(pdf of article below)
Drones are only part of the problems of robotics. The federal government’s “national security” functions (the military and other agencies) and private industry are pushing hard to develop and use a variety of drones and other robotic technology, some of which are very scary. They tell the public only about some benign applications, but the things they don’t say are much more threatening and worrisome.
A whole new era: This is not merely a new issue. It is a new era in human history with a rapidly escalating robotic age in various forms. Drones are only one example of new “synthetic organisms” and life forms. Many projects are designed to be “dual-use” technologies with benign-sounding civilian applications and very nasty applications for military, surveillance and other oppressive purposes. Many are funded by DARPA, the Pentagon’s secretive wing for designing and funding cutting-edge weapons. Thousands of robotic military devices have already been deployed. We need to transcend the notion that civilian (big business) robotics are basically OK. Mini-drones are coming and will become as pervasive in our society as the synthetic chemicals released into the environment. Robotics, nanotechnology, “artificial intelligence,” and other cutting-edge technologies are merging. Where will this technology take us? Today the government uses them to track and kill al Qaeda’s members. Who will the government be tracking and killing tomorrow?
Boeing and many other contractors are involved in a great many locations throughout the U.S. Our region’s locations include the Seattle area, Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma, the giant Yakima army base, and the Bingen WA and Hood River OR areas near the Columbia River. (Boeing has a major drone manufacturing plant in Bingen.) Boeing's wholly-owned subsidiary, Insitu, (www.insitu.com) is manufacturing surveillance drones for the military. Many of the contractors and research/development/manufacturing sites around the U.S. are highly secretive. Boeing does “phantom” work by secretly distributing many employees working on this into many other locations that do other work, so even their co-workers don’t know that these employees are working on these “phantom” projects. The army’s Yakima base does a lot of drone work, but the base is so huge and secretive that people don’t know.
Boeing is a major drone manufacturing presence in Bingen, WA.
Medea Benjamin says Israel is the #1 manufacturers of drones.
Mainstream media don’t say much about them, but information is available from other sources. Just like big business’s “greenwashing” propaganda to mislead the public into thinking the corporations are nice to the environment when really they are damaging the environment, the military industry does “peacewashing” to mislead the public into thinking that drones and robotics are more benign than they are. The public needs to know the truth. Now is the time for peace and justice activists to research the problems and make this a hot issue that will make the government and business accountable to us. Even if we can’t stop the bad technologies altogether, we could organize to limit them and prohibit the nastiest uses.
The term “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAV) is a term to use when searching the internet. It can find more information than searching for merely “drones.” A search for small UAV found this on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniature_UAV
Obama sends U.S. troops and drones to Africa. The U.S. government is expanding its endless war against militant extremism into Africa, where -- just like in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East – the U.S.’s violent policies will do more harm than good. In mid-March 2013 President Obama announced that he dispatched 100 troops to support a new U.S. drone base in Niger, despite reports indicating that drones damage U.S. security interests. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL, www.fcnl.org) reports that beginning in 2013, the U.S. Africa Command will deploy a 4,000-member brigade to train and equip security forces in 35 African countries, even though these activities have worsened instability in the past. The U.S. has already undertaken numerous drone strikes in Somalia and actively partners with governments and security forces that oppress and abuse their communities in the name of counterterrorism. FCNL urges people to contact our members of Congress and urge them to speak out against escalating violent policies that only make things worse. Encourage Congress to ask hard questions about current and potential U.S. military activities in Africa and to request a hearing to examine and slow down this slippery slope to militarism now, before U.S. policies do further damage. The hearing should invite testimony from FCNL and other experts who know how nonviolent solutions would be better than escalating military violence.
