Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Buck McKeon created a global drone enterprise

A lawmaker helped create the drone industry - and has reaped the benefits.

Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon
Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon is described as "affable and well-respected" - and as a fierce
champion of the drone manufacturers in his California constituency

A drone reportedly flew over North Dakota last year, taking pictures of a meth lab. The drone's flight log was released in July in response to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties organisation.

The flight log sheds light on the way drones are being used - routinely and to an extent not previously known to the public. The release of the flight log and other documents caused a furore, and civil libertarians expressed dismay over the widespread use of drones.

However surprising the news about the drones may have been to activists, the surveillance of the meth lab is part of a global trend. Officials in Northern Ireland used drones to keep dignitaries safe at the G8 summit in June. Drones have flown over train tracks in Germany to look for graffiti artists.

A military drone on display at the Paris Air Show
Drones were on display at the Paris Air Show earlier this summer

Many countries, including China and Israel, make drones. Yet the US is the world's leader in creating technology for drones and in promoting their use - for both military and civilian purposes. The interest in drones in the US crosses political lines, with both Democrats and Republicans investing in the aircraft.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat and a liberal, has been more aggressive than his predecessor. US forces have launched about 360 drone strikes against al-Qaeda commanders and other militants since 2009, according to the New America Foundation. That is more than six times the number of strikes that President George W Bush authorised during his two terms.

The increase in the use of drones came partly because technology improved over the years, making the strikes more efficient, and also because Obama adopted a more focused campaign against al-Qaeda commanders and other militants in Pakistan.

The US-directed strikes, which are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, are frequently in the news - an attack reportedly killed six in Pakistan earlier this week. US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently the US would end the drone strikes, however, "as we have eliminated most of the threat".
Less well known, however, is the fact that drones are used in the civilian airspace over the US, UK and Europe.

It is a growing, if under-reported, trend. Many of the drones used in Pakistan, along with those sent to Afghanistan, now have a permanent home in the US. These drones are turned over to civilians who work for the federal Customs and Border Protection agency, police departments, and other government offices. 

The story of how drones became a robust niche in domestic law enforcement - and part of the commercial world as well - is rooted in Washington DC. Indeed, the rise of the drone can be traced in part to one man, Howard "Buck" McKeon.

McKeon, a California Republican, is chairman of the House armed services committee and co-chairman of a legislative group he founded, the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, which supports expansion of the industry.

One of the drones, a Euro Hawk, parked in the Mojave Desert
A Euro Hawk, parked in the Mojave Desert, is one of the newer models

Military officers on Capitol Hill and executives in the aerospace industry have welcomed McKeon's support.
Of the dozens of members on the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus in the House of Representatives, McKeon has received the most "drone-related campaign contributions" - $833,650 (£551,689), according to a report by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics.
McKeon is a case study in how a member of Congress can work within the system, operate within ethical boundaries created by Congress, and have an impact on policy - as well as increase profits for Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, all of which make drones in his district.
McKeon, who has not been accused of any crimes or charged with any ethical violations, refused repeated requests for interviews for this article.

New Yorkers march against the use of drones New Yorkers march against the use of drones

Years ago, Americans were shocked at the way lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked the system in Washington. But he was also convicted of bilking, or cheating, Indian tribes, and imprisoned for serious criminal offences.

After the scandal, members of Congress re-examined their ethical rules. Today, however, the system remains much the same.

Lobbyists promote clients, including the makers of drones, and contractors give money to members of Congress, who in turn work on legislation that regulates their industry. Within this world of money and politics, McKeon is one who stands out.

Not only is McKeon the recipient of contributions from drone manufacturers, but he is also one of Washington's most vocal supporters of the industry. He and members of his Capitol Hill office have close ties with lobbyists and contractors.

Man holding a small drone
Small drones such as this French model help farmers take care of their crops
In a "Most Corrupt" report for 2012 compiled by researchers for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive watchdog group, McKeon is one of several given a "dishonourable mention" over a mortgage he had received on preferential terms and his alleged improper use of official staff.

