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Humanity and the Planet Come First

by Debra Sweet, Director World Can't Wait

Despite what you may have seen on the screen Tuesday night, there were little pockets of of truth-telling at Hofstra University. World Can't Wait  and the kNOw Drones tour were out with two drone replicas driving home the message "Stop the Drone War! and "Humanity and the Planet come first!"  Act-up and Queerocracy brought the real lives of people suffering with AIDS to the media.  Access to abortion and birth control was a contended question.

 

Assassination Drones: A First Hand Report

Local activist and Peace Action Montgomery member Pam Bailey participated in the peace delegation to Pakistan earlier this month, focused on U.S. use of drones. 

Join us Mon., Oct. 29, for a special presentation from Pam describing this CodePink-organized trip from Islamabad to Waziristan. Pam will share with us the Pakistani perspective of being on the receiving end of drones and give us her view of the implications for their increasing use world-wide.


Pam Bailey, at left, with other members of peace march in Pakistan, Oct. 2012

Don’t miss this first-hand report from one of our war zones. Let’s discuss what the U.S. “kill list” really means. You may want to read Pam’s blogs about this extraordinary trip.

Mon., Oct. 29, 7:30 – 9 p.m.
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
9601 Cedar Lane
Bethesda, MD  20814

Cosponsored by Peace Action Montgomery, Pax Christ, Veterans for Peace

Download a flier to post at your religious congregation or community center!

Nonviolent Protester of Drone Wars Sentenced to Federal Prison

Catholic Worker Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa has been sentenced to serves 6 months in a federal prison for his witness against the use of drone warfare.

Below is a message from Brian and his statement before the court.

Friends, We are just out of court. I have been ordered to surrender to a federal prison not yet designated on November 30 to serve a six months in lock up, co-defendant Ron Faust was sentenced to five years on probation. Below is the statement I made to the court. Judge Whitworth took great offense at my reference to Air Force security personnel as "goosestepping riot police." Comparing our fighting men to Nazis (the judge's word, not mine) was reprehensible, he said. He is not offended, apparently, by goosestepping US military police intimidating nonviolent protestors, nor by Air Force drones committing crimes against humanity and murdering children. Mentioning these embarrassing facts, however, is an affront to good manners.

Citizen Diplomacy in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: "You Are Welcome!"

by Medea Benjamin and Robert Naiman

Islamabad, Pakistan - Many Americans have an image of Pakistan and its people as "teeming with anti-Americanism."Americans see images on TV of angry Pakistani demonstrators burning American flags. Indeed, polls say three of four Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

But in the last week, we and thirty other Americans have been blessed with an experience few Americans have shared, seeing a more hopeful side of the relationship of the people of Pakistan to Americans. For the last week in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and then in the nation’s tribal areas, our delegation that came to Pakistan to protest U.S. drones has been showered with tremendous hospitality, warmth and friendship.

On the road to Waziristan…

Our road to drone-ravaged Waziristan was a long and winding one, at times frightening, surrealistic and frustrating, but always exhilarating and significant.

It officially began Friday morning, when we joined officials from PTI, the political party of Imran Khan, and Clive Stafford-Smith from the UK’s Reprieve at a press conference at the Marriott in Islamabad. In a clear sign that the media were taking the proposed caravan to South Waziristan seriously, a phalanx of international, American and local media were lined up across the ballroom, clamoring for up-close shots and interviews.

U.S. leaves legacy of English speakers, damaged souls


By Pam Bailey

Abdul was just 20 years old when he drove his father to the medical clinic one day for an exam. He dropped his father off, then left to run a few errands, saying nonchalantly that he would be back by the time the tests were done. But..he never showed up at the clinic. It was as if he had disappeared into thin air. His family agonized over what had happened to the young man, who – as the oldest son -- had worked as a laborer to support his parents and siblings in the wake of his father’s disability.  The family fell into debt as a result, and his brother fell ill. It was more than a year later when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed them that Abdul was alive, but in prison, being held indefinitely, without formal charge or trial.