The problem grows nationwide, but Seattle and Virginia are striking back: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is vigorously pushing drones at national, state and local levels. The ACLU reports, “The use of unmanned aircraft to spy on Americans is a growing national problem. Drones are already cheap and readily available on the market, and now the federal government is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to open domestic airspace to drones by 2015.” But when an enormous number of people attended a public hearing in Seattle to oppose letting Seattle police use drones, Seattle’s mayor was convinced and sent the drones back. Virginia’s state legislature passed a bill in February 2013 to delay drones’ use there for two years to allow time for studying privacy protection. (Virginia’s governor had not yet acted when this newsletter article was written.) Here in Washington State, two bills in the 2013 legislative session (HB 1771 and SB 5782) would have established standards for the use of public unmanned aircraft systems. Hearings were held, but the bills did not make enough progress before a “cut-off” day, so they are considered dead for this legislative session, but public pressure could revive them for the 2014 session. Also, the ACLU of Washington urges people to sign a petition to Governor Inslee, urging him to protect us from drones, despite Boeing’s vigorous lobbying. See https://www.aclu.org/secure/dont-let-boeing-block-reasonable-rules-for-drones?etname=2013-03-07+Boeing+Petition&etjid=738777
Congresswoman Barbara Lee and others ask Obama information about his drone policy. On March 11, 2013, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee and seven other members of Congress sent President Obama a letter requesting the full, unclassified release of information surrounding the Administration’s done policy. “The executive branch’s claim of authority to deprive citizens of life, and to do so without explaining the legal bases for doing so, sets a dangerous precedent and is a model of behavior that the United States would not want other nations to emulate.” The want more congressional oversight “to protect the checks and balances that are at the heart of our democracy.” The letter objects to “[a]n unbounded geographic scope; unidentified ‘high-level’ officials with authority to approve kill-lists; a vaguely defined definition of whether a capture is ‘feasible;’” and “an overly broad definition of the phrase ‘imminent threat,’ which re-defines the word in a way that strays significantly from its traditional and legal meaning.”
U.S. Senate bill S. 505 would prohibit drone strikes in the United States. U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul introduced S. 505 to prohibit drone strikes in the United States. If this bill is passed into law, it would mark the first time that Congress has acted to limit the “war without borders” created by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. At long last, the “global war on terror” would have a boundary. Passage of the bill would create a precedent: Congress can act to limit the endless war. This information comes from Just Foreign Policy (www.justforeignpolicy.org), a reliable source of foreign policy information. They urge people to e-mail their House and Senate members about this through www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/s505
Amnesty International urges people to send an e-mail to President Obama in order to stop unlawful killings: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519442&msource=W1303EASHR1
The Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare includes a number of groups including the national Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). The Network calls for a variety of outreach and nonviolent actions throughout April, including protests in mid-April, to publicly oppose the use of drones in the US and in other countries. Info: www.knowdrones.com and www.droneswatch.org and http://nodronesnetwork.blogspot.com Other resources include the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Power in Space (www.space4peace.org). Another resource is the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice (www.sdcpj.org). More resources include:
The Defending Dissent Foundation offers some relevant information at this link: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5492/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1236048
Here is a short satirical article
A Northwest regional network of people organizing against drones formed in February 2013. A good contact person for this is Marion Ward, email@example.com She recommends keeping up-to-date by visiting www.knowdrones.org and www.droneswatch.org
The short articles below came from Olympia FOR newsletters from mid-2012 to early 2013: (pdf document)
by Glen Anderson
Every time a mass murder occurs in the U.S., politicians, news media, and ordinary Americans express shock and bewilderment.
Obama expressed sorrow about 20 American children shot in Connecticut but has shown no concern for the thousands of persons – including 178 innocent children – the U.S. killed in drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen.
Obama vastly escalated Bush’s use of drones (unmanned airplanes controlled remotely from bases in the U.S.). The CIA identifies people who seem suspicious and assassinate them from the air, without any trial, without any due process whatsoever. Many of them were completely innocent.
In deciding whom to target for killing, the CIA defines a “militant” as simply “any military-age male in a strike zone.”
Most drone attacks are called “signature strikes,” in which a drone operator thousands of miles away target unknown individuals based merely on perceived patterns of behavior.
The U.S.’s drone war is blatantly illegal under international law.
It is a foreign policy equivalent of some states’ “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allow a person to kill another person if he feels fear, even without any real evidence or any due process.
The U.S. has slaughtered countless children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.
The U.S. is the only modern Western democracy that often uses the death penalty.
The government sets a terrible example – a murderous climate that allows troubled people to use guns to vent their fears and frustrations.
Murders and mass shootings will continue until the government renounces killing.
by Larry Kerschner
We, as a nation, have always killed people. But, until recently, no president has waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, without benefit of any legal due process. President Obama is the first president to make the killing of targeted individuals a significant focus of U.S. military operations. He has personally authorized kill teams comprised of both soldiers from Special Forces and civilians from the CIA.
