Drone killings case thrown out by US; victims convicted ‘posthumously based solely on the government’s say-so’
April 6, 2014

A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the families of three American citizens killed by drones in Yemen, saying senior officials cannot be held personally responsible for money damages for the act of conducting war.

The families of the three – including Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born militant Muslim cleric who had joined al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, as well as his teenage son – sued over their 2011 deaths in US drone strikes, arguing that the killings were illegal.

Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US district court in Washington threw out the case, which had named as defendants the former defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the former senior military commander and CIA chief David Petraeus and two other top military commanders.

"The question presented is whether federal officials can be held personally liable for their roles in drone strikes abroad that target and kill U.S. citizens," Collyer said in her opinion. "The question raises fundamental issues regarding constitutional principles and it is not easy to answer."

But the judge said she would grant the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

Collyer said the officials named as defendants “must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the US constitution when they intentionally target a US citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”

Awlaki’s US-born son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16 years old when he was killed. Also killed was Samir Khan, a naturalised US citizen who had moved to Yemen in 2009 and worked on Inspire, an English-language al-Qaida magazine.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, both based in New York, represented the families. They had argued that in killing American citizens the government violated fundamental rights under the US constitution to due process and to be free from unreasonable seizure.

"This is a deeply troubling decision that treats the government’s allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court," said ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi. "The court’s view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution."

Centre for Constitutional Rights lawyer Maria LaHood said the judge “effectively convicted” Anwar al-Awlaki “posthumously based solely on the government’s say-so”. LaHood said the judge also found that the constitutional rights of the son and of Khan “weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them”.

"It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy and for all victims of the US government’s unlawful killings," LaHood said.

Collyer ruled that the families did not have a claim under the Constitution’s fourth amendment guarantee against unreasonable seizures because the government did not seize or restrain the three who were killed. “Unmanned drones are functionally incapable of ‘seizing’ a person; they are designed to kill, not capture,” she wrote.

Collyer wrote that the families had presented a plausible claim that the government violated Awlaki’s due process rights. “Nonetheless the court finds no available remedy under US law for this claim,” the judge wrote.

"In this delicate area of war making national security and foreign relations the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role."

Allowing claims against individual federal officials in this case “would impermissibly draw the court into the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation”, she wrote. It would “require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions”.

Nasser al-Awlaki, father of Anwar al-Awlaki, said he was disappointed in the American justice system and “like any parent or grandparent would, I want answers from the government when it decides to take life, but all I have got so far is secrecy and a refusal even to explain”.

Drone attacks have killed several suspected figures in al-Qaida’s Yemen-based affiliate including Awlaki, who is accused of orchestrating plots to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and US cargo planes in 2010.

The United States has faced international criticism for its use of drones to attack militants in places such as Pakistan and Yemen. A UN human rights watchdog in March called on the Obama administration to limit its use of drones targeting suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Barack Obama’s administration increased the number of drone strikes after he took office in 2009 but attacks have dropped off in the past year. The US has come under pressure from critics to rein in the missile strikes and do more to protect civilians.

Source

The White House has been covering up the presidency’s role in torture for yearsMarch 18, 2014
The fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s Torture Report – which Dan Froomkin covered here – has now zeroed in on the White House.
Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston suggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?
We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret.
Some time before October 29, 2009, then National Security Advisor Jim Jones filed an ex parte classified declaration with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU seeking documents related to the torture program. In it, Jones argued that the CIA should not be forced to disclose the “source of the CIA’s authority,” as referenced in the title of a document providing “Guidelines for Interrogations” and signed by then CIA Director George Tenet. That document was cited in two Justice Department memos at issue in the FOIA. Jones claimed that “source of authority” constituted an intelligence method that needed to be protected.
As other documents and reporting have made clear, the source of authority was a September 17, 2001 Presidential declaration authorizing not just detention and interrogation, but a range of other counterterrorism activities, including targeted killings.
Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo have made clear that the torture program began as a covert operation. “A few days after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership.” Rizzo explained in 2011. One of those actions, Rizzo went on, was “the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives.”
As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, noted  in 2009 – shortly after Hayden revealed that torture started as a covert operation – this means there should be a paper trail implicating President Bush in the torture program. “[T]here should be a Presidential ‘finding’ authorizing the program,” he said, “and [] such a finding should have been provided to Congressional overseers.”
The National Security Act dictates that every covert operation must be supported by a written declaration finding that the action is necessary and important to the national security. The Congressional Intelligence committees – or at least the Chair and Ranking Member – should receive notice of the finding.
But there is evidence that those Congressional overseers were never told that the finding the president signed on September 17, 2001 authorized torture. For example, a letter from then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to the CIA’s General Counsel following her first briefing on torture asked: “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?” The CIA’s response at the time was simply that “policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.”
Nevertheless, the finding does exist. The CIA even disclosed its existence in response to the ACLU FOIA, describing it as “a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists.” In an order in the ACLU suit, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein confirmed that the declaration was “intertwined with” the administration’s effort to keep the language in the Tenet document hidden. When the administration succeeded in keeping that short phrase secret, all effort to release the declaration also ended.
Enduring confusion about this particular finding surely exists because of its flexible nature. As Bob Woodward described in Bush at War, CIA Director Tenet asked President Bush to sign “a broad intelligence order permitting the CIA to conduct covert operations without having to come back for formal approval for each specific operation.” As Jane Mayer described in The Dark Side, such an order not only gave the CIA flexibility, it also protected the President. “To give the President deniability, and to keep him from getting his hands dirty, the finding called for the President to delegate blanket authority to Tenet to decide on a case-by-case basis whom to kill, whom to kidnap, whom to detain and interrogate, and how.”

