Tag Archives: drone

Investigate and Re-Investigate Drone Strikes… Or Stop Them Now

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The NYU School of Law sponsoreda panel discussion titled “Views from the Ground: Investigating US Drone Strikes on October 29, 2013. The GPB was there, and here’s what happened:

First, Robert Greenwald, director of the new documentary, “Unmanned: America’s Drone War,” introduced a clip from the film.

Unmanned-header

The clip vividly describes a drone strike on October 24th, 2012 in North Waziristan, a strike that killed Momina Bibi, while she was picking okra for dinner with her granddaughter Nabila. Momina Bibi’s son and grandson, Rafiq ur Rehman and Zubair ur Rehman joined Greenwald on the stage. They described the strike and the death, the heartache, the injuries, and the fear and hatred the strike has produced. Zubair ur Rehman who was injured in the strike is always scared now and is afraid to go outside.

Next, panelists from Amnesty International (Mustafa Qadri), the UN (Christof Heyns, download his report “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions”), Human Rights Watch (Letta Taylor), and the American Civil Liberties Union (Hina Shamsi) told us how their organizations are either gathering information about drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, or discussing what might and might not be legal in the killing department. At the end of their speeches during the question period, Phyllis Cunningham of the Granny Peace Brigade posed this question for each panelist. “Based on the evidence we now have, do you think that the US should stop completely its drone attacks, right now, right now?” Panel moderator Steve Coll gave an embarrassed little laugh and said, “Well that question is clear.”

You can’t say that for the answers. Not one of the panelists said yes! They didn’t answer no either. Letta Taylor of Human Rights Watch did say this: 1. Public opinion is not in favor of ending drone strikes and, 2. Public tolerance in the U.S. for deaths by terrorist attacks is zero, and she added that we need to rethink this. Then she said people in other countries die in large numbers in terrorist attacks. She didn’t follow the logic of this thread any farther. Where might rethinking take us?

We can shed some light on public fear of death by terror attack by looking at how we assess risk. Sudden, rare, out of control events like terror attacks or nuclear power plant meltdowns capture our imaginations. We drastically over-estimate risks from these events while underestimating risks of frequent occurrences like car accidents, toxic emissions from coal plants, accidental ingestion of illegal drugs or falling down the stairs.

Ms. Taylor did call attention to an issue we need to address: hysteria in the U.S. about terrorism. Who profits from this hysteria? Who encourages it? In order to stop drone strikes we need to change public opinion. It looks like we won’t be getting much help from any of these panelists. So it’s up to us. Let’s get to work.

In peace always,
– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

A Funny Thing Happened Outside the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference

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DARC – Lunchtime on the sidewalk: Attendees and staff step outside for a bit of fresh air. Nick Mottern of KnowDrones has a model drone. The GPB has flyers. Everybody has opinions. Many lively discussions ensue among demonstrators, conference attendees and staff. It’s times like these when I’m really sorry I have only one set of ears.* I keep hearing things like “Thank you for being here. You are raising issues that are important to us. We want these issues discussed.”

One attendee – let’s call him Joe – works on robotic safety, Trying to make sure the things do exactly what they are programmed to do with no nasty surprises. Okay, he knows perfectly well there’s more to safety than that, and he’s interested, but he has to go back to the conference. Another guy, a retired pilot – let’s call him John – works on pilot psychology. A drone pilot doesn’t have to be inside the thing to have psychology. Our pilot shrink is concerned about bringing soldiers home and back into society. These returning soldiers have been trained to kill to win. Many look for jobs with police forces and security agencies. John looks around at the nearby policemen and women. He says they are trained to defuse situations, not to kill.

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Police? What police? Well, of course. Yes, after asking us to leave (we don’t) the NYU security people call the police and another lively discussion ensues. There is a bit of confusion. DARC attendees have yellow and black badges. DARC staff wear yellow and black t-shirts. Grannies are wearing yellow and black tunics. It is kind of hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and at least one officer gets mixed up. Oh, he says, “Those aren’t demonstrators?” pointing to a couple of DARC staffers.

The discussion gets livelier. Must the demonstrators go or can we stay? This isn’t going well. Joe – remember him, the robotic safety guy – Joe materializes and records the increasingly irate cop on his cellphone.

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At the same time DARC staffers appear with bag lunches for the demonstrators. “This is a turkey sandwich. Are you a vegan?” asks the staffer handing me a lunch. The cops move the model drone away from the entrance. We stay. Later some of us will go to the conference. Yeah, they gave us passes.

Can we work with these people to ban all weaponized and surveillance drones?

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I sure hope so. At least with some of them.

– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

*Need more ears? Get a drone. But be careful what you wish for. They just might change the vibe.

Keep New York City Drone-Free — We Are Rolling

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…”* or maybe even New York City.

There we were with Ms. Gizmo at the “Power of Aging” Annual Health Festival.

2013_09_05health_fair(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

The day was brilliant, Thomas Jefferson Park was sparkling, and so was Joan’s Granny Peace Brigade button. City Council member and Manhattan Borough President candidate Jessica Lappin spotted Joan with her button in the busy park. “I am introducing the drone resolution,” she told Joan.