More than any other president he has made assassination rather than the capture of individuals the option of first resort, and has killed them both with drones and with nighttime raids. The Obama administration tries to explain that they are being careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives while, at the same time, claiming the right to execute anyone including American citizens at the President's whim. When waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder quickly becomes unclear.
When President Bush left office in January 2009, the US had carried out around 50 drone strikes. In the past, almost four years, President Obama has reportedly carried out almost 300 attacks in Pakistan alone.
According to international law, in order for the U.S. government to legally target civilian terror suspects abroad it has to define a terrorist group as one engaging in armed conflict, and the use of force must be a “military necessity.” There must be no reasonable alternative to killing, such as capture, and to warrant death the target must be “directly participating in hostilities.” The use of force has to be considered “proportionate” to the threat. Finally, the foreign nation in which such targeted killing takes place has to give its permission. None of these conditions apply in most of these situations where innocent people have, almost indiscriminately, been killed.
Obama, in your name, has killed individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and is planning to expand the presence of U.S. Special Forces in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On his third day in office, Obama sent attack drones into Pakistan hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children. Under Obama, we have killed over 2000 non-combatant civilians, including over 200 children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
This increased use of drones has also given the arms merchants another way of turning blood into gold. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the military contractor that manufactures the Predator drone and its more heavily armed counterpart, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government’s demand.
This targeted killing of children with no risk from a distance, certainly makes you proud to be an American. To learn more, Google “Living Under Drones,” a recent report published by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School.
Larry Kerschner is very active with the FOR and Veterans for Peace. He recently visited Afghanistan.
CCR and ACLU sue CIA and military officials for killing people with drones: In mid-July the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court, Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta. The suit sues senior CIA and military officials, and argues that the killings of three American citizens by their own government in drone strikes in Yemen last year violate the U.S. Constitution and international law. On September 30, 2011, U.S. drone strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi, who had been placed on government “kill lists” over a year before, along with Samir Khan. Two weeks later, on October 14, U.S. drone strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, as he was eating dinner with his teenage cousin at an open-air restaurant. The lawsuit seeks accountability for those killed, and also challenges the government’s claimed power to target and kill individuals, including U.S. citizens, without due process and far from any field of armed conflict. It challenges the Executive Branch’s unconstitutional and dangerous assumption of the role of judge, jury and executioner. Under the Obama administration, U.S. targeted killings have escalated and expanded. Strikes have been carried out in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines. Thousands of people have been killed, including many hundreds of civilians. A single strike in Yemen on December 17, 2009, killed 41 civilians, including 21 children, and led to popular protest. In Pakistan alone, the Obama administration with less than four years in office has already reportedly launched six times as many strikes as the Bush administration, which held office for eight years. Info: www.ccrjustice.org
Obama’s escalation using drones to kill suspects with no trial and no due process whatsoever: If a government suspects a person of having committed a crime, the government should arrest that person and conduct a fair trial with full due process – and impose punishment only after the person has been found guilty. The U.S. government – especially under Obama – has eliminated all of the steps between suspecting a person and killing him (and any innocent people who happen to be nearby)! Obama’s administration (especially the CIA) collects “intelligence” and – based on where the person appears to be going and what he appears to be doing – targets the person for assassination without any trial or due process. A US military employee at a military base thousands of miles away in the US targets that person and kills him with a remote-controlled unmanned “drone” aircraft. Was the person the US killed guilty or innocent? We’ll never know! But we do know that many innocent people nearby are killed, and we do know that the US’s reckless disregard is antagonizing many people in other countries. The US does this in countries where we have not declared war because Obama is carrying on the Bush-Cheney doctrine of a worldwide “war on terror” without bothering to declare war on any particular countries. What would Americans think of some other country (e.g., Russia or North Korea or Iran) were to assassinate Americans in that way within the US? Such arrogance and utter indifference to human life and human rights is not OK. Many people are urging President Obama and our US House and Senate members to oppose killing people with drone strikes overall, and especially those “signature” drone strikes based only upon behavioral profiling in Yemen and Pakistan. Info & petition: www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/signature-strikes
Publish the names of all victims of drone attacks: To date, in Pakistan, we have been able to identify 170 named persons (alleged “militants”) killed by the CIA in more than 300 drone strikes. Among them were senior figures of the Taliban and al Qaeda. These strikes have severely affected Pakistan’s tribal areas. The recently released bin Laden papers talk of people exhausted by the constant threat of bombardment. A U.S. government official recently boasted that not a single noncombatant had been killed by the drones, but this is far from true. The US records but does not announce the names of noncombatant bystanders. This presents a misleading and one-sided picture of the situation. The fact is that many noncombatants are also being killed along with “militants.” The US’s refusal to publish their names obscures the truth and makes the shedding of innocent blood more acceptable.
