Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 06, 2013

Brennan's Saudi Drone Base: Censorship, Assassinations, More Terrorists

The administration's counterterrorism policies are leading to media censorship, refutation of basic rights and to more terrorism. The man responsible for these consequences should not become head of the CIA.

Today the Washington Post's homepage tries to sell this item as news:

The piece says:

President Obama’s plan to install his counterterrorism adviser as director of the CIA has opened the administration to new scrutiny over the targeted-killing policies it has fought to keep hidden from the public, as well as the existence of a previously secret drone base in Saudi Arabia.

... a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.

Moon of Alabama, unlike the self censoring Washington Post and other media, reveled that such a base is in Saudi Arabia in June 2011. Referring to a NYT piece we wrote:

Then this:

The Central Intelligence Agency is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones, an American official said Tuesday.
The only plausible place for a base to strike in Yemen is Saudi Arabia. Sharurah would be a likely candidate.
Next to Yemen itself Saudi Arabia is the only country within reasonable flying distance to cover Yemen with drones. The Predator drones the U.S. uses have a combat radius of some 500+ miles. Flown from Sharurah, which already had a decent airport as is needed for the logistics, they can cover all of Yemen. If we could come to that conclusion others can certainly too. The censoring of that fact in U.S. media may hide it from the U.S. public but those who might think of attacking such a base will know where it is.

It is interesting to note that the most recent satellite pictures available via Google Map/Earth and Bing of Sharurah, Saudia-Arabia, are still from 2009, while those in other areas, for example nearby Seijun, Yemen, have been updated in 2010 and 2011 (twice). Are updates of sat pictures of Sharurah also censored?

In July 2011 a London Times piece confirmed our claim of a Saudi base:

The CIA has set up a network of secret drone bases in Arab states in a major intensification of its campaign against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.

Sources in the Gulf say that the agency is now massed along Yemen’s borders, launching daily missions with unmanned Predator aircraft from bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.

In September 2011 a Fox news report also confirmed our take that the base is in Saudi Arabia. But shortly after it came out that first report in U.S. media was censored and rewritten. Searching the web for "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Saudi points to the original report on Fox news but also to copies of it on other sides. But the original report on (though not its URL which still includes "Saudi") has since been changed as can be seen when comparing it to the first version still available, for example, at

The original headline "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Saudi" has been changed to "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula" and while the original version included this:

In addition to Seychelles and Ethiopia, the senior U.S. military official said the United States got permission to fly armed drones from Djibouti, and confirmed the construction of a new airstrip in Saudi Arabia.

"Operations in Saudi are (the) only new expansion to this plan. The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP," the official said, describing the process as a "long-term deliberate effort where we used what we could (until) we got the locations we wanted."

The censored version reads:
As part of the expanded program, the senior U.S. military official said the United States got permission to fly armed drones from Djibouti, and confirmed the construction of a new airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula.

The official said that was the "only new expansion to this plan.

"The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP," the official said, describing the process as a "long-term deliberate effort where we used what we could (until) we got the locations we wanted."

While Fox news confirmed our take on the location of the base, its report was later censored to hide the fact that it is in Saudi Arabia. Thus is the Orwellian censorship power of the U.S. government.

But that power goes even further. Lets return to the WaPo piece at the top. Referring to that lousy legal opinion that tries to justify killing people without due process WaPo writes:

The white paper, which was first reported by NBC News, concludes that the United States can lawfully kill one of its own citizens overseas if it determines that the person is a “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates and poses an imminent threat.
Within hours after Awlaki’s death in September 2011, White House officials described the U.S.-born cleric as “chief of external operations” for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, a designation they had not used publicly before the strike.
So it was only after some government lawyer opined that the president can kill Americans who are “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda and after Awlaki was killed that he was designated as such. Note that there is zero proof in the public that Awlaki was anything but an outspoken cleric who used his first amendment rights. And if Awlaki was not seen as “senior, operational leader” before September 2011 what was the justification for the failed attempt to kill him on May 5 2011?