What drone resolution? The GPB as part of our “Keep New York City Drone-Free” campaign has sent a sample No-Drone Resolution to each member of City Council. Using our material for reference, Lappin asked the City Council legal staff to write drone-control legislation. Even when they are lawyers themselves, Council members may not write legislation. Staff lawyers do that, and have 30 days once a request is submitted. In October the drone-control legislation should be written and we can give it a big push (if we like what they write).

Stay tuned.

In peace always,
– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo: Edith Cresmer

*Margaret Mead

Marty And The Soldier Who Controlled Drones

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As I handed our drone leaflet to a quite handsome young man, he stopped and asked why were we against drones in New York City. I commented that we do not need that level of surveillance and the opportunity for misuse against peaceful demonstrations among other things could not be discounted. He said, but drones can save lives. They can spot bombs in a backpack on the street. Shouldn’t we want that kind of technology protecting us. I replied, that I didn’t think drones could do that. And he replied that he knew they could….so I asked him why.

2013_08_22marty_dronepilot(Click on photo for larger image.)

He commented that he had spent two tours in Afghanistan and had actually controlled drones as part of his assignment. He further commented that drones saved US lives there. He showed me the black bracelet he wore in honor of his colleague who had been killed there, he said saving his life. And, I thanked him for his service and was sorry about the loss of his colleagues.

The conversation shifted to the use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen and I referred to the deaths of thousands of civilians including children and women. He said he believed  these were justified casualties of war as terrorists were killed. He asked me, would I rather he be on the ground fighting, possibly dying, or those terrorists in one of those countries. I said I don’t want any more deaths among US soldiers or any others in any country. I asked him, who was profiting from these wars….not the soldiers, nor the American people who pay taxes, but the corporations that supply the weapons of war and continue to need wars to make such profits. He agreed to this, but felt that without the military terrorists would destroy our country. I commented that we do need a national military, but that there are other and better ways to protect ourselves. He then said, well, what about WWII….did I think that war was necessary to stop Hitler. And I said no,  that there had been many opportunities that might have stopped the events from unfolding as they did, but were not applied. At that point, I really didn’t want to go down that road, but rather wanted to introduce him to Nick but he just shook his head and said we disagreed and walked off. But he kept the leaflet.

I have to say that I was a bit upset afterwards, thinking what could I have suggested he read on these issues….and of course what more could have been said or what could have been said better. I wished I had Medea’s book on Drones with me to pull out (next time will have it in my bag).

-Marty Rajandran
Photo: Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Keep New York Free of Weaponized and Surveillance Drones — Resolution to City Council

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CALLING ALL NEW YORKERS

You’ve heard of U.S. military drones spying on and killing people overseas. That could happen here in our hometown, so let’s stop it before it starts. There is precedent. On March 18, 2013, in Seattle, Washington, Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to scrap plans it had to roll out drones, and instead to focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the city’s priority. In Charlottesville, Virginia a version of the resolution presented below, calling for a moratorium on drones in Charlottesville, was passed on February 4, 2013.

Let us join other cities and persuade our City Council to pass a resolution banning the use of weaponized and surveillance drones in New York City. The Granny Peace has spoken with a representative in every New York City Council Member’s office about the resolution. Most often we spoke with the legislative director. Next we sent this resolution to all New York City Council Representatives and also to a staff member.

Below is an Anti-Weaponized and Surveillance Drone Resolution written by David Swanson and modified for use in New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade. The original resolution was presented to the Charlottesville City Council in December 2012. It is clear that drones are here to stay. Only by constant vigilance and outcry will we be able to stop the use of drones in NYC for all but humanitarian reasons. A resolution such as this would be a good first step.

 

Keep New York City Free of Weaponized and Surveillance Drones

A Resolution by David Swanson
Modified for New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade

 

DRONES, OR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (UAV) are aircrafts without pilots. Some are operated by computers on board, others by a human being in another location. The human operator can be thousands of miles away.

 

WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, “air traffic controllers handle 50,000 flights a day;”

 

WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation; On March 4, 2013 an unidentified drone came within 200 feet of an Alitalia passenger plane preparing for landing at Kennedy airport.

 

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;

 

WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;

 

WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans on board;

 

WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;

 

WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;

 

WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;

 

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of New York City;

 

WHEREAS, the federal and New York State governments have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;

 

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

 

WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, “double-tap” strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental “friendly fire,” drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, and drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them.

 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New York City Council calls on the United States Congress and the New York State Legislature, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York City Council calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York City Council declares New York City a No Weaponized and Surveillance Drone Zone, and performs the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into Code wherein weaponized and surveillance drones are hereby banned from airspace over New York City, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person, private residence or group of persons or equipped with any weapon.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of New York.

For more information and to get involved, contact the Granny Peace Brigade grannypeace@gmail.com

Download the resolution
Keep New York City Free of Weaponized And Surveillance Drones