FROM Craig Whitlock
Is a New Kind of Airborne Accident Just Waiting to Happen? Drone technology has many applications and it's creating an industry that's here to stay, but there are downsides. So far, no commercial airliner has been struck by an unmanned drone, but 650 pilots have reported drones near their flight paths — just this year. In the West, drones have interfered with aerial firefighting, and they've injured people on the streets of Seattle, Albuquerque, Tucson and Tampa. The FAA has only started to regulate commercial drones, and there are almost no rules for hobby drones, which are cheap to buy and easy to fly. Now, some states may be stepping in where Congress has failed to take action. Here at KCRW in Santa Monica, we've been experimenting with DJI Phantom 2. You can check out our reporting on commercial drones, including their use for news coverage, at KCRW.com/drones .
Has Obama's War on Terror Lost a Key Ally? Since the attempted underwear bombing of 2009, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has not been accused of trying to attack the United States. But its operatives in Yemen have increased from hundreds to thousands — and they claim responsibility for the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. Yesterday, the US conducted its first drone attack of the year against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Are President Obama's drone strikes keeping America safe? He admits his strategy is "not neat and not simple," but he calls it "the best option we have." After last week's collapse of a sympathetic Yemini government, is that still true?
Drone Accidents Underscore Problems with Domestic Use By most accounts, the U.S. airspace is safer than ever; fatal crashes involving passenger jets are exceedingly rare, and the Pentagon reports that the accident rate for drones is on the decline. But as the military and the federal government gear up for a planned expansion of drones in domestic airspace, crashes are mounting. Hundreds of U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, 49 of them have fallen out of American skies. And that’s according to a year-long investigation by the Washington Post. The investigation’s lead author, Craig Whitlock, joins us. He covers the Pentagon and National Security for the Post.
Human Rights Groups Report on Civilian Casualties in U.S. Drone Strikes The Obama Administration says civilian deaths from America’s drone strikes have been rare. But two human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch , say they have documented dozens of casualties in Pakistan and Yemen. Craig Whitlock is a Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post .
Is the Pentagon Losing the War against Sex Crimes? At the White House last week, the Commander in Chief expressed support for soldiers who have been sexually assaulted. But there's evidence that such assaults are increasing and that victims have lost confidence in military justice, partly because of the chain of command. High-profile cases of commanders overturning court-martial convictions have members of Congress calling for change, but the Pentagon is concerned about a system of discipline based on the requirements of combat. We hear from a former Marine officer who was raped, a congresswoman who's calling for action and from skeptics who warn against moving too fast.
US Says Chemical Weapons Used in Syria In a letter to Congress, the Obama White House says it has " varying degrees of confidence " that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. That word first came from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Abu Dhabi after a five-nation tour of the Middle East. Craig Whitlock, Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post , has been traveling with Hagel.
US Troops Pose with Afghan Corpses Today's Los Angeles Times made news world wide by publishing photographs of American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghans who apparently blew themselves up trying to manufacture explosives. The front page shows a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division with what appears to be the hand of a dead bomb-maker on his shoulder. Is such behavior understandable? Is it forgivable?
US Troops Pose with Afghan Corpses Today's Los Angeles Times published photographs of American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghans who apparently blew themselves up trying to manufacture explosives. The front page shows a soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division with what appears to be the hand of a dead bomb-maker on his shoulder. The Times says it decided on publication even though the Pentagon asked that they be withheld. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says an investigation into soldiers' conduct will be conducted.
Afghan Hostility to US Presence Endangers Mission Green berets reportedly are talking to Afghan villagers after the alleged killings of at least 16 people, including nine children, by an American soldier. The Taliban has threatened reprisals, and tensions are very high, with President Karzai calling the incident "unforgiveable." In the US, a recent poll shows 60 percent find the war no longer worth fighting, but political leaders are divided. We hear from Kabul and Washington. Can trust be restored? Is the withdrawal strategy likely to change?
Pentagon Plans for Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be a thing of the past when President Obama signs the repeal passed by the lame-duck Congress. But it's not clear how long it will take to integrate openly gay and lesbian soldiers into the military. The Pentagon has been briefing reporters on implementation of the s;lakfj;ajkf ;of DADT, drawing on the conclusions of a study on what kinds of scenarios might emerge. Craig Whitlock reports for the Washington Post .
Afghan Officials Talking Peace with the Taliban Afghanistan's Karzai government is denying reports that it's conducting secret negotiations with the Taliban to end ten years of warfare. But the Washington Post quotes one sources saying the Taliban are "very, very serious about finding a way out." Craig Whitlock co-wrote the story.
Another Long, Hard Slog, This Time in Afghanistan Britain's new Prime Minister, David Cameron, made a surprise visit to Kabul, Afghanistan today, calling this "a vital year" for the campaign against the Taliban. Meantime in Brussels, the US Commander, General Stanley McChrystal, said the effort to secure Kandahar is taking longer than had been expected. Craig Whitlock was there for the Washington Post .
G8 Climate Deal; Putin Proposes Alternate Missile-Shield Site At the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, there were some surprising breakthroughs today. Leaders announced they have reached an agreement on goals for cutting carbon emissions, and Russia's President Valdimir Putin has offered what could be a way out of his stand-off with George Bush about a missile defense shield. Craig Whitlock, who is covering the summit for the Washington Post , has the details.
Protesters Outflank Police as G8 Summit Gets Underway In northern Germany today, G8 leaders gathered for informal talks and a pre-summit dinner, while some ten thousand protesters tried to block roads and railroad lines to the Baltic resort where the G8 Summit starts tomorrow. With disagreements about global warning and regional security, the meeting is expected to be a difficult one. Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post is in Heiligendamm covering the summit.
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?