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Now that the U.S. government has released parts of its We-Can-Kill-People-With-Drones memo, it's hard to miss why it was kept secret until now.
Liberal professors and human rights groups and the United Nations were claiming an inability to know whether drone murders were legal or not because they hadn't seen the memo that the White House said legalized them. Some may continue to claim that the redactions in the memo make judgment impossible.
I expect most, however, will now be willing to drop the pretense that ANY memo could possibly legalize murder.
Oh, and yall can stop telling me not to use the impolite term "murder" to describe the, you know, murders -- since "murder" is precisely the term used by the no-longer secret memo.
The memo considers a section of the U.S. code dealing with the murder of a U.S. citizen by another U.S. citizen abroad, drawing on another section that defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought."
David Barron, the memo's author, needed a loophole to make murder-by-missile a lawful killing rather than an unlawful killing, so he pulls out the "public authority justification" under which the government gets to use force to enforce a law. It's a novel twist, though, for the government to get to use force to violate the law, claiming the violation is legal on the Nixonian basis that it is the government doing it.
Alternatively, Barron suggests, a government gets to use force if doing so is part of a war. This, of course, ignores the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and the illegality of wars, as well as the novelty of claiming that a war exists everywhere on earth forever and ever. (None of Barron's arguments justify governmental murder on U.S. soil any less than off U.S. soil.)
In essence, Barron seems to argue, the people who wrote the laws were thinking about private citizens and terrorists, not the government (which, somehow, cannot be a terrorist), and therefore it's OK for the government to violate the laws.
Then there's the problem of Congressional authorization of war, or lack thereof, which Barron gets around by pretending that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was as broad as the White House pretends rather than worded to allow targeting only those responsible for the 911 attacks.
Then there are the facts of the matter in the case of Anwar al Awlaki, who was targeted for murder prior in time to the actions that President Obama has claimed justified that targeting.
Then there are the facts in the other cases of U.S. killings of U.S. citizens, which aren't even redacted, as they're never considered.
Then there are the vastly more numerous killings of non-U.S. citizens, which the memo does not even attempt to excuse.
In the end, the memo admits that calling something a war isn't good enough; the targeted victim has to have been an imminent threat to the United States. But who gets to decide whether he or she was that? Why, whoever does the killing of course. And what happens if nobody ever even makes an unsupported assertion to that effect? Nothing, of course.
This is not the rule of law. This is savage brute force in minimal disguise. I don't want to see any more of these memos. I want to see the video footage of the drone murders on a television. I want to see law professors and revolving-door State Department / human rights group hacks argue that dead children fall under the public authority justification.
A Pakistani High Court ordered Pakistani police to lodge a complaint against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks on Thursday, for the killing of civilians in U.S. drone strikes along the country's northwestern border with Afghanistan.Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court made the order in a case filed by Karim Khan, a North Waziristan resident and an anti-drone activist whose son and brother were both killed in a drone strike in 2009.
Join the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance & Killing - October 4, 2014
As global citizens who believe in justice and the rule of law, we oppose weaponized and surveillance drones because their deployment:
- is used for extrajudicial "targeted" killings based merely on suspicion -- murders -- even of children inside and outside of war zones,
- violates democratic rights of freedom of speech and assembly and the right not to be unreasonably searched,
- terrorizes populations in targeted territories, thereby fueling hatred and increasing the cycle of violence,
- lowers the threshold to war and initiates a new round in the arms race,
- leads to the development of autonomous killer robots, thereby making even more horrifying wars likely.
We demand that all governments cease the production and acquisition of armed drones, as well as their research and development, and work towards a worldwide ban of these weapons.
We further demand that our governments prohibit the use of drones for surveillance and prohibit using space satellites, ground stations, and military bases to enable drone surveillance and to trigger drone killings.
We call on people all over the world to join us in the Global Day of Action on October 4.
To add your endorsement to this call or to send a URL link regarding your October 4th protest event, contact Colleen from CODEPINK at email@example.com.
By Brian Terrell
On April 15, 2014, when the story broke on the world that the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program of assassination by remotely controlled drones is not distinct from the drone program of the U.S. Air Force as we had been told, I was on the “Sacred Peace Walk,” an event sponsored each spring by the Nevada Desert Experience, a 70 mile trek from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Creech Air Force Base is along the way and we had already made plans for a protest there the next morning. While the CIA’s drone program is shrouded in secrecy, the Air Force supposedly has been using drones strictly as a weapon for waging war against combatants in recognized areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and formerly in Iraq, under a chain of command that is accountable to elected officials. Some who condemn the CIA’s assassinations by drones as illegal give a pass to or even laud the Air Force use of drones as a more restrained way to fight war.
This distinction has now been exposed as a lie. In a new documentary film released in Europe, “Drone,” former Air Force drone operators, veterans of a super-secret Squadron 17 at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reveal that “it’s always been the Air Force that flies” the CIA’s missions, “the CIA might be the customer, but the Air Force has always flown it.”
The fact that airmen at Creech are carrying out assassination missions and extrajudicial executions far from declared zones of conflict on orders from unknown and unnamable bureaucrats did not come as a surprise. Neither was the news a “game changer” in regard to the actions we had planned, although we quickly revised the indictment listing the war crimes committed at Creech that some of us would attempt to deliver to the base commander.
My arrest at Creech along with eight others on April 16 was a “return to the scene of the crime” (the Air Force’s crime, not mine) for me, as I was among the “Creech 14” in April 2009, the first nonviolent direct action against drones in the U.S. Creech was then one of only a few sites from which drones were controlled by the U.S. and by the United Kingdom, which has a wing of the Royal Air Force stationed there to fly their own drones. Since then the use of armed drones has been proliferating around the world and so has the number of drone operation bases in communities around the U.S. My work with Voices for Creative Nonviolence has brought me to the scenes of the crime in Afghanistan, the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia and at the gates of drone bases in New York, Iowa, Missouri and in England as well.
The latest revelation is but the exposure of one more lie, one more layer of criminality and venality of this corrupt and dangerous program. Over the years since April 2009, the promises of a new era of better war through drone technology have been steadily unravelling, each of them proving false. It is increasingly clear that rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways.
President Obama, in an address before the National Defense University May 23, 2013, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.
In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. "Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment," Hostage said.
Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”
Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from posttraumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”
The Air Force is relegating much of its drone operations to Air National Guard units in various states, creating virtual war zones in local communities. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Foreign postings of state National Guard units are usually made public, but where in the world these citizen soldiers will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy, hidden even from their families. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by local National Guard units will make their communities into legitimate targets of war.
Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, proliferating drone attacks around the globe from more and more American bases, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and wellbeing of our troops, of American civilians or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than limiting war, being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.
As our band of walkers approached Creech Air Force Base on the morning of April 16, we were greeted by a large sign at the gate that read “Force Protection Alpha in Effect,” announcing that the base was in its highest security alert. We were also met by an impressive contingent of military police and sheriff’s officers, heavily armed and some on horseback, which easily exceeded in number our little band that left Las Vegas on foot four days earlier. These public servants were clearly responding to a perceived threat to public safety and so were we. Our purposes were disjointed, though, in that we were at Creech in response to a clear and present danger presented by the murderous crimes of Squadron 17 somewhere in the depth of this desert outpost. The official and ostensible law enforcement squad, on the other hand, was there in response to the threat that a few unarmed citizens might step across an arbitrary and ever shifting line on the pavement.
I write this on my way to Kansas City, where, this weekend, good and faithful friends will go to nearby Whiteman Air Force Base to confront the predator drones based there. A few days later, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and friends will start walking from Boeing corporate headquarters in Chicago (a major drone contractor) 160 miles to Battle Creek, Michigan, where a National Guard unit is poised to begin operating predator drones over far away skies. “Force Protection Alpha” is truly “in Effect” and people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as well as communities in the U.S. and Europe are responding to the emergency.
