ARMED UNITED STATES DRONES COMING TO AN AIRSPACE NEAR YOU BY 2015

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BY NISA ISLAM MUHAMMA | Final Call

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – While most Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s use of drones in wars abroad, concerns are growing about domestic use of the technology for surveillance at home.

“Drones are coming,” explained Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Advisor for the American Civil Liberties Union at a press conference April 26. “There are increasing demands by police departments to use them for surveillance. Drones are cheap. Currently there are 300 authorizations to use them. Current privacy laws are not enough in the face of this technology.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled you don’t have Fourth Amendment rights to privacy from aerial surveillance,” he added. “Drones will be an eye in the sky tracking our every move … police should not be able to use drones unless under specific conditions.”

Since 2005 the Customs and Border Protection Agency has used drones to search for immigrants and drugs on the Northern and Southern borders. Customs currently operates seven Predator B drones, which are controlled remotely by pilots sitting in Arizona, North Dakota and Florida. They hope to expand to 24 by 2016.

Police and sheriffs around the country are acquiring smaller drones for use in SWAT operations. On Feb. 6, Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration, which had been holding back expansion of domestic drone use, opened up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015 and immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) drones in commercial U.S. airways.

CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve hosted an International Drone Summit in D.C. April 28 and 29. The summit consisted of multiple panels dealing with issues ranging from the expanding use of surveillance drones to the Obama administration’s targeted killing program.

“We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder and one of the summit organizers as well as author of the new book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.” “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.”

“We don’t know who is being killed and why. People are being targeted by their patterns of behavior. The strikes are not new but the level of authority to now use them in America is new.”

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. U.S. drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, in covert missions.

While drones were initially primarily used by the military and CIA for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are currently routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen under the guise of the war on terror.

U.S. citizens are not off limits to drone strikes. Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was considered influential in efforts to radicalize and incite American Muslims to commit terrorist acts. He was placed on a kill or capture list in 2010. Last year he was targeted and killed in Yemen by a CIA drone. Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, was also killed in the attack.

Weeks later Mr. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, and a 17-year-old Yemeni cousin were killed in a drone strike that left nine people dead in Southeastern Yemen.

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FAA PREDICTS 10,000 DRONES COULD BE IN THE SKIES BY 2020

By Joe Schoffstall | CNS News
MARCH 25, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts 10,000 commercial drones could be in the skies by 2020 after guidelines are approved. For now, Congress has asked the FAA to write regulations on civil operation of small unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace and submit them by 2015.

“Once enabled, commercial UAS markets will develop. There are many potential ways for a company to generate revenue from UAS applications, whether from new markets or more efficient applications in established markets. Based upon the expected regulatory environment, FAA predicts roughly 10,000 active commercial UASs in five years,” states the FAA Aerospace Forecast for Fiscal Years 2012-2032.

Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group, which monitors the aerospace industry says when rules are written, law enforcement will be first in line, followed by civilian applications. According to an FAA document, which references the Teal Group, it is estimated $94 billion will be spent over the course of 10 years for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

As of now, the FAA has issued 1,428 licenses to police, universities, and federal agencies since 2007- a number far higher than previously known. Of these, 327 are still listed as active.

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DRONE NATION

Homeland-security-degree.org
December 3, 2013

drones

The American love affair with drones (officially called unmanned aerial vehicles) extends to both military and law enforcement uses. The U.S. isn’t the only country that uses drones, but it is the most regular user in the world.

Which Countries Have Drones?

The biggest owners of military drones in the world:
U.S. 670
France 23
Germany 9
Italy 5
Turkey 32
U.K. 7
Russia 3
China 11
India 39
Iran 1
Israel 29
Note: Numbers are minimums, as many countries’ levels are unknown.

Business is Booming

Global spending on unmanned aerial vehicles will surge in the next 10 years, rising by a predicted 128 percent.
Projected global spending on drones
2014 $5,200,000,000
2023 $11,900,000,000
Ranked drone spending over the next decade by region
1st U.S.
2nd Asia-Pacific
3rd Europe

Terror From Above?

The U.S. has been widely criticized for its use of drones to fight terrorism. In Pakistan alone, the U.S. has launched thousands of drone strikes since 2004.
Fatalities in Pakistan from U.S. drone attacks (since 2004)
Children 175
Civilians 535
Other 2,390*
High-profile targets 49
* The U.S. classifies all adult men in Pakistan as potential terrorist targets in casualty calculations

Targeting Americans?

Many Americans assume these devices are used only to launch offensives in foreign countries. That’s a false assumption. Over the years, dozens of agencies across the U.S. have used drones for a variety of purposes, many of them classified.

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WHEN THE WHOLE WORLD HAS DRONES

The precedents the U.S. has set for robotic warfare may have fearsome consequences as other countries catch up.

by Kristin Roberts | National Journal

March 22, 2013

A slim aircraft glided through Israeli airspace, maintaining low altitude and taking a winding path to avoid detection. It flew over sensitive military installations and was beginning its approach to the Dimona nuclear reactor when it was blown from the sky by the Israel Defense Forces. The plane was pilotless, directed by agents elsewhere, and had been attempting to relay images back home. Whether they were successfully transmitted, Israelis won’t say, perhaps because they don’t know. But here’s what’s certain: It wasn’t American. It wasn’t Russian or Chinese. It was an Iranian drone, assembled in Lebanon and flown by Hezbollah.

The proliferation of drone technology has moved well beyond the control of the United States government and its closest allies. The aircraft are too easy to obtain, with barriers to entry on the production side crumbling too quickly to place limits on the spread of a technology that promises to transform warfare on a global scale. Already, more than 75 countries have remote piloted aircraft. More than 50 nations are building a total of nearly a thousand types. At its last display at a trade show in Beijing, China showed off 25 different unmanned aerial vehicles. Not toys or models, but real flying machines.

It’s a classic and common phase in the life cycle of a military innovation: An advanced country and its weapons developers create a tool, and then others learn how to make their own. But what makes this case rare, and dangerous, is the powerful combination of efficiency and lethality spreading in an environment lacking internationally accepted guidelines on legitimate use. This technology is snowballing through a global arena where the main precedent for its application is the one set by the United States; it’s a precedent Washington does not want anyone following.

America, the world’s leading democracy and a country built on a legal and moral framework unlike any other, has adopted a war-making process that too often bypasses its traditional, regimented, and rigorously overseen military in favor of a secret program never publicly discussed, based on legal advice never properly vetted. The Obama administration has used its executive power to refuse or outright ignore requests by congressional overseers, and it has resisted monitoring by federal courts.

To implement this covert program, the administration has adopted a tool that lowers the threshold for lethal force by reducing the cost and risk of combat. This still-expanding counterterrorism use of drones to kill people, including its own citizens, outside of traditionally defined battlefields and established protocols for warfare, has given friends and foes a green light to employ these aircraft in extraterritorial operations that could not only affect relations between the nation-states involved but also destabilize entire regions and potentially upset geopolitical order.

Hyperbole? Consider this: Iran, with the approval of Damascus, carries out a lethal strike on anti-Syrian forces inside Syria; Russia picks off militants tampering with oil and gas lines in Ukraine or Georgia; Turkey arms a U.S.-provided Predator to kill Kurdish militants in northern Iraq who it believes are planning attacks along the border. Label the targets as terrorists, and in each case, Tehran, Moscow, and Ankara may point toward Washington and say, we learned it by watching you. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

This is the unintended consequence of American drone warfare. For all of the attention paid to the drone program in recent weeks—about Americans on the target list (there are none at this writing) and the executive branch’s legal authority to kill by drone outside war zones (thin, by officials’ own private admission)—what goes undiscussed is Washington’s deliberate failure to establish clear and demonstrable rules for itself that would at minimum create a globally relevant standard for delineating between legitimate and rogue uses of one of the most awesome military robotics capabilities of this generation.

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Infographic

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THE WRONG QUESTION

The United States is the indisputable leader in drone technology and long-range strike. Remote-piloted aircraft have given Washington an extraordinary ability to wage war with far greater precision, improved effect, and fewer unintended casualties than conventional warfare. The drones allow U.S. forces to establish ever greater control over combat areas, and the Pentagon sees the technology as an efficient and judicious force of the future. And it should, given the billions of dollars that have gone into establishing and maintaining such a capability.

That level of superiority leads some national security officials to downplay concerns about other nations’ unmanned systems and to too narrowly define potential threats to the homeland. As proof, they argue that American dominance in drone warfare is due only in part to the aircraft itself, which offers the ability to travel great distances and loiter for long periods, not to mention carry and launch Hellfire missiles. The drone itself, they argue, is just a tool and, yes, one that is being copied aggressively by allies and adversaries alike. The real edge, they say, is in the unparalleled intelligence-collection and data-analysis underpinning the aircraft’s mission.

“There is what I think is just an unconstrained focus on a tool as opposed to the subject of the issue, the tool of remotely piloted aircraft that in fact provide for greater degrees of surety before you employ force than anything else we use,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. “I think people don’t realize that for the medium altitude aircraft—the MQ-1 [Predator] and MQ-9 [Reaper] that are generally written about in the press—there are over 200 people involved in just one orbit of those aircraft.… The majority of those people are analysts who are interpreting the information that’s coming off the sensors on the aircraft.”

The analysts are part of the global architecture that makes precision strikes, and targeted killing, possible. At the front end, obviously, intelligence—military, CIA, and local—inform target decisions. But in as near-real time as technologically possible, intel analysts in Nevada, Texas, Virginia, and other locations watch the data flood in from the aircraft and make calls on what’s happening on target. They monitor the footage, listen to audio, and analyze signals, giving decision-makers time to adjust an operation if the risks (often counted in potential civilian deaths) outweigh the reward (judged by the value of the threat eliminated).

“Is that a shovel or a rifle? Is that a Taliban member or is this a farmer? The way that warfare has advanced is that we are much more exquisite in our ability to discern,” Maj. Gen. Robert Otto, commander of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency, told National Journal at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. “We’re not overhead for 15 minutes with a fighter that’s about to run out of gas, and we have to make a decision. We can orbit long enough to be pretty sure about our target.”

Other countries, groups, and even individuals can and do fly drones. But no state or group has nearly the sophisticated network of intelligence and data analysis that gives the United States its strategic advantage. Although it would be foolish to dismiss the notion that potential U.S. adversaries aspire to attain that type of war-from-afar, pinpoint-strike capability, they have neither the income nor the perceived need to do so.

That’s true, at least today. It’s also irrelevant. Others who employ drones are likely to carry a different agenda, one more concerned with employing a relatively inexpensive and ruthlessly efficient tool to dispatch an enemy close at hand.

“It would be very difficult for them to create the global-strike architecture we have, to have a control cell in Nevada flying a plane over Afghanistan. The reality is that most nations don’t want or need that,” said Peter Singer, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and one of the foremost experts in advanced military technology. “Turkey’s not looking to conduct strikes into the Philippines…. But Turkey is looking to be able to carry out long-duration surveillance and potentially strike inside and right on its border.”

And that’s a NATO ally seeking the capability to conduct missions that would run afoul of U.S. interests in Iraq and the broader Middle East. Already, Beijing says it considered a strike in Myanmar to kill a drug lord wanted in the deaths of Chinese sailors. What happens if China arms one of its remote-piloted planes and strikes Philippine or Indian trawlers in the South China Sea? Or if India uses the aircraft to strike Lashkar-e-Taiba militants near Kashmir?

“We don’t like other states using lethal force outside their borders. It’s destabilizing. It can lead to a sort of wider escalation of violence between two states,” said Micah Zenko, a security policy and drone expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “So the proliferation of drones is not just about the protection of the United States. It’s primarily about the likelihood that other states will increasingly use lethal force outside of their borders.”

LOWERING THE BAR

Governments have covertly killed for ages, whether they maintained an official hit list or not. Before the Obama administration’s “disposition matrix,” Israel was among the best-known examples of a state that engaged, and continues to engage, in strikes to eliminate people identified by its intelligence as plotting attacks against it. But Israel certainly is not alone. Turkey has killed Kurds in Northern Iraq. Some American security experts point to Russia as well, although Moscow disputes this.

In the 1960s, the U.S. government was involved to differing levels in plots to assassinate leaders in Congo and the Dominican Republic, and, famously, Fidel Castro in Cuba. The Church Committee’s investigation and subsequent 1975 report on those and other suspected plots led to the standing U.S. ban on assassination. So, from 1976 until the start of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” the United States did not conduct targeted killings, because it was considered anathema to American foreign policy. (In fact, until as late as 2001, Washington’s stated policy was to oppose Israel’s targeted killings.)

When America adopted targeted killing again—first under the Bush administration after the September 11 attacks and then expanded by President Obama—the tools of the trade had changed. No longer was the CIA sending poison, pistols, and toxic cigars to assets overseas to kill enemy leaders. Now it could target people throughout al-Qaida’s hierarchy with accuracy, deliver lethal ordnance literally around the world, and watch the mission’s completion in real time.

The United States is smartly using technology to improve combat efficacy, and to make war-fighting more efficient, both in money and manpower. It has been able to conduct more than 400 lethal strikes, killing more than 3,500 people, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa using drones; reducing risk to U.S. personnel; and giving the Pentagon flexibility to use special-forces units elsewhere. And, no matter what human-rights groups say, it’s clear that drone use has reduced the number of civilians killed in combat relative to earlier conflicts. Washington would be foolish not to exploit unmanned aircraft in its long fight against terrorism. In fact, defense hawks and spendthrifts alike would criticize it if it did not.

“If you believe that these folks are legitimate terrorists who are committing acts of aggressive, potential violent acts against the United States or our allies or our citizens overseas, should it matter how we choose to engage in the self-defense of the United States?” asked Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “Do we have that debate when a special-forces team goes in? Do we have that debate if a tank round does it? Do we have the debate if an aircraft pilot drops a particular bomb?”

But defense analysts argue—and military officials concede—there is a qualitative difference between dropping a team of men into Yemen and green-lighting a Predator flight from Nevada. Drones lower the threshold for military action. That’s why, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, unmanned aircraft have conducted 95 percent of all U.S. targeted killings. Almost certainly, if drones were unavailable, the United States would not have pursued an equivalent number of manned strikes in Pakistan.

And what’s true for the United States will be true as well for other countries that own and arm remote piloted aircraft.

“The drones—the responsiveness, the persistence, and without putting your personnel at risk—is what makes it a different technology,” Zenko said. “When other states have this technology, if they follow U.S. practice, it will lower the threshold for their uses of lethal force outside their borders. So they will be more likely to conduct targeted killings than they have in the past.”

The Obama administration appears to be aware of and concerned about setting precedents through its targeted-strike program. When the development of a disposition matrix to catalog both targets and resources marshaled against the United States was first reported in 2012, officials spoke about it in part as an effort to create a standardized process that would live beyond the current administration, underscoring the long duration of the counterterrorism challenge.

Indeed, the president’s legal and security advisers have put considerable effort into establishing rules to govern the program. Most members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees say they are confident the defense and intelligence communities have set an adequate evidentiary bar for determining when a member of al-Qaida or an affiliated group may be added to the target list, for example, and say that the rigor of the process gives them comfort in the level of program oversight within the executive branch. “They’re not drawing names out of a hat here,” Rogers said. “It is very specific intel-gathering and other things that would lead somebody to be subject for an engagement by the United States government.”

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The argument against public debate is easy enough to understand: Operational secrecy is necessary, and total opacity is easier. “I don’t think there is enough transparency and justification so that we remove not the secrecy, but the mystery of these things,” said Dennis Blair, Obama’s former director of national intelligence. “The reason it’s not been undertaken by the administration is that they just make a cold-blooded calculation that it’s better to hunker down and take the criticism than it is to get into the public debate, which is going to be a hard one to win.”

But by keeping legal and policy positions secret, only partially sharing information even with congressional oversight committees, and declining to open a public discussion about drone use, the president and his team are asking the world to just trust that America is getting this right. While some will, many people, especially outside the United States, will see that approach as hypocritical, coming from a government that calls for transparency and the rule of law elsewhere.

“I know these people, and I know how much they really, really attend to the most important details of the job,” said Barry Pavel, a former defense and security official in the Bush and Obama administrations who is director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. “If I didn’t have that personal knowledge and because there isn’t that much really in the press, then I would be giving you a different rendering, and much more uncertain rendering.”

That’s only part of the problem with the White House’s trust-us approach. The other resides in the vast distance between the criteria and authorization the administration says it uses in the combat drone program and the reality on the ground. For example, according to administration officials, before a person is added to the targeted strike list, specific criteria should be met. The target should be a 1) senior, 2) operational 3) leader of al-Qaida or an affiliated group who presents 4) an imminent threat of violent attack 5) against the United States.

But that’s not who is being targeted.

Setting aside the administration’s redefining of “imminence” beyond all recognition, the majority of the 3,500-plus people killed by U.S. drones worldwide were not leaders of al-Qaida or the Taliban; they were low- or mid-level foot soldiers. Most were not plotting attacks against the United States. In Yemen and North Africa, the Obama administration is deploying weaponized drones to take out targets who are more of a threat to local governments than to Washington, according to defense and regional security experts who closely track unrest in those areas. In some cases, Washington appears to be in the business of using its drone capabilities mostly to assist other countries, not to deter strikes against the United States (another precedent that might be eagerly seized upon in the future).

U.S. defense and intelligence officials reject any suggestion that the targets are not legitimate. One thing they do not contest, however, is that the administration’s reliance on the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force as legal cover for a drone-strike program that has extended well beyond al-Qaida in Afghanistan or Pakistan is dodgy. The threat that the United States is trying to deal with today has an ever more tenuous connection to Sept. 11. (None of the intelligence officials reached for this article would speak on the record.) But instead of asking Congress to consider extending its authorization, as some officials have mulled, the administration’s legal counsel has chosen instead to rely on Nixon administration adviser John Stevenson’s 1970 justification of the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, an action new Secretary of State John Kerry criticized during his confirmation hearing this year.

Human-rights groups might be loudest in their criticism of both the program and the opaque policy surrounding it, but even the few lawmakers who have access to the intelligence the administration shares have a hard time coping with the dearth of information. “We can’t always assume we’re going to have responsible people with whom we agree and trust in these positions,” said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The essence of the Constitution is, it shouldn’t matter who is in charge; they’re still constrained by principles and rules of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights.”

PEER PRESSURE

Obama promised in his 2013 State of the Union to increase the drone program’s transparency. “In the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world,” the president said on Feb. 12. Since then, the administration, under pressure from allies on Senate Intelligence, agreed to release all of the legal memos the Justice Department drafted in support of targeted killing.

But, beyond that, it’s not certain Obama will do anything more to shine light on this program. Except in situations where leaks help it tell a politically expedient story of its skill at killing bad guys, the administration has done little to make a case to the public and the world at large for its use of armed drones.

Already, what’s become apparent is that the White House is not interested in changing much about the way it communicates strike policy. (It took Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination to force the administration to concede that it doesn’t have the right to use drones to kill noncombatant Americans on U.S. soil.) And government officials, as well as their surrogates on security issues, are actively trying to squash expectations that the administration would agree to bring the judicial branch into the oversight mix. Indeed, judicial review of any piece of the program is largely off the table now, according to intelligence officials and committee members.

Under discussion within the administration and on Capitol Hill is a potential program takeover by the Pentagon, removing the CIA from its post-9/11 role of executing military-like strikes. Ostensibly, that shift could help lift the secret-by-association-with-CIA attribute of the program that some officials say has kept them from more freely talking about the legitimate military use of drones for counterterrorism operations. But such a fix would provide no guarantee of greater transparency for the public, or even Congress.

And if the administration is not willing to share with lawmakers who are security-cleared to know, it certainly is not prepared to engage in a sensitive discussion, even among allies, that might begin to set the rules on use for a technology that could upend stability in already fragile and strategically significant places around the globe. Time is running out to do so.

“The history of technology development like this is, you never maintain your lead very long. Somebody always gets it,” said David Berteau, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They’re going to become cheaper. They’re going to become easier. They’re going to become interoperable,” he said. “The destabilizing effects are very, very serious.”

Berteau is not alone. Zenko, of the Council on Foreign Relations, has urged officials to quickly establish norms. Singer, at Brookings, argues that the window of opportunity for the United States to create stability-supporting precedent is quickly closing. The problem is, the administration is not thinking far enough down the line, according to a Senate Intelligence aide. Administration officials “are thinking about the next four years, and we’re thinking about the next 40 years. And those two different angles on this question are why you see them in conflict right now.”

That’s in part a symptom of the “technological optimism” that often plagues the U.S. security community when it establishes a lead over its competitors, noted Georgetown University’s Kai-Henrik Barth. After the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States was sure it would be decades before the Soviets developed a nuclear-weapon capability. It took four years.

With drones, the question is how long before the dozens of states with the aircraft can arm and then operate a weaponized version. “Pretty much every nation has gone down the pathway of, ‘This is science fiction; we don’t want this stuff,’ to, ‘OK, we want them, but we’ll just use them for surveillance,’ to, ‘Hmm, they’re really useful when you see the bad guy and can do something about it, so we’ll arm them,’ ” Singer said. He listed the countries that have gone that route: the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany, China. “Consistently, nations have gone down the pathway of first only surveillance and then arming.”

The opportunity to write rules that might at least guide, if not restrain, the world’s view of acceptable drone use remains, not least because this is in essence a conventional arms-control issue. The international Missile Technology Control Regime attempts to restrict exports of unmanned vehicles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction, but it is voluntary and nonbinding, and it’s under attack by the drone industry as a drag on business. Further, the technology itself, especially when coupled with data and real-time analytics, offers the luxury of time and distance that could allow officials to raise the evidentiary bar for strikes—to be closer to certain that their target is the right one.

But even without raising standards, tightening up drone-specific restrictions in the standing control regime, or creating a new control agreement (which is never easy to pull off absent a bad-state actor threatening attack), just the process of lining up U.S. policy with U.S. practice would go a long way toward establishing the kind of precedent on use of this technology that America—in five, 10, or 15 years—might find helpful in arguing against another’s actions.

A not-insignificant faction of U.S. defense and intelligence experts, Dennis Blair among them, thinks norms play little to no role in global security. And they have evidence in support. The missile-technology regime, for example, might be credited with slowing some program development, but it certainly has not stopped non-signatories—North Korea and Iran—from buying, building, and selling missile systems. But norms established by technology-leading countries, even when not written into legal agreements among nations, have shown success in containing the use and spread of some weapons, including land mines, blinding lasers, and nuclear bombs.

Arguably more significant than spotty legal regimes, however, is the behavior of the United States. “History shows that how states adopt and use new military capabilities is often influenced by how other states have—or have not—used them in the past,” Zenko argued. Despite the legal and policy complexity of this issue, it is something the American people have, if slowly, come to care about. Given the attention that Rand Paul’s filibuster garnered, it is not inconceivable that public pressure on drone operations could force the kind of unforeseen change to U.S. policy that it did most recently on “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists.

The case against open, transparent rule-making is that it might only hamstring American options while doing little good elsewhere—as if other countries aren’t closely watching this debate and taking notes for their own future policymaking. But the White House’s refusal to answer questions about its drone use with anything but “no comment” ensures that the rest of the world is free to fill in the blanks where and when it chooses. And the United States will have already surrendered the moment in which it could have provided not just a technical operations manual for other nations but a legal and moral one as well.

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EXCLUSIVE: NO MORE DRONES FOR CIA

Three senior officials tell Daniel Klaidman that the Obama administration is poised to shift the CIA’s drone program to the Pentagon.

By Daniel Klaidman | The Daily Beast

Mar 19, 2013

At a time when controversy over the Obama administration’s drone program seems to be cresting, the CIA is close to taking a major step toward getting out of the targeted killing business. Three senior U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast that the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA’s lethal targeting program to the Defense Department.

The move could potentially toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program’s accountability, and increase transparency. Currently, the government maintains parallel drone programs, one housed in the CIA and the other run by the Department of Defense. The proposed plan would unify the command and control structure of targeted killings and create a uniform set of rules and procedures. The CIA would maintain a role, but the military would have operational control over targeting. Lethal missions would take place under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs military operations, rather than Title 50, which sets out the legal authorities for intelligence activities and covert operations. “This is a big deal,” says one senior administration official who has been briefed on the plan. “It would be a pretty strong statement.”

Officials anticipate a phased-in transition in which the CIA’s drone operations would be gradually shifted over to the military, a process that could take as little as a year. Others say it might take longer but would occur during President Obama’s second term. “You can’t just flip a switch, but it’s on a reasonably fast track,” says one U.S. official. During that time, CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles. Officials told The Daily Beast that a potential downside of the agency’s relinquishing control of the program was the loss of a decade of expertise that the CIA has developed since it has been prosecuting its war in Pakistan and beyond. At least for a period of transition, CIA operators would likely work alongside their military counterparts to target suspected terrorists.

The policy shift is part of a larger White House initiative known internally as “institutionalization,” an effort to set clear standards and procedures for lethal operations. More than a year in the works, the interagency process has been driven and led by John Brennan, who until he became CIA director earlier this month was Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser. Brennan, who has presided over the administration’s drone program from almost day one of Obama’s presidency, has grown uncomfortable with the ad hoc and sometimes shifting rules that have governed it. Moreover, Brennan has publicly stated that he would like to see the CIA move away from the kinds of paramilitary operations it began after the September 11 attacks, and return to its more traditional role of gathering and analyzing intelligence.

Lately, Obama has signaled his own desire to place the drone program on a firmer legal footing, as well as to make it more transparent. He obliquely alluded to the classified program during his State of the Union address in January. “In the months ahead,” he declared, “I will continue to work with Congress to ensure that not only our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remain consistent with our laws and systems of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

Shortly after taking office, Obama dramatically ramped up the drone program, in part because the government’s targeting intelligence on the ground had vastly improved and because the precision technology was very much in line with the new commander in chief’s “light footprint” approach to dealing with terrorism. As the al Qaeda threat has metastasized, U.S. drone operations have spread to more remote, unconventional battlefields in places like Yemen and Somalia. With more strikes, there have been more alleged civilian casualties. Adding to the mounting pressure for the administration to provide a legal and ethical rationale for its targeting polices was the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior commander of al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, who also happened to be a U.S. citizen. (Two weeks later, his 16-year-old son was killed in a drone strike, which U.S. officials have called an accident.) The recent nomination of Brennan to head the CIA became a kind of proxy battle over targeted killings and the administration’s reluctance to be more forthcoming about the covert program. At issue were a series of secret Justice Department legal opinions on targeted killing that the administration had refused to make public or turn over to Congress.

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DRONE TARGETED ASSASSINATION PROGRAM HANDED TO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TO ENSURE “TRANSPARENCY”

Susanne Posel
Occupy Corporatism
March 21, 2013

The Obama administration’s drone program which was headed by John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has now been moved to the Deaprtment of Defense (DoD). Mainstream media claims that this would “toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program’s accountability, and increase transparency.”

The CIA would still have involvement in the program, while the details of who is listed on the targeted killing roster would come under control of the biggest federal agency in the US Military Industrial Complex.

Using drones to commit murder is covered under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, while Title 50 defines the legalities of these “military operations” that are based on intelligence gathering and shielded by top secret missions.

Within the next year, the targeted drone killing program will become completely militarized.

The Obama administration is seeking to “institutionalize” sectors of the federal government to set out guidelines for the legalization of murder and facilitate Brennan’s continued role in this “interagency process”.

Last month Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Americans misunderstand the targeted drone killing program and have an overall skew perception of “what we do as a government, and the care that we take, and the agony that we go through” to ensure that innocent bystanders or civilians aren’t hit in targeted killings. Brennan said: “People are reacting to a lot of falsehoods that are out there.”

In Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year, he made mention that there would be a clearer definition of the targeted drone killing program. Obama stated: “In the months ahead. I will continue to work with Congress to ensure that not only our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remain consistent with our laws and systems of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

After Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster earlier this month, the legality and definition of who could be added to the list of those targeted for being killed by the Obama drone program became clear when Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the President does not have the right to kill unarmed and non-combative Americans on American soil.

Without further inquiry, Paul was suffice with Holder’s answer, yet the public is now wondering what the federal government’s definition of combatant is? Yet over the last year, and certainly most recently, it is becoming clear that enemy combatants of the federal government are Constitutionalists, Patriots, conspiracy-minded people who are anti-government and according to Holder’s letter to Paul, those persons would still be subject to targeted assassinations using “lethal force” such as drones.

The Obama administration is planning to launch a propaganda campaign to ease the American public’s fear about who can and would be on the secret kill-list. There are unconfirmed reports that Obama will publically speak about the program, his intentions for a counterterrorism policy as well as the role that drones play.

Insiders assert that Obama appears to not want to reveal too much about the program as a matter of national security; however this excuse is over-used by those in the federal government.

Decisions on who can be killed with drones have been the exclusive right of Brennan since he was named Obama’s Assassination Czar last year. Those individuals “nominated” to be on the secret kill-list have been chosen be Brennan and Obama without oversight or input by others in the administration. Moving the drone program to the DoD will change this fact; adding more officials to the proverbial pot in making these decisions.

The Obama administration has all but abandoned the idea of capturing those targets for questioning as is traditionally part of battlefield conditions. It is much simpler to kill those suspected of ties to a terrorist organization with the justification of self-laid “legalities” as expressed by Holder and Obama himself.

Last month a leaked internal memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel for the Obama administration entitled, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force” explains the White House’s justification for conducting targeted killings. The Obama administration claims that this document does not exist, yet the 16-page white paper originating with the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been given to select members of the Senate.

This document outlines in detail the legal reasoning used by the Obama administration for carrying out targeted assassinations of American citizens with suspected ties to al-Qaeda. No proof is necessary for any American to be put on this list; simply the federal government’s suspicions are sufficed.

Broken down into a three-part “test” to justify targeted assassinations, the white paper states:

  1. An informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted American poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States
  2. Capture is infeasible
  3. The operation is conducted in a manner consistent with the four fundamental principles of the laws of war governing the use of force

The white paper includes redefinitions and expansions of self-defense and imminent attack with the ideology of a “broader concept of imminence” without the necessity of actual intelligence to support those assumptions. If the American is thought to be a threat to the US, they could become eligible of these targeted assassinations.

While a traditional measure for the use of military force is approved by Congress, Obama has set up the ability for the bypass of our checks and balances system to become judge, jury and executioner.

A recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee sought to understand the applications of drones in American skies as surveillance tools for local and federal law enforcement. While this is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment, the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed the use of federally mandated drones.

Privacy laws protecting Americans are being broken by the federal government as these drones are equipped with surveillance capabilities in order for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify citizens carrying firearms and tracking them through cell phone use.

Senator Patrick Leahy voiced concern about the use of weaponized drones for counterterrorism purposes. Leahy said: “I continue to have deep concerns about the constitutional and legal implications of such targeted killings,” adding that even on the homeland he believes that the use of surveillance aircraft not outfitted with missiles still will have a “broad and significant impact on the lives of everyday Americans.”

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WHITE HOUSE MOVE TO LET PENTAGON TAKE OVER CIA ARMED DRONES SPARKS CONCERN

By Carlo Muñoz | The Hill
MARCH 23, 2013

“We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program, how they function, the quality of the intelligence, watching the agency exercise patience and discretion,” Feinstein told reporters on Capitol Hill this week.

“The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well,” she said Tuesday, according to Defense News.

Feinstein’s comments come amid reports the administration is weighing handing control of the armed drone program over to military leaders.

Currently, the Pentagon and CIA operate their own armed drone programs, geared toward eliminating senior al Qaeda leaders or other high-level terror targets around the world.

“We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program, how they function, the quality of the intelligence, watching the agency exercise patience and discretion,” Feinstein told reporters on Capitol Hill this week.

“The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well,” she said Tuesday, according to Defense News.

Feinstein’s comments come amid reports the administration is weighing handing control of the armed drone program over to military leaders.

Currently, the Pentagon and CIA operate their own armed drone programs, geared toward eliminating senior al Qaeda leaders or other high-level terror targets around the world.

Under the Obama administration’s proposal, the CIA would continue to supply targeting and other intelligence on possible targets, but operational control over the actual drone strikes would fall to the Pentagon, according to reports.

Work is ongoing at the White House, Pentagon and CIA to shift the drone program to the military, but “it’s on a reasonably fast track,” one U.S. official told The Daily Beast.

Current and former administration officials, though, are defending the proposed move amid lawmaker questions.

Shifting control of the drone program to the Pentagon would allow U.S. officials to streamline drone operations “under normal procedures in the law of war” and sidestep a number of sticky legal situations stemming from the CIA portion of the program, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said in January.

Use of drone strikes under Pentagon oversight, according to Blair, would be no different than more traditional weapons and tactics used by American forces in ongoing counterterrorism operations.

“I don’t think it [will be] any different with drones,” according to Blair, who served as the White House’s top intelligence official from 2009 to 2010.

But Feinstein and some lawmakers are concerned that removing Pentagon control could distance the decision to authorize drone strikes from CIA intelligence and decision-making procedures.

Moving the drone program to the Defense Department, though, could put some political distance between the CIA and the controversial counterterrorism tactic.

The administration’s legal justifications for the drone program, particularly the argument that U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism overseas could be targets, was a major roadblock in the eventually successful Senate confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan.

If the Pentagon assumes control of the program, it could remove Langley from the political crosshairs of lawmakers such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), among others, who have argued against the agency’s expanding role in such operations.

Paul famously filibustered Brennan’s nomination for nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor, over concerns armed drones could be used against American citizens on U.S. soil.

Wyden pressed Brennan, along with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, on whether CIA drones could be used for surveillance stateside on U.S citizens, during a Senate Intelligence committee hearing in March.

A transition to DOD could also help Brennan transition the agency back to its “traditional mission” of intelligence collection and analysis overseas, a direction CIA needed to move in to cope with a post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan world, according to former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

The agency, under Brennan’s leadership, has “got to get back to the traditional missions” of foreign espionage, surveillance and counterintelligence, Hayden told The Hill in January.

Those types of missions have fallen by the wayside in the years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in favor of counterterrorism efforts — such as the armed drone program — aimed at hunting down top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, as well as and other Islamic militant networks.

A secret report from the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board last week said that the nation’s intelligence agencies were prioritizing supporting military operations over traditional intelligence gathering. The report cautioned that the post-9/11 focus could leave the country vulnerable to new threats.

On Thursday, an American drone strike killed four individuals in western Pakistan’s restive tribal regions, an area known as a safe haven for a number of Pakistani-based terror groups.

More than 80 percent of all U.S. armed drone strikes are targeted in Pakistan and Yemen. It remains unclear whether Thursday’s strike was a DOD- or CIA-led operation.

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U.S. LAWMAKERS: CIA SHOULD KEEP ARMED UAV’S

By JOHN BENNETT | Defense News

APRIL 1, 2013

WASHINGTON — Pro-military lawmakers and U.S. analysts want the White House to resist shifting the CIA’s armed unmanned aircraft program to the Pentagon, citing operational and legal reasons to keep the spy agency in the targeted-killing business.

The Obama administration is mulling whether placing the U.S. military in charge of all aerial drone strikes — largely run by the CIA in the post-9/11 era — would allay intensifying legal concerns while increasing congressional and public scrutiny of the program.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers with national security credentials say they have major concerns about placing what has become America’s top covert tool in the fight against al-Qaida in the hands of the military.

“If the CIA can still operate its program, I think that’s fine,” Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said during a brief interview March 21. “I think the military has some ownership, but I think the CIA has some ownership, too.”

The White House review came to light following a March 6 filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which focused on the Obama administration’s drone policy. Paul used ample time during the filibuster to question whether the administration believed it possesses the legal authority to carry out a drone strike on an American citizen inside the United States, which it eventually said it does not.

McKeon called those kinds of worries “a lot to do about nothing.” He said keeping the existing CIA drone program under Langley’s control seems wise because “I’m not concerned that we’re giving up our constitutional rights to go after terrorists — I think we’re OK with what we’ve got.”

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, told Defense News the same day that White House, CIA and Pentagon officials must convince him the idea is wise.

“I’m not convinced that we need to change,” Young said. “I’d have to be convinced to give it to one or the other because it works very well right now.”

The longtime pro-defense lawmaker said he is worried the military is not well-versed, nor well-suited, to conduct the kinds of missions the agency has spent years perfecting.

“Both agencies are using the drones for different missions,” Young said. “My first reaction is … the military has done a good job, as has the CIA. … The missions that the military carries out and the missions that the CIA carries out are different.”

Much of the debate in Washington about the White House review has been focused on the black-or-white notion of assigning the drone-strike program to either the spy agency or the military. But Young said another option should be on the table.

“I think there’s reason to consider doing it both ways,” Young said. “What’s wrong with considering keeping it that way?”

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the House Armed Services Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, said “the overwhelming majority” of the CIA’s drone program likely will move to the military’s control. Still, Johnson predicted the intelligence community “will retain some ability to use drones.”

Advocates of handing the armed drone program to the military argue the move would strengthen the legal justifications for targeting al-Qaida leaders and operatives.

“The essential mission of the U.S. military is to capture or kill an enemy,” Jeh Johnson, until three months ago the Pentagon’s top lawyer, said in a March 18 speech at Fordham University Law School in New York. “As part of a congressionally authorized armed conflict, the foundation is even stronger.

“Furthermore, the parameters of congressionally authorized armed conflict are transparent to the public, from the words of the congressional authorization itself, and the executive branch’s interpretation of that authorization,” he said. “Lethal force outside the parameters of congressionally authorized armed conflict by the military looks to the public to lack any boundaries, and lends itself to the suspicion that it is an expedient substitute for criminal justice.”

To be sure, lawmakers on both sides of the debate have strong opinions about whether it is the job of the military or intelligence community to kill al-Qaida leaders and operatives.

On one side are lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who told reporters, “the majority of the responsibility for this should rest with the military.”

On the other side are members such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She said the CIA uses a rigorous decision process before carrying out armed strikes, but “the military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well.”

Anthony Cordesman, a Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst and a frequent Pentagon and intelligence community consultant, said the military’s and the CIA’s approaches to the use of drone strikes are considerably different.

“The intelligence community operates on the basis of different sources and methods, and with different time pressures, than most military actions,” Cordesman said. “So I think you probably need both.”

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DRONE INDUSTRY PREDICTS EXPLOSIVE ECONOMIC BOOST

Virginia among top beneficiaries

By Ben Wolfgang | The Washington Times

The impact of drones on privacy and national security remain matters of intense debate, but the economic impact, however, is becoming clearer by the day.

Private-sector drones will create more than 70,000 jobs within three years and will pump $82 billion into the U.S. economy by 2025, according to a major new study commissioned by the industry’s leading trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The study assumes that drones are fully integrated into the national airspace by 2015, in line with the current schedule set by Congress.

Some states are poised to be especially big winners.

Virginia, for example, stands to gain nearly 2,500 jobs by 2017. It also could take in $4.4 million in tax revenue and see more than $460 million in overall economic activity by 2017, the report says.

Virginia would gain the eighth-most jobs of any state as a result of drone integration. Maryland isn’t far behind, with projections of more than 1,700 new jobs by 2017.

Florida, Texas, California, New York and Washington are among the other states expected to benefit the most, according to the study.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for an industry developing technology that will benefit society, as well as the economy,” said Michael Toscano, AUVSI president and CEO. The expansion of drones “means the creation of quality, high-paying American jobs.”

But the motivation behind Tuesday’s report runs deeper than just dollars and cents. With more than 20 states considering bills to limit what drones can do — including a two-year moratorium on all government use in Virginia — and at least a half-dozen similar measures being kicked around in Congress, the industry faces an uncertain future.

If  drones are restricted in several states or at the federal level, millions of dollars could be lost. First-responders such as police and fire departments are expected to be one of the largest markets for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the study says, but they’d be barred in Virginia if the current proposal becomes law.

On another front, the Federal Aviation Administration appears to be in danger of missing the congressionally mandated September 2015 deadline to integrate drones into the national airspace. The agency only recently began taking applications for its test-site program, where drones will be studied to see how they respond in different climate conditions and at different altitudes.

More than 30 states have expressed interest in hosting those sites and reaping the economic benefits expected to come along with them.

It’s unclear, however, when the program will be fully established; further delays put the 2015 date in greater jeopardy.

The industry used Tuesday’s detailed study to highlight what’s at stake.

“Every year that we delay integration, the U.S. will lose more than $10 billion in total economic impact,” said Darryl Jenkins, lead author of the report and a former director of the Aviation Institute at George Washington University. Mr. Jenkins also is a past professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

He identified first-responders and the agriculture industry as the two biggest markets for UAS technology, though drones also have applications for media, the oil and gas industry and many other businesses.

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DIANNE FEINSTEIN’S DRONE RULES PLAYBOOK

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars.com
March 8, 2013

Following predictions that her legislation to disarm America will flounder in the bowels of the Senate, California Democrat and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has weighed in on drones.

Describing the technology as a “perfect assassination weapon,” Feinstein told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews there needs to be some rules for the technology Obama and the Justice Department say may or may not be used to murder Americans.

