"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Defense Industry’

First Syrian Rebels Armed And Trained By The CIA ‘on way to battlefield’ , Obama Says

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Free Syrian Army fighters shout “Allahu Akbar” near Deraa in this still image taken from a video obtained by Reuters May 17, 2012

Oldspeak: “And so it begins, as was the case ahead of the U.S. military strike to achieve regime change Libya, U.S. trained mercenaries are on the move, no doubt to secure key infrastructure and oil assets. Keep in mind, this is not the first U.S. miltary-intelligence complex offensive in Syria.  It’s the latest in a long line actions, most covert, against Syria.  The U.S. and U.K. have been training anti-government forces in Syria for some time now with the aim of eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”  Ignore the kabuki theater of congressional hearings and votes, this war is a go. There are 5  missile destroyers, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, and multiple marine amphibious assault ships off the coast of Syria right now. A majority of the American people do not support this attack. Yet politicians are charging ahead. Just as in Libya, this war is not about “protecting innocents” or “detering chemical weapons” use. This attack has been, as in Libya, planned years in advance. There is as of today, no concrete, publicly verifiable evidence that Assad authorized the use of chemical weapons. Yet U.S. Government officials, assert their certainty “beyond a reasonable doubt” that evidence exists. Never mind that they’ve tried to derail the investigations of U.N. inspectors. Senators casually discuss the prospect of regime change. This war is about securing mideast oil and pipeline routes for global energy and banking corporations.” -OSJ

By Raf Sanchez @ The U.K. Telegraph:

During a meeting at the White House, the president assured Senator John McCain that after months of delay the US was meeting its commitment to back moderate elements of the opposition.

Mr Obama said that a 50-man cell, believed to have been trained by US special forces in Jordan, was making its way across the border into Syria, according to the New York Times.

The deployment of the rebel unit seems to be the first tangible measure of support since Mr Obama announced in June that the US would begin providing the opposition with small arms.

Congressional opposition delayed the plan for several weeks and rebel commanders publicly complained the US was still doing nothing to match the Russian-made firepower of the Assad regime.

Mr McCain has been a chief critic of the White House’s reluctance to become involved in Syria and has long demanded that Mr Obama provide the rebels with arms needed to overthrow the regime.

He and Senator Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican foreign policy hawk, emerged from the Oval Office meeting on Monday cautiously optimistic that Mr Obama would step up support for the rebels.

“There seems to be emerging from this administration a pretty solid plan to upgrade the opposition,” Mr Graham said.

He added that he hoped the opposition would be given “a chance to speak directly to the American people” to counter US fears that they were dominated by al-Qaeda sympathisers.

“They’re not trying to replace one dictator, Assad, who has been brutal… to only have al-Qaeda run Syria,” Mr Graham said.

The US announced in June, following the first allegations the Assad regime had used chemical weapons, that it would send light arms to the rebels but refused to provide anti-aircraft missiles and other heavy weapons.

American concerns were born partly out of the experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when CIA weapons given to the anti-Russian mujahideen were later used by the Taliban.

Attack Of The Clones: China Is Developing Its Own Drone Technology – For Its Own Use & For Sale Around The World

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm
UAV

Oldspeak: “While U.S. Drone technology is highly restricted and expensive, China’s drone fleet is growing at a tenth of the cost. So these death machines are sure to proliferate as the world continues to militarize. Just as the U.S. has claimed the right to send remote controlled killing machines into foreign lands it has not declared war with, to kill enemies of the state, China has as well, with its recently planed hit on a drug boss in Myanmar. Just think, some time in the near future,  Americans will know the unique terror of being hunted and killed by foreign-made and operated flying deathbots!  Just as it started the nuclear arms race, with terrible results, the U.S. started the drone arms race. These armed robot chickens will one day come home roost in a really bad way.  It seems the global surveillance and control grid is slowly taking shape. “Skynet” soon come.

