The Empire Strikes Back: Attack of the Drones
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
– James Madison
Drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high. Once used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks on enemy insurgents abroad, these remotely piloted, semi-autonomous robots have now been authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace. The military empire is coming home to roost.
While there are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S., the Obama administration is calling for drone technology to be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. By 2020, just eight short years from now, it is estimated that at least 30,000 of these drones will be crisscrossing the nation’s skies, serving a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. The end result, however, will be the same: we will find ourselves operating under a new paradigm marked by round-the-clock surveillance and with little hope of real privacy, a paradigm foisted upon us and from which there will be no escape, short of living in a cave, far removed from the reach of modern technology. Caves, by the way, are rather scarce.
While the legislative vehicle for this rapid transition into a surveillance state came in the guise of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in February 2012, it was steamrollered into place after intense corporate lobbying by drone makers and potential customers hoping to capitalize on the $12 billion–$30 billion per year industry.
As with every egregious government policy, there are politicians who stand to make money off the implementation of drones in America. Fifty-five members of the House of Representatives are part of the drone caucus, which works to expand the use of drones domestically. So far this election season, 15 members of the caucus have received a total of $68,500 from General Atomics PAC, the political action committee of the drone manufacturer General Atomics. There is also a lobbying group with 507 corporate members spread across 55 countries, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, which is responsible for the language in the FAA bill that mandates the accelerated implementation of drone technology. Thus, our so-called representatives and the corporations which support them will make a great deal of money off the decimation of Americans’ privacy rights.
While the threat these drones pose to privacy is unprecedented, they are being unleashed on the American populace before any real protocols to protect our privacy rights have been put in place and in such a way as to completely alter the landscape of our lives and our freedoms. We are truly entering a new era. Once the realm of science fiction and dystopian literature, the all-seeing surveillance state, powered by the latest and greatest in robot technology, is the reality with which we must now contend.
Spinning Afghanistan, America’s longest war
According to a military whistleblower, army leaders are practising a deception on the US public about this unwinnable war
Eight youths, tending their flock of sheep in the snowy fields ofAfghanistan, were exterminated last week by a Nato airstrike. They were in the Najrab district of Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan. Most were reportedly between the ages of 6 and 14. They had sought shelter near a large boulder, and had built a fire to stay warm.
At first, Nato officials claimed they were armed men. The Afghan government condemned the bombing and released photos of some of the victims. By Wednesday, Nato offered, in a press release, “deep regret to the families and loved ones of several Afghan youths who died during an air engagement in Kapisa province Feb 8.”
Those eight killed were not that different in age from Lance Cpl Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, New Jersey. He was killed two days later, 10 February, while on duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. These nine young, wasted lives will be the latest footnote in the longest war in United States history, a war that is being perpetuated, according to one brave, whistleblowing US Army officer, through a “pattern of overt and substantive deception” by “many of America’s most senior military leaders in Afghanistan”.
Those are the words written by Lt Col Danny Davis in his 84-page report,“Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort” (pdf). A draft of that report, dated 27 January 2012, was obtained by Rolling Stone magazine. It has not been approved by the US Army public affairs office for release, even though Davis writes that its contents are not classified. He has submitted a classified version to members of Congress.