“In some respects it’s a perfect assassination weapon. It can see from 17,000 to 20,000 feet up in the air, it is very precise, it can knock out a room in a building if it’s armed, it’s a very dangerous weapon. Right now we have a problem, there are all these nations that want to buy these armed drones. I’m strongly opposed to that,” she said.

Feinstein said minus government regulation she frets drones will be used to snoop on her most cherished constituents, Hollywood celebrities. She warned one day soon we may see drones “hovering over the homes of Hollywood luminaries, violating [their] privacy.” She apparently did not find it important to mention the privacy – to say nothing of the Fourth Amendment rights – of millions of Americans who are not on par with famous celebrities.

“This question has to be addressed and we need rules of operation on the border, by police, by commercial use and also by military and intelligence use. So this is now a work in progress,” Feinstein said. “The administration is looking at a rules playbook as to how these won’t be used and how they will be used. So It’s a very complicated subject of new technology and I think we have to take a pause and get it right,” the Democrat explained.

Meanwhile, the “enhanced” torture apologist masquerading as a lawyer, John Yoo, has come out in defense of Obama’s effort to circumvent the Constitution and take out Americans in much the same way the technology is used to dispatch alleged terrorists in faraway lands.

“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do — they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” Yoo told his neocon compatriots at the Federalist Society, an elite organization parading as a libertarian project.

“I think it’s right if an American joins an enemy with which we are at war he is or she is a valid target as an enemy combatant. That’s been the rule throughout our history.”

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The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution

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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ADVANCES PLAN FOR PUBLIC SAFETY DRONES

More incarnations of spy technology to undergo testing

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
February 18, 2013

The Department of Homeland Security is advancing its plan to use surveillance drones for “public safety” applications, announcing last week that it had received a deluge of “excellent” responses from potential vendors and was set to carry out more tests of the technology.

New testing of spy drones for “public safety” applications has been rubber stamped by the DHS. Image: YouTube

As we first reported in July last year, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told a House Committee on Homeland Security that the federal agency was “looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster,” despite the fact that the agency had previously indicated it was reticent to use spy drones to keep tabs on the public.

This was followed by a “market research” announcement in September that confirmed the DHS was exploring a “Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety” (RAPS) project, and was asking small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) vendors to take part.

In an update posted on the FedBizOpps website last week (PDF), the federal agency announced that, “Vendor response to our Request for Information (RFI), Number: DHS 13-01, on small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) was excellent and included the submission of over 70 white papers.”

The announcement added that a small number of the submissions would now be participating in the “first phase of assessments” for the technology in 2013 and 2014. The DHS refuses to specify which proposals were accepted and for what reasons.

Initial testing of robotic spy drones for “public safety” applications was conducted by the DHS’ Science and Technology directorate at Fort Sill, Oklahoma last year.

As Wired Magazine reported, the DHS is pursuing lightweight spy drones that can fly for two hours at a time, but it is also interested in military-style drones fitted with cameras that can spy on up to four square miles at a time.

As we reported last week, the ARGUS-IS surveillance camera system, developed by BAE Systems in conjunction with DARPA, has the capability to track every moving object across an area of 15 square miles, or a medium-sized city – and could be fitted to unmanned drones that can stay airborne for years at a time.

The DHS is already using another type of airborne drone surveillance, also utilized to track insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.

Experts predict that there will be 30,000 surveillance drones in American skies by 2020 following a bill passed last year by Congress that permits the use of unmanned aerial spy vehicles on domestic soil.

Last week, a Federal Aviation Administration official told a conference in Northern Virginia that unmanned surveillance drones deployed in US airspace would not be armed with missiles.

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DOMESTIC DRONES INCH CLOSER TO THE SKY NEAR YOU

By Arlette Saenz | ABCNews

February 16, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration announced February 14th, that it is seeking proposals from states, universities and other organizations for six sites where unmanned aircraft systems will be tested – a major step for integrating domestic drones into the U.S. airspace system.

“Our focus is on maintaining and improving the safety and efficiency of the world’s largest aviation system,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Thursday. “This research will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies.”

The FAA ensured that the test sites would be required to adhere to privacy standards during all of their research and testing.

“Each site operator and its team members will be required to operate in accordance with federal, state and other laws regarding the protection of an individual’s right to privacy,” the FAA said in a statement.

While the FAA is responsible for ensuring the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace, questions loomed at a House hearing Friday over which agency would be responsible for regulating privacy issues.

“It’s unknown at this point,” Gerald Dillingham, director of Physical Infrastructure Issues at the Government Accountability Office, said at a Science, Space and Technology House subcommittee Friday. “From our perspective, that’s one of the big obstacles to integration – that is public acceptance, public education, public concern about how their data will be used.”

“American public are just frightened frankly about the use of UAS to possibly have invasions of their privacy and invasions of their civil rights and I’m extremely interested in making sure that we protect those privacy issues and civil rights issues,” Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, said.

“We have to at least figure out who the go to person is in the administration so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks,” Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., ranking member of the subcommittee, said.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the FAA establish test sites for domestic drones by the end of 2012, a deadline which the agency missed as it assessed privacy concerns, as well as the full integration of unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace by September 2015, which FAA views as a starting point.

“Our approach is a phased approach and we’re very cognizant that the FAA Act of 2012 called for safe integration by 2015. We view that as a beginning,” Karlin Toner, director of the Joint Program Development Office at the FAA, said. “We’re taking a phased in approach. In 2015 we’ll have integration beginning but as we move towards the next gen system there will be new capabilities that make this an even more efficient integration for more varieties of aircraft.”

Reps. Tom Poe, R-Texas, and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced legislation Thursday that would establish guidelines for who can use drones and for what purposes as well as ban unmanned aircraft systems containing firearms in the U.S.

“As we enter this uncharted world of drone technology, Congress must be proactive and establish boundaries for drone use that safeguard the Constitutional rights of Americans,” Poe said in a statement. ”Individuals are rightfully concerned that these new eyes in the sky may threaten their privacy. It is the obligation of Congress to ensure that this does not happen. Just because Big Brother can look into someone’s backyard doesn’t mean it should. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not.”

“Whether we like it or not, for better or for worse, this technology is here, and it’s not going away,” Maffei said at the hearing. “We must develop the necessary framework to handle UAS emerging safely and securely. We must also ensure the protection of individual rights and personal privacy in the air and on the ground.”

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ACTIVISTS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN AGAINST ‘AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS': KILLER ROBOTS MUST BE STOPPED

By Tracy McVeigh, The Observer
February 24, 2013

Autonomous weapons’, which could be ready within a decade, pose grave risk to international law, claim activists

A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban “killer robots” before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates.

Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law.

The Stop the Killer Robots campaign will be launched in April at the House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons.

“These things are not science fiction; they are well into development,” said Sharkey. “The research wing of the Pentagon in the US is working on the X47B [unmanned plane] which has supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, a craft which would take autonomous armed combat anywhere in the planet.

“In America they are already training more drone pilots than real aircraft pilots, looking for young men who are very good at computer games. They are looking at swarms of robots, with perhaps one person watching what they do.”

Sharkey insists he is not anti-war but deeply concerned about how quickly science is moving ahead of the presumptions underlying the Geneva convention and the international laws of war.

“There are a lot of people very excited about this technology, in the US, at BAE Systems, in China, Israel and Russia, very excited at what is set to become a multibillion-dollar industry. This is going to be big, big money. But actually there is no transparency, no legal process. The laws of war allow for rights of surrender, for prisoner of war rights, for a human face to take judgments on collateral damage. Humans are thinking, sentient beings. If a robot goes wrong, who is accountable? Certainly not the robot.”

He disputes the justification that deploying robot soldiers would potentially save lives of real soldiers. “Autonomous robotic weapons won’t get tired, they won’t seek revenge if their colleague is killed, but neither will my washing machine. No one on your side might get killed, but what effect will you be having on the other side, not just in lives but in attitudes and anger?

“The public is not being invited to have a view on the morals of all of this. We won’t hear about it until China has sold theirs to Iran. That’s why we are forming this campaign to look at a pre-emptive ban.

“The idea is that it’s a machine that will find a target, decide if it is the right target and then kill it. No human involvement. Article 36 in the Geneva Convention says that any new weapon has to take into account whether it can distinguish and discriminate between combatant and civilian, but the problem here is that an autonomous robot is not a weapon until you clip on the gun.”

At present, Sharkey says, there is no mechanism in a robot’s “mind” to distinguish between a child holding up a sweet and an adult pointing a gun. “We are struggling to get them to distinguish between a human being and a car. We have already seen utter incompetence in the use of drones, operators making a lot of mistakes and not being properly supervised.”

Last November the international campaign group Human Rights Watch produced a 50-page report, Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots, outlining concerns about fully autonomous weapons.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimising civilian deaths and injuries.”

US political activist Jody Williams, who won a Nobel peace prize for her work at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, is expected to join Sharkey at the launch at the House of Commons. Williams said she was confident that a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons could be achieved in the same way as the international embargo on anti-personnel landmines. “I know we can do the same thing with killer robots. I know we can stop them before they hit the battlefield,” said Williams, who chairs the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

“Killer robots loom over our future if we do not take action to ban them now,” she said. “The six Nobel peace laureates involved in the Nobel Women’s Initiative fully support the call for an international treaty to ban fully autonomous weaponised robots.”

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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PUSHES BIG BROTHER DRONES DESPITE PUBLIC OUTCRY IN THE UNITED STATES

Published on Mar 27, 2013

It appears the sky is the limit for U.S. law enforcement, with aerial surveillance drones set to be used domestically. But Capitol Hill has met some firm resistance to the plans. RT’s Gayane Chichyakyan reports on the attempts to fight back against the federal project.

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CONGRESSMAN FIGHTS TO STOP “FLYING ROBOTS ENDLESSLY WATCHING AMERICANS”

Rep. introduces privacy bill aimed at government spy drones

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Mar 20, 2013


A Democratic Congressman is pushing legislation that would see strict privacy measures enacted to protect Americans becoming sitting targets for government “spying robots.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, who co-Chairs the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, reintroduced legislation he first put forth last year to ensure constitutional protections are maintained in the face of the huge expansion in the use of drones by law enforcement and government agencies.

Markey’s Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act (DAPTA) would require privacy protection provisions relating to data collection and minimization, disclosure, warrant requirements for law enforcement, and enforcement measures in the licensing and operation of drones.

“As drones increasingly fill our skies, Americans must be afforded a level of privacy and protection from these aerial technologies,” said Rep. Markey.

“My drone privacy bill provides transparency on the domestic use of drone aircraft and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot be used to endlessly watch Americans.” The Congressman added.

The bill would specifically require the Federal Aviation Administration to include a detailed data-collection statement when considering any application for a drone license. The statement would require precise information on what data will be collected and how the party applying for the license would use it.

The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to have judicial warrants before deploying any form of drone for surveillance purposes, and it would ensure the creation of a publicly accessible database of all drone licenses, detailing the times and locations of all legally sanctioned drone flights.

“I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues on this bi-partisan issue to ensure that strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures are put in place now, before this technology is literally hovering over our heads.” Rep. Markey wrote in a statement yesterday.

The Congressman received support from privacy groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

“Comprehensive legislation is necessary prior to further deployment of drones in the United States,” said Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counsel for EPIC. “Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act make clear that there is a real threat to privacy that can no longer be ignored. Congressman Markey’s bill will help address this challenge.” she said.

“Drone surveillance poses a real threat to privacy and civil liberties in the United States. Congressman Markey’s bill adds much-needed transparency to the drone authorization process and mandates important restrictions that will help to protect Americans from unwarranted drone use,” Jennifer Lynch of EFF added.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also issued a statement on the bill, saying, “The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) supports Congressman Markey’s efforts to safeguard Fourth Amendment interests in the digital age. This bill leaves the door open for law enforcement use of aerial drones while upholding the right of Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Striking the proper balance between law enforcement interests and privacy interests, this bill is the first step in the right direction towards transparency and accountability in future drone use.”

In a strongly worded letter, Markey wrote to the FAA last year demanding to know what privacy protections the agency was putting in place in anticipation of granting approval for commercial groups to fly drones from 2015 onwards.

In a response, the FAA admitted that surveillance drone operators have zero privacy obligations, prompting Markey and his co-Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) to complain that the federal agency is greasing the skids for authorities to gather private information on regular Americans.

“FAA does not appear to be prioritizing privacy and transparency measures in its plan to integrate nonmilitary drones into U.S. airspace,” Markey said in a follow up statement.

While many bills and measures aimed at regulating drones are advancing at the city and state levels, privacy advocates are yet to see a significant legislative movement on a national scale.

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VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON MOVE CLOSER TO DRONE BANS

Government agencies, law enforcement officials angry at backlash

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 22, 2013

The states of Virginia and Washington moved significantly closer to banning spy drones yesterday, making legislative progress that has angered government agencies and law enforcement.

The Washington Times reports that the Virginia General Assembly approved a moratorium on drone aircraft in the state, sending the legislation to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.

The Senate passed their version of the bill, which advocates a blanket ban on the use of drones except where missing person searches are concerned, for the next two years. Members voted by a 40-0 vote after accepting an amendment from the House, which passed their bill, HB2012, Wednesday.

“We are pleased that it’s on the way to the governor with strong bipartisan support,” bill sponsor Delegate Benjamin L. Cline, Augusta Republican, told reporters in Charlottesville, Va. “We hope that the governor will also share our support for a breathing period to get some rules in place.”

Although the bill does not go quite as far as Delegate Todd Gilbert’s legislative push last year for a permanent strict ban on surveillance by drones, it is a step in the right direction as far as privacy advocates are concerned.

Gov. McDonnell is expected to approve the moratorium, despite comments he made last year when he described warrantless drones as “great”, citing “battlefield successes”.

“If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money… it’s absolutely the right thing to do.” McDonnell said on the deployment of drones in the state.

The approval of the moratorium on drones comes in the wake of the passage of legislation by city officials in Charlottesville, Va to keep drones out of their airspace altogether, making it the first US city to enact such a ban. Whether city officials will be able to extend their ban to federal drone aircraft or not remains to be seen.

In a similar move in Washington State yesterday, legislation to limit drone use was approved 9-1 by a House Committee, and will move forward to the Rules Committee before potentially heading to the floor of the House.

“I’m pleased the Committee moved H.B. 1771 with a ‘Do Pass’ recommendation. We’ve been working on the issue for several months and we have a lot of work left to do, but we passed the first hurdle today. It’s a great day for freedom and liberty in Washington State,” said Rep. David Taylor (R), the primary sponsor of the bill.

Much like the Virginia push, the Washington legislation allows for drones to be used for surveillance, by government agencies and law enforcement, only if a warrant is issued, or in search and rescue situations.

“This bill quite simply provides protection to the citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That’s our intent here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you will protect the Constitutional rights of the citizens,” said Rep.Taylor.

“The entire drone issue is not going to be solved with just this one bill, but this will get the law enforcement side under control because there are no clear guidelines out there right now for the use of these drones and we could put the state on the hook with liability if these drones are used in an improper manner,” said Rep. Matt Shea (R), another sponsor.

“Drones are the equivalent of King George the III’s General Warrants. We must get their use by public agencies and law enforcement under control now to protect the people of Washington from warrantless searches and seizure. Just imagine what state environmental agencies could do with drones …. Tyranny,” said another sponsor, Rep. Jason Overstreet (R).

Many testified in support of the drone ban, including a former FBI official, as well as regular citizens. Officials from government agencies and drone manufacturers expressed anger, and argued that the ban would cost jobs, hinder safety efforts, and lead to over-regulation of law enforcement searches.

The Washington state push comes in the wake of a scrapping of plans by Seattle city officials to roll out drones. Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to abandon extensive plans it had to roll out drones it has already acquired through federal grant money.

Several other states and cities are considering legislation to prohibit the use of drones in domestic skies. Oregon became the latest state to do so recently with the introduction of a bill setting out licensing requirements for drone use in the state. The bill would fine those who use unlicensed drones to conduct surveillance. New limitations are also being proposed for federal evidence collected by drone use in a state court.

Meanwhile, in related news, Rolling Stone notes that the drone industry is set to launch an all out PR offensive to convince Americans that the unmanned vehicles are more than just tools for spying and assassinations.

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA BECOMES THE FIRST U.S. CITY TO BAN GOVERNMENT SPY DRONES

Activists want to see legislation at Federal level

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 5, 2013

Yesterday we brought you news on the efforts of the House of Delegates and the Senate in Virginia to bring about a two year moratorium on the use of surveillance drones by government and law enforcement agencies. Today we learn that Charlottesville, Va has passed legislation to outlaw the use of drones, making it the first US city to do so.

In a 3-2 vote, city councilors passed the anti-drone resolution Monday, echoing the State level effort to halt the use of drones for the next two years. There will, in effect now be a ban on the craft entering Charlottesville city limits, prohibiting any city agency from using the technology.

The council will urge the Virginia General Assembly and Congress to keep drones out of local air space.

The resolution adopted by the council reads:

“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 Charlottesville; and

“WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

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

“NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation 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; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.”

Anti-drone activist David Swanson, who led protests in the days and hours before the council vote, notes on his website that “citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m. Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city’s site.”

Swanson had submitted his own draft version of the eventual resolution, amended largely from a Rutherford institute document.

Swanson noted that “some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad. Charlottesville’s City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.”

“But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well. The problem there, according to (Councillor) Smith, was that ‘we don’t own the air.’ Swanson added.

As we have previously noted, efforts to push back against drone use by government and law enforcement agencies are ongoing in many other cities and states across the nation. The Charlottesville case shows how such significant issues can be affected at the local level.

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FLORIDA SENATOR: “IMAGINE IF KING GEORGE HAD SENT A DRONE TO HOVER OVER THE BOSTON TEA PARTY”

Lawmaker fights against law enforcement use of spy craft

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 7, 2013

Among the several States poised to pass legislation to prohibit the use of spy drones is Florida, where a bill to ban the unmanned craft advanced this week, despite the lobbying efforts of law enforcers.

The Community Affairs Committee of the State Senate unanimously approved a bill to ban drones, refusing to water it down by making exceptions for crowd control purposes.

Sheriff’s department representatives and lobbyists for the Florida Sheriffs Association argued that it would save money to use drones, rather than helicopters, to monitor crowds over large scale events such as football games.

“We do not want to use the drone to fly over people’s houses, seeing what they’re doing in their backyards,” Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Fewless told the committee.

“They have no firearms on them,” Fewless said. “We can’t blow people up. The only thing we can do is take a picture.”

The argument prompted a stern retort from the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Negron.

“We know something about crowds,” Negron said. “We had a crowd back in the 1700s. It was called the Boston Tea Party. Can you imagine if King George had sent a drone to hover over the Boston Tea Party to see what the American patriots were up to?”

Negron added, that people are fully aware of helicopters because they can see and hear them, where as drones operate more effectively for surveillance purposes.

“Helicopters yes, drones no, because we have to draw lines,” Negron said. “That is what legislating is all about.”

“What we’re talking about here is Big Brother and the idea that Big Brother is watching,” commented Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat from Orlando.

The bill has to advance through three more committees before it will be considered for a floor vote. The Florida House version of the bill is set to be debated in a hearing Thursday.

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TEXAS “ANTI DRONE” LAWS WOULD BE TOUGHEST IN USA

Lawmaker would prohibit drone surveillance of Texas citizens

Jim Forsyth

Feb 7, 2013

Texas would have the toughest anti-drone legislation in the country under a bill filed by State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell).

  1200 WOAI’s Michael Board reports that Gooden has introduced a measure which would outlaw the use of drones by individuals, or state or federal law enforcement.

Gooden tells 1200 WOAI news that his bill would have limited exceptions, including allowing drones within 25 miles of the Rio Grande for drug and illegal immigrant interdiction programs, or for use by law enforcement with a valid search or arrest warrant, with ‘probable cause to believe that a person has committed a felony.’

“Do we want out local police departments laying off officers and simply parking drones over our homes to keep an eye on all of us?” Gooden asked.

Gooden’s measure would make it illegal for any image which was taken by a drone-based camera from being used in any civil or criminal court proceeding.

“These drones are going to get so cheap that soon you’ll be able to buy your own drone at Best Buy,” Gooden said.  “You could park it a foot above the ground in your neighbor’s back yard and film into their house.  If someone wanted to film your children out playing by the pool and put that video on the Internet, as creepy as that sounds.”

Gooden says his measure is being introduced now, rather than five years from now when drones will become more ubiquitous, because now is the time to come up with laws, before there is a ‘drone lobby’ which will be out in force to protect the drone industry.  He points out if we would have had laws prohibiting texting and driving been passed 15 years ago, texting and driving would not be the problem it is today.

“Soon you will be able to park your own drone over someone’s private property and perform indiscriminate surveillance all day long,” he said.

Gooden’s bill would also prohibit federal law enforcement or federal officials from flying drones over Texas to spy on random citizens.  Only individuals who are suspected with reasonable cause could be the target of drone surveillance, and only with a warrant issued by a judge of an open and public court.

The issue is gaining more steam this week, as the Obama Administration is considering new guidelines on the use of drones to spy on, and even to kill, American citizens.

His bill would also allow a person who was the victim of unauthorized drone surveillance, whether the drone was piloted by an individual or by a government official, to sue that individual for money damages.

Gooden concedes there are many legitimate uses for the new drone technology, from ranchers keeping an eye on cattle to Realtors getting interesting photographs of a home for a sales pitch.  But he says now is the time for Texas to reassert their freedoms under the Fourth Amendment to be free from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ even if that is done by a vehicle in the sky.

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WASHINGTON STATE BILL TO LIMIT DRONE USE PASSES COMMITTEE

Mikael Thalen
Infowars.com
February 22, 2013

Bi-partisan legislation to limit drone use within Washington state was approved Thursday 9-1 after a large group of people, from regular citizens to a former F.B.I. employee, came to show and voice their support.

“I’m pleased the Committee moved H.B. 1771 with a ‘Do Pass’ recommendation. We’ve been working on the issue for several months and we have a lot of work left to do, but we passed the first hurdle today. It’s a great day for freedom and liberty in Washington State,” said Rep. David Taylor (R), the primary sponsor of the bill.

H.B. 1771 contains much needed guidelines statewide to limit drone use to protect the rights of Washington residents under the 4th Amendment as well as Article I, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution, while allowing drones to be used only after a warrant is issued or in certain emergency situations such as wildfire observation and search and rescue.

“This bill quite simply provides protection to the citizens of Washington state from warrantless surveillance. That’s our intent here. To start a conversation and say if these things are going to be used, you will protect the Constitutional rights of the citizens,” said Rep.Taylor.

Some of the guidelines in the bill state that any government group within Washington must get permission and be approved before even acquiring a drone. No personal information can be collected on an individual or area other than the target that justified the issuance of a search warrant.

The bill also requires any group using a drone to conduct annual comprehensive audits on all drone operations which will include the law enforcement log book, corresponding emergency telephone calls, warrants and other documentation of the justification for use and data collected. The audits will have to be made available to the public.

“The entire drone issue is not going to be solved with just this one bill, but this will get the law enforcement side under control because there are no clear guidelines out there right now for the use of these drones and we could put the state on the hook with liability if these drones are used in an improper manner,” said Rep. Matt Shea (R), another sponsor.

Citizens also raised concern over the recently leaked Department of Justice white paper that outlines the supposed legality of drone strikes on U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism even without any intelligence to show actual involvement in a plot to attack America.

“Drones are the equivalent of King George the III’s General Warrants. We must get their use by public agencies and law enforcement under control now to protect the people of Washington from warrantless searches and seizure. Just imagine what state environmental agencies could do with drones …. Tyranny,” said another sponsor, Rep. Jason Overstreet (R).

Not everyone in attendance was in support of the legislation. Police groups and drone manufacturers from the state spoke out in opposition to the legislation citing issues such as the possible economic impact of strictly regulating drone use.

Washington state also made drone news recently after residents spoke out against, and ended, the Seattle Police Department’s drone program.

The bill now moves forward to the Rules Committee to determine if it will head to the floor of the House.

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SEATTLE MAYOR BANS POLICE FROM USING DRONES

Backlash against spy craft exploding nationwide

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 8, 2013

The backlash against government and law enforcement plans to use surveillance drones is continuing apace across the nation, with the latest victory for privacy coming in Seattle.

AP reports that Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to scrap extensive plans it had to roll out drones it has already acquired through federal grant money.

“Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program, so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority,” a statement from the Mayor read.

Residents and anti-drone activists have been leading protests against the drone plans for some time. A City Council meeting on Wednesday saw many speak out against the plans, influencing the decision to block authority for police to use the unmanned craft.

Doug Honig, a spokesman for the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said “We applaud the mayor’s action… Drones would have given the police unprecedented abilities to engage in surveillance and intrude on the privacy of people in Seattle … and there was a never a strong case made that Seattle needed them for public safety.”

The Seattle Police Department had planned to deploy unmanned surveillance drones over the city after it became one of the first law enforcement agencies in the US to be granted permission by the federal government to do so.

Privacy and civil rights concerns raised by residents prompted police to issue a draft operating policy manual that stated “…the onboard cameras will be turned … away from occupied structures, to minimize inadvertent video or still images of uninvolved persons.”

This still wasn’t enough to convince lawmakers that the drones were appropriate for use in Seattle skies.

The Sky Valley Chronicle, which also took issue with the drone roll out, noted last year that the SPD is “the same police department that the U.S. Justice Department found – after an 11-month probe – had engaged in “a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law.”

“And that was with no drones in the air.” the newspaper urged.

Since they acquired the drones, officers have paraded them to the public in several presentations.

The unmanned craft purchased by police were fitted with surveillance cameras with face-recognition software, as well as separate cameras offering thermal infrared video, low light “dusk-dawn” video, and a 1080p HD video camera attachment. The Draganflyer X-6 drone, seen in the videos below, can travel up to 30 mph and can fly as high as 8,000 feet.

Several other states and cities are considering legislation to prohibit the use of drones in domestic skies. Oregon became the latest state to do so this week with the introduction of a bill setting out licensing requirements for drone use in the state. The bill would fine those who use unlicensed drones to conduct surveillance. New limitations are also being proposed for federal evidence collected by drone use in a state court.

The FAA this week released an updated list of domestic drone authorizations, showing more than 20 new drone operators, and bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

After Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization last year, requiring the FAA to permit the operation of drones weighing 25 pounds or less, observers predicted that anything up to 30,000 spy drones could be flying in U.S. skies by 2020.

As we reported in December, thousands of pages of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents newly released under the Freedom Of Information Act have revealed that the military, as well as law enforcement agencies, are already extensively flying surveillance drones in non-restricted skies throughout the country.

In addition, information via news items, Department of Homeland Security press releases, and word of mouth has made it apparent that the Department of Homeland Security is overseeing predator drone flights for a range of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Last October, the DHS announced in a solicitation that it would be testing small spy drones at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, signaling that the devices will be used for “public safety” applications in the near future.

Much larger drones are already being used in law enforcement operations across the country. The most infamous case involved the Brossart family in North Dakota, who were targeted for surveillance with a Predator B drone last year after six missing cows wandered onto their land. Police had already used the drone, which is based at Grand Forks Air Force Base, on two dozen occasions beforehand.

Plans to roll out drones by law enforcement agencies in California and Buffalo have recently met with stern opposition.

As we have previously reported, some police departments have expressed a willingness to arm drones with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Police departments are also attempting to get approval to use surveillance blimps that hover over cities and watch for “suspicious activity.”

The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

Recently released FAA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the FAA gave the green light for surveillance drones to be used in U.S. skies despite the fact that during the FAA’s own tests the drones crashed numerous times even in areas of airspace where no other aircraft were flying.

The documents illustrate how the drones pose a huge public safety risk, contradicting a recent coordinated PR campaign on behalf of the drone industry which sought to portray drones as safe, reliable and privacy-friendly.

Critics have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.

FAA documents recently obtained and released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that the roll out of domestic unmanned drones will, for the most part, be focused solely on the mass surveillance of the American people. In a report, EPIC recently noted:

With some exceptions, drone flights in the U.S. have been all about developing and testing surveillance technology.  The North Little Rock Police Department, for instance, wrote that their SR30 helicopter-type drone “can carry day zoom cameras, infrared cameras, or both simultaneously.”

The Miami-Dade Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety have employed drones capable of both daytime and nighttime video cameras, and according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Certificate of Authorization (COA) paperwork, their drone was to be employed in support of “critical law enforcement operations.”

However, the FAA didn’t just rubber stamp all drone requests. For example, the Ogden Police Department wanted to use its “nocturnal surveillance airship [aka blimp] . . . for law enforcement surveillance of high crime areas of Ogden City.” The FAA disapproved the request, finding Odgen’s proposed use “presents an unacceptable high risk to the National Airspace System (NAS).”

Another report released recently, by the Congressional Research Service found that ”the prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues.”

“Police officers who were once relegated to naked eye observations may soon have, or in some cases already possess, the capability to see through walls or track an individual’s movements from the sky,” the report notes. “One might question, then: What is the proper balance between the necessity of the government to keep people safe and the privacy needs of individuals?”

The “ability to closely monitor an individual’s movements with pinpoint accuracy may raise more significant constitutional concerns than some other types of surveillance technology,” CRS says.

“Unless a meaningful distinction can be made between drone surveillance and more traditional forms of government tracking,” the report notes, “existing jurisprudence suggests that a reviewing court would likely uphold drone surveillance conducted with no individualized suspicion when conducted for purposes other than strict law enforcement.”

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the biggest union of law officials in the US, issued a stark warning about increased drone use.  The union released guidelines calling for a reassessment of the potential widespread use of aerial drones for domestic policing.

In another recent development, a prominent private investigator operating out of New York and Texas noted that anyone engaging in any large scale protest, is now subjected to scanning by drones that skim their personal information from their cell phones.

Despite all these facts, close to half of Americans indicated recently that they are in favour of police departments deploying surveillance drones domestically.

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NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ON DRONES: ‘SCARY’ BUT INEVITABLE

By Dave Smith |International Business Times
March 25 2013

Surveillance drones have many benefits , but privacy isn’t one of them. Though the public has grown increasingly concerned with the government’s domestic usage of drones, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes the issue is “scary” but inevitable.

“You can’t keep the tides from coming in,” Bloomberg told WOR Radio 710 . “We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy. I don’t see how you stop that. It’s not a question of whether I think it’s good or bad — I don’t  see how you stop that.

The prevalence of cameras, Bloomberg said, is part of the reason the issue is so difficult to control, especially from a legislative standpoint.

“It’s scary, but what’s the difference if the drone is up in the air or on the building?” Bloomberg asked. “Intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction. You’re going to have face-recognition software; people are working on that. We’re going into a different world unchartered, and, like it or not, what people can do or governments can do is different.”

The availability of cameras and drones makes the issue particularly complex. The popular AR Drone 2.0 from Parrot , which can fly 165 feet in the air and record video in 720p HD, costs just $299. Users can also visit UAVDronesForSale.com to choose from a wide range of professional flying drones at reasonable prices — you can even buy a hovering, streaming camera for just $49 .

But it’s not just flying cameras: Satellite maps from Google, Bing and others, as well as readily available real-time surveillance footage, make it easier than ever to see and be seen publicly.

“You can do it from further away, you can see more, you can do it continuously, you can do it undetected in ways you couldn’t before,” Bloomberg said. “And al Qaeda can do it too. It’s a scary world. Everyone wants their privacy, but I don’t know how you’re going to maintain it.”

Bloomberg didn’t express a great deal of confidence in the government’s ability to make effective law changes to protect citizens’ privacy.

“This is something society really has to think about and not just by writing a quick piece of legislation,” Bloomberg said. “These are long-term, serious problems. Whether we have the discipline to approach problems that way … I don’t know. Everybody demagogues on all these things, and there are some serious issues before you write legislation.”

Here is the full text from this particular excerpt of Bloomberg’s radio interview, courtesy of WOR Radio 710 .

WOR: What’s your position on drones? Domestic use of drones by the NYPD or any other entity?

Bloomberg: It’s scary, but what’s the difference if the drone is up in the air or on the building. Intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction. You’re going to have face-recognition software; people are working on that. We’re going into a different world unchartered, and, like it or not, what people can do or governments can do is different, and you can to some extent control, but you can’t keep the tides from coming in. We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy. I don’t see how you stop that. It’s not a question of whether I think it’s good or bad — I don’t  see how you stop that.

WOR: The question is: Where do you draw a particular line?

Bloomberg: Well, if I fly a drone, and I bring it outside your house and start peering inside your bedroom window, [but] if I walk up to your house and maybe the property line is so close to your window that I’m not on your property and look in, there’s gotta be Peeping Tom legislation. I suppose we’ve addressed the issue a little bit, but now it’s going to be much more serious. You can do it from further away, you can see more, you can do it continuously, you can do it undetected in ways you couldn’t before. And al Qaeda can do it too. It’s a scary world. Everyone wants their privacy, but I don’t know how you’re going to maintain it. This is something society really has to think about and not just by writing a quick piece of legislation. These are long-term, serious problems. Whether we have the discipline to approach problems that way … I don’t know. Everybody demagogues on all these things, and there are some serious issues before you write legislation.

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DEFENSE INDUSTRY PUSHES FOR ‘DRONE ZONE’ OVER SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

by Ben Shapiro | Breitbart

25 Mar 2013

Despite Americans’ concerns about the domestic use of drones, California local agencies are reportedly moving forward with an application to declare a broad swath of Southern California a “drone zone” – an area to be used to test pilotless aircraft. The purpose: government stimulus.

In California, the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) have filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration to create a drone zone. These groups want to stimulate state drone business, even as the state raises its taxes repeatedly, driving out other business. Northrup Grumman, a major drone producer, has relocated branches of its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program to Southern California. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which produces Predator drones, is located in Poway. The UAV industry in San Diego County clocks in at approximately $1.3 billion, and that number is growing fast.

And it’s not just California. The FAA is prepared to greenlight six test zones across the country, and over 40 applications have been filed or will be filed shortly, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Applicants include the State Department, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and technologies, and the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department. The winners of this drone zone sweepstakes will be able to claim a chunk of what may be a $10 billion industry. Senator Harry Reid’s office says he pushed the FAA program that laid the groundwork for the drone zones. “We had Nevada in mind,” said Reid’s spokeswoman to the Las Vegas Sun. But the zones are bipartisan-approved: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) is apparently working with Reid and the FAA to try to grab one of the zones.

Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager for the FAA Pacific Division, directed Breitbart News to the FAA website’s page on Unmanned Aircraft Systems without further comment. The FAA website describes the goal of the test-site program: “The research done at the test sites will help the FAA develop regulatory standards to foster UAS technology and operational procedures. The effort also will add to the data we need to eventually permit routine UAS operations in the NAS.” The FAA’s press release asking for public input on UAS test-site selection makes no mention of civil liberties. When Gregor was asked via email for comment on whether test sites would rule out urban areas or other areas of population density, he did not respond.

The American Civil Liberties Union is protesting the possibility of such zones, stating, “Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life.”

According to reports, 63 drone sites have already been authorized across the country.

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OREGON COMPANY TO SELL DRONE DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY TO PUBLIC

The company says it won’t knock drones down, but will stop them from ‘completing their mission’

By Jason Koebler | U.S. News and World Report

Do you want to keep drones out of your backyard?

An Oregon company says that it has developed and will soon start selling technology that disables unmanned aircraft.

The company, called Domestic Drone Countermeasures, was founded in late February because some of its engineers see unmanned aerial vehicles—which are already being flown by law enforcement in some areas and could see wider commercial integration into American airspace by 2015—as unwanted eyes in the sky.

“I was personally concerned and I think there’s a lot of other people worried about this,” says Timothy Faucett, a lead engineer on the project. “We’ve already had many inquiries, a lot of people saying ‘Hey, I don’t want these drones looking at me.'”

Domestic Drones Countermeasures was formed as a spin-off company from Aplus Mobile, which sells rugged computer processors to defense contractors—though the company won’t discuss its specific technology because it is still applying for several patents. Faucett says that work has helped inform its anti-drone technology.

The company will sell land-based boxes that are “non-offensive, non-combative and not destructive.” According to the company, “drones will not fall from the sky, but they will be unable to complete their missions.”

Though Faucett wouldn’t discuss specifics, he says the boxes do not interfere with a drone’s navigation system and that it doesn’t involve “jamming of any kind.” He says their technology is “an adaptation of something that could be used for military application” with the “combat element replaced with a nondestructive element.”

“We understand the nature of the equipment drone manufacturers are using and understand how to counter their sensors,” Faucett says. “We’re not going to be countering Predator drones that are shooting cruise missiles, but we’re talking about local law enforcement drones and commercial ones that people might be using for spying.”

For now, Faucett admits the technology is “expensive,” but the company is already ready to design custom anti-drone boxes for customers.

“We envision it could be cheap enough for residential use very soon,” he says. “It’s quite possible to deploy it if you were shooting a movie and wanted to protect your set, or if you had a house in Malibu and wanted to protect that, we could deploy it there. If a huge company like Google wanted to protect its server farms, it can be scaled up for a larger, fixed installation.”

As drones become more commonplace, Faucett says more people will begin searching for a way to protect their privacy.

“The thing that brought it home for me was Senator [Rand] Paul doing the filibuster, there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he says. “We think there might be as much business for this counter drone stuff as there is for the drones themselves.”

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ANTI-DRONE TECH CORPORATION TO BEGIN SELLING TO THE PUBLIC WHILE WORKING WITH DARPA

Susanne Posel
Occupy Corporatism
March 19, 2013

Domestic Drone Countermeasures (DDC), a corporation based out of Oregon, was founded by engineers that wanted to combat the purveying unmanned aerial vehicles conducting surveillance operations in American skies.

Timothy Faucett, lead engineer for DDC, explained: “I was personally concerned and I think there’s a lot of other people worried about this. We’ve already had many inquiries, a lot of people saying ‘Hey, I don’t want these drones looking at me.’”

Faucett said that he was “personally concerned” about the use of domestic drones in American skies and have created a way to combat “local law enforcement drones and commercial [drones] that people might be using for spying.”

DDC originated as Aplus Mobile, (AM) a corporation that provides computer processors to defense contractors with patents pending. Faucett was integral in developing anti-drone technology.

AM provides technologies for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, iRobot, the US Navy, DARPA and Raytheon.

In collaborating with the US Military Forces, AM has provided technologies to combat attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while also supporting the war on terrorism.

AM is owned by Faucett and has dedicated the corporation to securing “knowledge that when our systems are deployed in these harsh environments, our technology and workforce dedication continues to provide products that meet or exceed the expectations of our military.”

According to their website, DDC “is an OEM and Consultant that Designs, Develops and Manufactures Countermeasure Hardware Solutions and related Peripheral Systems and Software.”

The staff of DDC “[has] significant experience in aircraft, military and high-end commercial systems to provide complex specification and compliant solutions that work and are able to survive in mobile applications and harsh environments.”

DDC “has taken on the task of commercializing military technologies for use as domestic drone countermeasures.”

And while UVAs are commercialized military vehicles that are used against American citizens, DCC offers “non-offensive, non-combative and not destructive. Drones will not fall from the sky, but they will be unable to complete their missions.”

The counter-technology offered by DDC includes “multiple layer systems [to] ensure success by impeding typical drone sensors, infrared and camera capability.”

In order to purchase these “multi-layered drone shields and countermeasure domes” for protection against domestic drones used by the US military, the Department of Homeland Security and any other federal agency or local police department, a customer has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, provide proof of US citizenship and may not use this technology overseas or for illegal activity.

Faucett said: “We understand the nature of the equipment drone manufacturers are using and understand how to counter their sensors. We’re not going to be countering Predator drones that are shooting cruise missiles, but we’re talking about local law enforcement drones and commercial ones that people might be using for spying.”

DDC wanted to produce a cheap enough for residential use very soon. It’s quite possible to deploy it if you were shooting a movie and wanted to protect your set, or if you had a house in Malibu and wanted to protect that, we could deploy it there. If a huge company like Google wanted to protect its server farms, it can be scaled up for a larger, fixed installation.”

Recently the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was told by the US Court of Appeals that the secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s drone program must become public knowledge; unanimously rejecting the CIA’s go-to response of neither confirming nor denying its existence or use.

The original suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who requested through a Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) request for documents concerning the application of the current drone program and its implications for American’s citizen’s right to the 4th Amendment.

While the ruling stands, it does not ensure that the federal government will release documents regarding the drone program.

In an opinion, Judge Merrick Garland, along with Judges David Tatel and Thomas Griffith stated: “Although these statements do not acknowledge that the CIA itself operates drones, they leave no doubt that some U.S. agency does. Given these statements by the Director, the President, and the President’s counterterrorism advisor, the Agency’s declaration that ‘no authorized CIA or Executive Branch official has disclosed whether or not the CIA…has an interest in drone strikes’…is at this point neither logical nor plausible.”

Garland remarked that: “As it is now clear that the Agency does have an interest in drone strikes, it beggars belief that it does not also have documents relating to the subject.”

In October of last year, the CIA “suggested” that the White House approve an expansion of the CIA’s drone fleet to extend the agency’s ability to survey under a paramilitary force. This would add 10 more drones to the 35 already used in counterterrorism operations.