When George Tenet signed written guidelines for the CIA’s torture program in 2003, however, he appeared to have deliberately deprived the President of that deniability by including the source of CIA’s authorization – presumably naming the President – in a document interrogators would see. You can’t blame the CIA Director, after all; Tenet signed the Guidelines just as CIA’s Inspector General and DOJ started to review the legality of the torture tactics used against detainees like Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was threatened with a drill and a gun in violation of DOJ’s ban on mock executions.
Full article

The White House has been covering up the presidency’s role in torture for years
March 18, 2014

The fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s Torture Report – which Dan Froomkin covered here – has now zeroed in on the White House.

Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston suggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?

We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret.

Some time before October 29, 2009, then National Security Advisor Jim Jones filed an ex parte classified declaration with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU seeking documents related to the torture program. In it, Jones argued that the CIA should not be forced to disclose the “source of the CIA’s authority,” as referenced in the title of a document providing “Guidelines for Interrogations” and signed by then CIA Director George Tenet. That document was cited in two Justice Department memos at issue in the FOIA. Jones claimed that “source of authority” constituted an intelligence method that needed to be protected.

As other documents and reporting have made clear, the source of authority was a September 17, 2001 Presidential declaration authorizing not just detention and interrogation, but a range of other counterterrorism activities, including targeted killings.

Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo have made clear that the torture program began as a covert operation. “A few days after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership.” Rizzo explained in 2011. One of those actions, Rizzo went on, was “the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives.”

As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, noted  in 2009 – shortly after Hayden revealed that torture started as a covert operation – this means there should be a paper trail implicating President Bush in the torture program. “[T]here should be a Presidential ‘finding’ authorizing the program,” he said, “and [] such a finding should have been provided to Congressional overseers.”

The National Security Act dictates that every covert operation must be supported by a written declaration finding that the action is necessary and important to the national security. The Congressional Intelligence committees – or at least the Chair and Ranking Member – should receive notice of the finding.

But there is evidence that those Congressional overseers were never told that the finding the president signed on September 17, 2001 authorized torture. For example, a letter from then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to the CIA’s General Counsel following her first briefing on torture asked: “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?” The CIA’s response at the time was simply that “policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.”

Nevertheless, the finding does exist. The CIA even disclosed its existence in response to the ACLU FOIA, describing it as “a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists.” In an order in the ACLU suit, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein confirmed that the declaration was “intertwined with” the administration’s effort to keep the language in the Tenet document hidden. When the administration succeeded in keeping that short phrase secret, all effort to release the declaration also ended.

Enduring confusion about this particular finding surely exists because of its flexible nature. As Bob Woodward described in Bush at War, CIA Director Tenet asked President Bush to sign “a broad intelligence order permitting the CIA to conduct covert operations without having to come back for formal approval for each specific operation.” As Jane Mayer described in The Dark Side, such an order not only gave the CIA flexibility, it also protected the President. “To give the President deniability, and to keep him from getting his hands dirty, the finding called for the President to delegate blanket authority to Tenet to decide on a case-by-case basis whom to kill, whom to kidnap, whom to detain and interrogate, and how.”

When George Tenet signed written guidelines for the CIA’s torture program in 2003, however, he appeared to have deliberately deprived the President of that deniability by including the source of CIA’s authorization – presumably naming the President – in a document interrogators would see. You can’t blame the CIA Director, after all; Tenet signed the Guidelines just as CIA’s Inspector General and DOJ started to review the legality of the torture tactics used against detainees like Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was threatened with a drill and a gun in violation of DOJ’s ban on mock executions.

Full article

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake

December 12, 2013

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

"An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital," one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the militant network.

Yemen, AQAP’s main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

Stabilizing the country, which is also struggling with southern separatists and northern rebels, is an international priority due to fears of disorder in a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

On Monday, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen.

Source

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Confirmed drone strikes: 55-65
Civilians killed: 21-56
Children killed: 5
Injured: 67-150
Total killed: 269-389

Possible extra drone strikes: 85-104

mylittlerewolution
aljazeeraamerica:

Thousands of drone protesters in Pakistan block NATO supply route

Thousands of people protesting U.S. drone strikes on Saturday blocked a road in northwest Pakistan that is used to move NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan, the latest sign of rising tension brought on by the U.S. strikes. The U.S. drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan and condemned by Islamabad as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, although previous governments have given their tacit support to the strikes.
The protest, led by Pakistani politician and former cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.

