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How Dateline NBC Lies About Drones

By David Swanson

NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.

Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.

Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.

Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"

Hey Kids! Try Collateral Damage at Home

One day a couple of weeks ago I was reading Saint Augustine while driving to the local convenience store, and I accidentally drove right through the front glass wall of the store, smashing up some shelves of junk food. After I'd made my purchases, a police officer stopped me and asked if I'd intended to drive into the store. "Oh, not at all," I replied. "I intended to get here as quickly as possible while also educating myself as quickly as possible. I knew I might crash, of course, but that wasn't part of my intention."

"Well," the cop replied. "Where should we send the check for your car repair?"

"I'll let you know," I replied, a bit annoyed by the hassle.

My brother in law repaired my car for not much more than $100,000, and all it still needed was to be repainted. So, I took a giant paint sprayer with me. I parked the car in front of my neighbor's house, the one with the loud dog. When I'd finished painting the car, there was a rough shape of its profile on the front of my neighbor's house, surrounded by fresh purple paint. I pinned a note to the door letting him know that my intention had been only to paint the car and not his house.

The new collateral damage laws we've been living under for the past year have really been working out great, as far as I'm concerned. We don't let it get out of hand, though. Only property damage is excusable using bullshit medieval arguments about what we "really intended" and what we "merely knew was going to happen." Damage or death to people or animals is not included in the law.

I've heard tell, though, that there is another world somewhere in which, believe it or not, the exact opposite is true. In that world, if I were to damage someone's property and pull out a load of horse manure about "just intentions" or "proportional collateral damage," I'd be punished for the destruction I'd caused and possibly locked up for my delusional state of mind.

But, in stark contrast, if I were to blow up some poor guy who dressed suspiciously with a missile from a drone, even though 8 other guys who dressed acceptably were standing next to him, well that'd be totally cool. Or if I were to bomb an entire city flat because its people were suffering under the rule of a brutal dictator I'd stopped supporting and arming last month, that'd just be good patriotic citizenship.

Now, I'm not going to swear to you that this crazy world exists, but I have reports on it from numerous credible sources. I even have recent reports from several people that an ancient institution in this world -- they call it the Catholic Church -- is dropping its support for using "collateral damage" to excuse murder, while the rest of the society is just going ahead with mindlessly accepting it anyway, even without the support of its original devious devisers.

Regardless, however, of whether such a place is real, the manner in which its customs shock us should wake us up to the possibility that our own might shock someone else, and that we should never accept traditional customs without thinking them through for ourselves.

Anti-Drone-War Ad Banned by Charter Communications as it Seeks Approval for Big Merger from Obama Admin

NEW YORK – Major cable provider Charter Communications – apparently fearful of angering the Obama administration while a giant merger deal was pending– has barred its cable outlet near the Whiteman AFB drone control center in Missouri from carrying a paid advertisement urging drone operators to refuse to fly missions.

Charter made this decision to censor the spot (which is critical of the Obama Administration drone program) on April 22, 2016, according to email from a media ad buyer, while it was awaiting approval by the administration's Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for its $88 billion merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Just days after banning the anti-drone spot, on April 25, the Justice Department approved the deal, with conditions. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the same day he would vote for the merger, but the entire commission has yet to vote. The deal is also awaiting approval by California regulators.

The ad (www.knowdrones.com/2016/01/help-show-the-real-truth-to-us-tv-audiences.html) was produced by Knowdrones.com and paid for by Peaceworks-Kansas City and Knowdrones.com in advance of Peaceworks’ April 30 protest against the U.S. drone war campaign that will be held at the Whiteman AFB near Knob Noster MO, a community in which Charter is the cable provider.

In an effort to determine whether Charter was banning the ad because of its sometimes graphic images of children killed by U.S drones, Knowdrones asked if Charter would run the :15 second spot with no images, just a black screen with white text carrying the anti-drone message. The ad buyer reported that Charter “will not accept the spot even when it’s only dark screen with text due to subject content.”

“At a time when the U.S. press is avoiding coverage of the U.S. drone war, which has killed at least 6,500 people without due process,” said Knowdrones coordinator Nick Mottern, “it is tragic for the victims of U.S. drone attacks and the U.S. public that Charter extends this censorship even into paid advertising. Apparently, even if we pay for advertising, corporations seeking favors from the government will censor spots deemed to make the current administration look bad."

Versions of the subject ad have been run by cable providers near other U.S. drone control and training intelligence centers at Creech AFB, Beale AFB and Hancock Air National Guard base, among others.

The Charter merger will bring its subscriber base to 18 million, behind Comcast’s 22 million and ahead of AT&Ts 16 million, according to Wired.com.

http://www.wired.com/2016/04/feds-set-approve-charter-time-warner-mega-merger/

Veterans and Activists Arrested Protesting Drone Terror at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada

Veterans For Peace national President Barry Ladendorf, Board member Tarak Kauff, and Advisory Board member Ann Wright were among eight peace activists who were arrested early Thursday morning, after physically blocking the main gate to Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Also arrested were VFP members Barry Binks (long time, often arrested drone protester),
Ken Mayers, Chris Kundson and Leslie Harris, along with Joan Pleume of the New York Granny Peace Brigade.

Drone pilots based at Creech AFB, directed by the CIA and the Pentagon, regularly carry out drone strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing many civilians and terrorizing the population.
 
A larger civil disobedience action is planned for Friday.
 
See Press Release, attached and below.

March 31, 2016 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact: Robert Majors 702-646-4814 rmajors@mail.com

Military Veterans Arrested at Creech Air Force Base Trying to Stop Drone Warfare 
 
Indian Springs, NV - During peak rush hour traffic on Thursday March 31st at Creech AFB, military veterans and friends were arrested while waving Veterans for Peace (VFP) flags and nonviolently blocking traffic at the East Gate on Hwy. 95, the primary commuter gate into the base. As the traffic was impeded, Las Vegas Police diverted cars up the highway to less used, alternative gates. 
 
At the same time, 20 people held vigil between the frontage road and US Highway 95 as four other peace and justice activists greeted the diverted traffic with a second peaceful anti-drone blockade expressed as a sitting silent meditation in front of the second gate. 
 
The arrests at 7:50 AM today were part of a week-long orchestrated effort by over 100 activists from over 20 states in the country, mobilized to oppose the U.S. drone program that uses remotely controlled planes controlled at Creech to indiscriminately drop missiles on some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Thursday's traffic was delayed for fifteen minutes, as Creech employees and contractors were diverted to the 2nd gate, and then to the 3rd gate once demonstrators blocked the 2nd gate. The prayer-activists at the 2nd gate were not arrested. 
 
This was the first of several civil resistance actions planned during the week-long National Mass Mobilization against Drone Warfare known as SHUT DOWN CREECH. All of the demonstrators who were arrested were taken to the Las Vegas Metropolitan County Jail. 
 
Meanwhile the remaining activists at "Camp Justice" across from the base continue the regular schedule of nonviolence training and strategy sessions for creative and nonviolent ways to stop the illegal assassination program at Creech Air Force Base for as long as possible. 

The 8 activists arrested were:
 
Barry Binks, VFP, California 
Leslie Harris, VFP, Texas 
Tarak Kauff, VFP, New York 
Chris Knudsen, VFP, CA, California 
Barry Ladendorf, VFP, California 
Ken Mayers, VFP, New Mexico 
Joan Pleune, NY Granny Peace Brigade, New York Col. 

Ann Wright, VFP and retired 29 year army veteran, and former U.S. diplomat, Hawaii

Inside Drone Warfare

REPORT # 1: SHUT DOWN CREECH

Fred & Eleanor
 
Tues. Mar. 29, 2016
 
We had a most successful 1st vigil on Mon. Mar. 28, with a good crowd of about 20  "Creechers" joining us for the very 1st morning vigil, with over 16 campers for the first evening at Camp Justice Sunday night.
 
