm reception from lawmakers, gun-rights advocates faced an uphill battle against educators opposed to any effort to allow guns in schools. A bill letting schools develop policies for arming trained employees died in the Senate Education Committee.
"As a rule, it's very difficult to find educators and administrators that support the idea of putting arms in the schools, for whatever reason," said Rep. Steve Martin, chairman of the Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee.
After opposition from education groups, the North Dakota Senate defeated a bill last month that would have let people with permits bring their weapons into schools. And the New Hampshire House rejected legislation that would have let local school districts seek voter approval for their personnel to carry guns.
"The chances an armed teacher will hit a child are high," Dean Michener, of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, told lawmakers earlier this year.
When NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for armed school officers, he warned that gun-free schools "tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk." His message carried extra heft, because many lawmakers in the more than two dozen Republican-controlled states are NRA members. The NRA did not respond to request for comment about the state response to its proposal.
In some states, Republican governors have put the damper on legislative efforts to place guns in schools.
Just days after the Newtown shooting, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation letting concealed weapon permit holders — including teachers — carry guns in schools, because there was no provision for local school districts to opt out.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence raised concerns this past week about a bill requiring an armed "school protection officer" onsite during school hours.
"Decisions that are nearest and dearest to our hearts ought to be made by parents and local school officials," Pence told reporters.
Some states such Texas and Utah already allow teachers and administrators to bring guns to school, though the practice is not common. Just three Texas school boards have granted permission for concealed guns, said state Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who is sponsoring legislation to train armed teachers for classroom gunfights.
In Minnesota, where the gun debate is on hold at the Capitol, the small town of Jordan recently decided to place satellite police offices in its public schools. The intent was that the mere presence of police would deter any would-be attackers.
Some ardent guns-rights supporters remain hopeful that stalled legislation still can pass this year.
Texas Rep. Dan Flynn, a Republican co-author of a bill allowing guns on college campuses, said opposition from public universities and big cities has so far kept the measure from coming to a vote. But the Legislature doesn't adjourn until Memorial Day.
"This is still Texas," Flynn said. "And in Texas, the Second Amendment is right up there with mother, God and apple pie."
Community policing effort aims to prevent crimes near KU Med
by Sandra Olivas
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - Officers in KCK are teaming up with residents to crack down on crime.
The KCK Police Department is hosting meet-and-greet events across the city to talk with residents about issues.
Community police officers went door to door on Wednesday warning residents about a spike in car thefts and break ins. Officers handed out fliers giving residents tips for how to avoid becoming a victim of the crimes.
The area targeted by Officer Steve Kopps and others was near 45th and Francis streets. This area is near the University of Kansas Hospital.
KCK resident Keith Brown said his wife's vehicle was broken into. The thief took a jar of change.
Clare Shaw said it's important for residents to alert each other.
"If anyone sees anything suspicious, we can let each other know," Shaw said. "We can let our community police officer know, and he can communicate with us what to be aware of or look out for."
Master Sgt. Darryl Moore said residents are an invaluable tool for preventing crime and educating about trends and problems.
"It's very important that they are kept in the loop," he said. "they can help a lot in getting the word out."
A meet-and-greet event will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Argentine Community Center, 2810 Metropolitan Ave.