Record number of unmanned drone attacks launched in September

The New York Times reported yesterday that the CIA launched a record number of attacks in a single month using unmanned aerial vehicles in the mountains of Pakistan during September.

The unmanned drones, as they're known, are operated remotely from the U.S. and are used to target specific people or groups. This month the CIA has launched 20 attacks on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the most since January when the agency launched 11.

The news comes just a week and a half after 14 activists -- many of them Catholic -- went to trial for an action they committed in April 2009 to protest the use of the drones abroad.

The activists, who walked onto Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas, Nev. and held a prayer vigil on Holy Thursday, claimed in a court memorandum that the attacks are akin to "extrajudical killings" and disproportionately kill civilians.

Surprising prosecutors, Clark County, Nev. Judge William Jansen delayed a verdict in the case for four months so he could study the issues at hand.

A few points from the Times report:

  • The recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled to escape the drone campaign.

  • The spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year. The vast majority of the attacks have taken place in one region of Pakistan, North Waziristan.

  • In 2009 and 2010 the CIA has launched nearly four times as many drone attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.

Related coverage from NCR on unmanned military drones:

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