Drone Firms Bought Influence at NATO Summit

Arms companies which provide key components for the drones used by the US to carry out secret strikes in violation of international law bought access to last week’s NATO summit, research by legal charity Reprieve has found.

Among the firms which paid up to £300,000 to ‘exhibit’ at the summit in Newport, Wales were:

  • General Dynamics, manufacturer of the Hellfire missiles used in the vast majority of drone strikes.
  • Raytheon, manufacturer of the targeting system for the ‘Reaper’ drone which, along with the ‘Predator,’ is used by the CIA and other covert agencies to carry out strikes outside of warzones.
  • Lockheed Martin, which acts as a contractor to provide support services for the Reaper and Predator.
  • MBDA, a European firm which is producing ‘Brimstone,’ a variant of the Hellfire missile which it is promoting for use by Reaper and Predator drones.

Strikes carried out by Predators and Reapers flown by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have proved controversial as they have been carried out in countries with which or in which the US is not at war – such as Yemen and Pakistan. As a result, they are in violation of both international and domestic law.

Despite having been responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, they take place with little or no oversight – with President Obama refusing even to formally acknowledge that such strikes are taking place.

Commenting, Reprieve Legal Director, Kat Craig said: “The illegal use of drones to carry out secret bombings is one of the most controversial issues around, so it is deeply worrying to see those firms who may profit most from it able to buy access to such a high-level summit. It is unacceptable that the US’ drone campaign, and the UK’s support for it, has been allowed to remain in the shadows for so long. President Obama must be far more open about it, as must his European allies, especially the UK and Germany, about the support they provide. Allowing drone manufacturers to buy access to our politicians behind closed doors is no way to ensure we get the transparency we need.”