By Trefor Moss @ The Diplomat:

Unmanned systems have become the legal and ethical problem child of the global defense industry and the governments they supply, rewriting the rules of military engagement in ways that many find disturbing. And this sense of unease about where we’re headed is hardly unfamiliar. Much like the emergence of drone technology, the rise of China and its reshaping of the geopolitical landscape has stirred up a sometimes understandable, sometimes irrational, fear of the unknown.

It’s safe to say, then, that Chinese drones conjure up a particularly intense sense of alarm that the media has begun to embrace as a license to panic. China is indeed developing a range of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UASs) at a time when relations with Japan are tense, and when those with the U.S. are delicate. But that hardly justifies claims that “drones have taken center stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan,” or that the “China drone threat highlights [a] new global arms race,” as some observers would have it. This hyperbole was perhaps fed by a 2012 U.S. Department of Defense report which described China’s development of UAVs as “alarming.”

That’s quite unreasonable. All of the world’s advanced militaries are adopting drones, not just the PLA. That isn’t an arms race, or a reason to fear China, it’s just the direction in which defense technology is naturally progressing. Secondly, while China may be demonstrating impressive advances, Israel and the U.S. retain a substantial lead in the UAV field, with China—alongside Europe, India and Russia— still in the second tier. And thirdly, China is modernizing in all areas of military technology – unmanned systems being no exception.

New unmanned missions

Nonetheless, China has started to show its hand in terms of the roles that it expects its growing fleet of UAVs to fulfill. In a clear indication that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has an operational armed UAV capability in which it feels relatively confident, last week reports of a plan to send a UAV into Myanmar to assassinate a drug trafficker who had murdered 13 Chinese nationals came to light. The Chinese government ultimately rejected this tactic, but it is evidently tempted to follow Washington’s lead in reserving the right to use UAVs to target enemies of the state, even on foreign soil.

Territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea have also persuaded Beijing to accelerate its deployment of UAVs, which are ideally suited to maritime surveillance missions. UAVs are already used routinely to monitor the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, a PLA general recently claimed. “[Both China and Japan] seem intent on establishing more presence in these disputed zones,” comments Peter Singer, Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution,“both to establish their own claims … and to watch what the other is doing. UAS are helpful in those aims, especially with their longer duration versus traditional manned platforms.” The PLA Air Force has also converted its obsolete J-6 fighters into UAVs; based in Fujian, the J-6s are apparently being used for Diaoyu surveillance, as well as being expendable strike assets in the event of an armed engagement.

Nor is China’s deployment of UAVs limited to the military realm. The government of Liaoning Province is reportedly using UAVs to monitor the North Korean border, and is also said to be establishing two coastal UAV bases from which it will oversee its areas of jurisdiction in the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. Meanwhile, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) – one of China’s main maritime agencies – announced in August that it is setting up 11 UAV bases, one in each of China’s coastal provinces. It expects to have these bases up and running by 2015 (images of some of the SOA’s current UAVs can be seen here). It’s also worth recalling that all of China’s UAV advances have been enabled by the Beidou satellite constellation, which now includes 16 active satellites providing coverage across China and the Asia-Pacific.

If provincial governments and civilian law enforcement agencies plan to induct UAVs in tandem with the PLA, then that’s a large fleet of unmanned aircraft able to perform a variety of different functions that China will need to bring online over the next few years. But, there is no shortage of technology programs competing to make the cut.

China’s UAV programs

Dozens of Chinese UAV concepts have appeared over the years, most of which will never leave the laboratory, let alone the runway. However, the Chinese aerospace sector has clearly devoted a great deal of energy to producing a range of designs from which the PLA has been able to cherry-pick. Chinese engineers have also been able to draw on Israeli technology, having acquired Harpy UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries in the 1990s. “They’ve gone in the last few years from having none in development to at least 25 different models displayed at arms shows,” says Singer.“So, it’s a very ambitious program. But again, it parallels their growth in capabilities and ambitions in many others beyond UAS, from jet fighters to missiles.” He warns against overhyping China’s UAV effort, noting that for now “we’re talking very small numbers [of Chinese UAVs] … and not yet near U.S. capabilities.”