Ironically, the CIA denied knowledge of drone use in the US during a lawsuit prompted by the ACLU; as well as refused a Freedom of Information Act request claiming that they could not confirm US government drone use.

While speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee last month before being named replacement director for the CIA, John Brennan said that Americans misunderstand the drone program, claiming that the Obama administration would strike using drones “only. . . as a last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative” to avert a threat to the nation.”

In response to scene Senator Rand Paul made on Senate floor last month regarding the legality of the Obama administration’s right to murder Americans with drone strikes on US soil, Attorney General Eric Holder replied that Obama does not have the right to kill unarmed and non-combative Americans on American soil.

Paul claimed this response as a victory, glossing over the fact that Holder did not define who or what a combatant is. In this denial of the clarity of definition, it is still to be understood that if the Obama administration considers any US citizen under suspicion of terroristic involvement, they would be viewed as a combatant and an enemy of the nation – whether proposed to be a member of al-Qaeda or a patriot/constitutionalist.

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DOCUMENTS REVEAL U.S. MARSHALS USING SPY DRONES

Program has remained secret for seven years

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 28, 2013

Documents obtained by the ACLU have revealed that the U.S. Marshals Service has experimented with using drones for domestic surveillance.

The documents, available on the ACLU website, were released via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The rights group says that although the Marshals Service admitted it had found 30 pages of information pertaining to its use of drones, it only actual handed over two, which were heavily redacted, containing only two short paragraphs of visible information.

Under the heading “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Man-Portable (UAV) Program,” an agency document overview states:

“USMS Technical Operations Group’s UAV Program provides a highly portable, rapidly deployable overhead collection device that will provide a multi-role surveillance platform to assist in [redacted] detection of targets.”

A further document reads:

“This developmental program is designed to provide [redacted] in support of TOG [Technical Operations Group] investigations and operations. This surveillance solution can be deployed during [multiple redactions] to support ongoing tactical operations.”

An LA Times report earlier this month revealed more, stating:

“In 2004 and 2005, the U.S. Marshals Service tested two small drones in remote areas to help them track fugitives, according to law enforcement officials and documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act. The Marshals Service abandoned the program after both drones crashed.”

Expressing doubt that these details cover the full scope of the Marshals’ drone use, ACLU says it is “surprising” that what was purportedly a “a small-scale experiment” still remains secret after seven years.

“As drone use becomes more and more common, it is crucial that the government’s use of these spying machines be transparent and accountable to the American people. All too often, though, it is unclear which law enforcement agencies are using these tools, and how they are doing so.” a statement on the ACLU website reads.

“We should not have to guess whether our government is using these eyes in the sky to spy on us.” the statement continues.

ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump added that “Americans have the right to know if and how the government is using drones to spy on them.”

“Drones are too invasive a tool for it to be unclear when the public will be subjected to them.” Crump added. “The government needs to respect Americans’ privacy while using this invasive technology, and the laws on the books need to be brought up to date to ensure that America does not turn into a drone surveillance state.”

There are currently several bills on the table at the state and national level to reign in the use of drones, and not without justification.

The FAA recently released an updated list of domestic drone authorizations, showing more than 20 new drone operators, and bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

After Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization last year, requiring the FAA to permit the operation of drones weighing 25 pounds or less, observers predicted that anything up to 30,000 spy drones could be flying in U.S. skies by 2020.

As we reported in December, thousands of pages of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents newly released under the Freedom Of Information Act have revealed that the military, as well as law enforcement agencies, are already extensively flying surveillance drones in non-restricted skies throughout the country.

In addition, information via news items, Department of Homeland Security press releases, and word of mouth has made it apparent that the Department of Homeland Security is overseeing predator drone flights for a range of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Last October, the DHS announced in a solicitation that it would be testing small spy drones at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, signaling that the devices will be used for “public safety” applications in the near future.

Much larger drones are already being used in law enforcement operations across the country. The most infamous case involved the Brossart family in North Dakota, who were targeted for surveillance with a Predator B drone last year after six missing cows wandered onto their land. Police had already used the drone, which is based at Grand Forks Air Force Base, on two dozen occasions beforehand.

Plans to roll out drones by law enforcement agencies in Washington State, VirginiaCalifornia and New York have recently met with stern opposition.

As we have previously reported, some police departments have expressed a willingness to arm drones with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Indeed, drone lobbyists are now actively seeking approval for drones to be employed for “lethal force” within the United States. Drone industry insiders recently seized on the recent Christopher Dorner standoff with police, suggesting that lives would have been saved had UAVs been deployed. The lobbyists cynically suggested that privacy advocates were to blame for the deaths and severe injuries of police, because they have acted to block drone deployment by law enforcement.

Eerie industry ads also recently emerged that depicted DHS funded surveillance drones spying on private gun sales as if they were some sort of shady criminal or terroristic activity.

Recently released FAA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the FAA gave the green light for surveillance drones to be used in U.S. skies despite the fact that during the FAA’s own tests the drones crashed numerous times even in areas of airspace where no other aircraft were flying.

The documents illustrate how the drones pose a huge public safety risk, contradicting a recent coordinated PR campaign on behalf of the drone industry which sought to portray drones as safe, reliable and privacy-friendly.

Critics have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.

FAA documents recently obtained and released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that the roll out of domestic unmanned drones will, for the most part, be focused solely on the mass surveillance of the American people. In a report, EPIC recently noted:

With some exceptions, drone flights in the U.S. have been all about developing and testing surveillance technology.  The North Little Rock Police Department, for instance, wrote that their SR30 helicopter-type drone “can carry day zoom cameras, infrared cameras, or both simultaneously.”

The Miami-Dade Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety have employed drones capable of both daytime and nighttime video cameras, and according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Certificate of Authorization (COA) paperwork, their drone was to be employed in support of “critical law enforcement operations.”

However, the FAA didn’t just rubber stamp all drone requests. For example, the Ogden Police Department wanted to use its “nocturnal surveillance airship [aka blimp] . . . for law enforcement surveillance of high crime areas of Ogden City.” The FAA disapproved the request, finding Odgen’s proposed use “presents an unacceptable high risk to the National Airspace System (NAS).”

Another report released recently, by the Congressional Research Service found that ”the prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues.”

“Police officers who were once relegated to naked eye observations may soon have, or in some cases already possess, the capability to see through walls or track an individual’s movements from the sky,” the report notes. “One might question, then: What is the proper balance between the necessity of the government to keep people safe and the privacy needs of individuals?”

The “ability to closely monitor an individual’s movements with pinpoint accuracy may raise more significant constitutional concerns than some other types of surveillance technology,” CRS says.

“Unless a meaningful distinction can be made between drone surveillance and more traditional forms of government tracking,” the report notes, “existing jurisprudence suggests that a reviewing court would likely uphold drone surveillance conducted with no individualized suspicion when conducted for purposes other than strict law enforcement.”

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the biggest union of law officials in the US,issued a stark warning about increased drone use.  The union released guidelines calling for a reassessment of the potential widespread use of aerial drones for domestic policing.

In another recent development, a prominent private investigator operating out of New York and Texas noted that anyone engaging in any large scale protest, is now subjected to scanning by dronesthat skim their personal information from their cell phones.

Despite all these facts, close to half of Americans indicated recently that they are in favour of police departments deploying surveillance drones domestically.

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DOMESTIC DRONES AND FACE-RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY ARE ‘SCARY’ AND INEVITABLE, BLOOMBERG SAYS

By Dana Rubinstein | CapitalNewYork.com

“It’s scary, but what’s the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today during his weekly appearance on the John Gambling radio show, when Gambling asked him his thoughts on the use of domestic drones by the NYPD or any other entity. “I mean intellectually I’d have trouble making a distinction. And you know, you’re gonna have face-recognition software. People are working on that. … You can’t keep the tides from coming in. We’re gonna have more visibility and less privacy. I don’t see how you stop that.”

In December, the New York Times editorial board warned that “the unmanned aircraft that most people associate with hunting terrorists and striking targets in Pakistan are on the brink of evolving into a big domestic industry,” and urged Congress to protect Americans’ right to privacy.

“This is something that society really has to think about, and not by writing a quick piece of legislation,” said Bloomberg this morning. “These are long-term serious problems.”

The issue arose during a discussion about traffic-enforcement cameras. Bloomberg would like there to be many more red-light and speeding cameras, but he needs Albany’s approval to install them. Thus far Albany has been reluctant to oblige, in part due to concerns from the police union that the more widespread use of such cameras will mean fewer jobs.

“We should have red light cameras everyplace, why not?” said Bloomberg this morning. “If you break the law, why not do it? And we should not use our police officers for that. Our police officers have too much to do. They put their lives in danger all the time. … It isn’t gonna result in any fewer police officers being employed. It’ll just make them more valuable because they can work on more important stuff, like bringing crime down or preventing crime to begin with.”

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UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT REVEALS MEMO REVEALING THE LEGAL JUSTIFICATION TO CONDUCT DRONE STRIKES ON AMERICAN CITIZENS

Published on Feb 5, 2013

On Tuesday, a confidential Justice Department memo was released revealing the legal justification for the US government to conduct drone strikes on American citizens abroad. The portion of the memo that has been getting a lot of attention is that the government does not need evidence to justify a deadly attack. NBC first got its hands on the white paper and now a group of 11 bipartisan senators are demanding answers from the Obama administration. Stephen Miles, coalition coordinator for Win without War, gives us his take on the secret drone memo.

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These links will take you to a Congressional website where you can quickly and easily email your Senators and Congressmen about this topic:

http://www.senate.gov/

http://www.house.gov/

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RELATED POST: EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA SIGNS NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT 2013 INTO LAW ON JANUARY 2, 2013: MARTIAL LAW COMES TO AMERICA

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: IT’S LEGAL TO USE DRONE STRIKES ON AMERICANS

Melissa Melton
Infowars.com
February 5, 2013

NBC news has produced a chilling, confidential Department of Justice (DOJ) white paper outlining the supposed legality of extrajudicial drone strikes on U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism even without intelligence to show involvement in a plot to attack America.

While admitting that U.S. citizens are still afforded constitutional protections such as due process when they travel abroad, the 16-page report claims, “The U.S. citizenship of a leader of al-Qa’ida or its associated forces, however, does not give that person constitutional immunity from attack” [emphasis added]. Continuing, “The Due Process Clause would not prohibit a lethal operation of the sort contemplated here.”

As it has with thousands of men, women, and children in the Middle East, our federal government apparently thinks it’s somehow allowed to use drones to openly murder Americans outside the law of our land.

The memo also claims, “This conclusion is reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a U.S. citizen.” Regardless of its extraordinary nature, such lethal drone operations would be “justified as an act of national self-defense.”

According to the DOJ, a lethal strike against an American citizen is okay if he or she is a suspected al-Qa’ida leader on foreign soil and the following three conditions are met:

1) an informed, high level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;

2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and

3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

The paper does not discuss considerations of drone strikes on Americans suspected of high-level terrorism on domestic soil.

Although this is the first time this deadly assertion has been spelled out in black and white, the U.S. government has already killed multiple U.S. citizens with drone strikes. Born in Denver, Colorado, Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was an American citizen when he was murdered in a strike in Yemen. According to family member accounts, the teenager was not even involved in the suspected terrorist activities for which his father (also a U.S. citizen)  was killed in another U.S. drone strike a week earlier.

Neither al-Awlaki nor his son were afforded due process before they were killed.

Even the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism without a guaranteed trial, at least pretends to consider the Authorization for Use of Military Force’s inability to deny an American their constitutional rights.

The New York Times reported on Obama’s “secret kill list” at length last spring, noting the list included several U.S. citizens and two teens, “including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.” The article outlines how the president deems himself judge, jury, and executioner of those on the list.

Despite multiple Freedom of Information Act requests placed by the ACLU and others, the government has yet to release any information on its extrajudicial drone killings, what requirements must be met to be added to the list, or how the president goes about choosing the next suspect to die by drone.

Even as it amps up the drone war in Yemen, reports have come out just this month that the U.S. is now mulling over expanding drone strikes to Mali, a region that admittedly houses secret U.S. drone bases. Former Rand Corporation head Bruce Hoffman felt most Americans would not consider this action to be controversial because it isn’t “boots on the ground,” a position illustrating just how much unmanned aerial vehicles have further dehumanized American wars.

It’s time more Americans admitted these unconstitutional drone strikes are more than just controversial; they are murder. How can the DOJ “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans” as its mission statement claims it must when it is calling for the outright extrajudicial slaying of American citizens?

The American system of criminal justice is supposedly based on the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty. Now, not only are we guilty until proven innocent, but apparently, proof is no longer required.

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EXCLUSIVE: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MEMO REVEALS LEGAL CASE FOR DRONE STRIKES ON AMERICANS

By Michael Isikoff National Investigative Correspondent, NBC News

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful:  In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect  would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”  It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and  not discussed publicly.

Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration  officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s  Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly — or even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.

“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans.  “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the white paper. The spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, instead pointed to public speeches by what she called a “parade” of administration officials, including Brennan, Holder, former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and former Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson that she said outlined the “legal framework” for such operations.

Pressure for turning over the Justice Department memos on targeted killings of Americans appears to be building on Capitol Hill amid signs that Brennan will be grilled on the subject at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

On Monday, a bipartisan group of 11 senators — led by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon — wrote  a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the subject. While accepting that “there will clearly be circumstances in which the president has the authority to use lethal force” against Americans who take up arms against the country,  it said, “It is vitally important … for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how  the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority.”

The completeness of the administration’s public accounts of its legal arguments was also sharply criticized last month by U.S. Judge Colleen McMahon in response to a  lawsuit brought by the New York Times and the ACLU seeking access to the Justice Department memos on drone strikes targeting Americans under the Freedom of Information Act.  McMahon, describing herself as being caught in a “veritable Catch-22,”  said she was unable to order the release of the documents given “the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for the conclusion a secret.”

In her ruling, McMahon noted that administration officials “had engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens.” But, she wrote, they have done so “in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing … any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.”

In one passage in Holder’s speech at Northwestern in March,  he alluded – without spelling out—that there might be circumstances where the president might order attacks against American citizens without specific knowledge of when or where an attack against the U.S. might take place.

“The Constitution does not  require the president to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning, when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear,”  he said.

But his speech did not contain the additional language in the white paper suggesting that no active intelligence about a specific attack is needed to justify a targeted strike. Similarly, Holder said in his speech that targeted killings of Americans can be justified  if “capture is not feasible.” But he did not include language in the white paper saying that an operation might not be feasible “if it could not be physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity or if the relevant country (where the target is located) were to decline to consent to a capture operation.” The speech also made no reference to the risk that might be posed to U.S. forces seeking to capture a target, as was  mentioned in the white paper.

The white paper also includes a more extensive discussion of why targeted strikes against Americans does not violate constitutional protections afforded American citizens as well as   a U.S. law that criminalizes the killing of U.S. nationals overseas.

It  also discusses why such targeted killings would not be a war crime or violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations.

“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” the white paper reads. “In the Department’s view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly,  the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.”

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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LEAKS MEMO LEGALIZING KILLING AMERICANS

By David Swanson | Global Research
February 05, 2013

With a few tweaks and a more creative title — like “Murder With Your Hands Clean” — this memo could sell a lot of copies.

And why not?  Either there’s a whistleblower in the Department of So-Called Justice about to be charged with espionage, and NBC is about to face the same persecution as WikiLeaks, or this is one of those “good” leaks that the White House wanted made public in an underhanded manner — perhaps as an imagined boost to morality-challenged CIA director nominee John Brennan who faces his Senate Rejection Hearing on Thursday.

The memo, which is thought to be a summary of a longer one, says the United States can murder a U.S. citizen abroad (abroad but somehow “outside the area of active hostilities” even though killing him or her seems rather active and hostile) if three conditions are met:

“1. an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;”

The memo goes on to base its claims on the supposed powers of the President, not of some random official.  Who is such an official?  Who decides whether he or she is informed?  What if two of them disagree?  What if he or she disagrees with the President? or the Congress? or the Supreme Court? or the U.S. public? or the United Nations? or the International Criminal Court? What then?  One solution is to redefine the terms so that everyone has to agree.   “Imminent” is defined in this memo to mean nothing at all.  “The United States” clearly means anywhere U.S. troops may be.

“2. capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible;”

And if a high-level official claims it’s infeasible, who can challenge that?

“3. the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

When a U.S. drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, no one had shown either of them to meet the above qualifications.

When a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, no one had shown him to meet the above qualifications; I don’t think anyone has made such a claim to this day.  And what about his cousin who died for the crime of being with him at the wrong time?

The sociopaths who wrote this memo have “legalized” the drone-killing of Americans with the exception of all the Americans known thus far to have been murdered by our government with the use of drones.

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WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: DRONE STRIKES ARE ‘LEGAL,’ ‘ETHICAL,’ AND ‘WISE’

BY:
February 5, 2013

White House press secretary said Tuesday the administration’s use of drones is “legal,” “ethical,” and “wise,” at a press briefing following remarks by President Obama.

“These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise,” Carney said.

NBC News reported late Monday on an unclassified Department of Justice white paper on the use of drones against American citizens, like al Qaeda operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.

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SENATORS ASK OBAMA FOR LEGAL BASIS FOR TARGETED KILLINGS OF AMERICANS

US senators have requested the legal justification for the killings of US citizens suspected of terrorism by the Obama administration. Meanwhile a ‘chilling’ leaked memo showed that the government sees little need for constraint on the issue.

A group of 11 senators on Monday wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the practice of targeting US citizens suspected of being terrorist leaders with lethal force, particularly drone airstrikes. The request comes as the administration seeks Senate approval for John Brennan, Obama’s nomination for CIA chief.

“As the Senate considers a number of nominees for senior national security positions, we ask that you ensure that Congress is provided with the secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations,” the letter’s opening paragraph reads.

Brennan, who is deputy national security advisor to the president, is to face questioning from the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 7. As the Obama administration carries on many of the Bush-era policies that exist in something of a legal gray area, lawmakers want to be sure they have all the information possible in order to “avoid an unnecessary confrontation that could affect the Senate’s consideration of nominees for national security positions.”

And in case the White House attempts to block the release of the documents by appealing to some legal “privilege,” the legislators continue, “We would encourage you to simply waive whatever privilege might apply, if you would like to make it clear that you are not setting a precedent that applies to other categories of documents.”

The legislators are not alone in their desire to see the secret justification for targeted killing of Americans by the US administration. The New York Times and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit seeking access to the Justice Department memos on the issue under the Freedom of Information Act.

Previously a number of US officials, including Brannon, Attorney General Eric Holder and others, have argued in public speeches in favor of drone killings of Americans who pose an imminent threat to the country. But apparently in practice the administration has a broader view on what constitutes the imminence of a threat.

NBC News published on Tuesday a copy of a 16-page memo detailing legal reasoning of the killings, which was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June on condition that it would not be discussed publicly.

The white paper argues that the US is operating lawfully in kill “senior operational leaders of Al-Qaeda or an associated force” even if a person happens to be a US citizen and is not known to be planning an attack on America.

“The condition that an operational  leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

It is sufficient that an “informed, high-level” official of the US government determines that the target of the killing has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities” the document says. It gives no definitions of “recently” or “activities”.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, called the white paper “a chilling document” that “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

“Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated,” he told NBC News.

Obama had attempted to nominate Brennan for the post in 2009, at the start of his first term, but Brennan withdrew his name from consideration after facing claims that he supported former President George W. Bush’s torture program. Brennan was described as a “supporter of the ‘dark side’ policies,” with critics claiming his appointment “would dishearten and alienate those who opposed torture under the Bush administration,” read a letter sent to Obama in 2008.

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FEINSTEIN: “WE SHOULD NOT ALLOW ARMED DRONES IN THE UNITED STATES.  PERIOD.”

January 17, 2014

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on the domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles on Wednesday, debating potential economic benefits of UAVs and ways to update Federal Aviation Administration regulations to accommodate them. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a proponent of the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs, said she’s concerned about surveillance and safety issues. RT’s Meghan Lopez takes a closer look at the hearing on drones and ways drones are currently used in the US.

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FORMER OBAMA PRESS SECRETARY WAS ORDERED TO ACT AS IF THE DRONE PROGRAM DID NOT EXIST

The first rule of the drone program is that you do not talk about the drone program

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Feb 25, 2013

In a rare admission, Robert Gibbs, the former White House Press Secretary under Obama, told reporters Sunday that he was ordered to act as if there was no such thing as an active US drone program.

“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” this past weekend.

Gibbs said that he was told “You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”

Noting that the notion was “inherently crazy”, Gibbs said “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists.”

“So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program—pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Gibbs, who was Press Secretary between 2009 and 2011, said.

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As we have tirelessly noted, the Obama administration has been heavily criticized for blocking the release of information relating to its overseas drone assassination programme, and will not even officially acknowledge that it exists, despite countless public references to the programme and the proven existence of an official “kill list”.

Gibbs stated that he expects the drone program to remain secret for the most part, despite moves in Congress to force more transparency.

“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.”

While the program itself remains classified, it is no secret that Obama has vastly expanded the US drone war since entering office in 2009. Daily drone strikes are raining down on Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Somalia.

A recent report released by Washington based think tank, The New America Foundation revealed that the number of secret US drone strikes in Yemen almost tripled in 2012, compared to 2011.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has found that at least 171 civilians, including 35 children, have been slaughtered in Yemen by secret US drone strikes over the past ten years.

Communications released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the US and Yemen have repeatedly attempted to cover up the use of US warplanes to bombard Yemen.

Last week it was announced that despite the fact that drone strikes have killed thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen and Pakistan, the Pentagon is to reward drone operators with medals.

The DoD is creating a new ribbon, called the Distinguished Warfare Medal that will be awarded for “extra achievement” related to a military operation. This will encompass sitting at a computer console and pressing a button to release Hellfire missiles from Predator drones hundreds and thousands of miles away.

The medal will become the fourth-highest ranking combat decoration, placing above the Bronze Star.

Despite the official secrecy, the president has referred to the drone program several times in public, as have officials such as counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.

Last year, the New York Times ran a major piece on the program revealing that the White House has asserted the right to carry out state-sponsored assassination anywhere in the world without having to provide any evidence or go through any legal process.

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The administration merely has to state that the target is a terrorist and it doesn’t matter whether they are an American citizen or not, as we saw in the case of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, who were both killed last year.

In December of last year, Obama administration lawyers reaffirmed their backing for state sponsored assassination, claiming that “U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets” and do not have the right to any legal protection against being marked for summary execution.

During a CBS 60 Minutes interview in January, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed that Obama himself personally approves the policy to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial on a case by case basis.

Perhaps the real reason that the administration wants the details of the programme kept under wraps is that, as reported by Propublica recently, the programme is potentially much bigger in scope than anyone had previously thought.

The administration’s figures do not add up, they are chock full of contradictions and discrepancies, and there can be little doubt that there have been many many more civilian deaths as a result of drone attacks than have been publicly acknowledged.

Experts, including UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns, as well as Pakistan’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Zamir Akram, have described the drone assassination programme as a violation of the international legal system, saying that some attacks may constitute war crimes.

Akram, who noted that US drone strikes had killed more than 1,000 civilians in Pakistan, also said “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the ‘war against terror’. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.

Many also contend that the attacks infringe the national sovereignty of Pakistan and constitute an act of war.

In 2010, a report by Washington think tank The New America Foundation found that 32% of the more than 1,200 people killed since 2004 in Pakistan, or around 1 in 3, were innocent bystanders rather than dangerous terrorists.

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FAA RELEASES EXPANDED DRONE LICENSE LIST

by  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. | The New American

February 25, 2013

On February 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a fact sheet reporting that it has granted 1,428 drone licenses to entities in the United States. Of those, 327 are designated active.

There is no legal restriction on who can request a license to fly a drone and the FAA statement claims that typical purposes for the unmanned vehicles include “law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, search and rescue, military training, and other government operational missions.”

The FAA is hurrying to get all the licenses processed in order to meet the September 2015 deadline set by Congress for releasing the drones over the United States.

While there is no consensus on the number of drones that soon will begin buzzing over cities and towns in the United States, estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 of the powerful surveillance craft may begin their patrol in the domestic skies.

Of all the licenses approved by the FAA, the majority have been granted to local and state law enforcement.

For example, in Alabama, correspondents on the scene reported seeing drones flying over the site where a five-year-old boy was being held captive in a bunker by a 65-year-old man. According to a report of the situation filed by the Los Angeles Times, “authorities refused to say who was operating the AeroVironment drone….”

Perhaps the most troubling use by law enforcement of a drone was the case of Rodney Brossart.

In 2011, Brossart became one of the first American citizens (if not the first) arrested by local law enforcement with the use of a drone owned by a federal agency. Police launched this loaner after Brossart held the police at bay for over 16 hours.

It is likely Brossart’s case that inspired Becker to put legislative brakes on the runaway zeal of law enforcement to get these all-seeing eyes airborne.

Brossart’s run-in with law enforcement began after six cows found their way onto his property (about 3,000 acres near Lakota, North Dakota), and he refused to turn them over to officers. In fact, according to several sources, Brossart and a few family members ran police off his farm at the point of a gun. Naturally, police weren’t pleased with Brossart’s brand of hospitality, so they returned with a warrant, a SWAT team, and a determination to apprehend Brossart and the cows.

A standoff ensued, and the Grand Forks police SWAT team made a call to Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to one of the Department of Homeland Security’s squadron of Predator drones. No sooner did the call come in than the drone was airborne, and Brossart’s precise location was pinpointed with laser-guided accuracy. The machine-gun toting SWAT officers rushed in, tased, and then arrested Brossart on various charges, including terrorizing a sheriff.

At a legal hearing on the matter, Bruce Quick, the lawyer representing Brossart, alleged a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unwarranted searches and seizures. Although the police possessed an apparently valid search warrant, Quick asserts that no such judicial go-ahead was sought for or obtained for the use of the Predator drone to track Brossart. Therein lies the constitutional rub.

On several occasions Congress has attempted to provide specific guidance to the judicial branch’s understanding of the Fourth Amendment and the scope of its prohibitions. These updated rules would prevent citizens from being subject to surveillance without notice.

The latest effort by federal lawmakers to shore up the Fourth Amendment’s protection of privacy is a bi-partisan bill (H.R. 637) offered on February 13 and co-sponsored by Representatives Ted Poe (R-Texas), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). This bill would require the attorney general to publish online a list of all entities — public and private — that operate drones.

More importantly, the bill would establish a more rigorous legal framework for the use of drones by law enforcement, including the requirement that all drone surveillance be “pursuant to a warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction; and not later than 10 days after the execution of the warrant, the governmental entity that sought the warrant serves a copy of the warrant on each person on whom covered information was collected….”

“We need to protect against obtrusive search and surveillance by government and civilian use,” Poe said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Last year, a similar measure proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was voted down.

In practice, these bills would help judges apply the principles of the Fourth Amendment to drone use in a very specific way. The standards presently used to judge the constitutionality of observation by helicopter or patrol car, for example, would be altered appropriately to fit the rapidly advancing drone technology. The improved legal framework would help law enforcement avoid legally suspect surveillance and would maintain the public’s protection against unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Wary of the impending de facto denial of their constituents’ Fourth Amendment rights, officials in towns and states across the country are proposing bills strengthening the constitutional restraints on government surveillance.

For example, on February 4 the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, passed a measure declaring the use of drones in the United States to be “a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people.

The resolution (passed by a vote of 3-2) endorsed the proposal for a two-year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia. Furthermore, it would prohibit the use of “information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court” located within Virginia, as well as outlawing the weaponization of drone fleets in the state.

As reported by the Tenth Amendment Center, David Swanson took the lead in pushing for adoption of the resolution. “In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies. Let us hope this one is no exception,” Swanson told the Tenth Amendment Center.

Councilmember Dede Smith, who voted in favor of the bill, is quoted in a US News story saying she believes drones are “pretty clearly a threat to our constitutional right to privacy.”

“If we don’t get out ahead of it to establish some guidelines for how drones are used, they will be used in a very invasive way and we’ll be left to try and pick up the pieces,” she said in the report.

Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told US News that the “Charlottesville resolution demonstrates that people care about protecting their civil liberties and Fourth Amendment rights and are willing to devote the time necessary to closely examine this issue.”

“Lawmakers should be looking at [drone privacy] issues now in order to ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect individual privacy from these invasive technologies,” she added.

The text of the measure was drafted by the Rutherford Institute, a civil-liberties advocacy group based in Charlottesville. Founded in 1982, the organization declares on its website that its purpose is “to provide legal services in the defense of religious and civil liberties and to educate the public on important issues affecting their constitutional freedoms.”

While Charlottesville becomes the first city to codify a curb on the use of drones, lawmakers in at least 11 other states are rushing to retrench the Fourth Amendment in advance of the approaching attack of the drones.

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DARPA SHOWS OFF 1.8 GIGAPIXEL SURVEILLANCE DRONE THAT SPY ON PEOPLE FROM 20,000 FEET

Kurzweilai.net
January 30, 2013

DARPA and the US Army have taken the wraps off ARGUS-IS, a 1.8-gigapixel video surveillance platform that can resolve details as small as six inches from an altitude of 20,000 feet (6km), ExtremeTech reports.

ARGUS is by far the highest-resolution surveillance platform in the world, and probably the highest-resolution camera in the world, period.

ARGUS, which would be attached to some kind of unmanned UAV (such as the Predator) and flown at an altitude of around 20,000 feet, can observe an area of 25 square kilometers (10sqmi) at any one time. If ARGUS was hovering over New York City, it could observe half of Manhattan. Two ARGUS-equipped drones, and the US could keep an eye on the entirety of Manhattan, 24/7.

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MICRO-AIR VEHICLES: TERRIFYING BUG-SIZED LETHAL DRONES DEVELOPED BY THE U.S. AIR FORCE

Published on Feb 20, 2013

Looks like we have the makings of a new arms race at hand. The winner will develop the tiniest lethal drone capable of blending into a crowded cityscape.

“The Air Force has nonetheless already constructed a “micro-aviary” at Wright-Patterson for flight-testing small drones. It’s a cavernous chamber—35 feet high and covering almost 4,000 square feet—with padded walls.

Micro-aviary researchers, much of whose work is classified, decline to let me witness a flight test. But they do show me an animated video starring micro-UAVs that resemble winged, multi-legged bugs.

The drones swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. One of them sneaks up on a scowling man holding a gun and shoots him in the head.”

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U.S. AIR FORCE DEVELOPS INSECT-LIKE DRONES FOR COVERT AND TARGETED OPERATIONS

Susanne Posel
Occupy Corporatism
February 20, 2013

Drones are being developed smaller and smaller to be able to fly like bugs in swarms, crawl like spiders and covertly survey targets or preform assassinations without detection.

Under the Air Vehicles Directorate branch of the US Air Force, research is being conducted to perfect remote-controlled micro air vehicles (MAVs) that are expected to “become a vital element in the ever-changing war-fighting environment and will help ensure success on the battlefield of the future.”

The future of war will include these “’unobtrusive, pervasive, and lethal” MAVs that can be dropped from an airborne plane into combat situations. The MAVs can be used for specific individual targeted assassinations or monitor a predetermined radius.

On Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, these drones are being developed that will be capable of having data imputed in real-time to facilitate decision-making with the expectation of providing an overall picture for the remote controllers.

These drones were designed to mimic insect flight patterns. Using high-frequency wings to hover over targets and being able to perch to save battery life, the drone is limited. However, technology is being developed to allow the drones to syphon electricity from wires and other power sources to be able to continue operations for days or weeks.

According to the video: “Small size and agile flight will allow MAVs to covertly enter locations inaccessible by traditional means of aerial surveillance.”

In June of 2011, the US military admitted to having drone technology so sophisticated that it could be the size of a bug.

In what is referred to as the “microaviary” on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, drone are in development and design to replicate the flight patterns of moths, hawks and other air-borne creatures of the natural world.

Greg Parker, aerospace engineer, explains: “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight” for the purpose of carrying out espionage or kill missions.
Cessna-sized Predatory drones, used to carry out unmanned attacks, are known round the world. The US Pentagon has an estimated 7,000 areil drones in their arsenal.

In 2011, the Pentagon requested $5 billion for drones from Congress by the year 2030. Their investigative technology is moving toward “spy flies” equipped with sensors and mircocameras to detect enemies and nuclear weapons.

Parker is using helicopter technology to allow his computer driven drone “dragonflies” become precise intelligence gathering weapons. “To have a computer do it 100 per cent of the time, and to do it with winds, and to do it when it doesn’t really know where the vehicle is, those are the kinds of technologies that we’re trying to develop.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has unveiled hummingbird drones that can fly at speeds of 11 miles per hour.

DARPA is also inserting computer chips into moth pupae in the hopes of hatching “cyborg moths”.

Within DARPA is the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project (HIMEM), whose aim is to develop shutterbugs – insects with cameras attached to their very nervous system that can be controlled remotely. Under HIMEM, there are researchers working on cyborg beetles.

Other institutions are hard at work for the US government, developing more insect technology. The California Institute of Technology has created a “mircobat ornithopter” that flies and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

A team at Harvard University has successfully built a housefly-like robot with synthetic wings that buzz at 120 beats per second.

Back in 2007, at the International Symposium on Flying Insects and Robots, Japanese researchers unveiled a radio-controlled hawk-moth.

While the US military would have the American public believe that these new “fly drones” are used for overseas missions, insect drones have been spotted surveilling streets right here in the US.

It is believed that these insect-like drones are high-tech surveillance tools used by the Department of Homeland Security.

The US government is experimenting with different types of micro-surveillance capabilities, such as cultivating insects with computer chips in them in the hopes of breeding software directly into their bodies to control flight patterns remotely.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been working on this technology since the 1970s. Known as the “inscetothopter”, it was developed by the Office of Research and Development for the CIA. It appears to be a dragonfly; however it contains a tiny gasoline engine to control its four wings. It was subsequently classified as a failure because it could not maintain flight against natural wind patterns.

The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has created a butterfly shaped drone that is the smallest built thus far. It can hover in mid-flight, just as a helicopter and take pictures with its 0.15 gram camera and memory card.

The “butterfly” imitates nature so well, that birds and other insects are convinced it is real and not man-made.

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INSECTDRONES

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THE RISE OF THE INSECT DRONES

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Nature spent millions of years perfecting flapping-wing flight. Now engineers can reproduce it with machines.

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By Adam Piore | Popular Science
January 2014
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Five years ago, Richard Guiler and Tom Vaneck were sitting at a bar a few blocks from their office, trying to take their minds off work. For nearly a year, the two engineers had been struggling to develop a durable drone that could dodge objects, navigate inside buildings, and fly in stormy weather. They’d tried fixed-wing models, but adding enough sensors to effectively detect obstacles made them too heavy to fly. They’d tried helicopters, but the rotors kept getting tangled in branches and electrical wires. They’d even built a motorized balloon; all it took was a gentle gust of wind to blow it off course.As they sat nursing their beers, Guiler and Vaneck watched as a fly appeared to slam into a window. Instead of breaking apart on contact as their drones did, the insect bounced off the glass and recovered. Then it did it again.“It was an epiphany,” says Vaneck, who works for the Massachusetts research and development company Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI). “We realized if we could make a manmade system that could hit things, recover, and continue on, that’s a revolution.”The idea of borrowing designs from nature is far from new, particularly when it comes to flight. The ancient Greeks dreamed up Daedalus, who fashioned wings for his son (which unfortunately worked a little too well). Leonardo da Vinci sketched a human-powered ornithopter. But until recently, inventors lacked the aerodynamics expertise to turn diagrams into mechanical versions of something as quotidian as a fly or a bee. As technology has advanced, scientists have decoded many of nature’s secrets. And engineers have developed the first flying, insect-inspired vehicles, opening the door to an entirely new class of machine: the microdrone.“Nature has a several-hundred-million-year lead time on us when it comes to great design,” says Peter Singer, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.–based Brookings Institution. “The robots you know tomorrow are going to look like nothing you know today. More likely, they will look like the animals around you.”-Unraveling The Mystery Of Flight-

Although insects and their relatives represent roughly 80 percent of the world’s animal species—some 900,000 known types—the mechanics of their flight had long been an enigma. Traditional fixed-wing aircraft rely on a steady flow of air over the wings. The same is true of helicopters and rotors. But as the wings of insects flap back and forth, the air around them is constantly changing. And the stubby wings of bees and other insects lift far more weight than can be explained using conventional steady-state aerodynamics principles.

Before scientists could understand flapping flight, they first had to see it in the minutest of detail. In the 1970s, Torkel Weis-Fogh, a Danish zoologist at the University of Cambridge, used high-speed photography to analyze the exact wing motions of hovering insects and compare them to the insects’ morphological features. From this, he formulated a general theory of insect flight, which included what he called the “clap-and-fling effect.” When insect wings clap together and then peel apart between the up and down strokes, the motion flings air away and creates a low-pressure pocket. Air then rushes back into the pocket, forming a swirling vortex. This vortex creates the force necessary to lift the insect between wing flaps. Similar vortices might be generated by the angle and rotation of the wings, Weis-Fogh posited, providing additional lift.

Two decades later, computational techniques caught up with theory, and scientists began to apply these principles to manmade systems. Charles Ellington, a Cambridge zoologist and former Weis-Fogh student, built a robotic wing that could precisely mimic the movements of a hawk moth. He placed it in a wind tunnel filled with smoke so that as it flapped, he could analyze the fluid dynamics. At the University of California at Berkeley, neurobiologist Michael Dickinson built a robotic fruit-fly wing that likewise mimicked a fly’s natural motion, and he submerged it in a two-ton tank of mineral oil. Working independently, the researchers
characterized the aerodynamics of flight with unprecedented specificity.

Dickinson and electrical engineer Ron Fearing won a $2.5-million DARPA grant in 1998 to apply these principles to a fly-size robot. They assigned a graduate student named Rob Wood, among others, to help develop techniques to fabricate the tiny parts and painstakingly assemble them with a pair of tweezers. Dickinson and Fearing also communicated which aerodynamics insights the students should try to reproduce. “Flies have really complex wing trajectories. There are a whole bunch of subtle things that happen,” Wood says. “Michael told us the most important features to generate vortices and other aerodynamic effects.”

By the time Wood graduated in 2004 and opened his own lab at Harvard University, he had helped pioneer a way to use extremely energy-efficient, exotic materials to replicate the motion of a fly’s wing; he had built a gyroscope that could mimic the sensors insects use to detect body rotation; and he had invented methods to manufacture complicated systems on a miniature scale. What remained was to put it all together into a working insect-size flying machine.

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drone4
Robobees
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RoboBees, built in a Harvard robotics laboratory, are actually modeled after flies. Piezoelectric actuators that expand and contract with electricity flap the wings at 120 times per second. The wings can also be controlled independently.
Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon, Harvard Microbotics Lab
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Turning Insights Into Robots
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On a freezing day in 2006, Wood arrived at his Oxford Street laboratory at Harvard. On the workbench sat a 60-milligram robot with a three-centimeter wingspan and a thorax roughly the size of a housefly. It was tethered to a six-foot-tall computer rack crammed full of high-voltage amplifiers and data-acquisition equipment. Wood carefully checked the connections and signals.Then he flipped on the power and watched as the wings of his tiny creation began to vibrate, lifting the robot into the air for several seconds. Wood jumped in jubilation. It had taken him seven years to get to this point, and it would take another five to reach his next breakthrough: sustained flight along a preprogrammed path. An e-mail with proof of that milestone arrived in his inbox at 3 a.m. in the summer of 2012. An ecstatic graduate student had sent a video update on the lab’s latest prototype, now named RoboBee. It showed the delicate machine rising into the air and demonstrating, for the first time, stable hovering and controlled flight maneuvers in an insect-scale vehicle.“I didn’t end up sleeping the rest of that night,” Wood says. “The next morning, we had champagne and all that, but it was more of a relief. If we couldn’t do this, we would have realized we were doing something wrong the whole time.”Wood has pioneered microscale robotic flight; other researchers have used flapping-wing dynamics to reduce the size of aerial vehicles capable of carrying payloads. In 2011, California-based AeroVironment demoed its Nano Hummingbird. The aircraft has a 16.5-centimeter wingspan; it can fly vertically and horizontally and hover in place against gusting wind. It weighs 19 grams—lighter than some AA batteries—but it carries a camera, communications systems, and an energy source.
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drone3
Insect Aerodynamics
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1. As a wing flaps, a tornado-like spiral of air forms along its leading edge. This vortex causes air pressure to drop briefly above the wing; higher pressure pushes the wing from below. 2. The wing rotates in preparation to flap in the opposite direction. This rotation creates forces similar to backspin on a tennis ball, pulling a faster stream of air over the top surface. 3. As the wing moves in the opposite direction, it collides with the swirling vortex of air created by the previous stroke, a principle called wake capture. Depending on the angle of the wing as it hits the wake, it can generate additional upward or downward force. Trevor Johnston
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TechJect, a company that spun off from work done at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently unveiled a robotic dragonfly with a six-inch wingspan. It weighs in at 5.5 grams (lighter than a quarter) and can be outfitted with modular electronics packages enabling high-definition video and wireless communication. The TechJect Dragonfly takes advantage of an aerodynamics principle called resonance. When wings flap at their most efficient frequency—which happens when air density, wing speed, and an organism’s weight are perfectly balanced-—they create waves of vortices that merge and build. The audible result is the hum of a hummingbird or buzz of a bee, says Jayant Ratti, TechJect’s president. A flapping-wing drone utilizing resonance generates significant improvements in energy efficiency, creating optimal lift with minimal effort.

Ratti and his team made the product commercially available to hobbyists and early adopters last year, and they plan to release another version by the end of 2014 for other markets. “The acceptance has been phenomenal,” Ratti says. “It is not yet a mature technology, but it’s getting there. We are still getting feedback and making improvements.”

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Building A Tougher Drone

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Small, fragile drones don’t solve the problem of damage caused by unexpected impacts, and so Guiler and Vaneck have focused on durability. After observing the fly at the bar, the two engineers searched for someone with experience replicating insect flight. They teamed up with Wood, whose lab had since joined Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and together they applied for an Air Force grant. Wood’s group then used an image-capture system to record and analyze fly behavior before, during, and after collisions with glass. By closely observing the positions of the flies’ body parts, they could measure the exact flip and twist of wings and legs.When Guiler and Vaneck slowed down the film, they were amazed at what they saw. “I thought the fly would tumble a bit and lose a lot of altitude,” Vaneck says. “But the fly recovery was elegant. It happened so rapidly; it was breathtaking.”Guiler and Vaneck homed in on the idiosyncratic geometry of the fly’s body. Its exoskeleton had accordion-like parts that acted as shock absorbers. It also seemed to sense impending collisions. Just before the moment of impact, the fly flew at an angle that ensured its legs touched the glass first. At that instant, the wings froze. Every time the fly slammed into the window, it reflexively surrendered to the crash momentum and fell. But within milliseconds, the fly’s center of gravity appeared to pull the fly back into a stable position. Then its wings flapped again, propelling the insect into a controlled hover. “It can hit and recover in two or three wing beats, which is phenomenal,” Vaneck says. “There is no manmade system that can do that.”
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The Coming Swarm
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Single bio-inspired drones are useful, but dozens can work together to accomplish a complex task. Vijay Kumar, an engineer at the University of Pennsylvania, teamed up with Arizona State University biologist Stephen Pratt to apply three lessons learned from ant swarms to fleets of quadrotors. 1) In nature, ants act autonomously. Engineers traditionally use a centralized system to choreograph movement in swarms, Kumar says. As a swarm grows larger, the control algorithms become increasingly complex. Instead, Kumar tries to program his aerial vehicles with a common set of instructions; the quadrotors divide up tasks and assume complementary roles. 2) Individual ants are interchangeable. “If I want to scale up my swarm, maintain the predictability of its behavior, and make it robust, the gang has to be able to perform the task if an individual is knocked out,” Kumar says. So he makes his aerial vehicles identical to one another. 3) Ants sense their neighbors and act on local information. Kumar outfitted his vehicles with motion-capture systems, cameras, and lasers that enable them to avoid obstacles and maintain a set distance from each other. As a result, they can fly in tight formations, work together to pick up heavy objects, and collaboratively create a map of their environment. Courtesy KMEL Robotics/YouTube
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The two engineers used those insights to guide the development of a resilient flying machine. The body needed to be shockproof, and the wings needed to be controlled independently. So they designed a shell for a quadrotor that incorporated shock absorbers—rubber dampers in between sections made from carbon fiber and plastic. They gave each of the four rotors its own motor in order to mimic the alternating wing speed that provides four-winged insects with exceptional control. When the vehicle is blown out of position or clips an obstacle, its computer detects the discrepancy between its current position and its programmed flight path, and an autopilot reflexively kicks in to recover stability.

Last February, the engineers sent their drone, called the InstantEye, to Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, for its annual Army Expeditionary Warrior experiments, where an infantry platoon used it to help complete a set of assigned missions. The soldiers gave it a “green” rating, one of the highest available.

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Overcoming Future Hurdles
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As the first generation of microdrones reaches the market, significant engineering challenges still remain. For Wood, the big hurdle is power. Unlike the much larger InstantEye, Nano Hummingbird, and Dragonfly drones, RoboBees must be connected to an external power source. Wood is using microfabrication to try to shrink onboard batteries, and he’s collaborating with researchers at Harvard, the University of Washington, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue novel batteries, micro fuel cells, and wireless power transfer. He estimates he is only one or two years away from his first autonomous-power demonstration.
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An early prototype of the RoboBee

Pratheev Sreetharan, Harvard Microrobotics La

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Guiler and Vaneck aim to replace the propellers on their quadrotor with flapping wings. The InstantEye is far better at recovering from wind gusts and minor collisions than other drones are, but its propellers can still get tangled in branches or power lines. “We wanted to bring something to the field fast,” Guiler says. “But what we discovered was flapping-wing birds and insects are perfectly suited for environments where you have dynamic obstructions—the trees are moving, the branches are moving. If they do get stuck, by their very motion they get unstuck. They kind of beat their way through. We realized a flapping wing was the only thing that would work.”

And then there’s Dickinson, who initiated the project to build the robotic fly. Today he runs a lab at the University of Washington and works with advanced imaging systems to study insect flight. Early high-speed cameras captured about 3,000 frames per second. “Fifteen years ago, the flies looked like little fuzzy UFOs,” he says. Now the biologists use cameras that can run at 7,500 frames per second, significantly higher than what was once available to researchers, and that work in infrared light. (Update: This sentence has been rewritten for clarification. Other cameras can reach much higher fps.) Dickinson has also gone beyond analyzing flight; he’s using electrodes to record the activity of neurons in insects’ brains. He links them to a flight-simulation system and presents them with visual stimuli—a picture of a predator, for instance—that cause them to react. “We can begin to learn how neurons in the brain are processing information in flight and how sensory information is transformed into action,” Dickinson says. “The stuff that made Rob [Wood]’s work possible was just the basic mechanisms by which animals keep themselves in the air. Now we are going beyond that to understand how flies steer and maneuver.”

Learning how nature creates superior sensors could lead to lighter, smarter drones. And as that happens, their range of applications will grow. Guiler and Vaneck plan to sell the InstantEye to the military and law enforcement. The British Forces have recently begun using a microdrone, a hand-launched helicopter called the Black Hornet, to scout for insurgents in Afghanistan. Microdrones may also have uses closer to home. They could allow police and SWAT teams to gather footage inside office buildings or banks and between skyscrapers, where winds typically gust.

Wood visualizes an even more diverse array of uses for RoboBees. A box of about 1,000, he notes, would weigh one pound. They could easily be shipped to a disaster site and deployed to search for survivors. They could also monitor traffic or the environment and help pollinate crops. Research scientists could use them to gather data in the field.

Whatever their application, microdrones are no longer a da Vinci–like dream of engineers. They’re taking off—agile, resilient, and under their own power.

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NAVY DRONE COMPLETES FIRST-EVER CARRIER LANDING

On Wednesday, the X-47B Navy drone exercised the first unmanned carrier landing in history, landing aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the Virginia coast. “By evolving and integrating new technology like the X-47B and the unmanned aircraft to follow, carriers will remain relevant throughout their 50-year lifespan,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stated. This historic event followed on the X-47B completing an underway carrier deck operation on the same ship in May, which included a catapult launch and nine touch-and-gos.

The drone, which has been labeled “Salty Dog 502,” launched from Naval Air Station Patuxent River before landing on the carrier; it landed on the runway of the carrier and was grabbed by the tailhook by a cable. The drone utilized tracking and navigation technology.

According to NBC News, the X-47B has highly sophisticated equipment that makes such a landing possible, and also has wings that fold over for easier storage.

UPDATE: The drone has now completed a second landing aboard the aircraft carrier. The Secretary of the Navy Tweeted, “America’s Away Team just added a whole new dimension to its ability to provide presence.”

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POLICE DEPLOY ‘MINORITY REPORT’ STYLE ROBOT DRONES IN STANDOFF WITH OHIO MAN

Dystopian panopticon becoming the norm

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Mar 5, 2013

Police in a small Ohio town responded to a disturbance involving an inebriated armed man by sending in two spy drone robots. When the man shot one of the droids, he was charged with vandalism of government property.

The incident occurred in Waverly, Ohio last week when officers were called to the scene after neighbours reported hearing gunshots from inside Michael Blevins’ home. Blevins had also allegedly threatened several people, and was thought to have more firearms inside.

When the man refused to answer the door to police, WBNS 10TV news reported that they called for assistance from the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Strategic Response Team.

The response team arrived on the scene and sent in two surveillance robots; one to locate the man, and another to locate his firearms.

Blevins reportedly shot one of the robots with a pistol, rendering it damaged. Police then entered the house and managed to subdue him with a taser. The entire standoff lasted six hours.

After obtaining a search warrant, officers found two AK47 rifles and a prohibited 75-round ammunition drum. Aside from the vandalism charge, Blevins was charged with unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance. Under Ohio law, ammunition magazines can not exceed a 30-round capacity.

The most interesting aspect of this incident is obviously the drone factor. Police all over the country are now employing what are essentially military technologies, which is causing concern for privacy advocates.

In the case of Michael Blevins, sending in drones was a last resort. But what happens as this becomes the norm for police in similar situations?

Law enforcement departments everywhere are adopting drones, facial recognition software, mobile iris and face scanners, microphones that record city-wide conversations, street lights that spy on you, and automated license plate readers, to name but a few of the new privacy busting gizmos.

Of particular concern, however, are the gizmos that are designed to enter people’s homes.

Just last November, a different Ohio police department proudly paraded their newly acquired $11,000 RoboteX AVATAR Micro surveillance robot (as seen below), promising to make it a permanent member of the department’s SWAT team.

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The fact that this kind of technology now exists and is being adopted for real by police, as is pre-crime technology for that matter, should set alarm bells ringing.

With Department of Homeland Security ‘Fusion Centers’ in every city, and DAPRA’s Total Information Awareness program alive and well, it is clear that the surveillance state is reaching a new degree of advancement.

DARPA itself continues to fund this advancement, helping create drones that can literally fly into buildings through windows and autonomously dodge obstacles.

As we have previously reported, the DHS is also customizing military predator drones for domestic surveillance, and actively loaning them to law enforcement agencies.

The next generation of surveillance drones being developed under DARPA, will be fitted with technology known as the Area Persistent Stare, and will literally be able to surveil entire cities at once in real time.

Little wonder then that a significant backlash against drones is picking up pace in America.

Recent victories for anti-drone activists who have pushed for legislative bans in their cities and states shows how such surveillance over reach can be effectively countered at the local and state level. Those who have any value for privacy should consider joining the push back against the surveillance state before it is too late.

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NEW DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY DRONES ARE SPECIALLY EQUIPPED TO SEE IF HUMAN TARGET IS ARMED

Susanne Posel
Occupy Corporatism
March 4, 2013

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requiring that Predator B drones be equip with surveillance capabilities that can determine if a human target is armed or not.

Through a solicitation posted in 2005, DHS initiated the process of obtaining drones to be specially equipped to become encompassing surveillance tools to use against the American people.

These specific drones are used to monitor US southern and northern borders; yet are now being utilizes by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Secret Service (SS), the Texas Rangers, and local law enforcement to identify citizens carrying firearms and tracking them through cell phone use.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GAAS) explain that DHS specified that these drones “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not”; including “signals interception” technology that can syphon communications in frequency ranges used by cell phones, as well as “direction finding” technology that can pin-point the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.

GAAS provide “tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems” to the US government. Their CLAW and LYNX technology collaborate “multi-mode radar” and “sensor payload control and image analysis software “to enhance surveillance and intelligence gathering that can be downloaded into “ultra-wideband data links for government applications.”

These drones are “capable of intercepting electronic communications . . . [and] the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground.”

Previously, DHS asserted that the use of drones in American skies were for assurance of public safety. In collaboration with corporations specializing in surveillance, DHS has made outward requests for drone manufacturers to have their products used for spying on Americans – and get paid for it.

The DHS has teamed up with the World Surveillance Group, Inc., to develop technologies specializing in “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive (collectively, CBRNE), command, control, computers, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR), and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).” The federal agency also put out a solicitation for “participation in the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) project from the small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) for transition to its customers” to use drones in American skies for more than the expressed purpose of spying on US citizens to secure their safety.

Drone testing are slated over head at Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma. According to the Borders and Maritime Security Division of the DHS, they “will conduct flight testing and evaluation of airborne sensors and small unmanned aerial systems,” the request reads, and now invites vendors to submit drones to be tested “under a wide variety of simulated but realistic and relevant real-world operation scenarios.”

The US Navy is in the midst of planning the Point Mugu UAV installation which will be a drone base. The Navy released an environmental impact report that outlined how the logistics of constructing the base would affect the environment.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, the elite of robotic surveillance, will be used to monitor the Pacific Ocean on daily missions for 24/7 eyes in the skies.

In July of 2012, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of DHS relayed to a House Committee meeting that drones would be useful for public safety or a disaster scenario. There is also the specific testing of a Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety that would be used for encompassing surveillance. Napolitano said: “With respect to Science and Technology, that directorate, we do have a funded project, I think it’s in California, looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster, such as a forest fire, and how they could give us better information.”

A leaked document from the Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed guidelines of the Obama administration’s legal reasoning for conducting targeted assassinations. The document asserts that the government may lawfully kill a United States citizen if “an informed, high-level official” decides that the target is a high-ranking Qaeda figure or affiliate who poses “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and that capturing him is not feasible.

Without the definitive threat of attack that could be construed as inevitable, the power of executive order is all that is needed to have a targeted assassination initiated.

The white paper includes redefinitions and expansions of self-defense and imminent attack with the ideology of a “broader concept of imminence” without the necessity of actual intelligence to support those assumptions. If the American is thought to be a threat to the US, they could become eligible of these targeted assassinations.

The document also states that Congress would be circumvented while Congressional committee’s intelligence could be considered classified legal advice which would justify the killing.

The Obama administration, through the DoJ, are attempting to create a legal explanation for their targeted assassinations of US citizens without proof of terroristic activities.

Armed with a secret kill-list and several US citizens already murdered by the US government.

John Brennan, Presidential nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was once affectionately called Assassination Czar for his role in targeted assassinations with the use of drones for the Obama administration, has defended the policy by saying that Americans misinterpret that the US government “take[s] strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such action as a last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative” to avert a threat to the nation.”

Brennan assured the Committee that if a person were killed “by mistake” during a targeted assassination, the Obama administration would acknowledge that fact immediately and publically.

Claiming “optimize[d] transparency” with regard to targeted assassinations, Brennan claimed that it is always carried out in the name of national security.

During Obama’s first term as President, Brennan held the position of Chief Counter-Terrorism adviser. While 4 Americans have been murdered by the targeted assassination program (one intentional and three claimed to be accidental), Brennan failed to given transparency to the Committee about the program by neglecting to define by what criteria an individual is placed on the secret kill-list.

Brennan worked for the CIA in Saudi Arabia and has established “enormous sway over the intelligence community.” His work with the Saudi Arabian government for the approval of drones in their skies have led to the murder of many individuals that were “identified” as al-Qaeda operatives.

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SCIENCE-FICTION TURNS REAL: GENETICALLY ENGINEERING ANIMALS FOR WAR

Scientific advances have us on the verge of being able to control and manipulate animals

By | Salon

In the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited an unusual field agent: a cat. In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon transformed the furry feline into an elite spy, implanting a microphone in her ear canal and a small radio transmitter at the base of her skull, and weaving a thin wire antenna into her long gray-and-white fur. This was Operation Acoustic Kitty, a top-secret plan to turn a cat into a living, walking surveillance machine. The leaders of the project hoped that by training the feline to go sit near foreign officials, they could eavesdrop on private conversations.

The problem was that cats are not especially trainable — they don’t have the same deep-seated desire to please a human master that dogs do — and the agency’s robo-cat didn’t seem terribly interested in national security. For its first official test, CIA staffers drove Acoustic Kitty to the park and tasked it with capturing the conversation of two men sitting on a bench. Instead, the cat wandered into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a taxi. The program was abandoned; as a heavily redacted CIA memo from the time delicately phrased it, “Our final examination of trained cats … convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.” (Those specialized needs, one assumes, include a decidedly unflattened feline.)

Operation Acoustic Kitty, misadventure though it was, was a visionary idea just 50 years before its time. Today, once again, the U.S. government is looking to animal-machine hybrids to safeguard the country and its citizens. In 2006, for example, DARPA zeroed in on insects, asking the nation’s scientists to submit “innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs.”

It was not your everyday government request, but it was an utterly serious one. For years, the U .S. military has been hoping to develop “micro air vehicles” — ultrasmall flying robots capable of performing surveillance in dangerous territory. Building these machines is not easy. The dynamics of flight change at very small sizes, and the vehicles need to be lightweight enough to fly yet strong enough to carry cameras and other equipment. Most formidably, they need a source of power, and batteries that are light enough for microfliers just don’t have enough juice to keep the crafts aloft for very long. Consider two of the tiny, completely synthetic drones that engineers have managed to create: The Nano Hummingbird, a flying robot modeled after the bird, with a 6.5-inch wingspan, maxes out at an 11-minute flight, while the DelFly Micro, which measures less than four inches from wingtip to wingtip, can stay airborne for just three minutes.

DARPA officials knew there had to be something better out there. “Proof-of-existence of small-scale flying machines … is abundant in nature in the form of insects,” Amit Lal, a DARPA program manager and Cornell engineer, wrote in a pamphlet the agency issued to the prospective researchers. So far, nature’s creations far outshine our own. Insects are aerodynamic, engineered for flight and naturally skilled at maneuvering around obstacles. And they can power themselves; a common fly can cruise the skies for hours at a time. So perhaps, DARPA officials realized, the military didn’t need to start from scratch; if they began with live insects, they’d already be halfway to their dream flying machines. All they’d have to do was figure out how to hack into insects’ bodies and control their movements. If scientists could manage to do that, the DARPA pamphlet said, “it might be possible to transform [insects] into predictable devices that can be used for … missions requiring unobtrusive entry into areas inaccessible or hostile to humans.”

DARPA’s call essentially launched a grand science fair, one designed to encourage innovation and tap into the competitive spirit of scientists around the country. The agency invited researchers to submit proposals outlining how they’d create steerable insect cyborgs and promised to fund the most promising projects. What the agency wanted was a remote-controlled bug that could be steered to within five meters of a target. Ultimately, the insects would also need to carry surveillance equipment, such as microphones, cameras or gas sensors, and to transmit whatever data they collected back to military officials. The pamphlet outlined one specific application for the robo-bugs — outfitted with chemical sensors, they could be used to detect traces of explosives in remote buildings or caves — and it’s easy to imagine other possible tasks for such cyborgs. Insect drones kitted out with video cameras could reveal whether a building is occupied and whether those inside are civilians or enemy combatants, while those with microphones could record sensitive conversations, becoming bugs that literally bugged you.

As far-fetched and improbable as DARPA’s dream of steerable robo-bugs sounds, a host of recent scientific breakthroughs means it’s likely to be far more successful than Acoustic Kitty was. The same advances that enabled the development of modern wildlife-tracking devices — the simultaneous decrease in size and increase in power of microprocessors, receivers and batteries — are making it possible to create true animal cyborgs. By implanting these micromachines into animals’ bodies and brains, we can seize control of their movements and behaviors. Genetics provides new options, too, with scientists engineering animals whose nervous systems are easy to manipulate. Together, these and other developments mean that we can make tiny flying cyborgs — and a whole lot more. Engineers, geneticists and neuroscientists are controlling animal minds in different ways and for different reasons, and their tools and techniques are becoming cheaper and easier for even us nonexperts to use. Before long, we may all be able to hijack animal bodies. The only question is whether we’ll want to.

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DARPA’s call for insect cyborgs piqued the interest of Michel Maharbiz, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. He was excited by the challenge of creating flying machines that merged living bodies and brains with electronic bits and bytes. “What I wanted at the end of the day was a remote-controlled airplane,” Maharbiz recalls. “What was the closest thing to a remote-controlled airplane that I could get with these beetles?”

Maharbiz was an expert at making small electronic devices but an amateur when it came to entomology. So he started reading up. He figured that most scientists taking on DARPA’s challenge would work with flies or moths, longtime laboratory superstars, but Maharbiz came to believe that beetles were a better bet. Compared with flies and moths, beetles are sturdy animals, encased in hard shells, and many species are large enough to carry significant cargo. The downside: Scientists didn’t know much about the specific nerve pathways and brain circuits involved in beetle flight.

That meant that the first challenge was to unravel the insects’ biology. Maharbiz and his team began working with several different beetle species and eventually settled on Mecynorrhina torquata, or the flower beetle. It is a scary-looking bug — more than two inches long, with fearsome claws and a rhinoceros-like horn on the forehead. Through trial and error, the scientists homed in on a promising region of the beetle brain nestled at the base of the optic lobes. Previous research had shown that neural activity in this area helped keep the insect’s wings oscillating, and Maharbiz’s team discovered that when they stimulated this part of the brain in just the right way, they could start and stop beetle flight. When they sent a series of rapid electrical signals to the region, the beetle started flapping its wings and readied itself for takeoff. Sending a single long pulse to the same area prompted the insect to immediately still its wings. The effect was so dramatic that a beetle in mid-flight would simply fall out of the air.

After he discovered these tricks, Maharbiz was ready to try building the full flying machine. The flower beetle’s transformation began with a quick trip to the freezer. In the icy air, the beetle’s body temperature dropped, immobilizing and anesthetizing the insect. Then Maharbiz and his students removed the bug from the icebox and readied their instruments. They poked a needle through the beetle’s exoskeleton, making small holes directly over the brain and the base of the optic lobes, and threaded a thin steel wire into each hole.

They made another set of holes over the basalar muscles, which modulate wing thrust and are located on either side of the beetle’s body. The researchers pushed a wire into the right basalar muscle. Stimulating it would cause the beetle’s right wing to start beating with more power, making the insect veer left. They put another wire into the left basalar muscle; they would use it to steer the beetle to the right. The loose ends of all these wires snaked out of their respective holes and plugged into a package of electronics mounted with beeswax on the beetle’s back. This “backpack” included all the equipment Maharbiz needed to wirelessly send signals to the beetle’s brain: a miniature radio receiver, a custom-built circuit board, and a battery.

Then it was time for a test flight. One of Maharbiz’s students called up their custom-designed “Beetle Commander” software on a laptop. He issued the signal. The antennae jutting out of the beetle’s backpack received the message and passed it along to the circuit board, which sent electricity surging down the wire and into the beetle’s optic lobe. The insect’s wings began to flap. The empty white room the researchers used as an airfield filled with a buzzing sound, and the bug took flight. The beetle flew on its own — it didn’t need any further direction from human operators to stay airborne — but as it cruised across the room, the researchers overlaid their own commands. They pinged the basalar muscles, prompting the beetle to weave back and forth through the room, as if flying through an invisible maze. It wouldn’t have looked out of place going up against a stunt pilot at an air show. Another jolt of electricity to the optic lobe, and the beetle dropped out of the air and skittered across the tile floor.

As soon as Maharbiz presented his work, the news stories came fast and furious, with pronouncements such as, “The creation of a cyborg insect army has just taken a step closer to reality,” “Spies may soon be bugging conversations using actual insects, thanks to research funded by the U.S. military” and more. A columnist speculated about the possibility of a swarm of locust drones being used as vehicles for launching deadly germs. There was chatter about beetles that had been “zombified,” and references to “the impending robots vs. humans war.”

When Maharbiz reflects upon this media frenzy, he admits that the immense public interest in his work doesn’t surprise him. The research, after all, is practically primed to light up the futuristic-fantasy centers of our brains. Insects, even without modifications, seem like weird, alien organisms to many of us. As Maharbiz explains, “Insects have inherently some sort of strange, science fiction quality that a bunny doesn’t have.” Add in miniature electronics, flying devices, animal-machine hybrids, and covert military operations, and you have a recipe for dystopian daydreaming.

But Maharbiz bristles at the most sinister suggestions, at the media coverage that suggests his beetles are the product of, as he puts it, “some evil government conspiracy.” As for the possibility that the U.S. government is planning to use the bugs to build a killer insect army or to spy on its own citizens? “I think that’s nonsense,” he says. His beetles haven’t been sent out into the field yet — they still need some refinement before they’re ready for deployment — but if and when they are, Maharbiz says he expects his bugs to be used abroad in routine military operations. (Of course, some people may find that “equally reprehensible,” he acknowledges.) There are civilian applications, too. Imagine, Maharbiz tells me, an army of beetle-bots, steered to the scene of an earthquake. The bugs could be outfitted with temperature sensors, guided through rubble and programmed to send messages back to search teams if they detect any objects that are close to human body temperature; rescuers would then know exactly where to search for survivors.

Whatever the application, future insect commanders will have options that go beyond beetles. Maharbiz is working on a remote-controlled fly, which he anticipates being especially difficult to build. “The fly is so small and the muscles are so packed and everything’s so tiny,” he says, that even just implanting the electronics will be challenging. A Chinese research team has managed to start and stop flight in honeybees, and Amit Lal, the engineer who led the DARPA program, has created steerable cyborg moths.

One of Lal’s innovations has been figuring out how to take advantage of morphogenesis, the process by which many species of insects transform from wriggling larvae to spindly, multilegged adults. During pupation, a baby insect wraps itself in a protective cocoon or shell while its soft, immature body becomes a more structurally complex adult one. (Lal’s species of choice is the tobacco hawk moth, which morphs from a bright green worm into a brown-and-white spotted moth.) To Lal, this phase of the insect life cycle presented a unique opportunity; he hoped that if he inserted electronic components into a hawk moth when it was a wee pupa, the bug’s body would rebuild itself around the implant. In one set of experiments, Lal and his colleagues pushed thin wires through the hard shell that protects a hawk moth pupa and positioned them in the insect’s neck muscles and brain. Outside the bug’s body, the wires linked up with a small circuit board, which the researchers left resting loosely atop the pupal case. They repeated the procedure with 29 more pupae and then tucked them all away inside an incubator and allowed them to develop normally.

About a week later, the insects shed their shells, emerging as fully grown moths. Their bodies had in fact fashioned themselves around the implants; tissue had grown around the wires, securing them in place. The wires ran out of the moths’ heads and partway down their backs, winding their way into the attached circuit board. All researchers had to do to begin steering the moths was plug their control system into the circuit board, a task that took a matter of seconds.

These kinds of pupal surgeries have much to recommend them, the researchers say. They lead to more stable, permanent interfaces between electronic devices and living tissue. The approach may also be less traumatic for the animals; bugs heal easily during pupation, and since the adults are born with circuit boards hanging out of their backs, they’re less likely to perceive them as foreign objects or extra weight. (After all, the bugs will never know a life in which they aren’t attached to circuit boards.) It’s also much easier to operate on a pupa than an adult insect. The procedure is so simple that it could enable the “mass production of these hybrid insect-machine systems,” the scientists wrote.

Still, the robo-bugs aren’t quite ready for their tour of duty. Our directional control is still pretty crude. Ultimately, we’ll want to do more than make an insect simply veer left. We’ll want to be able to command it to turn, say, precisely 35 degrees to the left or navigate a complicated three-dimensional space, such as a chimney or pipe. There’s also the matter of the surveillance equipment. So far, the main focus has been on building insects that we can steer, but for these cyborgs to be useful, we’ll need to outfit them with various sensors and make sure that they can successfully collect and transmit environmental information. And though the cyborg insects power their own flight — something that completely robotic fliers cannot do — the surveillance equipment will need to get its electricity from somewhere.

One intriguing possibility is to use the insect’s own wings as a source of power. In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan announced that they had accomplished just that by building miniature generators out of ceramic and brass. Each tiny generator was a flattened spiral — imagine the head of a thumbtack, if it were shaped from a tight coil of metal rather than a single flat sheet — measuring 0.2 inches across. When they were mounted on the beetle’s thorax, these generators transformed the insect’s wing vibrations into electrical energy. With some refinement,the researchers note, these energy-harvesting devices could be used to power the equipment toted around by cyborg bugs.

*

Insects could give us a cyborg-animal air force, zooming around the skies and searching for signs of danger. But for terrestrial missions, for our cyborg-animal army, we’d have to look elsewhere. We’d have to look to a lab at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate, where researchers have built a remote-controlled rat.

We’ve been rooting around in rat brains for ages; neuroscientists often send electrical signals directly into rodents’ skulls to elicit certain reactions and behaviors. Usually, however, this work requires hooking a rodent up to a system of cables, severely restricting its movement. When the SUNY team, led by the neuroscientist John Chapin, began their work more than a decade ago, they wanted to create something different — a method for delivering these electrical pulses wirelessly. They hoped that such a system would free researchers (and rats) from a cumbersome experimental setup and enable all sorts of new scientific feats. A wireless system would allow scientists to manipulate a rat’s movements and behaviors while it was roaming freely and give us a robo-rodent suitable for all sorts of special operations. Rats have an excellent sense of smell, so cyborg rats could be trained to detect the scent of explosives, for instance, and then steered to a field suspected to contain land mines. (The task would pose no danger to the animals, which are too light to set off mines.) Or they could be directed into collapsed buildings and tasked with sniffing out humans trapped beneath the rubble, performing a job similar to the one Maharbiz imagines for his cyborg insects. “They could fit through crawl spaces that a bloodhound never could,” says Linda Hermer-Vazquez, a neuroscientist who was part of the SUNY team at the time.

But before any of that could happen, the SUNY scientists had to figure out how to build this kind of robo-rat. They began by opening up a rat’s skull and implanting steel wires in its brain. The wires ran from the brain out through a large hole in the skull, and into a backpack harnessed to the rodent. (“Backpack” seems to be a favorite euphemism among the cyborg-animal crowd.) This rat pack, as it were, contained a suite of electronics, including a microprocessor and a receiver capable of picking up distant signals. Chapin or one of his colleagues could sit five hundred yards away from the rat and use a laptop to transmit a message to the receiver, which relayed the signal to the microprocessor, which sent an electric charge down the wires and into the rat’s brain.

To direct the animal’s movements, the scientists implanted electrodes in the somatosensory cortex, the brain region that processes touch sensations. Zapping one area of the cortex made the rat feel as though the left side of its face was being touched. Stimulating a different part of the cortex produced the same phantom feeling on the right side of the rat’s face. The goal was to teach the rodent to turn in the opposite direction of the sensation. (Though that seems counterintuitive, it actually works with the rat’s natural instincts. To a rodent, a sensation on the right side of the face indicates the presence of an obstacle and prompts the animal to scurry away from it.)

During the training process, the SUNY scientists used an unconventional system of reinforcement. When the rat turned in the correct direction, the researchers used a third wire to send an electrical pulse into what’s known as the medial forebrain bundle (MFB), a region of the brain involved in processing pleasure. Studies in humans and other animals have shown that direct activation of the MFB just plain feels good. (When the scientists gave the rats the chance to stimulate their own MFBs by pressing down on a lever, the animals did so furiously — hitting the lever as many as 200 times in 20 minutes.) So sending a jolt of electricity zinging down to a rat’s MFB acted as a virtual reward for good behavior. Over the course of 10 sessions, the robo-rats learned to respond to the cues and rewards being piped into their brains. Scientists managed to direct the rodents through a challenging obstacle course, coaxing them to climb a ladder, traverse a narrow plank, scramble down a flight of stairs, squirm through a hoop and then navigate their way down a steep ramp.

As a final demonstration, the researchers simulated the kind of search-and-rescue task a robo-rat might be asked to perform in the real world. They rubbed tissues against their forearms and taught the rodents to identify this human odor. They constructed a small Plexiglas arena, filled it with a thick layer of sawdust, and buried human-scented tissues inside. When they released the robo-rats into the arena, the animals tracked down the tissues in less than a minute. The scientists also discovered that the rats that received MFB rewards found the target odors faster and dug for them more energetically than rodents that had been trained with conventional food rewards. As Hermer-Vazquez recalls: “The robo-rats were incredibly motivated and very accurate.”

*

Whether it’s rescue rat-bots or bomb-sniffing beetle drones, electronics are helping us create new beasts of burden, allowing us to conscript creatures into the modern animal workforce. These are no mere donkeys, poked and prodded into carrying our bags up steep hills; these animals’ brains are being taken hostage, their nervous systems forced to cooperate with our plans. As Maharbiz wrote in an account of his research, “[W]e wanted to be sure we could deliver signals directly into the insect’s own neuromuscular circuitry, so that even if the insect attempted to do something else, we could provide a countercommand. Any insect that could ignore our commands would make for a crummy robot.”

Is it wrong to take the reins of another creature’s nervous system? It certainly feels wrong. When we dictate the movements of sentient beings, we turn them into mere machines, no different than those remote-controlled airplanes Maharbiz was trying to emulate. Many animal liberationists and philosophers have argued that one of our obligations to animals is “noninterference” — that animals have the right to be the leaders of their own lives and that we have a duty to leave them alone. Cyborg animals represent an extreme violation of that responsibility. And unlike in wildlife tracking projects, in which our meddling may help save species, deploying cyborg insects and rodents on the battlefield isn’t going to do much to benefit animals.

The trouble is that we have to balance this intrusion into the life of another living being against the good that animal-machine mash-ups could do. It’s possible to care about animals and want to spare them needless suffering, and yet also decide that sometimes human welfare (say, the life of an American soldier) comes first. In fact, most Americans take this view, according to the psychologist Harold Herzog, who specializes in untangling our relationships with other species. After all, if you insist that an animal’s life is worth exactly the same as a human one, no matter what, Herzog says, “you can end up at untenable places.” (Such as deciding that you should flip a coin to decide whether to save a puppy or a child from a burning building.) Herzog has found that our attitudes toward other species are nuanced, complicated and often inconsistent. It’s not unusual, he says, to wish we could do without animal experimentation but still be grateful for the lifesaving drugs and treatments such research has made possible. It’s not strange to wish scientists would stop squirting shampoo into rabbits’ eyes and simultaneously want them to use as many bunnies as they need to find a cure for cancer.

Unless we rule out all use of animals for human purposes, we have to evaluate each application on a case-by-case basis, weighing pain against gain. In the case of the robo-beasts, the animals are anesthetized when the electronics are implanted in their bodies, but recovering from surgery isn’t painless. The devices themselves may cause stress, and being piloted around a lab by an ambitious postdoc can’t be any great picnic. But the price that animals have to pay for this research is relatively small. (Maharbiz notes that his beetles had normal lifespans — which, in insects, is a none-too-impressive several months — and “flew, ate, and mated just like regular beetles.”) Remotely guided rats aren’t exactly a cure for cancer, but if they can hunt down mines or find earthquake victims trapped in rubble, they could certainly save human lives. So while the cyborg research can seem creepy, I’m glad that there are scientists out there who are doing it.

The details matter, however. I wouldn’t be so keen on the research if the cost to animals were greater — if, say, each electric jolt we sent to an animal’s brain caused excruciating pain. Nor would I want to see robo-rats used to string lights along the branches of Christmas trees — an actual suggestion the SUNY researchers made in their patent application. There’s a species effect in play, too. I have no special affection for insects or rodents, and I’d find it a lot harder to sanction the creation of robo-dogs or robo-bonobos. Maharbiz has noticed this inconsistency, too, though it’s not clear where that leaves us, ethically speaking. “Where do you draw the line?”he wonders. “Is there a Disney effect — ‘Anything cuter than bunnies I will not neuro-control’ –, or should we base our judgments of cyborg projects on something else? Should we make an ethical distinction between forcing muscles to contract (as Maharbiz’s wing electrodes do) and simply rewarding an animal for moving the way we want (as Hermer’s brain electrodes do)? Or is it how we use the cyborgs that matters?

For his part, Maharbiz says he’s motivated more by the challenge of seeing what he can make insects do than by imagining how his work will ultimately be used. “Maybe I’m an example of a horrible amoral scientist,” he says, “but I think it would be fabulous to show, for example, that I could get a beetle to do a barrel roll, which it would never do in nature.” Everyone’s ethical barometer is set differently, and we won’t all welcome the notion of a barrel-rolling beetle. That’s fine with Maharbiz, who notes that most of us haven’t sat down and thought through what it means to take over an animal’s body, to physically force their muscles and minds to do our bidding. Why would we? Until recently, the idea seemed like pure science fiction. One of the ways his work can be useful, Maharbiz says, is “to get people to think about whether this is something we want to do.”

*

Our options for mind manipulation are expanding as well. While Maharbiz and others are using electrodes and wires to physically force neurons to fire, some geneticists and neuroscientists are developing an alternative approach, engineering animals whose brains can be controlled with flashes of light. The technique, which comes from the hot, young field of optogenetics, relies on opsins, a class of light-sensitive molecules that bacteria, fungi and plants use to sense sunlight and convert it into energy. In 2005, scientists discovered that they could put opsin genes into mammalian brain cells using an unlikely assistant: a virus. Viruses are experts at delivering DNA; whenever they infect a cell, they dump their own genomes inside. In the early days of genetic engineering, biologists realized that they could get viruses to carry other genes into cells, too. In optogenetics, scientists insert an opsin gene into a virus, then inject the modified virus into the brain of a mouse. The virus infects the neurons, depositing the opsin DNA inside.

The mouse’s neurons begin to manufacture their own opsins and install them in their membranes, the thin, fatty layer that surrounds each cell. In the membrane, the opsins operate as light-sensitive channels; when scientists shine a light on the mouse’s brain, the opsin channels open and electrically charged particles rush into the cell. The influx changes the voltage inside the neuron. Different opsins respond to light in different ways — some usher positively charged particles into a neuron, making it more likely to fire. Others admit negatively charged particles, which suppress neural activity. By attaching a little snippet of regulatory DNA to the front of the opsin gene, researchers can make sure that only certain kinds of neurons produce the light-sensitive molecule. As a result, they can engineer a mouse’s brain so that one type of neuron, in one brain circuit or region, responds to a flash of light, while its neighbor is unaffected.

Equipped with this technology, we can make mice do the darnedest things. By turning certain neurons on and off, we can make rodents suddenly fall asleep or awaken. Or we can use a beam of light to activate a set of neurons involved in aggression, turning an otherwise calm mouse into a prizefighter who indiscriminately attacks other rodents — or even inanimate objects. These kinds of experiments hold huge promise for basic research; toggling a neural circuit on and off helps scientists puzzle out how those neurons affect behavior.

In 2011, Edward Boyden, a neuroscientist at MIT, used the tools of optogenetics to wirelessly direct mouse movements. Boyden’s team began with mice that had been modified to express opsins in certain neurons in the motor cortex; when exposed to light, these motor neurons would begin to fire. Then they constructed a mouse helmet — a headpiece that contained a radio antenna and an array of light-emitting diodes — and mounted it on one of their specially engineered mice. The scientists then sat back and used their wireless transmitter to flick the helmet’s lights on and off. When they turned all the lights on, a mouse that had been sitting calmly in its cage immediately began running around. (“It’s sort of turning up the volume knob of movement,” Boyden reports.) They also discovered that when they illuminated just one side of the helmet, a mouse would start spinning in that direction. (Unlike other optogenetics methods, the helmet is entirely noninvasive; the lights can activate neurons from the outside of the skull.)

Optogenetics gives us another way to bend animals to our will, but Boyden has no interest in using his wireless helmets to create a remote-controlled rodent army. To Boyden, the headset is an important breakthrough because it will expand the kinds of experiments that optogenetics researchers can do and pave the way for novel therapeutic devices. Many scientists in the field imagine implanting optical “prosthetics” in the human brain to treat neurological disorders with light. They dream of being able to selectively activate or deactivate neurons involved in Parkinson’s, epilepsy, sleep disorders, addiction and more. Setting animal brains ablaze is the first step toward that goal.

*

Even as scientists come up with fancy new methods for commandeering animal brains, Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo, a pair of former neuroscience postdocs, are taking these techniques and making them available to anyone with an Internet connection and a hundred dollars to spare. As graduate students at the University of Michigan, the friends volunteered at local public schools, teaching students about human and animal brains. They were frustrated by the high barrier of entry to neuroscience, finding it odd that while anyone can pick up a telescope and look at the Moon, only advanced college students get the opportunity to see a neuron fire.

In 2009, Gage and Marzullo established Backyard Brains, a company that sells low-cost kits that will turn any interested amateur into a neuroscientist, if only for a day or two. (The company’s motto, emblazoned on its custom-made circuit boards, is “Neuro-science for Everyone!”) Their first product was a little contraption known as the SpikerBox. On sale for $99.98, the device lets customers observe neural firing in a cockroach in real time. (A set of three roaches is $12 extra.) The procedure is simple: Just insert two needlelike electrodes into a cockroach’s leg, and the SpikerBox will do the rest, amplifying the electrical activity of the insect’s neurons and transmitting it to an attached computer or smartphone as that characteristic visual pattern of peaks and valleys. The SpikerBox put Backyard Brains on the map, and instructors in 35 high schools and 100 universities have used the kits with their students.