It seems that the now emphasized “senior, operational leader” criteria in that White Paper is just obfuscation. Glenn Greenwald points out that there is no real limitation in what that "memo" defines:

The purported limitations on this power set forth in this memo, aside from being incredibly vague, can be easily discarded once the central theory of presidential power is embraced.
[Law professor Kevin John] Heller points out what I noted above: once you accept the memo's reasoning [...] then there is no way coherent way to limit this power to places where capture is infeasible or to persons posing an "imminent" threat. The legal framework adopted by the memo means the president can kill anyone he claims is a member of al-Qaida regardless of where they are found or what they are doing.
So here is what we have. Censored or self-censoring media complying to administration requests to hide its operations, sheer limitless legal opinions not even fit for a kangaroo court that allow the president to do whatever he wants, new U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia even as the original reason (see 1990) for Bin Laden's jihad against the U.S. was the very existence of such U.S. military presence in that country.

Meanwhile the policies behind all this are, predictably, only creating more terrorists. As we asserted when writing about that base in Saudi Arabia:

There may be some troublesome folks living in Yemen but they do not seem to be many and are obviously incompetent and amateurish. Attacking those few while making sure that innocents will be killed will not create a more peaceful world. It will certainly incite more terrorism.
Eighteen month later Yemen scholar Gregory Johnson confirmed that prediction:
Testimonies from Qaeda fighters and interviews I and local journalists have conducted across Yemen attest to the centrality of civilian casualties in explaining Al Qaeda’s rapid growth there. The United States is killing women, children and members of key tribes. “Each time they kill a tribesman, they create more fighters for Al Qaeda,” one Yemeni explained to me over tea in Sana, the capital, last month. Another told CNN, after a failed strike, “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined Al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake.”
The drone campaign in Yemen, the growing "al-Qaeda" base there, the media censoring and those false law opinions are the outgrowth of simple minded policies of John Brennan, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser. That man is now supposed to become chief of the CIA. I agree with Gregory Johnson that Brennan is indeed the wrong man for that position.

Posted by b on February 6, 2013 at 11:11 UTC | Permalink

Are updates of sat pictures of Sharurah also censored?
Eric Schmidt is the chairman of the New America Foundation, a quasi-private apologist for US drone murders, google is very tight with the NSA, I'm sure they censor googlemaps to help the US Wehrmacht.
Meanwhile the policies behind all this are, predictably, only creating more terrorists.
These are smart people in Washington and they know very well they are creating terrorists. If you're going to have permanent war you need permanent enemies.

The nihilists in America will kindle a 'real' world war quite shortly if they are not opposed. The Brits and the French seem to have bought into the all-war all-the-time regime, actually gearing up for recolonizing Africa! The Israeli-American plan for the Middle East seems to be to install chaos and to leave no government standing.

The American government is in criminal hands, and it is going to be the 1930s redux if people everywhere do not put an end to it.

Forget our governments, They are all in mindless corporate hands.

Posted by: john francis lee | Feb 6 2013 11:58 utc | 1

They are cooking the Muslims, for the feast of petroleum ... long war, long attrition ... a world dictatorship of the corporations!

Posted by: Perreitbay | Feb 6 2013 13:27 utc | 2

So much truth in the first two posts, or are we all just paranoid?

To answer my own question, I don't believe so. The groundwork is being laid for perpetual war, all in the name of opposing terrorism. I will continue to believe, until facts say otherwise, that corporate resource hegemony is the ultimate goal.

Posted by: ben | Feb 6 2013 16:28 utc | 3

Thanks "b". Great post!

"These are smart people in Washington and they know very well they are creating terrorists."

Eric Schmidt is one of those, both smart and knowing very well that more terrorists are being created tan destroyed.

The New American Foundation conference on "Cutting the Fuse
Beyond the War on Terrorism"
, Oct. 12, 2010

Robert Pape’s presentation addressed a fundamental failure of the War on Terror – we are producing more terrorists than we are killing.

Thanks john francis lee. Shared your blog entry.

"If you're going to have permanent war you need permanent enemies." I got into the NAF through Joshua Marshall suggesting Steve Clemons start his own blog. Why I liked Joshua Marshall is indicative of his April, 2003 post:

Practice to Deceive

Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan.

And, yes ben. It is not paranoia. It is important to understand how perpetual little wars become a BIG WAR. It is done incrementally, by pushing the envelope of what one is able to obtain by force, by manipulation, by stifling dissent. That was ALWAYS the intent of the atomic bomb , and when the Jewish Europeans that drove its production realized that, they tried to stop its use but it was too late.