Monday afternoon spring desert winds picked up ferociously, at times with gusts at over 60mph  (evening weather reports said 70mph winds), and temperatures dropped drastically, testing our inner strength to continue our protest of drone warfare at the killer drone base known as Creech AFB, in southern Nevada.  Large banners were substituted for smaller visuals and signs, including the 7 small coffins with names of 7 of the predominantly muslim nations we have been bombing over the last 15 years.  We also showed a banner for GI RIGHTS HOTLINE with its phone number. Surprisingly, we stayed our ground throughout most of the 2 hour planned vigil, in spite of strong winds and dropping body temperatures.
 
The winds were still blowing fiercely throughout the night, and CODEPINK welcomed all campers onto the sacred grounds of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality, where the walls of the modest guest house/mobile home provided a haven and protected us from nature's elements.  Everyone was well nourished with a simple meal and friendship...and space was found in the guest house for even the campers, as many of their tents had been blown into uninhabitable shapes!  The winds howled through the night, and continued into the morning, letting up for only brief moments.  Gigantic thanks to Don Kimball who held the peace fort at Camp Justice thru the night, keeping all secure.   Dennis, Ralph and Ray have also been super generous, taking on the role of peace camp security crew for the entire week!
 
Col. Ann Wright joined us in the wee hours of the night, and woke up at 5am with the rest of us for today's vigil....with continuing very cold gales, some of us dared to hold a few of the medium sized banners, and smaller signs and visuals.  As body temperatures continued to drop, an impromptu silent "funeral procession" was created with most of the 7 coffins/countries represented, with activist Susan Witka carrying the final message, following the coffins:  "Who's Next?"   The procession gave a somber tone about the overall human costs of global wars, while allowing some of the activists to warm up while being in continuous motion.  
 
Counter protesters from town, the same 3 to 4 that have been coming regularly for years, are holding their space, in at times a very confrontation-seeking fashion, but thus far we have been able to do our best to stay within our nonviolence guidelines, and keep the confrontations from escalating, though it has been trying for some.  The police have lined up barricades on most of both sides of the entrance into the base, anticipates the major civil resistance planned on Friday, but also showing favoritism, at times, to the counter-protesters.   A beautiful sight this morning was seeing Phil, a local counter-protester deliver a cart load of firewood for our fire circle.
 
As I write this message the early afternoon winds continue to blow, with a forecast for calmer weather in time for our 3pm vigil today....let us hope so.  Weather predicted to warm as week progresses.  The EEK Team, "Environmentally Evolved Kids", our beautiful children's affinity group from Northern California, has been working hard today getting their "Angel attire" ready for the big day on Friday to SHUT DOWN CREECH.
 
The peace keepers bright yellow headbands were completed yesterday, thanks to the help of Arla, Maggie, Casey and Toby, ready for the "big day."
 
More folks are due to arrive tonight, as we all get ready for 3 days of more scheduled activities, including civil resistance/affinity group preparedness, the Drone Whistleblowers Symposium on Wed. night, the Concert with David Rovics on Thurs. night, and the big climax on Friday to peacefully and nonviolently put a halt to the killer drone operations at Creech, for as long as possible.
 
We will try to update you all throughout the week.
Please consider joining us next time.
 
TOGETHER WE CAN:
Ground the Drones & Stop Global Warfare,
 
Toby Blome
SF CODEPINK

Protest The Vanguard of Killing-for-Profit, April 20, Noon, Phila. Convention Center.

Spread the word! Protest the Vanguard Group at Speech of its CEO, F. Willian McNabb III

33_Drone Attacks

 
The  Brandywine Peace Community, KnowDrones.org, Phila. Area Anti-Drone Network, World Can't Wait, and other social justice, community and anti-war and anti-mass incarceration activists will demonstrate at noon on April 20 at the Philadelphia (PA) Convention Center to protest the unconscionable profit-making of the $3 trillion Vanguard Group on drone killing, private prisons and small arms manufacture.
 
The protesters will call on F. William McNabb III, CEO of Vanguard Group, headquartered in Malvern, PA, who will be speaking at the convention center during the protest, to drop Vanguard’s investments in:
  1. Military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Honeywell Corporation, and Boeing, all of which profit from from drone killing and war in general. Military hardware is Vanguard’s largest investment sector.
  1. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit private prison company in which Vanguard is the largest investor
  1. Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm-Ruger firearms manufacturers. Smith & Wesson manufactured two of the guns used in the San Bernardino massacre. Vanguard also invests in ammunition makers in Vista Outdoor (VSTO) and Orbital ATK (OA).
The group will also call on Amy Guttman, president of the University of Pennsylvania, who appears to have been paid over $1.2 million by Vanguard as a member of its board of directors, to take a public position against Vanguard’s investment in war, mass incarceration and small arms.  Guttmam's salary at UPenn is reportedly $3.4 million.  She has been on the Vanguard board since
2006.
 
Today, racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia and  the hatred of immigrants and the undocumented fuels the  investments of the Vanguard Ground no less than presidential candidates that speak of  bigger and bigger walls, more bombing, and banning refugees fleeing U.S. wars from Syria to Afghanistan.    
 
Our protest is also directed at the gun industry and the scourge of violence  across the U.S., particularly in poor and communities of color which are also the targets of the for-profit prison industry that has grown alongside the U.S. system of economic apartheid: mass incarceration. 
 
Corrections Corporation of America
 
Drone warfare, gun violence, for-profit prisons and mass incarceration are the death ship on which the investments of the Vanguard group sail.
VanguardJoin the protest of  the Vanguard Group on Wednesday, April 20th 2016 from 12Noon - 2:00 p.m. outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the intersection of 12th and Arch Streets where F. William McNabb will be the keynote speaker for the Urban Land Institute's 2016 Convention.
 
For more information about the demonstration and what you can do, call the Brandywine Peace Community, (610) 544-1818

WHISTLEBLOWERS TO SPEAK AT LAS VEGAS DRONE SYMPOSIUM

The U.S. drone war program will be examined on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 6 pm at a symposium at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Law entitled: “Inside Drone Warfare: Perspectives of Whistleblowers, Families of Drone Victims and Their Lawyers.”

Speakers include:

Christopher Aaron, a former counter-terrorism officer for the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone program,

Cian Westmoreland, former drone program communications technician, 606 Air Control Squadron and the 73rd Expeditionary Control Squadron of the U.S. Air Force,

Human rights attorney Jesselyn Radack, Director of the Whistleblower & Resource Protection Progam (WHISPeR).

Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, counter-terrorism case worker for the human rights law firm Reprieve.org

Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson Law School, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and editor and contributor to “Drones and Targeted Killing.”

Rev. Chris Antal, a Unitarian Universalist minister who served as a military chaplain in Afghanistan, will also present.

“We are holding this symposium near Creech AFB because we would like members of the drone program there to attend the symposium,” said Nick Mottern, of KnowDrones.com, who, with retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, is an organizer of the symposium. He said that the Air Force was invited to have a representative appear on the symposium panel but that no response has been received.

Creech AFB, located about 65 miles from Las Vegas, is believed to be the largest drone control center inside the United States.

The symposium is being organized by Veterans for Peace and Knowdrones.com.

Two Upcoming Events on Drones in Charlottesville

Marjorie Cohn will discuss her thought-provoking book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, about the use and impact of drone warfare in today’s world.

”This book provides much-needed analysis of why America’s targeted killing program is illegal, immoral and unwise.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

TWO EVENTS:

Sat. March 19, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 605 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hosted by: Amnesty International-Charlottesville

Sunday, March 20, 6:30 pm, Friends Meeting House, 1104 Forest St, Charlottesville, VA 22903,

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego, Calif.) and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. A legal scholar, political analyst and social critic, she writes books and articles, makes media appearances and lectures throughout the world on human rights and U.S. foreign policy and the contradiction between the two.

 

The Killer Drone Lovers Have Their Movie

If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you'll want to avoid seeing "Eye in the Sky," starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what "Zero Dark Thirty" was for torture lies. This is what "The Interview" was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of "Eye in the Sky," Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.