If the example of the U.S military is anything to go by, the PLA should only have operational requirements for around six to ten UAVs. It appears closer to filling some of these operational niches than others.

The China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) has developed a number of ASN series UAVs, at least two of which appear to be in operational use. First is the ASN-15, a small intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) UAV similar to the U.S. RQ-11 Raven, a small, man-portable system able to perform basic battlefield ISTAR duties. Second is the ASN-209 medium altitude and medium endurance UAV comparable to the U.S. ScanEagle, a larger ISR asset than the Raven with up to 20 hours of flight time for longer-range battlefield and maritime surveillance. The ASN-209 is probably the same aircraft as the “Silver Eagle” which was widely reported to have taken part in naval exercises over the South China Sea in 2011.

Vertical takeoff UAVs (VTUAV), which are especially useful for naval ISTAR and fire control, are also beginning to enter service (though the U.S. Navy’s comparable MQ-8 Fire Scout is itself yet to receive operational clearance). A PLA Navy frigate was pictured in 2012 operating what was probably one of the 18 Camcopter S-100s China acquired from Austrian company Schiebel, supposedly intended for civilian use. Another VTUAV, the SVU-200, made its first flight late last year, while a third unmanned helicopter, the V750, recently entered civilian service. The PLA Navy is known to be exploring the possible applications of VTUAVs, including their use in anti-submarine warfare, and to be interested in the use of UAVs more broadly on its new and future aircraft carriers, not least because UAVs can significantly augment China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. “A2/AD places a premium on extending your range of monitoring and tracking targets from afar,” Singer says.“UAS are very helpful in that.”

Bigger, more advanced UAVs are also now breaking cover. Two in particular appear to be similar to the U.S.’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAVs best known for conducting lethal operations in Pakistan and elsewhere. These are the Yilong/Wing Loong “Pterodactyl”, built by the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI), and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s (CASC’s) CH-4. According to a recent Global Times report, the Yilong is primarily regarded as a Reaper-style strike aircraft, while the CH-4 is more of a multi-role aircraft that will be deployed by civilian agencies, as well as by the military, for surveillance purposes, though it can also be weaponized. These two UAVs appear to be in the same class as the CH-91, built by Aerospace Long March International (ALIT), an ISTAR system which is reported to have already entered production, and the more advanced CH-92, which is due to enter production in 2014. A similar class of UAV, the WJ-600, has been showcased by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), though this system – which is jet-powered, unlike the propeller-driven Yilong and the CH-4 – was not seen at the most recent China Air Show.

Finally, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation is working on the Soaring Eagle, an analogue of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Washington’s high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV. Recent pictures of a Soaring Eagle on the runway suggest that its development is moving forward effectively. There are also hints that China is working on a stealthy UAV called the Wing Blade, which is reminiscent of the U.S.’s black-budget RQ-170 Sentinel, while a stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) called the Dark Sword – perhaps along the lines of the U.S. Navy’s experimental X-74B – may also be in development. Chinese technicians are also undoubtedly experimenting with a new generation of nano-UAVs, like the Black Hornet micro-helicopter now in action with the British Army.

China’s drone boom

The aerospace sector must now supply huge demand from both the PLA and civilian authorities. So it is not hard to envisage several of these seemingly competing UAVs, rather than just one winner, being produced in large numbers in order to help the defense industry meet its growing demand. In fact, last November a senior CASIC executive forecast that Chinese UAV sales would double in 2013.

Chinese firms also have high hopes for export sales. The Predator-style CH-4 in particular is being pushed for export, and was displayed at the recent IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi. The system is part of CASC’s CH “Rainbow” family of drones, and is understood to be an upgraded version of the CH-3 UAV, which China has already sold to Pakistan. The Yilong has also “already successfully entered the international market”, according to Chinese sources quoted by RIA Novosti at the recent China Air Show.