Another Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington report looks at the way members of Congress "use their positions to benefit themselves and their families". The report says McKeon's campaign paid his wife, the treasurer, a salary of about $118,000 (£77,956) in the 2010 campaign cycle.

McKeon once received a cut-rate loan from lender Countrywide Financial, as researchers for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington point out. He was included in a congressional report about Countrywide's attempt to influence members of Congress.

A member of the Mexican navy tries out a new drone
A member of the Mexican navy tries out a new drone
 McKeon has not been accused of wrongdoing. A spokesman for McKeon told a New York Times reporter that McKeon was "shocked and angry'' to hear his loan was mentioned in the investigation.
One morning in February, McKeon walked down a marbled hallway on his way to a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building and made a bow toward uniformed men standing near a doorway. The cordial relations are hardly surprising. He is "the defense sector's top congressional ally", according to Defense News.

"Gentlemen, you have no stronger advocate than the members of this committee," McKeon said during a hearing on the federal budget.

Gordon Adams, a former director at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration, says drones will remain "a high priority" for the Pentagon.

"The applications of unmanned systems are virtually limitless," McKeon said in a press release.

Meanwhile, drones are flying around Washington in military exercises, another sign that drones are increasingly part of the landscape in the US.

Matt Scassero, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition and formerly vice-commander of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, has watched one fly above the Patuxent River in Maryland.

"Quietly," he says.

Drones are restricted to specifically designated airspace such as the one in Maryland, where military personnel fly drones for training purposes. Police officers and border patrol agents can also fly them.

An aerial view of a drought in Nebraska
A university professor used a drone last year to photograph a Nebraska drought 
Drones cannot be used for commercial pursuits, though that is likely to change. At the behest of Congress, Federal Aviation Administration officials are looking at ways to introduce drones into the civilian airspace. Officials expect that 10,000 drones will be flying in the air by 2020.

The presence of drones above cities and towns has troubled lawmakers. Virginia was the first state to enact a drone ban. Idaho and Florida have since followed suit.

State legislatures in Tennessee and Montana have passed anti-drone legislation. Lawmakers are worried drones will spy on people, especially since their sensors "scoop up quite a lot of information", according to the Brookings Institution.

In addition, drones are plagued with flaws. One may have been hacked, according to media accounts. Another crashed recently near Panama City, Florida.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 Myths Used to Justify Death By Drone and America's Assassination Policy

Obama's drone war relies on propaganda to keep the American public from understanding the inhumanity of high-tech drone killings.

America’s never-ending war on terrorism is almost always depicted in the mainstream media as a military and intelligence agency fight on a global battlefield. But it is also a propaganda war where the public is fed inaccuracies from Washington, especially when it comes to overseas killings by U.S. military drones.

Here are five myths perpetuated by the military and its weapons makers that seek to make Americans feel good about drones and the White House’s policy of targeted assassinations. 

Myth #1: They Target High Level Terrorists

Only two percent of drone strikes have killed “high value targets,” former counter-terror advisor to David Patreus, David Kilcullen, notoriously remarked in a New York Times column early in the Obama presidency, where he said that 50 civilians were killed for every “high-value target” assassinated. That means that 98 percent of drone-caused deaths have been a mix of low-level militants, civilians, or another dubious Pentagon classification called “unknown militants.” 
This spring McClatchy and later  NBC reported that 25 percent of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been classified as “unknown militants.”  So by its own admission, the CIA has no idea whom they are killing about a quarter of the time.  Keep in mind that if a military-aged male is killed in a strike they are automatically presumed to be militants. The implication being, there is a huge room for error, and many of these “unknown militants” are likely civilians.  In one case, the CIA classified 20-22 “unknown militants” killed. This strike actually killed around 40 civilians.     

