Tag Archives: Drones

Illinois Moves to Legalize Police Drone Surveillance of Public Gatherings

Chicago, IL – Although Illinois passed legislation in 2013 requiring police to attain a warrant before using drones for most surveillance purposes, legislation reportedly backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would eliminate that restriction and allow the government to monitor large gatherings, rallies and protests using drones.

The proposal— SB 2562— by state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) would allow Illinois police departments to use drones for any “legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

“I don’t want Chicago to be the next Las Vegas-style outdoor terrorist attack. But I also don’t want drones to be surveilling everyone’s every move,” Sandoval said Thursday. “This legislation clearly is limited to drone usage for providing safety.”

Sandoval claimed the proposal would limit police drone use to large public gatherings.

“An individual’s private event, on their own property, would not fall under the exception for law enforcement for the use of a drone,” Sandoval said. “The bill states that large scale events are events that take place at a sports or entertainment area, a stadium, a convention hall, a special event center, an amusement facility, or an event open to the public on government property.”

Despite Sandoval’s assertions, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has come out against the legislation, claiming that the change in law could allow for police to take pictures, record video, and even use facial recognition technology against peaceful protesters.

“Given Chicago’s history of surveillance against protestors and social justice advocates … the Chicago police should not be able to use this new, powerful tool to monitor protestors near silently and from above,” said Karen Sheley, the director of the ACLU Police Practices Project. “The legislation also ignores sweeping surveillance tools currently available to the police.”

Chicago police have a long history of surveillance of activists. Gizmodo reported that Mayor Emanual’s office objected to several additions suggested by the ACLU, including banning face recognition and banning weaponized drones. Additionally, Gizmodo noted that “the amendment includes no language barring drones from biometric data collection, nor does it include guidelines on how long such data is stored or who it’s shared with. Most troublingly, Sheley says the amendment opens a loophole that weakens the restrictions on drones equipped with weapons like tear gas or rubber bullets.”

“If this bill is passed, as drafted, during the next large scale political rally, drones could identify and list people protesting the Trump administration,” Sheley said. “The sight of drones overhead, collecting information, may deter people from protesting in a time when so many want to exercise their First Amendment rights….This is too much unchecked power to give to the police—in Chicago or anywhere.”

Reason reported that “the bill requires regular reporting of when police use drones and says any data collected must be deleted after 30 days unless it’s connected to a ‘criminal matter.’ It also forbids arming the drones with any sort of weapon, but only for this particular addition to the surveillance rules. Sheley worries that this new bill therefore creates a loophole that would allow police to arm drones for use in other circumstances.”

While drones can be an invaluable resource for law enforcement, critics are wary of agencies using them to monitor political activism. “The way it stands under this bill, if it’s passed, there’s a cheap tool to monitor First Amendment activity,” Sheley said, “and to collect information about who’s in the crowd and make lists of the people [attending].”

The Illinois Senate approved Sandoval’s drone rules, 36-2; the measure will now move to the House for a vote.

US Army Developing Drones With AI Targeting

The U.S. Army recently announced that it is working on developing unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, that will be capable of identifying and subsequently firing upon targets they select using artificial intelligence (AI). Once complete, the drones— which are currently controlled by humans— would decide who to kill with little to no human involvement, opening the door to mass killings with minimal accountability and transparency.

The project, titled “Automatic Targeting Recognition of Personnel and Vehicles from an Unmanned Aerial System Using Learning Algorithms,” would form partnerships with both private and public research institutions which will help develop image-based AI targeting systems. The end result is expected to be drones that use neural networks combined with AI in order to create a deadly aerial weapon that is capable of acting as judge, jury and executioner without human input.

While the use of armed drones has been a fixture of both covert and overt U.S. military action abroad, the Army’s description of the project forebodes the use of the deadly and controversial technology within the United States. It states that “one of the desired characteristics of the system is to use the flexibility afforded by the learning algorithms to allow for the quick adjustment of the target set or the taxonomy of the target set DRCI categories or classes. This could allow for the expansion of the system into a Homeland Security environment.”

Another implication is that technology companies involved in maintaining or creating the AI systems for the drones could result in such companies, as well as engineers and scientists involved in creating aspects of these systems, to be labeled valid military targets for their role in helping to build the machines. As The Conversation notes:

Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

In addition, the Department of Defense has reportedly been working on developing an AI system for identifying targets automatically that is set to be populated by massive data sets that include blogs, websites, and public social media posts such as those found on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This AI system will employ such data in order to carry out predictive actions, such as the predictive-policing AI system already developed by major Pentagon contractor Palantir.

