One of the oldest and most storied traditions of the Senate made a sudden return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday when a junior senator seized control of the chamber with an hours-long filibuster involving rambling speeches aimed at blocking a vote on President Obama’s choice to lead the CIA.
Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with help from other junior senators, the filibuster was aimed at drawing attention to deep concern on both sides of the aisle about the administration’s use of unmanned aerial drones in its fight against terrorists and whether the government would ever use them in the United States.
Shortly before noon, Paul — the scion of a political family at the heart of the libertarian movement — came to the Senate floor and declared his opposition to the nomination of John O. Brennan, Obama’s choice to lead the spy agency, who has overseen the drone program.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said as he began. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a nationwide campaign to assess police militarization in the United States. Starting Wednesday, ACLU affiliates in 23 states are sending open records requests to hundreds of state and local police agencies requesting information about their SWAT teams, such as how often and for what reasons they’re deployed, what types of weapons they use, how often citizens are injured during SWAT raids, and how they’re funded. More affiliates may join the effort in the coming weeks.
Additionally, the affiliates will ask for information about drones, GPS tracking devices, how much military equipment the police agencies have obtained through programs run through the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, and how often and for what purpose state National Guards are participating in enforcement of drug laws.
“We’ve known for a while now that American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice, which is coordinating the investigation. “The aim of this investigation is to find out just how pervasive this is, and to what extent federal funding is incentivizing this trend.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.
The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department’s unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States’ northern and southern borders but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.
Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s requirements for its drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements that provides additional information about the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities.
Homeland Security’s Predator B drone can stay aloft conducting surveillance for 20 hours.(Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
Concern about domestic use of drones is growing, with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish legal safeguards, in addition to parallel efforts underway from state and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administration recently said that it will “address privacy-related data collection” by drones.
The prospect of identifying armed Americans concerns Second Amendment advocates, who say that technology billed as securing the United States’ land and maritime borders should not be used domestically. Michael Kostelnik, the Homeland Security official who created the program, told Congress that the drone fleet would be available to “respond to emergency missions across the country,” and a Predator drone was dispatched to the tiny town of Lakota, N.D., to aid local police in a dispute that began with reimbursement for feeding six cows. The defendant, arrested with the help of Predator surveillance, lost a preliminary bid to dismiss the charges.
“I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” says Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”
Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency declined to answer questions about whether direction-finding technology is currently in use on its drone fleet. A representative provided CNET with a statement about the agency’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that said signals interception capability is not currently used:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not deploying signals interception capabilities on its UAS fleet. Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long-standing law enforcement practices.CBP’s UAS program is a vital border security asset. Equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and day-and-night cameras, the UAS provides real-time images to frontline agents to more effectively and efficiently secure the nation’s borders. As a force multiplier, the UAS operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain. The UAS also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations.
During his appearance before the House Homeland Security committee, Kostelnik, a retired Air Force major general who recently left the agency, testified that the drones’ direction-finding ability is part of a set of “DOD capabilities that are being tested or adopted by CBP to enhance UAS performance for homeland security.” CBP currently has 10 Predator drones and is considering buying up to 14 more.
If the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But their use domestically by other government agencies has become routine enough — and expensive enough — that Homeland Security’s inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign agreements “for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling mission requests.”
“The documents clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground,” says Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This allows for invasive surveillance, including potential communications surveillance, that could run afoul of federal privacy laws.”
A Homeland Security official, who did not want to be identified by name, said the drones are able to identify whether movement on the ground comes from a human or an animal, but that they do not perform facial recognition. The official also said that because the unarmed drones have a long anticipated life span, the department tries to plan ahead for future uses to support its border security mission, and that aerial surveillance would comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other applicable federal laws.
The documents show that CBP specified that the “tracking accuracy should be sufficient to allow target designation,” and the agency notes on its Web site that its Predator B series is capable of “targeting and weapons delivery” (the military version carries multiple 100-pound Hellfire missiles). CBP says, however, that its Predator aircraft are unarmed.
Gene Hoffman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said CBP “needs to be very careful with attempts to identify armed individuals in the border area” when aerial surveillance touches on a constitutional right.
“In the border area of California and Arizona, it may be actively dangerous for the law-abiding to not carry firearms precisely due to the illegal flow of drugs and immigrants across the border in those areas,” Hoffman says.
CBP’s specifications say that signals interception and direction-finding technology must work from 30MHz to 3GHz in the radio spectrum. That sweeps in the GSM and CDMA frequencies used by mobile phones, which are in the 300MHz to 2.7GHz range, as well as many two-way radios.
