The military’s use of drones is something we hear about fairly often, to the point that it seems as if it’s simply a taken for granted part of the story. The reports from Gaza have made the use of “unmanned aerial vehicles” more newsworthy recently, though of course the U.S., among other nations, employs them regularly, for surveillance and to deliver killing strikes on “militants,” and anyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby.
Dennis Kucinich has voiced concerns about the use of drones. Last Friday, he hosted a Congressional briefing to examine U.S. policy regarding the use of armed or “combat” drones. From Dandelion Salad:
U.S. drone strikes are estimated to have killed thousands of people. In Pakistan (drones) have killed an estimated 3,378 people; in Yemen such strikes are estimated to have killed as many as 1,952 people. Drone strikes in Somalia have killed as many as 170 people. The first U.S. drone strike took place in 2002.
Here’s the video of the hearing:
Following the hearing, Sam Biddle, of Gizmodo, interviewed Kucinich.
An American Moral Crisis: Gizmodo Talks Drones with Dennis Kucinich …
I sat down with Congressman Dennis Kucinich after a briefing on UAV warfare. He makes an argument–one that’s hard to shrug off–that lethal drones aren’t just bad foreign policy, but one of the greatest ethical failings of our time. ‘We are shredding our Constitution,’ he says … .
… (O)ver the past several years, the United States has conducted hundreds of drone strikes under the secret authority of the CIA … resulting in the deaths of several thousand people. …
According to members of the (hearing) panel … the CIA frequently engages in the practice of ‘double tapping’–firing a second Hellfire volley after the initial blast, often killing emergency workers and first responders, and clearly violating international law.
Another view, from Global Post, related to a new report by Human Rights Watch:
Drones: ‘Killer robots’ wage Israel-Gaza violence
The buzz of Israeli drones over Gaza City is an unmistakable part of the din of war between Israel and Gaza … . The whole of Gaza knows the drones are there as Israel’s eyes in the sky – and sometimes the source of deadly missiles raining down on the densely populated area. …
… Human Rights Watch issued a report called ‘Losing Humanity,’ … and called for a ban on what the organization calls ‘killer robots,’ which includes drones. The international rights group says that the humanity has gone out of warfare, and in the report details the proliferation of weapons and surveillance systems of a number of countries, Israel included.
Also just announced is an inquiry into the use of drones by the UK. From Zee News, which could “shed light on ‘secret war’ by US”:
British MPs are set to open an inquiry into Britain’s use of drones to kill militants. …
It is believed that scrutiny of the use of the unmanned weapons could shed light on the ‘secret war’ being waged remotely by the US against terror suspects in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Domestically, in the U.S. the use of surveillance drones is increasing. For example, from GovWin Network:
Surveillance Drones to Join Local Police Forces in 2015
On September 30, 2015, … the United States will begin opening its airspace to unmanned drone flights. … Yet, the date doesn’t represent the first drone flights, as domestic use has been taken place for border control and in restricted airspace zones authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The 2015 date represents the result of recent legislation that permits drone use for both law enforcement and first-response activity. The FAA has issued over 300 Certificates of Authorization (COAs) to governments and organizations within the United States … .
State and local police departments will be among the first organizations to make use of the new devices.
You can read about U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans in a California Watch report, “Border agency looks to expand drone fleet.”
And then there’s what is being called the “consumer drone.” From International Digital Times:
The Parrot AR Drone 2.0, which costs roughly $300, allows average citizens to aerially spy on anyone they can. The miniature drone is controlled by using an app on the iPhone or iPad. The aircraft itself features multiple sensors that include high-definition front-facing 720p camera and a vertical camera that faces straight down from the bottom of the quadricopter. The machine itself is relatively lightweight and can be easily transported.
The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the second iteration of the device and is slightly more expensive than the outdated Parrot AR Drone 1.0. That’s because the new model allows users to record video and take pictures while in flight. The app to the drone also makes it extremely easy to share any footage online. …
The WiFi remote connection from the iPhone or iPad only extends about 200 feet.
Any guesses about how long it will be before that 200 feet range is extended? Whatever, while the Parrot is a “consumer” model and far cry from weaponized drones, Kucinich’s warning about the “shredding of our Constitution” and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in general seems very important to me.