The reported system, which is planned to be used to control the Pentagon’s increasing investments in robotic soldiers and tanks will also seek to “predict human responses to our actions.” As journalist Nafeez Ahmed has noted, the ultimate idea – as revealed by the Department of Defense’s own documents — is to identify potential targets, i.e,. persons of interest and their social connections, in real-time by using social media as “intelligence.” The Army’s upcoming work on automated drones will be just a part of this larger system which has global and unprecedented implications for the future of the U.S. military and its actions both domestically and abroad.

Federal Judge May Release New Documents Related to Obama’s Targeted Assassination Program

NEW YORK— On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon ordered the Obama Administration to hand over three documents related to the targeted assassination program for the court’s review and possible release to the public. The three documents relate to the law and policy that govern the controversial program.

Judge McMahon said she will give the government “time to vet opinions and orders for classification issues that might escape the notice of a reader of news media in which information that the Government considers to be classified routinely appears.”

The first document relates to the Presidential Policy Guidance, or PPG, “a classified record that sets out the law and policy that the government must follow when it carries out targeted killings,” according to the ACLU. President Obama issued the PPG in May 2013, but did not make the document public, instead only releasing some of its most general standards.

The ACLU writes:

“Those vague standards raise as many questions as they answer: When does an individual pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to the United States? How does the government decide when capture of a target is “feasible”? What informs the government’s determination that there is a “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed”? As the government has described it, the PPG answers these questions. And as we’ve argued to the court, the government has no right to withhold this kind of document — one that regulates government officials by providing substantive and procedural rules that govern their actions — from the public.”

The other two documents are reports from the Department of Defense which were submitted to Congress in 2014. The two reports detail the legal and policy standards of the PPG, as well as an assessment of groups that the U.S. government is waging war against. The reports also explain the legal differences between “associated forces,” “affiliates,” and “adherents” of al-Qaeda.

The ACLU was provided these documents in the past, albeit heavily redacted versions, and is now seeking to learn more about what the Obama Administration is hiding.

Without being able to read the standards by which the U.S. government is running their lethal program the public will remain in the dark. The public also deserves to know under which legal authority the U.S. government believes it is operating.

The ACLU states that Judge McMahon indicated that “a final decision would likely arrive in the next several months.”

Interestingly, McMahon has previously called out the federal government for creating acts of terrorism. In the case of the “Newburgh Four” terrorists, Judge McMahon wrote that the FBI “created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true.”

The ACLU has also been fighting to uncover new information related to the Presidential Kill List, also known as the disposition matrix. The Washington Post first reported on the disposition matrix in 2012:

“Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix.’

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

“Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.”

For the last four years, New York Times journalist Charlie Savage has waged a legal battle against the Obama administration, seeking to reveal the government’s legal justifications for assassinating terror suspects without a trial. Specifically, Savage sued the Obama administration in an attempt to obtain details about the murder of al-Qaeda affiliated cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and eventually found himself on the U.S. government’s radar under suspicion of terrorism.

On September 30, 2011, drones sent by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command flew into Yemen and bombed al-Awlaki and al-Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan. The case drew public criticism not only because al-Awlaki was an American citizen, but because several weeks after his death, another American drone killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman. He was also a U.S. citizen living in Yemen.

A 2014 ruling by Second Circuit court forced the release of a memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel. The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union fought for the release of 11 other OLC memos, but the court protected 10 of them from release. The Times and the ACLU appealed the decision, but a three-judge panel from the Second Circuit recently denied the release of the documents.

What this means is that the public continues to live in ignorance when it comes to understanding how the U.S. government is waging its War on Terror. The average U.S. citizen is likely unaware that the President operates a targeted assassination program and maintains a kill list. This is because the corporate media is doing their best to keep you in the dark.

However, we must remember that all truth eventually comes to light and the targeted drone assassination program and disposition matrix are no different. While the U.S. government would like to maintain a veil of secrecy over the American people— it is simply no longer feasible. The American people are waking up and with that new awareness tyrants will find it difficult to continue their march towards secrecy and control.

Officials: Pentagon Reduces Oversight on Drones

by Jason Ditz

For years, US drone strikes were the exclusive purview of the CIA, putting them in the realm of extrajudicial assassinations, and the shift toward the Pentagon running the show was initially seen as a significant step toward accountability and abiding by the laws of war.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Rather, some lawmakers as well as some CIA officials are warning that the transition has reduced what accountability there was, effectively eliminating Congressional scrutiny of individual strikes.