China has rightly identified a gap in the market, with relatively few countries having inducted UAVs so far, and few capable of building drones themselves, the low cost of Chinese systems will certainly be an advantage. A U.S. Predator costs around $4.5 million, while a Reaper is closer to $10 million for countries that manage to obtain clearance to buy them. Chinese sources have claimed that their equivalent UAVs cost less than $1 million, making them a highly affordable capability for a host of international customers, especially those unable or unwilling to source U.S. and Israeli technology.

So if there is an alarm bell worth ringing about the emergence of Chinese UAVs, it is probably not the threat they will pose to the U.S. or Japan in the Asia-Pacific – it is the proliferation to the developing world of armed, unmanned systems that China’s low prices, and even lower export barriers, may soon begin to drive.

Unmanned Drones Fly Through Congress To Patrol U.S. Skies

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Oldspeak:”The unmanned chickens come home to roost. The death dealing spybots deployed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and god knows where else will be deployed right here in the U.S.A. in a “security” and “law enforcement” role.  Indeed, Skynet is effect. As the surveillance state expands under the guise of ‘national security’, law enforcement and job creation; privacy, civil liberties, and air safety are compromised. Behold in all it’s splendor, the powerful workings of the military-industrial complex. Offense industry lobbyists throws hundreds of thousands of dollars in “campaign contributions” at democrat and republican politicians alike. Those politicians then perform their yearly debt exploding ritual of passing an ever larger “Defense Authorization Act”. The Offense Industry continues to build more and more machines for death and destruction and exports them at great profit to as many countries as will buy them. At the same time, the U.S. spends more on weapons than the next 19 nations COMBINED. The Military Industrial complex Eisenhower warned of is now self-aware, self-perpetuating and ever expanding. With its devastating drain on taxpayer resources that could be used domestically for infrastructure, education, job creation, green energy development, etc etc etc…. The offense industry not teachers, not unions, or public workers/programs/services/ is a large part of the reason the U.S. is hurtling toward imminent collapse.”

By Nick Mottern @ Truthout:

Within weeks and possibly days, President Obama is likely to sign into law a bill that will bring unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – into US general airspace, crisscrossing the country in company with passenger planes and other human-carrying aircraft.

The story of how planes without on-board pilots will gain entry into our crowded airspace, where birds are life threatening, possibly within the next three years, is one involving campaign contributions, jobs and fear. As we will see, safety appears not to be the top priority.

I became aware of the pro-drone legislation from a February 10, 2011, Syracuse Post Standard report that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) was supporting an amendment to the pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (S. 223) that would create test zones for the introduction of drones into general airspace.

Senator Schumer was interested in the pro-drone amendment because MQ-9 Reaper drones, killer drones that are flying over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, are stationed at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse. However, FAA safety restrictions have limited drone flights out of Hancock.

“If Schumer’s legislative move succeeds this week,” said the Post Standard, “it would help ensure the future of 1,215 jobs at the (air) base in Mattydale (New York) and potentially lead to millions of dollars in radar research contracts for local defense companies.”

Bad Drones – Good Drones?

Drones have a grisly war history of misidentification. For example, on April 11, 2011, The Los Angeles Times carried a story of how a failure of US Air Force drone operators at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to accurately identify the enemy led to the deaths in February 2010 of at least 15 non-combatant Afghani men, the wounding of 12 more and the deaths of a woman and three children.

“Technology can occasionally give you a false sense of security that you can see everything, that you can hear everything, that you know everything,” said Air Force Major Gen. James O. Poss, who oversaw the Air Force investigation, according to the Times. “I really do think we have learned from this.”

The newspaper said that survivors were compensated with $2,900 and families of the dead got $4,800.

Drones like the Reaper are also used for assassination, killing people without trial or conviction, a violation of international law, compounded by the problem of misidentification.

The Reaper can also be used strictly for surveillance and there are a variety of drones that can perform either killer or surveillance functions. Drones are also being produced for commercial uses, which include scanning land and oceans for agricultural, mining and fishing enterprises.

