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What Mark Warner Asked John Brennan

When CIA nominee John Brennan faced the Senate Select Committee on So-Called Intelligence on Thursday, countless critical and cutting questions had been prepared by bloggers and journalists.  None of them were asked.

Brennan might have been asked why he'd lied about the killing of bin Laden or about the murder by drone program.  He had claimed that every target was known, even though he was fully aware that people were being targeted without identifying them (using so-called signature strikes).  He had claimed that there were zero collateral deaths, even though independent reports have produced hundreds of names, identities, and photographs, and even though the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan told a delegation of peace activists that there was a U.S. government count of civilian deaths and he wouldn't reveal what it was.

Brennan might have been asked how in the world it can be legal, according to a "white paper" leaked on Monday, for a "high official" to order the murder of a human being, American or non-American, without judicial or legislative or public or international oversight -- or even with such oversight.  He might have been asked if he is one such high official. He might have been asked whether there was a memo to justify the murder of the three Americans thus far known to have been intentionally murdered, since none of them seem to fit the qualifications laid out in the "white paper."  He might have been asked what the procedure would be if two "high officials" disagreed on the desirability of murdering a particular American.  He might have been asked what authority would certify that a targeted victim could not be captured rather than killed.  He might have been confronted with the rise in hostility toward the U.S. government being generated.  He might have been asked about the United Nations investigation of the murder by drone program as criminal.

We Virginians were represented in the hearing room by Senator Mark Warner.  He claimed what he called the "honor" of introducing the nominee, and expressed his pride that Brennan lives in Virginia along with much of the "intelligence community."  Warner hyped his effort to create a U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day (which presumably we'll celebrate silently in our minds), praised Brennan in the vaguest of terms by reading through his resume, declared him ready to be confirmed pre-questioning, and outrageously asserted that Brennan backed "greater transparency" and "adherence to the rule of law."  A major news story in the preceding 24 hours had been the White House's refusal to tell the public or even the legislature exactly what it was pretending that the law was.

The most informative and valuable portion of the hearing was produced by Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, who took turns interrupting the proceedings to ask what needed to be asked.  The message that some Americans do not favor murdering children abroad was thus communicated to the world.  Many others were prepared to add their voices in that room, but Chairwoman Feinstein kicked everyone out except for a handful of Good Americans, and the hearing proceeded with a mostly empty room.  The "Intelligence" Committee is of course used to holding hearings in an entirely empty room with the door locked.

Senator Warner's chance to ask questions, despite having already declared his support, would come later in the hearing.  By that point, Warner had to work with not only Brennan's pathetic written answers to a series of weak questions presented to him prior to the hearing, but all of his answers to other Senators during the hearing up to that point.  Remarkably, during the hearing, on more than one occasion, Brennan claimed to have believed (despite voluminous public evidence) that torture was an effective tool.  He did not claim to have believed that as a child, or to have believed it 10 years ago.  He claimed to have believed it up until last week when he took the time to read part of the Senate committee's report, as he had been shamed and pressured into doing.  He said he was shocked to learn that torture was not an effective tool.  Also during the hearing, before Warner's turn came, Brennan repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture and claimed that only a lawyer could make that judgment.  Note that he was asking to direct an agency involved in torturing people, identifying himself as a non-lawyer, and declaring that only a lawyer could determine what torture was.  Brennan also, by the time Warner's turn came around, had refused to list the nations in which the United States is murdering people.  He had also repeatedly confessed to having had "inside control" of the underwear bomber.

When Warner's 8 minutes began, one might think he would have had something important to ask about.  Couldn't you have thought of SOMETHING if it was you?  Even without prior experience on the committee (or law school) might you not have thought of something, ANYTHING, significant to ask about?  Wouldn't you have asked specific detailed questions about past performance, about torture, rendition, warrantless spying, lying, or killing people?  Aren't any of those topics worth touching on?

Warner framed his first question as a rambling, time-swallowing speech.  His question was: how can we be sure the CIA director is well informed?  The general vague answer he got to this line of questioning matched the generality and vagueness of the question.  If Mark Warner is afraid a CIA director might be uninformed, why not ask Brennan if he knows significant facts?  Why not ask him how many people have been killed and where?  Why not ask him how many are on the list to be killed?  Why not ask him what the criteria are for getting on the list?  Why not ask how young the youngest person on the kill list is?  Why not express any concern that an "informed high official" might be killing people with the same level of "intelligence" that put so many people into Guantanamo who have since been exonerated of any guilt?

