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Drones: What It Takes to Get Our Attention


Drones. It’s not a new topic, but you’d never know it by the expressions of dismay from Electeds and Electorate alike. Apparently drones are only interesting when there’s something like a Congressional hearing. Actually, even that isn’t accurate, since Dennis Kucinich held hearings on “combat UAVs” last November, but then, that was only a couple of weeks or so after the election, and it wasn’t related to something like John Brennan’s CIA confirmation hearings.

Yesterday, Taylor wrote John Brennan’s Got Nothing to Worry About on Obama’s Drone Policy, stating, “This is about transparency, not the drone policy itself.” I think that’s basically right, as I’m guessing she’s also correct in writing that “There is no president of either party who would not avail” him or herself of using drones.

It’s still predictable, though, that often, when “our guy” does it — say use drones for targeted terrorist killings; or be opaque rather than transparent — it’s maybe regrettable but necessary, but when “their guy” does it, it’s just wrong. It’s a bipartisan thing.

What I’ve been thinking about is that both the transparency question and use of drones and a “kill list,” have been the focus of activists and simply concerned citizens for quite some time. That focus has included the growing domestic use of drones, as well as their deployment by the U.S. internationally. I knew I’d written about this quite a lot, but was actually a bit surprised when I looked back. The following list is probably incomplete, but I’m including it simply as a way to consider at least some of what brought us to the Brennan hearings.

May 30, 2012: How Many Drones In the Sky Must We Have, Before We Declare Ourselves Safe?

June 20, 2012: That Feeling of Security, Brought to Us by the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus.

August 2, 2012: Droning On: From the Skies of Afghanistan to a Police Station Near You.

September 28, 2012: From the Weaponized ‘Reaper’ to Nanobot Swarms, the Drones Are in Our Skies (VIDEOS).

November 21, 2012: News of Drones: Kucinich Holds Hearings on Combat UAVs, ‘Consumer’ Drones Are Available for $300 (VIDEO).

January 15, 2013: ‘Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan’.

January 25, 2013: Drones: In the U.S. Counterterrorism ‘Playbook’ and Under UN Investigation.

Of course others are covering this more extensively and regularly. For example, last month, on January 21, Jon Queally, at Common Dreams, wrote ‘Pedal to the Metal’: Obama’s Drone Program Escalates as Second Term Begins. On January 28, Queally wrote Report: US Shops for New Drone Base in Africa. The next day, at Business Insider, Paul Szoldra posted Drone Spying Capabilities Are About To Take Another Huge Leap. From Szoldra:

The fleet of drones that police our skies are about to get an upgrade.
Developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and BAE Systems, The $18.5 million Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS) program will be the most advanced surveillance system in the sky.

Once attached under an unmanned aerial vehicle, an ARGUS camera can patrol at 17,500 feet and send back high resolution images of 1.8 gigapixels.

The images are so crisp and clear that an analyst can actually see what color shirt a subject is wearing.

The article includes multiple photos, if you want to check them out.

I think it’s important, and a part of the needed transparency, to see the multiple use of drones, from civilian “toys,” to police department surveillance, to armed military use. The obviously rapid development, from vehicles for cameras to missiles, is something that will continue. We can’t count on congressional hearings for accurate and timely information. I doubt we can count on them for transparency.

Focused on domestic use, last word to Lambert Strether, yesterday at Corrente:

Will personal drones come under the Second Amendment?


My guess is that they will, but only for corporate persons.

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8 Responses to Drones: What It Takes to Get Our Attention

  1. Cujo359 February 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    I’ve been noticing UAVs/UAEs/drones for several years now, as have quite a few other bloggers and commentators. Yet the news doesn’t seem to front page this stuff unless it’s about partisan politics, which means it’s pretty seldom.

    For anyone interested in seeing what it’s like to live in the combat zone of our drone wars, I’d recommend Pir Zubair Shah’s “My Drone War”, by a correspondent who covered that part of the world.

    • Joyce Arnold February 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks for the link. Cujo.

      It frustrates me no end, that, as you say, “the news doesn’t seem to front page this stuff,” unless, of course, it’s related to “partisan politics.” We’re so indoctrinated with that way of framing …

      • jinbaltimore February 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

        Exactly. And it’s all just theater to mask the “bi-partisanship” that is actually happening…to our detriment.

        • Joyce Arnold February 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

          Absolutely “happening to our detriment,” with “bi-partisanship” smoothing the way. Not that much “smoothing” has been necessary thus far, domestically or internationally.

      • Cujo359 February 8, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

        It’s frustrating, that’s for sure. Last night on the Beeb one of the correspondents (or perhaps, the “presenter”) was saying that no one in America seems to have noticed this until now. I felt like reaching through the TV, grabbing said personality by the collar, and pointing her/him to Glenn Greenwald’s column, or your articles, or Corrente’s, or mine (just to name some that stand out in my mind at the moment). The latter three I can understand having escaped their attention, what with them being foreigners and all, but Greenwald writes for a British paper now, and other TV news shows have interviewed him. You’d think that would count for something.

        • Joyce Arnold February 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

          Greenwald should definitely by on their radar.

          Drones are a growing factor in other nations, too, of course. We seem to be on the “cutting edge” — or at least that’s what I’ve heard and read — but we certainly aren’t, and won’t be, the only ones making use of them in other nations.

          As for domestic use, it fits in with the “police state” direction we seem to be going.

          • jinbaltimore February 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

            If Greenwald is not on their radar, it is willful.

  2. Joyce Arnold February 9, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    jinbaltimore, agred on “it is willful.”

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong