London High Court blocks US drone intelligence case


The London High Court has rejected an attempt by a Pakistani man to force the UK government to reveal if it is providing intelligence for US drone strikes. Noor Khan, whose father died in a drone strike in Pakistan, said the UK could be committing a war crime by helping the CIA identify targets. The government neither confirms nor denies any role in assisting with operations against al Qaeda. The court said it could not force the government to reveal its policy. Lord Justice Moses said that oversight of intelligence arrangements in this case was for parliament, not the court. The UK operates its own unmanned drones in Afghanistan, but these operations were not part of this case. The High Court challenge concerned whether the UK was also helping the US missions against targets in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. Khan’s father was one of 50 people killed last year when a US drone bombed a meeting near the border with Afghanistan. In his High Court action, Khan’s lawyers argued that the UK’s secret communications centre, GCHQ, could be providing “locational intelligence” to the CIA which helps it to identify targets for drone strikes. The lawyers did not ask the court to rule if the US strikes were lawful. But they said British officials could be secondary parties to murder or guilty of war crimes if they were providing critical information to the US. Khan’s community was living in a constant state of fear, the court heard, because they could regularly hear drones passing over head and they did not know if they were about to be attacked again. Lawyers for the government argued that the High Court could not make any ruling on the case because sensitive information about the intelligence relationship between the allies could not be made public. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama confirmed the existence of the drone strike operations over Pakistan and said they were essential in the fight against al Qaeda.