That incident could have been one of the infamous “disappearances” of Augusto Pinochet’s brutal regime in the 1970s, for which he was condemned, indicted and tried for human rights violations. However, this incident occurred in 2005, in Pakistan.  The jailer that kidnapped Abdul Halim Saifullah off the streets of Karachi, then imprisoned him without a word to anyone, access to a lawyer or trial, was the United States. It wasn’t until 2007 that his family was finally told where their son was being held – the infamous Bagram prison, the largest detention facility in the world and known as "Afghanistan's Guantanamo." In January of this year, Afghan investigators accused the U.S. Army of abusing detainees at Bagram, including torture.

Abdul's story was told by his father to a CodePink delegation that traveled to Pakistan to publicize the consequences of U.S. drone attacks in the war-torn region of Waziristan. Many organizations and individuals who have suffered at the hands of Americans sought an “audience” with the group, hoping the participants would advocate for their cause when they returned home. One of those organizations was the “Justice Project Pakistan,” modeled after and mentored by the UK’s Reprieve. JPP advocates for the most vulnerable of prisoners – primarily those facing the death penalty or who are detained beyond the rule of law in secret prisons.  Included among the latter are 37 Pakistanis – one as young as 16, who was seized in circumstances similar to Abdul’s at the age of just 14. Although the U.S. handed Bagram over to the Afghan government in September, the transition did not include prisoners from other countries, such as Pakistan, of which there are 52. (A side note: It also did not include more than 600 Afghans who were detained after the agreement was signed in March; they all remain in U.S. custody.)

Sarah Belal, an Oxford-trained lawyer and director of JPP, interpreted for a group of men whose brothers and sons are being held in Bagram. According to the men, some of the prisoners had been visiting Afghanistan for work or education, but others were in their hometowns in Pakistan. Many Americans do not realize that for years, the United States has been running “search-and-seize” operations in Pakistan as well, detaining these nationals for years without formal charge or trial. The longest has been there since 2002.

When Belal asked the men how long they had waited, thinking their relatives were dead, before learning from the ICRC that they were in Bagram, the answers ranged from six months to as long as two years.

“Some have no idea why their son or brother was taken,” Belal said. “Others say their relative was mistaken for someone else, but they haven’t been released. No formal charges are ever filed, except for a label in an Excel sheet given to the Pakistani government, such as ‘suspected member of Taliban’ or ‘IED (improvised explosive device) manufacturer’. ”

Once they learn of their loved ones’ whereabouts, the families are allowed to see them only by video conference, once every two months. They must travel to Islamabad, a long distance for many who live in more distant regions of Pakistan. When they arrive, poor Internet connections often mean the trip is for naught.  When they do talk, or send letters, the prisoners are not permitted to discuss how they were seized or under what conditions they are being held.

“We have been told by the few detainees who have been released that when there are first interned in Bagram, the prisoners are exposed to extreme temperatures, and the floors of their cages are covered with two feet of water,” Belal told the CodePink delegates. “It is one to two months before the ICRC is allowed to see them, and then they are moved to their ‘regular’ quarters.” Their lawyers are never allowed direct access.

The Pakistani prisoners are held together, in one big cage divided into small cubicles with only one open toilet for all 37.  Teenagers are mixed with the adults. Fazal Karim, who was abducted in 2003 when he was traveling cross country for a business trip, was held in solitary confinement for the past five years. In 2011, the Pakistani embassy in Kabul announced that Fazal had been cleared for release. However, today, he is still in Bagram, with no explanation.

“The Pakistani government has been no help,” the father of 16-year-old Hamidullah Khan told the group through Belal. “We are Pakistani citizens, but we totally on our own, at the mercy of the United States.”

JPP has filed a petition with the Pakistani government on behalf of 10 of the detainees, including Abdul Halim Saifullah and Hamidullah Khan. In October 2011, a Pakistani justice ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visit its citizens in Bagram. In February of this year, the High Court in Lahore directed the government of Pakistan to negotiate with the U.S. for the return of the detainees. However, no concrete results have yet been achieved, and on Sept. 25, the JPP proposed a draft memorandum of understanding which would, once signed by the U.S. and Pakistan, order the safe return of Pakistani citizens held in Bagram. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16.

Prisoners’ cases are reviewed behind closed doors every six months, and even when they are told they will be released, it can take weeks or longer before it becomes reality.

“What is unsettling,” Belal said, “is that prisoners often come home speaking fluent English cuss words – with an American accent.”