For their second product, Gage and Marzullo decided to push the boundaries even further, to venture beyond brain observation and into brain control. Taking inspiration from the world of cyborg animals, they created a kit that provides their customers with all the tools they need to take over the nervous system of a living cockroach. In principle, the Backyard Brains RoboRoach is nearly indistinguishable from the beetles Maharbiz is making in a university lab — and that is precisely what is so remarkable about it. It means we can all experiment with bionic bugs in our own homes. Or, as it happens, in a crowded neighborhood coffee shop, which is precisely the plan when I meet Gage and Marzullo for breakfast in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

*

The bespectacled pair greet me at a popular local café, and we find ourselves some seats on the outdoor patio. Marzullo pulls out a plastic box of cockroaches and plops it down on our table. If you’re new to the hobby of animal mind manipulation, the cockroach is an excellent place to start. Because a roach relies on its long, fluid-filled antennae for a host of sensory and navigational functions, its nervous system is stunningly easy to hack; all a wannabe roach-master has to do is thread a wire inside each antenna. (“It’s like designed to be a cyborg,” Marzullo says.)

Marzullo has spent the morning prepping two roaches for their remote-controlled destiny. Several hours ago, he dropped the cockroaches into a miniature cooler of ice water — the preferred method, apparently, for anesthetizing insects. Then he pulled the roaches out of the cooler, their bodies motionless, their sensations dulled. (“We actually don’t know if insects feel pain,” Marzullo and Gage write on the Backyard Brains website, “but we do make the assumption that they do, which is why we anesthetize them in the first place.”) With a pair of everyday household scissors, Marzullo snipped the ends off each antenna. Then he slipped a thin silver wire inside. Thereafter, any electrical signals sent down the wires would be transferred directly to the roach’s nervous system.

Steering the roach simply requires taking advantage of a natural cockroach instinct: When one of the cockroach’s antennae detects an obstacle, the bug turns in the other direction. Zap the right antenna and the insect, convinced it’s about to bump into a wall on the right side of its body, will turn to the left. And vice versa. (The SUNY researchers had tapped into the same instinct in training their cyborg rats to turn away from perceived obstacles. But unlike the robo-rats, the cyborg cockroaches needed no special training or reinforcement to follow directional commands.)

Marzullo opens his bug box and removes one of the roaches. The wires run out of its antennae and into a small black box that Marzullo has glued onto its head. Marzullo plugs this “connector” into the cockroach backpack, a red-and-green assemblage of circuit boards. The electronics are slightly modified versions of circuit boards that come from a widely available toy: a plastic, remote-controlled inchworm called the HexBug that retails for twelve dollars at Toys“R”Us. When these circuit boards are linked to the head-mounted connector, Marzullo and Gage can use the remote control that comes with the toy to deliver pulses of electricity to the roach.

As Marzullo fiddles with the cockroach, he notices a family of three sitting at the table next to us. They’re all staring.

“What is it?”the father asks.

“The world’s first commercially available cyborg,” Marzullo says. “You want to do it, young lady?” he asks, handing the remote to the man’s 10-year-old daughter. He shows the girl which buttons to press.

We all head out to the sidewalk. The bug goes down. The little girl starts hitting buttons on the remote, steering the roach all around the sidewalk, while her father advises: “Don’t let it go into the street … Turn him into the shade.” The girl’s power to control the roach is, admittedly, crude. She can’t make the insect start or stop moving, and there’s no way to force it to simply move forward in a straight line. All she can do is let the roach do its roach thing, taking off in whatever direction its little invertebrate heart desires, and then overlay her own “left” or “right” commands, forcing the bug to turn and start moving in a different direction.

But even that small power is impressive, and a crowd forms.

People watch and smile, and Gage and Marzullo laugh and joke with the assembled audience. “There you go,” Marzullo says, “neuroscience for the people.”

“It looks so real!” a passing woman exclaims.

“It is real,” Gage says.“We’re selling these for 99 bucks.” The kit comes with all that customers need to make the cyborgs themselves — the circuit boards, the controller, the remote and detailed instructions for performing the insect surgery.

Then it’s my turn. I return to our table and pick up the second roach, which Marzullo has kindly prepared for me. Its sticky legs tickle my palm as I carry it out to the sidewalk. I place it down gingerly, and it begins to scuttle off. I fumble with the remote before finding the “L” button. I hit it, and the roach abruptly spins to the left. The effect is less dramatic after that, but convincing.

“It’s such a compelling demonstration,” Marzullo says. “We go to classrooms all the time and even the most jaded, problem kid in the room is going to pay attention to this. It doesn’t take very much time to break down their veneer when we bring out . . . remote- controlled bugs.”

Nevertheless, the RoboRoach has not been nearly as brisk a seller as Gage and Marzullo had hoped; as of June 2012, they’d squeaked out 51 sales. Perhaps that’s because it takes a special kind of customer to want to hijack another creature’s mind. “It’s kind of edgy,” Marzullo says. “It taps into human fears of puppet masters, that we are somehow evil scientists that don’t respect the natural order of things.” Gage and Marzullo have heard the same objections as other cyborg-animal scientists — that what they’re doing to animals is inhumane, disgusting and just plain wrong. They say they inspire more vitriol than scientists like Maharbiz, who are doing their research in official university laboratories. “We’re doing all this stuff on the fringe,” Marzullo says. “We’re not affiliated with any university, we go out in public and we’re pretty flamboyant about what we do.”

Gage and Marzullo attract controversy for the same reason that Alan Blake did as he prepared to bring GloFish to market — because they are taking biotechnology out of the lab and putting it into the hands of the public. And just like Blake, they are criticized for meddling with animal bodies for “trivial” purposes. Most people, Marzullo explains, have accepted the use of animals for scientific research, defense, or food. “But if you exploit animals for education,” he says, “people aren’t cool with that.” (“From my perspective,” he adds, “that’s the best use of animals. It’s an investment in the future.”)

Is educating students about the nervous system — and potentially encouraging a new generation of neuroscientists — a less-justifiable use of animals than hunting out mines or earthquake survivors? It’s time to start thinking through these issues, because now that the tools of brain control have been liberated from the lab, there’s no telling how they’ll be used.

Indeed, there is a growing community of “biohackers,” science enthusiasts who are experimenting with genes, brains and bodies outside the confines of traditional laboratories, working on shoestring budgets in their garages and attics, or joining the community labs that are springing up around the country. Some of these resourceful do-it-yourselfers are even building their own versions of high-tech laboratory equipment that normally costs thousands of dollars.

Backyard Brains is tapping into this movement, giving amateurs access to some of science’s most sophisticated tools and techniques (As it happens,their most recent product is a kit that allows customers to play around in the world of optogenetics, using blue light to make the muscles of transgenic fruit flies twitch.) And their customers are surprising them, in the best possible way, by coming up with ideas and discoveries of their own. A class of New York high school students working with the RoboRoach pinpointed a nerve that they could stimulate to make the insect walk straight ahead. Another customer — a Microsoft programmer — bought an EEG cap and tried to use his own brain waves to steer the roach. (It didn’t work, but he gets points for creativity.)

If these unprompted experiments are any indication, there are plenty of amateurs with an appetite for independent investigation and their own ideas for reengineering animals. Future generations are going to grow up tinkering not with computers, but with life itself. We already have the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, in which high school and college students use standard genetic parts — easily available bits of DNA — to create cells with novel properties. In past years, teams have created bacteria that can clean heavy metal from polluted water, glow in a rainbow of colors, or give off the pleasant odor of banana or mint. We may one day have a similar competition that asks youngsters to engineer new kinds of animal-machine hybrids. Perhaps DARPA will even invite enthusiastic amateurs to respond to its scientific calls or look to the public for solutions to its most pressing problems.

The latest, greatest cyborg critters may come not from state-of-the-art labs, but the minds of curious kids and individual hobbyists. Though scientists will continue to build their cyborg animals, Maharbiz says he fully expects that “kids will be able to hack these things, like they wrote code in the Commodore 64 days.” We are heading toward a world in which anyone with a little time, money, and imagination can commandeer an animal’s brain. That’s as good a reason as any to start thinking about where we’d draw our ethical lines. The animal cyborgs are here, and we’ll each have to decide whether we want a turn at the controls.

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FAA: DRONE OPERATORS HAVE ZERO PRIVACY OBLIGATIONS

Agency is greasing the skids for authorities to gather private information on regular Americans

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
November 30, 2012

In a response to questions from lawmakers, the Federal Aviation Authority admitted that surveillance drone operators have zero privacy obligations, prompting Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) to complain that the federal agency is greasing the skids for authorities to gather private information on regular Americans.

Markey and Barton, who co-chair the congressional privacy caucus, sent a letter to the FAA seven months ago demanding to know what privacy protections the agency was putting in place in anticipation of granting approval for commercial groups to fly drones from 2015 onwards.

In its reply (PDF), the federal agency responded to a question asking whether drone operators had to follow guidelines that address privacy concerns by stating, “The FAA’s primary mission is ensuring safety of the NAS (National AIrspace System).” While acknowledging that there were “privacy concerns related to UAS operations,” the agency did not indicate that it would mandate drone operators to follow any privacy rules.

Four additional questions on how the FAA plans to protect privacy rights are also included under question 7 in the letter. However, the FAA’s response to all of them is a single glib paragraph which merely repeats that “privacy concerns” are an issue but fails to identify what the agency will do to uphold them.

“FAA does not appear to be prioritizing privacy and transparency measures in its plan to integrate nonmilitary drones into U.S. airspace,” Markey said in a follow up statement. “While there are benefits to using drones to gather information for law enforcement and appropriate research purposes, drones shouldn’t be used to gather private information on regular Americans.”
A bill passed by Congress in February paves the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies on a widespread basis. The FAA predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation nationwide.

US law enforcement bodies are already using drone technology to spy on Americans. In December last year, aPredator B drone was called in to conduct surveillance over a family farm in North Dakota as part of a SWAT raid on the Brossart family, who were suspects in the egregious crime of stealing six missing cows. Local police in this one area have already used the drone on two dozen occasions since June last year.

The Department of Homeland Security has revealed it plans to use spy drones for “public safety applications” and has already begun tests of a “Robotic Aircraft For Public Safety” at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Police departments are also attempting to get approval to use surveillance blimps that sit over cities and watch for “suspicious activity.”

The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

*********************
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

UNITED NATIONS WANTS TO USE DRONES

By Daniel Harper

The U.N. wants to use drones, the French news agency Agence France-Presse reports. “The United Nations wants to use drones for the first time to monitor fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where Rwanda has been accused of aiding rebels,” says the report, quoting U.N. officials.

The international body “is considering a range of ways to strengthen the capabilities of MONUSCO to protect civilians from the threat of armed groups in the vast area of eastern DR Congo,” a U.N. spokesman says.

“Unarmed aerial vehicles, drones for monitoring the movements of armed groups, are one tool we are considering.”

The spokesman, Kieran Dwyer, insists the U.N.’s use of drones would be done carefully.

“Of course, we would do this carefully, in full cooperation with the government of the DR Congo, and trialing their most effective uses for information gathering to help implement our mandate to protect civilians,” says the spokesman.

“Ultimately, to introduce these, we would need the support of member states to equip the mission.”

An unnamed diplomat says, “The UN has approached a number of countries, including the United States and France, about providing drones which could clearly play a valuable role monitoring the frontier. … Clearly there will be political considerations though.”

It is not clear whether any of the countries have agreed to work with the U.N. on the budding drone program.

According to AFP, this recommendation could be coming to the Security Council soon. “UN leader Ban Ki-moon is to recommend options to the UN Security Council soon,” reports AFP.

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DRONE LOBBY OPENING U.S. DOMESTIC AIRSPACE TO UNMANNED SPY DRONES

The repercussions of the drone lobby’s success in forcing opening US domestic airspace to unmanned drones by 2015 are beginning to be felt across the US as civil liberties groups and politicians wake up to the implications for safety and privacy.

An article on the Public Intelligence website asks the basic questions “Is it even logistically possible to operate thousands of pilot-less aircraft in domestic airspace?” The authors examine two basic practical problems with unmanned drones. Firstly how they tend to become “zombies” by losing their wireless data-link to the remote operator – and then crashing. And secondly how without ‘sense and avoid’ capability drones are unable to avoid other aircraft and cause mid-air collisions. In both cases the more drones that fly – and the FAA predict up to 30,000 drones will be flying in the US by the end of the decade – the more incidents of lost data links and mid-air collisions there will be.

While safety is rightly the primary concern, civil liberties issues are also seriously affected by the new legislation. Last week the co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, Ed Markey & Joe Barton, wrote an open letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pointing out the “potential for drone technology to enable invasive and pervasive surveillance without adequate privacy protection” and requesting information as to how the FAA were to address privacy concerns.

In particular the pair want to know

What privacy protections and public transparency requirements has the FAA built into its current temporary licensing process for drones used in U.S. airspace?
Is the public notified about where and when drones are used, who operates them, what data are collected, how are the data used, how long are they retained, and who has access to that data?
How does the FAA plan to ensure that drone activities under the new law are transparent and individual privacy rights are protected?
How will the FAA determine whether an entity applying to operate a drone will properly address these privacy concerns.”
A couple of days later an ‘op-ed’ piece in the Washington Post by two Brookings analysts also raised the privacy issue:

“The current legal framework with respect to observations from above by government is not particularly protective of privacy. Two of the most relevant Supreme Court cases, California v. Ciraolo in 1986 and Florida v. Riley in 1989, addressed law enforcement’s use of manned aircraft to perform surveillance of a suspect’s property. In both cases, the court held that observations made from “public navigable airspace” in the absence of a warrant did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

These precedents suggest, in a world in which UAVs will be inexpensive and plentiful, that government operators might have broad legal latitude to use them for surveillance. Non-government operators may have even fewer constraints regarding surveillance. And today’s cameras are far more capable than those of the 1980s and can acquire stunning high-resolution imagery from hundreds of feet away — imagery that can be processed using ever more capable computers.”

However, the op-ed’s authors, John Villasenor and Ben Wittes also make the not unreasonable point that given “the challenges the agency will face in safely providing for the operation of what may soon be tens of thousands of UAVs, operated by tens of thousands of people from unconventional flight locations… to broaden its already unenviable task, to include this hotly disputed field [of privacy] that lies far from its core competency, is a recipe for bad and technologically uneven outcomes that will satisfy no one.”

The consequences of allowing unmanned drones to fly within domestic airspace both in terms of safety and privacy are beginning to be apparent to all. That such a serious step should be taken in such a rush and under such pressure, simply because of industry lobbying is ludicrous. There needs to be a serious re-think, as well as an investigation into how companies with a vested industry were able to force through such a huge change with little apparent regard to the consequences.

SPY DRONES OVER AMERICA: LAWMAKES DEMAND ANSWERS ON PRIVACY SAFEGUARDS

FAA releases documents showing where government agencies are flying UAVs

Steve Watson
Infowars.com

A bipartisan pair of Congressmen joined forces Thursday to put important questions to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the agency’s plans to open up American skies to thousands of surveillance drones.

Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) penned a letter to the FAA demanding answers on how the federal agency will protect the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens if and when the use of unmanned ariel vehicles by government, law enforcement and private companies increases.

“There is…potential for drone technology to enable invasive and pervasive surveillance without adequate privacy protections.” the Congressmen’s letter stated.

“We are writing to express our concerns about the law’s potential privacy implications and to requisition information about how the FAA is addressing these important matters.” it continued.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

Once signed by president Obama, the FAA Reauthorization Act allows for the FAA to permit the use of drones and develop regulations for testing and licensing by 2015.

“Many drones are designed to carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared thermal imagers, radar and wireless network ‘sniffers,’ ” the representatives wrote.

They added that the FAA has “the responsibility to ensure that the privacy of individuals is protected and that the public is fully informed about who is using drones in public airspace and why.”

Barton and Markey are acting in their roles as co-chairmen of the Congressional Privacy Caucus.

“We must ensure that as drones take flight in domestic airspace, they don’t take off without privacy protections for those along their flight path,” Markey said. “The potential for invasive surveillance of daily activities with drone technology is high. Standards for informing the public and ensuring safeguards must be put in place now to protect individual privacy.”

“When the domestic use of drones was legalized in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, I knew that the usage of these unmanned aircraft would bring a great benefit to our local and state governments, as well as some businesses,” Barton added. “However, if used improperly or unethically, drones could endanger privacy and I want to make sure that risk is taken into consideration.”

The FAA declined to comment on the lawmakers’ letter, however the agency has today released information regarding where drones are currently being flown and who is flying them.

The documents were released to the privacy watchdog The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) after the group sued the agency for initially not responding to a Freedom of Information Act request in January.

The FAA documents show which private companies and government entities currently have a certificate to fly drones in US airspace.

They include Raytheon, General Atomics, Telford Aviation, AAI Corp, Honeywell, Unmanned Systems Inc, L-3, and Aurora Flight Companies, as well as government agencies DARPA, the FBI, the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, & Homeland Security, and branches of the military.

As we reported in February, Over 30 prominent watchdog groups have banded together to petition the FAA on the proposed increase in the use of drones. The groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Privacy Information Center and The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, are demanding that the FAA hold a rulemaking session to consider the privacy and safety threats.

The ACLU noted that the FAA’s legislation “would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”

In addition to privacy concerns, the groups warned that the ability to link facial recognition technology to surveillance drones and patch the information through to active government databases would “increase the First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents.”

GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS PROVE DOMESTIC DRONES ARE FOR SPYING ON AMERICANS

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Aug 21, 2012

A data dump of government documents secured via the Freedom of Information Act shows that the roll out of domestic unmanned drones will, for the most part, be focused solely on the mass surveillance of the American people.

The documents, from the Federal Aviation Administration, were recently made public by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Among the documents are never-before-released Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs) detailing which private companies have been granted permission to operate drones in US skies.

The EFF notes that the vast majority of drones are being used purely for surveillance purposes:

With some exceptions, drone flights in the U.S. have been all about developing and testing surveillance technology. TheNorth Little Rock Police Department, for instance, wrote that their SR30 helicopter-type drone “can carry day zoom cameras, infrared cameras, or both simultaneously.”

Not to be outdone, the Seattle Police Department’s drone comes with four separate cameras, offering thermal infrared video, low light “dusk-dawn” video, and a 1080p HD video camera attachment.

The Miami-Dade Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety have employed drones capable of both daytime and nighttime video cameras, and according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Certificate of Authorization (COA) paperwork, their drone was to be employed in support of “critical law enforcement operations.”

However, the FAA didn’t just rubber stamp all drone requests. For example, the Ogden Police Departmentwanted to use its “nocturnal surveillance airship [aka blimp] . . . for law enforcement surveillance of high crime areas of Ogden City.” The FAA disapproved the request, finding Odgen’s proposed use “presents an unacceptable high risk to the National Airspace System (NAS).”

The unmanned aerial vehicle industry has attempted to lobby the government using all kind of platforms, suggesting that drones can be used for monitoring environmental changes or the effects of natural disasters.

However, the FAA documents conclusively show, if there was any doubt before, that monitoring the activities of everyday Americans is the number one priority.

As we reported last week, thousands more pages of FAA experimental drone flight records that were obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) detail just how complicated and risky it would be to operate thousands of unmanned arial vehicles safely without spending billions of dollars.

Manufacturers of drones, almost exclusively defense contractors, have spent $2.3 million so far on lobbying Congress to open up US airspace.

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

POLL: ALMOST HALF OF AMERICANS BELIEVE THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO SHOOT DOWN GOVERNMENT SPY DRONES

Survey finds more Americans now believe UAVs unconstitutional

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Mar 4, 2013

In a stark about turn, most Americans now have significant reservations about the use of drones by government and law enforcement.

Just six months ago, a survey conducted by The Associated Press and The National Constitution Center found that more Americans supported than opposed the use of surveillance drones by domestic law enforcement agencies.

In that poll, only 36 percent said that they “strongly” opposed or “somewhat” opposed police use of drones, where as 44 percent supported the idea of police using unmanned aerial vehicles to track suspects and carry out investigations.

The poll also found that only one third of Americans were significantly concerned about their privacy being eroded by the adoption of drones by police forces throughout the country.

Now, in a Reason-Rupe national survey, sixty percent of respondents believe that, to some degree, the use of drones by local law enforcement to conduct surveillance without a warrant is an invasion of personal privacy.

That is some turnaround.

In addition, 47 percent of respondents to the latest poll said they believe they have a right to destroy a UAV if it flies over their house without their permission.

Shifting to overseas use of drones, In a Pew Research Center study, conducted some five months ago, more than half of the American public were found to be in support of targeted assassinations with drones, even if that meant killing American citizens.

Now, in the latest poll, 57 percent of respondents say it is unconstitutional to order the killing of Americans overseas. Even more — 59 percent — believe that the federal government abuses its power when it comes to targeted strikes.

Again, some turnaround.

The latest survey indicates that along with an exponential increase in the use of drones both at home and abroad has come a sustained push back from the general public.

More attention has been focused on the use of UAVs and the potential they have for eviscerating fundamental rights to privacy and the due process of law.

More and more states and cities are advancing and/or passing laws against the use of drones in their skies by government and law agencies.

Plans to roll out drones by law enforcement agencies in Washington State, VirginiaCalifornia and New York have recently met with stern opposition.

With drone lobbyists now actively seeking approval for drones to be employed for “lethal force” within the United States, with ongoing secrecy surrounding domestic and foreign drone use, and with revelations that the long term plan for drones has always been to target American citizens, the worm seems to have turned.

The people are finally making their voices heard on the issue.

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LOBBYIST DEMANDS APPROVAL FOR LETHAL DRONES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES

Applewhite admits UAVs have been used for “indiscriminate killings”

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
February 25, 2013

Testifying against a bill that would put limits on the use of unmanned drones in Washington state, industry lobbyist Paul Applewhite shocked a House Committee hearing when he said that drones had been used for “indiscriminate killings,” while arguing that the technology should be approved for “lethal force” within the United States.

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Applewhite is president of Seattle-based Applewhite Aero, a company “founded to provide unmanned systems and training to government and industry.”

When asked if restrictions should be placed on the use of drones until the direction of where the technology is going becomes clearer, Applewhite responded, “My opinion is that the way that we’re currently using drones in warfare, we’re moving away from indiscriminate killing to discriminate killing,” prompting gasps from the audience.

Applewhite said the decision about “who gets zapped on the other side of the planet” was a “legitimate concern,” but advocated that unmanned drones be used to hunt down murder suspects domestically, as some suggested during the recent Christopher Dorner manhunt.

The lobbyist argued that the necessity to “document” the use of drones was discouraging law enforcement officials from deploying them, and that every police officer, “has lethal force on their hip – we’re saying we give them the judgment to be able to pull this thing out and use it up to and including lethal force.”

“Why is this technology so much different to say you’ve got it in your trunk, pull it out, use it now,” he added.

Up until now, unmanned drones have only been used for lethal purposes abroad in countries like Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although the Obama administration claims the drone program has been used to carry out targeted killings of known terrorists and militants, almost 5,000 people have been killed in total, many of them innocent bystanders, including at least 176 children. On average, 50 innocent people are killed for every suspected “terrorist” who dies in a drone strike.

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said last week.

Three American citizens, including 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, have been killed by drone strikes but none so far on U.S. soil.

By advocating that authorities be given the power to use drones to assassinate targets on domestic soil, Applewhite is pushing for a Judge Dredd style system of justice where cops – and potentially the military and government agencies – become judge, jury and executioner.

“I was stunned along with the rest of the people in the hearing when I heard the stunning admission from Mr. Applewhite that we had at one time practiced indiscriminate killing in this country. This is absolutely the reason why we cannot trust a government that condones at any time indiscriminate killing of any person, especially without due process,” State Senate hopeful Travis Couture responded.

During his testimony, Applewhite also advocated that drones be parked permanently above schools as well as being used to monitor highways for traffic accidents, asking, “Why are we denying ourselves this great technology?”

However, he did express the fact that he was “Worried about one of these parked over the top of my house and being used for surveillance by an overzealous government.”

Applewhite’s insistence that armed drones be used to hunt down suspects domestically is unsurprising given the financial windfall it would offer for the industry he represents. As we reported last year, following remarks by Charles Krauthammer that the first person to shoot down a surveillance drone on U.S. soil will be a “folk hero,” the drone industry launched a PR blitz aimed at “bombard(ing) the American public with positive images and messages about drones in an effort to reverse the growing perception of the aircraft as a threat to privacy and safety.”

Earlier this month, Federal Aviation Administration Jim Williams said that current rules prevent drones from being armed within the United Stated and that “we don’t have any plans of changing [those rules] for unmanned aircraft.”

The Department of Homeland Security recently reiterated its intention to use “public safety drones” to spy on American citizens. Experts predict that there will be 30,000 surveillance drones in American skies by 2020 following a bill passed last year by Congress that permits the use of unmanned aerial spy vehicles on domestic soil.

In a related story, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admitted yesterday that he was told by officials to not even acknowledge the existence of the drone strike program when he got the job, labeling the order “inherently crazy.”

“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.”

H/T – Mikael Thalen.

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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY FLYING SURVEILLANCE MISSIONS FOR OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Nov 1, 2012

A privacy rights watchdog is suing the Department of Homeland Security for information relating to the agency’s practice of loaning out Predator drones to law enforcement agencies in the US.

The Electronic Frontier Foundationwants to obtain and make public details regarding the DHS’ granting permission for domestic police departments to borrow and operate the same type of drones that are used by the military in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Information via news items, DHS press releases, and word of mouth has made it apparent that the DHS is overseeing predator drone flights for a range of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is flying DHS drones fitted with video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar. The Texas Rangers, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Defense have also used DHS drones. Even a county sheriff’s department in North Dakota is reported to have operated a predator drone belonging to the DHS.

“We’ve seen bits and pieces of information on CBP’s Predator drones, but Americans deserve the full story,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch.

The EFF filed suit in a federal court in San Francisco after the DHS did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Drones are a powerful surveillance tool that can be used to gather extensive data about you and your activities. The public needs to know more about how and why these Predator drones are being used to watch U.S. citizens.”

The EFF is also suing the US Federal Aviation Administration for similar information regarding authorization of drone flights by domestic police departments. The agency has released some information but is responding too slowly to FOIA requests, meaning any data EFF receives is already well out of date.

“FAA’s foot-dragging means we can’t get a real-time picture of drone activity in the U.S.,” said Lynch. “If officials could release their records in a timely fashion – or publish it as a matter of routine on the FAA website – we could stop filing these FOIA requests and lawsuits.”

The full EFF FOIA lawsuits can be viewed here:

https://www.eff.org/node/72156

https://www.eff.org/node/72155

Earlier this year, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, or ‘Big Sis’ as she will now forever be known, announced that the agency is preparing to use surveillance drones for the purposes of “public safety”.

The DHS is also already using another type of airborne drone surveillance, utilized to track insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.

A bill passed by Congress in February paves the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies on a widespread basis. The FAA predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation nationwide.

US law enforcement bodies are already using drone technology to spy on Americans. In December last year, a Predator B drone was called in to conduct surveillance over a family farm in North Dakota as part of a SWAT raid on the Brossart family, who were suspects in the egregious crime of stealing six missing cows. Local police in this one area have already used the drone on two dozen occasions since June last year.

Last summer, the DHS also gave the green light for police departments in the United States to deploy the ShadowHawk mini-drone helicopter that has the ability to taze suspects from above as well as carrying 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers. The drone, also used against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, is already being used by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office in Texas.

Other police departments have also recently announced plans to roll out other smaller surveillance drones.

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

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DRONE MURDERS OF AMERICANS ‘TOTALLY RIGHT, TOTALLY CONSTITUTIONAL': HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRPERSON

Washington’s Blog

… and if you question it, you are “a horrible moron,” concludes Peter T. King, Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

This 2-minute video from We Are Change Luke Rudkowski powerfully captures what US “leadership” has become. The good news is their arrogance and evasion is only tragic-comic sideshows to the “emperor has no clothes” obvious facts of their massive crimes centering in war and money.

This is what matters:

War law within US treaties is crystal-clear in letter and intent: no nation may use military armed attacks unless under attack by another nation’s government. The US military armed attacks in current and expanding targets are obvious unlawful and unconstitutional Wars of Aggression. War law was written in every language on the planet for the people to uphold limited government in war.

War law is the legal victory of all American families’ sacrifices through two world wars. US military have Oaths of Enlistment to support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. War law’s treaty-status means US military are obligated to refuse all orders in current wars and act to arrest those who issue them. There are no lawful war orders when the wars are unlawful.
The use of war violence is usually associated with criminal acts for money, and lies to evade public recognition of these obvious crimes. Crimes by US oligarchic “leadership” for money are just as obvious upon inspection. Propaganda by US corporate media’s six companies to criminally lie and evade is also easy to prove for anyone willing to look.
This is our present and future:

Americans can choose intellectual integrity and moral courage to use their voices and actions in light of the “emperor has no clothes” obvious. This will save millions of lives, help billions in poverty, and reclaim trillions in the public’s monies that have been looted. The obvious war-murders will end.Obvious reforms to release looted money, and reforming credit and money as public services rather than bankster parasitism can quickly cause full-employment for infrastructure investment.

Americans should consider a Truth & Reconciliation offer to the “1%” criminals. The advantage is to split those members willing to reclaim their hearts and integrity to help us, make it easier for the criminals to surrender rather than fight us, and most quickly enact policies to reclaim our humanity.

Americans could refuse to engage in this basic civil requirement for freedom, and earn the Greek insult for political apathy that is so powerful it’s remained untranslated for over 2,000 years: idiot.
Choose carefully. You may just have what you choose and work for.

DRONE UNIVERSITY RIDES FLIGHT BOOM

Pilot founds first university dedicated to unmanned systems

By Ben Wolfgang | The Washington Times

For all of the skeptics and detractors it has produced, the drone industry also has its vocal supporters.

Few are louder than Jerry LeMieux, a retired Air Force colonel, commercial airline pilot, college lecturer and, most recently, the founder of the world’s first university dedicated solely to unmanned systems education.

“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do something good for the unmanned systems community,” he said at the drone sector’s Las Vegas trade show earlier this month.

“It’s something that I look at as very important. What’s my motivation for doing this? Everybody has a little bit of a teacher in them. Now, I’m finally able to do it on a larger scale.”

Col. LeMieux’s school is one of several trying to get off the ground, literally and figuratively, with colleges and universities across the country seeking a piece of what is expected to be a business boom in the drone market in the coming years.

Unmanned Vehicle University received its international accreditation in July, and while it currently offers only online courses, Col. LeMieux envisions a sprawling campus in Lake Havasu, Ariz.

The university teaches a variety of subjects, including unmanned vehicle design, system fundamentals.

It’s yet another example of the unmanned industry’s growth, a boom that’s only just begun.

Drones are now available only to military and law enforcement agencies, but the Federal Aviation Administration is gearing up to begin granting personal and commercial licenses in 2015.

Before that happens, the FAA must craft detailed training requirements and certifications for future drone operators.

In a statement earlier this month, the agency stressed that “pilot training and medical requirements” will be established as part of drone integration into the nation’s crowded airspace.

Col. LeMieux, along with other institutions in the traditional world of higher education, are angling for FAA certification, so that after obtaining a degree, an operator will be fully licensed by the federal government.

Such certification, however, isn’t a sure thing.

“I take risks,” Col. LeMieux said. “That’s a risk, that I’ll get FAA certification within a year. But that’s my goal, and I’m building a program to go in that direction. … A lot of schools are trying to get into this game.”

One school already in the game is the University of North Dakota, which offers its own degree programs in the field of unmanned systems. Like Col. LeMieux’s university, the school is banking on becoming an FAA-certified training center.

“That’s the intent. We have a long track record of working with the FAA. We worked closely with them in developing the [drone] program and talked with them about the needed knowledge base,” said William H. Semke, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who partners with the school’s Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research.

“What training will [pilots] need? That’s going to change as time progresses. But right now, we’re right in the middle of that,” he said.

Dozens of other institutions are staking their claim in the drone game. The University of Texas at Austin did so in a high-profile way earlier this summer, when professor Todd Humphreys and his students successfully hijacked a drone to demonstrate holes in current safety protocols.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Matt Waite took a different approach and founded the first-ever “drone journalism lab” to explore the opportunities — and inevitable ethical conflicts — of using unmanned crafts in the news-gathering business.

Such programs, analysts say, will grow in number dramatically over the next several years, as drones come to the forefront.

Educators such as Col. LeMieux plan to take full advantage, offering students the chance to be a part of a technological revolution.

“We’re looking to the future,” he said. “We are trying to develop the future leaders of this industry. When you graduate from this school, you will have a job. If you’re a fighter pilot, the war is winding down, so what are you going to do? You can go to a school, get 50 hours of flight training, and now you have a degree in unmanned aerial vehicle operations.”

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TO TEST SPY DRONES FOR “PUBLIC SAFETY” APPLICATIONS

RAPS system will keep tabs on Americans

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
October 8, 2012

The Department of Homeland Security has announced in a solicitation to drone manufacturers that it will begin testing “Robotic Aircraft For Public Safety” at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, indicating that small spy drones will be used to keep tabs on Americans in the near future.
As Infowars reported back in July, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told a House Committee on Homeland Security that the federal agency was “looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster.”

This represented an about-face of sorts for the agency, which had previously been reticent about the idea of using surveillance drones to spy on the public.

However, a recent solicitation posted on the FedBizOpps website confirms that the DHS is launching its Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) project and is asking small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) vendors to take part.

The drones are set to be used for applications such as “law enforcement operations, search and rescue, and fire and hazardous material spill response” and will fly for 30 minutes to two hours at a time, weighing around 25 pounds so they can be launched by hand.

“DHS’ second thoughts on drones may not be so surprising,” reports Wired News. “In recent years, DHS has gotten interested in vastly expanding its surveillance capabilities, exploring cameras reminiscent of military ones that can spy on four square miles at once.”

As we reported earlier this year, the DHS is already using another type of airborne drone surveillance, also utilized to track insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.

A bill passed by Congress in February paves the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies on a widespread basis. The FAA predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation nationwide.

US law enforcement bodies are already using drone technology to spy on Americans. In December last year, aPredator B drone was called in to conduct surveillance over a family farm in North Dakota as part of a SWAT raid on the Brossart family, who were suspects in the egregious crime of stealing six missing cows. Local police in this one area have already used the drone on two dozen occasions since June last year.

Police departments are also attempting to get approval to use surveillance blimps that sit over cities and watch for “suspicious activity.”

The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.

SAN DIEGO SHERIFF KEEPING DRONE USE TOP SECRET

Published on Nov 21, 2012 by RTAmerica

Currently the US military is using unmanned craft in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to target individuals, but their domestic use has been increasing at an alarming rate. According to a Freedom of Information Act request, San Diego law enforcement agencies have been considering using the aircraft, but when documents regarding drone use were requested the paperwork was claimed to be non-existent. So why are law enforcement officials keeping their use under wraps? RT’s Ramon Galindo brings us more.

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SHERIFF WANTS DRONES TO PEEK INSIDE BUILDINGS

Technology previously used to hunt insurgents in Afghanistan

Paul Joseph Watson

Infowars.com
October 10, 2012

Sheriff Gregory Ahern wants to put Alameda County on the map as the first jurisdiction in California to use surveillance drones for law enforcement purposes, turning to technology previously used to hunt insurgents in Afghanistan that would allow police to peek inside buildings to detect heat sources of people or the lights of indoor pot growing operations.

Although Sheriff Ahern promised that the drones would only be used in “emergency” situations such as high speed chases, he told NBC News that the devices could also be used for “proactive policing,” including scanning buildings for heat sources such as people or lights that could indicate illegal marijuana growing operations.

The drones, which cost $50,000-$100,000 dollars, weigh just four pounds and can stream live video back to the operator. The Sheriff’s office is looking into whether a Homeland Security “community policing” grant can be utilized to cover the cost of the devices.

The ACLU points out that the drones violate the 4th Amendment because they allow police surveillance of private property without a warrant.

“Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas,” the group said in a statement.

The Sheriff’s office will join with 30 other law enforcement agencies later this month for its annual “Urban Shield” preparedness exercise, during which different versions of the drones will be field tested.

After Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization earlier this year, requiring the FAA to permit the operation of drones weighing 25 pounds or less, observers predicted that anything up to 30,000 spy drones could be flying in U.S. skies by 2020.

As we reported earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced in a solicitation that it would be testing small spy drones at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, signaling that the devices will be used for “public safety” applications in the near future.

Much larger drones are already being used in law enforcement operations across the country. The most infamous case involved the Brossart family in North Dakota, who were targeted for surveillance with a Predator B drone last year after six missing cows wandered onto their land. Police had already used the drone, which is based at Grand Forks Air Force Base, on two dozen occasions beforehand.

Police departments are also attempting to get approval to use surveillance blimps that hover over cities and watch for “suspicious activity.”

The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

Recently released FAA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the FAA gave the green light for surveillance drones to be used in U.S. skies despite the fact that during the FAA’s own tests the drones crashed numerous times even in areas of airspace where no other aircraft were flying.

The documents illustrate how the drones pose a huge public safety risk, contradicting a recent coordinated PR campaign on behalf of the drone industry which sought to portray drones as safe, reliable and privacy-friendly.

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.

BAY AREA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TEST DRONES

By Stephanie Chuang | Oct 19, 2012

They began as tools in military combat. Now aerial drones are being considered by Bay Area law enforcement agencies as a cost-cutting way to replace helicopters, and use technology to fight crime and save lives.

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern first tested one of these Unmanned Aerial Systems or UAS about a year ago. Now he’s looking into possibly bringing a drone here. His office would be the first in California to do it. Armed with live-video-feeding capabilities and different features, like infrared devices, these drones can cost in the ballpark of 50- to 100-thousand dollars or more.

There are several different models, but the one Ahern is considering weighs four pounds and spans four-feet. He says the drones get a birds-eye view that most tactical officers on the ground would never get, sometimes endangering their lives. A demonstration at the county’s Office of Emergency Services building in Dublin a couple months ago featured a man standing in the shadows on a rooftop, with three possible explosives clearly in his reach. The drone saw everything; the officers on the ground could not.

“Very valuable to any tactical officer, as you’re setting up your perimeters and knowing what the suspect may have in his hands, how the suspect is dressed, what are the avenues of escape?” Ahern added that his office would only use drones during emergencies, from a high-speed or high-risk chase to search-and-rescue operations in disasters, as well as proactive policing measures like catching marijuana grows in fields on public lands and in grow houses.

But not everyone is pleased at the growing number of agencies looking to use these UAS. The American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU says drones should only be deployed when a warrant for a specific crime is involved. The ACLU is also worried that they may harm both privacy and people. In a statement, the ACLU wrote, “Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas.”

Sheriff Ahern says an armed drone is out of the question. He says local public safety agencies must take advantage of innovation that’s out there, calling it a “no brainer.”

In two weeks, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is hosting its annual “Urban Shield” preparedness exercise involving about 30 other law enforcement agencies. That’s where they’ll get the chance to test out different drones in simulations of disasters and high-risk situations to see if they really work. If so, Sheriff Ahern says he has been looking specifically into a federal grant that promotes community policing.

DARPA TESTS DRONES THAT REFUEL WHILE AIRBORNE

Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
New American
Oct 12, 2012

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center reported on October 8 that they are moving closer to the day when drones can stay airborne indefinitely, refueled by other unmanned aerial vehicles without human assistance.

The test flights conducted between January 11 and May 30 involved the use of two Global Hawk drones — “one configured as a tanker and the other as a receiver.” The experiments were conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, California and reportedly resulted in the achieving of many milestones:

The lead receiver aircraft extended and retracted its aerial refueling hose several times, completing all planned tests to validate the associated program hardware and software.

The trail tanker aircraft successfully demonstrated precision control in formation with manual and automated “breakaway” maneuvers — important safety features and criteria of the test program.

Two Global Hawk unmanned aircraft successfully flew for the first time in close formation — as close as 30 feet.

During the close-formation flight, the aircraft rendezvoused and flew for more than 2.5 hours under autonomous formation control, with the majority of the time within 100 ft (or one wingspan) of each other.

“The technical developments that enabled these two high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned Global Hawks in close formation is an outstanding accomplishment for the AHR [Autonomous High-altitude Refueling] program,” said Fred Ricker, vice president and deputy general manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Advanced Programs & Technology. “Coupled with the advanced design and technical implementation of aerial refueling systems on board both aircraft, the demonstration has truly brought a concept to life, which has the potential to change the operations for unmanned aircraft utility and enable mission flexibility never before realized.”

A DARPA news release reported on the success of the $33-million program:

During its final test flight, two modified Global Hawk aircraft flew in close formation, 100 feet or less between refueling probe and receiver drogue, for the majority of a 2.5-hour engagement at 44,800 feet. This demonstrated for the first time that High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) class aircraft can safely and autonomously operate under in-flight refueling conditions. The flight was the ninth test and the first time the aircraft flew close enough to measure the full aerodynamic and control interactions. Flight data was analyzed over the past few months and fed back into simulations to verify system safety and performance through contact and fuel transfer — including the effects of turns and gusts up to 20 knots.

This is very promising for the perpetuation of the death-by-drone program and for its expansion domestically in the coming years.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that by 2020, 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be patrolling American airspace.