Read more
Photo: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

aljazeeraamerica:

Thousands of drone protesters in Pakistan block NATO supply route

Thousands of people protesting U.S. drone strikes on Saturday blocked a road in northwest Pakistan that is used to move NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan, the latest sign of rising tension brought on by the U.S. strikes. The U.S. drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan and condemned by Islamabad as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, although previous governments have given their tacit support to the strikes.

The protest, led by Pakistani politician and former cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.

Read more

Photo: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

'Not on our soil': US border patrol agent won't be charged over killing of 17-year-old Mexican youthAugust 11, 2013
US authorities will not bring charges against a US Border Patrol agent who shot dead a Mexican youth suspected of drug trafficking right through the fence insulating the US from Mexico as the Justice Department “lacks jurisdiction” to do it.
US federal authorities announced on Friday that the decision was based on “the facts developed during an independent and comprehensive investigation.” The US Justice Department officials in Washington insist investigators revealed no facts to support federal prosecution for any federal criminal charge.
The incident took place on January 5, 2011, when 17-year-old Ramses Barron-Torres was fatally wounded with a single shot in an early morning incident at the US-Mexico border fence in Arizona’s largest international border town of Nogales.
Border Patrol received a report about drugs being moved across the border. On arrival they pinpointed a man carrying a bundle with alleged drugs who made an escape attempt while his withdrawal was covered by four people who pelted agents with stones from Mexican territory, forcing the agents to take cover.
According to the agents’ report they ordered the stone throwers to stop in Spanish, but one of them, Ramses Barron-Torres, continued with the barrage, so law enforcement simply shot him through the border fence once.
On Friday the US Justice Department officials announced no sufficient evidence has been found to prove this was not self-defense, as claimed by Border Patrol agent.
Besides that, the US authorities also claim lack of jurisdiction to prosecute the agent because the young man was killed on Mexican side of the border.
The US federal criminal civil-rights statute "requires that the victim be in the United States when he was injured" to prosecute the agent, US authorities said Friday.
At the same time the US authorities addressed another fatal incident that took place in 2011 and also involved stone throwing.
Carlos LaMadrid, 19, was shot with four bullets in Arizona’s border town of Douglas on March 21, 2011, and died several hours later in hospital undergoing surgery.
According to Douglas police, LaMadrid was observed loading bundles of drugs into a vehicle and was pursued to the border fence by officers refusing to stop. Having arrived at the border, LaMadrid allegedly jumped out of the car and attempted to escape using a ladder propped against the border fence, while another man was stoning Border Patrol agents with ‘brick-size’ stones, eventually shattering the windshield of the patrol vehicle.
Though no agent was hurt, they returned fire with lethal force ‘regrettably’ killing a suspect.
The agents claim they made five shots at the unidentified man throwing stones, but because LaMadrid happened to be on the firing line, he was wounded with four bullets and died. US federal authorities ruled the agents were acting in self-defense.
The names of the agents involved in both deadly shootings have never been revealed for security reasons.
The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute reports of at least 10 incidents in the past five years when the US border agents fired into Mexican territory, eventually killing six Mexicans.
Source
Last year there were 171 deaths along the US/Mexico border. Now with the new immigration “reform” bill, allocates $47 billion (yes, billion) to “secure” the border with high-tech surveillance, drones & more border patrol agents for what Sen. John McCain calls “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” 
There is already absolutely no accountability for the US role in these deaths of immigrants every  year. Now with an even more militarized border, immigrants must cross through even more dangerous death zones to cross into the US.

'Not on our soil': US border patrol agent won't be charged over killing of 17-year-old Mexican youth
August 11, 2013

US authorities will not bring charges against a US Border Patrol agent who shot dead a Mexican youth suspected of drug trafficking right through the fence insulating the US from Mexico as the Justice Department “lacks jurisdiction” to do it.

US federal authorities announced on Friday that the decision was based on “the facts developed during an independent and comprehensive investigation.” The US Justice Department officials in Washington insist investigators revealed no facts to support federal prosecution for any federal criminal charge.

The incident took place on January 5, 2011, when 17-year-old Ramses Barron-Torres was fatally wounded with a single shot in an early morning incident at the US-Mexico border fence in Arizona’s largest international border town of Nogales.

Border Patrol received a report about drugs being moved across the border. On arrival they pinpointed a man carrying a bundle with alleged drugs who made an escape attempt while his withdrawal was covered by four people who pelted agents with stones from Mexican territory, forcing the agents to take cover.

According to the agents’ report they ordered the stone throwers to stop in Spanish, but one of them, Ramses Barron-Torres, continued with the barrage, so law enforcement simply shot him through the border fence once.

On Friday the US Justice Department officials announced no sufficient evidence has been found to prove this was not self-defense, as claimed by Border Patrol agent.

Besides that, the US authorities also claim lack of jurisdiction to prosecute the agent because the young man was killed on Mexican side of the border.

The US federal criminal civil-rights statute "requires that the victim be in the United States when he was injured" to prosecute the agent, US authorities said Friday.

At the same time the US authorities addressed another fatal incident that took place in 2011 and also involved stone throwing.

Carlos LaMadrid, 19, was shot with four bullets in Arizona’s border town of Douglas on March 21, 2011, and died several hours later in hospital undergoing surgery.