The specifications say: “The system shall provide automatic and manual DF of multiple signals simultaneously. Automatic DF should be able to separate out individual communication links.” Automated direction-finding for cell phones has become an off-the-shelf technology: one company sells a unit that its literature says is “capable of taking the bearing of every mobile phone active in a channel.”
Although CBP’s unmanned Predator aircraft are commonly called drones, they’re remotely piloted by FAA-licensed operators on the ground. They can fly for up to 20 hours and carry a payload of about 500 lbs
It’s no use hoping a chilling video of drones being developed by the US is a hoax, as made-up tech tends to come true anyway…
all me a pessimist, but every now and then I see something and think: “Yes, well, there’s something that’s inexorably destined to kill me and my family and everyone I’ve ever met or glimpsed or thought about, in wretched, shrieking, unimaginable and horrendously protracted agony.”
Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t happen that often: every few days at the most. But it happened this afternoon when I clicked “play” on a CGI demonstration of some new technology the US air force is reportedly working on right now. Before anyone tries to deport me, I hadn’t hacked into some Pentagon server to see it; I was reading an article on the Atlantic. Lower those stun pistols.
The video depicted the future of UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles, or computer-controlled drones to you and me. Drones are already used to kill people in industrial quantities in Pakistan of course. For a sobering assessment of just how far advanced the war of the machines is getting, check out the Wikipedia page called “List of drone strikes in Pakistan“. It’s a directory of robot attacks with a lot of dead children in it. Accurate or not, it’s much harder to chortle about the rise of the Terminators after you’ve scrolled through it.
A fairly desperate list of al-Qaida’s drone defence measures was uncovered last week: evasion techniques mainly included running in and out of doors and spreading broken glass on the roof so the glint would confuse its sensors. This already has the feel of a desperate human fightback against a merciless robot army, like the sort of methods an Amazonian tribe might resort to when battling Cybermen in an as-yet unwritten episode of Doctor Who.
Most of the flying robots carrying out those kill missions are eerie, windowless airborne hulks bristling with Hellfire missiles. Enormous winged battledicks. They’re frightening, but visually silly somehow, which adds to the obscenity of it all. The smaller drones in the video I watched look sillier still, but potentially more deadly. Compared with the current models flying over Pakistan, they have fearsome advantages of stealth, agility – and sheer number. Because there were swarms of the things.
Some were the size of pigeons. In fact, they actively disguised themselves as pigeons: they landed on overhead phonelines and folded their wings around themselves so the folk down below wouldn’t get too suspicious. Then they hovered around gathering surveillance information. At one point the video shows a company of multiple “bugbots”, each the size of a Milky Way bar, spreading out to wirelessly compile a good overall view of an apparently hostile city. Then one of them sneaks past a guard, swoops down a corridor, flies through a doorway and shoots a bad guy in the head.
The only thing currently holding this stuff back is battery technology, although they’re reportedly already working on ways to let the flying deathbots leach power from electricity cables to recharge themselves mid-mission.
See? Precisely the sort of thing that’ll definitely kill us all. Never mind North Korean nuclear tests: what happens when they launch a billion-strong regiment of robotic sparrows with buzzsaws for beaks in our direction? I know, I know, it’s not how you pictured yourself dying – but that’s what’s going to happen. Sorry to break it to you on a cold Sunday night, but forewarned is forearmed. Not that you’re actually forearmed in any real sense. No. You’re helpless to stop it. Sorry about that, too.
Because the video was accompanying a new story, I assumed it was new. But a few hours later, while trying to show it to someone I wanted to profoundly depress for a laugh, I discovered the same footage had also been uploaded to YouTube in 2009, prompting me to wonder if it was a hoax, or perhaps just a cutscene from a video game lifted out of context. That gave me a glimmer of hope, which was immediately extinguished when I recalled my own experiences with making up things of a technological nature: they almost invariably come true, quicker than you think. A fortnight ago, Channel 4 broadcast a fanciful drama I’d written in which a young widow communicates with a piece of AI software that mimics her dead husband by trawling his social networking past and emulating his personality. No sooner had the credits rolled than people were pointing me in the direction of a company claiming to offer that very service. Turns out I needn’t have bothered writing a script. I could’ve just typed out the URL and asked them to televise that instead.
With that in mind, my new rule is that if you can picture something on the cusp of plausibility, it’ll definitely be real by Christmas. Given that the bugbot video is at least three years old, I’d be flabbergasted if there isn’t a production line silently screwing the wings on to a miniature death squadron in some Nevadan hangar right now. A tit-for-tat war of the minibots will unfold and come 2036 or so, it’s death by buzzbird for the lot of us. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to spread broken glass on the roof and run in and out of some doors.
Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama’s former press secretary, says that he was once instructed by the White House not to acknowledge the administration’s use of drones.