Obama’s May 23 speech sends mixed messages without specifics: On May 23, 2013, President Obama made a major speech with mixed messages about the “war on terror,” Guantanamo, using unmanned drone aircraft to kill people, and related topics. He said there would be new restraints on targeted killing, but instead of offering specifics he kept them secret. He said he’d somewhat (but not entirely) shift the drone war from the CIA to the military. During Obama’s administration the CIA has acted like another branch of the military but with very little oversight. His May 23 speech proposed creating a new secret court or some other entity that would approve future drone strikes, but instead of proposing something specific he said he’d leave that up to Congress. (We know how well that will work!) Obama said he wants to transfer some of Guantanamo’s prisoners to Yemen. Instead of the Bush/Cheney expansive worldwide “war on terror,” Obama said he wants to focus on actual groups, but he did not reverse his expansion of military anti-terrorism efforts into several parts of Africa.
United Nations human rights official says US drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty: A March 16, 2013, news article by Richard Leiby in the Washington Post reported that Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and anti-terrorism, agreed with Pakistani government officials that the US’s drones are striking in Pakistan without that government’s consent. Emerson’s statement said the drone campaign “involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.” This contradicts the US government’s position that Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have at least tacitly supported them. US drone strikes there started in 2004 and increased sharply under Obama.
ACLU points out that no other country agrees with the US’s use of drone killings away from the battlefield: In late March 2013, Chris Anders, chief Washington lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, stated, “It's telling that there isn’t a single country in the entire world that agrees with the US’s claims of authority to use lethal force away from the battlefield.” He suggested that the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to release explicit legal justifications means that they are on very shaky legal ground.
“Assassinations aren’t what they used to be,” wrote Ellen Murphy, FOR member from Bellingham WA in the Whatcom Watch Online for February 2013: www.whatcomwatch.org/php/WW_open.php?id=1526 She wrote, “Assassination has changed. Those often politically motivated murders of prominent persons or public figures by surprise attack are less common. They used to be considered horrific crimes, committed by psychopathic and highly paid professional killers…. But now assassinations are an everyday thing. Assassins aren’t aberrant creatures any more. You can be normal and do it. And to be a target you don’t have to be an Archduke Ferdinand, a President Kennedy or martyrs such as Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero or George Tiller. No, you can be just about anyone. … And the collateral abounds. … Oh, and one more thing. Assassinations aren’t even illegal any more. They don’t take a year to plan. They happen all the time, and no one goes to jail. [Y]ou can strike with a Reaper when you’re not sure if this is the right group or individual. That’s when you call it a signature killing. A pilot thinks this house, car, or person somehow bears the signature of a bad guy. And unfortunately, there is no sign in Waziristan that says “Caution-Children Gathering Firewood.” … The problem is we are running out of pilots. The Air Force Developmental Engineers web site says we only have 450 and we need 1,110. Applicants will be under 30, and need no previous military pilot experience to fly heavily armed Predators and Reapers “far from the battlefield, with the advantage that a pilot at war can fly a mission and go home to dinner.” …
Help make a Drones Memorial Quilt: Leah Bolger, past president of the nationwide Veterans for Peace, spent 20 years in the military and retired in 2000 at the rank of Navy Commander. In addition to running a nationwide peace organization and speaking and acting boldly, she also is organizing people to create a Drones Memorial Quilt of 10-inch-by-10-inch cloth squares, each in memory of an innocent person killed by a drone. See information at https://www.facebook.com/events/228990730577370/ or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nonviolent protester against drones completed 6-month federal prison sentence May 24: In April 2012 Brian Terrell and others tried to deliver an “indictment” to Brigadier General Scott Vander Hamm, commander of the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, which operates remotely controlled drones. The indictment charged the chain of command, from President Obama to General Vander Hamm to Whiteman’s drone crews with the crimes of “extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians.” It noted the fact that “extrajudicial targeted killings by the use of unmanned aircraft drones by the United States of America are intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of US and international human rights law” and demanded that these crimes immediately cease. Their polite request to the base sentries for directions to headquarters to deliver the indictment was denied and their way blocked by military police who handcuffed them and took them away. Brian received the maximum sentence for this supposed crime of “federal trespass,” a misdemeanor. This information comes from Voices for Creative Nonviolence, www.vcnv.org
National FOR expresses appreciation for Olympia FOR’s work against drones: The Olympia FOR’s new website section about drones -- www.olympiafor.org/Drones.html -- was promoted recently in an e-mail from the national FOR, and is promoted in their website’s page about resources on the drone wars – www.forusa.org/content/resources-for-anti-drone-campaigns We like it when people notice what the Olympia FOR is doing and spread the word!