According to Douglas police, LaMadrid was observed loading bundles of drugs into a vehicle and was pursued to the border fence by officers refusing to stop. Having arrived at the border, LaMadrid allegedly jumped out of the car and attempted to escape using a ladder propped against the border fence, while another man was stoning Border Patrol agents with ‘brick-size’ stones, eventually shattering the windshield of the patrol vehicle.

Though no agent was hurt, they returned fire with lethal force ‘regrettably’ killing a suspect.

The agents claim they made five shots at the unidentified man throwing stones, but because LaMadrid happened to be on the firing line, he was wounded with four bullets and died. US federal authorities ruled the agents were acting in self-defense.

The names of the agents involved in both deadly shootings have never been revealed for security reasons.

The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute reports of at least 10 incidents in the past five years when the US border agents fired into Mexican territory, eventually killing six Mexicans.

Source

Last year there were 171 deaths along the US/Mexico border. Now with the new immigration “reform” bill, allocates $47 billion (yes, billion) to “secure” the border with high-tech surveillance, drones & more border patrol agents for what Sen. John McCain calls “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” 

There is already absolutely no accountability for the US role in these deaths of immigrants every  year. Now with an even more militarized border, immigrants must cross through even more dangerous death zones to cross into the US.

breakthroughtv
breakthroughtv:

A breakdown of what the $47 billion that the U.S. government has proposed for the militarization of the already-secure border with Mexico will buy them.
But what about the human cost?
7 million residents in border areas would be forced to experience life in a war-zone.. complete with drones, video surveillance, radar, and tens of thousands of border patrol agents.. not to mention the potential human rights abuses and racial profiling in border communities that come along with increased militarization.
#Overkill

The thought of having drones fly over my hometown, along with other border towns, & having even more fucking border patrol agents harassing people who are just crossing makes me furious. This isn’t immigration reform, progress or humane. 

breakthroughtv:

A breakdown of what the $47 billion that the U.S. government has proposed for the militarization of the already-secure border with Mexico will buy them.

But what about the human cost?

7 million residents in border areas would be forced to experience life in a war-zone.. complete with drones, video surveillance, radar, and tens of thousands of border patrol agents.. not to mention the potential human rights abuses and racial profiling in border communities that come along with increased militarization.

#Overkill

The thought of having drones fly over my hometown, along with other border towns, & having even more fucking border patrol agents harassing people who are just crossing makes me furious. This isn’t immigration reform, progress or humane. 

U.S. ‘accidentally’ bombs the Great Barrier Reef in disastrous military-exercise
July 21, 2013

Two American fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs into Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park last week, when a training exercise went wrong, the US Navy said, angering environmentalists.

The two AV-8B Harrier jets, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Bonhomme Richard, each jettisoned an inert practice bomb and an unarmed laser-guided explosive bomb into the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement on Saturday. The four bombs, weighing a total 1.8 metric tons (4,000 pounds), were dropped into more than 50 meters (164ft) of water, away from coral, to minimize possible damage to the reef, the statement said. None exploded.

The jets, from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, had intended to drop the ordnances on the Townshend Island bombing range, but aborted the mission when controllers reported the area was not clear of hazards. The pilots conducted the emergency jettison because they were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the Navy said.

The emergency happened on the second day of the biennial joint training exercise Talisman Saber, which brings together 28,000 US and Australian military personnel over three weeks. The US Navy and Marine Corps were working with Australian authorities to investigate the incident, the Navy said.

A 7th Fleet spokesman did not immediately respond on Sunday, when asked by email whether the dumping posed any environmental risk.

Australian Senator Larissa Waters, the influential Greens spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, described the dumping of bombs in such an environmentally sensitive area as “outrageous” and said it should not be allowed.

"Have we gone completely mad?" she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"

Graeme Dunstan, who is among the environmentalists and anti-war activists demonstrating against the joint exercises, said the mishap proved that the US military could not be trusted to protect the environment.

"How can they protect the environment and bomb the reef at the same time? Get real," Dunstan said from the Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon, near where the war games are taking place.

Source

Immigration bill would create radically militarized borderJune 28, 2013
As the US draws down its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress has turned its jingoistic instincts inward, and is now moving forward with plans to dramatically expand surveillance along the Southern frontier, a militaristic remedy to the perennial flow of immigrants and drugs across the US-Mexico border.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 69-29 in favor of the so-called “border surge” proposal, an amendment to the Gang Of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that would shove tens of billions of dollars into border surveillance, fencing, and enforcement. The legislation, authored by Republican Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, cleared the way for the Senate’s passage of the overall comprehensive immigration reform Thursday afternoon, locking up support from 14 GOP Senators.
In exchange, the compromise attempts to allay Republican concerns about border security, calling for a state of “persistent surveillance” along the border with “continuous and integrated manned or unmanned, monitoring, sensing or surveillance of 100 percent of southern border mileage or the immediate vicinity of the southern border.” To accomplish that, the legislation would pour unprecedented resources—$46 billion in total—into border security, including:

$30 billion to double the number of Border Patrol agents along the Southern border, from about 18,000 today to 38,405. That’s about 19 agents per mile.