Given the deadly record of drones, I and others in New York State and elsewhere, moved to lobby Senator Schumer to end his support of the drone amendment.

Drone Envy

We knew we were starting very late. On February 15, we presented a letter (appearing at the end of this article) at Senator Schumer’s Peekskill, New York, office urging him to abandon the drone amendment. He did not respond and his staff did not provide any information to us until well after the FAA reauthorization bill, with the pro-drone language embodied in an omnibus amendment, cleared the Senate on February 17.

According to Open Secrets.org, Senator Schumer received $10,000 for his 2010 re-election campaign from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is one of at least 50 companies making drones of various sizes and types and it produces Hellfire missiles, used by drones and other aircraft. Lockheed employs 2,200 in Syracuse.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also supported the drone amendment, saying in a press release: “This bill is about making southwest Ohio a critical part of this high-growth initiative. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) could be used for a host of important purposes, from patrolling the border, to surveying Kandahar province, to combating drug smuggling and it’s critical that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base plays a key role in their development and testing. I’ve worked on a bipartisan basis – first with (former) Sen. (George) Voinovich and now with Sen. (Rob) Portman – to enable the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson and the Springfield National Guard to test unmanned aerial systems in Southwest Ohio.”

Among other Senate supporters of the drone amendment were Sens. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), whose state seeks to be a center of drone development and where the University of North Dakota claims to be the first in offering a four-year degree program for drone pilots “hoping to take the sticks in a field expected to swell to a $20 billion industry over the next decade.”

Senator Hoeven said on the Senate floor, in support of the amendment:

“We’re already flying UAVs in airspace all over the world. Now we need to open the skies for them at home to make our nation more secure, our communities safer and our economy more dynamic, creating jobs and opportunities in our country. If we don’t you can be sure other nations will.”

(Note: Open Secrets shows no major aerospace companies contributing to Senators Brown or Hoeven in 2010; Senator Conrad received $22,600 in 2010 from Carlyle Group, which owns ARINC, a company with drone business.)

With Senate approval of the FAA bill, our anti-drone lobbying shifted to the House of Representatives where the FAA reauthorization (H.R. 658) containing pro-drone amendments similar to those in the Senate was still under consideration. While the senate drone legislation did not set a deadline for drone entry into general US skyways; a House amendment, which was ultimately approved, sets a deadline of September 30, 2015, for integration of commercial drones.

Gliding on Zephyrs of Cash

I thought that it might be possible to strip the drone amendments from reauthorization bill with last-minute floor action by one or two House allies. However, as I watched the House action on the FAA bill on C-Span on March 31, it became clear that the Republican leadership was determined to win every amendment that it put forward and to crush amendments put forward by Democrats. None of the members of Congress we hoped would act, including Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), Brian Higgins (D-New York) and John Tierney (D-Massachusetts), wished to make a comment, much less a fight, over the amendments and it may have been they felt is was not worth the effort.

Had there been more time for contacting Congressional aides and identifying drone supporters, it would also have been clear that there was strong aerospace industry activity in both houses of Congress for the drone amendments.

The drone amendments that ended up in the House bill came from Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), chair of the House transportation Committee, and Rep. Candice Miller (R-Michigan), a member of the transportation and homeland security committees and also a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems (drone) Caucus, comprised of 43 members of the House.

Congressman Mica did not speak in any detail on the floor of the House about his drone amendment, referring to it only as being included in an omnibus amendment package. He introduced into the record a letter from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group, saying: “Without a doubt, UAS (unmanned aerial systems) will have a tremendous impact on the aerospace industry and aid in driving economic development in many regions across the country. How quickly new job creation and economic benefits become a reality however depends on the progress and timeliness of UAS integration efforts.” The Mica amendment package was approved 251-168.