Life in Waziristan, 2012 “AD”

By Leah Bolger

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)…increased use of anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant drugs…suicide.  These are all issues that are plaguing American combat soldiers, and which the American media has reported on widely.

Yesterday the CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan heard directly from the victims of U.S. combat drones.  We listened intently to the stories of these men who describe their lives in terms of “Before Drones” and “After Drones,” in much the same way that Americans refer to their lives “since 9/11.” 

Imagine having up to 6 drones circling overhead 24 hours a day, making an incessant, constant buzzing sound that never ceases.  The sound the drones make creates a deep-seated psychological fear—a sort of emotional torture.  The lives of these people have changed completely, their culture and way of life destroyed.

This is a communal society, whose families of 60 to 70 people live in the same compound.  The women cook together, the families eat and sleep together.  Weddings and funerals are huge gatherings of friends and family—or at least they used to be.  Now, “After Drones (AD)” everything has changed.  Children aged 5 to 10 no longer go to school.  Men are afraid to gather in groups of more than 2 or 3.  Weddings, which used to be joyous affairs with music, dancing, and drumming, are now subdued events with only close family members present.  And most sadly, since funerals have been the target of drone attacks, they are now small gatherings as well.

Because of cultural norms, the deaths of women are not reported.  It is considered offensive to discuss the names, or take photographs of women, yet one stalwart journalist, Noor Beharam, has risked his life repeatedly to try to document the deaths of women and especially children.  He believes that 670 women have been killed by drone strikes, and has taken photos of more than 100 children.  Their bodies are often unrecognizable as human after the strikes.  He showed us one photo of a man holding torn pieces of a woman’s dress that he found in the trees, in an attempt to document his wife’s death.

The Waziris are now raising a generation of children with psychological and emotional scars without an education.  The use of Xanax is startling high, and suicide, which is a societal and religious taboo, is shocking.  Seventeen Waziris have killed themselves due to the emotional terror of the U.S. drone program.  This is something that is unheard of in this culture.  Families are becoming displaced and moving to more urban areas in an attempt to avoid popular “strike areas.”  The Pakistani Army has moved in and won’t allow them to cross into Afghanistan to visit their relatives there, though the entire region is Pashtun, and part of their cultural and historical heritage.

The U.S. government has created enemies where there were none.  We have been told repeatedly about the concept of revenge, which is a dominant social force in Waziristan.  The children of this region will remember what we have done to them, and their children, and their children.  We have also been told repeatedly that the only way to possibly stop this spiral is to stop the drones.  Just stop.  These people will not accept monetary compensation even if it were offered, which it isn’t.  They don’t want an apology, which they view as insincere.  They just want us to stop the drones, so they can return to their “Before Drones” lives.

Leah Bolger is President of Veterans For Peace.

Drone Opposition Breaks Through the Corporate Media Ceiling

Americans ignore 'great risks,' travel to Pakistan to protest US drone strikes
http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/05/14241712-americans-ignore-great-risks-travel-to-pakistan-to-protest-us-drone-strikes
NBC News

American activists in Pakistan to protest U.S. drone strikes
http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/05/world/asia/pakistan-us-drone-protest/index.html
CNN

CODEPINK to Protest Drones in Pakistan
http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2012/10/05/americans-in-pakistan-to-protest-us-drone-strikes
US News

American protestors join Pakistan protest against drone attacks to 'apologise on behalf of those with a conscience'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2213409/Code-Pink-campaign-U-S-drone-attacks-Pakistan-Imran-Khan-leads-peace-march.html
The Daily Mail Online

Imran Khan braves march into Pakistan's Taliban heartland
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/imran-khan-braves-march-into-pakistans-taliban-heartland-8198400.html
The Independent

The folly of drone attacks and U.S. strategy
http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/opinion/pakistan-drone-attacks-akbar/index.html
CNN

US Peace Activists Challenge Ambassador in Pakistan About Drones
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2012/10/05
Common Dreams

Delegation of American Activists Confronts US Drone Strike Policy in Pakistan
http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/10/04/delegation-of-american-activists-confronts-us-drone-strike-policy-in-pakistan/
FireDogLake

Americans Press U.S. Ambassador for End to Drone Strikes in Pakistan, and the Ambassador Responds
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/americans-press-us-ambass_b_1941919.html
The Huffington Post

Power of Pink: women hungry for drone protest
http://www.smh.com.au/world/power-of-pink-women-hungry-for-drone-protest-20121005-274lm.html
The Sydney Morning Herald

U.S. Ambassador Acknowledges Need to Compensate Drone Victims, and Admits They Exist

By Robert Naiman
Islamabad, Pakistan -- Sometimes, when some people insist that it's impossible to put some urgent problem on the table for discussion and redress, you have no choice but to undertake flamboyant action. Call it "propaganda by nonviolent deed."

