Ex-CIA counter-terror chief warns against drone strikes in Yemen

May 11, 2012

Image of a drone flying

The former head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre has warned against turning Yemen into “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan” with drone strikes.

His comments, which reference the north western part of Pakistan where the bulk of the strikes take place, closely follow the resignation of the US Ambassador in Islamabad – who was known to have clashed previously with the CIA over its remote-control killing programme.

In a comment piece for Al Jazeera, Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, asks: “how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them [?]”

He warns that, by replicating in Yemen the drone policy pursued in North West Pakistan, the US risks turning an “obscure and relatively limited and containable threat into the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”

The comments come soon after the resignation of Ambassador Cameron Munter from his Pakistan post. Mr Munter’s tensions with the CIA over the drone programme had been widely reported.

Commenting, Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “When even a former CIA counter-terror chief says drone policy in Yemen is a bad idea, shouldn’t we take heed? Mr Grenier’s comments lift the lid on the damage drones have done in Pakistan and the growing threat they pose to Yemen. Coming hot on the heels of the resignation of the Ambassador to Pakistan, who clashed with the drone cheerleaders in the CIA, this shows it is time for President Obama to abandon this senseless and counter-productive policy.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Robert Grenier’s article can be found here: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/201251071458557719.html

3. Cameron Munter’s questioning of the CIA drone programme in Pakistan was reported on a number of occasions, for example in the following article: ‘Timing of US drone strike questioned by Munter,” The Associated Press, 2 August 2011 http://dawn.com/2011/08/02/timing-of-us-drone-strike-questioned-by-munter/

4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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