Myth #2: Drones Are Accurate 

The Pentagon rhetoric touting “pin point” and “laser” accuracy of drones is baseless. Dr. Larry Lewis, a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, a research group with close ties to the US military, studied the record in Afghanistan and found that drone strikes were no more accurate than traditional air power. So, after all this talk about the ability to discern enemies through surveillance, they are no more accurate traditional fly-bys.  This rhetoric has allowed us to kill innocent children.
Notably, this study was done in Afghanistan, where there is ample ground and human intelligence for selecting and assessing targets, as well as people who investigate the aftermath of the strikes. But that is not the case in Pakistan and Yemen, which means that the strikes have been more deadly for civilians. The implications from this reality are cynical and cavalier: Either the information on the ground is faulty, or drone operators are okay with certain levels of civilian casualties. Regardless, drones fall far short of the hyped rhetoric coming from the Obama administration.   

Myth #3: Drone Targets Imminently Threaten America

The mainstream media have played into the CIA/Administration’s selective leaks about drones, especially the concept of a “kill list.” This military branding conjures up a process of carefully selected enemies who pose imminent threats to the U.S. However, the reality of “signature strikes” undercuts this P.R. construction.  
Never officially acknowledged by the administration, signature strikes target unknown suspected militants who display “pattern of live” behavior associated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. What the “patterns” consist of is officially a secret. What we do know is that as soon as signature strikes were implemented there was a spike in number of drone strikes and the number people killed in strikes.   
Furthermore, reporting has recently revealed that the original authorization for drone strikes in Pakistan came from now deposed President Musharraf. The only way he would approve of the strikes was if the CIA killed his enemies. These  "side-payments" became a characteristic of the CIA program. Instead of focusing on enemies of the U.S., the CIA played along with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, and its military to hit targets who posed no threat to the U.S. 

Myth #4 Drones Are Cheap

Setting aside the moral, legal, and efficacy arguments about drones, the mantra from the administration, lobbyists and their lackeys in Congress has been drone’s low per-unit cost of $4 million to $5 million.  According to Winslow Wheeler of the Project On Government Oversight, “This is quite incorrect.” He states, “The actual cost for a Reaper unit is $120.8 million in 2012 dollars.” This is far above the $27.2 million dollar F-16C or the $18.8 million A-10. Seemingly, this “aura of inevitability” about investing in this new revolutionizing weapon is the military-industrial-complex at its self-serving worst.    

Myth #5: Drones Are Making Americans Safer

They are not, in fact. Not only are drones effectible destabilizing a nuclear power, Pakistan, in one of the most conflict-ridden regions of the world, they are inciting waves of suicide bombers to attack Pakistan. They are also directly threatening the U.S. 
In a global age connectivity there is a new phenomenon of self- radicalization. People who identify with the Muslim Diaspora are seeing their kinsmen being murdered by America in a most brutal way. The Boston Marathon bombers are only the latest example of this phenomenon. The most notorious self-radicalized terrorist was Faisal Shahzad, who, in 2010, tried to blow up New York’s Times-Square. When asked about his motive, he  directly cited drones.  
These rebels with a cause will sadly become the norm as we push and provoke more of the world’s 1.3-1.4 billion Muslims into the political fringes where American violence begets more violence.   

Last fall I traveled to Pakistan where I witnessed first-hand the horror and challenges people of Pakistan face while living under drones. I went to Pakistan to investigate the civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes and to speak with Pakistani people about how drone strikes impact their families, their communities, and their lives. During my travels I met many people including Rafiq ur Rehman, his son, and his two young daughters whose mother was killed in a drone strike. She was out in a field with no one else around except grazing cattle.

I met with others who had lost limbs and loved ones in the senseless strikes that cause anxiety and terror to everyone in the community.  During my visit, it became clear that I had to bring these stories back to the United States so that everyone could know the horror that occurs in our name.  This fall my organization, Brave New Foundation, will release a documentary on this experience in Pakistan.    
We’re working to break through the myths and expose the truth about drone strikes.  This fall we plan to bring victims of drone strikes in Pakistan to the United States to speak with Congress about the horrors that they face daily living under drones.  Will you help bring these victims here to help expose the truth?   Please donate today. Every dollar makes a difference. 