Congresswoman Miller’s remarks in support of her amendment, which was approved by a voice vote, focused on the use of drones for law enforcement and border security:

“My amendment is designed to help expedite and to improve the process by which FAA works with government agencies to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs as they’re commonly called, into the National Airspace System. Currently, Mr. Chairman, law enforcement agencies across the country, from Customs and Border Protection to local police departments, et cetera, are ready to embrace the new technology and to start utilizing UAVs in the pursuit of enforcing the law and protecting our border as well.

“However, the FAA has been very hesitant to give authorization to these UAVs due to limited air space and restrictions that they have. I certainly can appreciate those concerns; but when we’re talking about Customs and Border Protection or the FBI, what have you, we are talking about missions of national security. And certainly there’s nothing more important than that. It was a very, very lengthy exercise to get the FAA to authorize the use of UAVs on the southern border. While they’re finally being utilized down there, we are certainly a long way from fully utilizing these technologies.”

After the pro-drone amendments passed the House, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-California) chair of the Congressional drone caucus, released a statement saying that the House FAA bill “promotes the safe integration of unmanned systems into national airspace. Carefully integrating these systems by 2015 will improve our border defenses, public safety and emergency response systems.

“Although this bill is a step in the right direction, I have concerns with the FAA’s languid Certification of Authorization requirement for public unmanned systems.”

Congressman Mica received the following contributions for his 2010 re-election campaign from these companies involved with drones, according Open Secrets:

Boeing – $10,000
Honeywell – $10,000 (makes engines for the Reaper and Predator drones)
Lockheed Martin – $10,000
Raytheon – $10,000

And for Congresswoman Miller in her 2010 race:

Honeywell – $10,000
General Dynamics – $8,500
Ford – $10,000 (Ford engines are used in a Boeing drone, although as a Michigan representative if is likely she would get Ford money in any case)

Congressman McKeon received the following contributions among those for his 2010 campaign:

Lockheed Martin – $52,000
Northrop Grumman – $50,500
Boeing – $28,900

His combined contributions from “defense aerospace” and “defense electronics” were $232,900.

We were hoping that Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-New York) might assist in opposing the drone amendments given his opposition to our wars, in spite of his membership on the drone caucus. But we found that his aide wanted to talk only about Hinchey’s opposition to the wars, not about drones. In 2010, the following contractors with interests in drones were among his major contributors:

Lockheed Martin – $10,000
Boeing – $10,000
Honeywell – $10,000
L-3 Communications – $9,500

All the biggest aerospace contractors have an interest of one kind or another in drone manufacture. The top Congressional aerospace campaign contributor in 2009-2010 was Boeing, $2.57 million, followed by Lockheed Martin, $2.4 million, according to Open Secrets.org [4].

A Department of Defense summary of the 2012 Obama military budget notes:

“The fiscal 2012 budget continues strong funding for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The base budget includes $4.8 billion to develop and procure additional Global Hawk Class (RQ-4), Predator Class (MQ 1/9) and other less expensive, low-altitude systems.” [Emphasis added.]

Time magazine reported in 2008 that Barack Obama’s campaign “pocketed $870,165 from defense contractor sources, 34% more than the $647,313 in contributions McCain’s campaign received from the same sector.”

At this writing, the Senate and House versions of the FAA reauthorization bill, which cover a wide range of aviation concerns, will be submitted soon to a conference committee made up of members of both houses of Congress. A compromise bill will be presented to both houses for a vote and then sent to the White House for signature. The conference committee could meet as early as the week beginning April 18, if not before. Action should be completed at the latest by May 30, when the current FAA authorization expires.

Observations

1. Safety

It is obvious that many in Congress have embraced drones of all kinds for money, for themselves and their constituents, willfully ignoring what drones are doing in war or the real dangers they will bring with them into the skies over the US.

In March 2010, Congressman Tierney held drone hearings and heard testimony that addressed ways in which the US use of killer drones has violated international law.