"I'll bet the military loves this film," I told Hood after a screening in Washington, D.C., on Monday. He claimed that some loved it, some liked it, both in the military and in some human rights groups that I won't name because I doubt very much Hood's implication that at least one of them didn't condemn this piece of propaganda.

Let's be clear, this film is the best quality drone film yet made and has the coolest technology in it, including drones the size and shape of birds and beetles. But it is the furthest presentation of drone use from reality. Following the film screening, the director and General Eaton (no last name, like Cher) and Patrick Tucker, a technology writer from Defense One, gave a little presentation that included flying a tiny drone in the theater. Said Tucker, as if he had proved this: "So everything you saw in this movie is very close to reality."

I asked the director roughly this: We know of actual cases where the target was not identified, where the target could have been captured, and where the target was not actually about to commit mass murder. In fact the Justice Department has redefined "imminent threat" to be virtually meaningless, and I don't know of a single case in reality that matches this fictional fantasy. Do you?

Gavin Hood hemmed and hawed but said that No, he was unaware of a single case in reality that matched what he had produced in his slick propaganda. Then it was his turn to question me: Do I oppose the whole drone program?

I replied that it is counterproductive and that every time a top official retires they point that out, that it creates more enemies than it kills. Remarkably, Hood said that he agreed entirely and that in fact this point (which showed up nowhere at all in his movie) was the very point of his movie.

Then Hood strayed back into his own fantasy, recounting as if we hadn't just seen it that in the film one politician comments that it might be better politically to allow foreign terrorists to kill lots of people than for the politician's own government to be exposed as having killed one person.

Well, yes, this proves that in a fantastic scenario that hasn't ever happened a fictional politician could cynically discard human lives. It proves nothing else. But it creates the sick pretense that murdering is wise and not murdering is a form of propaganda. And, for the record, the "one person" was actually one unknown innocent plus several other people understood to be complicit in planning mass murder.

The cherry on top of this movie's feat of manipulation is Hood's making one of the drone victims white. Thus the drone program is not racist, is not killing people who haven't been identified, is not killing people who could have been captured, and is only killing people who are literally in the act of arming themselves to kills lots of other people momentarily.

The killer drone has its movie and it also has its argument. This piece of fiction is what the ticking time bomb nonsense is for torture. This is what every reincarnation of Hitler is for war as a whole. This is Obama's dream eulogy when the first drone warrior king is finally laid to rest.

All sins have been absolved.

Relax. Get some popcorn.

Or wake up, get outraged and join the next protest at Creech Air Base. Please. We're better than this.

One-Hour Special: Mary Anne Grady Flores from Jail on Why She Protested Killer Drones

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/one-hour-special-mary-anne-grady-flores-from-jail-on-why-she-protested-killer-drones

Mary Anne Grady Flores speaks in this 1-hour special from inside the jail near Syracuse, N.Y., where she has been imprisoned for 6 months for protesting drone murders at Hancock Air Base.

Total run time: 56:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR ENTERING DRONE BASE WITH LOAF OF BREAD

Buddy Bell     Voices for Creative Nonviolence        773-540-7657  buddy.vcnv@gmail.com
Joy First          WI Coalition to Ground the Drones   608-239-4327  joyfirst5@gmail.com

Camp Douglas, WI --- On February 23rd, two peace activists with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Brian Terrell and Kathy Kelly, were arrested when they attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to drone operators at Volk Field, an Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, which trains pilots to operate Shadow Drones over other countries. Voices activists have lived alongside ordinary people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Gaza. People who can’t flee from drone surveillance and attacks have good reason to fear people from the U.S., but instead they have broken bread with Kelly and Terrell and have welcomed opportunities for deepened mutual understanding. Kelly and Terrell carried the loaf of bread to signify the worth of relying on words rather than weapons.

Before entering the base property, Kathy Kelly said: “Living alongside ordinary people who can't escape drone surveillance in places like Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan and knowing that a drone operator could be ordered to assassinate civilians who have nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide affected my conscience. I wanted to ask drone operators in Volk Field whether they had been asked to target any people for possible assassination that day.  I want to ask how the base training manual teaches people to distinguish between civilians and armed combatants. If an operator wants to quit, what does the commander of Volk Field do?”

Brian Terrell also noted: “Wisconsin is where I was born and raised and so I feel that coming to Volk Field is a responsibility that I owe in gratitude to my home state. The premise that drones will limit the parameters of war and make for fewer civilian casualties has proven false. General Stanley McChrystal, who led troops in Afghanistan from June 2009 to June 2010, warned that the drone ‘lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there's a danger in that.’ And yet the evolution of drones in the militaries of many countries around the globe has been anything but cautious. Instead there is a reckless proliferation of this deadly technology.”

Terrell and Kelly will be arraigned on February 24th, after 2:30 p.m., at the Juneau County Justice Center, 200 Oak St., in Mauston, WI. Also on February 25th, at 9:00 a.m., Mary Beth Schlagheck, will be tried for having crossed the line at Volk Field in August of 2015.  Hers is the last of seven trials stemming from nonviolent civil resistance actions at Volk Field that were undertaken as the culmination of the “Let It Shine” walk from Madison to Volk Field. The witness of the activists who have protested at Volk Field, and who have testified so eloquently in court, inspired Brian’s and Kathy’s action.

Drones and Children

Phil Runkel, Dorothy Day Archivist and Activist, Found Guilty of Trespassing in Wisconsin

By Joy First

On Friday February 19 Phil Runkel was found guilty of trespassing in Juneau County, WI by Judge Paul Curran after a 22 minute trial.  Phil had joined nine other activists in attempting to walk onto the Volk Field Air National Guard base and meet with the commander to share our concerns about the training of drone pilots that takes place there.

District Attorney Mike Solovey followed his standard procedure of calling Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Thomas Mueller to the stand and identifying Phil as one of the people who walked onto the base on August 25, 2015 and refused to leave.

Phil cross-examined Sheriff Oleson asking him about the purpose of the space between the gates and guard house.  Oleson responded that the space was used so that cars waiting to enter the base didn’t back up onto the county highway.  Phil asked when it was legal to be in that area, and Oleson responded that it was when you are given permission.  But that isn’t true.  Cars drive through the gates and about a block to the guard house and wait to talk to the guard without getting permission to wait in that space.

Phil asked Oleson if we were asked why we were there  so the base officials could determine if we were there for a valid reason, and the sheriff responded that he knew we weren’t there for a valid reason.

The state rested their case and Phil told the judge he would like to be sworn in to testify and then give a brief closing statement.

Testimony                                                                          

Your Honor:
I am employed by Marquette University, where it has been my privilege to have served since 1977 as archivist for the papers of sainthood candidate Dorothy Day. She has often been lauded for her performance of the works of mercy—most recently by Pope Francis--but scorned for her equally steadfast opposition to the works of war. This led to her arrest and imprisonment on three separate occasions for failure to take cover during civil defense drills in the 1950s. I am one of many who have been inspired by her example to seek peace and pursue it.

I respectfully plead not guilty to this charge. Following World War II the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg declared that “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual State.” (Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, vol. I, Nürnberg 1947, page 223).This was one of the Nuremberg Principles adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950 to provide guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime.  These

principles are arguably part of customary international law and part of domestic law in the United States under Article VI, paragraph 2 of the US Constitution  (175 U.S.677, 700) (1900).

Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark testified under oath, at a trial of drone protesters in Dewitt, NY, that in his legal opinion everyone is obligated under the law to try to stop their government from committing war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity
(http://www.arlingtonwestsantamonica.org/docs/Testimony_of_Elliott_Adams.pdf).

I acted out of a conviction that the use of drones for extrajudicial, targeted killing constitutes such a war crime, and I sought to apprise base commander Romuald of this fact. I intended to uphold international law. (As Ms. First noted at her trial last week, Judge Robert Jokl of Dewitt, New York, acquitted five resisters for their action at the Hancock drone base because he was persuaded that they had the same intention.)

Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter defines War Crimes--violations of the laws or customs of war-- to include, among other things, murder or ill treatment of civilian population of or in occupied territory. Weaponized drones, assisted by reconnaissance and surveillance drones piloted from bases such as Volk Field, have killed between 2,494-3,994 persons in Pakistan alone since 2004. These include between 423 and 965 civilians and 172-207 children. Another 1,158-1,738 have been injured. This is data compiled by the award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London (https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/drones-graphs/).

According to the legal scholar
Matthew Lippman (Nuremberg and American Justice, 5 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 951 (1991). Available at: http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndjlepp/vol5/iss4/4)    
citizens have “the legal privilege under international law to act in a non-violent proportionate fashion to halt the commission of war crimes. “  He contends that “Nuremberg… serves both as a sword which can be used to prosecute war criminals, and as a shield for those who are compelled to engage in conscientious acts of moral protest against illegal wars and methods of warfare.”

Lippman counters the common admonition for protesters to confine themselves to legally-sanctioned means of dissent, such as lobbying congresspeople. He cites Judge Myron Bright, of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Dissenting in Kabat, Judge Bright stated that: “We must recognize that civil disobedience in various forms, used without violent acts against others, is engrained in our society and the moral correctness of political protesters' views has on occasion served to change and better our society.”

Examples he gave included the Boston Tea Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the more recent disobedience of “Jim Crow" laws, such as the lunch-counter sit-ins. Kabat, 797 F.2d at 601 United States v. Kabat, 797 F.2d 580 (8th Cir. 1986).

To Professor Lippman, “Today's obscenity may be tomorrow's lyric.”

I’ll conclude, then, with these words from a song many of us know: “Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.”

Note that Phil was stopped in the fifth paragraph, giving statistics on the number of people killed by drones, when DA Solovey objected citing relevance and Curran sustained the objection.  Phil was not able to complete his statement, but it is included in this report because he provided valuable information that could be useful in future cases.

Curran asked Phil what his testimony has to do with trespassing and Phil began to talk about why he walked onto the base when the DA interrupted and said there is nothing about intent in the statute.  As Phil persisted in trying to explain his actions to the judge, Curran became increasingly agitated and angry.  He said he didn’t need to be lectured by Phil about Nuremberg.

Phil tried to explain he was acting under the belief that he was obliged to enter the base, and that we are compelled to engage in resistance to illegal warfare.  Again, Curran made his same old argument that his court is not going to tell Obama that what he is doing is illegal.  That continues to be a false argument that the judge makes in many of our trials.

Phil was very persistent in trying to get his point across and continued to argue his case, but the judge could not hear anything he was saying.

Finally the judge said guilty and $232 fine.  Phil said he wanted to give a closing statement.  Curran said it was too late, it was over, and got up and quickly left the courtroom.  I am concerned about a judge who refuses to allow a closing statement.  Is that legal?

This is the closing statement Phil would have liked to present.
I stand with my co-defendants in the conviction that silence in the face of the injustice of the immoral, illegal and counterproductive drone warfare being carried out by our government makes us complicit in these crimes.  And I fully endorse and support their testimonies before this court. 

In his book The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism, Rahul Mahajan wrote, “If terrorism is to be given an unbiased definition, it must involve the killing of noncombatants for political purposes, no matter who does it or what noble goals they proclaim.” I ask your honor to consider which poses the real threat to peace and right order—the actions of groups such as ours, or those of the CIA and other agencies responsible for our drones policy.

Again, a very disappointing outcome, but Phil reminds us of the importance of what we are doing and why we must continue as he states, “I was disappointed, of course, that Judge Curran didn’t allow me to finish my testimony or make a closing statement. But such rulings won’t deter
us from continuing to speak our truth to the powers that be.”

Mary Beth’s will be the final trial on February 25 at 9:00 am at the Juneau County “Justice” Center, 200 Oak. St. Mauston, WI.  Join us there.

Joy First, Grandmother Activist, Found Guilty of Trespassing in Juneau County, WI

By Joy First

On February 9, 2016 Judge Paul Curran found me guilty of trespass for walking onto the Air National Guard Base at Volk Field in Wisconsin on August 26, 2015.  I joined eight others who wanted to deliver a message to Base Commander Colonel David Romuald, demanding that he immediately end the program of training pilots to operate the Shadow Drone at Volk Field.  Shadow drones are used overseas for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition, and so contribute to the deaths of thousands of innocents through U.S drone warfare.  This action came at the end of the 8-day 90-mile walk organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence from Madison to Volk Field.

The trial began as predicted with DA Solovey calling Juneau County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Mueller who established that I was at Volk Field on August 26 and that I did cross onto the base after being told not to. 

The following are the questions that I asked the deputy under cross examination.

What is the purpose of the area between the gates and the guardhouse?

Response: It is so cars have a place to line up while waiting to talk to someone in the guardhouse without blocking the county road.

When is it legal to be there?

Response: When you are a member of the public waiting to talk to someone in the guardhouse.

Did you ask any of us why we were there so you would know if we were there for a valid reason, and were therefore authorized to be there?

Response: No I didn’t.

Why weren’t we allowed to walk to the guardhouse and state our business?

Response: The sheriff said we should arrest you when you stepped onto the base.

Why does a military base that is supposed to be protecting us need to have the Sheriff protect them from nonviolent dissenters?

Response: I don’t know.

If we are arrested at Camp McCoy the base security makes the arrest.  Why does the county take this on at Volk Field?

Response: I don’t know.

I said I had no further questions.  I then asked the DA if the Sheriff was expected today as he had testified at the other trials.  The DA said he was not.  I was disappointed to hear that because the sheriff likely would have been able to answer my questions.  It seems clear we are being discriminated against by not being allowed to go to the guardhouse when that is what anyone else is able to do, but I was not a good enough examiner to bring this out with the witness that was there.

The defense rested and I told the judge I would like to give a brief statement as testimony, a closing statement, and then if I was found guilty I wanted to give a sentencing statement.  The judge said that was fine, and I was sworn in and took the stand. 

Here is my testimony from the stand.

As each of those who came before me said, silence is complicity and so I must speak out.

I am testifying that I have a First amendment right to petition my government for a redress of grievances and that was what I was doing at Volk Field on August 26, 2015.

I am also testifying that I have an obligation following Nuremberg to speak out when I see that my government is doing something illegal.

I was not there on August 25 in order to enter the base without permission, but to get to the guard house to request a meeting with the base commander to talk about US drone warfare.  I was not there because I wanted to get arrested.

Defendants have not been permitted to present evidence as to their intent.  For example, Ms.  Ellwanger’s statement was completely stricken from the record and Mr. Timmerman was not allowed to talk about intent. 

I then cited information that we had used to appeal a previous case and said:

However, according to previous court cases, the “mere omission of any mention of intent will not be construed as eliminating that element from the crimes denounced.”   The Supreme Court held that a statue’s “silence” on the mens rea element “does not necessarily suggest that Congress intended to dispense with a conventional mens rea element.”    The Staples Court importantly added that “some indication of Congressional intent, express or implied, is required to dispense with mens rea as an element of a crime.” 

I handed the judge the complete text, which included the court cases cited and continued:

And our intention for being there is an important element in this case.  We were not violent.  We meant no harm, rather we were there to try to prevent harm to others and to uphold the law.

When the police asked us to leave I believed it was my right and my duty to remain.

As I walked back to the defense table the DA asked if my complete statement could be stricken from the record.  The judge overruled this request, stating that I included some legal arguments in my statement.

The judge then said that I was found guilty and started saying I would have to pay the $232 fine when he remembered that I wanted to make a closing statement.  He asked if I still wanted to make a closing statement and I said that I wasn’t sure if it was relevant since he already pronounced me guilty.