Brian Terrell is a Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and lives on a Catholic Worker farm in Maloy, Iowa
Photo credit: John Amidon
On May 20, a drone ban resolution was approved in a 4 to 1 vote by the Woodstock, NY Town Board. (There was one abstention).
The resolution (below) was introduced by board member Jay Wenk, who said he adapted it from a resolution that was approved in Charlottesville, VA.
Here is a report of the board action from The Woodstock Times:
Drone free Woodstock seeks ban on law enforcement drones
by Nick Henderson
‘I do not believe, from the bottom of my shoe soles, that the use of this equipment in particular is in any way designed or implemented to protect us…’
As surveillance technology becomes more widely used by law enforcement, Woodstock lawmakers, at their May 20 meeting, took one step toward making the town a drone-free zone.
The use of drones in war zones, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan is well known, but the unmanned craft are now being used by police agencies in the United States.
The Shadow Hawk drone, made by Vanguard Industries, which can be outfitted with a grenade launcher, tear gas and rubber buckshot, is being marketed to police agencies.
But Woodstock went in the opposite direction, passing a resolution expressing the desire that the town be a "No Drone Zone."
"The rapid development of drone technology throughout the United States poses a threat to the privacy and Constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Woodstock," reads the resolution, proposed by Councilman Jay Wenk.
The resolution states that drones can also be used to "film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces or through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell phone and text messages." It calls on Congress, the state and county legislatures to prohibit use of drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement. It also calls for the prohibition of weaponized drones.
The original resolution declared Woodstock a "No Drone Zone," but wording was changed after concerns from Councilman Bill McKenna. "To me, it brings the resolution down a little bit." he said. We can't declare Woodstock a no drone zone. I know it's a great sentiment."
McKenna agreed with the other points made in the resolution, but thought the declaration would open the town to ridicule. "For us to go and declare something is meaningless and it almost makes the rest of it a joke in some people's eyes and I don't want that to happen," he said.
Wenk agreed to the change in language.
Deputy Supervisor Laura Ricci said she wants to protect law enforcement's ability to use technology for legitimate purposes, but Wenk countered that these drones have no such use in his view. "I do not believe, from the bottom of my shoe soles, that the use of this equipment in particular is in any way designed or implemented to protect us," Wenk said. Rather, it is "designed to create more of a police state."
Added Wenk, "We are living in a state where agencies like the NSA, for example...have run roughshod over the constitutional respect for Americans. To say nothing of the fact that these drones have been used in horrible ways overseas."
Woodstock is not the first municipality to work toward banning drones. Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota are other examples, Wenk noted.
All voted in favor of the resolution except Councilman Ken Panza, who abstained. When asked, Panza said he didn't have enough understanding of the resolution, which was added late, to cast a vote.
The resolution does not apply to recreational drones, provided they are not used to monitor people or residences.
Desire Town of Woodstock to be a “No Drone Zone”
Offered by Councilman Wenk, seconded by Councilman McKenna:
Whereas, the use of drones by the United States military provides a dangerous precedent for their domestic use; and
Whereas, the rapid development of drone technology throughout the United States poses a threat to the privacy and Constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Woodstock; and
Whereas, the Federal Government and the State of New York have failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
Whereas, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces or through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging; and
Whereas, Police departments throughout the country have begun implementing Drone technology absent any guidance from law-makers; and
Whereas, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadow Hawk Drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a Grenade launcher, or Tear gas and rubber buckshot, thus sending a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets to protest government policies; now therefore be it Resolved, that the Town Board of the Town of Woodstock New York,
· Desires Woodstock to be a “No Drone Zone;”
· Strongly warn that the unrestricted, unregulated use of drones is a serious threat to the Constitutional rights of all Americans;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to recognize the extreme danger and urgency of the issue, and to adopt legislation that would prohibit the use of drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement purposes;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to adopt legislation that would strictly prohibit the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to intimidate, harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact human beings;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to adopt legislation to prohibit information obtained by drones to be used as evidence in Federal or State judicial proceedings; and
be it further Resolved, this resolution does not apply to hobbyists that fly remote controlled model aircraft, away from areas where they could harm people, as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or residence; and
be it further Resolved, that the Town Board authorize the Town Clerk to forward a certified copy of this resolution to Ulster County Executive, State and Federal representatives, to the Governor of New York State, and to the President of the United States.
All voted 4-1-0:
Supervisor Wilber - aye
Councilwoman Magarelli - aye
Councilman Wenk - aye
Councilman McKenna - aye
Councilman Panza - abstained
"MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection. Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses - who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.
"In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.
"The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of 'keep away', and he had replied that they 'are the sole triers of fact'.
"The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf."
Back in the USA I had my senior high students watch as I climbed a fence into the largest store house of nuclear weapons in the USA. I was in a Santa Clause suit and a bag with candy and hand bills urging federal workers to find a real job….a life giving job.
Environment was major with my students and they commandeered the four corners of the original IBM setting in Endicott NY demanding that IBM pay per pound of hydroflorocarbons emitted each year…IBM the greatest polluter of the Ozone according to the EPA. Locals, with IBM the backbone of the job force, had no idea that their wonder company was doing wrong -- until students contacted media and the story was blasted. Kids can make a difference. (Two years later, President Bush met with IBM officials in the Rose Garden to award them for their winning reduction of ozone pollutants. Students by then were in college or elsewhere and of course, not mentioned.) My main claim to fame is my thousands of students who understood I didn’t buy the lies fed to them by the text books and media bullshit. I hope they are questioning and acting. But being a sheep has its advantages even for the committed.
So, my activism has been education. Our play, The Bench, a story about apartheid, made it to many schools around the Southern Tier of NY while Mandela was still incarcerated at Robins Island. Today, my play, The Predator, (you helped clean up a few items in it) has been done around the nation in small group settings such as the Pittsburgh Foreign Affairs Council etc. I believe education is the key -- slow, but it works if persistence is one’s forte.
I told you a bit about my activism to close the US Army School of the Americas and my southern jail, federal diesel therapy and various federal prisons for a six month ‘holiday’. It did close but opened up weeks later with a new name. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
Why do you believe protesting is a strategic tool?
It has worked historically. Need I repeat what most people of historical awareness know as fact….in the past 100 years….Gandhi, King, Chavez, Walesa, Mandela, Romero, Berrigans, etc.
Silence is the enemy of justice and we have great silence today. Silence is based in fear but is comfortable and safe. Sheepherders are our guides today rather than national leadership. Hiding in the middle of the flock is safe. Few speak out about our murderous ways.
How have the approaches of the police and the courts changed?
Police are doing their job. I once witnessed Federal Marshalls at the Pentagon (back in pre 2001 days) hosing down old ladies who were doing a ‘die in’ to protest Pentagon support for a school of assassination at Ft Benning. Elizabeth McAllister (widow of Phil Berrigan) was standing next to me and she asked one of the Marshalls if he would do the same thing if it was gasoline. The Marshall turned to Liz and said: "I'd follow my orders, Lady".
So cops are doing what they are paid to do. They are not told to stop the killing going on inside of the base so they do what they are told and arrest those who say our government should not be breaking the law of country and God and natural law. But like the pilots who do the killing and the surrounding support people, it's the system that thrives on doing what they are told to do by the criminals at the top. We need to educate the police to have a conscience and see the real enemy . . . the killers, not those who protest.