$8 billion to complete and reinforce a 700-mile pedestrian border fence.


$4.5 billion in high-tech surveillance technology, including 24/7 use of unmanned aerial drones; six “Vader” (Vehicle Dismount and Exploitation Radar) radar systems developed for the military in Afghanistan; 40 new helicopters; 30 marine vessels; 4,595 unattended ground sensors with seismic, imaging, and infrared capability; 86 towers; and hundreds of cameras, night-vision goggles, fiber-optic inspection scopes, and mobile surveillance systems.


$1 billion to expand the E-Verify System, a computerized data network that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential workers, and build a “photo tool” that allows a company to match applicants to photos in the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Database. (Just 7 percent of employers are currently using the E-Verify system, but the bill calls for the system to be rolled out to all employers within four years.)


Development of “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant, and identity theft-resistant social security cards.”

Nearly everyone agrees that these measures are excessive. Even the amendment’s author, Sen. Corker, has said that the border security deal is “almost overkill.” More than securing the border, the primary goal of the amendment is political—the Gang of Eight needed to make big promises on border security to get the Republican votes they need to pass the bill later this week.
“Is it more than I would have recommended? Honestly, yes,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said last week. “But we’ve got to give people confidence.”
Full article
Stop the militarization of our borderlands! We cannot compromise on immigration reform when the consequences are drones flying over our borders & our land becoming a death zone for immigrants.

Immigration bill would create radically militarized border
June 28, 2013

As the US draws down its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress has turned its jingoistic instincts inward, and is now moving forward with plans to dramatically expand surveillance along the Southern frontier, a militaristic remedy to the perennial flow of immigrants and drugs across the US-Mexico border.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 69-29 in favor of the so-called “border surge” proposal, an amendment to the Gang Of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that would shove tens of billions of dollars into border surveillance, fencing, and enforcement. The legislation, authored by Republican Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, cleared the way for the Senate’s passage of the overall comprehensive immigration reform Thursday afternoon, locking up support from 14 GOP Senators.

In exchange, the compromise attempts to allay Republican concerns about border security, calling for a state of “persistent surveillance” along the border with “continuous and integrated manned or unmanned, monitoring, sensing or surveillance of 100 percent of southern border mileage or the immediate vicinity of the southern border.” To accomplish that, the legislation would pour unprecedented resources—$46 billion in total—into border security, including:

  • $30 billion to double the number of Border Patrol agents along the Southern border, from about 18,000 today to 38,405. That’s about 19 agents per mile.

  • $8 billion to complete and reinforce a 700-mile pedestrian border fence.

  • $4.5 billion in high-tech surveillance technology, including 24/7 use of unmanned aerial drones; six “Vader” (Vehicle Dismount and Exploitation Radar) radar systems developed for the military in Afghanistan; 40 new helicopters; 30 marine vessels; 4,595 unattended ground sensors with seismic, imaging, and infrared capability; 86 towers; and hundreds of cameras, night-vision goggles, fiber-optic inspection scopes, and mobile surveillance systems.

  • $1 billion to expand the E-Verify System, a computerized data network that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential workers, and build a “photo tool” that allows a company to match applicants to photos in the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Database. (Just 7 percent of employers are currently using the E-Verify system, but the bill calls for the system to be rolled out to all employers within four years.)

  • Development of “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant, and identity theft-resistant social security cards.”

Nearly everyone agrees that these measures are excessive. Even the amendment’s author, Sen. Corker, has said that the border security deal is “almost overkill.” More than securing the border, the primary goal of the amendment is political—the Gang of Eight needed to make big promises on border security to get the Republican votes they need to pass the bill later this week.

“Is it more than I would have recommended? Honestly, yes,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said last week. “But we’ve got to give people confidence.”

Full article

Stop the militarization of our borderlands! We cannot compromise on immigration reform when the consequences are drones flying over our borders & our land becoming a death zone for immigrants.

TOLO News: Drone Attack Kills Three Civilians in Kunar, Afghanistan

A foreign force’s drone strike killed at least three civilians and wounded six others in the eastern Kunar province (of Afghanistan) on Wednesday, officials said.

Kunar Provincial Governor Fazlullah Wahidi confirmed the attack and said that these civilians were killed Wednesday night when foreign forces wanted to target the Taliban insurgents in the Dara Pech area of Nangam district.

"Preliminary information showed that a house fell prey to the drone attack, in which three civilians including a woman were killed and six others (including two women) wounded," Wahidi told TOLOnews.

The Provincial Governor added that the victims belonged to one family.

In the mean time, Fazlullah Wahidi said that they have appointed a team to investigate the incident in the area and find out if there are more casualties.

The foreign forces have not commented on the attack until now.

Source

Woops! Police drone crashes into police…
May 13, 2013

The Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office had a big day planned. After becoming the first department in the country with its own aerial drone ($300,000!), they were ready for a nice photo op. And then the drone crashed into a SWAT team.

The Examiner reports a painfully contrived police action-athon:

As the sheriff’s SWAT team suited up with lots of firepower and their armored vehicle known as the “Bearcat,” a prototype drone from Vanguard Defense Industries took off for pictures of all the police action. It was basically a photo opportunity, according to those in attendance.