The judge replied that he had sat through so many of these cases and heard us talk about our personal beliefs and convictions about drones and he had heard it all.  He said if that was what I was going to talk about he didn’t want to hear it, but that if I had something else to say he would listen and if necessary vacate the sentence. 

So I read the following as my closing statement:

I am here before you today because I cannot and will not remain silent as our government continues to engage in drone warfare which is illegal and immoral.  I did not go to Volk Field on August 25, 2015 to break the law; rather I was there to uphold the law.  This is not a simple trespassing case.

Testimony was given that I, as a committed and concerned U.S. citizen, was there exercising my First Amendment rights, and following my obligations under Nuremberg.  I went to Volk Field not with the intention of getting arrested, but rather to try to meet with the base commander, who has never answered a letter from us.

I was not there to engage in unlawful activities.  I am a person of nonviolence, involved in Constitutionally-protected speech.  My intent was to seek to influence the commander, wake him up and affect his conscience, hardly an offense that I should have been arrested for.

You have heard testimony that when the police told me I had to leave, it was my right and my duty to refuse that order.  I acted in a nonviolent manner, and I had the right and responsibility to remain and continue my request for a meeting.

You have heard that I was acting under the First Amendment which gives us the right to peaceably assemble, speak out, and petition our government for a redress of long-standing grievances. 

You have heard that I was following my citizen obligations under Nuremberg and other international law. 

According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal and immoral activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values.  It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, as prosecutors, as judges to speak out.  Robert Jackson, the United States judge at the Nuremberg trials said, “The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.”

I will not, indeed, I cannot, be complicit when our government has gone so astray.  It is my responsibility as a citizen of this great country to call attention to the unjust actions of our government and demand that they stop now.  I believe that I can make a difference, that I have made a difference, and you can too.  Please, look into your heart and see that I was doing what I was called to do, and that I did so peacefully, and now you have the opportunity to find me not guilty of trespass.

You have said that you have no authority over our foreign policy, but if a judge in Juneau County finds me innocent, it would make a difference and people would pay attention.

At the Hancock AFB  in New York resisters were acquitted because the judge said they intended to uphold the law, not break it.  We were at Volk Field on August 25 to uphold the law.

I ask that you please find me not guilty as charged and join me in saying that we need to stop arresting, detaining, and prosecuting nonviolent people of good will and conscience who take action for peace and justice. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this case.

I finished and Judge Curran again pronounced me guilty.  He said that what I was asking him to do was very dangerous.  He cannot let me off because he likes me or agrees with me.  That would set a very dangerous precedent.  He can’t let his personal beliefs affect his rulings as he picks and chooses which laws to obey and which not to obey.  He is bound and sworn to follow the law.

The trial lasted 18 minutes.  Curran left the courtroom without giving me a chance to give a sentencing statement as I had requested.  Again, he is sick of us and does what he can to shut us down.  His argument at the end makes no sense.  He IS picking and choosing which laws to obey when finds us guilty.  He is ignoring the constitutional law of our First Amendment rights.  He is ignoring international law, including Nuremberg, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions – all of which make U.S. drone warfare illegal. 

Afterwards, I realized that I should have added something to my closing.  I should have pointed out that Deputy Mueller said that members of the public are allowed to pass through the gate and proceed to the guardhouse to request permission to enter the base.  If that is the case, why were we arrested at the gate without being asked what our business was at the base?  Why are we not being given the same rights as other members of the public?

As so many of my activist friends say, “You do not find justice in the courtroom.”  There was no justice for me today, but more importantly, there is certainly no justice for the thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed because of U.S. drone warfare.  We continue with two more trials for our Volk Field action – Phil on February 19 and Mary Beth on February 25.

CATHOLIC WORKER, PEACE ACTIVIST DON TIMMERMAN FOUND GUILTY IN JUNEAU COUNTY, WI

By Joy First

In another farcical trial for the 14 activists arrested at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, Don Timmerman was found guilty of trespass in a Juneau County trial presided over by Judge Curran on February 1.  Apparently Judge Curran, who said he did not want to consolidate our trials because it could be prejudicial to us, has fine-tuned his skills in short-circuiting any defense we might provide and the whole trial lasted about eleven minutes.

As predicted, DA Solevey had Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Sheriff Thomas  Mueller take the stand and establish that Don was at Volk Field on August 25 and that he crossed onto the base after he was told not to by the Sheriff.

Under cross-examination Don asked Oleson if he knew why we were there.  The DA objected as irrelevant and the judge sustained the objection.  Don asked Mueller if he was aware that the base property was purchased by the taxpayers.  Don was going to make the point that we had the right to be on the property, but this question was also objected to and the objection was sustained.

Don took the stand and said he wanted to talk about why we were there. Curran said it was irrelevant to the charge – that intent is not an element of the trespass charge – and therefore he would not allow this testimony.  The judge complained that he has heard this information repeatedly over the last couple of years and that moral convictions are not relevant to the case.

Don said that if he was not allowed to talk about why he was there, he didn’t have anything else he wanted to say.

The judge quickly told Don he was guilty of trespass and would be fined $232, and that it would be attached to his income tax refund if he didn’t pay it.  Again, a defendant was tried and convicted without being allowed to provide a defense.

Don asked Curran if he could do community service or jail time and the judge said no.  The judges made the same empty argument that it would take too  much time to administer community service with a number of additional hearings being required.  This is simply not true.  We have models for community service in both Milwaukee and Madison where it is a matter of filling out a form that would be signed by a local minister and then turned into the court.

Don asked Curran if he could say one more thing and the judge said he would allow it.  Don said, “I cannot allow killing of innocent people in my name.  This needs to be stated over and over.  We are always going to be protesting killings.”  And with that the judge stood up and quickly left the courtroom.

Don was hoping to read the following statement on Nuremberg from Nuremberg and American Justice during his testimony, but was not allowed:

Allegiance to the nation-state must be replaced by a loyalty to the human community and by a respect for international law.  It is not the rebel who threatens civilization, but the compliant conformist who mechanically suppresses his moral qualms when confronted with the dictates of authority.  The famous therapist R.D. Laing reminds us that the perfectly adjusted bomber pilot poses a greater threat to the survival of the human species than does the hospitalized schizophrenic.  Laing goes on to note that so-called normal individuals have been responsible for the unnecessary death of perhaps one hundred million of their fellow human beings in the twentieth century.

And so we are reminded of the importance of continuing our work.  It might seem disheartening to witness the outrage and absurdity of the United States criminal justice system, but as I was driving to court today I was thinking of the words that Art Laffin always shares, “Keep your eyes on the prize.”  Whether we are found guilty or not in this sham of a court does not really matter in the big world picture.  What we need to stay focused on, and what really matters, is the thousands and thousands of innocent children, women, and men who are being killed by U.S. drones.  Continuing our message to stop the killing is what is important.  And Don told the judge, “We will be back.”

We have three trials remaining:

Joy - February 9 at 10:00 am

Phil - February 19 at 10:0 am

Mary Beth - February 25 at 9:00 am

12 Arrested Thursday for Opposing Drone Murders


Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade

Hancock Air Drone Base, Jan. 28 – Twelve Activists Arrested


On Thursday morning, January 28, thirty life sized cutouts of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan blockaded the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, NY. The cutouts were accompanied by twelve nonviolent drone resisters, who were arrested after blockading for an hour and a half. See video (of the blockade and arrests).

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, dedicated his entire life – like his brothers Dan and Phil – to Jesus’ command to love one another, Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in his words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.”  And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was among those standing with the Memorial in the roadway. Others were Beth Adams, Bev Rice, Bill Ofenloch, Brian Hynes, Charley Bowman, Ed Kinane, James Ricks, Joan Pleune, Joan Wages, Pete Perry and Steve Baggarly.

They were all charged with one misdemeanor and two violations, with the exception of Bev Rice and Joan Pleune, who were both charged with an additional misdemeanor (for allegedly violating an order of protection taken out by the base commander).

In 2008 Jerry was asked if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” The activists brought Jerry’s image to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.

