by Derrick Broze
April 16, 2013
While use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is skyrocketing many concerned citizens and groups such as the ACLU have been warning about the privacy dangers we face in the new age of drones in American skies. Drones began being used by the Bush Administration in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Their use has now spread to drone bombing campaigns in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and the United States of America.
In January U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon of New York said she was forced to make an “Alice in Wonderland” decision. She said she was stuck in the paradoxical situation of allowing the administration to claim it was legal for the drone assassination program to exist while they claimed they could not divulge the legal basis for such a program.
The original complaint came after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the ACLU was denied for various reasons. The request sought more information about the murders of Anwar al Aulaqi, and his 16 year old son, both who were United States citizens. The Obama Administration offers a list of reasons while Aulaqi died but no further information the parameters of the program.
Despite the denials by the Obama Administration several officials have spoke on the topic. The ACLU notes:
“Many commentators, including some in public office, have raised concerns about civilian casualties, the program’s legal basis, the process by which individuals are added to so called “kill lists,” and the wisdom of permitting Executive Branch officials to deprive individuals of their lives without ever presenting evidence to any court. “
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, current head of CIA John Brennan, and Senator Dianne Feinstein have all either answered questions regarding the drone program or carefully tip toed around openly discussing the drone killings. Each of their responses offer a new clue to the secretive government program.
Since the government remains tight lipped on the scale of the program they also do not keep public records on accuracy or deaths related to drones. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London based group that tracks American drone strikes, estimates that more than 4,000 people may have been killed in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia alone, including approximately 1,000 civilian bystanders.
The surviving family members of the American citizens murdered by United States drones have filed lawsuits alleging violations of the United States constitution and international human rights laws.
As the Obama Administration fights to keep their drone killings secret Americans are taking note of the growing presence of the spying technology. Last week we reported that the Department of Homeland Security is seeking drones that can detect whether an individual is armed or not.
Many individuals seeking solutions look to the free market to balance out government drones with the civilian drones. If the government is going to own the technology we should too, they say. Others see ways to protect communities using the helpful technology of unmanned aerial vehicles. This does not sit well with everyone however.
According the Guardian, head of Google, Eric Schmidt recently called for international treaties to ban private use of drones.
“Executive chairman of Google and an adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, warned of the potential of new technology to “democratise the ability to fight war”, and said drones could soon be used to harass and spy on neighbors.
“You’re having a dispute with your neighbour,” he hypothesised. “How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”
While Google itself has faced criticism for invasion of privacy the head of the multi billion dollar corporation does not believe the average person should be trusted with the technology. He goes on to remind the reader that only government is to be trusted with these tools.
“It’s got to be regulated. You just can’t imagine that British people would allow this sort of thing, and I can’t imagine American people would allow this sort of thing. It’s one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they’re doing, but have other people doing it … It’s not going to happen.” He said.
The Obama Administration has not only expanded the drone war but they have cemented the legal basis for killing Americans without trial by jury into the law books. By some twisted logic the government is allowed to assassinate citizens and offer little to no information on the program.
As the technology spreads states around the country are beginning to fight back. Seattle citizens one a victory against the drones earlier this year and just last week Idaho became the first state to sign into law a bill restricting spying on citizens using drones.
If Americans value privacy and safety it is imperative we begin asking questions to our elected leaders on the nefarious programs they run, using our tax dollars. We must demand transparency on these dangerous programs and accept nothing less. The battle of the drones has just begun.
Derrick Broze is a founding member of The Houston Free Thinkers.
He writes for dev-test.intellihub.com a popular independent news website.
He can be heard on Orion Talk Radio, Local Live Houston and the upcoming Unbound Radio.
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