Courts are not much different. There is a sense of affinity between the Air Force personnel, smartly dressed, ramrod straight who stand or sit before judge and/or jury and make a fine presentation of patriotism . . . doing the job of heroes. It's a tough act to question. Judges and jurors have been taught to respect those who kill to keep us safe. The decisions made by the judges have been almost all in favor of the base and the killing Q9 drones and their crews. The one jury trial so far, just last week (May 17th.) rendered a decision in favor of the base. The case was a charge of a violation of an Order of Protection. An OPP is usually used to allow a spouse to keep away an abuser. Now, it is being creatively used at Hancock Air Base as an instrument to prevent First Amendment Rights to be practiced. Mary Anne Grady, a long time nonviolent peace activist, mother of four, every day hard working business woman was at a demo on Ash Wednesday at Hancock to do the media work of photos and video. She did not engage in the demonstration for she was ordered to not go on the base. She is shown in videos on the road in front of the base (cars and joggers going by right next to her) but Hancock Air Base now claims to have a lease on half of the public road that Mary Anne stood on and filmed. She faces a possible severe sentence on July 10th being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Syracuse jury of six. (Mary Anne was told months ago that juries may not be any better than judges -- tens of thousands stand and cheer at Syracuse Basketball games for the military and staff of the 174th Attach Wing at Hancock.)
What is your current legal situation?
My legal status is a jury trial at DeWitt Court starting at 8:30 a.m. on July 14th. First day mostly picking of jurors and opening statements and second day direct and cross examination, judge advise to jury and decision of guilt or innocence. I could be sentenced to one year in the Jamesville Penitentiary for my nonviolent die to remember those we have killed in Afghanistan (and God and the NSA only know where else). I think there is a chance of winning this one. If so, it could set a precedent. There are many jury trials to follow mine. Schedules go into late 2015….all for the same action. One judge said: "This has got to stop". Former President of Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams, agreed with the judge. Elliott said, "Yes, your honor, it has to stop, we need to stop the killing and you need to be part of that stop effort."
I’ve been to most trials and have to say that there is little concern of judges to do anything to stop the assassinations. They are doing their job and following the "law". Now, we need to prove the so called law is illegal.
What would you recommend that people do who share your concern?
Here is what Ed Kinane had to say about recommending what to do. Ed walks the walk. Ed has lived in federal confinement for his peace and justice activism. Ed says:
That depends on whether they are far or near and where they are in life (in terms of dependents and responsibilities). Our campaign has a whole range of tactics they can join in or support: educate themselves; read some of the key drone books and reports; write letters to the editor...to elected officials...to base commanders; take part in our twice-monthly demos across the road from Hancock; attend the De Witt court when we defendants appear there; take part in annual conferences (usually in April); invite us to speak to their classes, community groups or congregations; contribute $$$ to our bail fund or to such anti-drone groups as codepink; work to pass local resolutions and ordinances restricting surveillance and weaponized drones over local or regional airspace; take part in fact-finding delegations to drone-plagued areas (Pakistan); risk arrest at Hancock, at other drone bases, or other relevant venues (federal buildings, drone research or production facilities, etc.); become a federal tax resister -- i.e.stop paying federal income taxes (much of which goes to the Pentagon war machine).
I'll add a few more:
Visit Upstate Drone Action Reports at http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress
Plan for a Global Day of Action Against Drones on October 4, 2014.
Join the movement to end all war, with all weapons, at http://WorldBeyondWar.org
By World Can't Wait It would be hard to have missed Michelle Obama's photo with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, displaying sad eyes as she gave the pre-Mothers Day President's talk Saturday, assuring the public that the US would do everything it can to help rescue the hundreds of girls kidnapped by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram in Nigeria. We hope this turns out like the New York Police Department's Twitter campaign recently, which asked for photos of people with #MyNYPD, and got barraged with photos of police brutality from Occupy protests, stop & frisk arrests and unjust murders by the NYPD.
ARTICLE 36: I move that Town Meeting endorse Article 36 as two separate resolutions as they appear on the screen.
1. WHEREAS, the use of drones, often referred to as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), raises far -reaching concerns about targeted governmental killings, the loss of constitutional protections, privacy, democracy, and the rule of law,
2. WHEREAS, drones now being marketed to domestic law enforcement agencies, potentially could be armed with weapons, including tear gas, rubber bullets and firearms,
3. WHEREAS, drone technology as a means of data collection has the potential for misuse affecting individual privacy and civil liberties, freedom of association and assembly, equal protection, and due process,
4. NOW, THEREFORE; BE IT RESOLVED, that this Resolution declares that no agency of the town of Amherst, nor any agents under contract with the town, will operate drones in the immediate airspace over Amherst in a manner that violates the constitutional rights of its residents,
5. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Town of Amherst affirms that within the town limits, landowners and tenants, subject to state laws and local ordinances, have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone, unmanned aircraft, or other airborne object shall have the “public right of transit” through this private property.
1. WHEREAS, drones have been used intentionally to kill people in foreign lands including at least two American citizens, without a
public judicial process,
2. WHEREAS, such a use of lethal force without due process is a misuse of governmental powers specifically prohibited in the United States Constitution,
3. WHEREAS, drones have killed many non-targeted people including children,
4. BE IT RESOLVED, that the town of Amherst request its representatives, Congressman Jim McGovern and Senators Elizabeth
Warren and Edward Markey, to introduce a resolution in the United States Congress to end the practice of extrajudicial killing by armed drones, to specifically withhold money for that purpose, and make restitution to those who have been killed or injured through the actions of the United States government, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their private contractors.
By Judy Bello
MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection. Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses - who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.
In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.
The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of "keep away", and he had replied that they "are the sole triers of fact'.
The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf.
The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.
Here are the other five.
Leverett and Amherst, Mass., both were expected to consider resolutions. I haven't heard any news from Amherst.
The Leverett news is courtesy of Beth Adams.
I haven't seen official text, but here's some idea of what was passed, or at least what was considered for passage, in Leverett:
Town meeting in Leverett will consider a resolution calling on the federal government to end the use of drones for assassinations on foreign soil and to enact regulations on the use of the unmanned aircraft in the United States.
It would ask U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. James McGovern to bring forward legislation “to end the practice of extrajudicial killing by armed drone aircraft” by withholding money for that purpose and “to make restitution for injuries, fatalities and environmental damage resulting from the actions of the United States government, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, allied nations and/or its private contractors.”
The second aspect of the article is to ensure that drones stay at least 500 feet above private properties unless otherwise authorized by town officials.
According to Beth Adams, a Leverett resident and co-author of the measure, the resolution was inspired by one passed in Northampton last summer. “We think it is important for the public to be informed about the rule-making going on without any public input,” Adams said.
May 3 town meeting
The resolution in Leverett, which was authored by a group called Pioneer Valley Citizens Concerned About Drones, received 19 signatures — nearly double the number required to get an article on the warrant. It will be voted on close to the end of the meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. May 3, according to Town Clerk Lisa Stratford.
Adams said “We think people need to be educated about this topic, and we hope other communities will follow our example and pass resolutions that will protect their communities from potential violations before the (Federal Aviation Administration) changes the rules.”
"Town meetings in Amherst and Leverett will consider resolutions calling on the federal government to end the use of drones for assassinations and regulate the unmanned aircraft locally. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that Amherst Select Board member James Wald said he isn’t comfortable with the town having a foreign policy when the federal government doesn’t have one. Frank Gatti, a Town Meeting member and lead petitioner in Amherst, said the drone resolution would express concern about the US government killing people in Pakistan and Yemen. It would ask US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and Representative James McGovern to propose legislation to stop funding drone killings. A second restriction would keep drones at least 500 feet above private property unless otherwise authorized by town officials."
"A second restriction would keep drones at least 500 feet above private property unless otherwise authorized by town officials."
Recent revelations over German complicity in US drone strikes will tomorrow cast a shadow over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.
Investigative journalists in Germany recently revealed Ramstein, a US base in the country, to be a major data centre for the secretive strikes, which have killed thousands of civilians in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan. Legal charity Reprieve this week revealed that a strike in Yemen over the Easter weekend killed four builders on their way to work, leaving at least 20 children fatherless.