"Lots of firepower" and a "Bearcat" sure sounds like a good photo op. OK, time to launch the $300,000 drone. Here we go. Launch the drone:

"[The] prototype drone was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground. It’s designed to go into an auto shutdown mode…but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle."

Not only did the drone fail, and not only did it crash, it literally crashed into the police. It’s no wonder we’re not able to find a video of this spectacular publicity failure. Luckily, the SWAT boys were safe in their Bearcat.

This would be a fine one-off blooper story if it weren’t for some upsetting implications. This is exactly why we have reason to raise multiple eyebrows at Congress, which wants to allow hundreds of similar drones to fly over US airspace. These drones are still a relatively young technology, relatively unproven, and relatively crash-prone. The odds of being hit by one are low, of course, but should a Texas-style UAV plummet ever happen in, say, a dense urban area, nobody would be laughing. Not all of us are driving around in Bearcats.

Source

Sister Assata -  This is what American history looks like 
By Alice Walker

I don’t know why, given where we are with dronefare, but I didn’t expect the man making the announcement about Assata Shakur being the first woman “terrorist” to appear on the FBI’s most wanted list to be black. That was a blow. I was reminded of the world of “trackers” we sometimes get glimpses of in history books and old movies on TV. In Australia the tracker who hunts down other aboriginals who have, because of the rape and murder, genocide and enslavement of the indigenous (aboriginal) people, run away into the outback. He shows up again in cowboy and Indian films: jogging along in the hot sun, way ahead of the white men on horseback, bending on his knees to get a better look at a bruised leaf or a bent twig, while they curse and spit and complain about how long he’s taking to come up with a clue. And then there were the “trackers” who helped the pattyrollers during our four hundred years of enslavement. When pattyrollers (or patrols) caught run-away slaves in those days they frequently beat them to death. I’ve often thought of the black men whose expertise at tracking fugitives helped bring these terrors, humiliations and deaths about. When I was younger I would have been in a rage against them; not understanding the reality of invisible coercion, and mind and spirit control, that I do now. Today, only a few years older than Assata Shakur, and marveling at the unenviable state of humanity’s character worldwide, I find I can only pray for all of us. That we should be sinking even below the abysmal standard early “trackers” have set for us: that the US government can now offer two million dollars for the capture of a very small, not young, black woman who was brutally abused, even shot, over three decades ago, as if we don’t need that money to buy people food, clothes, medicine, and decent places to live.

What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, hooded, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live. But nothing seems as cruel to me as this: that our big, muscular, macho country would go after so tiny a woman as Assata who is given sanctuary in a country smaller than many of our states.

The first time I met Assata Shakur we talked for a long time. We were in Havana, where I had gone with a delegation to offer humanitarian aid during Cuba’s “special period” of hunger and despair, and I’d wanted to hear her side of the story from her. She described the incident with the New Jersey Highway Patrol, and assured me she was shot up so badly that even if she’d wanted to, she would not have been able to fire a gun. Though shot in the back (with her arms raised), she managed to live through two years of solitary confinement, in a men’s prison, chained to her bed. Then, in what must surely have been a miraculous coming together of people of courageous compassion, she was helped to escape and to find refuge in Cuba. One of the people who helped Assata escape, a white radical named Marilyn Buck, was kept in prison for thirty years and released only one month before her death from uterine cancer. She was a poet, and I have been reading her book, Inside/Out, Selected Poems, which a friend gave me just last week. There is also a remarkable video of her, shot in prison, that I highly recommend.

This is what solidarity can look like.

The second time I saw Assata, years later, I was in Havana for the Havana Book Fair. Cuba has a very high literacy rate, thanks to the Cuban revolution, and my novel, Meridian, had recently been translated and published there. However, this time we did not talk about the past. We talked about meditation. Seeing her interest, and that of Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, and others, I decided to offer a class. There under a large tree off a quiet street in Havana, I demonstrated my own practice of meditation to some of the most attentive students I have ever encountered. The mantra: Breathing in: “In,” breathing out: “Peace.”

I believe Assata Shakur to be a good and decent, a kind and compassionate person. True revolutionaries often are. Physically she is beautiful, and her spirit is also. She appears to hold the respect, love and friendship of all the people who surround her. Like Marilyn Buck they have risked much for her freedom, and appear to believe her version of the story as I do.

That she did not wish to live as an imprisoned creature and a slave is understood.

What to do? Since we are not, in fact, helpless. Nor are we ever alone.

I call on the Ancestors 
by whose blood 
and DNA 
we exist 
to accompany us 
as always 
through this lengthening 
sorrow.
And to bear witness 
within us 
to all that we are 
aware.

The Pentagon’s army of space-age robot warriors is getting a lot more real with the PETMAN robot
April 8, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has released video footage of a project that’s been long in the works and really starting to now take shape. The Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin — or “PETMAN,” for short — is the subject of the latest clip, and very well could be all it takes to scare off any insurgents once it’s ready for the battlefield.

PETMAN is a bipedal robot that has been displayed during previous tests as having the ability to climb stairs and even do pushups. In the latest video, though, the experimental project is showcased as being more lifelike than ever before.