Ideally, Congress would by now have banned the use of drones for assassination and limited their battlefield use to situations in which troops on the ground can make visual identification of enemy forces. This is presuming that the US is involved in wars that do not violate international law, unlike the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As for use of drones over the United States, at this writing, the FAA restricts drone flights to specific zones where they can be carefully segregated from general air traffic. As suggested above, the military, some law enforcement officials and drone manufacturers have been pushing the FAA to move fast to allow drones to fly much more freely. The FAA has resisted quick introduction for safety reasons, as indicated in the following testimony by Henry Krakowski, chief operating officer of the FAA air traffic organization before Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Operations in September 2010:

“As the most complex airspace in the world, the NAS (National Airspace System) encompasses an average of over 100,000 aviation operations per day, including commercial air traffic, cargo operations, business jets, etc. Additionally, there are over 238,000 general aviation aircraft that represent a wide range of sophistication and capabilities that may enter the system at any time. There are over 500 air traffic control facilities, more than 12,000 air navigation facilities and over 19,000 airports, not to mention the thousands of other communications, surveillance, weather reporting and other aviation support facilities. With this volume of traffic and high degree of complexity, the FAA maintains an extremely safe airspace through diligent oversight and the strong commitment to our safety mission …

“While UASs (unmanned aerial systems) offer a promising new technology, the limited safety and operational data available to date does not support the expedited or full integration in the NAS. Because current available data is insufficient to allow unfettered integration of UASs into the NAS – where the public travels every day – the FAA must continue to move forward deliberately and cautiously, in accordance with our safety mandate.”

At the same time that Congress is pushing the FAA to allow drones to fly everywhere, the House version of the FAA bill would roll back the agency’s budget to 2008 levels, allocating $57.8 billion for a four-year period.The larger issue is whether drone technology can ever be perfected to the point where pilots on the ground are going to be able to look out for danger in the same way pilots in the air can. As Air Force General Poss said in the quote at the beginning of this article, technology can lead to unwarranted confidence. It seems certain that if Congress, the military, law enforcement agencies and the aerospace industry get their way, we will be having drone hits on passenger aircraft just as we are having bird hits now.

In addition, there is no restriction in the FAA reauthorization against drones flying in US airspace carrying weapons, raising the specter of accidental firings at other aircraft and at people and objects on the ground and of mid-air explosions from accidental hits on other aircraft. The Pentagon is also planning drone aircraft that can carry nuclear weapons.

2. Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Drones also present a real threat to personal privacy and safety. Drones are envisioned as eyes in the sky for police departments as well as for border patrols. Although members of Congress touted drones for surveillance, nothing in the FAA legislation discusses when surveillance can be undertaken or any restrictions on use of material gathered in drone surveillance.

This becomes of even greater concern in view of the problems of drone misidentification, demonstrated in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

There is also the possibility, not addressed in the FAA reauthorization, of police arming their drones to fight crime, which raises the fundamental issues of misidentification, due process and collateral damage, among others.

This article is obviously being written at a very late date. How could we have known sooner about the pro-drone amendments and their implications?

3. Citizen Surveillance

At this point, there is no anti-war legislative action office in Washington, DC, that is devoted solely to: (1) providing continuing information to grassroots organizers on weapons and war funding; and (2) building grassroots response organizations in Congressional districts.

Matt Southworth of the Friends Committee on National Legislation was helpful in identifying some Congressional aides who might wish to help address the drone amendments, but he was stretched thin and had only limited time to make calls, much less visits. Ideally grassroots anti-war groups would have the benefit of one or two people in Washington who would follow weapons and war funding legislation, such as the drone amendments, and provide early warning to local anti-war organizers.

A model for this would be Bread for the World, which develops grassroots organizations to lobby Congress on hunger and food policy issues.

This points also to the need for local educational groups that work to inform the public not only on current wars but on business/job alternatives to the military contracting work being done by plants in their areas.

What we need immediately is legislation banning the use of US drones for assassination and banning drones from US general aviation skyways.