The group also remembered Mary Anne Grady Flores, who is serving a six-month sentence for violating an order of protection, taken out by the colonel at Hancock Air Base. Clearly, courts in NYS believe that a colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings.

More and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing. The activists tried to deliver a letter addressed to the Hancock  military personnel stating that “Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.”

Hancock Air Base deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians.

For more information, see The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, www.upstatedroneaction.org

Below are the letter to the Hancock military personnel and the drone resisters’ statement.

HANCOCK REAPER DRONE WORKERS:
HONOR YOUR OATH

To the men and women of the 174th Attack Wing of the NYS National Guard:

Each of you, when you joined the United States Armed Forces raised your right hand and solemnly swore to uphold the United States Constitution. Article VI of that Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause. The Supremacy Clause declares that when the U.S. ratifies international treaties, those treaties become the “supreme law of the land.” This means they trump all local and federal law – including the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

One such treaty is the United Nations Charter. Signed by the U.S. president in 1945 and ratified by a Senate vote of 89 to two, that Charter remains in effect today.

The Charter’s Preamble states that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war.” It further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This U.N. Treaty applies to all levels – federal, state, and local – of the three branches of our government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  The personnel of all these entities must act consistent with U.S. treaties and obey the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI.                            
Under the U.N. Charter and under long-established international law, anyone –
civilian, military, government official or judge – who knowingly participates in or supports illegal threat or use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Men and women on duty at Hancock AFB: Four of your colleagues, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, formerly operating weaponized drones at other U.S. bases, have – courageously – gone public about drone war crimes they acknowledge committing.

The 174th Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians. They bring dishonor on the United States and upon its armed services.

Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.

Those protesting here today are exercising our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances (the vile use of our tax money). We urge you to do the honorable thing. We urge you to heed your conscience.

From the Upstate Drone Action Coalition: Ground the Drones and End the Wars,  28 January 2016
 

*****

We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.”  And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.  Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.

In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.  

Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.

Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!

In peace,
 
Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)

We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.

UPDATE: 12 arrested today.



Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing. Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.

In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.

Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.

Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!

In peace,

Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)

Grandmother and Long-time activist Joyce Ellwanger Guilty of Trespass in Wisconsin

By Joy First

Joyce Ellwanger was found guilty of trespassing by Judge Paul Curran in Juneau County court on Friday January 22, 2016.  Though Curran never formerly pronounced a verdict saying Joyce was guilty, he said she trespassed and he imposed a sentence in another heavy-handed trial for the nine activists who were arrested at Volk Field in August 2015.

Refusing our request to consolidate the cases, Judge Curran has already found Jim Murphy and Bonnie Block to be guilty.  Jim spent five days in jail, and Bonnie asked for community service, but Curran refused and said that if she didn’t pay the fine it would be attached to her income tax.  Four trials are remaining and coming up in February.

The DA, Michael Solvey, continued his familiar defense in Joyce’s trial.  He called the county sheriff and a deputy sheriff to take the stand, establishing Joyce’s identity and that she did indeed cross onto the base.

URGENT - MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES EDITION – DRONE ORGANIZERS BULLETIN - JANUARY 2016

DRONE WAR OPPONENT MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES HAS BEGUN SERVING SIX MONTHS IN JAIL
By Nick Mottern, KnowDrones

As many of you know Mary Anne Grady Flores, 59, grandmother of three, a caterer, with responsibility with her other family members for caring from her critically ill mother, began serving a six-month jail sentence on Tuesday night, January 19, 2016 in connection with a drone protest at the Hancock Air National Guard drone control center hear Syracuse, NY.
 

Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, who has also been arrested at Hancock, says: “All the drone trials are bogus, and Mary Anne’s charges, trial and sentencing were particularly egregious. (A statement from Colonel Wright appears below.)
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES
 

1. Speaking on Thursday, January 21 from jail, Mary Anne said that the #1 thing she would like to be done in support is for people to organize local anti-drone war teach-ins or other events. She would like the events to include identifying the similarities between drone killing and killings by police in terms of lack of due process and accountability. See Mary Anne’s statement below.
 

2. Send money to support Mary Anne and the anti-drone war movement in Upstate New York, for example in paying legal fees. Please make out your check to:

Ithaca Catholic Workers, write Mary Anne Grady Flores in the memo line, and send the check to:

Ithaca Catholic Workers
514 N. Plain Street
Ithaca, NY 14850


3.  Send Mary Anne a letter, addressed to:

Mary Anne Grady Flores – Inmate #12001966
Jamesville Correctional Facility
PO Box 143
Jamesville, NY 13078


Here is the report from the Syracuse Post Standard on Mary Anne’s surrendering at court for imprisonment, followed by her statement immediately before her imprisonment.

http://www.syracuse.com/crime/index.ssf/2016/01/dewitt_drone_protester.html - incart_river_index
 

Mary Anne’s statement: 

https://youtu.be/G_r-7wiBkg4
 

and that of her attorney, Lance Salisbury:

https://youtu.be/-_D_LbBodYE
 

Also statements by Mary Anne’s sister, Ellen Grady

https://youtu.be/vgX9x2-MQJk
 

and Carol Baum of the Syracuse Peace Council

https://youtu.be/r_engGBmYbI
 

Mary Anne’s imprisonment has received wide press coverage including:
 

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/1/19/photographing_drone_war_protest_lands_peace

and

http://billmoyers.com/story/a-drone-protestor-heads-to-jail/

and

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mary-anne-grady-flores-drones_us_569e78a1e4b00f3e9863073d?utm_hp_ref=politics
 

 

Colonel Ann Wright's Statement 1-19-16
 

As Grandmother Mary Ann Grady Flores is taken to jail today for violating an “Order of Protection” requested by the Commander of the U.S. National Guard Hancock Drone base, Syracuse, NY, I, as a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 29 years in the US military find it quite embarrassing and ludicrous that a U.S. military commander decided that his personal security so threatened by peaceful, non-violent protesters of the drone policies of the United States that he applied for an “Order of Protection” from the courts—and that the courts issued the “Order” without any evidence that any protester had ever even seen the Commander, much less constituted a threat to him. 
 

I would have expected a U.S. military commander to have had the courage to meet with the group of concerned citizens rather than obtaining a cowardly “Order of Protection.” Had I been the commander, I certainly would have met with the citizens and would never have contemplated getting an "Order of Protection.
 

I have just returned from South Korea and Okinawa where citizen protesters daily block gates to military bases where highly contentious runways and ports are being built.  Each day police remove non-violent protesters from the gates, but they have never been prohibited from exercising their rights to protest, a right that is under siege by the military and the courts in Syracuse, New York.
 

As further evidence of how contorted the law enforcement and judicial process in the U.S. is about protests, while armed, white militia hold a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon in protest of the government having too much land and are not even arrested, Mary Ann Grady Flores, a peaceful grandmother who stepped on a double line and therefore violated an “Order of Protection” is going to jail for six months.
 

The actions by the U.S. military at Hancock drone base and the town courts of DeWitt, New York are blatant measures taken unconstitutionally to silence dissent against the assassin drone weapons policy and intimidate protesters.  They both should be ashamed. 

 

Ann Wright

US Army Colonel (retired)

 

In solidarity,
Nick

Grandma Drone Protester Remanded to Jail for 6 Months

Mary Anne Grady Flores to be taken into custody Tuesday, January 19

Ithaca, NY.  On January 12, the National Day of Action to Stop Killer Drones, grandmother and drone resister Mary Anne Grady Flores learned that she is to go back to jail for six months starting Tuesday, January 19. She is to report to the Dewitt Town Court (5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY) at 5pm to be remanded to Jamesville Correctional Facility, East Syracuse NY.