The Ramstein findings contradict claims made by both leaders at their last meeting in June 2013, when Obama dismissed reports that US bases in Germany had been used for drone attacks. He told journalists: “We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones […] as part of our counterterrorism activities. […] I know that there have been some reports here in Germany that that might be the case. That is not.” During the same visit, Merkel spoke of Ramstein as filling “a very important function”, saying “our work is based […] on shared values.”
Recent questions in the German parliament have increased pressure on Merkel to reveal the true extent of Germany’s involvement in the strikes, but there is little evidence that the government plans to challenge the Obama administration over them.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “One year on from Chancellor Merkel’s assertions about shared US-German ‘values’, the extent of Washington’s use of German soil to perpetrate illegal killings is clear. Despite Obama’s promises to the German people last year, the number of civilian deaths from these secretive drone strikes is higher than ever, and the response of the German government has been to ignore the issue. It is high time that Merkel raised concerns with Obama about the launching of illegal drone strikes from Germany – concerns that are echoing loudly throughout her country. ”
About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was one of three U.S. diplomats who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.
Drone attacks bring Yemeni government to brink of no confidence vote
Yemeni parliamentarians are today challenging the legitimacy of President Hadi's government, following the administration's failure to stop repeated US drone attacks.
MPs are planning a vote of no confidence if President Hadi's ministers do not attend parliament to answer questions on the drone program; some are calling for an immediate dissolution of the government.
The parliament’s attack on the Hadi administration follows a particularly deadly drone strike on Al Bayda on April 19, in which Reprieve has discovered that four builders were killed on their way to work, leaving 20 children without fathers. The Yemeni government has admitted that their killing was a mistake.
The strike violated last December's parliamentary resolution banning the use of drones on Yemeni territory. Yemeni lawmakers are furious that the administration has repeatedly failed to enforce the ban, and that President Hadi's Minister of Defence, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Oil have refused to attend several parliamentary meetings on the subject.
Shawki al-Qadhi, an MP in the Yemeni parliament and a member of the parliament’s Committee on Freedoms and Human Rights said: “How can we talk about the rule of law when another country kills our citizens without charge or trial? How can we talk about governance when Parliament's resolutions are ignored by the both the US and Yemeni administrations? We Yemenis are the people who suffer most from the unrest in our country, and as we have heard recently, the majority of people causing the unrest are foreigners who come from outside Yemen. We would obviously welcome external help in dealing with the problem, but only if Yemen has clear agreements and control over what takes place. As MPs we have a responsibility to protect our constituents and to uphold the values of our country. Drones undermine both. Our citizens are less safe with drones in the air-- not only are they vulnerable to mistaken targeting but we have seen time and time again that when civilians are killed, it immediately swells the ranks of the armed groups. We even lack a clear law about compensating the families of the victims, which is something we urgently need. Drones are undermining our nascent democratic institutions.”
From World Can't Wait Honolulu A small crew got out more than 1300 anti-drone brochures and leaflets at two recent events. On Tuesday we went to the talk by Al Gore; on Friday to the Bruno Mars Concert. While we got rained on during leafleting at both events, we felt each was a big success.
Yemeni lawmakers angered by Easter violation of parliamentary drone ban, as US pledges to maintain secrecy
Yemeni MPs have voted to summon the Yemeni Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense over drone strikes which occurred over the Easter weekend killing at least four civilians. These strikes contravened a parliamentary resolution passed in December 2013 banning the use of drones on Yemeni territory.
In a parliamentary session on Sunday, MPs described the ongoing drone program as illegal, beyond the pale of international norms, and a violation of Yemeni sovereignty.
A Yemeni news source reported that the MP for Al-Bayda, the region in which four civilians were killed in a strike on April 19, stated that ongoing drone strikes are a primary motivation for locals to join Al-Qaeda.
Yemen's parliamentary vote came only days before it was revealed that the US Senate has axed a legal provision which would have required the Administration to report on drone casualties.
The Yemeni government has admitted that the Easter weekend killings mistakenly killed civilians. The US has made no comment, either to Yemeni lawmakers or the Yemeni people.
Yemeni MP Zaid Alshami said: “The US and Yemeni governments bear the responsibility for these utterly counterproductive killings which only increase sympathy for Al-Qaeda and revenge. These attacks continue to take place without warning, information or parliamentary approval. All we see is killing outside of the rule-of-law, which has increased the retaliatory violence, explosions and instability which are destroying Yemen and its people and destabilizing its economy. At the same time, Yemenis are only getting angrier at their government and the United States. These two governments must compensate bereaved Yemeni families, and end their drone attacks.”
Reprieve's Strategic Director Cori Crider said: “We’re still largely in the dark about who died in the massive strikes over Easter, but Reprieve’s initial findings about al-Bayda are worrying. Meanwhile, drones are driving a dangerous wedge between the US and Yemen. The Obama administration claims to support democracy in Yemen; it’s time for the US put its money where its mouth is, and bring its counter-terrorism policies within the rule of law.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact katherine.oshea@
2. The two ministers summoned by Yemeni parliamentarians were the Minister of Defence, Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed and the Minister of Interior, Major General Abdo Hussein Al-Tareb.
3. Reprieve US opened in New York City in February 2014. A partner organization to Reprieve UK, Reprieve US provides advocacy and litigation aimed at stopping abuses in the death penalty and in counter-terrorism. For information about the work of Reprieve US please visit reprieve.org or contact Katherine O’Shea on firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 917 855 8064.
Drone Strikes and Transparency
The craven U.S. Senate has stripped from a bill a requirement that the president disclose casualties resulting from his murderous, almost indiscriminant drone strikes. The original wording of the bill, authorizing intelligence operations for fiscal year 2014, required an annual report stating the number of ‘combatants’ and ‘non-combatant civilians’ that were either killed or injured by drone strikes.
By Catie O'Toole | email@example.com
DeWitt, NY -- A DeWitt town judge Monday night acquitted a U.S. Marine veteran who wore a Grim reaper costume during a permitted protest last year outside Hancock air base.
John Amidon, 66, president of the Albany chapter of Veterans for Peace, was charged April 28, 2013 with attempted criminal trespass and loitering, both violations.
Amidon was among 31 people arrested that day. He was the first of the group to be tried.
DeWitt Town Judge David Gideon found Amidon not guilty of both charges after watching a video of the arrest and hearing from six witnesses, said defense lawyer Kathy Manley.
During his trial Monday night, Amidon testified he was standing on top of a barrier within the free-speech zone in front of Hancock Field during a permitted protest. He was wearing a Grim Reaper mask and long black robe at the time. The protest, he said, was organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and the Syracuse Peace Council.
"I was doing street theater," Amidon said. "I was arrested in a free-speech zone and dragged out of it."
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued Amidon was trying to climb over the barricade, Manley said. One of the prosecutor's two witnesses was the arresting police officer who testified he thought Amidon was going to climb over the barrier, Manley said after the trial. McNamara could not be reached for comment.
Amidon and three witnesses at the protest also testified.
"I did not trespass," Amidon said. "I had a Constitutional right to wear the mask."
The defense argued there was a reason for why Amidon chose the Grim Reaper costume: "The Grim Reaper is a symbol of the drone program," said Manley, a lawyer from Albany. The New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing operates unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drones from Hancock Air Base and the Navy drone program's logo is that of a Grim Reaper, she said.
"The Reaper drone is killing indiscriminately and the Grim Reaper collects the souls of the innocent and guilty alike," Amidon said.
The judge found Amidon not guilty of loitering because his Grim Reaper mask and costume were props and props were included in the permit, Manley said. Gideon found Amidon not guilty of attempted criminal trespass because "the evidence showed he was not trying to climb over the barrier," Manley said.
"They ran in and grabbed him from behind," she said. "He was surrounded by other officers and handcuffed, and his mask was pulled off."
After court, Amidon said he was happy with the verdict.
"It was an absolute splendid victory," he said. "Freedom of speech was protected."