There are MANY trying to tell the story, but the dollars available to silence that have so far been successful. Peter Kucknick and Oliver Stone are the latest to try to tell other side" of the Atomic Bomb and how it created the imperialistic secret police state in the US. As a son (born in Darmstadt before the air raid) of a Paperclip scientist, who was involved in both German intelligence and the development of the V2, and later did similar work for the US including nuclear weapons effectiveness and the start of GPS, I have a view to both "how Hitler did it" and it is being done in the US.

The MLK quote shared by Robin is right on target. He prevented the Vietnam War from becoming that big war. can we do the same with preventing the GWOT from becoming the next big one?

Posted by: erichwwk | Feb 6 2013 17:00 utc | 4

The wrong man? Au contraire, he's just what Dr Mengele ordered. For years the US has been on the Yemen problem wrt to their protected oil caliphate neighbor. More terrorists = more "proof" for the problem solvers.

Posted by: L Bean | Feb 6 2013 17:57 utc | 5

Israel-America has several countries still to take over along with quite a bit of territory. Those extra terrorists they are creating will come in handy. What they did to Libya and are doing in Syria is likely the way they will try and take over the rest of Central Asia.

Posted by: вот так | Feb 6 2013 18:44 utc | 6

The fix ix in

Feinstein Won’t Allow Anyone to Testify Against Brennan on Targeted Killings

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will not allow anyone to testify against John Brennan’s nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Brennan will be the only witness at tomorrow’s hearing.

Posted by: john francis lee | Feb 6 2013 21:02 utc | 7

From Silber's latest (Toward the World of Nightmare (I))...

Barring entirely unexpected developments, [John] Brennan will certainly be confirmed. And that is precisely how Brennan's confirmation will be viewed in the future: as Congressional approval of the Murder Program. That, I submit, is the prize the Obama administration was after. Appreciate how easily the administration will have achieved its goal: move Petraeus out, move Brennan in -- Brennan, who withdrew his name from consideration as C.I.A. Director four years ago because of "concerns" about his involvement in torture, and who today represents a program of unrestricted, worldwide murder. And the Senate will now confirm his appointment. Once Brennan is confirmed, the Obama administration is home free: it can expand the program as it wishes and employ it on a constantly increasing scale, eventually including assassinations within the United States. Whenever people object, the administration can trumpet: "But Congress has approved all of this!" And they will be telling the truth.

Posted by: Frank | Feb 7 2013 4:01 utc | 8

Congrats to Shachtman at Dangerroom who seems to have found the real base. I was wrong, but not totally.

Is This the Secret U.S. Drone Base in Saudi Arabia?

The image of the airfield, available in Bing Maps, would be almost impossible to discover randomly. At moderate resolutions, satellite images of the area show nothing but sand dunes. Only on close inspection does the base reveal itself. In Google’s catalog of satellite pictures, the base doesn’t appear at all.

The images show a trio of “clamshell”-style hangars, surrounded by fencing. Each is more than 150 feet long and approximately 75 feet wide; that’s sufficient to hold U.S. Predator and Reaper drones.
The former officer was also impressed by the base’s remote location.”It’s way, way out in the Rub al Khali, otherwise known as Hell, and must have been built, at least initially, with stuff flown into Sharorah and then trucked more than 400 kilometers up the existing highway and newly-built road,” the ex-officer adds in an e-mail. “It’s a really major logistics feat. The way it fits inconspicuously into the terrain is also admirable.”

So Sharorah, which I suspected, played a role here as the logistic center but the drones are on a new airfield hidden by Google and (mostly) also by Bing.

Posted by: b | Feb 8 2013 6:48 utc | 9

Is the base under construction? Access to the hangers looks blocked by small structures or piles of material. There also appears to be a fence around that area. At max resolution, one can see what looks like circular vehicle tracks, like a vehicle turned around there, between the airstrip and the area where the hangers are. The airstrip itself is mostly covered with what looks small squares which may be piles of construction materials? There is no sign of any sort of garrison for military personnel, they would need some sort of guarding unit, and there is no sign of onsite base supporting structure. Is there a way to know when the original photo was taken, because the way that base looks in the photo, it looks like it would need some work to become operational still.

Posted by: вот так | Feb 8 2013 7:52 utc | 10

No reason to feel paranoid: Early in the Bush years Cheney himself announced the US was embarking on a new era of perpetual war, and all but proclaimed why. Well, like many things said in those early years
of the new century (remember creative chaos?), it was too blunt and was allowed to be forgotten. But US policy continues to unfold now as laid out then.


Posted by: Gaianne | Feb 8 2013 8:17 utc | 11

Israeli at it again?