Congressional oversight of the drone war was limited even when the CIA was doing it, but it appears misplaced faith in the Pentagon to “do things different” had reduced a lot of the interest in keeping an eye on them, and unlike the CIA the military doesn’t have a legal requirement to disclose individual drone strikes to Congress.

From the military’s perspective, it makes sense. They argue the drone is no different from any other warplane, and they don’t have to give Congress an individual account of every other airstrike. Yet the drones are used differently, mostly for assassinations, and there is less resistance to using them than there would be for more expensive piloted aircraft.

The military sold their takeover of the program on the idea they’d be less secretive than the CIA, but it simply hasn’t borne out, and with the military blanketly denying virtually all civilian deaths in all airstrikes, and refusing to even say how often the drones were used.

Rights groups are urging Congress to try to revue the strikes, since the Pentagon claims Congress can always request more info, but so far most of the leadership doesn’t want to show a lack of confidence in the military.

Appeals Court Rules to Protect Memos on Obama’s Targeted Killings

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Obama administration can continue to conceal memos related to the individuals on a list of “suspected terrorists” who are targeted and killed by the United States.

The document, which was unsealed on Monday after a decision was reached last month, was handed down by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the memos by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The panel consisted of Judges Jon O. Newman, José A. Cabranes and Rosemary S. Pooler. They unanimously ruled that the U.S. government has the right to classify approximately 10 documents detailing targeted killing operations against non-American citizens outside of the U.S.

“We emphasize at the outset that the lawfulness of drone strikes is not at issue,” Judge Newman wrote. “This appeal, like the prior one, primarily concerns whether documents considering such lawfulness must be disclosed.”

[RELATED: Game of Drones: Majority of Americans Support Strikes, While Uninformed]

Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU, told the New York Times the union strongly disagrees with the idea that “crucial legal memos can lawfully be kept secret.”

“In a democracy, there should be no room for ‘secret law,’ and the courts should not play a role in perpetuating it,” Jaffer said. “The government should not be using lethal force based on standards that are explained only vaguely and on facts that are never published or independently reviewed.”

[RELATED: Leaked Documents Reveal Details about Obama’s Drone Program, U.S. ‘Assassination Complex’]

In October, a series of leaked documents gave insight into the inner workings of Obama’s drone program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The documents claimed that from January 2012 to February 2013, as a part of the campaign Operation Haymaker in Afghanistan, “U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people,” but only “35 were the intended targets.”

The documents also noted that during a five-month period of the same operation, “nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.”

While a FOIA lawsuit forced the Obama administration to reveal a secret memo in 2014 that authorized the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011, the new ruling makes it unlikely that the lawsuit will produce additional information.

In 2012, Ben Swann was the first journalist to question President Obama on the constitutionality of a “Presidential kill list” including the names of U.S. citizens. Swann pointed out that the list, which had included Anwar al-Awlaki, resulted in U.S. citizens being targeted without the right to a fair trial.


Russia ‘Intercepts’ American Drones Over Syria

SYRIA, October 7, 2015– In the last week, Russian fighter jets have reportedly closely shadowed American predator drones over Syria since the start of Russia’s air campaign last week. Two U.S. intelligence officials confirmed the uncomfortable encounter.

[pull_quote_center]“The first time it happened, we thought the Russians got lucky. Then it happened two more times,” said one official.[/pull_quote_center]

The officials claimed that the encounters took place over ISIS’ Raqqa headquarters, as well as on the Turkish-Syrian border near Korbani. The final encounter occurred in the northwest, near the city of Aleppo.

[RELATED: Russia Says ‘Volunteers’ Likely to Fight in Syria]

Intelligence officials said that drones were not stealth, and easy to spot on radar.

According to one official, although the Russian fighter jets did not attempt to shoot down any of the American drones, they instead flew “intercept tracks,” a term meaning that the Russians flew close enough to indicate their presence.

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia has been pouring troops and heavy military equipment into Syria.

“So we have seen a substantial military buildup by Russia in Syria, both in the air with the combat planes and air defense systems, but also an increasing number of ground troops,” he said. “In addition to that, they have deployed naval assets, a large number of naval assets close to the Syrian shores. And they continue to do so.”

On Tuesday, Stoltenberg expressed concern as he condemned Russia for violating Turkish airspace.

“We see the violation of the Turkish airspace becomes more important, more dangerous, because it happens in a context where we see more fighting, more Russian military presence in Syria,” said Stoltenberg.

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New Reports Claims U.S. Military Operating Two Drone Bases in Somalia

A controversial military unit is operating drone flights and other counterterrorism activities out of an airport in Kismayo, Somalia. Sources within the Somali government and African Union first confirmed the Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) activities to Foreign Policy.