Darcy Ike, San Diego, CA
WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARAK OBAMA AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND TO COMMANDER COLONEL JIM CLUFF, EVERY DRONE CREW, AND SERVICE MEMBERS at CREECH AIR BASE, WITH CRIMES AGAINST PEACE & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WITH VIOLATIONS OF PART OF THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS, WARS OF AGGRESSION, VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, AND KILLING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS.
Nevada Desert Experience to serve Creech AFB with a War Crimes Indictment on Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Pay Your Taxes, Go to Gitmo?
Does Paying Taxes Violate the Law against Providing Aid and Support to a Terrorist Organization?
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org)
(April 13, 2014) -- With April 15 fast approaching, I have just finished mailing my 1040. This year, I didn't owe taxes and, boy, am I relieved. Not because I can't afford to cut a check, it's just that I don't want to spend the next six years in a federal prison for violating the provisions of US Code Title 18 -- Crimes and Criminal Procedures.
That's exactly what happened to Ahmed Taalil Mohamud, a cab driver in Anaheim, California, who was sentenced to six years in prison for, as the Associated Press put it, "funneling thousands of dollars to a terrorist organization" in Somalia.
By Jane Stoever
Bearing witness against remote control of reaper drones from U.S. military bases, about 20 protesters rallied Sunday, April 6, at the Spirit Gate entry to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo.
Noting the name Whiteman Air Force Base, former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern in his talk said, "When B2 bombers flew out of here to Afghanistan and Iraq, they weren't killing people who looked like us (white), but who were what the airmen were taught to call 'sand niggers' or 'towel-heads.' White-man is killing brown, black, and other men, women, and children who don't look like us. White-man Air Force Base is a reflection of the American original sin, racism."
McGovern recalled that President Obama on May 17, 2013, said he wished he could stop drone strikes. "Gimme a break," said McGovern. "The president could stop the strikes if he had the backbone." Acknowledging that he was in the Bible Belt, McGovern assailed the silence of the churches about drones. "If the church does not speak out against this wanton slaughter against black and brown people, then the church is the same institution Jesus spoke out against and got killed for doing it."
McGovern, after being introduced by Brian Terrell, said, "It's not often I'm introduced by a prophet!" McGovern thanked Terrell for
serving six months in a federal prison camp for his 2012 protest at Whiteman AFB--the longest sentence any drone resister has received.
Terrell, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, speaking during the rally, asked whether the resisters knew what "Spirit Gate" meant. The name evokes not the third person of the Holy Trinity--the Holy Spirit, not a "higher power," not a spirit that animates and gives life, nor even the Higgs-Bosson particle. "Spirit Gate" and, even more pointedly, the "Spirit Chapel" that can be seen just inside the gate, are named for the nickname the Air Force gives to the B2 Stealth Bomber nestled at Whiteman AFB. The Air Force calls these weapons of mass destruction "Spirit Stealth Bombers."
"This is the 'spirit' that is evoked and worshiped here at Whiteman," said Terrell, co-founder of Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa. "When we were here for the first Trifecta Resista action in 2012, Whiteman personnel were using Predator drones. Now we have Reaper drones--think Grim Reaper--and they are armed with 'Hellfire' missiles. These terms--Spirit, Reaper, Hellfire--are theological terms and, as used here at Whiteman, are shear blasphemy!"
Terrell noted his best times during his six-months imprisonment in South Dakota were spent walking a large circle path outside in the
cold, even in minus-40-degree wind chill, times when no one else was out walking, unlike warm days when the path became Grand Central Station. He called his prison time "highly productive" for thinking/praying/planning. He later asked whether any locals had come forward to say they will do civil resistance during the May 30-June 1 Trifecta Resista that will return to Whiteman AFB. The answer: not yet. For info on that resistance weekend, see www.PeaceWorksKC.org.
Rally organizer Jeff Stack of Columbia, Mo., head of the Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, asked protester Jo Ann Witt of Kansas
City to say a few words about why she came to the rally. "Because so many innocent civilians have been killed by the drones," said Witt, moved to tears.
McGovern thanked Witt for her tears, noting they were the humane response to the horror of drone warfare that the U.S. has unleashed.
Tamara Severns of PeaceWorks-KC arrested by surprise at drone protest
Tamara Severns of Kansas City, Mo., was arrested unexpectedly during an April 6 protest of drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Mo. A member of the PeaceWorks, Kansas City, Board of Directors and a Co-member of the Loretto Community, Tamara was walking toward the Visitors' Center to use the bathroom. She and other resisters had used those facilities with no problem during about five earlier protests. On April 6, Tamara and several others had arrived at the base entry after authorities had warned the resisters not to step across the white line on the entry road. Unaware that "the rules" had
changed, Tamara crossed the line to go toward the Visitors' Center, was taken into custody with no warning, and was handcuffed, searched, and detained on the base about an hour.
"The officer said, 'Turn around. You're being arrested,' and clamped the metal handcuffs on my wrists," Tamara said after her release.
"They gave me no warning to leave the property." Her wrists still showed red marks two hours after the handcuffs were removed. A male officer twisted the chain between her handcuffs to direct her where to walk and to hurt her, Tamara said. "I was scared because he was being so rough."
Tamara received a U.S. District Court Violation Notice for "trespassing on military installation" and expects to be summoned to
court. Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, a speaker at the rally, said later he hoped Tamara would not be taken to court because no date or
location was listed on the notice. Tamara fears she will receive a court date because the officers told her she would, and it says it on
One complicating factor: Officer John Sullivan, who was debriefing the protesters, had gotten inaccurate information from someone else, said Tamara. Sullivan told protest organizer Jeff Stack that another security officer said Tamara had tried to go around the driver's side of the police car toward the Visitor's Center after being advised not to. The truth, said Tamara, was that she never left the sidewalk on the right side of the car and no one said anything except "You're being arrested."
Protester Vicke Hooper Kepling, on her Facebook page April 7, wrote this about Tamara: "She walked to the bathrooms ... like she had done at other protests ... AND GOT TICKETED (detained, felt up, the works). I said "ticketed," but I believe she was actually arrested. I woke up thinking about it. She may face the same fate as the three who intentionally crossed two years ago. One actually did six months in federal prison, and the other got five years probation (reduced to one). I wasn't putting the same weight on it because of her intention (and that she and others had used the restrooms before). But after reconsideration, I bet it's the same."
Former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, who spoke during the rally, said afterwards, "It's so obvious Tamara's civil rights under the First Amendment have been violated. Somebody said to this officer, 'Make an example of Tamara and brutalize her,' and he did."
Campaign Bulletin #9; April 5, 2014
By Nick Mottern
Don't forget: Weekly open conference call for activists every Wednesday, 9 pm EST
(605) 562-3000, Access code - 484539#
- Niagara Falls
- Georgia Tech
- Kick-Off Forum
- BEALE AFB
(Members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) at the April 1 Beale AFB drone protest (l-r); Dr. Richard Gilchrist, Arcata, CA; Dr. Jerry Pederson, Sacramento, CA; John Reiger, President of VFP, Sacramento; Elliott Adams, Sharon Springs, NY; and Michael Kerr, Bayview, Ca.)
On April 1, Elliot Adams, former President of Veterans for Peace (VFP), and another VFP member Richard Gilchrist, were detained for an hour at Beale Air Force Base after crossing into the base to protest its operation of the Global Hawk drone, which is used, among other things, to assist Predator and Reaper drones in targeting.
I use the word “detained” because although it appeared they were arrested, Elliott reports: “Curiously we received no paperwork - no citation, no ban and bar, no appearance date. Maybe something will come via mail later, but it surprised me we didn't get anything.”
This was also true of the demonstrators arrested in an Ash Wednesday action on March 5. One of the arrestees, Sharon Delgado, describes that action in her blog at http://sharondelgado.org/2014/03/05/ash-wednesday-worship-and-arrests-at-beale/.
This may signal a new approach by the base and local courts in handling civil resistance at Beale. For more details, see the Court Action section below.