“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program,” Gibbs said on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes” on Sunday. “You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”
Or, to paraphrase an oft-quoted line from David Fincher’s 1999 film “Fight Club“: The first rule of the drone program is you do not talk about the drone program.
Gibbs, who was recently hired by MSNBC as a contributor, called the proposition “inherently crazy.”
“You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists,” Gibbs, who served as White House press secretary from 2009 to 2011, said. “So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program—pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
Obama’s former spokesman said that while the administration has recently expressed the need to be more transparent about its use of drones, certain aspects of that program are “highly sensitive” and will likely remain secret.
“I have not talked to him about this, so I want to be careful,” Gibbs said, “but I think what the president has seen is, our denial of the existence of the program when it’s obviously happening undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”
WAR ON MALI; EU Army Sending 500 Troops From 16 EU Countries To Mali For 15 Months ‘Training’, Armed Austerity
EU Army troops from 16 EU countries, plus Norway, are being sent to Mali to “train” Mali troops who have already been trained for years by the US and France. My guess is this 500 troop number will greatly expand in the coming months.
See my previous EU Armed Austerity article projecting more military interventions by the EU Army… because that’s what they said they would do. This will be like an EU cancer spreading across Africa, with the help of US drones.
2013.2.19 ‘EU Troops Seek To Break Mali Into Pieces’ (Interviews Douglas De Groot) (PressTV, youtube.com):
An analyst sees EU troop presence in Mali as a danger and a potential catalyst for a Western-style military intervention or even a partition of the country.
In the background of this the European Union has joined the French war in Mali with the formal approval for deployment of 500 troops. Thousands of French troops are already intervening in Mali to reign in armed militants that are trying to take over the northern part of the country and risk spillover into other countries most notably Algeria. No reason has been put forward as to why these 500 extra troops from the EU are needed or what they can do that the French cannot.
Press TV has interviewed Douglas De Groot from the Executive Intelligence Review, Washington about this issue.
DRONE WARS & INTERNET FASCISM; Panetta Announces Pentagon’s New Medal For Drone Warfare & Cyber Warfare
This new “Distinguished Warfare Medal” outranks the Bronze Star, so it’s clear which direction they are heading… drone wars and internet fascism.
2013.2.14 Pentagon Creates Special Medal For Drone Pilots (RT, youtube.com):
Soon receiving military honors might be as easy as adjusting a joystick. The Pentagon is reportedly readying a new award, the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which could be presented to any of the men and women of the US military who control unmanned aerial vehicles, sometimes from thousands of miles away. Additionally, the troops that are involved in America’s covert cyberwars would also be eligible to receive the honors.
RT’s Liz Wahl has more on the medal.
2013.2.14 Medal Of Droner; Pentagon Award For Deadly Joystick Warriors (RT, youtube.com):
They may be known as the faceless killers of modern warfare, but it seems the US military wants them firmly in the spotlight. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, which will be handed out to joystick wielding drone pilots, who wage their battles far from the frontline.
DORNER MANHUNT; Liberal Media Suggests Drone Killing Dorner, Promotes EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING Of ‘Suspect’ Deemed ‘DOMESTIC TERRORIST’
Christopher Dorner has been deemed a “Domestic Terrorist”, and many in the so called “Liberal” media are calling for him to be killed by drone strike, without a trial (ie, extrajudicial killing), and they add, “why not just kill him?”
CNN first made a statement floating the idea of using a drone to kill Dorner… then the fake Liberal “Young Turks” decided to discuss this in great detail and, after acting so concerned about such an idea, they basically seem to conclude that it sounds like a good idea!!
To drone or not to drone, that is not the question… the concern here is that they are deeming Christopher Dorner a “Domestic Terrorist” and therefore they can kill him… WITH NO DUE PROCESS!!!!!!!!!!!
Being deemed a “Domestic Terrorist” theoretically means Dorner no longer has any Constitutional Rights… this is a very DANGEROUS and horrible precedent.
Today the so called “Liberal” British newspaper “The Guardian” has proven my point in spades (and only a mindless British serf (subject) could come up with this kind of judicial logic). These people are dangerously stupid, or they’re being told to write this garbage. Here are some choice excerpts (emphasis mine):
Here’s my question: if the surveillance drones detect his location, should the lives of law
enforcement agents be risked, along with other civilians, in an attempt to apprehend
this highly-trained warrior? Why shouldn’t an armed drone instead be immediately
dispatched once his location is ascertained and simply kill him?