Domestic drones pose real dangers: Glenn Greenwald’s March 29, 2013, article in the British publication Guardian lays out a strong case to oppose most domestic drone uses. (See the article at www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/29/domestic-drones-unique-dangers) Greenwald cautions people to reject the simplistic notion that drones are just like helicopters and satellites, only smaller. He wrote that US law enforcement agencies are rapidly increasing their use of drones, “both in terms of numbers and types of usage.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been working hard to publicize their unique dangers and push for laws to limit them. These problems pertain to domestic surveillance drones, let alone the much nastier weaponized drones that the US is using to kill “terrorists” and innocent people near them in a number of other countries – and might start using within the US if they can get away with that too. Police are already urging domestic drones to carry Tasers and beanbag guns. Greenwald says, “The drone industry has already developed and is now aggressively marketing precisely such weaponized drones for domestic law enforcement use.” He says a California company that sells drones to the military is now marketing them to “public safety agencies.” Some drones are very small, such as one called “the Switchblade,” which has been praised as “the ultimate assassin bug” because a local operator can control it and maneuver it around buildings and into small areas, and then make it lunge toward the target and explode in his or her face. Federal, state and local law enforcement and related agencies are enthusiastic about new drone technologies. So many agencies and businesses corporations see such huge potential that they have become a powerful lobby, and people will find it extremely hard to restrain a massive proliferation of domestic drones. Greenwald’s article cites the ACLU’s 2011 report on drones, which stated, “Drones have their own trade group, the Association for Unmanned Aerial Systems International, which includes some of the nation's leading aerospace companies. And Congress now has ‘drone caucuses’ in both the Senate and House.” The drone industry is giving huge amounts of money to Congress members from both political parties. But people across the political spectrum from left to right who value freedom from government surveillance can join together in opposing this escalation of domestic drones. Several good sources of information are listed on the Drones page of the Olympia FOR’s website, www.olympiafor.org/Drones.html, and we also recommend getting more information from the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011 (207) 443-9502 email@example.com www.space4peace.org http://space4peace.blogspot.com/ (blog)
ACLU says small drones could invade our privacy: In 2011 the ACLU produced a comprehensive report on domestic drones. It stated, “Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life.” The ACLU also wrote: “The prospect of cheap, small, portable flying video surveillance machines threatens to eradicate existing practical limits on aerial monitoring and allow for pervasive surveillance, police fishing expeditions, and abusive use of these tools in a way that could eventually eliminate the privacy Americans have traditionally enjoyed in their movements and activities.” The ACLU report warns, “routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America” because only drone technology enables such omnipresent physical surveillance.
Boeing, a major drone manufacturer, helps kill a state law that would have regulated drones: On March 3, 2013, CorpWatch Blog posted an article by Pratap Chatterjee, explaining how Boeing helped to defeat Washington state legislation that would have forced government agencies to get approval before they buy “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs), which people refer to as “drones,” and to obtain warrants before using them to conduct surveillance on individuals. David Taylor, a Republican legislator, had introduced the bill on February 7 and drew support from Democrats. Boeing leapt into action and went straight to some of the Legislature’s top officials. Then Democrat Frank Chopp, Speaker of the House of Representatives, canceled the vote on the bill that had been scheduled for March 13 and asked the Democrat who chairs a relevant committee to study the matter. Republican Taylor said, “This is about profit over people’s rights.” By mid-March, legislators in 32 states have introduced bills to restrict drone use, but none had been voted into law. Source: www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15826#.UVe7FOP3Vng.gmail
Boeing X-45A combat drone. Photo by cliff1066™.
Used under Creative Commons license.