Successful Drone Forum

“Security vs. Privacy: Drones—Overseas and Now at Home” was the theme of NWSUBPEP’s community forum on Friday, September 20.  We welcomed as our panelists Anthony Tindall, Joe Scarry, and Marcia Bernsten.

Mr. Tindall, who serves on the Military and Foreign Affairs Commission of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), spoke of drone attacks that the United States has perpetrated in several different countries.  These attacks involve unmanned aerial vehicles that are armed with weapons and operated remotely from locations in the United States.  The government may refer to these attacks as surgical strikes, but the accuracy suggested by that terminology is not possible for remote attacks with a time gap between the site of the remote management and pictures from the site of the attacks. 

The U.S. performs the strikes without knowing for sure whom they are killing, or which unintended victims they hit.  Even if strikes kill intended targets, and even if by chance they enhance the security of the United States, they are creating hard feelings against the U.S. in the countries that are hit.  U. S. drone attacks have occurred in a number of different countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya.  The attacks increase anti-U.S. sentiment among people on the receiving end.  How much they increase our national security is unclear.

Mr. Tindall referred to a study done jointly by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law).  This study explored U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and the effect of these attacks on the civilian population.  These attacks were on civilian homes, not military installations.  The report from this study, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” is available online at http://livingunderdrones.org/report/  The report demonstrates how drone attacks convince Pakistani witnesses that the U.S. is waging war against Islam. ADA endorses the report and is hard at work lobbying congress and the Obama Administration to cease the use of armed drones because there is no evidence that the use of drones does anything to protect our country.

Mr. Scarry, who works with No Drones Illinois, part of the No Drones Network, told of a 1/5 model of an armed Reaper drone built in New York. The No Drones Network has 3 such models that it uses for educational purposes and at demonstrations.  The actual drones have a 40-foot long fuselage and 55-foot wingspan. They carry missiles, including Hellfire missiles, which are fired at individuals, and which incinerate their victims.  It also carries 5-ton missiles that can demolish entire buildings. The CIA and the U.S. military use these drones overseas.

The U.S. is using drones to assassinate individuals overseas.  Not only are these strikes performed remotely so that the victims are unseen, they are carried out without judicial due process.  These assassinations are in conflict with international conventions of which the U.S. is a part.

Mr. Scarry also spoke of drones being used domestically.  It is unclear whether armed drones are being used in the United States.  Drones are being used to patrol U.S. borders.  Drones may be equipped with a variety of tools besides missiles and used for surveillance and other purposes.  It is possible for surveillance with drones to violate the privacy of individuals, even within their own homes. The constitutionality of such surveillance is doubtful. Americans need to be aware of drones and how they are being used; we also need to take action to let our government know of our concerns.  Information about drones and public actions being taken about them is available at http://nodronesiliilinos.blogspot.com

Ms. Bernsten, a founding member of the North Shore Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment, has been acting locally.  Her group worked with the Chief of Police and the city council in Evanston, Illinois (where she lives) to pass a resolution that established a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in Evanston.  This resolution was deemed necessary because there currently no state or federal laws regulate how drones may be lawfully used.  The two-year moratorium allows time for state and federal legislatures to catch up with technology and explore how best to use and limit drones.  Although the use of drones in search and rescue efforts on Evanston’s lengthy lakeshore has merit, their use for other purposes in the city raises privacy issues and other questions that need to be explored before drones are used.

We appreciate all of our panelists and their contributions to our effort to inform the public about how the federal government is or might be using drones, and what impacts drones are having.  We thank The South Church in Mount Prospect for providing space for this educational forum.

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