Instead Mark Warner turned to vague questions about the federal budget.  Brennan's response included hyping the extensive "intelligence" efforts within the "defense" department.  Wow, what an opening!  The Pentagon is not supposed to be doing the "intelligence" work.  Everyone knows how disastrously the Pentagon violated that rule in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.  Surely Warner would jump at this bait.

Warner instead moved on to asking Brennan, as many of his colleagues had already, how exactly Brennan would conduct himself in answering questions from the committee if, after he was confirmed, they were to actually ask him any questions. 

By the time Warner might have had a second turn to question the witness, Warner was nowhere to be seen.

He will however be seen at the University of Virginia on Monday and if you sign up you can attend.  Maybe YOU can think of something to ask HIM.  If you need ideas for what to ask and how, or just want to attend as a group, you should get together with a concerned citizen who's planning to attend by emailing shepherd@digitalelite.com

 

Israeli Drone Strikes in Gaza in November 2012 Attack: Two-Thirds Killed Were Civilians

By Ann Wright, OpEdNews

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

::::::::

More Palestinians Killed by Drones Alone in eight DAYS than Israelis Killed by rockets in eight YEARS

  

Heron Drone

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. 

This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

First City in U.S. Passes Resolution Against Drones

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4th, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., passed what is believed to be the first anti-drone resolution in the country.  According to my notes, and verifiable soon on the City Council's website, the resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding 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 harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.

The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending, and any possible attack on Iran.

(Photo by Ted Strong of Daily Progress)

The wording of Monday's resolution comes largely from a draft suggested by the Rutherford institute. An initial line was deleted and two amendments were made to the final paragraph, one endorsing a two-year moratorium on drones (something that had passed in committee in both houses of the Virginia legislature as of Saturday in the House and Monday in the Senate), the other committing the City not to use drones for surveillance or assault.

The wording was not as comprehensive as the draft that had appeared in the City Council's official agenda for Monday's meeting, a draft I had authored.  See it here in the city agenda or on my website

At the previous meeting of the City Council on January 7, 2013, I and a few other residents had spoken in support of a resolution, and three of the five city council members agreed to put it on the agenda for the February 4th meeting.  Some of the public comments were excellent, and the video of the meeting is on the city's website

On Monday, citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m.  Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city's site.  The council members did not discuss and vote on the matter until shortly after 11 p.m.  The discussion was quite brief, coming on the heels of hours devoted to other matters. 

The same three city council members who had put the item on the agenda voted in favor of the resolution, passing it by a vote of 3-2.  They were Dave Norris, Dede Smith, and Satyendra Sing Huja.  Norris and Smith negotiated the slight improvements to the Rutherford Institute's draft with Huja, who initially favored passing that draft as it was written.  Norris and Smith favored banning the City from purchasing drones, but Council Member Kristin Szakos argued that there might be a positive use for a drone someday, such as for the fire department.  Kathy Galvin joined Szakos in voting No.

Norris has been a leader on the City Council for years and sadly will not be running for reelection at the end of his current term.

Following the January meeting, I submitted my draft to the city, asked people to phone and email the council members, published a column in the local daily newspaper, and organized an event in front of City Hall on Sunday, the day before the vote.  Anti-drone activist John Heuer from North Carolina delivered a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern.  Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper.  I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page.  The room ended up packed, and when I asked those who supported the resolution to stand, most of the room did so.

No organized pro-drone lobby ever developed.  We met and confronted the argument that localities shouldn't lobby states or Washington.  And, of course, some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad.  Charlottesville's City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.  But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well.  The problem there, according to Smith, was that "we don't own the air."

Yet, we should. And Oregon is attempting to do so with its draft state legislation.

In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies.  Let us hope this one is no exception.

Stop the Drones - Stop the Wars

by Debra Sweet
World Can't Wait's focus on stopping the use of armed and surveillance drones by the U.S. is principally based on our opposition to the immorality of attacking vast populations, and linked to our mission to bring people to see that U.S. occupations are not legitimate.

