Drone Wars watchdog crowdfunds legal challenge to beat British military secrecy

Drone Wars watchdog crowdfunds legal challenge to beat British military secrecy
Drone Wars UK is crowdfunding a legal attempt to force the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to tell the public where its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are operating.

Although the UK government has disclosed details of conventional bombing and surveillance operations, it has refused to reveal details of drone deployments, the watchdog says.

The British government says releasing such information would prejudice security and capability. This is despite disclosures being commonplace in the past.

As recently as February 23, the MoD appeared to acknowledge it is working its way through a US-style ‘kill list’ of UK citizens who are fighting with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

In a statement at the time, the MoD said: “We and our coalition partners have been clear that if you are fighting for Daesh [Islamic State/IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] in Iraq and Syria then you will be targeted, irrespective of nationality.”

An anonymous defense source told the Daily Mail: “When we know where they are we kill them. Our priority is those plotting against the UK.

In a statement on its crowdfunding page, Drone Wars said: “We will be arguing at the Information Tribunal that it is not in the public interest for there to be no public and parliamentary accountability over the deployment of armed drones.

Armed drones are lowering the threshold for the use of armed force and expanding the use of targeted killing. It’s vital therefore that there is proper scrutiny of their use.

While the group says it can rely on some pro bono legal support, it needs to raise £1,400 (US$1,700) to support the proceedings.

As one of the few countries operating these systems beyond its own borders, the UK should recognize that it has both the responsibility and also the opportunity to set high transparency standards internationally for the use of armed drones,” it said.

The watchdog also warned that “if the UK refuses such basic details as the number of armed drones deployed, other nations acquiring such systems are likely to follow suit.

Drone Wars points out that the UK regularly releases information about Typhoon and Tornado flights into Iraqi and Syrian airspace from Cyprus.

The military also briefs the press on drone operations in Afghanistan and even let hand-picked mainstream journalists tour a drone base in the Persian Gulf in 2016