Scientists at Boston Dynamics have released a video that shows PETMAN, clothed head-to-toe in full-on camouflage, jogging in place on a laboratory platform. But unlike earlier videos in which PETMAN appeared to be nothing more than a pile of wires enclosed in metal, the newest footage shows the science project at its all-time most humanness.

PETMAN isn’t being tasked with running like a human being for simply the sake of being creepy, though. Boston Dynamics have outfitted the robot in high-tech protective camo clothing that is designed to keep soldiers — real, cyborg or other — safe from hazardous chemicals. “PETMAN has sensors embedded in its skin that detect any chemicals leaking through the suit. The skin also maintains a micro-climate inside the clothing by sweating and regulating temperature,” explains Boston Dynamics.

The robot, adds the scientists, can balance itself, move freely, walk and do a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics — all while being exposed to chemical warfare agents. “Natural, agile movement is essential for PETMAN to simulate how a soldier stresses protective clothing under realistic conditions,” adds Boston Dynamics. “The robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.”

And yeah, PETMAN can walk the walk — but he doesn’t stop there either. Scientists have programed the robot to “simulate human physiology,” so that when being exposed to chemical agents, researchers can send signals to the robot that forces it to mimic human sweating and switch its body temperature like a real-life soldier might do while on the field. So with PETMAN being able to do all of that and then some, what does DARPA have planned next? That’s likely top-secret, but critics of the US Defense Department’s science lab say projects like this will lend themselves to changing the face of war from a human one to a robotic one.

"It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications - maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep,” Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC previously in regards to DARPA’s robot creations.

"But of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” he said.

Source

Obama administration says President can use lethal force against Americans on US soilMarch 5, 2013
Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil—but only in “an extraordinary circumstance,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. 
"The US Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening," Paul said Tuesday. “It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
Last month, Paul threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the CIA, “until he answers the question of whether or not the president can kill American citizens through the drone strike program on US soil.” Tuesday, Brennan told Paul that “the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States—nor does it have any authority to do so.” Brennan said that the Justice Department would answer Paul’s question about whether Americans could be targeted for lethal strikes on US soil.
Holder’s answer was more detailed, however, stating that under certain circumstances, the president would have the authority to order lethal attacks on American citizens. The two possible examples of such “extraordinary” circumstances were the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. An American president order the use of lethal military force inside the United States is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote. Here’s the bulk of the letter:

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.
The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

The letter concludes, “were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority.”
In a Google+ Hangout last month, President Obama refused to say directly if he had the authority to use lethal force against US citizens. As Mother Jones reported at the time, the reason the president was being so coy is that the answer was likely yes. Now we know that’s exactly what was happening. “Any use of drone strikes or other premeditated lethal force inside the United States would raise grave legal and ethical concerns,” says Raha Wala, an attorney with Human Rights First. “There should be equal concern about using force overseas.”
Source
RIP due process

Obama administration says President can use lethal force against Americans on US soil
March 5, 2013

Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil—but only in “an extraordinary circumstance,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. 

"The US Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening," Paul said Tuesday. “It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

Last month, Paul threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the CIA, “until he answers the question of whether or not the president can kill American citizens through the drone strike program on US soil.” Tuesday, Brennan told Paul that “the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States—nor does it have any authority to do so.” Brennan said that the Justice Department would answer Paul’s question about whether Americans could be targeted for lethal strikes on US soil.

Holder’s answer was more detailed, however, stating that under certain circumstances, the president would have the authority to order lethal attacks on American citizens. The two possible examples of such “extraordinary” circumstances were the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. An American president order the use of lethal military force inside the United States is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote. Here’s the bulk of the letter:

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

The letter concludes, “were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority.”

In a Google+ Hangout last month, President Obama refused to say directly if he had the authority to use lethal force against US citizens. As Mother Jones reported at the time, the reason the president was being so coy is that the answer was likely yes. Now we know that’s exactly what was happening. “Any use of drone strikes or other premeditated lethal force inside the United States would raise grave legal and ethical concerns,” says Raha Wala, an attorney with Human Rights First. “There should be equal concern about using force overseas.”

Source

RIP due process

DHS drones equipped to eavesdrop on AmericansMarch 4, 2013
The US Department of Homeland Security already has an arsenal of drones to be deployed for whatever the agency deems fit, but the actual capabilities of those vehicles exceed what many Americans may expect.
The unmanned drones being used inside of the United States right now can’t shoot Hellfire missiles like their overseas counterparts. They can, however, conduct surveillance, intercept communications and even determine whether or not a person thousands of feet below the aircraft is armed.

The latest revelation comes courtesy of a DHS document that was recently obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, through a Freedom of Information Act request. After analyzing a partially-redacted drone “performance specification” file received through their FOIA plea, EPIC said that records indicate “the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is operating drones in the United States capable of intercepting electronic communications.”

Of the ten Predator B drones currently maintained by the agency, EPIC adds that the document confirms that those aircraft “have the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground.”

“The records obtained by EPIC raise questions about the agency’s compliance with federal privacy laws and the scope of domestic surveillance,” the center writes on their website this week.