JSOC was the subject of journalist Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars. The film outlines how the unit is involved in dangerous night raids in Afghanistan and other nations. Now the elite unit is being dragged into the middle of another scandal.

According to the sources there are as many as 40 U.S. military stationed in Kismayo. The drone flights flying out of Kismayo are said to be surveillance flights, as well as covert “intelligence” and “counterterrorism” operations. Foreign Policy also reports that “Unmanned armed and surveillance flights are said to originate from Camp Lemonnier in nearby Djibouti or from bases in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.”

Several officials within various governing bodies and institutions confirmed the allegations. According to Foreign Policy:

“Another regional official, Jubaland’s minister of planning, international cooperation, and humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Nur Iftin, also confirmed the existence of the U.S. outpost and the use of the runway for drones, as did a cabinet-level official in Mogadishu. Kenyan Brig. Gen. Daniel Bartonjo, the sector-level commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the multinational peace enforcement mission that has been battling al-Shabab since 2007, said that his troops have made gains against insurgents “with the help of the Americans who are here.” He made this comment in a June 19 briefing in Kismayo for Nicholas Kay, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Somalia, attended by this reporter.”

A second base is reportedly operation out of a former old War-era Air Force base in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Sources tell FP that between 30 and 40 military personnel are stationed in Baledogle Airfield military base. This unit is also reportedly conducting surveillance and counterterrorism operations using drone aircraft.

Foreign Policy also outlines the role the Central Intelligence Agency has played in training Somali soldiers. The CIA previously trained and equipped a secret Somali military unit known  as the Gaashaan, or “Shield.” However, FP has revealed that U.S. contractors are also training another secret unit known as the Danab, or “Lightning”. An official with the U.S. told FP that they have trained around 450 Danab troops.  Despite the admission from a U.S. official, military contractor Bancroft Global Development denies having any contracts with the U.S., stating that their role was simply to train soldiers.

Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), did confirm that a “small number” of U.S. personnel with AFRICOM are special operations forces, but would not comment on the size or location of their units. Prichard would not confirm the use of drone aircraft.

“While we cannot provide exact details because of operational security issues, we can tell you [U.S. AFRICOM] has sent a limited number of trainers and advisors plus a small military coordination cell to support AMISOM and Somali security forces in international efforts to stabilize Somali,” Prichard wrote in an email to Foreign Policy.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2007 and 2011 U.S. forces launched at least nine missile strikes or helicopter raids on terrorist targets. Since 2011 another 8 to 12 strikes have been confirmed.

The existence of a drone airbase in a country half way around the world should not come as a surprise to Americans. Currently the U.S. military operates bases in countries around the world. The existence of these two bases in Somalia is yet another reminder that the American taxpayer is funding wars and violence around the world without any accountability or transparency.

Is this what you want to pay for? A government that operates in secret and funnels your taxes to private projects in sovereign nations that have nothing to do with maintaining national security or freedom? We can do better than this. We deserve better than this.



Australian Government May Soon Use Armed Drones from the U.S.

An Australian Senate committee has approved the purchase of armed drones drones from the United States.

The Senate Foreign Affairs released a report calling on Australia’s Department of Defence to make sure armed unmanned vehicles are only operated by Australian military.

News Australia writes:

“In the report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade committee said the coming Force Structure Review was likely to contain an option for the acquisition of unmanned platforms capable of carrying weapons.”

A policy statement governing the deployment of armed unmanned platforms should be clearly articulated by the Australian government,” it said.”

The report says the drones may be used only in accordance with “Australia’s international legal obligations.” Australia already operates drones for surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defence said armed drones are an inevitably for the nation.  Defence did acknowledge moral and ethical questions regarding drones and other autonomous weapons systems.

The purchase of drone aircraft from the U.S. has been expected since at least February of 2015, when Darren Chester, Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, said “It would be remiss of Australia not to continue to develop our knowledge of this technology to ensure we are able to gain the greatest benefit from unmanned aerial systems and the best protection for our troops on future operations.”

Currently Britain is the only nation flying armed U.S. drones. It would appear that Australia will become number two as the United States continues to export weapons of war and murder.

The announcement from Australia comes as forty-four veterans of the United States Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines have launched a campaign calling on drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance and attack missions. The veterans are working with KnowDrones.com to distribute a letter and airing a 15-second television commercial as part of the “Refuse to Fly” initiative.

The use of armed drones by Britain and Australia should not be a surprise, however. The two nations are walking nearly identical paths towards tyrannical government and a mass surveillance state.