Poisonous gas in the first "world war;" nukes in the second; napalm against the Vietnamese people; and white phosphorous in the Gulf War are technologies so heinous that at least millions of people recoiled, and removed their support from the imperialist belligerents.

New CRS Reports on Drones

The Congressional Research Service has released two new reports on drones.  The first is called

Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues

Some highlights:

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, P.L. 112-95, Congress has tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, into the national airspace system by September 2015. Although the text of this act places safety as a predominant concern, it fails to establish how the FAA should resolve significant, and up to this point, largely unanswered legal questions....

... Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens. With the ability to house high-powered cameras, infrared sensors, facial recognition technology, and license plate readers, some argue that drones present a substantial privacy risk.66 Undoubtedly, the government’s use of drones for domestic surveillance operations implicates the Fourth Amendment and other applicable laws.67 In like manner, privacy advocates have warned that private actors might use drones in a way that could infringe upon fundamental privacy rights.6 ...

...If Congress chooses to act, it could create privacy protections to protect individuals from intrusive drone surveillance conducted by private actors. Such proposals would be considered in the context of the First Amendment rights to gather and receive news. Several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress that would regulate the private use of drones. Additionally, there are other measures Congress could adopt. ...

... Additionally, Congress could create a cause of action for surveillance conducted by drones similar to the intrusion upon seclusion tort provided under Restatement § 652B.151 ...

... Congress could also create a privacy statute tailored to drone use similar to the anti-voyeurism statutes, or “Peeping Tom” laws, enacted in many states.154 These laws prohibit persons from surreptitiously filming others in various circumstances and places.155 ...

...There may be instances where a landowner is entitled to protect his property from intrusion by a drone.  ...

... The legal issues discussed in this report will likely remain unresolved until the civilian use of drones becomes more widespread. ...



OR, OF COURSE, until people and localities and states speak up.

The other report is


Summary: There's gold in them thar drones.


Drones Are a Local Issue

No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

States and localities can ban or regulate such actions.  Or they can proceed to endanger our health and our civil rights.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the Sheriff showed off a drone to the media but crashed it into his armored vehicle (thereby, I guess, proving that he needed an armored vehicle). 

When the Dept. of Homeland Security challenged the University of Texas-Austin to hack into a drone and take control of it, the response was "No problem," and it was quickly done.

Drones are not safe.  Surveillance by drones cannot comply with the Fourth Amendment.  And the arming of drones with tear gas and rubber bullets, already underway in many U.S. localities, is an outrageous threat to our First Amendment right to assemble and petition our governments for a redress of grievances.

If Charlottesville were to remain silent while (how shall I put this delicately?) crack-pot cities continue setting de facto law, we would all be worse off. 

Charlottesville City Council routinely informs the state general assembly of its wishes.  That state assembly has already been considering legislation on drones.  Charlottesville has a responsibility to speak up, as well as to act locally on its own behalf. 

Moreover, Charlottesville's influence spreads.  Its past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well.  Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.

This is how our republic is supposed to work.  City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across America. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.

In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc.

We are not an island.  If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate.  If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders.  And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out. 

Just over a year ago, the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution calling for an end to "foreign ground and drone wars."  U.S. drone wars are now under investigation by the United Nations as possible crimes.  We now know that individuals are targeted without so much as identifying their names.  We now know that hundreds of children have been killed.  We now know that at least three Americans have been targeted and killed.  The view of our city should be restated in the context of local and state actions on drones.  This is an action desired by local people, affecting local people, and costing the local budget exactly nothing.

Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind.  Therefore, send not to know  For whom the bell tolls,  It tolls for thee.
--

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  Subscribe or unsubscribe from David's email lists here.

Dissent in 2013: Subversively Reviewing Predator Drones on Amazon.com

| The Atlantic

In the online retailer's product review section, an impromptu challenge to President Obama's kill list and 'signature strikes'. drone toy amazon.png

When the cultural history of the War on Terrorism is written, scholars may be surprised by the dearth of attention paid to President Obama's drone war in the national press and liberal opinion journals. A tool likely to forever change warfare is scarcely subject to open democratic debate.

