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Germany the key ground for the US to conduct drone wars

Α joint investigation by the Intercept with the German news magazine Der Spiegel

A TOP-SECRET U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.”

... the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa. The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate.”

The U.S. government maintains that its drone strikes against al Qaeda and its 'associated forces' are legal, even outside of declared war zones. But German legal officials have suggested that such operations are only justifiable in actual war zones. Moreover, Germany has the right to prosecute 'criminal offenses against international law … even when the offense was committed abroad and bears no relation to Germany,' [...] This means that American personnel stationed at Ramstein could, in theory, be vulnerable to German prosecution if they provide drone pilots with data used in attacks.”

While the German government has been reluctant to pursue such prosecutions, it may come under increasing pressure to do so. 'It is simply murder,' says Björn Schiffbauer of the Institute for International Law at the University of Cologne. Legal experts interviewed by Der Spiegel claimed that U.S. personnel could be charged as war criminals by German prosecutors.”

The classified slide deck maps out an intricate spider web of facilities across the U.S. and the globe: from drone command centers on desert military bases in the U.S. to Ramstein to outposts in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Qatar and Bahrain and back to NSA facilities in Washington and Georgia. What is clear is that most paths within America’s drone maze run through Ramstein.”

Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is central to multiple prongs of the U.S. drone war. Personnel stationed at the facility are responsible for drone operations in Afghanistan — which has been on the receiving end of more drone strikes than any country in the world — and Pakistan, where the CIA has conducted a covert air war for the last decade. The agency’s campaign has killed thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians. Some drone missions are operated from other locations, such as Fort Gordon in Georgia and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico.”

Internal German government communications provided to The Intercept by Der Spiegel show how some German officials tried and failed to get the government to confront the U.S. about what connection facilities in Germany had to drone strikes. According to a June 2013 document, a senior Foreign Office official, Emily Haber, advocated demanding a clear answer from Washington about the role U.S. facilities in Germany played in drone strikes.”

While most, if not all, of the official statements by both governments may be technically true, it is also true that without the base, it would be very difficult for the United States to sustain the current drone war. The slide deck contains an array of arrows showing the complex system used to operate drones across the world. In the end, all arrows point to Ramstein.”

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS in Germany, as well as opposition politicians, have long suspected that Ramstein has played a direct role in the U.S. drone war. They have called on the German government to stop allowing the armed U.S. drone program to operate from German soil.”

A new report from The Open Society Foundations, published this month, studied nine U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and found that 26 civilians were killed, including several children and a pregnant woman.”

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