Veterans Call on Drone Operators to “Refuse to Fly”

Forty-four veterans of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines have launched a campaign calling on drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance and attack missions. The veterans are working with KnowDrones.com to distribute a letter and airing a 15-second television commercial as part of the “Refuse to Fly” initiative.

The commercial has aired on CNN, FoxNews, MNBC and other networks in areas near drone intelligence and control centers, including Las Vegas near Creech Air Force Base, in northern California near Beale AFB, upstate New York near Hancock Air National Guard base outside Syracuse and the Air Guard base near Niagara Falls. The paid ads were partially covered by members of Veterans for Peace.

The 44 veterans who signed the letter are calling on “United States drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/ assassination missions.  These missions profoundly violate domestic and international laws intended to protect individuals’ rights to life, privacy and due process.”

Some of the veterans include former U.S. Army Captain and CIA official Ray McGovern; former U.S. Navy Lt. Barry Ladendorf, president of Veterans for Peace; and former U.S. Army Sgts. Aaron Hughes and Maggie Martin, co-directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Regarding the legality of refusing military orders, the group says drone operators are legally allowed to refuse the orders.

 “Those involved in United States drone operations who refuse to participate in drone missions will be acting in accordance with Principle IV of the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Judgment of the Tribunal, The United Nations 1950,” that states:

 “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him of responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible.”

Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, says the organizers feel “it is perfectly legitimate to advise military people to stop taking part in illegal activity that has killed thousands without due process, is terrorizing thousands more and is wracking their own ranks with moral injury and PTSD.”

In response to the letter and campaign, an Air Force spokesman said drone pilots are acting within the law when flying missions.

Our remotely piloted aircraft operators perform a critically important mission that contributes significantly to national defense,” Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email to Military Times. “They are professional and comply with applicable law, policies, and adhere to very exacting procedures.”

Lt. Col Karns also questioned the 6,000 deaths being touted by KnowDrones.com. It is difficult to know exactly how many civilians have been killed under the U.S. drone program since official numbers are not recorded, however Senator Lindsey Graham estimated that 4,700 people have been killed.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the CIA carried out 27  drone strikes in Pakistan during 2013, and 38 in Yemen, including the now infamous attack on December 12, 2013 that killed 15 people at a wedding. TBIJ estimates over 2,400 deaths in the first 5 years of the Obama administration.

In March 2014 TruthInMedia reported that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights called upon the United States and other responsible governments to publicly investigate civilian deaths at the hands of drones.

In September 2014 TruthInMedia also spoke with Heather Linebaugh about her experience with United States Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. Linebaugh worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program in Iraq and Afghanistan. Linebaugh is suffering from PTSD and works to promote natural treatments such as Cannabis, Yoga, and meditation.

TX GOP Congressman Introduces Bill to Ban Weaponized Drone Use on US Soil

Last month, Texas Republican Congressman Michael Burgess introduced the No Armed Drones Act, a bill that would “amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to establish prohibitions to prevent the use of an unmanned aircraft system as a weapon while operating in the national airspace system.”

Burgess described his intention behind the bill in a comment on his Facebook page, which said, “Arming a surveillance drone for day-to-day domestic law enforcement is blatantly an over-the-top show of force. Rest-assured, I will continue fighting to ensure that, before the FAA approves a single drone for local policing or our federal agencies create a surveillance state full of citizens who constantly look over their shoulders, we as a nation have the opportunity to choose liberty in this dynamic age of innovation.”

Congressman Burgess called for the bill’s passage in an op-ed in The Daily Caller, noting the fact that “local police agencies across the country are increasingly requesting FAA approval to deploy drones.” He continued, “Most could have reasonable intentions, but some departments are seeking to arm drones with tear gas, rubber bullets, and other riot control-like projectiles… The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is entertaining the idea of deploying drones with drug sensing capabilities. Meanwhile, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directly contradicts their own mission statement by carrying out drone strikes abroad.”

Burgess referred to the matter as a “constitutional issue, not a partisan one” and said, “Our founders laid the foundation for a society where the use of military tactics by agents of our justice system really has no place. In that context, I believe that free citizens are innocent unless proven guilty, and that they aren’t to be treated as suspects, or terrorists, while going about their everyday lives.”

The No Armed Drones Act would allow the Secretary of Transportation to establish exceptions to the ban on armed drones for recreational hunting, animal control, and national security purposes.

Game of Drones: Majority of Americans Support Strikes, While Uninformed

Washington D.C.- Support for American drone strikes overseas has grown to over 60% according to a new AP-/FK poll. A majority of Americans believe that the use of drones overseas to eliminate or kill terror targets is not only a good use of technology, but also serves to protect our men and women in uniform. The poll found that six in ten Americans favored using drones “to target and kill people belonging to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda overseas,” with only 13 percent opposed and 24 percent neutral. Support among Democrats was at 60 percent and reached 72 percent among Republicans.