But if cultural historians look beyond the mainstream press, additional signs of early dissent will be evident. An obscure example they ought not miss is the Amazon.com page for the online merchant Tailwinds, co-founded by pilot Nancy Jayne Palozola. Tailwinds sells a number of miniature aircraft, including scale models of F-35s, WWII-era P-38 fighters, and Jayhawk helicopters used by the Coast Guard. For most models, there are no more than three or four customer reviews. Yet nearly 200 people posted noteworthy reviews of one model: the Predator drone.

Raini Pachak loved the product:
 

This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I'm a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! It's like I'm sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!

Defenestrate was unhappy with it:
 

I thought if I bought this, I could kill random people without facing justice. It doesn't work! It won't kill people, not even brown ones.

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Wheeler: Brennan Is Obama's Cheney

Marcy Wheeler blogs as Emptywheel at Emptywheel.net. She says John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, has been Obama's Dick Cheney, operating outside the law, lying about bin Laden, and lying about drones; the White House has killed an American for his speech; the CIA has stopped lying to Congress only by starting to tell Congress nothing at all; Senator Diane Feinstein is complicit in the drone kill program; Congress has asked President Obama 10 times for a legal basis for the drone kill program and been blown off every time; the prosecutorial abuse in the case of Aaron Swartz is not uncommon, but evidence suggests retribution for Swartz's making accessible the Department of Justice's own public information, requesting of information on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and possible (entirely legal) assistance to WikiLeaks.

Total run time: 29:00

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Protest CIA Drone Wars at the CIA

SATURDAY, February 9, 2013

10AM

CIA HEADQUARTERS

900 block of Dolley Madison Blvd., Langley, Virginia

As of January 2013 The United Nations has launched a special investigation into the US killer drone program. Leading the UN investigation is Ben Emmerson the UN rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. He said "The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law," The US Military & Central Intelligence Agency drones have maimed & killed thousands including innocent people in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya,Afghanistan, & Pakistan without charge, trial or conviction of crime. This year alone there have been over 362 + strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on estimates up to 3461 people killed and 891 injured in Pakistan, in Yemen 1112 killed and 178 injured in these two countries alone by CIA drone strikes. Stand with us opposing CIA & US Military drones used in extrajudicial killings.

US killer drone strikes are illegal, immoral, and must stop now!

Supported by Pax Christi Metro DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker of DC, Code Pink, Nova Catholic Community, Peace & International Outreach Committee of Langley Hill Friends, Washington Peace Center, Peace Action Montgomery County, MD, Little Friends for Peace, Maryland United for Peace & Justice

For more information contact Jack McHale: 703-772-0635

PBS Drone Coverage Brought to You by Drone Makers

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Lockheed's Nova sponsorship violates underwriting rules

1/28/13

The PBS Nova broadcast "Rise of the Drones" was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin--a clear violation of PBS's underwriting guidelines.

As Kevin Gosztola reported (FireDogLake, 1/24/13), the January 23 broadcast was a mostly upbeat look at surveillance and weaponized drones. "Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history," PBS urged, promising to reveal "the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful."

Some of that technology, unbeknownst to viewers, was created by the company described as giving Nova "additional funding" at the beginning of the broadcast. Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor with $46 billion in 2011 sales, is the manufacturer of drones used in warfare and intelligence, including the Desert Hawk, the Falcon, the Stalker and the Tracer. In December 2012, Lockheed bought AME Unmanned Air Systems, maker of the Fury drone (New Times, 12/19/12).

Nova's history of unmanned flight technology included comments from Abe Karem, dubbed the "father of the Predator" drone. His current company, FireDogLake's Gosztola noted, has a business relationship with Lockheed Martin.

The show did not entirely skirt the controversies over drones. A section of the broadcast dealt with drone pilots firing on targets in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan. Viewers, though, are told that drone pilots have distinct advantage over conventional pilots. One drone operator talks about how, after a strike, a drone can "stick around for another few hours to watch what happens afterwards." A more critical look at drone wars might have mentioned these are the same circumstances under which U.S. drones have attacked rescue workers and funeral processions (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 6/4/12).

The show does not ignore the question of civilian deaths--though it says "the facts are hard to come by" and that "there are not fully reliable counts of civilian deaths." Nova does mention that some estimates are that 30 percent of those killed are civilians, and talks about one attack that killed 23 civilians in Pakistan.

