10 Ways the Public Backlash Against Killer Drones Is Taking Off
Rand Paul’s marathon 13-hour filibuster was not the end of the conversation on drones. Suddenly, drones are everywhere, and so is the backlash. Efforts to counter drones at home and abroad are growing in the courts, at places of worship, outside air force bases, inside the UN, at state legislatures, inside Congress--and having an effect on policy.
1. April marks the national month of uprising against drone warfare. Activists in upstate New York are converging on the Hancock Air National Guard Base where Predator drones are operated. In San Diego, they will take on Predator-maker General Atomics at both its headquarters and the home of the CEO. In D.C., a coalition of national and local organizations are coming together to say no to drones at the White House. And all across the nation—including New York City, New Paltz, Chicago, Tucson and Dayton—activists are planning picket lines, workshops and sit-ins to protest the covert wars. The word has even spread to Islamabad, Pakistan, where activists are planning a vigil to honor victims.
2. There has been an unprecedented surge of activity in cities, counties and state legislatures across the country aimed at regulating domestic surveillance drones. After a raucous city council hearing in Seattle in February, the Mayor agreed to terminate its drones program and return the city’s two drones to the manufacturer. Also in February, the city of Charlottesville, VA passed a 2-year moratorium and other restrictions on drone use, and other local bills are pending in cities from Buffalo to Ft. Wayne. Simultaneously, bills have been proliferating on the state level. In Florida, a pending bill will require the police to get a warrant to use drones in an investigation; a Virginia statewide moratorium on drones passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature, and similar legislation in pending in at least 13 other state legislatures.
3. Responding to the international outcry against drone warfare, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, is conducting an in-depth investigation of 25 drone attacks and will release his report in the Spring. Meanwhile, on March 15, having returned from a visit to Pakistan to meet drone victims and government officials, Emmerson condemned the U.S. drone program in Pakistan, as “it involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.”
4. Leaders in the faith-based community broke their silence and began mobilizing against the nomination of John Brennan, with over 100 leaders urging the Senate to reject Brennan. And in an astounding development, The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, issued a scathing statement about Obama’s drone policy, calling it “evil”, “monstrous” and “immoral.” The group’s president, Rev. Anthony Evans, exhorted other black leaders to speak out, saying “If the church does not speak against this immoral policy we will lose our moral voice, our soul, and our right to represent and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
5. In the past four years the Congressional committees that are supposed to exercise oversight over the drones have been mum. Finally, in February and March, the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee held their first public hearings, and the Constitution Subcommittee will hold a hearing on April 16 on the “constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings, the scope of the battlefield and who can be targeted as a combatant.” Too little, too late, but at least Congress is feeling some pressure to exercise its authority.