DARPA program manager Jim McCormick seems to hint at the wide range of uses to which such advanced drones may be put in the near future.

“The goal of this demonstration was to create the expectation that future HALE aircraft will be refueled in flight,” McCormick said. “Such designs should be more affordable to own and operate across a range of mission profiles than systems built to satisfy the most stressing case without refueling. The lessons from AHR certainly extend beyond the HALE flight regime, and insights into non-traditional tanker concepts may offer further operational advantages.”

If, as McCormick predicts, this new military technology will make drones more affordable and more easily operated, the deployment of them domestically may pose a legitimate threat to the privacy and liberty of Americans as law enforcement agencies purchase squadrons of the vehicles in the years to come.

Such a deployment will create several critical questions of constitutionality of their potential uses — the most crucial being the application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unlawful searches and seizures” and the requirement that warrants be supported by affidavits “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ”To shore up the strength of this constitutional barrier, in June Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill to “protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones.” Paul’s bill mandates: “A person or entity acting under the authority [of], or funded in whole or in part by, the Government of the United States shall not use a drone to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation except to the extent authorized in a warrant that satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Senator Paul explained, “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”

Constitutional conflicts rising in the wake of the domestic deployment of drones have already come up in court in the case of Rodney Brossart, who became one of the first American citizens (if not the first) arrested by local law enforcement with the use of a drone owned by a federal agency. Police launched this loaner after Brossart held the police at bay for over 16 hours.

Brossart’s run-in with law enforcement began after six cows found their way onto his property (about 3,000 acres near Lakota, North Dakota), and he refused to turn them over to officers. In fact, according to several sources, Brossart and a few family members ran police off his farm at the point of a gun. Naturally, police weren’t pleased with Brossart’s brand of hospitality, so they returned with a warrant, a SWAT team, and a determination to apprehend Brossart and the cows.

A standoff ensued, and the Grand Forks police SWAT team made a call to Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to one of the Department of Homeland Security’s squadron of Predator drones. No sooner did the call come in than the drone was airborne, and Brossart’s precise location was pinpointed with laser-guided accuracy. The machine-gun toting SWAT officers rushed in, tased, and then arrested Brossart on various charges, including terrorizing a sheriff.

At a legal hearing on the matter, Bruce Quick, the lawyer representing Brossart, alleged a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unwarranted searches and seizures. Although the police possessed an apparently valid search warrant, Quick asserts that no such judicial go-ahead was sought for or obtained for the use of the Predator drone to track Brossart. Therein lies the constitutional rub.

Senator Paul’s measure, if enacted, would give specific guidance to the judicial branch’s understanding of the Fourth Amendment and the scope of its prohibitions. It would prevent citizens from being subject to surveillance without notice.

In practice, this would help judges apply the principles of the Fourth Amendment to drones in a very specific way. The standards presently used to judge the constitutionality of observation by helicopter or patrol car, for example, would be altered appropriately to fit the rapidly advancing drone technology. The improved legal framework would help law enforcement avoid legally suspect surveillance and would maintain the public’s protection against unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Another important consideration is what level of weaponization is permissible for the police? Does local law enforcement need the type of weaponry used by the military, whose mission is very different from that of law enforcement?

In fairness, there are many lawful possible uses of drones, including wildfire control, tracking suspected criminals for whom a qualifying warrant has been issued, tracking of stolen vehicles, etc. It is the unconstitutional use of drones that is objectionable and that Americans must be vigilant against.

According to the most recent figures, Northrop Grumman has contributed over $2 million to candidates’ campaign coffers, including $49,017 to President Barack Obama and $34,350 to Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

US ‘SECRET’ DRONE BASE AND RON PAUL’S FOREIGN POLICY

Daniel McAdams
Lew Rockwell Blog
Oct 28, 2012

The Washington Post yesterday detailed a secret — and not-so-secret — US base of operations in the Horn of Africa. It is from this massive, 500 acre base run by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), that virtually all the non-Afghan war drones are launched. It is the center of the US drone war against al-Qaeda (except for those al-Qaeda elements in Libya and Syria with which the US administration is allied — think of those as Eastasia).

Appropriately, the base, called Camp Lemonnier, is located on grounds used earlier by the French Foreign Legion — the non-French arm of the French military used to keep the French colonial empire in line. Apparently irony is completely lost on the US administration.

The entire article is well worth reading, chilling as it is. In it the teeth of the US empire are laid bare. And they are ugly. If one considers a recent study of the US drone wars by Stanford University and NYU, which demonstrates a catastrophic failure rate of the drones to hit intended targets (which means that most of the time they kill innocent civilians), one could conclude, using a non-loaded definition of the term, that Lemonnier is the largest terrorist base in the world.

As the Stanford University drone study (PDF) found:

“Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves… from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562–3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.”

Perhaps most fascinating about this excellent Washington Post investigative report, however, is the following paragraph:

“Other counterterrorism work at Lemonnier is more overt. All told, about 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors are assigned to the camp, where they train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root.” (emphasis added)

Here we see the Ron Paul critique of US foreign policy plainly demonstrated: The US government does not just send in drones to kill people from Lemonnier — it also “doles out…aid” to those who obey!

Here is Ron Paul from three years ago (not that it matters, as he has been making this point for decades):

“I have often made the point that the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do, and if they do it we give them money. If they don’t do it, we bomb them… If you want to promote our good values and our democratic process, you can’t antagonize the people by literally killing people over there, because if bombs were falling on this country, we wouldn’t be all that happy with that.”

Perhaps it is due to efficiency efforts, but in Lemonnier we see both under one roof: cash to those who do what they are told and drones for those who do not. But the answer, as Ron Paul repeatedly reminds us, is no aid and no drones. Period.

NEW DARPA SMART DRONES USE “BRAINS” TO DODGE OBASTACLES

Autonomous craft can fly around trees, poles and fences

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
Nov 9, 2012

Those pesky terrorists, always jumping over fences and running off into the trees. Exactly how is the Pentagon going to track their every move when they are so adept at such feats? The answer may come in the form of a new unmanned drone developed by DARPA that can autonomously dodge obstacles.

IEEE Specturm reports that Researchers at Cornell University, with funding from DARPA and Defense contractor Lockheed Martin, have developed hardware that acts like a brain when it receives information from a camera, enabling a drone to dodge any obstacles it flies too close to.

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Software operating with the camera creates a 3D model of the surroundings and fires a “network of artificial neurons”. The drone’s “brain” then determines what objects are in its path and plots a route around them.

The researchers say that in 53 out of 55 “autonomous flights in obstacle-rich environments,” the drone avoided everything in it’s path and did not crash. In 2 of the tests it did collide with objects. The researchers say this was due to wind factors. They hope to develop the technology further to incorporate this, as well as moving objects, such as birds or planes.

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In their paper, titled Low-Power Parallel Algorithms for Single Image based Obstacle Avoidance in Aerial Robots, the researchers note: “In outdoor robotic experiments, our algorithm was able to consistently produce clean, accurate obstacle maps which allowed our robot to avoid a wide variety of obstacles, including trees, poles and fences.”

It is clear that this technology is intended for domestic use.

As we have noted, the FAA’s recent legislative onslaught has opened up US skies to drones operated by the military, federal government and law enforcement agencies, and private companies. However, critics have pointed out that the FAA’s own safety tests have proved anything but convincing.

DARPA and Lockheed are clearly hoping that this new development will go some way to silencing those critics.

Critics it will not silence, however, are those concerned for their privacy. Activists have rounded on their local government representatives in many areas of the country, in an attempt to stop the drone invasion before it gets out of hand.

FAA documents recently obtained and released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that the roll out of domestic unmanned drones will, for the most part, be focused solely on spying on the American people. When applying for a license to operate drones, an overwhelming amount of operators stated that they intended to use the devices for surveillance.

And don’t think you can run off into the woods to hide. The DARPA drones are coming…

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

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DRONES TO BE DEPLOYED AS NUCLEAR FALLOUT DETECTORS

By Jeff McMahon, Contributor | Forbes

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed radiation-detection pods that can monitor airborne radiation using drones, without endangering human flight crews.

The “Harvester” system is designed to detect detonations of nuclear weapons. It can guide a drone to the site of a nuclear explosion by following the plume of gamma radiation where no onboard pilot could safely venture.

The system could also be used to monitor fallout from accidents at nuclear reactors, Sandia officials said.

Two years ago, on March 14, 2011, the National Nuclear Security Administration sent flight crews to Japan to monitor airborne and ground contamination from the still developing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.

The crews arrived four days after the 24-foot tsunami had swept the plant, and in the ensuing 10 weeks they logged 507 flight hours crisscrossing the skies over Japan in a Beechcraft C-12 twin engine turboprop out of nearby Yokota Air Base.

The crews produced vital maps of the plume of radiation escaping from the crippled reactors.

Had Sandia’s Harvester system been available then, the NNSA might have flown drones instead.

“The researcher tells me that the Harvester system could be used to monitor radioactive emissions from a reactor accident if the activity level was high enough, and that the pods (while still in the developmental stage) were even considered for use at Fukushima, but never got past being an idea,” Sandia spokesman Neal Singer told me in an email.

“Things might be different once the system is fully deployed.”

Two of the system’s three pods sample the air as the drone cruises at about 200 miles per hour, trapping particles in paper filters where they are analyzed in flight by radiation sensors.

Those pods performed well at a demonstration last year at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, according to a Sandia press release penned by Singer.

“While the tests did not include any radioisotope releases, the pods were able to collect and identify naturally occurring radioisotopes of lead and bismuth produced from the radioactive decay of atmospheric radon.”

Sandia’s three radiation detection pods (Photo courtesy of Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories)

The third pod processes data from four radiation detectors to help guide the drone toward the source of gamma radiation. The data is relayed to the operator of the Harvester system, who conveys it to the pilot in the drone’s ground-control station.

“The operator will see a vector that shows peak plume intensity up and to the right, let’s say,” Sanders said in the release. “It’s the equivalent of a guide saying, ‘You’re getting warmer.’”

The pods are designed to be attached to the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, a larger, heavier version of the well known Predator drone.

The researchers are also developing a pod that can take large air samples to be analyzed for radioactive gases, such as radioisotopes of xenon. Scientists studying the Fukushima meltdowns have lamented a relative lack of data on xenon releases.

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SPYING ON AMERICANS: 64 DRONE BASES ON U.S. SOIL

By Global Research

We like to think of the drone war as something far away, fought in the deserts of Yemen or the mountains of Afghanistan. But we now know it’s closer than we thought. There are 64 drone bases on American soil. That includes 12 locations housing Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, which can be armed.

Public Intelligence, a non-profit that advocates for free access to information, released a map of military UAV activities in the United States on Tuesday. Assembled from military sources — especially this little-known June 2011 Air Force presentation (.pdf) – it is arguably the most comprehensive map so far of the spread of the Pentagon’s unmanned fleet. What exact missions are performed at those locations, however, is not clear. Some bases might be used as remote cockpits to control the robotic aircraft overseas, some for drone pilot training. Others may also serve as imagery analysis depots.

The medium-size Shadow is used in 22 bases, the smaller Raven in 20 and the miniature Wasp in 11. California and Texas lead the pack, with 10 and six sites, respectively, and there are also 22 planned locations for future bases. ”It is very likely that there are more domestic drone activities not included in the map, but it is designed to provide an approximate overview of the widespread nature of Department of Defense activities throughout the US,” Michael Haynes from Public Intelligence tells Danger Room.

The possibility of military drones (as well as those controlled by police departments and universities) flying over American skies have raised concerns among privacy activists. As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in its December 2011 report, the machines potentially could be used to spy on American citizens. The drones’ presence in our skies “threatens to eradicate existing practical limits on aerial monitoring and allow for pervasive surveillance, police fishing expeditions, and abusive use of these tools in a way that could eventually eliminate the privacy Americans have traditionally enjoyed in their movements and activities.”

As Danger Room reported last month, even military drones, which are prohibited from spying on Americans, may “accidentally” conduct such surveillance — and keep the data for months afterwards while they figure out what to do with it. The material they collect without a warrant, as scholar Steven Aftergood revealed, could then be used to open an investigation.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the U.S. military from operating on American soil, and there’s no evidence that drones have violated it so far.

This new map comes almost two months after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) revealedanother one, this time of public agencies – including police departments and universities – that have a permit issued by the Federal Aviation Agency to use UAVs in American airspace.

“It goes to show you how entrenched drones already are,” said Trevor Timm, an EFF activist, when asked about the new map. “It’s clear that the drone industry is expanding rapidly and this map is just another example of that. And if people are worried about military technology coming back and being sold in the US, this is just another example how drone technology is probably going to proliferate in the US very soon.”

Domestic proliferation isn’t the same as domestic spying, however. Most — if not all — of these military bases would make poor surveillance centers. Many of the locations are isolated, far from civilian populations. Almost half of the bases on the map work only with the relatively small Raven and Shadow drones; their limited range and endurance make them imperfect spying tools, at best. It’s safe to assume that most of the bases are just used for military training.

Privacy concerns aside, the biggest issue might be safety, as we were been reminded on Monday when a giant Navy drone crashed in Maryland.

DRONE CRASHES MOUNT AT CIVILIAN AIRPORTS

By Craig Whitlock | The Washington Post

The U.S. Air Force drone, on a classified spy mission over the Indian Ocean, was destined for disaster from the start.

An inexperienced military contractor in shorts and a T-shirt, flying by remote control from a trailer at Seychelles International Airport, committed blunder after blunder in six minutes on April 4.

He sent the unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drone off without permission from the control tower. A minute later, he yanked the wrong lever at his console, killing the engine without realizing why.

As he tried to make an emergency landing, he forgot to put down the wheels. The $8.9 million aircraft belly-flopped on the runway, bounced and plunged into the tropical waters at the airport’s edge, according to a previously undisclosed Air Force accident investigation report.

The drone crashed at a civilian airport that serves a half-million passengers a year, most of them sun-seeking tourists. No one was hurt, but it was the second Reaper accident in five months — under eerily similar circumstances.

“I will be blunt here. I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,’ ” an Air Force official at the scene told investigators afterward. He added: “You go, ‘How stupid are you?’ ”

The April wreck was the latest in a rash of U.S. military drone crashes at overseas civilian airports in the past two years. The accidents reinforce concerns about the risks of flying the robot aircraft outside war zones, including in the United States.

A review of thousands of pages of unclassified Air Force investigation reports, obtained by The Washington Post under public-records requests, shows that drones flying from civilian airports have been plagued by setbacks.

Among the problems repeatedly cited are pilot error, mechanical failure, software bugs in the “brains” of the aircraft and poor coordination with civilian air-traffic controllers.

On Jan. 14, 2011, a Predator drone crashed off the Horn of Africa while trying to return to an international airport next to a U.S. military base in Djibouti. It was the first known accident involving a Predator or Reaper drone near a civilian airport. Predators and Reapers can carry satellite-guided missiles and have become the Obama administration’s primary weapon against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Since then, at least six more Predators and Reapers have crashed in the vicinity of civilian airports overseas, including other instances in which contractors were at the controls.

The mishaps have become more common at a time when the Pentagon and domestic law-enforcement agencies are pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. civil airspace to surveillance drones.

The FAA permits drone flights only in rare cases, citing the risk of midair collisions. The Defense Department can fly Predators and Reapers on training and testing missions in restricted U.S. airspace near military bases.

The pressure to fly drones in the same skies as passenger planes will only increase as the war in Afghanistan winds down and the military and CIA redeploy their growing fleets of Predators and Reapers. Last year, the military began flying unarmed Reapers from a civilian airport in Ethiopia to spy in next-door Somalia.

In a Nov. 20 speech in Washington, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the Pentagon would expand its use of the unmanned attack planes “outside declared combat zones” as it pursues al-Qaeda supporters in Africa and the Middle East.

“These enhanced capabilities will enable us to be more flexible and agile against a threat that has grown more diffuse,” Panetta said.

The Air Force says that its drones are safe and that crash rates have declined as the military fine-tunes the new technology. Mishap rates for Predators have fallen to levels comparable to F-16 fighter jets at same stage in their development, according to the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

‘Backlash and repercussion’

In Djibouti, five Predators have crashed since the Air Force began ramping up drone operations there to combat terrorist groups in nearby Yemen and Somalia.

Many of the mechanical breakdowns have been peculiar to drones.

On May 7, 2011, an armed Predator suffered an electrical malfunction that sent it into a death spiral about a mile offshore from Djibouti City, the capital, which has about 600,000 residents. “I’m just glad we landed it in the ocean and not someplace else,” a crew member told investigators.

Ten days later, another Predator missed the runway by nearly three miles and crashed near a residential area. The aircraft was carrying a live Hellfire missile, but it did not detonate and no one was injured.

Another close call came March 15, 2011. An armed Predator came in too steep and fast for landing, overshot the runway and slammed into a fence.

Investigators attributed that accident to a melted throttle part, but they also blamed pilot error. They said the remote-
control pilot was “inattentive” and “confused” during the landing. Because he was isolated inside a ground-control station, the report added, he did not notice the wind rush or high engine pitch that might have warned a pilot in a manned aircraft to slow down.

In Djibouti, the Air Force drones operate from Camp Lemonnier, a fast-growing U.S. military base devoted to counterterrorism. The base is adjacent to Djibouti’s international airport and shares a single runway with passenger aircraft.

That has led to miscommunications and tensions with Djiboutian civil aviation officials. One unidentified U.S. officer told investigators last year that he often had to sternly remind his fellow troops that civilians were in charge of the site.

“There is a need to understand the urgency that this airport doesn’t belong to us,” he said. “Every time that we cause a delay or they miss flight times and connecting flights, there’s a big backlash and repercussion.”

In addition to the five Predator wrecks in Djibouti, the officer said he had witnessed three emergency landings that narrowly avoided catastrophe. “I have no illusions that this won’t happen again, whether it’s an MQ-1 or otherwise,” he said, referring to the military code name for a Predator.

Meanwhile, U.S. drone crews complained to investigators about the Djiboutian air-traffic controllers, saying they speak poor English, are “short-
tempered” and are uncomfortable with Predators in their airspace.

According to the crew members, the Djiboutian controllers give priority to passenger planes and order drone pilots to keep their aircraft circling overhead even when they are dangerously low on fuel.

Big Safari

In the Seychelles, an idyllic archipelago that lured Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for their honeymoon, the U.S. military began flying Reapers in 2009. Crews set up shop at an unmarked hangar at the international airport outside the capital, Victoria, named after another British royal.

The operation started with four Reapers that spied on pirates at sea and terrorism suspects on land in Somalia, about 800 miles away. It was also an experiment to test new technology for operating the drones.

Normally, Reapers and Predators are flown through satellite links by pilots based in the United States, while local ground crews handle the takeoffs and landings. In the Seychelles, however, the flights did not require a satellite link; details of the new technology remain classified.

Starting in September 2011, records show, the U.S. Air Force took the unusual step of outsourcing the entire operation to a Florida-based private contractor, Merlin RAMCo. By then, the Seychelles operation had dwindled to two Reapers after the other aircraft were redeployed.

The military drew up the surveillance missions, but Merlin RAMCo hired its own remote-control pilots, sensor operators and mechanics, and dispatched them to the islands.

The arrangement was overseen at a distance by the Air Force’s secretive 645th Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The unit, also known as Big Safari, develops and acquires advanced weapons systems — many of them classified — for Special Operations Forces.

A spokesman for the Big Safari program declined to comment on the Reaper operations in the Seychelles or its contract with Merlin RAMCo, citing “security concerns.” Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said the service does not “currently” use contractors to fly drones on “combat operations,” but he declined to elaborate.

Merlin RAMCo, based in Jacksonville, Fla., is a privately held company that was incorporated in 2006, records show. The firm’s vice president and general manager, Robert A. Miller Jr., did not return phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.

The company supports Air Force missions and other government contracts with more than 80 employees at 14 locations in the United States and five sites overseas, according to the Air Force.

The contractor was subjected to little direct oversight in the Seychelles, records show. The Air Force posted two officials on the islands to coordinate flights and serve as a liaison with the contractor, but neither had experience operating drones.

Underscoring the secrecy of the operation, neither official was allowed to have a copy of Big Safari’s contract with Merlin RAMCo.

“You can imagine it’s awful hard to hold somebody accountable for compliance with a contract that you physically can’t see,” one of the Air Force representatives told investigators.

The other liaison officer told investigators that the whole idea of outsourcing drone flights made him uneasy. “In hindsight, it appears it may not have been the best way to conduct business,” he said.

Seychelles program halted

After Merlin RAMCo took charge, the two Reapers deployed to the Seychelles quickly became hobbled by problems.

In November 2011, the Air Force liaison officers grounded the drones after discovering that they had not received required mechanical upgrades. Just days after the aircraft resumed flying, on Dec. 13, one of the Reapers ran into trouble.

Two minutes after takeoff, the engine failed. The pilot was unable to restart it and tried to execute an emergency landing. But the aircraft, which was not armed at the time, descended too quickly and landed too far down the runway. It bounced past a perimeter road, over a rock breakwater and sank about 200 feet offshore.

Investigators blamed the crash on an electrical short and concluded that the pilot made things worse by botching the landing.

In February, the remaining Reaper was struck by lightning while in flight. The crew was able to steer it home safely, but mechanics grounded the plane for a month to make repairs.

A few days after resuming operations, a different Merlin RAMCo pilot, with limited experience in takeoffs and landings, erred in every way imaginable during the brief flight before crashing the Reaper. Contractors worked for days to fish all the parts out of the water.

The Seychelles and U.S. governments announced a suspension of drone flights afterward, but they didn’t mention that there wasn’t much choice — no intact Reapers were left on the island. U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who met with Seychelles officials a few days later, pledged a “thorough and fully transparent” investigation of the crash.

The accidents, nonetheless, stirred worry among some islanders. In a letter to the Seychelles Nation newspaper, resident James R. Mancham questioned whether civil aviation officials had “seriously examined the implications” of allowing drones to fly from Seychelles International Airport.

“What guarantee do we have that never will one of these drones crash upon or collide with an approaching or departing plane or crash on the air-control tower itself?” Mancham wrote.

Tom Saunders, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said the Air Force has not flown drones from the Seychelles since April. He declined to comment on whether it planned to resume the flights.

Jean-Paul Adam, the foreign minister of the Seychelles, said the U.S. military has not shared the results of the crash investigations. He said the U.S. government has indicated that it would like to restart the operations but has not said when.

Adam cautioned that the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority would need to review the investigation results but said his government was amenable toward a return of the drones.

“The two crashes were obviously of concern,” he said in a telephone interview. “But I would say the approach we’ve had with the United States has been one of good cooperation.”

IS THERE A DRONE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

  • Rise of spy planes exposed after FAA is forced to reveal 63 launch sites across U.S.

  • Unmanned spy planes are being launched from locations in 20 states and owners include the military and universities

By JULIAN GAVAGHAN | Daily Mail

There are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S, federal authorities have been forced to reveal following a landmark Freedom of Information lawsuit.

The unmanned planes – some of which may have been designed to kill terror suspects – are being launched from locations in 20 states.

Most of the active drones are deployed from military installations, enforcement agencies and border patrol teams, according to the Federal Aviation Authority.

Exposed: Location of sites where licences have been granted for the use of drones within the U.S.Exposed: Location of sites where licences have been granted for the use of drones within the U.S. There are 63 active sites based in 20 states. Red flags show active sites and blue show those locations where licences have expired since 2006

But, astonishingly, 19 universities and colleges are also registered as owners of what are officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

It is thought that many of institutions, which include Cornell, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College, are developing drone technology.

There are also 21 mainstream manufactures, such as General Atomics, who are registered to use drones domestically.

As well as active locations, the FAA also revealed 16 sites where licences to use spy planes have expired and four where authorisations have been disapproved, such as Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Unusual: The University of Connecticut - one of 19 educational institutions to own spy planes - is the drone site closest to New York CityUnusual: The University of Connecticut – one of 19 educational institutions to own spy planes – is the drone site closest to New York City. The North East is the region with the highest concentration
Concentration: The Beltway around Washington DC has the highest concentration of urban and suburban drone sitesConcentration: The Beltway around Washington DC has the highest concentration of urban and suburban drone sites, including the U.S. Marine Corp base as Quantico Station, Virginia

The authority revealed the information after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Its website hosts an interactive map that allows the user to zoom in to the area around where they live to see if any sites are nearby.

However, the FAA is yet to reveal what kinds of drones might be based at any of these locations.

The agency says it will release this data later.

Most of the drones are likely to be small craft, such as the Draganflyer X8, which can carry a payload of only 2.2lb.

Police, border patrols and environmental agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), could use for them effectively.

While few would object to vast open areas being monitored for wildfires, there are fears of privacy violations if drones are used to spy over cities.

Florida: Mostly police and Sheriff departments are registered to use drones in the state
Florida: Mostly police and Sheriff departments are registered to use drones in the state
Watch out Canada! Border agents are registered to use drone in North Dakota, just a few hundred miles from Winnipeg, Manitoba
Watch out Canada! Border agents are registered to use drone in North Dakota, just a few hundred miles from Winnipeg, Manitoba
Remote: The University of Alaska's drones are the most distant from any major urban centres. They are, however, the closest to RussiaRemote: The University of Alaska’s drones are the most distant from any major urban centres. They are, however, the closest to Russia
Hotspot: Texas has one of the highest number of drone sitesHotspot: Texas has one of the highest number of drone sites
West Coast: There are comparatively few drone sites in California and Western statesWest Coast: There are comparatively few drone sites in California and Western states

Other drones – likely to be operated only by the armed forces – might include the MQ-9 Reaper and the MQ-1 Predator, which was used to kill American Al Qaeda boss Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last September.

The FAA released two lists of public and private entities that have applied for authorisations to fly drones domestically.

Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, are active in 42 locations, expired in 16 and disapproved in four.

Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private drone manufacturers, are active in 21 locations and not active in 17.

Among the other unanswered questions, however, are is exactly how many drones each registered user owns.

Killer: Some of the drones owned by the military might be the MQ-9 Reaper, which has been used to target terrorists overseas
Killer: Some of the drones owned by the military might be the MQ-9 Reaper, which has been used to target terrorists overseas
Draganflyer X8
Watching you: Most of the drones are likely to be small craft, such as the Draganflyer X8, which can carry a payload of only 2.2lb. Police, border patrols and environmental agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), could use for them effectively

The FAA has confirmed that there were about 300 active COAs and that the agency has issued about 700-750 authorizations since the program began in 2006.

But this information does not reveal how many are owned, for example, by Miami Dade Police Department.

While the use of drones in the U.S. is little known, American operations overseas have been well documented.

As well as high-profile terrorists, campaigners claim hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in the border regions of Pakistan, where they are most active.

SO WHICH PUBLIC ENTITIES ARE REGISTERED OWNERS OF DRONES? FULL LIST REVEALED HERE

U.S. Air Force

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

Arlington Police Department

Mississippi State University

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

City of Herington, Kansas

New Mexico Tech

City of North Little Rock, AR Police Department

Ogden Police Department

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Ohio University

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) / CBP (Customs and Border Protection)

Orange County Sheriff’s Office

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) / Science and Technology

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

DOE (Department of Energy) – Idaho National Laboratory

Seattle Police Dept

Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service

Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

Department of the Interior – National Business Center/Aviation Management Directorate

Texas A&M University – TEES

Eastern Gateway Community College

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Texas State University

University of Colorado

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

University of Connecticut

Gadsden Police Department

Georgia Tech Research Institute

University of Florida

Kansas State University

University of North Dakota

USMC (United States Marine Corps)

Mesa County Sheriff’s Office

Miami-Dade Police Department

Utah State University

Middle Tennessee State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

New Mexico State University Physical Sciences Laboratory (NMSU-PSL)

Washington State Department of Transportation

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

IS A MILITARY DRONE BASE COMING TO YOUR HOMETOWN?

Death-dealing drones buzzing above may be a constant worry for militants in far-flung lands, but now more of America’s aerial assassins and their spying compatriots could be coming to your backyard — just for testing and training, according to the Department of Defense.

The military has identified 110 potential bases for drone operations at military installations in 39 states, from Georgia to California, according to a new Defense Department report dated April 2012 and published online late last week by the Federation of American Scientists. The U.S. bases could support all kinds of drones, from the deadly, missile-capable Predators to the next-generation surveillance Global Hawks.

CLICK HERE to download the full DoD report with list of potential drone base locations (PDF).

Drone testing and operator training are already done in the U.S., but the report noted that the “strong demand” from the military’s various branches for expanded access to domestic airspace, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, has “quickly exceeded the current airspace available for these activities.” The report says that under current policy, the military has to obtain temporary permission to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) outside its own restricted airspace.

Earlier this month the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee said in a defense budget bill that the government needs to speed up the process in which drones are integrated into the national airspace.

“Without the ability to operate freely and routinely in the NAS [National Airspace System], UAS development and training — and ultimately operational capabilities — will be severely impacted,” the committee said in its report.

The Defense Department report’s public unveiling follows the publication ofa list of dozens of “current” drone bases early last week by the anti-secrecy website public intelligence.

The U.S. military currently has 6,316 drones of various types, according to the report, and plans to add another 2,076 by 2017.

GOOGLE EARTH MAY HAVE EXPOSED AN UNKNOWN DRONE AT LOCKHEED MARTIN’S SKUNK WORKS

Robert Johnson | Business Insider

June 18, 2012

Back on December 4, 2011, the same day the U.S. allegedly lost control of an RQ-170 Sentinel drone over Iran, the guys at Open Source GEOINT were messing around with Google Earth and pointed the client near U.S. Air Force plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

The plant’s most renowned contractors include Boeing, Lockheed Martin (home of the legendary Skunk Works), and Northrop Grumman, and had a rather interesting asset parked outside.

To the right of the gray aircraft, sitting under a white tarp is a drone roughly the same shape as the RQ-170, but with a larger wingspan.

Skunkworks Unknown Drone

Open Source GEOINT

Of course it’s hard to imagine anyone would park a top secret drone outside for any overhead satellite to see, but the fact that it’s covered up prompts some curiosity.

David Cenciotti at The Aviationist points out that it looks like the left wing may be damaged and that packaging could be on the wingtips making them appear longer.

Writers at Flight Global’s the Dew Line think the craft could perhaps be the one below from a 1997 Lockheed Martin patent.

Unknown Drone

FAA RELEASES LISTS OF DRONE CERTIFICATES – MANY QUESTIONS LEFT UNANSWERED

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its first round of records in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for information on the agency’s drone authorization program. The agency says the two lists it released include the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly drones domestically. These lists—which include the Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, and the Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private drone manufacturers—show for the first time who is authorized to fly drones in the United States.

Some of the entities on the COA list are unsurprising. For example, journalists have reported that Customs and Border Protection uses Predator drones to patrol the borders. It is also well known that DARPA and other branches of the military are authorized to fly drones in the US. However, this is the first time we have seen the broad and varied list of other authorized organizations, including universities, police departments, and small towns and counties across the United States. The COA list includes universities and colleges like Cornell, the University of ColoradoGeorgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College, as well as police departments in North Little Rock, ArkansasArlington, TexasSeattle, WashingtonGadsden, Alabama; and Ogden, Utah, to name just a few. The COA list also includes small cities and counties like Otter Tail, Minnesota and Herington, Kansas. The Google map linked above plots out the locations we were able to determine from the lists, and is color coded by whether the authorizations are active, expired or disapproved.

The second list we received includes all the manufacturers that have applied for authorizations to test-fly their drones. This list is less surprising and includes manufacturers like Honeywell, the maker of Miami-Dade’s T-Hawk drone; the huge defense contractor Raytheon; and General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator drone. This list also includes registration or “N” numbers,” serial numbers and model names, so it could be useful for determining when and where these drones are flying.

Unfortunately, these lists leave many questions unanswered. For example, the COA list does not include any information on which model of drone or how many drones each entity flies. In a meeting with the FAA today, the agency confirmed that there were about 300 active COAs and that the agency has issued about 700-750 authorizations since the program began in 2006. As there are only about 60 entities on the COA list, this means that many of the entities, if not all of them, have multiple COAs (for example, an FAA representative today said thatUniversity of Colorado may have had as many as 100 different COAs over the last six years). The list also does not explain why certain COA applications were “disapproved” and when other authorizations expired.

We raised these questions in our meeting with the FAA today and were assured the agency will release additional records with this important information soon. As we have written before and as Congressmen Markey and Barton (pdf) stated in their letter to the FAA today, drones pose serious implications for privacy, and the public should have all the information necessary to engage in informed debate over the incorporation of these devices into our daily lives.  However, while we wait for additional information, these lists help to flesh out the picture of domestic drone use in the United States.

View Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations in a larger map.

DRONES TO PATROL U.S. PROTESTS?

In January of 2012, the US Congress passed legislation that will open up the US sky to unmanned drones. The robotic aircraft will be used for military and police operations and will add to America’s current arsenal of around 7,000 drones. According to some accounts, peaceful protest might be a reason that feds would deploy the unmanned craft. There are currently 300 active drone permits in the US, but will that soon swell out of control? Amie Stepanovich, a member of the National Security Council for EPIC, joins us for more.

FAA TO EASE RULES FOR POLICE AGENCIES TO FLY UNMANNED DRONES

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Surveillance aircraft used by the U.S. military overseas could soon be coming to the skies above Los Angeles County.

The FAA has streamlined the process that would allow agencies to fly smaller, unarmed versions of the drones that hunt down terrorists in places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not yet applied for an application to fly drones over our skies, its Homeland Security chief Bob Osborne said drones could be in the department’s future — with some caveats.

“We have so much congestion in the skies that I would anticipate that there would be some pretty rigid safety standards,” said Osborne.

Drones are typically used over locations where helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are unable to fly, which Osborne said could have a myriad of applications here in the Southland.

“Mountain rescue, where you have a car over the side that’s a thousand feet down the cliff, oftentimes our aircraft can’t fly that low,” he said. “It would be wonderful to know what’s down there before we send a rescue crew.”

Federal officials already utilize drones to patrol a 1,200-mile wide swath of land east of San Diego near the southeast California border.

But the recent expansion of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) above American cities has raised privacy concernsamong some who believe the technology could be used for surveillance on U.S. citizens without their knowledge.

President Obama set a deadline in February for the FAA to draft legislation by May 14 that would determine how it will regulate the use of lightweight drones by police and other public safety agencies.

POLICE SET TO USE ARMED DRONES AGAINST AMERICANS

Rubber bullets and tear gas

Prison Planet.com
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First we were bombarded with the news that 30,000 drones would be spying on us domestically and within weeks the agenda has already moved on to arming the drones with non-lethal weapons.

CBS DC reports that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas “is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” responded Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU.

As we reported last year, although the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office initially claimed the drone would be used for surveillance only, the ShadowHawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle had previously been used against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and East Africa, and has the ability to tase suspects from above as well as carrying 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers.

This is a frightening new advance in the government’s war on the American people and a shocking indication of how the apparatus of the war on terror has been focused internally.

Watch a clip about the ShadowHawk drone below.

GROUPS CONCERNED OVER ARMING OF DOMESTIC DRONES

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With the use of domestic drones increasing, concern has not just come up over privacy issues, but also over the potential use of lethal force by the unmanned aircraft.

Drones have been used overseas to target and kill high-level terror leaders and are also being used along the U.S.-Mexico border in the battle against illegal immigration. But now, these drones are starting to be used domestically at an increasing rate.

The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed several police departments to use drones across the U.S. They are controlled from a remote location and use infrared sensors and high-resolution cameras.

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.

“Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle),” McDaniel told The Daily.

The use of potential force from drones has raised the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU, told CBSDC.

Crump feels one of the biggest problems with the use of drones is the remote location where they are operated from.

“When the officer is on the scene, they have full access to info about what has transpired there,” Crump explained to CBSDC. “An officer at a remote location far away does not have the same level of access.”

The ACLU is also worried about potential drones malfunctioning and falling from the sky, adding that they are keeping a close eye on the use of these unmanned aircraft by police departments.

“We don’t need a situation where Americans feel there is in an invisible eye in the sky,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at ACLU, told CBSDC.

Joshua Foust, fellow at the American Security Project, feels domestic drones should not be armed.

“I think from a legal perspective, there is nothing problematic about floating a drone over a city,” Foust told CBSDC. “In terms of getting armed drones, I would be very nervous about that happening right now.”

McDaniel says that his community should not be worried about the department using a drone.

“We’ve never gone into surveillance for sake of surveillance unless there is criminal activity afoot,” McDaniel told The Daily. “Just to see what you’re doing in your backyard pool — we don’t care.”

But the concern for the ACLU is just too great that an American’s constitutional rights will be trampled with the use of drones.

“The prospect of people out in public being Tased or targeted by force by flying drones where no officers is physically present on the scene,” Crump says, “raises the prospect of unconstitutional force being used on individuals.”

ALEX JONES: WEAPONIZED DRONES TO ATTACK AMERICANS

Published on May 23, 2012

DRONES TO TAKE OVER AMERICA’S SKY BY 2015?

By the year 2020, there could be as many as 30,000 unmanned drones flying around in over the United States. In February, Congress passed a bill approving the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to open up national airspace to drones by the year 2015. Last week the FAA said they will facilitate the process for obtaining a certificate of authorization for an unmanned craft. Trevor Timm, activist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, joins us to discuss how drones could change American’s’ lives.

WEAPONIZED DRONES TO PATROL AMERICA?

In the next three years, seeing unmanned drones flying in America might become more common than you think. Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill that approved the Federal Aviation Administration’s proposal to allow drones in the air by the year 2015. Last week the FAA announced a new set of rules that would make it easier and faster for government entities to obtain a certificate of authorization for the drones. Police departments across the US are proposing to have armed drones patrolling the streets. Jefferson Morley, staff writer for Salon, joins us with his take.

ROSALIND PETERSON: KILLER DRONES COMING TO A SKY NEAR YOU

Infowars.com
June 15, 2012

Darrin McBreen talks to Rosalind Peterson of California Sky Watch about the deadly consequences of the government using military unmanned drones here in America.

THOUSANDS OF MILITARY DRONES TO BE DEPLOYED OVER UNITED STATES MAINLAND

By Tom Carter
18 June 2012

A recent Department of Defense report to Congress as well as a number of media investigations have exposed government plans to deploy tens of thousands of drones over the US mainland in the coming years.

drone
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Predator drone firing hellfire missile
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An investigative report published over the weekend by theChristian Science Monitor cited the government’s own estimates that “as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years.”

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “drones,” are extremely sophisticated remotely-operated aircraft, developed and manufactured by the military-industrial complex in recent years at a cost of billions of dollars.

Drones vary in size from the four-pound RQ-11B Raven surveillance drone, which can be launched by hand, to the giant MQ-9 Reaper combat drone, manufactured by Northrup Grumman. The Reaper has a maximum take-off weight of 7,000 pounds, including up to 3,000 pounds of bombs, missiles and other armaments.

The infamous MQ-1 Predator drone, armed with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, is the Obama administration’s favored weapon in its illegal assassination program. A Predator drone was used in the unprecedented assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen last September.

With a push of a button, thousands of pounds of high explosives can be dropped on anyone, anywhere in the world, with startling precision. Safe behind video screens at military bases within the US, military drone operators refer to their victims as “bug splats.” Thousands of innocent civilians have already been murdered in this way in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

map
Current and projected drone bases in the US [Source: US Air Force]
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An April Department of Defense report, titled “Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability,” reveals that a massive drone infrastructure is already being erected within the US, with billions of dollars being allocated, bases being erected, thousands of pilots and crews being trained, and inventories being stockpiled.

The report identifies 110 military bases that will serve as drone launch sites. The deadly Predator and Reaper drones will operate out of Creech Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, Holloman AFB and Cannon AFB in New Mexico, Fort Drum in New York, Grand Forks in North Dakota, Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and the Southern California Logistics Airport, among others.

The accompanying map, from an Air Force power-point presentation released this month, shows current and projected locations for drone bases within the US.

The Department of Defense report argues for lifting the current framework of restrictions on drone flights over the US on the grounds that it “does not provide the level of airspace access necessary to accomplish the wide range of DoD UAS missions at current and projected operational tempos (OPTEMPOs).”

The language of the report is revealing and ominous. “This constraint will only be exacerbated as combat operations shift from abroad and systems return to US locations,” the report states. It expressly refers to plans to “conduct continental United States (CONVS)-based missions.”

In January, Congress passed HR 658, which requires the Federal Aviation Administration to take steps to facilitate the integration of drones “into the national airspace system.” President Obama signed the bill on February 14 with no public discussion or comment.

Since Obama signed the bill, hundreds of drones have already begun flying over the US to spy on and monitor the population. A recent ABC News investigative report entitled “UAVs: Will Our Civil Liberties Be Droned Out?” outlined the possibility of drones buzzing overhead becoming “a fact of daily life.”

ABC News reported: “Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed.”

“Among the most eager to fly domestic drones are America’s police departments,” the report stated. “In Texas, a Montgomery county sheriff’s office recently said it would deploy a drone bought with money from a Department of Homeland Security grant and was contemplating arming the drone with non-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets or Taser-style rounds.”