But, in keeping with the generally upbeat tone, Nova tells viewers that technology will help turn things around. "Drones can strike with pinpoint precision," the programs explains, "but their visual sensors are limited in ways that can lead pilots to make mistakes." Not to worry, though; "engineers are working to create new sensors that can see more in greater detail than ever before."

The program's sponsorship tie to the drone industry were never mentioned--though there were opportunities to disclose that relationship. In addition to Lockheed Martin's connection to one of the interview subjects, the show discussed a U.S. drone that was captured by Iran--without mentioning that it was manufactured by Nova's underwriter. And when Nova discusses the drones of the future, it's talking about the kind of miniature drones Lockheed Martin is developing to provide "constant surveillance capabilities" (TPM IdeaLab, 7/4/12).

Though the broadcast included an underwriting announcement at the beginning ("Additional funding from Lockheed Martin: Inspiring tomorrow's engineers and technologists"), that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company is not credited on the Nova website for the episode.

So can a corporation really provide "additional funding" for public TV journalism that discusses its own interests? PBS rules would seem to say no. The network has three tests that "are applied to every proposed funding arrangement in order to determine its acceptability":

* Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?

* Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?

* Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?

On the perception test, PBS explains:

When there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable regardless of the funder's actual compliance with the editorial control provisions of this policy.

On commercialism:

The policy is intended to prohibit any funding arrangement where the primary emphasis of the program is on products or services that are identical or similar to those of the underwriter.

It is difficult to see how PBS could argue that the Nova special does not violate these rules. And PBS wants you the believe they take such matters seriously:

Should a significant number of reasonable viewers conclude that PBS has sold its professionalism and independence to its program funders, whether or not their conclusions are justified, then the entire program service of public television will be suspect and the goal of serving the public will be unachievable.

If PBS really believe these words, why did they allow the Lockheed-funded "Rise of the Drones" to air?

 

ACTION:
Ask PBS ombud Michael Getler to investigate whether Nova's "Rise of the Drones" violates PBS underwriting guidelines.

CONTACT:
PBS Ombud
Michael Getler
ombudsman@pbs.org

Phone: 703 739 5290

Hey, Hey, Barack! What Do You Say? How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?

 

By Dave Lindorff


I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:


A New Model Drone Resolution

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

Concerns include the following: drones can crash into airplanes, buildings, and each other; drones can fall out of the sky; drones can produce noise pollution; drones can produce visual pollution if put to the same use that everything from brick walls to urinals has been put to, viz. advertising; drones can be used to spy on us whether by private or public entities; police surveillance with drones will violate our Fourth Amendment rights as all existing technologies are currently used to do; police forces that view the public as their enemy will deploy drones armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, or other weapons; and ultimately a program run by the U.S. military and the CIA that has targeted and murdered three U.S. citizens that we know of, along with thousands of other men, women, and children, may eventually find it acceptable to include U.S. soil in its otherwise unlimited field of operations.

Contrary concerns over banning or restricting drones include these: drones could conceivably be put to positive or non-offensive use by departments fighting forest fires, first responders in rural areas, farmers, artistic photographers, real estate agents, tourism offices, and hobbyists; states and localities are limited in their control of air space by federal law.

Few if any localities have thus far made their desires known or created ordinances to regulate the use of drones, but state legislatures, including the General Assembly here in Virginia, are taking up bills.  With the City of Charlottesville, where I live, planning to address the issue on February 19th, I've taken a look at (and plagiarized liberally from) numerous draft resolutions, including those from several cities that are now considering taking action: Berkeley, Buffalo, Madison, Ft. Wayne, et alia, as well as a draft resolution from anti-drone activist Nick Mottern, and one from the Rutherford Institute.  The result is the following draft resolution that I offer for consideration, comment, and modification:

A RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, with up to 87,000 flights per day;

WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation;

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;

WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;

WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans;

WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;

WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;

WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;

WHEREAS, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadowhawk drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a grenade launcher or a shotgun, tear gas, and rubber buckshot, and such aerial police weapons send a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets and protesting government policies -- the message: stay home;

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville;

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, "double-tap" strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental "friendly fire," drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them, and drones having proved a tremendously costly expense for taxpayers;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding 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 harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, declares Charlottesville a No Drone Zone, and instructs the City Attorney to perform the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into an Ordinance wherein drones are hereby banned from airspace over the City of Charlottesville, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that violation of the ordinance shall be considered a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000, and each offense that is more than one offense of flying a drone within said airspace will be considered to be an additional misdemeanor, with jail time and fines based on the number of violations. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or private residence or equipped with any weapon.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of Charlottesville.