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director and political activist. He is the founder and president of Brave New Films, a new media company that uses moving images to educate and empower viewers to take action around issues that matter. He is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet's parent organization.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Anti-war leaders condemn U.S. drone strikes on Yemen

Minneapolis, MN

Meredith Aby of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee condemned the escalating wave of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, stating, “There have been eight drone attacks in the past two weeks in Yemen which have killed more than 30 people. The U.S. is waging an undeclared war in Yemen and increasing the anger at the U.S. for its use of drones on civilians. It is particularly insulting to our sisters and brothers in the Muslim world that this escalation of drone strikes has corresponded with the end of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid. The president claims these drone strikes make us safer, when in fact they do the opposite. The people of Yemen see these attacks for what they are – acts of imperialism."

Joe Iosbaker, of the Anti-War Committee-Chicago, said of the drone strikes, “In May, President Obama told us that the U.S. use of drone warfare would be declining, but clearly that’s not happening. There is no real change in the Obama doctrine of drone war. According to the U.S., we can strike into any country at any time. This is the unlawful behavior of an imperialist country.”

Iosbaker and Aby are helping to organize the Midwest Action Against Drones (MAAD) scheduled for Sept. 29 - 30. 

Midwest Action Against Drones (MAAD)
Saturday & Sunday, September 28-29, 2013

End Drone Warfare Abroad and Spying at Home!
No Killer Drone for Boeing!
No New Wars on Iran and Syria!
Money for Jobs, Healthcare, and Education-NOT FOR WAR!
Join us at Millennium Park in Chicago on Saturday, September 28th at 3:00 for a rally and march to Boeing Headquarters! On September 29th, from 9:30 am -3:00 pm, we will have a conference featuring speakers & workshops from activists and organizers from across the Midwest region!

 Women Against Military Madness and Anti-War Committee are organizing vans to Chicago for this rally and conference.  Call WAMM 612.827.5364 or for more details.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 Ways to Reduce the Threat of Terrorist Attacks on Americans by Medea Benjamin

Attendees were given this talk outlined below by Medea Benjamin in Minneapolis on Tuesday August 6 at the Spirit of St. Stephen's. Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and the Justice, Education, and Action Committee (JEAC) sponsored her talk.

1. Declare a moratorium on drone strikes.
The head of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is calling on jihadists to retaliate for U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. The Yemeni group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), where the U.S. says the threats are emanating from, is also calling for retaliation for drones strikes (there have been four strikes in Yemen since July 28). Drone strikes have become the number one recruiting tool for extremists. By grounding the drones, we will stop creating new enemies faster than we can kill them.

2. Close the U.S. drone base in Saudi Arabia.
One of the reasons Osama bin Laden said he hated the United States was that the U.S. had military bases in the Holy Lands in Saudi Arabia. President Bush quietly closed those bases in 2003 but in 2010 President Obama secretly reopened a base there for launching drones into Yemen. It's a national security threat ripe for blowback. So are many of the over 800 U.S. bases peppered all over the world. We can save billions of taxpayer dollars, and make ourselves safer, by closing them.

3. Free the 86 Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release.
The U.S. treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, holding people indefinitely without charges or trials and brutally force-feeding the hunger strikers, is an affront to people throughout the Muslim world and a blatant hypocrisy of our American values. Of the 166 prisoners left in Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for release, meaning the U.S. government has determined they represent no threat to our nation. President Obama can use the waiver system, certifying to Congress that it is in the U.S. national interest to release them. He just did this, for the first time, for two Algerian prisoners. He should do this for all 86 cleared prisoners, then bring the remaining prisoners to the U.S. for trials.

4. Apologize and compensate innocent victims.
There is a perception in the Muslim world that the U.S. government does not value their lives. Airstrikes have killed many innocent people and only in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq has there been a way, albeit woefully inadequate, for aggrieved families to seek redress. The U.S. should agree to apologize and compensate the families of innocent people who have been killed or maimed by the U.S. armed forces or CIA.