On Wednesday, as a member of a U.S. peace delegationto Pakistan organized by Code Pink, I delivered a petition from more than 3,000 Americans to Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland calling for an end to the CIA drone strike policy in Pakistan.

I also delivered a letter from Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, Jody Williams, Tom Hayden, Patch Adams, Glenn Greenwald, Juan Cole and other prominent Americans, including former U.S. government officials, calling for an end to the drone strikes. The letter concludes:

U.S. Civilians Try to Inform U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan About Pakistan

This is the letter I sent to Ambassador Richard Hoagland after he met with the Codepink Delegation for Peace on October 3 stating that American policies are what have made Pakistan dangerous for Americans. -- Ann Wright

October 5, 2012

Ambassador Richard Hoagland
US Embassy
Islamabad, Pakistan
Dear Ambassador Hoagland,

Thank you and your staff for meeting with our American delegation for peace on October 3.

As you mentioned, your meeting with us demonstrates one of the strengths of American society-freedom of speech to criticize policies of one’s government.

-

We fully appreciate the United States warning about travel for Americans to Pakistan.

Assange Labeled an 'Enemy' of the US in Secret Pentagon Documents

 

By Dave Lindorff


An investigative arm of the Pentagon has termed Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, currently holed up and claiming asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for fear he will be deported to Sweden and thence to the US, and his organization, both “enemies” of the United States.

Assange Labeled an 'Enemy' of the US in Secret Pentagon Documents

 

By Dave Lindorff


An investigative arm of the Pentagon has termed Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, currently holed up and claiming asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for fear he will be deported to Sweden and thence to the US, and his organization, both “enemies” of the United States.

Assange Labeled an 'Enemy' of the US in Secret Pentagon Documents

 

By Dave Lindorff


An investigative arm of the Pentagon has termed Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange, currently holed up and claiming asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for fear he will be deported to Sweden and thence to the US, and his organization, both “enemies” of the United States.

Americans in Pakistan Meet Families of Victims Obama Says Don't Exist

Thirty-two U.S. peace activists, including 6 members of Veterans For Peace are taking part in a peace delegation to Pakistan organized by the anti-war group Code Pink.

See video: http://vimeo.com/50666774

Wednesday the delegation met with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Richard Hoagland.  U.S. peace activist Robert Naiman asked about reports of secondary attacks on rescuers of drone victims.  Ambassador Hoagland denied that rescuers are targeted, but not that strikes are launched on the same location just struck minutes before.

Hoagland also said that he agreed with President Obama that the number of civilian deaths was near zero, but later seemed to contradict himself when he said that number he believed was accurate was in "two digits."  When asked to be more specific as to whether that number was closer to 10 or 99, he declined.

Americans' Calls to End Drone Strikes Delivered to US Embassy Pakistan

Letter signed by Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, Tom Hayden, Patch Adams, other prominent Americans; 3,000 petition signatures from US citizens delivered to Acting Ambassador Richard Hoagland;
Hoagland disputes allegations U.S. drone strikes target civilian rescuers

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-3 October 2012-Today a group of US peace advocates delivered a letter to the US embassy in Islamabad signed by twenty-six leading US authors, film directors, professors, activists, and a Nobel Peace laureate, calling upon US authorities to end US drone strikes in Pakistan, and to bring US drone strike policy into compliance with US and international law. The letter, which was organized by the US group Just Foreign Policy can be found online at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1312.

CODEPINK Peace Delegation now in Pakistan, Meeting with Victims of Obama's Drone Strikes

Islamabad, Pakistan--- Today the full CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan will arrive in Islamabad to begin a week of activities to express their opposition to US drone strikes in Pakistan.  A pre-delegation group of American activists has been on the ground in Pakistan for several days meeting with think tanks, human rights organizations, and military and academic institutions.