Speaking to CNet, EPIC’s Open Government Project director, Ginger McCall, says the discovery shows just how dangerous drones could be to the privacy of the millions of Americans who could have drones overhead right this moment.

"The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground," McCall says. "This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws."

Since EPIC published their FOID’d documents last week, Cnet has managed to scrounge up an unredacted copy that outlines what the DHS was looking for in drones when the report was written in 2010. Specifically, the performance specifications note that while the DHS is not implementing drones for eavesdropping on America right now, “Further tasks, such as communication relay and interception, although not yet evaluated in the field, are assessed to also be best performed” by the unmanned aerial vehicles.

Additionally, DHS drones must “be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not” and “be capable of marking a target into a retrievable database.” No information is given as to what database that refers to, but a Homeland Security official speaking on condition of anonymity tells DHS that the drones lack — for now, at least — the ability to read a subject’s face to find out who they are.

“The drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition,” Cnet reporter Declan McCullagh says the DHS source’s claims.

"Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long standing law enforcement practices,” the source adds.

The Homeland Security department’s drones are currently used to allow federal officials to monitor any criminal activity on America’s borders to the north and south. As RT reported recently, however, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling determined that the government can conduct border patrol operations within 100 miles of an international crossing. By that logic, the approximately 200 million Americans residing within that parameter are subject to Border Patrol searches and, perhaps soon enough, surveillance drones.
Source

DHS drones equipped to eavesdrop on Americans
March 4, 2013

The US Department of Homeland Security already has an arsenal of drones to be deployed for whatever the agency deems fit, but the actual capabilities of those vehicles exceed what many Americans may expect.

The unmanned drones being used inside of the United States right now can’t shoot Hellfire missiles like their overseas counterparts. They can, however, conduct surveillance, intercept communications and even determine whether or not a person thousands of feet below the aircraft is armed.

The latest revelation comes courtesy of a DHS document that was recently obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, through a Freedom of Information Act request. After analyzing a partially-redacted drone “performance specification” file received through their FOIA plea, EPIC said that records indicate “the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is operating drones in the United States capable of intercepting electronic communications.”

Of the ten Predator B drones currently maintained by the agency, EPIC adds that the document confirms that those aircraft “have the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground.”

“The records obtained by EPIC raise questions about the agency’s compliance with federal privacy laws and the scope of domestic surveillance,” the center writes on their website this week.

Speaking to CNet, EPIC’s Open Government Project director, Ginger McCall, says the discovery shows just how dangerous drones could be to the privacy of the millions of Americans who could have drones overhead right this moment.

"The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground," McCall says. "This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws."

Since EPIC published their FOID’d documents last week, Cnet has managed to scrounge up an unredacted copy that outlines what the DHS was looking for in drones when the report was written in 2010. Specifically, the performance specifications note that while the DHS is not implementing drones for eavesdropping on America right now, “Further tasks, such as communication relay and interception, although not yet evaluated in the field, are assessed to also be best performed” by the unmanned aerial vehicles.

Additionally, DHS drones must “be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not” and “be capable of marking a target into a retrievable database.” No information is given as to what database that refers to, but a Homeland Security official speaking on condition of anonymity tells DHS that the drones lack — for now, at least — the ability to read a subject’s face to find out who they are.

“The drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition,” Cnet reporter Declan McCullagh says the DHS source’s claims.

"Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long standing law enforcement practices,” the source adds.

The Homeland Security department’s drones are currently used to allow federal officials to monitor any criminal activity on America’s borders to the north and south. As RT reported recently, however, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling determined that the government can conduct border patrol operations within 100 miles of an international crossing. By that logic, the approximately 200 million Americans residing within that parameter are subject to Border Patrol searches and, perhaps soon enough, surveillance drones.

Source

So this lobbyist (representing weapons/drones companies) testifying to the House Public Safety Committee explains honestly why his group is putting money into making sure that drones are allowed:

My name is Paul Applewhite; I’m on the board of directors for the Pacific chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International…in the Pacific Northwest we represent about 80 companies, 1,400 employees, about 120 million dollars in taxable revenue…the backlash against unmanned vehicles has just caused the city of Seattle to cancel their unmanned systems. Back in May of 2012, you had Ian Stawicki who ran around and killed 5 people. The longer this man was running around the city of Seattle, the more people he was killing…why are we denying ourselves this great technology that is now available?



But now every time you pull this out you have to DOCUMENT IT, which to me discourages the use of it. We give every one of our law enforcement officers lethal force on their hip. We’re saying, give them the judgment to be able to pull this thing out and use it, up to and including lethal force. Why is this technology so much different? 

So, it’s really come to this already. Lobbyists transparently, openly, unapologetically calling to use drone technology to kill Americans on U.S. soil - not that it is any worse or more significant than killing U.S. citizens who are out-of-the-country, like American citizen Anwar Awlaki and his 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki (neither of whom had a history of violence, at all) both of whom were killed by the U.S. without being charged with any crime and without any form of due-process.

But still, that this sort of discourse is now the status-quo, and is now being aggressively pursued by billion-dollar special interests publicly is terrifyingly.