*    *    *    *

Senator Charles Schumer February 15, 2011
One Park Place, Suite 100
Peekskill, New York 10566

Dear Senator Schumer:

On February 10, 2011 you issued a press release saying that you want to amend the Federal Aviation Administration law so that air space will be expanded around Syracuse for testing of “cutting edge military drones.” You said this will “unleash millions of investment into the region and create jobs.”

For the reasons outlined in the attached flyer, we the undersigned urge you to reverse course and work to end all drone testing, training and operation in New York State, including drone operations at Fort Drum in Watertown NY.

We want to emphasize here that the atrocities and assassinations being committed by the United States using drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen are unconscionable. The idea that you would use job creation as a reason for encouraging the development and use of these weapons is morally unacceptable.

Every single minute, $300,000 goes into our wars. Because of this spending, the United States cannot meet the educational and employment needs of its citizens. For you to tout job creation from weapons building under these circumstances is astounding.

We would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss these concerns. Please respond to the WESPAC Foundation at (914) 449-6514 orwespacfoundation@gmail.com [5]

Sincerely,

Harriet Ackerman, Hastings on Hudson
Wayne Alt, Buffalo
John Amidon, Albany
Sondra Armer, Croton on Hudson
Kevin Ascher, Mount Kisco
Frank Brodhead, Hastings on Hudson
Brooklyn for Peace
Elaine Brower, World Can’t Wait, Military Families Speak Out, New York City
Russell Brown, Veterans for Peace, Buffalo
Frank Carbone, Newburgh
Joe Catron, Brooklyn
Ben Chitty, Co-cordinator Tappan Zee Brigade, Veterans for Peace Chapt. 61, Yonkers
Martha Conte, White Plains
Andrew Courtney, Croton on Hudson
Pamela Daly, Hartsdale
Don DeBar, Ossining
Sandra Dolman, Peekskill
Gayle Dunkelberger, Katonah
Roger Drew, Greenburgh
Marilyn Ellie, Cortlandt
Gail L. Evans
Sarah Flounders, International Action Center, New York City
Kathryn Joy Fuller, Syracuse
Carol Gable, Gaithersburg, MD (formerly of Mamaroneck)
Felice Gelman, Tarrytown
Mirene Ghossen, New Rochelle
Jack Gilroy, Endwell
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Stoney Point
Dr. Arthur Grant, Chappaqua
Teresa Gutierrez, May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, New York City
Dennis Hanratty, New Rochelle
Mary Herbst, Grand Island
Judith A. and George E. Homanich, Buffalo
Joan Indusi, Ossining
Dottie Ji, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
Agnes Johnson, Bronx
Mary Johnson, Mt. Kisco
Lorraine and Sam Katen, Mamaroneck
Kathy Kelly, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Chicago, IL
Nada Khader, White Plains
Ed Kinane, Syracuse
Charlotte Koons, Women Opposed to the Nuclear Threat, Northport
Cecelia Lavan, New Rochelle
Maxine Lawrence, Ossining
Leila Luvka, Somers
Jeff Mackler, Administrative Committee, United National AntiWar Committee
Kwame Madden, Peekskill
Ann Marwick, Yorktown Heights
Kathryn Mang-Haag, Kenmore
Larry McGovern, Dobbs Ferry
Nick Mottern, Hastings on Hudson
Dan M. Nalven, Ossining
Valerie Niederhoffer, Buffalo
Ardeshir and Ellie Ommani, Co-Founders, American-Iranian Friendship Committee, Armonk
Pepi Powell, Peekskill
Peg Rapp, Washington Heights Counter-recruitment, New York City
Ken Roberts, Yonkers
Joanne Robinson, Yonkers
Enrico Rodrigues, White Plains
Victoria Ross, Buffalo
Meredith Ryan, Mount Vernon
Lisa Savage, Brunswick, ME
Pat Sorbini, Buffalo
David Swanson, author of War is a Lie, Co-founder WarIsACrime.org, Washington, DC
Syracuse Peace Council
United National AntiWar Committee
Roland Van Deusen, Clayton
Rose Viviano, Syracuse
Bennett Weiss, Newburgh



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