12 Israeli warplanes violate Lebanon airspace, army says

Posted by: вот так | Feb 8 2013 11:35 utc | 12

Win for democracy.

Seattle mayor grounds police drone program

"A plan by Seattle police to send aloft miniature robot drones equipped with stealth spy cameras has been grounded, following heated criticism of the project by residents concerned about privacy rights, the mayor said on Thursday."

Posted by: вот так | Feb 8 2013 12:25 utc | 13

Israel-America may be behind the recent death of a Paraguayan political leader.

CIA Orchestrates Pre-Election Campaign in Paraguay

"The marked increase in numbers at the US embassy in Asunción over the past year is being necessitated by the need to maintain control over the Paraguayan government. The pre-election campaign is in full swing and in order to «manage it by hand», the intelligence apparatus operating under the roof of the US embassy need staff reinforcements. Political forces potentially hostile to the interests of the United States must not be allowed to come to power. Federico Franco, the acting president of Paraguay who, in June 2012, ensured the CIA-scripted «constitutional removal» of the legally elected president, Fernando Lugo, has fulfilled his mission. His successor needs to be just as reliable and just as manageable.

Speaking of his chances of victory, Oviedo continuously said that he would become president as long as he was not killed by the «Mafia». In fact, Oviedo had hinted at the Mafia origins of Horatio Cartes' multi-millions that had enabled him to «hire» the Colorado Party in order to realise his presidential ambitions. Oviedo talked about this in his final interview, which he gave to the Guyra Campana radio station just a few hours before his death. What is interesting is that Cartes' «mafiosity» has not raised any doubts in the American intelligence agency. There has been quite a lot of information in WikiLeaks documents about Cartes' illegal operations laundering drug money, financing drug shipments to America, Brazil and Argentina, as well as contraband alcohol and tobacco products. During a regional meeting between representatives of the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), specific details were discussed regarding a complex operation to obtain incriminating information on Cartes. That this information was obtained is beyond doubt. American intelligence agencies run the show on the continent just as they do at home. But how exactly was this incriminating evidence used? If we are to believe statements made by the millionaire, he has never had a problem visiting America either on business matters or for a holiday. So a «compromise agreement» has definitely been reached, and it is not difficult to guess at its content. Despite all of his millions, Cartes is dangling on a fishhook..."

Posted by: вот так | Feb 10 2013 19:58 utc | 14

Blown away. Never thought I'd hear SNL ridicule Israel support, but I have not watched the show in over a decade either:

Dress Rehearsal: C-Span Chuck Hagel Hearings

Posted by: вот так | Feb 11 2013 4:41 utc | 15

I should have read further:

"This Saturday Night Live skit was ultimately cut and did not air (for some reason…)."

Posted by: вот так | Feb 11 2013 4:46 utc | 16

Pentagon creates special medal for drone pilots

As part of the description of the medal:

"Craven cowardice in the line of duty."

Posted by: вот так | Feb 13 2013 21:27 utc | 17

Senators delay Brennan CIA vote over drone memos

"Sen. Rand Paul plans to block John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA until he more fully lays out his views about the executive branch’s authority over its drones policy.

Paul said he would place a hold on the nomination until Brennan declares whether he believes the United States has the authority to use unmanned drones to conduct targeting killings of Americans - in the United States.

If Brennan and the White House refuse to provide the information, Paul said that he would object to efforts to schedule a vote, a move that would require Democrats to find 60 votes to advance the nomination.

“I’m going to object in any way we can until we find out whether or not the head of the CIA claims the authority to kill Americans without a trail with a drone in America,” Paul, the libertarian-minded conservative, told POLITICO. “You would think the notion of that is so bizarre and absurd that he would immediately say no...”

One would think so...

Posted by: вот так | Feb 14 2013 7:46 utc | 18

>> Censored or self-censoring media complying to administration requests to hide its operations,

>> the original reason (see 1990) for Bin Laden's jihad against the U.S. was the very existence of such U.S. military presence in that country.

Even if these statements are true, the latter statement would explain why basing drones in Saudi Arabia should remain a secret. Because, as y'all know, if the American government keeps something a secret from the American public, it'll stay a secret from the Muslim public.

Posted by: obama ftw! | Feb 23 2013 16:13 utc | 19

@18, Parliamentarians out-harrumphing each other. Whatever they rail against while in the "opposition" they'll accept when they become "government".

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 23 2013 18:15 utc | 20

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