The ABC News report identified “political protests” as one of the activities that can be monitored by drones.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union published a detailed report on the dangers of a massive build-up of surveillance drones within the US, warning that “our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.”

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU, described last month a “nightmare scenario” of widespread drone spying leading “to an oppressive atmosphere where people learn to think twice about everything they do, knowing that it will be recorded, charted, scrutinized by increasingly intelligent computers, and possibly used to target them.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article in December of last year, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are already using Predator drones for operations within the US. Last week, a huge Global Hawk drone being operated by the US Navy for an unknown purpose crashed in Maryland.

The deployment of tens of thousands of surveillance drones over the mainland US takes on special significance in light of recent revelations that the Obama administration is secretly constructing “bottomless” databases to house information gathered about US citizens. (See “Obama administration expands illegal surveillance of Americans”)

The build-up of drone bases within the US is one component of preparations by the US government for a confrontation with its own population. Like everything else associated with the so-called “war on terror”—including torture, detention without trial, warrantless spying, assassinations, military tribunals, and expanded executive and intelligence powers—the use of drones for spying and assassination in the Middle East is a prelude to the development of systems that will ultimately be used against the American people in the event of social upheavals.

On “Terror Tuesdays” at the White House, President Obama helps draw up a list of opponents of US policy overseas who are to be illegally assassinated by drone-fired missiles. These “kill lists” have already included US citizens. With tens of thousands of drones flying overhead, and with the US mainland designated as a “battleground” in the never-ending and geographically unlimited “war on terror,” the US ruling class hopes one day soon to be able to eliminate its domestic opponents with similar ease.

DRONES OVER AMERICA: INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE U.S. POLICE STATE

By Tom Carter

Recently revealed plans to deploy tens of thousands of military drones over the US mainland in the coming years expose a significant component of the developing infrastructure of an American police state.

According to government estimates, 30,000 drones could be buzzing overhead within the next decade. These drones will operate out of at least 110 military bases located in 39 states around the country. Ordnance is already being stockpiled, pilots and crews are being trained and airspace is being cordoned off.

These drones range from small surveillance planes weighing a few pounds to armed airships carrying thousands of pounds of equipment and armaments. Under development is a new generation of micro air vehicles (MAVs) that are no larger than insects and capable of entering homes and workplaces undetected to photograph, record and even kill.

Hundreds of drones are already deployed over the US, with local law enforcement agencies acquiring their own drones as well. And these are just the drones we know about.

According to an ABC News report, “Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed.” The precise technological capabilities of these drones, developed by defense giants such as Northrop Grumman at a cost of billions of dollars, are a closely guarded state secret.

Nevertheless, the surveillance potential of today’s drones makes the spying carried out by the dictatorships of the last century look like child’s play. Everywhere one goes, everything one says, everything one does–even within one’s home–can now be surreptitiously observed, recorded, and collected in huge government databanks being secretly constructed by the Obama administration.

The deployment of these drones is consistent with efforts to militarize, regiment, and keep close watch on the lives of ordinary Americans. Pervasive surveillance is the new normal. Walking down the street on any given day, how can a person know whether or not at that precise moment an armed drone miles overhead is zeroing in on his or her movements?

In addition to their Orwellian surveillance potential, it goes without saying that drones can also be used for killing. Drones have already been used to carry out the assassinations of thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, including US citizens, in the course of the Obama administration’s “targeted killing” program. The drone pilots, safe behind video screens, refer to their victims as “bug splats.”

With tens of thousands of drones deployed over the mainland, the potential exists to use them to “take out” undesirable individuals within the US, or even gatherings of such individuals. When the 110 planned drone bases are completed, nowhere in the country will be outside immediate striking distance.

The arrangements to deploy these tens of thousands of drones were made entirely behind the backs of the American people. There was no debate in Congress, and despite it being an election year, neither of the two major political parties has raised the issue.

No controls have been put in place with respect to these drones. In fact, Obama signed a bill in February lifting restrictions that might have stood in the way of the rapid integration of drones “into the national airspace system.” Outside of a few scattered reports, the corporate-controlled media has remained silent.

The buildup of the infrastructure of a police state is directed at the massive social upheavals on the horizon. The ruling elite anticipates that the American working class will not tolerate indefinitely attack after attack on its living standards, cuts to social programs, and unending war. Opposition will inevitably develop. When it does, armed drones will be watching.

The deployment of drones over the US is one more confirmation that the police-state measures implemented in the so-called “war on terror”–warrantless surveillance, torture, military commissions, incommunicado detention without trial, and “kill lists”–will ultimately be directed at the American people.

It is not a coincidence that the revelations concerning the deployment of drones coincide with the recent frame-up of anti-war protesters in Chicago on “terrorism” charges. Given that they are charged with “terrorism,” there is nothing in principle preventing the US government from causing these protesters to “disappear” into the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, or in future cases from eliminating them with a Predator drone.

Centuries-old democratic legal protections that once may have been thought to stand in the way of such actions by the US government—such as the Fourteenth Amendment, the right of habeas corpus, and the Bill of Rights—have all in recent years been substantially eroded. From a legal standpoint, the way is now clear for the assassination of US citizens on secret orders from the president.

Underlying the collapse of democratic rights is the spectacular growth in social inequality. That growth has been substantiated by official figures, such as the latest statistics from the Federal Reserve Board showing the plummeting of the median net worth of US families by 38.9 percent between 2007 and 2010, even as corporate profits soared. Democracy is inconsistent with the resulting conditions of unprecedented social inequality.

It is noteworthy that no significant opposition to the deployment of these drones has developed within the liberal and pseudo-left establishment. The reason for this is that these layers are preparing to campaign and vote for Obama in the 2012 elections.

Under Obama, the attacks on democratic rights launched by the Bush administration have intensified. This demonstrates that the collapse of democratic rights in the US is determined not by the personal characteristics of the individual in the White House, or which of the two capitalist parties wins the elections. Instead, it is an expression of the basic tendencies of capitalism internationally and the result of the essential policy of the ruling class as a whole as it confronts the historic crisis of its system.

DRONES SHOT DOWN OVER TEXAS

Surveillance drones blasted out of the sky in protest against 4th amendment intrusion

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Following columnist Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the first person to shoot down a surveillance drone on U.S. soil will be a “folk hero,” gun enthusiasts in Texas have done precisely that as a protest against the use of spy drones on the American people.

Using consumer drones as target practice, Alex Jones and the Steiner brothers tested out the best way to bring down the drones on the 10,000 acre Steiner ranch as part of filming forBrothers in Arms, a new show which focuses on firearms and the second amendment.

With spy drones now commercially available for less than $1,000 dollars that are barely any different from the ones being used by police departments to spy on the public, Jones and the Steiners made short work of the devices during filming.

This was an exercise in pushing the message that the use of surveillance drones in U.S. skies must be politically shot down because it represents a complete violation of the 4th amendment right to privacy.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

Privacy advocates have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that lawmakers are not holding the agency to account.

In addition, a recently uncovered Air Force document circumvents laws and clears the way for the Pentagon to use drones to monitor the activities of Americans.

Incidents involving the drones in recent months have hardly provided positive spin for the industry, which is why Americans are set to witness a massive PR campaign that will “bombard the American public with positive images and messages about drones in an effort to reverse the growing perception of the aircraft as a threat to privacy and safety.”

Earlier this month, a mystery object, thought to be a military or law enforcement drone, flying in controlled airspace over Denver almost caused a catastrophic mid air crash with a commercial jet.

Last summer, police in North Dakota used a Predator drone to spy on a family who refused to give back three cows and their calves that wandered onto their 3,000-acre farm.

Watch out for the next episode in which you’ll see a full size drone blasted out of the sky. Watch the first installment of Brothers in Arms below.

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FAA ASKS: PLEASE DON’T SHOOT DOWN THE DRONES

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REUTERS
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by Abby Ohlheiser | The Atlantic Wire
July 19, 2013
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Earlier this week, one Colorado town floated the idea of letting its residents buy hunting permits for drones. Now, the FAA has responded to the proposal by telling Americans to please stop thinking about shooting down drones.

The proposal itself sounds more like a clever way to get Rand Paul-type libertarians to donate to a local government budget than a viable way to protect a town from federal drones. According to the draft of the proposed ordinance, residents of Deer Trail, Colorado could pay $25 a year for a drone hunting permit. And there’s a $100 reward for any successful downed drone, providing the unmanned aerial vehicle’s “markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.”

The man behind the Deer Trail proposal, who seems to be one of the few people in the town taking it seriously, knows the idea is against the law, but doesn’t really care. Phillip Steel, speaking to CNN, said “Is it illegal? Of course it is. But it’s also illegal to spy on American citizens…If they fly in town, we will shoot them down.”

The FAA, too, is taking the idea very, very seriously, it seems. The agency, which is already behind schedule to meet a 2015 deadline for new regulations governing drone use in the U.S., released a statement reminding Deer Trail that the federal agency is responsible for regulating the air space over the town, and indicating that they’d enforce existing laws to punish any enterprising drone hunters in Colorado or anywhere else. Here’s the AP, quoting from the statement:

A drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” the statement said. “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”

But until the FAA integrates drones into the national airspace, however, the residents of Deer Trail won’t have very much “game” out there to shoot down. The FAA hasn’t been terribly transparent about the number of unmanned aircraft flights they’ve authorized in the U.S., but we do know of a few government agencies who do, or who have in the past, used drones to patrol American soil. The Customs and Border Protection, for instance, have stepped up their drone game dramatically recently, even conducting drone missions on behalf of other agencies. And a North Dakota town apparently used a drone on loan from the Department of Homeland Security to catch a cattle thief in 2012.

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VIRGINIA GOV: WARRANTLESS DRONES “GREAT” FOR AMERICA

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars.com
May 29, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell epitomizes the current crop of American politicians that know nothing about the Constitution and the proper role of government as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson and the founders.

McDonnell has jumped on the drone craze bandwagon. “It’s great,” he said on a radio program. “If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money… it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

He added a worthless caveat routinely issued when government prepares to violate the Fourth Amendment. “McDonnell added Tuesday it will prove important to ensure the state maintains Americans’ civil liberties, such as privacy, if it adds drones to its law enforcement arsenal,” reports WTOP.

“If the police use a drone without a warrant to see who or what is in your backyard or your bedroom, or if while looking for a missing child the drone takes a picture of you in your backyard or bedroom and the government keeps the picture, its use is unnatural and unconstitutional,” writes Andrew P. Napolitano.

“I say ‘unnatural’ because we all have a natural right to privacy; it is a fundamental right that is inherent in our humanity. All of us have times of the day and moments in our behavior when we expect that no one — least of all the government — will be watching. When the government watches us during those times, it violates our natural right to privacy. It also violates our constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court has held consistently that numerous clauses in the Bill of Rights keep the government at bay without a warrant.”

But for statists like McDonnell, the “safety” of police and “saving money” trump the natural right to privacy and the right to be left alone.

“The whole reason we have a Bill of Rights is to assure that tyranny does not happen here, to guarantee that the government to which we have supposedly consented will leave us alone,” Napolitano concludes. “Do you think the government accepts that? Would you feel safe with a drone in your backyard? Would you feel like you were in America?”

In America, circa 2012, the police have repeatedly demonstrated they do not answer to the people. Far too many cops share a dangerous gang mentality – us against them, not much different than soldiers during war – and are woefully ignorant of natural rights and the Constitution. How many police departments would bother to obtain a search warrant before dispatching a drone to fly over your private property?

Earlier this month the assistant Seattle police chief apologized for not informing the city about a plan to use drones. The cops had received federal largess from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase drones to surveil the people of Seattle and neglected to tell the City Council. The Seattle Times explained that the aerial devices “could help track lost or missing people.”

It should be noted here that the Department of Homeland Security is not in the business of locating lost children. It is in the business of demonizing people who distrust government and think it is too big and authoritarian.

“Big Brother is coming, and he’s not smiling,” writes Napolitano.

On May 14, it was reported that “public safety agencies” will now be allowed to operate drones weighing as much as 25 pounds “without applying for special approvals needed under previous regulations,” according to the FAA. The federal agency plans to “integrate drones into the U.S. aviation system by 2015,” according to Bloomberg.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the cops are not using the flaccid pretext of lost children – they plan to introduce drones for the same reason the military does: to target people the government considers bad guys:

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas toldThe Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.

“Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle),” McDaniel told The Daily.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO: BIG BROTHER’S ALL-SEEING EYE

Use of military surveillance drones overhead would be un-American

By Andrew Napolitano

For the past few weeks, I have been writing in this column about the government’s use of drones and challenging their constitutionality on Fox News Channel, where I work. I once asked on air what Thomas Jefferson would have done if – had they existed at the time – King George III had sent drones to peer inside the bedroom windows of Monticello. I suspect Jefferson and his household would have trained their muskets on the drones and taken them down. I offer this historical anachronism as a hypothetical only, not as someone who is urging the use of violence against the government.

Nevertheless, what Jeffersonians are among us today? When drones take pictures of us on our private property and in our homes and the government uses the photos as it wishes, what will we do about it? Jefferson understood that when the government assaults our privacy and dignity, it is the moral equivalent of violence against us. Folks who hear about this, who either laugh or groan, cannot find it humorous or boring that their every move will be monitored and photographed by the government.

Don’t believe me that this is coming? The photos that the drones will take may be retained and used or even distributed to others in the government so long as the “recipient is reasonably perceived to have a specific, lawful governmental function” in requiring them. And for the first time since the Civil War, the federal government will deploy military personnel insidetheUnitedStates and publicly acknowledge that it is deploying them “to collect information about U.S. persons.”

It gets worse. If the military personnel see something of interest from a drone, they may apply to a military judge or “military commander” for permission to conduct a physical search of the private property that intrigues them. Any “incidentally acquired information” can be retained or turned over to local law enforcement. What’s next? Prosecutions before military tribunals in the United States?

The quoted phrases above are extracted from a now-public 30-page memorandum issued by President Obama’s secretary of the Air Force on April 23. The purpose of the memorandum is stated as “balancing … obtaining intelligence information … and protecting individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” Note the primacy of intelligence-gathering over protection of freedom, and note the peculiar use of the word “balancing.”

When liberty and safety clash, do we really expect the government to balance those values? Of course not. The government cannot be trusted to restrain itself in the face of individual choices to pursue happiness. That’s why we have a Constitution and a life-tenured judiciary: to protect the minority from the liberty-stealing impulses of the majority. And that’s why the Air Force memo has its priorities reversed – intelligence-gathering first, protecting freedom second – and the mechanism of reconciling the two – balancing them – constitutionally incorrect.

Everyone who works for the government swears to uphold the Constitution. It was written to define and restrain the government. According to the Declaration of Independence, the government’s powers come from the consent of the governed. The government in America was not created by a powerful king reluctantly granting liberty to his subjects. It was created by free people willingly granting limited power to their government – and retaining that which they did not delegate.

The Declaration also defines our liberties as coming from our Creator, as integral to our humanity and inseparable from us, unless we give them up by violating someone else’s liberties. Hence, the Jeffersonian and constitutional beef with the word “balancing” when it comes to government power versus individual liberty.

The Judeo-Christian and constitutionally mandated relationship between government power and individual liberty is not balance. It is bias – a bias in favor of liberty. All presumptions should favor the natural rights of individuals, not the delegated and seized powers of the government. Individual liberty, not government power, is the default position because persons are immortal and created in God’s image, and governments are temporary and based on force.

Hence my outrage at the coming use of drones – some as small as golf balls – to watch us, listen to us and record us. Did you consent to the government having that power? Did you consent to the American military spying on Americans in America? I don’t know a single person who has, but I know only a few who are complaining.

If we remain silent when our popularly elected government violates the laws it has sworn to uphold and steals the freedoms we elected it to protect, we will have only ourselves to blame when Big Brother is everywhere. Somehow, I doubt my father’s generation fought the Nazis in World War II only to permit a totalitarian government to flourish here.

Is President Obama prepared to defend this? Is Mitt Romney prepared to challenge it? Are you prepared for its consequences?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of “It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom” (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

DRONES: TARGETED KILLING IS ONLY PART OF THE PROBLEM

The US use of drones for targeted killing has rightly received a lots of media attention over the past week. Since the beginning of 2012 the US has stepped up its drone assassination programme in Yemen, while continuing to launch drone strikes  in Pakistan despite repeated pleas from the Pakistan authorities to stop.  Kill lists and extrajudicial killing of suspects, once seen as completely  unacceptable to the global community (and to the vast majority, still does) now seems to have become almost a matter of routine for the US and its President.

Journalists as well as commentators  – and now churches – have rightly been investigating and criticising this particular use of drones, and in both the US and the UK legal challenges are underway to stop further  attacks and to reveal more detail about the process.

But it’s important to remember that targeted killing is not the only problem with unmanned drones.

Earlier this week I took part in an online discussion about the use of drones hosted by the Canadian  think tank CIC.  Author and drone expert Peter Singer and Oxford Professor of Ethics and Law, Jennifer Walsh, argued that there was no particular problem with drones per se. They argued (as most mainstream commentators do) that it’s not the development and use of remote armed technology that is the problem, but rather the fact that they are it is being used outside ‘official’ armed conflicts to undertake targeted killing.  Just to be very clear, the use of drones to undertake assassinations far away from any battlefield is a very serious problem which must be investigated and challenged.

But it’s not just the fact that drones have enabled the expansion of targeted killing. The problem with drones goes deeper than that.

To put it simply, armed unmanned technology  and the concept of ‘remote war’ alters the balance of options available to our political and military leaders in favour of a military response.  Armed drones are making the political cost of military intervention much lower than it had previously been.

Before the advent of armed drones (and particularly since the Vietnam war) public antipathy towards risking troops lives in foreign wars has meant the balance of the options available to our leaders weighed more on the side of political rather than military intervention (with notable exceptions of course).  Now however, the scales have shifted in the opposite direction and drones enable our political leaders to intervene militarily overseas by launching  remote attacks at great distances with no risk to their own forces.  Although some argue that it has been possible to launch attacks at great distances for many years by using cruise missiles for example, it is the ability of the drone to sit and loiter over towns and compounds for many hours and days rather than the ‘one-off shot’ of a cruise missile that makes a crucial difference.

While it is still very early in the drone wars era, the fact that the US used unmanned drones to launch attacks in six different countries during  2011 – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya – shows how much easier it now is to undertake military interventions.

On top of this, is the concern that drones may also make it much easier to launch attacks within particular theatres of war.

According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) there have been around 330 US drone strikes in Pakistan and around 40 drone strikes in Yemen.  Though the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are the first ‘official’ wars in which armed drones have been used in a sustained and comprehensive way, there is as yet no public analysis of the impact of unmanned drones in these conflicts.  Given that the US has ten times the number of Britain’s five armed Reaper drones in Afghanistan – and Britain’s drones have launched over 250 drone strikes –  it is quite possible that there have been over 2,000 drone strikes in Afghanistan (although this is simply a guess).

Due to the secrecy surrounding  the use of armed drones it is difficult at this stage to say for definite that the ‘risk free’ nature of drone is actually increasing the frequency of attacks.  However an official  US military report into an attack in February 2010 which resulted in the deaths of a number of Afghan civilians found that the drone pilots in Creech “had a propensity/bias for kinetic operations”.

We know that drones are loitering over particular areas, towns and compounds for hours and days at a time looking for “targets of opportunity” and this is of serious concern.  Louise Arbour, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and currently chief of the International Crisis Group said about the growing use of unmanned drones recently  “The most serious concern is the secrecy which surrounds these operations, added to the fact that they are mostly deployed in isolated, inaccessible areas, which makes it virtually impossible to determine whether they are used in compliance with the laws of war.”

While it is right and important that there is growing condemnation of the use of drones for targeted killing, we need also to be challenging the growing use of unmanned weapons technology itself.  No doubt some will respond with the cliché that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’.  And like most clichés there is a rather grim element of truth to that. And others will say also that drones are not intrinsically bad like cluster bombs or anti-personnel landmines as they can be used in other ways than for killing.  Nevertheless armed drones by their nature and the way they are designed to be used, simply makes the world a more dangerous place.

FAA HAS AUTHORIZED 106 GOVERNMENT ‘ENTITIES’ TO FLY DOMESTIC DRONES

By Terence P. Jeffrey | CNSNews

July 20, 2012

(CNSNews.com) – Since Jan. 1 of this year, according to congressional testimony presented Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized 106 federal, state and local government “entities” to fly “unmanned aircraft systems,” also known as drones, within U.S. airspace.

“We are now on the edge of a new horizon: using unmanned aerial systems within the homeland,” House Homeland Security Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Michael McCaul (R.-Texas) said as he introduced the testimony.

“Currently,” said McCaul, “there are about 200 active Certificates of Authorization issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to over 100 different entities, such as law enforcement departments and academic institutions, to fly drones domestically.”

At his panel’s Thursday hearing, McCaul showed a map of the United States with markers indicating the locations where–as of April–government entities had been approved by the FAA to fly drones.

“The number of recipients since that time has increased,” McCaul noted.

GAO testified that the FAA’s long-term goal is to permit drones to operate in U.S. airspace “to the greatest extent possible.”

The proliferation of domestic drones, GAO said, raises a number of issues, the first of which is the right to privacy.

“First is privacy as it relates to the collection and use of surveillance data,” Gerald L. Dillingham, GAO’s director of Physical Infrastructure Issues told the House Homeland Subcommittee on Oversight on Thursday.

“Members of Congress, civil liberties organizations and civilians have expressed concerns that the potential increased use of UAS in the national airspace by law enforcement or for commercial purposes has potential privacy implications,” said Dillingham. “Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility to regulate privacy matters relating to UAS. Stakeholders have told us that by developing guidelines for the appropriate use of UASs ahead of widespread proliferation could in fact preclude abuses of the technology and negative public perceptions of the potential uses that are planned for these aircraft.”

“The Federal Aviation Administration authorizes military and non-military (academic institutions; federal, state, and local governments including law enforcement entities; and private sector entities) UAS operations on a limited basis after conducting a case-by-case safety review,” Dillingham said.

“Only federal, state, and local government agencies can apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA); private sector entities must apply for special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category,” Dillingham said.

“Between January 1, 2012 and July 17, 2012,” said Dillingham, “FAA had issued 201 COAs to 106 federal, state and local government entities across the United States, including law enforcement entities as well as academic institutions.”

In addition to authorizing 106 government agencies to operate drones, the FAA has authorized four private manufacturers to fly drones.

“Additionally, FAA had issued 8 special airworthiness certifications for experimental use to four UAS manufacturers,” said Dillingham.

“Presently, under COA or special airworthiness certification, UAS operations are permitted for specific times, locations and operations,” said Dillingham. “Thus it is not uncommon for an entity to receive multiple COAs for various missions.”

The subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security that includes the Border Patrol currently operates 10 drones.

“According to DHS officials,” Dillingham said “Customs and Border Protection (CBP) owns ten UAS that it operates for its own missions as well as for mission in conjunction with other agencies.”

So far, FAA has approved drone use by 12 state and local law enforcement agencies, but many more are interested in beginning to use drones.

“According to recent FAA data,” Dillingham testified, “12 state and local law enforcement entities have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) while an official at the Department of Justice said that approximately 100 law enforcement entities have expressed interest in using a UAS for some of their missions.”

Dillingham noted in his written testimony that the proliferation of drone use raises issues under the 4th Amendment, which protects the right of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches.

“Concerns include the potential for increased amounts of governmental surveillance using technologies placed on UAS as well as collection and use of such data,” Dillingham testified. “Surveillance by federal agencies using UAS must take into account associated constitutional Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

According to the GAO, the FAA would like to permit widest, safest use of drones. “FAA’s long-range goal is to permit, to the greatest extent possible, routine UAS operations in the national airspace system while ensuring safety,” Dillingham said.

He also noted that law enforcement officials had indicated drones would be a particularly cost effective tool for police work, costing about the same as a traditional police patrol car.

“Domestically, state and local law enforcement entities represent the greatest potential use of small UAS in the near term because small UAS can offer a simple and cost effective solution for airborne law enforcement activities for agencies that cannot afford a helicopter or other larger aircraft,” Dillingham testified.

“For example,” he said, “federal officials and one airborne law enforcement official said that a small UAS costing between $30,000 and $50,000 is more likely to be purchased by state and local law enforcement entities because the cost is nearly equivalent to that of a patrol car.”

EPA USING DRONES TO SPY ON CATTLE RACHERS IN NEBRASKA AND IOWA

Kurt Nimmo
Infowars.com
June 4, 2012

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is using aerial drones to spy on farmers in Nebraska and Iowa. The surveillance came under scrutiny last week when Nebraska’s congressional delegation sent a joint letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

On Friday, EPA officialdom in “Region 7” responded to the letter.

“Courts, including the Supreme Court, have found similar types of flights to be legal (for example to take aerial photographs of a chemical manufacturing facility) and EPA would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act,” the agency said in response to the letter.

“They are just way on the outer limits of any authority they’ve been granted,” said Mike Johanns, a Republican senator from Nebraska.

In fact, the EPA has absolutely zero authority and is an unconstitutional entity of an ever-expanding and rogue federal government. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution does not authorize Congress to legislate in the area of the environment. Under the Tenth Amendment, this authority is granted to the states and their legislatures, not the federal government.

The EPA has not addressed the constitutional question, including its wanton violation of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. It merely states that it has authority to surveil the private property of farmers and ranchers. It defends its encroaching behavior as “cost-efficient.”

CONFIRMED: THE EPA IS USING SPY DRONES TO MONITOR FARMS

Federal agency developed UAVs years ago to keep tabs on land use

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Friday, June 22, 2012

Following a mainstream media backlash that claimed to “debunk” fears that the EPA was using spy drones to monitor pollution and land use, a method of surveillance that threatened to ensnare farmers and ranchers, it actually turns out that the federal agency is doing precisely that.

Following confusion over a claim that the EPA was using unmanned drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa, when in fact the federal agency was taking pictures from manned aircraft, the establishment media went on the offensive, characterizing fears that the federal agency was using the excuse of environmental regulations to keep tabs on farmers as paranoid delusions.

The Washington Post led the charge, debunking the “menacing tale of government gone too far,” quickly followed by the L.A. Times and innumerable other news outlets who seized upon the error to portray opponents of drone surveillance as reactionary lunatics.

Leftist blogs like Mediaite and scores of others placed the blame squarely on the Drudge Report and Infowars, noting how, “The story originally appeared on several blogs, picking up traction after the Drudge Report linked to an InfoWars article on the story,” before it appeared on Fox News.

The very real and alarming fact that the EPA is sending its agents up in manned aircraft to spy on farmers over their disposal of waste water was hastily brushed aside in favor of pursuing the witch hunt against those who mistakenly claimed the spying missions involved UAVs.

“It was never true. The EPA isn’t using drone aircraft — in the Midwest or anywhere else,” reported the Post’s David A. Fahrenthold with a triumphant sneer.

You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that the Post – along with dozens of blogs who parroted Fahrenthold’s article – got it completely wrong.

A search of the EPA’s own website proves that the federal agency has been developing spy drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for the purpose of monitoring pollution and land use for years.

An EPA project entitled Landscape Characterization and Change Detection Methods Development Research, which was scheduled for completion in 2009, describes how the EPA would use “UAV and satellite based remote sensor data to provide a continuous environmental monitoring capability.”

The report describes how the EPA used technologies developed by the Department of Defense and NASA “to develop terrestrial, coastal ocean, and surface-troposphere flux unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) missions” in order to “support environmental decision making” and measure “biogenic emissions” (emissions produced by living organisms or biological processes).

In other words, the EPA has since at least 2009 developed the capability to use unmanned drones to monitor man-made pollution and spy on farms and ranches for the purpose of land management.

In addition, a separate 2005 EPA report details how the agency planned to use “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), in a multi-stage approach to meet EPA information needs.”

Not only has the EPA developed its own spy drones for the task of monitoring the environment, it has also given grants to other organizations for the same purpose.

A 2008 progress report found on the EPA website describes a a four-year grant to Syracuse University. One “major outcome” of the project is listed as the, “Successful development and testing of an unmanned aerial vehicle for urban airshed monitoring to measure pollutant levels above buildings.”

So yes, despite what you read in the Washington Post and the rest of the establishment media echo chamber, the EPA is using drones to spy on land use and monitor pollution.

The EPA is using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance of ranches and farms and has been doing so for years.

Given the EPA’s close relationship with NASA in working with the space agency to create satellites to monitor land use, the future seems geared not around spy drones but spy satellites like the ones already under development in Europe that will measure man-made carbon emissions from space in order to “hunt down” violators of international climate agreements, allowing Big Brother to enforce a future tax on CO2 emissions.

And when such a program is ready to be launched, expect the establishment media to pull the same trick of obfuscating the truth by claiming none of it is happening.

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.

AIR FORCE DRONES SET TO BE DEPLOYED INSIDE THE UNITED STATES TO COLLECT DATA AND SEARCH CITIZENS

By Alex Thomas | Intel Hub
June 8, 2012

The United States Air Force, through the use of unmanned aerial drones, is set to be deployed inside the United States to collect data, investigate places of interest, and share data with local police agencies.

An unclassified Air Force Memo from late April documents the fact that the military is operating drone aircraft domestically and that, through a complete end run around the Constitution, can essentially share it with local law enforcement even if it has no relation to terrorism.

While many articles have already been published detailing the fact that the military is or will be sharing information they collect with local law enforcement, a more startling fact has been largely ignored by the corporate controlled media. (until now)

In a recently published op-ed, Andrew Napolitano outlined the fact that once the military identifies something of interest they can apply to a military commander for permission to conduct searches of American property and or citizens which in turn is a form of martial law.

“It gets worse. If the military personnel see something of interest from a drone, they may apply to a military judge or “military commander” for permission to conduct a physical search of the private property that intrigues them. And, any “incidentally acquired information” can be retained or turned over to local law enforcement. What’s next? Prosecutions before military tribunals in the U.S,” wrote Napolitano.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also publicly commented on the fact that the Air Force is now openly recording information on the American people in domestic situations.

“We’ve seen in some records that were released by the Air Force just recently, that under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations,” explained Jennifer Lynch, of the EFF.

Madison Ruppert, writing for EndtheLie.com, detailed the broad exceptions to a guideline that is supposed to limit the military from non-consensual surveillance.

While the U.S. Air Force’s guidelines claim that drones are not allowed to carry out “non-consensual surveillance” on U.S. citizens or property, there are plenty of exceptions to this allowing such surveillance to occur.

Some of these many exceptions outlined in the Air Force documents include:

- Investigating or preventing clandestine intelligence activities by foreign powers, international narcotics activities, or international terrorist activities

- Protecting DoD employees, information, property and facilities

- Preventing, detecting or investigating other violations of law

Seems pretty broad, doesn’t it? “Other violations of law” leaves the door wide open for the drones to be used for just about everything. After all, jaywalking is a violation of law. Does this mean that if a drone captures someone jaywalking, the use of military drones in U.S. airspace is somehow justified?

That’s right, the Air Force now has the authority to carry out drone surveillance on American citizens for essentially any violation of law.

Sadly, we now live in a country were 30,000 drones are set to be launched by various law enforcement agencies, the military, and private companies.

The idea of the military not being used against the American people has now been completely thrown out the window with the only hope citizens of this country have left being the support of individual military members who choose to go against these Unconstitutional directives.

THE DRONE ZONE

By  | The New York Times

Holloman Air Force Base, at the eastern edge of New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, 200 miles south of Albuquerque, was once famous for the daredevil maneuvers of those who trained there. In 1954, Col. John Paul Stapp rode a rocket-propelled sled across the desert, reaching 632 miles per hour, in an attempt to figure out the maximum speed at which jet pilots could safely eject. He slammed on the brakes and was thrust forward with such force that he had to be hauled away on a stretcher, his eyes bleeding from burst capillaries. Six years later, Capt. Joseph Kittinger Jr., testing the height at which pilots could safely bail out, rode a helium-powered balloon up to 102,800 feet. He muttered, “Lord, take care of me now,” dropped for 13 minutes 45 seconds and broke the record for the highest parachute jump.

Today many of the pilots at Holloman never get off the ground. The base has been converted into the U.S. Air Force’s primary training center for drone operators, where pilots spend their days in sand-colored trailers near a runway from which their planes take off without them. Inside each trailer, a pilot flies his plane from a padded chair, using a joystick and throttle, as his partner, the “sensor operator,” focuses on the grainy images moving across a video screen, directing missiles to their targets with a laser.

Holloman sits on almost 60,000 acres of desert badlands, near jagged hills that are frosted with snow for several months of the year — a perfect training ground for pilots who will fly Predators and Reapers over the similarly hostile terrain of Afghanistan. When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.

“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.

Though the Pentagon is increasing its fleet of drones by 30 percent and military leaders estimate that, within a year or so, the number of Air Force pilots flying unmanned planes could be higher than the number who actually leave the ground, much about how and where the U.S. government operates drones remains a secret. Even the pilots we interviewed wore black tape over their nametags. The Air Force, citing concerns for the pilots’ safety, forbids them to reveal their last names.

It is widely known that the United States has three different drone programs. The first is the publicly acknowledged program run by the Pentagon that has been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other two are classified programs run separately by the C.I.A. and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which maintain separate lists of people targeted for killing.

Over the years, details have trickled out about lethal drone operations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and elsewhere. But the drone war has been even more extensive. According to three current and former intelligence officials I spoke to, in 2006, a barrage of Hellfire missiles from a Predator hit a suspected militant camp in the jungles of the Philippines, in an attempt to kill the Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek. The strike, which was reported at the time as a “Philippine military operation,” missed Patek but killed others at the camp.

The increased use of drones in warfare has led the Air Force to re-engineer its training program for drone pilots. Trainees are now sent to Holloman just months after they join the military, instead of first undergoing traditional pilot training as they did in the past. The Air Force can now produce certified Predator and Reaper pilots in less than two years.

But the accelerated training has created its own problems. When I visited Holloman in February, there had been five drone accidents at the base since 2009. Most of them occurred during landing, when pilots have the most difficulty judging where the plane is in relation to the runway. As much as the military has tried to make drone pilots feel as if they are sitting in a cockpit, they are still flying a plane from a screen with a narrow field of vision.

Then there is the fact that the movement shown on a drone pilot’s video screen has over the years been seconds behind what the drone sees — a delay caused by the time it takes to bounce a signal off a satellite in space. This problem, called “latency,” has long bedeviled drone pilots, making it difficult to hit a moving target. Last year senior operatives with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula told a Yemeni reporter that if they hear an American drone overhead, they move around as much as possible. (Military officials said that they have made progress in recent years in addressing the latency problem but declined to provide details.)

Stationing pilots in the United States has saved the Air Force money, and pilots at Holloman who have flown drone combat missions speak glowingly about a lifestyle that allows them to fight a war without going to war. Craig, an Air Force captain who is a trainer at the base, volunteered to fly Predators while in flight school. He calls his job “the perfect balance of mission and family.”

And yet this balance comes at a cost. Pilots have flown missions over Afghanistan in the morning, stopped for lunch, fought the Iraq war in the afternoon and then driven home in time for dinner. Lt. Col Matt Martin, formerly a trainer at Holloman, wrote about the disorienting experience of toggling among different war zones in a memoir, “Predator,” calling the experience “enough to make a Predator pilot schizophrenic.”

It’s disorienting in other ways too. Can a pilot who flies planes remotely ever be as heroic as the aces who flew behind enemy lines or as Colonel Stapp, whose stunt in the New Mexico desert won him a prestigious medal for valor and put him on the cover of Time magazine?

Luther (Trey) Turner III, a retired colonel who flew combat missions during the gulf war before he switched to flying Predators in 2003, said that he doesn’t view his combat experience flying drones as “valorous.” “My understanding of the term is that you are faced with danger. And, when I am sitting in a ground-control station thousands of miles away from the battlefield, that’s just not the case.” But, he said, “I firmly believe it takes bravery to fly a U.A.V.” — unmanned aerial vehicle — “particularly when you’re called upon to take someone’s life. In some cases, you are watching it play out live and in color.” As more than one pilot at Holloman told me, a bit defensively, “We’re not just playing video games here.”

Mark Mazzetti is a national-security correspondent for The Times. He is currently writing a book about the C.I.A. since 9/11.

FIND OUT HOW YOUR LOCAL POLICE AGENCY IS USING DRONES

Parker Higgins and Trevor Timm
EFF
June 12, 2012

Since last month, when EFF released a list of the sixty-odd public agencies that have already received from the FAA approval to fly domestic drones, the issue of drone surveillance has reached front and center in many Americans’ mind. Yet barely any information is known about what law enforcement agencies plan to do with these unmanned flying vehicles. So we want your help to gather this information into one place.

The groups listed by the FAA included about two dozen local police agencies, but we expect this number to grow rapidly in the coming weeks and months. In February Congress passed a bill mandating the FAA authorize drones to public agencies if they can prove they can fly them safely. And recently, the Department of Homeland Security, which was already handing out grants to local police agencies, announced a program to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of drones by local police agencies. And last month the FAA announced it had established new (though undisclosed) procedures to allow more law enforcement agencies quicker access to fly drones.

As the Huffington Post reported:

The $4 million Air-based Technologies Program, which will test and evaluate small, unmanned aircraft systems, is designed to be a ‘middleman’ between drone manufacturers and first-responder agencies ‘before they jump into the pool,’ said John Appleby, a manager in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s division of borders and maritime security.

This is, or will become, a controversy all over the United States. From Seattle, to Miami, Tennessee to Atlanta, and everywhere in between, local towns will soon grapple over the privacy dangers drones will create.

As we have explained before, the capabilities of drones are almost unimaginable:

Drones are capable of highly advanced and almost constant surveillance, and they can amass large amounts of data. They carry various types of equipment includinglive-feed video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar. Some newer drones carry super high resolution ‘gigapixel’ cameras that can ‘track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet[,] . . . [can] monitor up to 65 enemies of the State simultaneously[, and] . . . can see targets from almost 25 miles down range.’ Predator drones can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions, and one drone unveiled at DEFCON last year can crack Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone conversations—without the knowledge or help of either the communications provider or the customer. Drones are also designed to carry weapons, and some have suggested that drones carrying weapons such as tasers and bean bag guns could be used domestically.

Given Congress’ inaction on privacy issues, and the fact that the FAA has never regulated privacy issues, we believe activism at the local level is the best way to stop drone surveillance.
What you can do

The FAA has so far not released any information on which model of drone or how many drones each public entity flies. We also don’t have much information on the type of data these drones will collect. So we need to find this information out.

We’ve made a simple form for the questions we want these police agencies to answer. We need you to call your local police department and ask them these questions. Check your local police department’s website for the “Public Inquiries” or “Community Relations” contact, and call or e-mail them these questions.

Our list of drone certificates includes police departments that we already know have a drone authorization from the FAA.

This is just the first step. Once we’ve collected the data, we will release it and tell you how you can contact your local municipal government to demand that they ban law enforcement drones or install robust privacy safeguards that will protect citizens from unwanted—and unconstitutional—surveillance.

NOT JUST FOR MILITARY USE, DRONES TURN CIVILIAN

By Barry Neild, CNN

July 12, 2012

Farnborough, England (CNN) — They are now a familiar presence in war zones, but if manufacturers have their way, skies over civilians heads will soon be busy with unmanned vehicles.

Drones are currently a growth industry in the aviation sector, with scores of new companies competing for a slice of the market.

And if they can clear hurdles that currently limit their deployment in friendly air space, pilotless planes of all shapes will be taking to the air on missions to watch over us.

Although the event, held on alternate years, is one of Europe’s biggest market places for traditional aircraft, a “drone zone” occupies a substantial slice of the exhibition space.

“There now are hundreds of companies competing for the market,” said Konstantins Popkis, chief technology officer for the UAV Factory, which produces a 3.3-meter wingspan drone known as Penguin B.

“But not all of them are producing reliable systems,” he added.

Reliability is likely to be a key issue for drones aimed at civilian use as the industry lobbies aviation regulators to gain access to skies that for the most part remain off-limits. Another issue is privacy.

Most drones are built with surveillance in mind. Top-of-the-range systems bristle with radar and infra-red cameras that can produce detail of the ground from great distances, even in poor weather.

UAV Factory’s $50,000-plus Penguin B is built for more modest operations, but Popkis says many of his customers are civilians looking for monitoring capabilities.

He says he has taken orders for his catapult-launched craft from military researchers, but also from scientists and commercial ventures. He says environmental campaign group Greenpeace has also acquired two for monitoring the Arctic.

Penguin B, which Popkis claims has clocked a record-breaking 54-and-a-half hours of continuous flying, is competing at Farnborough with several other systems designed for similar use.

Among these is the Alpi Aviation Sixton-A, which uses three helicopter-style rotors to lift a lightweight drone roughly the same diameter as a trash can lid.

According to Massimo Petrusa, Alpi’s sales and marketing executive, the Sixton-A is already in use by the Italian military, but civilian use is now the target market.

“I believe the future for these things is civilian,” he said. “Instead of hiring 10 night guards to patrol somewhere, you can use two helicopters piloted by a computer — it’s much cheaper.”

