Posts tagged drones
Posts tagged drones
How activists are trying to bring the moral implications of drone warfare to light.
Most Americans have only a vague understanding of what happens on the ground as the result of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, partly because official statements minimize civilian casualties. According to The New York Times, President Obama’s chief terrorism adviser, John O’Brennan, in June stated of the drones that for about a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Investigative journalists and NGOs that are working to collect and verify data on civilian casualties tell another story. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for example, reports at least 45 civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone for roughly the same year-long period, and between 391 and 780 in Pakistan since 2004.
Kinane believes that most U.S. news media promote the fear of terrorism and overlook the cost to civilian life from drone attacks. Within this media bubble, he says, people in Afghanistan are just an abstraction. “It seems to me that what the U.S. is doing—killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan—is the real terrorism,” says Kinane. Recently, he and his fellow activists seem to be having some success at getting that point across. On Dec 1, when most of the Hancock 38 defendants returned to the court in DeWitt for sentencing, the judge who presided over the case stated publicly that their trial had an impact on his own views about the use of drones.“We want people to educate themselves about the drones and what they represent,” says Kinane. “The Pentagon believes they are the wave of the future. I believe they are right. Over 40 countries have drones now—the technology is very menacing. It is changing the nature of war and making the world a much scarier place.”
The Watchers are watching.
News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.
The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.
Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.
Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years.