The Beale protesters, numbering about 15 were met with soaking rain, but their spirits were high, in part because of increasing publicity, particularly article in the Mar. 30 Sacramento Bee that dominated both the front and back pages. This is the front page, with a link where you can read the whole article.
“We are truly growing into a force… they must reckon with,” said Toby Blome, who also reported: “The exchanges with the airmen at the lunch hour was very intriguing. Even if they came on "company mission" they truly seemed engaged in the dialogue.”
Here is a report of that encounter by Barry Binks, a VFP member:
Because they (the airmen) were present some of us felt constrained in what we could say. When they were asked if we could take their pictures they declined. (We take a lot of pictures and post them on Facebook so that was probably the right decision for them) We decided we would go around the circle and introduce ourselves with name, hometown and a little history. Elliott warned the airmen that anything they said could be used against them. They gave us just their basic info, claimed they were not involved in the drone program. We tried to get them more involved in our conversation but they were careful not to say too much. I think all had been deployed in the Middle East at some time in their career and they are all career soldiers. Some of our people explained why they are demonstrating against drones. Both Elliott and Richard presented several arguments against drone warfare, the UN Charter, human rights, civilians killed, etc. The airmen listened, made no excuses and claimed they were not aware of some of the things we told them have happened. They claimed ignorance. When we told them about material to read, etc they had nothing to say and didn’t visibly take any notes. They all had enough pockets and equipment, (cell phones, etc) to have been recording the whole thing. I am personally ambivalent about talking to these people. They always come out right away when we show up to protest and want to know “how many people coming? What are we going to do? How long will it last? etc” I have ignored them or given them vague answers and I think so has every one else. Sometimes being friendly has helped. Last time I was arrested they put on the handcuffs so loose that I was able to slip them off and hand them back, and it wasn’t a problem. They tell us they follow our Facebook pages and keep up with what we are doing. I think this is just part of their job, and if they could get something criminal against us they would, so I don’t volunteer much.
This FaceBook link gives offers more photos of the April 1 action at Beale:
For the next events scheduled at Beale see the Ideas/Planned Events section below.
- NIAGARA FALLS
Also on April 1, about a dozen activists from Western New York Peace Center and Upstate (NY) Drone Action protested on at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on opening day of the new Reaper drone control center there.
Russell Brown, a VFP member, said that Martin Gugino attempted to deliver a letter to the base commander that he had just sent to Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante and the Buffalo News, saying: “The Niagara Falls Airbase has taken an overt act to join in a criminal conspiracy. We ask you to empanel a grand jury in preparation for bringing charges against all involved.” (The full letter is in Attachment A)
Russell reports as follows on Martin’s action: “He walked up to the gate to deliver a copy to the base commander. They have signs out in front of the gates that say no protesters beyond this point. Until Martin walked past the signs there were no police, sheriffs, or base police. After he walked up there a base vehicle pulled up to him with lights. He asked them to take his letter to the commander. They said they weren't mailmen and refused to take the letter. He walked back to us and the sheriffs and police showed up with all their lights on. They were friendly and said not to go on the base and left. Not much happened after that.”
Commenting on the atmosphere at the base, Russell said: “What I realized is that we should bring our VFP flag to that site. We have 3 members that were at the demo. The people leaving the base were not friendly. A couple was down right nasty. But it might be helpful if they realize some of us were veterans, not ‘fucking scumbags’”.
The stunning poster that Russell created to announce the event appears in Attachment B.
A press report of the protest, with photos, appears here: http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/x539824010/Vigil-targets-use-of-drones-as-107th-starts-new-mission
Videos of the event may be seen at: http://bit.ly/1hzCOCc
(Buddhist peace walkers on the way from Massachusetts to Washington DC join the Mar. 29 protest of the planned drone control center in Horsham, PA)
Protests against the establishment of a drone control center at the Horsham (PA) Air Guard field resumed on Saturday, March 29, after a two-month winter break. Bob Smith, Staff Coordinator of Brandywine Peace Community, reports:
The last Saturday of the month protest demonstrations to Stop the PA Drone War Command Center at the Horsham PA Air Guard Base, which began in April 2013, re-commenced in a driving, non-stop rain and wind. The protest took the form of walk, entitled “Walk for a New Spring”, beginning at a Friends school two miles from the base. About 25 walkers stepped off at 11:30am in a trek that took them by the old, now closed, Willow Grove Naval Air Station (NAS) from which the Horsham Air Guard and base for the 111th PA Air Guard Fighter Wing was cut out as part of the closure of Naval Air Station two decades ago.
At noon, the walkers arrived at the protest site on northern tip of the base where they met Buddhist monks and nuns, and friends. The Buddhists were on their 13th annual "Walk for a New Spring" that took them from Leverett, MA to Washington, DC. Simultaneously, another 35 or so people arrived, picking up large signs and banners saying "NO!" to the establishment of the drone war command center in Horsham.
So far, virtually nothing has been done in developing the mammoth area left vacant by the closure of the Willow NAS, except for Horsham Air Guard station, which last March announced that it would host a U.S. Air Force drone command center. All money, as noted in the state budget, for the PA Guard and Air National Guard comes through the Federal Budget.
Since the announcement of the establishment of the drone war command center, the Brandywine Peace Community, with the support of the American Friends Service Community, Mennonite churches in the Lancaster, PA area, and a host of groups primarily in Eastern Pennsylvania, have conducted a conscious multi-approach campaign to stop the command center which the Horsham Air Guard is now stating will open in 2015.
Here is a link to other photos of the event: http://artstat.smugmug.com/CFPA/Horsham-Drone-Protest-3292014/
See the Ideas/Planned Events section below for a listing of coming events related to Horsham.
- GEORGIA TECH
A forum entitled “Who Owns the Drone” was held on April 1 at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in which about 10 people participated, including drone researchers at the school.
The event, organized by Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition and Georgia WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) intended to examine who decides how drone research is used and who profits, with a focus on the drone research being done at Georgia Tech in cooperation with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, in Columbus Georgia.
Kevin Caron, one of the organizers of the forum, said that the research includes “lethal autonomy”, how drones can engage targets without needing human intervention, and swarming, a way in which drones can communicate with each other to swarm a target in the way insects do.
A report on the forum by Emilia Kaiser, of WAND, appears here: http://gawand.org/2014/04/03/9366/
- KICK-OFF FORUM
(Madiha Tahir, Carl Dix, Maria LaHood, panelists (l-r) and Debra Sweet, moderator, at the April 2 kick-off forum of Spring Days of Action - 2014.)
On April 2, about 45 people attended the Spring Days of Drone Action kick-off forum at the Community Church in Manhattan, NY, organized by Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait.
Summarizing the presentations:
Madiha Tahir – maker of the film Wounds of Waziristan, said there is a need to press human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to begin calling for a halt to drone attacks rather than calling only for “transparency” about drone attacks. She that it is “time to stop pretending that we don’t know” what is happening with drone attacks that there is plenty of evidence as to what is going on and that it needs to stop. “Anything less” than calling for a halt, she said “is willful blindness.”
Maria LaHood – senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked how President Obama can say his drone strikes are legal while not releasing any significant information about them. She said legislation has just been introduced in Congress for transparency on drone attacks, a small step relative to the harm being done, but it is a step. She said that U.S. courts have refused to intervene to prevent drone killing and to assist families of drone victims trying to prosecute those who have ordered drone attacks. Nor, she said, does the U.S. heed the international community. Since no institution will stop the attacks, she said, “it’s up to us to do it.”
Carl Dix – a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and founder with Cornel West of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network said that the U.S. has been able to say its drone attacks are necessary, legal and just simply by classifying “every male of military age as an insurgent or a combatant…any women and children who get killed well that’s because those enemies were hiding among those women and children.” He said what has happened with the drone attacks is like police violence against black and Latino Americans, it is the “criminalization of whole populations”, and “they are fair game.” What we need, he said, is revolution, but even if one is not ready to undertake that, the drone attacks must be stopped.