 

The response from Pakistanis has been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, and many plan to join the CODEPINK contingent as it marches to South Waziristan to protest US drone strikes on October 7th. "We are already receiving an outpouring of support from Pakistani people who are heartened to learn that there are Americans with a conscience who are willing to come all the way to Pakistan to show solidarity and apologize for the drone strikes that have brought so much death and destruction to the impoverished people of north Pakistan," said CODEPINK cofounder and delegation leader Medea Benjamin.

 

On Wednesday, October 3, the delegation will meet with two victims from the first drone strike ever conducted during Obama's presidency on January 23, 2009, which killed nine people-all civilians. One victim is Fahim Qureshi, who lost an eye, and had to have abdominal surgery because the drone missile pierced his stomach. He also lost 4 members of his family. The other victim is Mohammad Ejaz, who lost 2 family members.  

 

Afterwards the delegation will meet with lawyers of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who brought a lawsuit in the Peshawar High Court against the Pakistani government for its involvement in drone strikes and another case in Islamabad against CIA officials for committing murder on Pakistani soil. The delegation will then deliver petitions with tens of thousands of American signatures opposing the lethal U.S. use of drones to U.S. Embassy officials. 

 

Delegates are available for interviews, and updates from the trip will be posted periodically on www.droneswatch.org.

Children and Drones

from children...

“oh please!...
stop killing us!...
we’re just children!...
you killed the others!...
you killed our mother!...
you killed our father!...
and then our sister!...
and our brother!...
and for what?!...
our family’s dead!...
you blew them apart!...
our father’s smart head!...
our mother’s sweet heart!...
all they did was work hard!...
our father plowed the fields!...
our mother cooked our food!...
sister’s wounds were healed!...
and brother’s pigeon cooed!...
now they’re dead and gone!...
and it’s all because of you!...
why do you kill like this?!...
we don’t even know you!...
but you still kill us dead!...
yes this is what you do!...
so what is life to you?!...
even we know better!...
than to be like you!...
stop what you do!...
stop killing us!...
you did enough!...
you killed so much!...
just stay away from us!”...

Image from Ashley.

Text from sallysense.

Online petition to sign.

U.S. and U.K. War Veterans Against Drones

"What, quite unmanned in folly?" --Lady MacBeth

This past Thursday was a beautiful day for a protest, both in London, England, and in San Diego, California.  Fortunately for those of us who still care about peace and justice in the world -- even to the point of opposing cold-blooded murder no matter who does the murdering or how far away the victim is -- Veterans For Peace has become an international organization.

General Atomics is the manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in service with the U.S. and U.K. militaries. These drones have  been used in numerous attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. People targeted by these weapons are killed from above without warning and without due legal process. Numerous entirely innocent people including women and children have been killed by these weapon systems.  Here's a former British drone pilot who just admitted that he was minutes away from murdering "an insurgent" when he realized it was a little kid playing in the dirt.

Many of us remember taking over General Atomics' offices in Washington, D.C., last October (video).  That's me and Tighe Barry, with filmmaker Dennis Trainor Jr., going in the side door and opening the front door for the crowd.

As it happens, General Atomics does its evil work in San Diego and London.  Veterans for Peace has no tolerance for murderous robot planes, wherever they're made.  Mike Reid, executive director of Veterans For Peace, said on Thursday, "If we oppose murder at close range, we should oppose it at long distance.  If we oppose it when it's risky and difficult, we should be horrified of a practice that makes it trivial and easy.  Imagining that drone wars don't damage the very culture of the people engaged in them is naive.  Those manufacturing these instruments of death, in particular, should think long and hard about the road they are on."

They had a chance to do just that on Thursday.  "On a bright autumn afternoon," reports Ben Griffin, "VFP UK headed to Tower 42, which contains the offices of General Atomics in London. We took our placards bearing the slogans 'GROUND THE DRONES' and 'GENERAL ATOMICS, DEATH FROM ABOVE.'  We unfurled our VFP flag donated by Gerry Condon and set about handing out our flyers."