Mary Anne had been out on appeal of a lower court convicting her of violating an order of protection. It had been given on behalf of Col. Evans of the Hancock Air National Guard Base 174th Attack Wing (in Syracuse, NY), to “protect” him from nonviolent anti-drone activists. She had been charged with violating the order while taking pictures of eight Catholics protesting the US drone assassination program at Hancock on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.  Onondaga County Court Judge Miller upheld the lower court conviction. Of note is that all eight Catholic drone resisters were acquitted because they went to uphold law, not break it.

Orders of protection, typically given in domestic violence situations, have been used by the Court and the Base in an attempt to deter protest and suppress free speech. Judge Miller also upheld a lower court ruling on the Hancock 17, seventeen nonviolent drone resisters given orders of protection, jail time, and fines.

Mary Anne, a grandmother of three, has been a part of The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, resisting the drone assassination program since 2011.  According to leaked military documents called the Drone Paperssent to the Intercept, 90% of drone assassinations target and kill civilians, including children.  On the National Day of Action, drone resisters were arrested at Creech Air Force Base (Nevada), Beale AFB (California), and Volk AFB (Wisconsin), and Ramstein AFB, Germany and in Pakistan, all a part of the worldwide resistance to drones.

Mary Anne received the verdict and sentence by mail, even though she was originally told to appear in County Court on January 22 to hear the court's decision. This may have been an attempt to prevent a full courtroom and press with cameras from attending, as occurred at the time of her original sentence.

                                                            www.upstatedroneaction.org

                                                                             ###

Father Jim Murphy Sentenced to Five Days in Jail in Wisconsin for Anti-drone action

By Joy First

Father Jim Murphy of Highland, WI was found guilty of trespass during a bench trial on January 4, 2016.  With Judge Paul Curran presiding over the Juneau County proceedings we saw another miscarriage of justice in our continuing struggle to end drone warfare.  Jim will be spending five days in the Juneau County jail after stating he would not pay a $232 fine.

Jim was arrested on August 25, 2015 along with eight other activists, for stepping onto the base at Volk Field, an Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin where they train pilots to operate the Shadow Drones.  This action was at the end of an eight-day 90 mile walk from Madison, WI to Volk Field organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

The prosecutor, DA Solovey, called three witnesses - the chief of security at Volk Field, the Juneau County Sheriff, and a deputy sheriff - to establish Jim’s identity, that he did walk onto the base, and that he was not authorized to do so.  Jim declined to cross-examine the county’s witnesses.

Jim took the stand in his defense and stated his name as Jim Murphy.  Curran wanted it noted for the record that Jim was a Catholic priest and was officially Father James Murphy.  Jim began to read a prepared statement condemning drone warfare.  He was interrupted by Curran who said that this is only about the trespass charge, nonetheless he allowed Jim to continue with his statement.  However, Solovey quickly objected and the judge said Jim could not finish his statement.  The judge also commented that Obama does not care what his court has to say about drone warfare.

Jim was persistent and asked for the court’s indulgence to complete his statement, and finally Curran decided to allow him to finish.

Jim eloquently reminded us that, “We cannot remain silent without becoming complicit.”  I hope the judge heard that and thought about what his silence means.   Jim finished by saying, “You view this as a trespass charge.  I view it as a long tradition of opposition to war.”

Judge Curran ruled that Jim was guilty of trespass and said he would have to pay a $232 fine.  Jim said he was not able to pay the fine and would do the jail time instead.  Curran seemed very uncomfortable with this prospect (because he was a priest?) and finally Curran responded that he knew Jim really couldn’t pay the fine and so he would sentence him to five days in jail and spare him the lecture about Juneau County’s financial difficulties.

This was in reference to the lecture given by Judge Curran when two activists from earlier trials took the jail time rather than pay the fine.  The judge told them that Juneau County is one of the poorest counties in the state and admonished the activists for using county money to put them in jail in lieu of paying the fine.  I guess Judge Curran must have some kind of insider knowledge – or more likely some deep-seated prejudice – so that he can determine that it is ok for some of us to choose jail time, but not for all of us. 

The judge could have saved the county a lot of money by granting our motion for consolidation, but he refused to do so.  There will be seven more trials, with Bonnie Block coming next on January 8.  In the meantime, keep up the resistance and join us in DC on January 12 for the Real State of the Union action.

Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cian-westmoreland-former-us-air-force-technician-in-afghanistan-speaks-against-war 

Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.

Learn more: http://projectredhand.org

See related film: http://dronethedocumentary.com

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Total run time: 29:00

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Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Killer Drone Protesters' Charges Dismissed in Upstate New York

This afternoon, December 16, town of DeWitt (NY) judge Robert Jokl dismissed the charges against the five anti-Reaper drone protesters arrested on September 21, 2015. The protesters had blocked the main entrance of Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse with three long one-word banners reading DRONES  KILL  CHILDREN. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State National Guard.
 
The five Central New Yorkers  are from Syracuse and Ithaca, and are each active in the Upstate Drone Action Coalition.
 
That Coalition alleges that the 174th Attack Wing commits ongoing war crime for its weaponized Reaper drone missions over Afghanistan. The robotic unmanned Reapers operated by remote control notoriously kill many civilians both within and beyond war zones through the Middle East and West Asia.
 
Pro bono attorney Jonathan Wallace argued before Judge Jokl  that the prosecution’s paperwork was woefully inadequate. That the prosecutor failed to even appear in court probably did not help his case.
 
The five – along with many others -- have each been arrested and incarcerated for previous nonviolent anti-drone protests at Hancock:
    Dan Burgevin
    Ed Kinane
    Bonny Mahoney
    Julienne Oldfield
    James Ricks.
 
Since 2010 scores of Upstate Drone Action members have been arrested for their nonviolent protests at Hancock.###

Do Mass Killings Bother You?

We now know this. A young man who had successfully killed on a large scale went to his religious leader with doubts and was told that mass killing was part of God's plan. The young man continued killing until he had participated in killing sprees that took 1,626 lives -- men, women, and children.

I repeat: his death count was not the 16 or 9 or 22 lives that make top news stories, but 1,626 dead and mutilated bodies.

Do such things bother you?

What if you learned that this young man's name was Brandon Bryant, and that he killed as a drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and that he was presented with a certificate for his 1,626 kills and congratulated on a job well done by the United States of America? What if you learned that his religious leader was a Christian chaplain?

Do such things still bother you?

What if you learned that most of the people killed by U.S. drones are civilians? That the pilots "double-tap," meaning that they send a missile into a wedding party or a house and then wait for people to try to help the injured and send a second missile into them? That as a result one hears the injured screaming for hours until they die, as no one comes to help? That a drone pilot sent a missile into a group of children from which three children survived who recognized their dead brothers but had no idea that various pieces of flesh were what was left of their Mom and Dad and consequently cried out for those now gone-forever individuals?

Is this troubling?

What if President Obama's claim of few or no civilian deaths was proven false by well-documented reporting? And by the fact that most victims are targeted without even knowing their names?

What if a leading candidate for president in the past week were to both declare that the way to win a war is to start killing whole families, and stage a public Christian prayer session in order to win over a certain demographic of voters?

Is that bothering?

What if it became clear that police officers in the United States have been murdering people at a higher rate than drone pilots? Would you want to see police videos of their killings? Would you want to see drone videos of their killings? We have thus far gained limited access to the former and none to the latter.

What if it were discovered that gun murders in San Bernardino are almost routine. Would they all be equally tragic?

My point is not to cease caring about the tragedy that the television stations tell you to care about. I wish everyone would care 1,000 times more, and even better do something to take away the guns and the hatred and the culture of violence and the economic injustice and the alienation.

My point is that there are other tragedies that go unmentioned, including larger ones. And exploiting one tragedy to fuel hatred toward a large segment of the human population of earth is madness.

Academic’s Research Shows NY Times, Wash. Post Don’t Do Follow-up Reporting to See if Civilians Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes

predator firing hellfire missileBy John Hanrahan

By now you know the drill: The CIA or U.S. military forces unleash a drone strike or other aerial bombardment in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or any other country that the United States claims the right to attack.