In addition, Joan Pluene and Phyllis Cunningham of the Granny Peace Brigade explained what they are doing to win passage of a ban on weaponized drones and drone surveillance in New York City, and their initiative at the United Nations to achieve a global ban.
Here are videos of each presentation, the Q &A and opening and closing remarks:
Granny Peace Brigade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KlUD8HIyoY
Wounds of Waziristan, a 28-minute powerful, personal film, mentioned in the opening video, may be obtained at: http://www.journeyman.tv/66218/short-films/wounds-of-waziristan-hd.html.
On April 1, in Sacramento, CA, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd refused to grant a jury trial to Shirley Osgood to defend herself against a misdemeanor charge for entering Beale AFB in protest of drone operations there.
Shirley’s case is particularly interesting because, there are indications that she is going to trial because this was her second arrest for protesting at Beale and that those being arrested for their first time there are not be charged and prosecuted.
MacGregor Eddy, who was arrested with Shirley at Beale on November 25, 2013, said that charges against her, Flora Rogers and Michael Kerr, member of VFP, have been dropped, and she speculates that this is because the three were first time offenders at the base, unlike Shirley.
(Flora Rogers, MacGregor Eddy, Shirley Osgood and Michael Kerr being arrested at Beale on Nov. 25, 2013.)
This may be the reason that Elliott Adams and Richard Gilchrist were not given citations when they were detained at Beale for entering the base in their April 1 protest, as well as those arrested on March 5. (See Beale report above.)
MacGregor said that Judge Drozd, while denying Shirley the right to offer a necessity defense, did say that Shirley will be able to speak about her motives and intent.
MacGregor thinks that Sacramento is more liberal than some other parts of the state, and this is reflected in the courts. She thinks that one reason that press coverage of the Beale protests has increased is because the arrests of protesters resulted in their cases landing in Sacramento courts. Other factors are that the protests have been going on for 3 ½ years and that protesters have gotten to know reporters and how to do press work. The first civil resistance arrests began a year and a half ago.
Here is a report on this week’s conference call:
MacGregor Eddy – California – called in to call attention to the mass protest that is being organized at Beale AFB by Veterans for Peace April 28 – 29. (See events listing below.) She also discussed court handling of arrests at Beale, mentioned above.
Dave Lambert – Fort Wayne, IN – said that his group has been leafleting Raytheon and ITT facilities and that there will be a “Fly Kites Not Drones” event this Sunday, April 6. Dave reported that Indiana has passed a drone control law that is awaiting the governor’s signature. He said also that although Indiana and Ohio were not chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to be included among the six new drone test zones, politicians from both states continue to plump for drone business. See:
Kevin Caron – Atlanta, GA – reported on the drone forum at Georgia Tech (See above report). He was heading to Loyola University in New Orleans for the 6th Annual Student Peace Conference where he was to give a lecture on April 4 entitled “Killer Drones: Vehicle of Empire?”
Andrew Dalton and Barbara Kidney – Hudson Valley – Andrew reported that anticipated rain is causing them to postpone until April 12 the “Fly Kites Not Drones” event they are planning to hold at the center of Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. They are also continuing to try to get Quaker meetings to host memorial services for drone victims, which is proving very difficult. Barbara is interested in approaching the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York asking for prosecution of drone war crimes, as has been done in Virginia by members of the National Campaign for Non-violent Resistance. (See Bulletin #8), and she is exploring the idea of having her community create a “sister city” relationship with a community that has been attacked by drones.
Daniel Riehl – Lancaster, PA – said that protests are resuming on the last Saturday of each month in Horsham, PA, at the site of a planned drone control center and that he is among a group of Mennonites who have been carpooling to travel 70 miles to participate on a regular basis. He said four Mennonite churches are involved and that they will be screening Wounds of Waziristan.
Daniel recommends Bill Quigley’s presentation “Illegality of US Drone Killings”.
Sun., April 6 – 2 pm
“Ground the Drones” peace demonstration (in Knob Noster, MO about 90 miles from greater Kansas City), with speakers Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, and Brian Terrell, Catholic Worker, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and drone activist who served six months in Federal prison after his arrest in a drone protest at Whiteman in 2012.
For more information, contact Jeff Stack with the Mid-MO Fellowship of
Reconciliation at: 573-499-4585.
Sat., April 12 – Fri., April 18
The Sacred Peace Walk (SPW) is Nevada Desert Experience's premier event. This 65-mile, annual pilgrimage to the Nevada Test Site (the NTS, now officially the Nevada National Security Site) begins on April 12th with an orientation in Las Vegas and preparation for our six-day walk starting on April 13th (Sunday). The Walkers arrive at Peace Camp on Thursday, April 17th after a day walking in Vegas and three days in the desert. In between is a day of reflection at the Sekhmet Temple, vigils against drones at Creech Air Force Base, and a "Peace-over" Seder. The SPW concludes on "Good Friday," as we greet the sunrise with the Western Shoshone and conclude with a Good Friday liturgy and procession to the entrance to the NTS later in the morning.
“Fly Kites Not Drones” – Poughkeepsie, NY
Sat. April 12 – 2:45 pm
Gather on either side of the Walkway Over the Hudson (the very high, converted Poughkeepsie – Highland Railroad Bridge) Feel free to bring kites, balloons, your dog on a leash, drums, musical instruments and, of course, friends and family. Rain date: April 13. Info: (845) 699-3051.
Friday, April 18:
International Peace Activist, Kathy Kelly, to join Good Friday Vigil at Beale - 3-5pm, Main (Schneider Gate), North Beale Rd. (Kathy will attend Good Friday action at Livermore Labs that afternoon, and will speak in Grass Valley at 1pm on Saturday, April 19.) More Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mon. April 28-Tues. April 29:
Veterans United Against Drone Warfare and Militarism
Sacramento Veterans for Peace is calling for a mass convergence of veterans and supporters to join in a united front against drone warfare and global militarization. More Info: Barry Binks email@example.com
Sat. May 17 – Tues. May 27:
A 10-day “Walk to Peace; Resist Global Militarization/Drone Warfare" from San Francisco to Beale AFB. More details soon. To sign up for one or more days: www.facebook.com/events/1380107975587685/?ref=22
Impelled to penetrate the secrecy with which the U.S. government has attempted to conceal the intent and consequences of its drone wars, Joe Scarry and 14 organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are advocating passage of H.R. 4372 (Attachment C), entitled the “Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act”. https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/02/joint-statement-support-targeted-lethal-force-transparency-act
The introduction of the bill on April 2 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) comes after the Mar. 28 release of a statement by leaders of the House’s Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) criticizing the Administration for boycotting a discussion by the UN Human Rights Council on drone use and calling for more Congress oversight of the U.S. drone wars. They speak of annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties as “a good start.” http://ellison.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/ellison-grijalva-un-vote-proves-we-need-more-transparency-on-drones
Joe is working to have a Call-In Day in support of the Schiff bill, and he has also been working to build political support for the Ellison-Grijalva statement. (See Attachment D)
The Ellison-Grijalva statement and the Schiff statement in support of his bill
show a worthy intention to require the Administration to reveal more information about it drone attacks. But an examination of the meaning of the language of the bill suggests that passage would establish dangerous precedents while yielding little, if any, useful information.
First, it is obvious that the bill does nothing to stop drone attacks.
But, if one accepts that the bill has this shortcoming, what does the bill do?
One thing it appears is to do is to implicitly establish that “targeted lethal force” otherwise known as assassination, is fundamentally a legitimate activity of the U.S. government, in this case by drone.
While, in my opinion, the bill says implicitly that assassination by drone is permissible anywhere, it says that reporting on these killings and numbers of those injured in drone attacks will not be required for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has conducted the most drone attacks, or “in a foreign country described by a future declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force.”
