Saudi Silence Over US Drone Base Reports

The Saudi government has not made any statement about US news reports that the CIA is using an airbase in Saudi Arabia to conduct drone assassinations in neighboring Yemen, and local media has so far ignored the story. Saudi users on Twitter talked about the story briefly, but it was not widely discussed on the social network compared to other recent stories.

US media widely reported the story Wednesday, ending an informal agreement among major news organizations to keep the airbase secret at the request of the Obama administration, but it was actually first reported 18 months ago by the Times of London and later by Fox News, according to Gawker. The story went largely unnoticed then because the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press did not report the story about the CIA’s controversial drone program.

The news came out the day before John Brennan, the architect of the drone program, appeared before the US Senate for a confirmation hearing to become the next director of CIA. The base was reportedly used to launch the drone strike that killed American-born leader of al-Qaeda Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in 2011. Saudi Arabia has previously publicly denied any cooperation with the US to target al-Qaeda in Yemen

The exact location of the airbase has not been revealed, but Wired’s Danger Room blog has posted satellite images of an airstrip at the southwestern end of the Empty Quarter desert near the border of Yemen. It is difficult to confirm if this is actually the airbase in question, “But the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts,” the blog said.