According the same poll, fewer Americans support those same strikes when they are asked if innocent Americans could be killed during a strike. 43% of those polled say that American casualties are “unacceptable”.

“Americans are programmed to think they are better than everyone else,” Marjorie Cohn, Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson University told Ben Swann. Cohen noted that mainstream media does not show the results of drone strikes, making it easy for the public to believe they are precise, clinical and don’t cause civilian casualties.


Interestingly, the AP/GFK poll did not ask respondents about the use of drones when there are foreign civilian casualties. Nor did it ask respondents about whether they support the use of drones even if it creates “blowback” or retaliation for innocent people killed.

Deputy chief minister of Pakistan's Nort

“Americans are told, ‘We’re getting the bad guys, no Americans are getting killed, so naturally they are going to support [drone strikes],” Cohn said. “They don’t realize that less than 2 percent of people killed by drone strikes are high-level Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and that nearly a quarter of those killed are civilians. That makes people in other countries resent us even more. It makes us even more vulnerable to terrorism.”

Watch Ben Swann’s Full Interview With Marjorie Cohn Here:

Obama Admits January Drone Strikes Killed US Hostage, 2 American Terror Suspects

At a Thursday press conference, seen in the above-embedded video provided by The Washington Examiner, President Obama admitted and expressed regret that United States drone strikes, conducted in January of this year, accidentally killed two al-Qaeda hostages, 73-year-old American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto. The strikes also reportedly killed two American terror suspects, Adam Gadahn, who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list, and Ahmed Farouq.

Said President Obama about the deaths of the hostages, “I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the US government I offer my deepest apologies to the families… As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement cited by MSNBC, “Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qaeda hostage since 2012. Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages… The operation targeted an al-Qaeda-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”

According to CNN, Warren Weinstein, who appeared as a captive in a 2013 al-Qaeda video in which he begged Obama for help, was captured by al-Qaeda in 2011 in Pakistan where he had been working with the United States Agency for International Development. He had previously worked with the Peace Corps.

Elaine Weinstein, Warren’s wife, called the US government’s efforts to save her husband “inconsistent and disappointing” but placed blame for her husband’s death on Pakistan’s government and his captors. Said Elaine Weinstein, “The cowardly actions of those who took Warren captive and ultimately to the place and time of his death are not in keeping with Islam and they will have to face their God to answer for their actions… I am disappointed in the government and military in Pakistan. Warren’s safe return should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country, but they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these.”

The White House indicated that neither of the American terror suspects that were killed in the drone strikes were intentional targets. Adam Gadahn had been accused of becoming a chief propagandist for al-Qaeda after leaving the US in 1998. Ahmed Farouq was allegedly the leader of a new Indian al-Qaeda offshoot.

Back in 2011, three Americans, Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were killed in US drone strikes overseas.

The Rise of Killer Robots?

Robotics is the most important innovation in warfare since the invention of the long bow, and may threaten the future of the human race. That is the claim being made by liberal commentator ‘Lionel’ of Lionel Media.

In the interview above, Lionel claims that by further allowing for soldiers and political leaders to be removed from those they are killing, devices with “supervised autonomy” and artificial intelligence can lead to a dangerous escalation in violence that may be impossible to restrain once a critical point is reached.

IG Report: ATF Scraps Drone Program After Wasting $600K on Broken Drones

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, referred to colloquially as the ATF, is a prohibition-era law enforcement division charged with investigating crimes related to the trade of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives, despite the fact that three of those categories now pertain to clearly-legal products. According to a report by the Department of Justice‘s inspector general, the ATF took cues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency and attempted to get in on the surveillance-of-US-citizens business, but gave up after the drones it ordered from contractors at a cost of $600,000 failed to meet advertised technical capabilities, rendering them useless for surveillance missions.

The inspector general’s report stated, “ATF officials told us that they acquired these [unmanned aircraft systems] to provide video surveillance that could integrate with other surveillance platforms and equipment already in use… ATF officials reported that ATF never flew its UAS in support of its operations because TOB testing and pilot training revealed a series of technological limitations with the UAS models it had acquired. In particular, ATF determined the real-time battery capability for one UAS model lasted for only about 20 minutes even though the manufacturer specified its flight time was 45 minutes. ATF determined that the other two models of UAS acquired also were unreliable or unsuitable for surveillance. One UAS program manager told us ATF found that one of its smaller UAS models, which cost nearly $90,000, was too difficult to use reliably in operations. Furthermore, the TOB discovered that a gas-powered UAS model, which cost approximately $315,000 and was specified to fly for up to 2 hours, was never operable due to multiple technical defects.”