In addition the reporting requirements apply only to drone attacks outside the United States. No reporting is required by the bill for the use of “targeted lethal force” by special operations units, cruise missile, airplanes or other means.
Examining the bill’s language through the lens of the Viet Nam War, it appears that it would have abetted the assassinations that were central to the Phoenix Program, which was intended, among other things, to systematically kill leaders of the Viet Cong.
In establishing “targeted lethal force” as a legitimate activity, the bill ignores the issue of due process, which has been one of the casualties of the U.S. drone program. Further, the bill implicitly denies that there are issues of due process within declared war zones.
The statement of the 14 organizations endorsing the bill suggests an unarticulated discomfort with the bill in relation to due process when it says “we do not necessarily agree that the terms ‘combatant’ and ‘civilian’ apply”, apparently referencing the essence of the bill which calls for annual government reporting on “civilians” and “combatants” killed by drones.
By establishing categories of “civilian’ and ‘combatant’, and giving an Administration the opportunity to define the categories, the bill implicitly legitimizes the killing of people deemed “bad” by administrative decision, not open judicial process, assuming capital punishment is acceptable.
It is obvious that supporters of the Schiff bill agree with the laudable view expressed in the 14-organization statement that: “The Executive Branch should openly acknowledge and investigate reports of potentially unlawful killings, and ensure accountability for any violations of the law.” The groups call on Congress to pass the bill, and “take this modest yet crucial step toward ending excessive secrecy about U.S. drone strikes.”
But while there is a need to learn everything we can about drone attacks, we know that secrecy is not so much the problem as the attacks themselves. We have to be aware of the possibility that the Schiff bill may provide political and legal cover for assassination and drone attacks, protection that these actions don’t have now.
There is a wish on the part of some to make elimination of drone secrecy a legislative baby step that will open a window to drone atrocities that will bring a level of public revulsion that will lead to an end to U.S. drone attacks and drone surveillance.
The Schiff bill is unlikely to achieve that because full disclosure of the workings and effects of the drone program are not its goals.
More troubling is the fact the leaders of the Progressive Caucus and the aforementioned 14 organizations have not said that ending drone secrecy is the first step in ending drone attacks and drone surveillance. What seems to be envisioned is a vague, multi-year process of limited disclosure that will in no way adequately challenge what is clearly an entrenched, growing, global U.S. program of drone execution and spying.
People now living under drones are unlikely to be patient with what appear to be imperatives of U.S. politics, as perceived by politicians in Washington DC.
I asked Madiha Tahir, maker of the film Wounds of Waziristan, to comment on the Schiff bill, and this is her response:
“As citizens of an ostensibly democratic state, governmental transparency is a laudable goal; we should know what our government are doing in our name. But, let's be clear: such transparency does little, if anything, for the victims and survivors of American militarism. Allowing the U.S. to forego transparency for its attacks on Afghanistan (and perhaps by extension, Pakistan), effectively legitimizes U.S. violence on, and occupation of, that country under the rubric of "armed conflict." The convergence between U.S. militarism and those who claim to advocate for its victims as typified in the Transparency Act is deeply troubling.”
(A personal note: I write the above with a certain amount of regret because I value greatly the counter-drone war work that Joe Scarry is doing as well as that of many others in the organizations that have endorsed the Schiff bill.)
Here is a video by Jill McLaughlin, a member of World Can’t Wait in San Francisco, that carries a powerful message as we enter the Spring Days of Action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff4oCdbOt6E&feature=youtu.be
In solidarity, and with thanks to all for the work you are doing so courageously,
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have called the U.S. on the carpet for dodging the call from the international community to come clean about its drone killings.
Now it's time for all 62 other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to step up to the plate.
Grijalva and Ellison's initiative creates an opportunity for all of us to demand of our progressive representatives that they, too, take a stand. It's a simple yes-or-no, no-ifs-ands-or-buts question:
"Have you signed on to the CPC co-chairs' demand
that 'our intelligence agencies provide
an annual public accounting
of the number of civilian casualties
caused by drone strikes overseas'?"
The Grijalva-Ellison demand was provoked by a series of events at the United Nations.
First, in October, 2013, a pair of long-awaited reports by the U.N. special rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and on extrajudicial executions were published. The included an unambiguous demand for a full accounting of drone killings.
This was followed by a little-publicized General Assembly vote that use of drones in counter-terrorism must comply with international law.
By early 2014, people were beginning to realize that the government was succeeding in quashing debate about its extrajudicial executions simply through its silence. A consensus began to build around the key point of pressure: the need to bear down on the U.S. government to come clean about its drone killings.
When the U.N. Human Rights council convened in March to take up the matter of the drone killings, the U.S. government had a simple solution: boycott.
And thus it was the sight of the U.S. government fleeing a U.N. convocation into human rights that provoked the call by Reps. Grijalva and Ellison. "Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate," they said in their statement.
"Today’s vote highlights the need for Congress to play a larger role in overseeing and regulating the use of lethal force abroad. Requiring that our intelligence agencies provide an annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes overseas — a measure included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act — would be a good start," they said. (Emphasis added)
Reps. Grijalva and Ellison issued their call in their capacity as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The clear next step is for every other member of the CPC to join the call. This is a simple but unambiguous assertion by Congress of authority in the U.S. drone killing program, and it is vital that there be unanimous support by the CPC.
Please look at the list below and write personally to the member who represents you. Now is the time for us to insist on public statements from every member of Congress that they unreservedly support the call for the U.S. to come clean about its drone killings.
And if you live in Arizona or Minnesota . . . you have a thank you note to send.
CA02 - Jared Huffman
CA11 - George Miller
CA13 - Barbara Lee
CA17 - Michael Honda
CA20 - Sam Farr
CA27 - Judy Chu
CA34 - Xavier Becerra
CA37 - Karen Bass
CA40 - Lucille Roybal-Allard
CA41 - Mark Takano
CA43 - Maxine Waters
CA44 - Janice Hahn
CA47 - Alan Lowenthal
CO02 - Jared Polis
CT03 - Rosa DeLauro
DC00 - Eleanor Norton
FL05 - Corrine Brown
FL09 - Alan Grayson
FL22 - Lois Frankel
FL24 - Frederica Wilson
GA04 - Henry Johnson
GA05 - John Lewis
IA02 - David Loebsack
IL04 - Luis Gutierrez
IL07 - Danny Davis
IN07 - André Carson
MA02 - James McGovern
MA04 - Joseph Kennedy
MA07 - Michael Capuano
MD04 - Donna Edwards
MD07 - Elijah Cummings
ME01 - Chellie Pingree
MI13 - John Conyers
MN08 - Richard Nolan
MO05 - Emanuel Cleaver
MS02 - Bennie Thompson
NJ06 - Frank Pallone
NJ12 - Rush Holt
NV04 - Steven Horsford
NY07 - Nydia Velázquez
NY08 - Hakeem Jeffries
NY09 - Yvette Clarke
NY10 - Jerrold Nadler
NY12 - Carolyn Maloney
NY13 - Charles Rangel
NY15 - José Serrano
NY25 - Louise Slaughter
OH11 - Marcia Fudge
OR01 - Suzanne Bonamici
OR04 - Peter DeFazio
PA02 - Chaka Fattah
PA17 - Matt Cartwright
RI01 - David Cicilline
TN09 - Steve Cohen
TX18 - Sheila Jackson Lee
TX30 - Eddie Johnson
VA08 - James Moran
VI00 - Donna Christensen
VT00 - Peter Welch
WA07 - Jim McDermott
WI02 - Mark Pocan
WI04 - Gwen Moore
A 2013 U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.
The reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made. As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.
(See Drone Killings: Come Clean )
An Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms: linchpin races, scandal, principle, drone testing, and some "special" cases.
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."
By Alfredo Lopez
"Connectivity," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview last year, "is a human right."