"Within minutes we were joined by over 20 nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They had heard about our protest and wanted to join in. They were soon into full song and dealt with an inquiring policeman effectively. Folks from Occupy, Friends of Bradley Manning, London Catholic Worker and supporters of Julian Assange also turned up."

Griffin's remarks to that crowd included this:

"People are targeted with these weapons without being identified and are killed from above without warning. Numerous innocent civilians including women and children have been killed as a result of these attacks. Mosques, schools, funerals and meetings of elders have all been attacked by drones. People responding to drone strikes by pulling the wounded out of buildings have also been attacked with these weapons. We must spread the word about these weapons, and the hidden wars they are used in."

And the word was spread to passing cars honking their support, passersby stopping to inquire, and many people who worked in the building, some of them surprised to learn that General Atomics was there as well. 

A bit later on Thursday, the afternoon sun reached General Atomics in Poway, California, where, Dave Patterson reports, "Veterans For Peace, Chapter 91, had terrific posters and banners.  I think I can say that our momentum is picking up for this cause now in week 6 of sequential demonstrations."

Here's a terrific video.

If you're in Southern California on a Thursday, join the protest from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and General Atomics Way in Poway, CA.

Veterans For Peace is calling for the grounding of Predator and Reaper Drones and for General Atomics to stop manufacturing them.  Other members of VFP are currently traveling from the United States to Pakistan as part of a delegation organized by Code Pink to visit one area where U.S. drone strikes have become frequent.  VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

##

David Swanson is an associate (meaning non-veteran) member of and a paid contractor for Veterans For Peace.

I Was Minutes Away From Ordering a Drone Strike on an 'Insurgent' ... Until I Realized It Was Just a Child at Play

I find myself caught between the need to follow the drone debate and the need to avoid unpleasant memories it stirs. I used  drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – during the nadir of my military career that was an operational tour in  Afghanistan. I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn't depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.
 

The US is the World's Biggest War-Monger

 

By Dave Lindorff


There is a massive deception campaign in the US, and in its global propaganda, which seeks to portray the United States as a poor set-upon nation that would like world peace but just has to keep a military stationed around the globe to “police” all the world’s “trouble spots.”


Rutherford Institute Issues Model Drone Legislation, Calls on Congress to Protect Americans from Weaponized Drones and Police Spy Drone

Rutherford.org

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is calling on the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to protect the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens from police use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. In the wake of the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act, it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020. In alerting the Senate Judiciary Committee to the dangers posed by drones to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties, The Rutherford Institute has made model legislation available, titled “Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act,” that would not only prohibit the federal government from using data recorded via police spy drones in criminal prosecutions but would also prevent police agencies from utilizing drones outfitted with anti-personnel devices such as tasers and tear gas.

The Rutherford Institute’s letter to the Committee on the Judiciary, model drone legislation and companion fact sheet are available at www.rutherford.org.

“These drones—aerial, robotic threats to privacy and security—are being unleashed on the American populace before any real protocols to protect our privacy rights have been put in place and in such a way as to completely alter the landscape of our lives and our freedoms,” said Whitehead. “It is critical that Congress not only give serious consideration to the dangers posed to our freedoms by these aerial devices but ensure that the American people are protected against any resulting incursions on their rights as provided for by the U.S. Constitution.”

As The Rutherford Institute’s fact sheet on drones details, the FAA Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Obama in early 2012, has opened the door for drones, once confined to the battlefields over Iraq and Afghanistan, to be used domestically for a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. Yet without proper safeguards, these devices, 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. Noting that the safety and privacy issues posed by the implementation of drone technology are a bi-partisan concern, Whitehead concludes by calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure that drone technology is fully vetted by a commission charged with studying its impact on the safety and privacy of Americans. “In the meantime, however,” states Whitehead, “it is imperative that Congress assures the citizens of this country that their privacy, safety, and civil liberties will not be jeopardized for the sake of expedience, economy and security.

September: Drones Protests and Resistance Activity Accelerates Nationwide

From No Drones Network


ILLINOIS - Occupy Obama drew attention to Barack Obama's drone victims with a funeral procession in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which ended up at Obama 2012 Campaign HQ. (Coffins were marked "hope" and "change.")