Putting Our Bodies on the Line to Stop Drone Warfare

 

There is a growing national movement to end the drone warfare that has been expanded during the Obama years.  Even as Obama gives an inaugural speech that many thought to be inspiring and suggestive of change, reports indicate that the drone program continues to escalate.  So, we must continue to do everything we can to stop the killer drones.

 

Cville v. Drones

Moved from the 19th to the 4th!

Charlottesville Va City Council has chosen to place on its agenda for the February 19th 4th meeting a resolution opposing, restricting, or banning drones. (This date has been confirmed; it is the 19th.)

Here's a draft resolution.

Here's why Drones Are a Local Issue.

Sign up if you plan to be there.

The Virginia General Assembly has already been considering legislation on drones. It's important for Virginia localities to make their voices heard.

The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies. Will proper restrictions be in place in time?

In the absence of laws, local police departments around the country are establishing their own practices. If those localities that care about civil liberties stay silent, those that don't will create de facto law for all of us.

Americans are spied on without warrant or probable cause using every existing technology. Without serious restrictions and penalties in place, drones will be no exception.

Police departments that want to use drones to target protesters with pepper spray and rubber bullets will make the argument that this approach protects the police. But a better way to protect the police would be to instruct them to assist the public in exercising first amendment rights, rather than treating the public as an enemy in a low-intensity war.

If you live in Charlottesville please let the city council hear your support and advice:
council@charlottesville.org.

If you live in or near Charlottesville, please be at the meeting on February 19th 4th, 7 pm in City Hall, get there very early if you want to speak.

Learn more about drones:
http://warisacrime.org/category/categories/drones.

FLYER: PDF.

Rutherford Institute Issues Model Drone Resolution, Calls on Charlottesville-Albemarle Officials to Establish Limits on Police Spy Drones

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Rutherford Institute — With at least 30,000 drones expected to occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is calling on government officials in Charlottesville and Albemarle County to do their part to safeguard Virginians against the use of drones by police, especially for surveillance and crowd control purposes. Specifically, Whitehead has provided the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council with a model resolution urging the General Assembly to prevent police agencies from utilizing drones outfitted with anti-personnel devices such as tasers and tear gas and prohibit the government from using data recorded via police spy drones in criminal prosecutions. Rutherford Institute attorneys have drafted and made available to the public language that can be adopted at all levels of government—local, state and federal—in order to address concerns being raised about the threats posed by drones to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

“Once these drones take to the skies, there really will be no place to hide,” said Whitehead. “If we are to have any hope of safeguarding our privacy rights, it needs to start with our elected representatives at all levels of government—local, state and federal—establishing clear limits on how and when these aerial, robotic threats to privacy and security can be used by law enforcement officials.”

As The Rutherford Institute’s fact sheet details, the FAA Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2012, has authorized the use of drones domestically for a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. Prior to this, drones had been confined to military use in the battlefields over Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet as attorney John Whitehead points out, without proper safeguards, these drones, some of which are deceptively small and capable of videotaping the facial expressions of people on the ground from hundreds of feet in the air, will usher in a new age of surveillance in American society. Not even those indoors, in the privacy of their homes, will be safe from these aerial spies, which can be equipped with technology capable of peering through walls.

In addition to their surveillance capabilities, drone manufacturers have confirmed that drones can also be equipped with automatic weapons, grenade launchers, tear gas, and tasers. Aside from the very serious and grave implications for privacy and civil liberties raised by Whitehead, there are also a number of safety issues involved with drone technology, with the paramount concern being that drones have a history of malfunctioning mid-air. Drones are also vulnerable to hackers, allowing unauthorized persons to access information gathered via drone, or to take control of the drone’s flight path. Many local police departments throughout the country, including in Florida and California, have already begun utilizing drones in police procedures without any real regulations in place.