The Washington Times notes that the drone program was subsequently scrapped. However, this did not stop the ATF from spending $15,000 more on five additional drones following the cancellation of the program. Those drones were used “to conduct one brief UAS flight in July 2014 to document the aftermath of a Louisiana apartment fire that resulted in the deaths of three residents” before “[ATF officials] became aware that they were required to obtain an FAA COA before operating UAS” leading them to ground “their UAS until they obtained further clarification and guidance on deployment requirements.” The inspector general said that “[ATF] should have communicated its decision to suspend UAS activities across the entire agency” to avoid wasting the additional $15,000 on five more useless drones.

The inspector general concluded, “Although the OIG did not specifically audit ATF’s UAS contracts, we are troubled that the process ATF used to purchase these UAS resulted in ATF spending approximately $600,000 on UAS models it ultimately determined to have significant mechanical and technical problems that rendered them unsuitable to deploy in support of ATF operations. Therefore, we recommend that ATF direct responsible officials to perform a thorough needs analysis regarding the potential UAS capabilities it requires that ensures the best approaches to procure UAS prior to restarting future UAS acquisition activity.”

The report also pointed out the fact that the FBI has used drones in 13 different missions so far, “including search-and-rescue operations, kidnappings, fugitive manhunts, national security missions and anti-drug trafficking interdictions.”

After Fall of Yemen, US Officials Fear Terrorists Have Seized $500 Million in US-Donated Weapons

For years, the US has engaged in a counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen involving aggressive drone strikes and the donation of over $500 million in weapons and equipment to Yemen’s US-backed government. However, these moves aimed at defeating al-Qaeda in Yemen have produced an array of unintended consequences, which appear to be spiraling out of control.

First, local anxiety over US drone strikes led to a January 2015 uprising by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen’s government suddenly, taking US officials by surprise. The fall of Yemen has been compared to ISIS’ taking of Mosul in that, in both cases, US-trained-and-funded soldiers refused to fight as rebels launched their attacks. Additionally, al-Qaeda has reportedly seized some of the collapsed Yemeni government’s bases. In February, the US closed its embassy in Yemen, and rebels stole vehicles that were left behind during the evacuation.

Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, Pentagon officials recently admitted that they have lost track of the over $500 million in military assistance that the US has given to Yemen’s failed government. The lost equipment includes M-16 and M-4 rifles, over a million rounds of ammo, Glock pistols, night vision goggles, drones, helicopters, surveillance aircraft, and patrol boats. US officials planned to send $125 million in additional aid, including ScanEagle drones, but instead redirected the shipments to other Middle Eastern and African nations following Yemen’s collapse.

An anonymous legislative aid told The Washington Post, “We have to assume [the weapons are] completely compromised and gone.” Though Pentagon officials say that there is no specific evidence demonstrating that al-Qaeda or Houthi rebels have obtained the US-donated weapons and equipment, the Department of Defense has admitted that it has lost track of the items. Given the fact that both al-Qaeda and the Houthi rebels have seized many Yemeni bases, the prevailing logic in Washington DC is that the shipments have likely been claimed by the anti-US groups.

In 2014, President Barack Obama pointed to his counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen as an example of a War on Terror foreign policy success story. “The administration really wanted to stick with this narrative that Yemen was different from Iraq, that we were going to do it with fewer people, that we were going to do it on the cheap,” said Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

Will Obama’s Plan To Sell Drones To “Allies” Backfire?

Washington D.C.- The State Department has announced a new policy change that will allow for the sale of weaponized drones to allied nations, but the consequences are far from clear considering recent events and regime changes in the Middle East.

In the video above, Ben Swann speaks with Amos Guiora, Professor of Law at the University of Utah, about what this policy could mean for American security and international relations.

Life Under Obama’s Drones

No matter your opinion on the use of drones, the idea of living under constant fear of drones has to be a terrifying thing.

President Barack Obama launched his first drone strike on Jan. 23, 2009.

Since then, US drones have killed more than 2,400 people in strikes targeting markets, homes, funerals and even weddings, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based nonprofit. Between 2004 and 2013, drone strikes killed an estimated 2,525 to 3,613 people.

Obama has constantly defended his use of drones, calling them legal, effective and that they have saved American lives. But on the flip side, he said the civilian casualties would “haunt” him for the rest of his life, but that he needed to weigh the loss of civilian lives against the threat to life posed by terrorists.