A U.S. government spokesperson reports 5 or 7 or 17 or 25 or whatever number of “militants” killed — Taliban, or al Qaeda or ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State fighters — according to its fill-in-the-blanks press release. Wire services, mainstream newspapers, television newscasters dutifully report in brief fashion on another successful drone or missile strike, fulfilling minimal journalistic standards by attributing it to the Pentagon, or intelligence or U.S. government sources — sometimes even naming the spokesperson who issued the news release.

And then — usually nothing. Yes, sometimes someone with a little clout raises a stink — say the Afghan president, or some prominent local official who was an eyewitness to the attack, or Doctors without Borders after the U.S. attack on their Afghanistan hospital in October. (* See footnote.) In such challenges to the Americans’ claims of killing only “militants,” these pesky eyewitnesses contend that many of those killed were actually noncombatants, even women and children.

But on those occasions when U.S. officials are confronted with too-strong evidence of civilian casualties, they typically issue an apology (while not usually admitting civilians were actually killed), promise an investigation — and then that’s the last we ever seem to hear of it in the mainstream press.

Now, an American University (A.U.) academic, Jeff Bachman, has documented what some readers may have surmised in reading drone news coverage over the years, but didn’t have the data to back it up. In examining articles by The New York Times and Washington Post in the immediate aftermath of U.S. drone strikes between 2009 and 2014, Bachman concluded:

“Both papers have substantially underrepresented the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, failed to correct the public record when evidence emerged that their reporting was wrong and ignored the importance of international law.”

Bachman’s research dovetails with The Intercept’s recently published “Drone Papers” articles, which among other things document the U.S. government’s lying to the press and public about the number of noncombatants killed in drone strikes.

Bachman, professional lecturer in human rights and the co-director of Global Affairs M.A. Program at A.U.’s School of International Service, examined a sample of 81 Times articles and 26 Post articles published within two days of particular drone strikes between 2009 and 2014. He then compared the two papers’ reporting to the research and tracking of drone strikes by the London-based The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). He said he considered TBIJ’s data authoritative “because they used a methodology that has been endorsed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and Human Rights” at Columbia University’s Law School.

In the drone attacks reported on by The Times, TBIJ found civilians killed in 26 of the 81 attacks. The Times, though, reported civilians killed in only two of those attacks, Bachman wrote.

Looking at The Post’s coverage of drone attacks, Bachman found that TBIJ reported civilians killed in 7 of the 26 attacks, while The Post reported civilians killed in only one attack.

In the 33 strikes that produced civilian casualties, TBIJ found that between 180 and 302 civilians were killed — yet Times and Post articles reported on the deaths of only nine civilians in the three stories in which they noted that there were civilian casualties.

“This trend of underreporting of civilian casualties means readers are not being informed of the real consequences of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan,” Bachman wrote. “It represents a failure by journalists at these papers to view critical government claims regarding who is killed in particular strikes.”

Even worse, Bachman reports what happened when he contacted both newspapers to question them “about the inaccuracies in their reporting on civilian casualties, and to see whether either newspaper published corrections” about civilian deaths from drone strikes. “The answer from both was that they had not,” he wrote.

Read Bachman’s article to see the full summary of his findings and the exact comments he reports receiving from Times and Post representatives. But for one sample of mainstream media indifference to this issue, consider what Bachman reported he was told by Sylvester Monroe, The Post’s assistant managing editor.

Monroe, wrote Bachman, “stated that when using ‘official sources’ it is impossible to ‘independently verify which of the dead were members of militant groups and which might have been innocent civilians.’”

According to Bachman, Monroe added this amazing disclosure: “Even if the CIA were to acknowledge that its count was inaccurate, it would not be up to us to run a correction.” Let that sink in: The Post will apparently not make corrections of a spy agency’s lies and misrepresentations even in the unlikely event the agency itself admits them.

Bachman also noted that the term “human rights” — and various equivalents — showed up in only 5 of The Times’s 81 drone attack stories, and in only one of the 26 Post articles. The term “laws of war” or “laws of armed conflict” — needed to “place the drone strikes in their international legal context” — were not mentioned in any of the articles.

“Without government transparency and accurate reporting, whistleblowers, like the source of The Intercept’s ‘Drone Papers,’ are the only source for information that will allow us to understand the real consequences of the drone strikes,” Bachman concluded.

___________________________

  • The recent October 2 multiple U.S. bombings on the Doctor Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where at least 30 staff, patients and others were killed, might prove to be that unique case that events will force to be seriously investigated. But don’t count on it. In the Kunduz hospital case, eyewitnesses — Westerners/doctors from a highly respected international humanitarian medical organization making allegations that the bombings were deliberate — could not be so easily written off by the Pentagon and our usually incurious mainstream media. Doctors without Borders has called the multiple bombardments on the hospital a possible war crime and wants the attack investigated by an international inquiry under the Geneva Conventions. Instead, General John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, has appointed a two-star general from another command to head what Campbell termed an independent investigation — a far cry from what Doctors Without Borders has called for. Keeping the investigation within the military’s own house makes it much more likely that we may be heading for one of those mistakes-were-made Pentagon reports, rather than a war-crimes-were-committed report. Even this inadequate, conflicted investigative step, though, is far more than usually happens when ordinary civilians are killed by U.S. attacks and there are no Westerners or credentialed people to witness them.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

 

About John Hanrahan

John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for  The Washington Post,  The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of  Government by Contract  and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Originally published by ExposeFacts.org

Chicago Restricts Drones: Who's Next?

Chicago media outlets are reporting that drones have been banned from most of Chicago's skies and cannot fly over you or your property without your permission. The text of the ordinance, however, makes exceptions for police that will require eternal vigilance.

Local legislative action around drones began in U.S. cities in early 2013 with the public demand for resolutions opposing foreign drone murders by the military and CIA (and related training in U.S. skies), combined with public concern about domestic U.S. police departments that had begun acquiring weaponized and surveillance drones. This quickly expanded to include concerns about private drones -- among other reasons, because surveillance footage from private drones could be acquired by governments. As near misses between drones and passenger aircraft began piling up, those issues of safety were added to the mix.

Chicago has now passed a modified version of an ordinance that forbids any drone "that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon" and any drone flown "with intent to use such small unmanned aircraft or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property." The new law also bans any drone flight "for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law."

Then come the exceptions: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person who is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration . . . ." And: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency in accordance with Section 15 of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, codified at 725 ILCS 167/1 et seq., or its successor provision."

That Illinois law allows police to use drones whenever they claim there is "a high risk of a terrorist attack" or they obtain a 45-day warrant from a court, or they decide they don't have time to bother obtaining a warrant and must act swiftly "to prevent imminent harm to life or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence," or they're attempting to locate a missing person but not undertaking a criminal investigation, or they're solely doing crime scene or traffic crash scene photography (with a warrant if on private property), or there is a disaster or public health emergency (which need not have been formally declared).

None of that explicitly allows weaponized drones for police, except in so far as the word "terrorist" is generally taken to allow just about anything. So, does Chicago's ban on weaponized drones remain intact for police? I'm pessimistic. I don't think the ban on entering the sky over private property or flying at night or flying drunk or any of the other bans survive for police. The law says "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency. . . ."

How police drone use works out, I think, depends entirely on how the state law is interpreted and enforced. Who will monitor police drone use? Who will punish violations? The new Chicago ordinance includes penalties: "Any person who violates this section or any rule promulgated thereunder shall be fined not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 for each offense, or may be incarcerated for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense." But that sounds like a penalty for an individual, not a government agency.

I'm afraid what has been created is a policy of restricting drone use by individuals in Chicago, without effectively restricting it by the entities most likely to violate rights, intimidate, restrict ability to exercise free speech or assemble or petition the government for redress of grievances, and to use unjustifiable force.

This question is far from settled. Chicago is only one city. Other cities and states could choose to clearly ban weaponized drones, and to ban police surveillance drones under a clear system of supervision, oversight, and accountability.

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