Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control
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The summit organizers dismiss the notion that they are antitechnology Luddites. Echoing the common perspective of the summit organizers, Murray observes, “Drones are ultimately a tool, and their impact depends primarily on human decisions.”
“We are not antitechnology, and all scientific discoveries, if used in right way, have helped humanity a great deal,” says Shahzad Akbar of the Pakistani Foundation for Legal Rights, which represents drone victims. “But the question is,” he says, “can we trust a program which is being run for the last eight years with no information to its process and under no accountability, having killed almost 3,000 people whose identities are not known to their killers?”
The lack of oversight over drone operations and the booming international drone industry has alarming implications for war and peace. Yet, as the summit organizers note, drone proliferation is also rapidly advancing on the home front.
Drones are also being deployed domestically for “border security” and law enforcement. Predator drones are hunting immigrants and drug smugglers on the northern and southern borders. Both the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department are working with the drone industry to get lightweight drones into the arsenals of metropolitan police and county sheriffs.
Congress recently mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration open up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015 and that it immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government (military, homeland security and law enforcement) drones in commercial U.S. airways.
“As drones become an increasingly common form of warfare, and as their presence expands at home, it is time to educate ourselves, the U.S. public and our policymakers about drone proliferation,” says Medea Benjamin, the author of the forthcoming book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
“As remotely controlled warfare and spying race forward, it is also time to organize to end current abuses and to prevent the potentially widespread misuse both overseas and here at home,” she warns.
Among the topics the workshops will discuss include disputed legality of drone warfare, compensation for victims, transparency and accountability for drone operation, domestic drone surveillance, and development of autonomous drones.
Speakers will include leading figures from such organizations as Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International-USA, ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
The summit will kick off at 9 a.m. on April 29 and continue all day until 9 p.m. Those interested in attending the summit, which will be held at 900 Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., can register online. The following day the summit will host a strategy session at 100 Maryland Avenue NE to network, discuss and plan advocacy efforts focused on various aspects of drones, including surveillance and targeted killings.
Organizations endorsing the summit include the Center for International Policy, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the Washington Peace Center and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
The fundamental issue that concerns summit organizers is the near-total lack of transparency and accountability in drone proliferation, at home and abroad.
With respect to killer drones, Leili Kashani, advocacy program manager for the Center for Constitutional Rights, explains: “The executive branch of the U.S. government is claiming the authority to target and kill any individual anywhere in the world, including American citizens, without any judicial process or oversight, and without any transparency or accountability. It is subverting the Constitution and international law in assuming the role of judge, jury and executioner.”