He said his company’s drones had also been recently deployed to survey areas affected by the earthquake that hit Italy in May.

Other drones on sale or display include the iStart, a new ultra-light drone that can be carried in backpack and launched by hand, and the S-25, one of a range made by Austrian firm Aerie, which take off vertically, but fly like conventional planes.

Such is the growth of the drone market that it has created a secondary industry, offering training, advice and support. The Association for Unmanned Systems International holds an annual show in Las Vegas and lobbies governments for greater access to civilian skies.

Andrew Duggan, managing director of Insitu Pacific, is among those hoping to expand the non-military use of his unmanned aerial vehicles. His latest system, the Integrator, succeeds an earlier aircraft that has clocked up tens of thousands of military service hours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has also seen service monitoring marine mammals off the coast of Australia and in firefighting situations.

But he says, resistance from bodies such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, which earlier this year agreed to roll back some limitations on lighter drones, has curbed significant use elsewhere.

“There is no aviation authority in the world that will allow you access for 24 hours,” Duggan said.

He puts this partly down to the considerable bad press armed drones have attracted flying U.S. military missions over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last week a suspected U.S. drone strike killed 20 people in northern Pakistan.

“A lot of it is down to the stigma around the term ‘drone’ because of incidents (in) Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Duggan said. “People are hung up over privacy, but it’s a lot of unnecessary drama. They are no different from having a police helicopter over your head, or a security camera pointed at you.”

But there was caution at the top end of the market in Farnborough.

Matt Moore, head of unmanned aerial systems tactical planning at European defense contractor Thales, also hopes his company’s new Watchkeeper system — a large and sophisticated aircraft developed for the UK military — will have a civilian life.

But, he says, the only reason Watchkeeper currently enjoys limited clearance over UK civilian airspace is because some of the $1,100 million invested in its development has gone to ensure it exceeds safety requirements.

This, he says, is not something that some lower-cost drone manufacturers can claim.

“Unlike many of these unmanned aircraft now hitting the market, the Watchkeeper is built to a standard that is better than a manned aircraft. Its computer system does not fail. It can’t go wrong or fail and you won’t get the computer blue screen of death.”

NEW RESEARCH: DRONES CAN EASILY BE HIJACKED

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
June 25, 2012

As exponentially more government and law enforcement drones take to the skies over America, new research has highlighted the fact that the unmanned vehicles are extremely vulnerable and can be relatively easily hijacked and controlled.

Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory are warning that the drones could be “spoofed” and taken over by anyone with the right readily available equipment.

Fox News reports that Humphreys built an advanced spoofer at a cost of just $1000, and has successfully infiltrated the GPS systems of several drones. All he has to do is send a more powerful signal to the drone than it is receiving from an orbiting satellite and he can make the vehicle do anything he commands.

“In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” Humphreys told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”

What’s more, both the Department of Homeland Security and the FAA are aware of the issue, but are doing little to alleviate the problem.

Last week, Humphreys demonstrated to officials from both agencies how he could repeatedly take control of a drone and fly it where ever he liked.

The majority of drones that are being deployed in US airspace now function using unencrypted civilian GPS, leaving them wide open to attack.

“I’m worried about them crashing into other planes,” Humphreys told Fox News. “I’m worried about them crashing into buildings. We could get collisions in the air and there could be loss of life, so we want to prevent this and get out in front of the problem.”

“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile? That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,” Humphreys said.

Last month it was reported that a mystery object, believed to be a surveillance drone almost did cause a mid air collision with with a commercial jet.

The federal government is in the process of rolling out new rules on the use of the unmanned drones, with the Federal Aviation Administration announcing procedures will “streamline” the process through which government agencies, including local law enforcement, receive licenses to operate the aircraft.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

Critics have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.

In addition, A recently uncovered Air Force document circumvents laws and clear the way for the Pentagon to use drones to monitor the activities of Americans.

Professor Humphreys’ research indicates that, in addition to the threat to privacy, the aircraft will also make the skies less safe.

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

MILITARY DRONE CRASHES AND BURNS IN MARYLAND

Infowars.com
June 12, 2012

If the feds, the military industrial complex and police agencies all over the country have their way, drones will be flying and performing various “duties” up in the wild blue yonder.

That is until they crash, as one did the other day in Maryland.

Drones over America is a disaster waiting to happen. In 2015, when the FAA signs off on the plan to employ aircraft now used to summarily execute al-Qaeda wanna-bes and school children, we can expect sooner or later one of these things colliding with an airliner.

Since the United States does not publicly acknowledge its drone program, there is no way to know how many of these expensive predator devices have crashed, although we periodically hear about them going down in Pakistan’s tribal region.

MILITARY DRONE MISTAKEN FOR ‘UFO’ ALONG DC HIGHWAYS

WASHINGTON – People in the D.C. area are buzzing after pictures began popping up online showing what many believed to be a ‘UFO’ in transport along the Capitol Beltway.

The spotting took place around 11:00 p.m. Wednesday when drivers first saw the craft being hauled on a flatbed truck on I-270, then on I-495.

Maryland State Police confirmed that the strange craft was actually a drone aircraft made by Northrup Grumman that was being transported from West Virginia to Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland.

It wasn’t the first time aircraft being transported had been mistaken for ‘UFOs’. Last year, residents of Cowley County, Kansas mistook a similar flying machine.

DefenseTech.org reported last year that engineers practice aircraft carrier take-offs and landings with the drone on a strip of runway at Patuxent that’s painted to resemble a carrier’s flight deck.

SENATOR RAND PAUL PROPOSES BILL PROTECTING AMERICANS FROM DRONE SURVEILLANCE

By Pete Kasperowicz | The Hill

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require the government to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens.

More broadly, Paul’s bill is aimed at preventing “unwarranted governmental intrusion” through the use of drones, according to the lawmaker.

“Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued,” Paul said Tuesday. “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”

The bill, S. 3287, would require the government to obtain a warrant to use drones with the exception of patroling national borders, when drones are needed to prevent “imminent danger to life” or when there are risks of a terrorist attack.

The bill would also give Americans the ability to sue the government for violating the act. And, it would prohibit evidence collected with warrantless drone surveillance from being used as evidence in court.

While drone surveillance in the United States would undoubtedly prove controversial, the use of drones is currently a topic of international concern. Some Democrats have said the use of drones to disrupt terrorist networks is hurting America’s image overseas.

Additionally, the United Nations is considering an investigation into drone airstrikes inside Pakistan, which could focus on the rate of civilian casualties caused by these attacks.

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to move toward allowing drones to fly alongside commercial aircraft in U.S. airspace by 2015.

The FAA is planning a pilot program to test fly drones in six locations, but will not set the rules for what the unmanned aircraft can be used for.

Law enforcement agencies and state and local governments have expressed a strong interest in unmanned aircraft, and are being courted as potential customers by the booming drone industry.

There is opposition, however, from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that have raised concerns about the impact of the drones on privacy.

D.C. CIRCUIT TO HEAR DISPUTE OVER DRONES IN SEPTEMBER 2012

A federal appeals court in Washington has scheduled a hearing in a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Central Intelligence Agency over the government’s use of drones in targeted killings.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit set a Sept. 20 argument date in the closely watched public records dispute. The ACLU sued in Washington’s federal trial court in 2010 to press for access to any government records about the use of drones.

The CIA, however, has refused to confirm or deny the existence of a drone program, despite statements from President Barack Obama and press reports, citing senior government officials, about targeted killing. The ACLU on Wednesday, citing “immense public interest,” asked the appeals court (PDF) to expedite its review of the dispute.

The government “cannot lawfully release selected information about the CIA’s drone program to the media, both on the record and off, while insisting to the courts that the release of any information about the program would jeopardize national security,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in court papers.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has accused the White House of selectively leaking classified information to reporters to “enhance President Barack Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections.”

Obama recently told reporters that “the notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive.”

On June 8, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. assigned two U.S. attorneys-Ronald Machen Jr. and Rod Rosenstein of Maryland-to lead an investigation into the possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

Jaffer said in the court papers yesterday that “the CIA’s refusal to release responsive records, or even to confirm or deny the existence of the drone program, inhibits an ongoing and time-sensitive public debate about this subject.”

This month, the ACLU said “allowing the CIA to deny the existence of the drone program while it carries on a propagandistic campaign of officially sanctioned leaks would make a mockery of the classification system.”

Representing the CIA, DOJ lawyer Catherine Hancock said in abrief filed May 21 that the CIA has never officially acknowledged whether the agency has any involvement or intelligence interest in drone strikes.

Hancock urged the appeals court to reject the ACLU’s attempt “to cobble together an official CIA acknowledgment by combining together the substance of various news reports, unofficial statements and imprecise statements by former CIA Director (Leon) Panetta and President Obama.”

The guiding principle in the dispute, Hancock said, is that “even if there is speculation about a fact, unless an agency officially confirms that fact, the public does not know whether it is so.”

D.C. Circuit Judges Merrick Garland, David Tatel and Thomas Griffith will hear the case.

TINY 2-FOOT BOMB COULD BE ‘MONTHS’ AWAY FROM DRONE WAR

By Spencer Ackerman | Wired
July 13, 2012

The drone war could be shrinking faster than anyone expected. Raytheon’s teeny, tiny drone bomb might be ready to arm a small drone within months, the defense giant says.

Since 2009, Raytheon has been experimenting with what it understatedly calls a Small Tactical Munition. It’s a laser-guided bomb less than two feet long and barely a 10th the weight of the Hellfire missiles that the iconic Predators and Reapers pack. And the wait for it may be almost over: “We’re just tweaking the software and running some environmental tests,” a business manager for Raytheon’s missile division toldAIN Online.

That would open new worlds of possibility for the U.S. drone arsenal. There are a lot more small dronesthan there are Preds and Reapers. The small-fry robots are used as flying spies, since they’re too lightweight to arm — until now. The Small Tactical Munition is supposed to arm the Shadow, a drone that’s only 12 feet long. The U.S. fleet of killer drones would significantly increase. Alternatively, the existing, large killer drone fleet could carry far more weapons than they currently do.

There are two ways to look at that development. The straightforward way is to consider it a kind of deadly Moore’s Law. That’s certainly commensurate with the miniaturization of killer drones, like the kamikaze mash-up of missile and robot called the Switchblade.

A less intuitive interpretation, not mutually exclusive with the other one, is that a smaller drone war might not be a deadlier one. A smaller munition, with a smaller warhead, kills fewer people than a larger munition. That’s certainly how Raytheon sees it: “This is relevant to the strict rules of engagement,” said J.R. Smith from its missile shop.

That’s probably cold comfort if the armed robot fleet expands from hundreds to thousands before a single new ‘bot is purchased. But not all drones are equal: The Shadow has a loiter time of about four hours aloft before it runs out of gas; a Predator can hover for the better part of a day. But having an armed Shadow to launch would be a big asset to a commando team in, say, East Africa. Smaller also means cheaper, and easier to deploy.

Update, 7:10 a.m.: There’s some confusion about the Small Tactical Munition; Raytheon has alternatively characterized it as a missile and a bomb. But spokesman Dave Desilets sets the record straight: it’s a bomb. We’ve changed this post accordingly.

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JODY WILLIAMS: ‘AUTONOMOUS ‘KILLER ROBOTS’ COULD REPLACE DRONES SOON’

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DRONES WHICH “MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS”: TOWARDS GLOBAL UNMANNED WARFARE?

A number of announcements made in the past two weeks to coincide with the Farnborough airshow show the quickening pace of developments around the use of drones and unmanned systems.  Perhaps the most significant was the UK MoD’s announcement that it was setting up a new unmanned systems capability development centre (UASCDC)  to be based at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire

The new centre, which will be run in conjunction with defence giant QinetiQ,  aims to develop new drone programmes “from concept to deployment” as well as “facilitate engagement between industry and the MoD to make the best use of collective expertise and facilities.” Although there is as little public information available as yet, some slides about the new centre were included as part of a recent general presentation to industry by the MoD.

It was also announced that the new Unmanned Systems Centre will join with ADS, the UK Aerospace, Defence and Security trade association, and Farnborough Airshow to hold a new ‘expo’ on autonomous unmanned systems at Farnborough in July 2013.   Although shy of using the word ‘autonomous’ (substituting the more acceptable phrase ‘intelligent systems’,  the week-long event is clearly focused on autonomy as ADS Director, Kevin Jones states in a filmed interview (below) “Yes…. we are talking about systems that have the technology and the capability to make their own decisions…”   The event planned for 2013, is a “precursor to a complete Intelligent Systems Air and Ground Expo that will occur at the Farnborough International Airshow 2014 where, as a show-within-a-show, this event will have command of the global aerospace stage.”

The push towards arming smaller drones – and therefore making armed drones more ‘useable’ in crowded urban and civilian areas – also continues.  MBDA announced a “concept vision” of a new range of small missiles for UAVs including Gladius with a launch weight of only 7kg, including a 1kg blast/fragmentation warhead

Meanwhile Raytheon announced that its new purpose-built bomb for small tactical drones, (imaginatively called the Small Tactical Munition) may, following more live testing, enter service within a few months . Raytheon recently issued this video showing the bomb being test launched from a small drone.

Another example of the growing proliferation of drone technology can be seen in the Israeli company IAI’s announcement that it was in discussions with a number of organisations and academic institutions around the world to set up drone training academies.  The academies will offer training on IAI’s own UAVs including Heron, Panther and Hunter which can serve as training for pilots going on to fly those drones or as a generic training course.  According to Defense News:

“IAI has been training customers at a campus in Israel for nearly 40 years but only recently started referring to the site — which the company refers to only as “a secure location near Tel Aviv” — as an academy. It also conducts UAV training flights from Ein Shemer, an army airfield in northern Israel.”

Although BAE Systems had hinted that an announcement (and possible contract signing) in regard to the proposed joint UK-French Telemos drone would take place at the Farnborough airshow in the end nothing happened and a scheduled press conference was cancelled.   President Hollande of France did meet with David Cameron and in the subsequent joint press conference  President Hollande said “We want to work in common on drones. The defence minister is coming to London on July 24, when two arrangements will be signed regarding drones.”

Meanwhile the political case for drones continues to be made in the US as well as the UK.  Two articles extolling the virtues of drones – and challenging those who are critical of them – appeared over the past few days few days.  First Washington think-tank the American Security Project argued that drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere were perfectly legal and rather than not having a legal argument, the US was deliberately not explaining its legal position: 

 ”It is of strategic value for the US to refrain from providing justification [for the drone strikes] because to acknowledge any legal framework is to implicitly agree to be bound by its terms. By remaining formally unaccountable to international frameworks, the US can operate unimpeded by the red tape of the international legal community. From any angle, such a strategy is in the best interest of US national security. It is also important to note that a lack of public justification does not mean the US is not acting in accordance with international legal frameworks.”

Many might say that operating purely in your own national security interests and regarding international law as mere ‘red tape’ would put you in the same class of rogue state as Syria, for example, but obviously the American Security Project does not agree 

In the same vein, a New York Times op-ed tried to make the moral case for drones arguing that not only was using drones ethically permissible, but it also might be ethically obligatory  due to their advantage in identifying targets and striking with precision. In a quick and strong rebuttal Jeremy Hammond of the Foreign Policy Journal demonstrated that it was in fact making the immoral argument for drones.  Rather than summarise his piece I’d really recommend you read the whole article.

Despite ongoing serious moral and legal doubts, behind the scenes the development of armed drones and unmanned systems by the military and the defence industry is proceeding at a frightening pace.  As always there is need for more transparency, accountability and a proper public debate.

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U.S. MILITARY LOOK INTO REMOTE CONTROLLED ‘HELICOPTER TRUCK TRANSFORMERS’ THAT CAN BE SENT ON RESCUE MISSIONS WITHOUT A DRIVER

  • New drone is in development to meet the requirements of the U.S. military for a new evacuation vehicle
  • Currently being tested by Advanced Tactics, an El Segundo-based firm
  • Called Black Knight Transformer, it would be capable of both flying and driving and would be operated by a remote

By Daily Mail Reporter

January 10, 2014

It utilizes the vertical take off and landing of a helicopter and couples it with the off road driving capabilities of a truck.

And, what’s even better, is that this robotic warrior is remote controlled.

Introducing Black Night Transformer, a specially made truck that comes complete with eight rotors – four on each side – that will spring out for take off and then fold in while driving.

The machine was built as part of a U.S. military desire for a ‘multi-mission medical and casualty evacuation unmanned air vehicle/unmanned ground vehicle’, according to Pop Science.

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The U.S. military have commissioned the creation of a vehicle that can drive and fly remotely so it can be sent on missions unmanned

The U.S. military have commissioned the creation of a vehicle that can drive and fly remotely so it can be sent on missions unmanned

The Black Knight Transformer features eight rotors that expand when necessary and fold away while on the ground

The Black Knight Transformer features eight rotors that expand when necessary and fold away while on the ground

Road test: Creators Advanced Tactics say they have tested the driving capabilites of the 'Transformer' and will test its flight by the end of February

Road test: Creators Advanced Tactics say they have tested the driving capabilites of the ‘Transformer’ and will test its flight by the end of February

Essentially it meets the need of an autombile that can adapt to a variety of situations.

An American government study on medical evacuation concluded that the use of robots in military missions will allow for casualty evacuations in areas and times that manned platforms should not operate in, such as ‘zero-zero’ weather and contaminated environments.

Once the Black Knight reaches its target, its also possible for the controls to be switched and for it to be driven by a human.

Overall, it reduces the risks involved with many missions.

The Black Knight is also designed for cargo delivery.

As per its design, the Black Night Transformer is able to shrink down its helicopter engines so that it is more drivable

As per its design, the Black Night Transformer is able to shrink down its helicopter engines so that it is more drivable

Testy: A prototype takes flight during initial testings

Testy: A prototype takes flight during initial testings

Tests will hopefully determine by the end of February whether the Black Knight Transformer could be implented into the U.S. military in the future

Tests will hopefully determine by the end of February whether the Black Knight Transformer could be implented into the U.S. military in the future

An artist inpression by developer Advanced Tactics shows what they plan the AT Transformer to look like

An artist inpression by developer Advanced Tactics shows what they plan the AT Transformer to look like

Advanced Tactics, an El Segundo-based firm, plans to test a remotely operated, transforming, flying, driving evacuation vehicle early this year

‘The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is interested in using the Black Knight vehicle for unmanned cargo resupply missions,’ Advanced Tactics chief engineer Rustom Jehangir tells Popular Science.

‘They’ve done work on this in the past with other platforms, such as the Lockheed Martin K-Max, but our platform will be much less expensive.’

The driving components were tested in late 2013, while the flying aspects will be tested before the end of February.

The Black Knight Transformer would allow the military to enter and exit dangerous areas without having to send in soldiers

The Black Knight Transformer would allow the military to enter and exit dangerous areas without having to send in soldiers

In November, it was reported that U.S. soldiers in combat had made a request for drones that could be launched by hand.

It prompted the Pentago to commission three-dozen micro-drones that resemble birds.

Prioria Robotics of Florida announced at the time the US Army Rapid Equipping Force, or REF, awarded them $4.5 million in federal contracts to deliver to the Department of Defense 36 models of the company’s Maveric unmanned aerial vehicle by December.

Each Maveric can soar through the sky at speeds up to 55 knots and has the ability to offer soldiers an array of advantageous features.

Each aircraft weighs roughly two-and-a-half pounds, and according to the Army News Service, the Maveric’s flexible wings help enable the UAV to blend into its surroundings.

In November, the Pentagon ordered 36 drones known as 'Mavericks' that could be hand launched and were fitted with cameras for reconnaissance missions

In November, the Pentagon ordered 36 drones known as ‘Mavericks’ that could be hand launched and were fitted with cameras for reconnaissance missions

Almost there: The truck-mounted laser weapons the army hope will prove to be a game-changer on the battlefield

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Then in December, the Army successfully tested a futuristic laser weapon capable of shooting football-sized mortar rounds.

The truck-mounted weapon, known as the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD), gives a hint at what a weapon of the future could look like.

Using an invisible laser beam to exact targets, the rounds are capable of taking down drones from the sky and even missiles.
Almost there: The truck-mounted laser weapons the army hope will prove to be a game-changer on the battlefield

In November, the Pentagon ordered 36 drones known as ‘Mavericks’ that could be hand launched and were fitted with cameras for reconnaissance missions

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During tests, a ‘quarter-sized’ invisible laser beam successfully targeted and destroyed more than 90 incoming mortar rounds and six to seven unmanned drones.

Terry Bauer, the project manager for the laser program, told ABC News the test results were ‘above and beyond’ what they had expected going into the testing.

‘We had no thoughts that this 10-kilowatt would be as successful n doing that as it has been,’ he said.

Mortars are common battlefield weapons that are hard to protect against because they can be fired from short distances.

The mortars used in the test were standard 60 millimeter rounds – the length of a football — fired from a distance of less than two kilometers in salvos of two to three mortar rounds each. 

The laser’s success rate against incoming mortar shells indicates that battlefield protection from the small explosive rounds could be possible in a few years.

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THE MICRO-DRONES ARE COMING

by Will Ferguson and David Hambling | New Scientist

Drones are getting smaller and smarter, able to navigate and identify targets without GPS or human operators

July 23, 2012

Getting smarter by the day <i>(Image: Prox Dynamics)</i>

FAR from the aeroplane-sized craft that are the face of cutting-edge warfare, a much smaller revolution in drones is under way.

Micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) with uncanny navigation and real-time mapping capabilities could soon be zipping through indoor and outdoor spaces, running reconnaissance missions that others cannot. They would allow soldiers to look over hills, inside buildings and inspect suspicious objects without risk.

Unlike their larger cousins, whose complex navigation systems let them fly autonomously for hours or even days (see “Aloft for longer than ever”), MAVs are not known for their smarts. They typically rely on a GPS signal to tell them where they are, and on human operators for nearly everything else, such as where to go, what to look for and where to land.

Now researchers led by Roland Brockers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have developed a MAV that uses a camera pointed at the ground to navigate and pick landing spots. It can even identify people and other objects. The system enables the drone to travel through terrain where human control and GPS are unavailable, such as a city street or inside a building.

A human operator needs to tell the drone only two things before it sets off: where it is and where its objective is. The craft figures out the rest for itself, using the camera and onboard software to build a 3D map of its surroundings. It can also avoid obstacles and detect surfaces above a predetermined height as possible landing zones. Once it selects a place to put down, it maps the site’s dimensions, moves overhead and lands.

In a laboratory experiment, a 50 centimetre by 50 centimetre quadrotor craft equipped with the navigation system was able to take off, travel through an obstacle-filled indoor space and land successfully on an elevated platform. Brockers’s team is now testing the system in larger, more complex environments. The system was presented at the SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in April.

Vijay Kumar of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says that autonomous navigation and landing capabilities are unprecedented in a drone of this size. “Typically the information required to locate a landing site and stabilise a vehicle over it is coming in at a 100 times a second,” he says. “No one else has been able to design a system so small with this kind of processing power.”

With such capabilities making their way into ever smaller craft, it may not be long until the PD-100 Black Hornet (pictured), which is set to become the world’s smallest operational drone, gets an upgrade as well.

As it stands the PD-100, which has been in testing by Norwegian manufacturer Prox Dynamics since 2008, can navigate autonomously to a target area using onboard GPS or fly a pre-planned route. It can also be controlled by a human from up to a kilometre away, has an endurance of up to 25 minutes, can hover for a stable view, and fly both indoors and out.

At just 20 centimetres long and weighing about 15 grams, the PD-100 makes the drone created by Brockers’s team look like a behemoth. And while it may look like a toy, Prox Dynamics claims it can maintain steady flight in winds of up to 5 metres per second. This has attracted the attention of the UK Ministry of Defence, which last year issued a request for the vehicle under the name “Nano-UAS”.

Aloft for longer than ever

A reconnaissance drone has flown for two days straight, fuelled by a laser beam that transmits energy from the ground to the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin and Seattle-based LaserMotive teamed up to perform the test last week in a wind tunnel in Palmdale, California, as proof that drones could be made to fly indefinitely via wireless energy transferred from the ground.

When the team stopped the flight – because the craft had surpassed the goals of the test – the battery on the drone had more energy than it started with. LaserMotive is now working on adapting the system to beam power from Earth’s surface to orbiting satellites and even the moon.

MINI DRONES: ARMY DEPLOYS TINY HELICOPTERS

A tiny 4ins remote-control helicopter is being used for surveillance on the front line to detect enemy threats to British troops.

By BSkyB

February 4, 2013

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MD1

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British troops are using a nano drone just 10cm long and weighing 16 grams on the front line in Afghanistan to provide vital information on the ground.

They are the first to use the state-of-the-art handheld tiny surveillance helicopters, which relay reliable full motion video and still images back to the devices’ handlers in the battlefield.

The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle is the size of a child’s toy, measuring just 10cm (4 ins) by 2.5cm (1 inch), and is equipped with a tiny camera.

Soldiers use the mini drone to peer around corners or over walls to identify any hidden threats and the images are relayed to a small screen on a handheld terminal.

Sergeant Christopher Petherbridge, of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan, said: “Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the light weight nature of it.

“We used it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.”

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MD2

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The nano helicopter has been developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway as part of a £20m contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd (MCL), Surrey.

Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, said: “Black Hornet gives our troops the benefits of surveillance in the palm of their hands. It is extremely light and portable whilst out on patrol.

“Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are a key component in our 10-year equipment plan and now that we have balanced the defence budget we are able to confidently invest in these kinds of cutting-edge technologies.”

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AIR GUARD SET TO FLY AT DRONE PRACTICE RANGE

July 30, 2012

The Associated Press
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — North Dakota’s Air National Guard this fall will begin operating a practice range for drone aircraft, which will give pilots more practical training than they can get from simulators, the unit’s commander said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has established blocks of restricted airspace for the training, located up to 10,000 feet above a spot near Camp Grafton South, between Devils Lake and Jamestown. The airspace is above about 9,300 acres of ground area.

Col. Rick Gibney, commander of the 119th Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, said he expects flights to begin in late September or early October.

Operators of the Predator drones will be aiming lasers at targets on the ground. The lasers are used on the battlefield to designate targets for guided missiles and bombs.

Predators are capable of flying at high altitudes for long periods for surveillance, and they also can be equipped to carry missiles.

“People may hear airplanes flying above, but there will be no lights visible and no explosions,” Gibney told the Grand Forks Herald.

The Predators are based at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. They will be flown from Fargo by the 119th Wing’s 30 pilots. Gibney said there initially will be one or two drone flights a week in the restricted space, and the number is likely to increase.

“A lot of it will be dependent on real-world situations,” he said.

Pilot groups, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, had fought the proposal to set aside the restricted space. The FAA decided, however, that the impact on private planes would be minimal because the space already is rarely used.

The agency said an average of four flights cut through the area daily, almost all of which are general aviation flights.

THESE NEW DRONES ARE LIKE NOTHING THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN

By Walter Hickey | Business Insider
Jun. 6, 2012

Even with drones already dominating the skies, neutralizing adversaries and covertly collecting data, new research is still underway on the generation of pilotless planes to come.

And the United States isn’t the only country interested in developing long-range and lethal drone technology.

See the pictures >

Groups of European  and Asian nations — allies and former adversaries alike — are busy investing in next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles of their own.

These UAVs — some in development, some testing, and some already in service — are part of a global competition to gain aerial superiority.

But right now, only a handful of companies are working seriously on this next wave of drones. Some are researching independently, some are working for a single nation, others are working for a dozen.

Here’s the top tier of next-gen drone tech.

Northrop Grumman X-47B

The strike fighter was developed by Northrop Grumman as part of a research contract awarded in 2007. Look for these in use for the Navy, which hopes to use them as carrier-based drones. Tests for thatbegin in 2013.National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In development, used by Navy for testing

Cruise Speed: around 420 mph, (Mach 0.55)

Wingspan: 62 ft

Range: At least 2,400 miles

Boeing Phantom Ray

The project was hatched in 2007, and was carried out in utmost secrecy. The drone’s development was funded internally, without funding from the government of military. The Boeing Phantom Ray, which precedes the development of the Phantom Eye, is Boeing’s planned ground strike and surveillance drone.National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In development, maiden flight April 27, 2011

Cruise Speed: 614 mph (Mach 0.8)

Wingspan: 50 ft

Range: 1500 miles


General Atomics Predator C Avenger

General Atomics Predator C Avenger

General Atomics Courtesy Photo

This drone is incredible. The Predator line of drones currently in constant use in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first ever weaponized UAVs. This model follows up with a reduced heat signature and speed boosts. It boasts an upgraded “quick response armed reconnaissance capability” from its predecessors.National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: Deployed. Maiden flight April 4, 2009

Max Speed: 460 mph

Wingspan: 66 ft

Range: 20 hours

BAE Systems Taranis

BAE Systems Taranis

Fun Fact: the Taranis is pictured here in an Anechoic chamber, a room which cancels out sound or electromagnetic waves. It’s used for calibration, testing, and measurements.

BAE Systems Courtesy Photo

BAE Systems, a major supplier of aircraft to the Royal Air Force, began development of their drone after being allocated funds from the British Ministry of Defense. The project also involves General Electric and Rolls Royce, and the aircraft is named after the Celtic god of thunder.National Origin: United Kingdom

Intended Customers: United Kingdom

Status: Ground tests complete, Flight trials upcoming

Cruising Speed: Unknown

Wingspan: 30 ft.

Range: Expected intercontinental

Dassault nEUROn

The name refers to intended buyers of the planned drone, the European community. Flight tests were planned for last year but were delayed to late 2012. Pictured here is a replica of the aircraft, as the project is being closely protected by manufacturer Dassault.National Origin: France

Intended Customers: Euro-zone nations, especially France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece.

Status: Maiden flight planned for 2012

Cruising Speed: Undetermined, Top speed 0.8 Mach

Wingspan: 41 ft

Range: Unknown

EADS Cassidian Barracuda

The Barracuda is a project of German and Spain to develop a ground-attack drone. The test model, despite a successful maiden voyage, crashed into the Atlantic is late 2006. Germany initiated the program with Spain after abstaining from involvement in the nEUROn project for fiscal reasons.National Origin: Germany and Spain

Intended Customers: Euro-zone nations, especially Germany and Spain, possibly Italy and Sweden.

Status: Maiden flight April 2006. Remains in development.

Cruising Speed: Uncertain, Top Speed 0.85 mach

Wingspan: 24 ft

Range: Unknown

Mikoyan Skat

Made by Mikoyan — formerly MiG — the Skat was developed as one of two concept drones for the Russian government. Skat means “manta ray” in Russian, and the aircraft would be used against enemy air defenses and as an attack drone. Development was discontinued recently.National Origin: Russia

Intended Customers: Russia

Status: Discontinued. Work on Russian drone project to be continued by Sukhoi Holding.

Cruising Speed: N/A, Top Speed was 500 mph

Wingspan: 37 ft

Range: N/A

Lockheed Martin RQ-170

Details on this one are sparse, mostly because the RQ-170 was developed by Lockheed Martin for covert use. A significant setback occurred with the capture of one in-service RQ-170 by Iran. The Air Force, which uses the RQ-170 already for surveillance purposes, has contracted Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs to make the drones.National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In service with U.S. Air Force. One allegedly crash landed, and is in Iranian possession

Top Speed: Information unavailable

Wingspan: around 39 ft

Range: Information Unavailable

THIS PHANTOM WORKS DRONE ‘USHERS IN A NEW ERA OF SURVEILLANCE

By Robert Johnson | Business Insider

This new Boeing drone, designed to stay aloft for days at a time, completed its first successful flight Friday at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Fueled by liquid-hydrogen, the Phantom Works inspired Phantom Eye reached an altitude of over 4,000-feet and speeds of around 70 mph before clambering back to earth.

The flight was in fact a bit better than the landing. A release from Boeing says the craft was damaged when its landing gear sunk into the lakebed on which it was returning and broke, but that won’t slow the new drone down for long.

Phantom Works, Boeing’s classified defense dream shop, has been looking forward to the arrival of the Phantom Eye for years and the technology that keeps it aloft is a welcome arrival.

The goal of the project is to offer the military a long term solution to monitoring wide patches of ground for extended periods of time, without requiring multiple aircraft and a series of take-offs and landings, which interrupt surveillance.

The single flight surveillance will hopefully provide better intelligence than what’s been achieved in the past and let’s face it, that’s a good thing when the U.S. is firing Hellfire missiles at suspected insurgents in civilian populations across the globe.

The Phantom Eye will fly at up to 65,000 feet, generating only water as a byproduct, carry a 450-pound payload, and has a 150-foot wingspan.

Boeing’s defense, space & security is also behind the A160 Hummingbird, the Unmanned Little Bird, the Camcopter S-100IntegratorScaneagle, the Dominator, and the Phantom Ray.

Phantom Eye

Boeing

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Phantom Eye

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NEW DARPA ROBOT LOOKS HUMAN

Experts warn cyborgs will eventually be used to kill

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
April 8, 2013

The new incarnation of Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN robot, being developed for DARPA with Department of Defense funding, not only looks human but it also sweats to regulate body temperature.

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A new video showing PETMAN in action depicts the robot dressed up in a post-apocalyptic chem-bio suit with sensors embedded to detect hazardous chemicals.

“Decked out in chem-resistant camo and a dystopic gas mask, this robot couldn’t look more human,” writes Jason Dorrier.

When the clothing is removed, the robot looks something like Sonny from the movie I, Robot. PETMAN is self-balancing and can also do push-ups, walk, stretch, and squat.

As you can see from the previous incarnations of PETMAN in the videos below, as the robot’s capabilities increase, so does its resemblance to a human being.

That will only serve to increase concerns expressed by numerous robotic experts, that the Pentagon’s fleet of cyborgs is being developed with one primary goal in mind – to pursue “suspects” and kill large numbers of people on the future battlefield.

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, has repeatedly warned that the robots currently being developed under the auspices of DARPA will eventually be used to kill.

“Of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” said Sharkey.

Last month, award-winning military writer and former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer also wrote an essay warning of the threat posed by remorseless “killer robots” that will be used to stalk and slaughter human targets in the near future.

In a 50-page report published last year, Human Rights Watch also warned that artificially intelligent robots let loose on the battlefield would inevitably commit war crimes.

Last year, experts at the prestigious University of Cambridge announced a project to conduct research into the “extinction-level risks” posed to humanity by artificially intelligent robots.

Flying drones that communicate with each other are also being developed for “hunting terrorists” and other “homeland security” purposes, as well as UAVs that could one day snatch humans off the street.

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DARPA’S NEWEST ROBOT IS THE MOST TERRIFYING CREATION YET

by Geoffrey Ingersoll | Business Insider

July 12, 2013

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atlas

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on robots for a long time, but this latest one is a healthy dose of scary.

Here are the stats on the robot:

— Near-human anthropometry

— 2 arms, 2 legs, torso, and head

— 28 hydraulically actuated joints with closed-loop position and force control

— On-Board real-time control computer

— Electric power and network tether

— On-board hydraulic pump and thermal management

— Crash protection

— Modular wrists accept 3rd party hands

— Head-Mounted sensor package with Light Detection and Ranging technology, stereo sensors, dedicated sensor electronics and perception algorithms

Teams in the Darpa Robotics challenge first had to program the robot to move in a virtual space. Now their next challenge, slated for December, is to program (or “teach”) the bot to move in real space.

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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ADDS UNDERWATER DRONES TO THEIR ARSENAL WITH ROBOTS BASED ON FISH

Flexible body and fins allow it to dart around the water like a real fish

By DANIEL MILLER | The Daily Mail

Meet Robocod, the latest weapon in Homeland Security’s increasingly high-tech underwater arsenal, a robotic fish designed to safeguard the coastline of America and bring justice to the deep.

Well almost.

The new robot, named BioSwimmer, is actually based not on a cod but a tuna which is said to have the ideal natural shape for an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

Fishy business: Homeland Security's latest drone - the BioSwimmer - unmanned underwater vehicle is based on a tuna
Fishy business: Homeland Security’s latest drone – the BioSwimmer – unmanned underwater vehicle is based on a tuna

Its ultra-flexible body coupled with mechanical fins and tail allow it to dart around the water just like a real fish even in the harshest of environments.

And while it does have a number of security applications, this high maneuverability makes it perfectly suited for accessing hard-to-reach places such as flooded areas of ships, sea chests and parts of oil tankers.

Other potential missions include inspecting and protecting harbors and piers, performing area searches and military applications.

BioSwimmer uses the latest battery technology for long-duration operation and boasts an array of navigation, sensor processing, and communications equipment designed for constricted spaces.

It is being developed by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group (ASG) basesd in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Trials: The BioSwimmer's flexible body and mechanical fins make it extremely maneuverable
Trials: The BioSwimmer’s flexible body and mechanical fins make it extremely maneuverable
The fish-like design makes BioSwimmer perfectly suited for accessing hard-to-reach places such as flooded areas of ships, sea chests and parts of oil tankers
The fish-like design makes BioSwimmer perfectly suited for accessing hard-to-reach places such as flooded areas of ships, sea chests and parts of oil tankers
BioSwimmer uses the latest battery technology for long-duration operation and boasts an array of navigation, sensor processing, and communications equipment designed for constricted spaces
BioSwimmer uses the latest battery technology for long-duration operation and boasts an array of navigation, sensor processing, and communications equipment designed for constricted spaces

David Taylor, program manager for the project at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Fox News: ‘It’s all about distilling the science. It’s called ‘biomimetics.

‘We’re using nature as a basis for design and engineering a system that works exceedingly well.

‘Tuna have had millions of years to develop their ability to move in the water with astounding efficiency. Hopefully we won’t take that long.’

BioSwimmer is also capable of operating in high viscocity fluids such as crude oil, which could make it a valuable tool for off-shore drilling operations.

It can be controlled by an operator using a laptop computer but is also being designed to function autonomously.

AGS Director Mike Rufo added: ‘It’s designed to support a variety of tactical missions and with its interchangeable sensor payloads and reconfigurable Operator Controls, and can be optimized on a per-mission basis.’

NATURALLY BRILLIANT: THE REAL-LIFE ROBOTS INSPIRED BY ANIMALS

The Festo SmartBird
Reaching for the sky: The Festo SmartBird

BioSwimmer is far from the first robot to be inspired by the natural world.

Over the years designers have attempted to replicate everything from the slithering of a snake to the bounding of a cheetah, in their quest for mechanical perfection.

One of the most tricky traits to mimic is flight, but the SmartBird, which was inspired by the herring seagull and created by scientists at technology firm Festo, has been deemed so realistic it could be mistaken for the real thing.

Its revolutionary design allows it to start, fly and land autonomously. It can be controlled by a radio handset but will also simply glide through the skies if left to its own devices.

One recent creation with obvious military potential is the Boston Dynamics LS3 AlphaDog, a four-legged, autonomous robot that can follow a soldier like a cross between a faithful hound and a pack mule.

This incredible machine can stand upright, walk for 20 miles without a break and carry up to 400 pounds.

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Another impressive design from the Boston Dynamics stable is a robot cheetah which, funded by the US Military, has set a new speed record for legged robots by sprinting at 28.3 mph – faster than Olympic sprint champ Usain Bolt.

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Engineers at Boeing aviation this year demonstrated new technology that enables aerial military drones to function like a ‘swarm of insects’ where they can communicate and carry out tasks in mid-air.

The drone development could lead to lower costs and less risk in military welfare, Boeing said in a statement.

OCRobotics a company based in Bristol, UK, have successfully created a robot arm that moves like a snake, capable of wriggling its way into hard to reach or hazardous places such as nuclear reactors where they can carry out delicate tasks.

Slithery: The Snake arm developed by OCRobotics, designed to wriggle into hazardous places such as the inside of a nuclear reactor
Slithery: The Snake arm developed by OCRobotics, designed to wriggle into hazardous places such as the inside of a nuclear reactor

The arm, which is self-supporting, is controlled by steel wires that run through movable links, while various tools can be fitted to the end such as cameras, lights, cutting equipment or swabs.

The robot has already been used to carry out vital repair work at a nuclear facility in Sweden and a safety inspection at a plant in Canada.

Insectoid: Harvard University's robot fly
Insectoid: Harvard University’s robot fly

Meanwhile researchers at Harvard University are perfecting their incredible robot fly which weighs just 60 milligrams and has a wingspan of three centimeters.

This tiny robot’s movements are modeled on those of a real fly. While much work remains to be done on the mechanical insect, the researchers say that such small flying machines could one day be used as spies, or for detecting harmful chemicals.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the research in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments.

Recreating a fly’s efficient movements in a robot roughly the size of the real insect was difficult, however, because existing manufacturing processes couldn’t be used to make the sturdy, lightweight parts required.

The motors, bearings, and joints typically used for large-scale robots wouldn’t work for something the size of a fly.

At the other end of the scale is the Kabutom RX-03 – a large beetle shaped robot designed in Japan.

The hulking Kabutom measures 11-metres in length and weighs a hefty 17-tonnes. It can walk with its six legs and is powered by diesel engines and blow smoke from its nose.

Imposing: The hulking Kabutom RX-03 a large beetle shaped robot designed in Japan
Imposing: The hulking Kabutom RX-03 a large beetle shaped robot designed in Japan

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