By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News: At his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, defended Obama’s policy of targeted killings of terrorists, saying that some Americans had a misimpression that “we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such action as a last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative” to avert a threat to the nation.
Alluding to some raucous protesters who had interrupted and delayed the hearing earlier, Brennan said, “They really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government, and the care that we take, and the agony that we go through” to ensure that innocent bystanders or civilians aren’t hit in targeted killings. “People are reacting to a lot of falsehoods that are out there.” Read the full story.
Bebeto Matthews / AP
People pass below a New York Police security camera, upper left, situated above a mosque on Fulton St., in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York on Aug. 18. After the attacks of Sept. 11, the New York Police Department has dispatched teams of undercover officers into minority neighborhoods and used informants to monitor sermons at mosques, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing.
In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.
The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers. Continue reading.
GRAPHIC WARNING:This post contains graphic images which some viewers may find disturbing.
At the Beaconsfield Gallery in London last Friday, I sat in a darkened room and watched as dozens of images of death and destruction lit up the wall in front of me. Gruesome photos of mangled bodies and destroyed buildings, each accompanied by the name of a village and a date. The war they depict does not officially exist.
The photographs were taken by Noor Behram, a journalist from the North Waziristan region of Pakistan, and they document what he says are the civilian victims of unmanned aircraft 'drone' attacks carried out by U.S. forces.
Noor Behram via AP
In this Aug. 23, 2010 photo provided by Noor Behram, a man holds debris from a missile strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan. The Beaconsfield gallery in London is staging an exhibit of photographs taken by Behram allegedly showing innocent civilians killed by U.S. drone missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal region.
Over a three year period Behram was able to travel to around 60 attack sites in Waziristan, a region that is usually off-limits to the international media. His images, fuzzy, washed-out and often poorly composed, are an incongruous sight in an art gallery, but these are photographs taken as a form of documentation, rather than for their aesthetic value.
In this, Behram follows a path set out by the renowned French photographer Gilles Peress, who declared in a 1997 interview that "I don't care so much anymore about 'good photography'; I am gathering evidence for history." Peress' project A Village Destroyed, which documented a 1999 massacre in Kosovo, illustrated the important role that photography can play in human rights investigations.
Noor Behram via AP
The body of an eight-year-old boy killed by a missile strike in Makeen, South Waziristan, Pakistan, in a photo taken on Feb. 14, 2009.
Behram explained his own motivation in taking the pictures: "I have tried covering the important but uncovered and unreported truth about drone strikes in Pakistan: that far more civilians are being injured and killed than the Americans and Pakistanis admit," he told the AP's Sebastian Abbot last month.
As Abbot reported, U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program, but they have said privately that the strikes harm very few innocents and are key to weakening al-Qaida and other militants.
Noor Behram via AP
A man stands next to a destroyed vehicle after a missile strike on a funeral in South Waziristan, Pakistan, on July 8, 2009.
Alongside Behram's pictures, the exhibition features The Ethical Governor, below, a satirical animation by the artist John Butler that draws on the parallels between drone technology and video games.
'The Ethical Governor', a fictional animation by the artist John Butler that satirizes Western imperialism and the use of drone technology.
The Beaconsfield exhibition, Gaming in Waziristan, is a collaboration with the NGO Reprieve, which has provided legal representation to prisoners on death row and Guantanamo Bay inmates. Reprieve has launched an initiative named "Bugsplat" - the term used by the CIA to describe a successful drone hit - which calls for an inquiry into the use of drones and says that some of the attacks may have constituted war crimes.
"We currently have a monopoly, or effective monopoly, on armed drones," John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security think tank, told Reuters last month. "This technology will spread, and it will be used against us in years to come."
An American CIA contractor facing murder charges in Pakistan has been released after the U.S. paid more than $2 million in "blood money" to the relatives of the victims, a lawyer for the families said Wednesday.
The release of Raymond Allen Davis sparked angry protests. Police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of about 200 demonstrators outside a U.S. consulate, some of whom burned tires.
Police made several arrests in Lahore and struck other people with batons, according to witnesses. There were smaller protests in other main cities as well.
Davis, who had been in jail since Jan. 27, was accused of killing two Pakistani men in a case that has seriously strained ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Lawyer Raja Irshad said 19 relatives appeared in court Wednesday to accept payments totaling $2.34 million. He said each told the court "they were ready to accept the blood money deal without pressure and would have no objection if the court acquitted Raymond Davis."
NBC's Carol Grisanti reports from Pakistan, where Raymond Allen Davis was released today after being held for killing two men in January who he says were robbing him.