For those of you who believe it’s possible to know someone’s guilt without a trial, there
is very little doubt about his guilt. Nobody has contested the authenticity of the
confession posted in his name, nor the threats of further killing. He admitted and
justified the killings on his Facebook entry. [No one has ever hacked, jacked, or created a fake Facebook account!!!! - Joel]
For those of you who believe there is a clear definition of “terrorism”, Dorner meets it
easily. LAPD chief Charlie Beck today said that Dorner was engaging in “domestic
terrorism”. That’s because he has not only threatened to kill random LAPD officers but
also their children and family members in order to terrorize the department into
publicly apologizing to him. He vowed to wage what he called “unconventional and
asymmetrical warfare” in pursuit of his goal. As intended, the entire community is in
terror. If that’s not “domestic terrorism” under the conventional defintion (sic), then nothing is.
Instead, suppose the LAPD locates Dorner in a cabin in a remote area of the California
wilderness, just sitting alone watching television. Why should they possibly risk the lives
of police officers to apprehend him? Why would anyone care if this terrorist’s rights are
protected? What’s the argument for not simply killing him the moment he’s located?
Given that everyone seems certain of his guilt [Trial by media? - Joel], that he’s threatened further killings of innocents, that he declared himself at “war”, and that the risk from capturing him would be high, what danger is created by simply shooting a Hellfire missile wherever he’s
Or suppose that, as feared, he makes his way into Mexico. What’s the objection to
sending an armed drone to killing him there? [Um, because it's a different sovereign country???? - Joel]
The impetus for my asking is obviously the widespread support for killing US citizen
Anwar Awlaki without a trial or charges based on suspicions of guilt: it’s far from clear
that apprehending Awlaki would have been infeasible, and Dorner poses at least as
much risk to Americans as Awlaki did, almost certainly more so. But leave that aside:
independent of comparisons to any other case, including Awlaki, what would be wrong
or dangerous, if anything, about simply droning this domestic Terrorist to death even in
the absence of lethal resistance? What would be the harm from doing that? What are the
reasons not to, if any?
2013.2.11 Should An Armed Drone Be Dispatched To Kill Christopher Dorner? (guardian.co.uk):
2013.2.8 CNN; Should We Use Drones In America? (CNN, TheYoungTurks, youtube.com):
CNN’s Erin Burnett asked whether or not law enforcement should use drones as they try to fine former cop turned revenge killer, Christopher Dorner. Is this what it’s come to? Are drone attacks abroad so normalized that we can honestly ask if drones would be a good idea to use domestically? Cenk Uygur, Jimmy Dore (TYT Comedy) and Ben Mankiewicz (Turner Classic Movies) discuss Burnett’s question and its implications.
They believe burly, heavily-armed Christopher Dorner is holed-up in the wilderness of California’s snow-capped San Bernardino mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles.
The burnt-out shell of his pick-up truck was discovered in the nearby resort of Big Bear, where residents and tourists have been warned to stay indoors as the search continues.
Yesterday, as a task force of 125 officers, some riding Snowcats in the rugged terrain, continued their search, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil.
A senior police source said: “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”
The use of drones was later confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began.
BRENNAN HEARINGS; ‘Legal Analysis’ On Drone Targeted Killings Of Americans ‘CLASSIFIED’, It’s So Secret, Even The Senator’s Legal Counsel Can’t Read It!!
“It’s taking the Bush argument, that we’re fighting a Global War On Terror, and it’s confirming that…” – Michael Ratner
This is simply bizarre…
During John Brennan’s confirmation hearings to become CIA Director (DCI) some interesting legal questions have come up concerning the legal justification behind “Drone Targeted Killings” of American citizens, which Brennan advocates and has been involved in carrying out, not to mention his connections to torture.
The “Legal Analysis” was dumped onto the Senate Intelligence Committee members the night before the hearing… this analysis, supposedly showing that killing Americans indiscriminately with drones is legal (an obvious impossibility), is “CLASSIFIED”, therefore, the Senators themselves are the only individuals allowed to read the “Legal Analysis” and therefore cannot even get assistance from their legal counsels (ie, legal experts) to interpret the legalese in order to form a proper legal opinion.
Or as I would say…. “it’s so secret, even your lawyer can’t read it, so trust us that it’s legal”.
Consider a real world example… would anyone sign a contract presented to them by someone who said “your lawyer cannot read the contract”????
Good info in the following videos…
2013.2.8 Brennan Hearings; What Is The Legal Basis For Drone Targeted Killings? (Interviews Michael Ratner) (TheRealNews, youtube.com):
Michael Ratner: There’s no reason why the legal argument defending targeted killing should not be made public.
2013.2.7 Brennan Hearings; Who’s Overseeing Who? (Interviews Ray McGovern) (TheRealNews, youtube.com):
Ray McGovern: Hearing exposes how little oversight the Senate Intelligence Committee exercises over the CIA.