In a story on Salon.com, people from Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia share their traumatic stories of life with drones.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies,” 

From Salon.com:

Zubair Rehman

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies,” Zubair, a 13-year-old boy from North Waziristan, Pakistan, said in a testimony before Congress in October 2013. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray … When the sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear. It’s something that a 2-year-old would know  … We hear the noise 24 hours a day.”

Zubair’s grandmother was killed by a drone strike on Oct. 24, 2012, as she was picking okra in a field. He testified together with his father and 9-year-old sister.

Aziz Mabkhut al-Amri

“As we were driving to the site, I felt myself going deeper and deeper into darkness,” said Aziz. His brother Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri’s wedding in Rada’a, Yemen in December 2013 made headlines when four hellfire missiles struck it. “That is the feeling of a person who sees his brothers, cousins, relatives and friends dead by one strike, without reason.”

In 2012, Ben Swann asked President Obama about the infamous “kill list,” the list of people targeted for assassination. Though Obama claimed that Americans would not be the target of indefinite detention, Swann reminded the president that an American citizen in fact was on the list and  was killed by a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone.

Watch Ben Swann’s interview below.


AG Nominee Loretta Lynch Opposes Legal Pot, Ducks Question on Drone Strikes on US Soil

On January 28, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a part of her confirmation hearing. She has been tapped by President Obama to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. Though the Republican-controlled Senate has the power to confirm or deny her nomination, senators typically show extraordinary leniency in approving presidential appointees. Politico notes that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has threatened to block her nomination, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will go forward with the vote to confirm Lynch. During her testimony, she gave answers that seemed to contradict the Obama administration’s positions on marijuana legalization and also dodged a question on whether the president has the power to carry out a lethal drone strike on American soil against a US citizen that poses no imminent threat.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who is set to step down as soon as his replacement has been confirmed by the Senate, has taken a decidedly hands-off approach to enforcing marijuana prohibition on states that have taken steps to legalize it for recreational or medical use. NPR notes that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch if she shares President Obama’s views on marijuana, characterizing his position with a quote from the President in which he said to the The New Yorker, “I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Lynch, a prosecutor, took a hardcore prohibitionist’s stance in contrast with President Obama and Eric Holder, signaling that she might crack down on pot as attorney general. Said Lynch, “Well, Senator, I certainly don’t hold that view, and don’t agree with that view of marijuana as a substance. I certainly think that the president was speaking from his personal experience and personal opinion — neither of which I am able to share.” She continued, “Not only do I not support legalization of marijuana — it is not the position of the Department of Justice, currently, to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.” According to The Los Angeles Times, she said, “I will continue to enforce the marijuana laws, particularly with respect to the money-laundering aspect to it.”

Breitbart highlighted an exchange that took place between Senator Ted Cruz and Loretta Lynch in which the two clashed over the use of drone strikes on US soil against American citizens. Said Cruz, “In your legal judgment, is it constitutional for the federal government to utilize a drone strike against an American citizen on US soil if that individual does not pose an imminent threat?”

Despite the fact that Cruz qualified the question by pointing out the fact that the hypothetical drone strike target does not pose an imminent threat, Lynch replied that she would need more information to determine whether the use of lethal force would be constitutional. Said Lynch, “Well, Senator, I think with respect to the use of lethal force by any means one would always want to look at the law enforcement issues involved there, and, certainly, if you could provide more context there, I could place it in the scope of either a case or an issue that I might have familiarity with.”

After Senator Cruz made several failed attempts to get Lynch’s legal opinion on lethal drone strikes on US soil by rephrasing his question, he said, “I am disappointed that, like Attorney General Holder, you are declining to give a simple, straight-forward answer and, in fact, what I think is the obvious answer of no — the federal government can not use lethal force from a drone to kill an American citizen on American soil if that individual doesn’t pose an imminent threat. I don’t view that as a difficult legal question.”

On the subject of marijuana legalization, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode last September which took on the federal government’s mixed messages on cannabis prohibition. Watch it in the embedded player below.

Media Using Obama Admin. Deceptive Definition To Describe “Militants” Killed By Drone Strike

A new report from Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept accuses U.S. media organizations of using the word “militant” to describe any adult age male killed by drone strike.

Meanwhile, the US media is treating President Barack Obama similar to how they treated George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War, according to former MSNBC host Phil Donahue.

The veteran journalist who was fired for speaking out against the US invasion in 2003 spoke to RT’s Thom Hartmann on Tuesday, explaining how corporate media is whitewashing the current administration’s drone program and drowning out anyone who dears dissent on a variety of issues.