Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Disturbing News on Drones

There are two important stories about attack drones in the two newspapers I read today. One's a major piece, fully reported out, in the New York Times about the very serious legal, ethical and security issues posed by the C.A.A. drone campaign in Pakistan.

The other important drone story is half-baked, in the local paper here in Tucson (Here) -- evidently simply repeating information from Tom Horne, the Arizona state attorney general and a well-known right-wing hack. That story reports the indictments, by Horne's office, of 21 members of the Arizona Air National Guard -- including their commander, a colonel -- on charges that they operated a fraudulent scheme in which the military personnel used phony addresses to receive $1.4 million in "additional benefits" to which they were not entitled. They are said to have falsely claimed living outside the Tucson area while on federal active duty in order to qualify for extra pay.

The mission of the unit, within the 214th Reconnaissance Group: Operating Predator drones from inside the sprawling Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson on combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is, this gang -- the indicted ones include eight officers and 13 enlisted personnel -- was on active combat duty, but more than 8,000 miles away, inside an Air Force base deep in the dusty desert of southern Arizona.

What? You might ask that, as anyone I know who read the story did today. The indictment says that the whole gang of them were operating a criminal scheme, with their commanding officer, while actively engaged in combat duty for United States military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq? Really?

All's I know on this is what I read in the papers, as Will Rogers used to say. But this one is a sleeper, it seems to me -- assuming some smart national reporting ensues.

The commanding officer was the only one named in the indictment: Col. Gregg Davies. The names of the others indicted were not made public.
Attorney General Horne's story is interesting, at least the little of it that we see so far. He says his office got involved in the investigation into the fraud -- which occurred between November 2007 and September 2010, (quoting today's Arizona Daily Star here, my italics): "after the FBI asked him to intervene when the case only involved two guardsmen, and the federal prosecutor's office declined to pursue charges."

Uh-oh. Where have we heard about "shenanigans" (the state AG's office word to describe the current unholy mess) involving the Arizona attorney general, the federal prosecutor's office in Phoenix and a military agency accused of malfeasance? Oh, maybe that politically tangled "gunwalking" mess called Operation Fast and Furious?

I can't imagine how the details will work out, but I sure do have a big hunch that Politics Phoenix Style is driving at least a part of this story, although the other part is obviously almost as complicated. That is, why are state National Guard personnel involved in remote combat drone ops from an Air Force base in Tucson? Maybe I am ill-informed, but I thought that sort of thing was done by actual U.S. military troops. And what the hell was going on in that air National Guard unit -- and at the command of that Air Force base?

Brewer Wags the Finger
More to come, I would hope, on this big mess in the Arizona Air National Guard, nominally under the command of one Jan Brewer, governor.



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