Anti-drone activity has continued around the country in recent weeks -- see descriptions below. (In addition, see the links at right for updates from other locations.)


NORTH CAROLINA - The Democratic National Convention (DNC) drew to a close, but the NOrth Carolina protests against the Democratic administration's drone killings continue.

CALIFORNIA - The City of Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission finalized "no drone zone" language to send to the full City Council for a vote. Consideration will likely be scheduled for November.

MISSOURI - A federal judge found drones resisters guilty of trespass . . . and meanwhile U.S. war crimes continue.

OHIO - During it's tour of Ohio, the Know Drones tour put pressure on Ohio Rep. Michael Turner to Stop the Drones! This effort gained the attention of anti-drones groups around the country and was a heavily viewed web page.

Please send links to news of other drones protests around the country to Joe Scarry -- jtscarry [at] yahoo.com .

(See additional updates from the August/September period.)


Congressional Research Service document on legal basis for drone strikes

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/target.pdf   This document by CRS Legislative Attorney Jennifer Elsea makes it clear that the US Government's drone program is based on the ancient legal principle of "shoot first, ask (legal) questions later".  Her analysis demonstrates that these killings run afoul of almost every legal principle regarding the use of lethal force outside of a declared war between nations, from the Caroline principle to the UN Charter to the specific provisions of the 2001 AUMF.  And of course it speaks volumes that the CRS has to speculate on the U.S. government's justification for killing people in the first place - this is the extent of our democracy, that Congress employs people to parse speeches by administration officials to find out what the policy of our country is regarding our right to not be killed in cold blood.

 

Veterans For Peace Supports Conscientious Objection to Drones

Two conscientious nonviolent activists, Brian Terrell and Ron Faust, were convicted on Monday of trespassing, for having attempted to deliver a document listing concerns about drones to the commander of Whiteman Air Force Base near Jefferson City, Mo., last April. A third protester, Mark Kenney of Omaha, Neb., is serving a four-month sentence after having pled guilty in June to trespassing.

Veterans For Peace members were among those participating in a demonstration last April, and again on Monday, in support of Faust and Terrell, who will be sentenced in the coming weeks.  Veterans For Peace applauds nonviolent resistance to the illegal and immoral use of drones, and stands in solidarity with those taking these risks to serve their country and the world.

Protesters gather in DeWitt to push anti-drone message

Drone Protest at the Hancock Air Base Syracuse.com

Enlarge Left to right, Richard Weiskopf and Ed Kinane, both of Syracuse, are shown during The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars demonstration at the Hancock Air Base Sunday to protest the use of drones that are operated out of the base. The protest coincides with the base's name change ceremony. It is changing its name from 174th Fighter Wing to Attack Wing.

Michelle Gabel/The Post-Standard The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars Protests the Use of Drones Operated Out of the Hancock Air Base gallery (8 photos)

DeWitt, NY -- Forty-one people with signs, a drum and voices parked themselves across from the gate to the New York Air National Guard headquarters at Hancock Field Sunday to protest the United States' use of unmanned drones in Pakistan and other countries.

"Americans just don't understand what is happening over there," said Judy Bello, of Rochester.

"Using drone to target assassinations is against international law," said Jim Clune, of Binghamton.

The group Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drone and End the Wars chose Sunday for its event because the 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock was changing its name to 174th Attack Wing, which reflects the change in mission at the base from flying fighter aircraft to MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft.

Although eight Onondaga County Sheriff's patrol cars and three town of DeWitt Police patrol cars were on hand, no one was arrested. The protesters stayed on the south side of Molloy Road during their 90-minute event.

Ground the Drones Event in Charlottesville, Va., With Nick Mottern

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Did you know that drones . . .

·      can cost $28 million? The Airforce has 60 and hopes to have 330.

·      are used for targeted killing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan with no legal basis for defining the scope of the area where drones can and cannot be used, no rigorous criteria for deciding which people will be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality and accuracy of the killings, and no mechanisms of accountability.

·      are killing civilians, Americans, non-Americans, adults, children.

·      are being produced to spy on U.S. citizens.

Nick Mottern is a journalist and member of Knowdrones. He is currently on tour with a model drone, having conversations with folks across the country about the financial or moral costs of drones.

FLYER: PDF.

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