In calling on lawmakers to be proactive in safeguarding their constituents against drones, Whitehead warned against adopting legislation either too narrow in scope to have any serious impact on the widespread threat to privacy and civil liberties or providing law enforcement officials with greater leeway to use drones conditioned only on their first acquiring a court-issued warrant.

Case History

09-19-2012 • Rutherford Institute Issues Model Drone Legislation, Calls on Congress to Protect Americans from Weaponized Drones and Police Spy Drone

Legal Action

Click here to read The Rutherford Institute's letter to Charlottesville City Council

Click here to read The Rutherford Institute's letter to Albermarle County Board of Supervisors

Click here to read The Rutherford Institute's model resolution for Charlottesville City Council

Click here to read The Rutherford Institute's model resolution for Albermarle County Board of Supervisors

Click here to read The Rutherford Institute's "Freedom from Drone Surveillance Resolution" fact sheet

Press Contact

Nisha Whitehead
(434) 978-3888 ext. 604
(434) 466-6168 (cell)
nisha@rutherford.org

Obama's Second Inauguration: Big Money but No Big Lines

 

By Dave Lindorff


There were no memorable lines in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Certainly nothing like Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which was in his first inaugural, or like John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”


But there was plenty he said that was troubling. 


The problem mostly wasn’t what he said. It was how he said it, and what he left unsaid.

Rally, March, and Die Against Drone Wars in Washington, D.C., on Monday

What you can do to stop drone wars and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s opposition to militarism, racism, and extreme materialism.

1. Take 30 seconds to join 60,000 others in pushing for a ban on weaponized drones.

2. Take 30 seconds to demand that the millions being wasted on inaugural balls go to those who have lost their jobs, healthcare, and homes.

3. Be in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to say: No Blank Check for Israel!
Condition U.S. aid to Israel on compliance with U.S. and international law!
4-6 p.m. in Farragut Square

4. Join a meeting of anti-drone activists in Washington, D.C., on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 400 I (Eye) Street, SW Washington, DC (near Arena Stage); Metro: 1 block from Waterfront Metro (GREEN LINE). Contact 571-501-3729.

5. Attend a rally and march in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning. 
9-10 a.m. Rally with prominent speakers and music at Meridian Hill Park (lower level) at Florida Avenue and 16th Street NW, Washington DC, 20008.  At 10 a.m. parade forms and marches down 16th Street NW to K Street NW. Contact 202-422-6275.

6. Do a die-in Monday in Washington, D.C., organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR).  At the U.S. Capitol sometime after noon.  Those dying-in will be risking arrest, and as we lie on the ground we will cover our bodies with a red-painted sheet to represent a bloody shroud, and with a large picture of a drone victim.  We invite you to participate in this action -- either risking arrest, or to be there in solidarity and witness.  We call on all participating to commit to nonviolence.  There are a number of people who would like to participate in both the Arc of Justice Rally and Parade, and then participate in the die-in.  We have organized our action so that people will be able to do both.  If you are planning or thinking about risking arrest, please contact mobuszewski@verizon.net – especially if you will be joining us at 11:45 am after the Arc of Justice Parade.
January 21, Inauguration Day.  Meet at 8 a.m. at the food court at Union Station near King BBQ and Vittorio's Gelato. OR:  Rendezvous point for people hooking up after Arc of Justice Parade will be at 11:45 a.m. in the same location
.   We will leave Union Station as a group at 12:15 p.m. and move towards the Capitol for the die-in. Photos of drone victims and shrouds will be provided for people risking arrest. We will need people to hand out flyers during the die-in.  It is suggested that those dying-in bring a piece of plastic to put underneath them on the sidewalk.  Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 30s or low 40s and we may be lying on the ground for up to an hour.  If you can play a support role for the action, please contact joyfirst5@gmail.com or 608 239-4327.

7. Attend the launching of a new book: We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in The 21st Century.  Reading, signing and discussion of new book in honor of MLK Day. 7-9 p.m. on Monday at 1525 Newton Street NW, Washington, DC 20010


 

 

 

 

What's Good for Northrop Grumman Is Not Good for America or Anyone Else

Watch this through the initial propaganda. It gets better:

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