5. Go for the "zero option" in Afghanistan: withdraw all U.S. troops.
The 11-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has provided fodder for the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, while propping up an unpopular and corrupt regime in Kabul. And if the U.S. troops were not in Afghanistan, the Taliban would not be trying to cross the Pakistani border to kill U.S. soldiers. President Obama promised to end the U.S. occupation by the end of 2014, but is now weighing options for keeping thousands of troops and military contractors behind. Bad idea.

6. Sit down and talk. The Taliban opened an office in Qatar in June to finally start long-delayed talks with the U.S.. But due to President Karzai's objections, the talks were nixed. It's long past the time to talk to the Taliban, and then move on to talk to those elements in Al Qaeda who are more rational and open to negotiations. If you look at the Rand Corporation's study of the demise of 268 terrorist groups, 43 percent dissolved by joining the political process, 40 percent from better policing, and only 7 percent through military action. We've been using military action for over a decade; it's time for another approach.

7. Stop supporting dictatorships and repressive militaries.
The U.S. recently signed the largest arms deal in history with the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the same government that rolled its tanks into neighboring Bahrain to crush the democratic uprising there. In Egypt, U.S. weapons and tear gas were used for decades against peaceful demonstrators, and continue to be used against peaceful protesters supporting ousted Muslim Brotherhood. While weapons sales to undemocratic and/or unstable regimes might be good for U.S. weapons manufacturers, they are bad for the reputation and security of the American people.

8. Support non-violent democracy movements.
Terrorists thrive best where there is chaos and instability. Nurturing democratic institutions and non-violent civil society are key to thwarting the growth of extremist movements. The U.S. needs to do more than support these efforts; it also needs to listen to them. In Yemen, the U.S. is helping to fund the 6-month experiment in democracy called the National Dialogue Conference, where 565 extremely diverse members of society are meeting daily to map out the nation's future. The conference recently passed, by overwhelming vote, a resolution declaring drones strikes and all extrajudicial killing illegal. Unfortunately, the U.S. has refused to abide by the popular will thus far.

9. Adhere to the international rule of law.
In its war on terror, the U.S. has been killing terror suspects with blatant disregard for international law and national sovereignty. A July 18 Pew poll of 39 nations found fierce global opposition to U.S. drone strikes, particularly in the Muslim world. If the U.S. wants help and sympathy in rooting out would-be attackers, it has to show the world it will stop using extrajudicial assassinations and start adhering to international law.

10. Spend foreign aid money on education, health care and lifting people out of poverty.
For a fraction of the money we keep wasting each month on the failed war in Afghanistan or supporting the already wealthy Israeli military, we could be building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, helping Yemenis find a solution to their water shortages, and providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. We'll make a lot more friends building clinics, wells, electrical grids and schools than vaporizing people with Hellfire missiles.
This 10-point plan would significantly reduce terrorist threats, save taxpayers billions of dollars and make Americans more loved and admired in the world. After a decade of wielding the military stick, it's time for some carrots.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange,
is author of
Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

 View this article on the Huffington Post

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bureau Investigation Finds Fresh Evidence of CIA Drone Strikes on Rescuers

If proved, US targeting of rescuers who respond to scene of earlier explosions are clearly "war crimes"

by Chris Woods with additional reporting by Mushtaq Yusufzai
The Bureau’s field researcher found five double-tap strikes took place
in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque
The Bureau’s field researcher found five double-tap strikes took place in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosqueA field investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Pakistan’s tribal areas appears to confirm that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) last year briefly revived the controversial tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers at the scene of a previous drone strike. The tactic has previously been labelled a possible war crime by two UN investigators.

The Bureau’s new study focused mainly on strikes around a single village in North Waziristan – attacks that were aimed at one of al Qaeda’s few remaining senior figures, Yahya al-Libi. He was finally killed by a CIA drone strike on June 4 2012.

Congressional aides have previously been reported as describing to the Los Angeles Times reviewing a CIA video showing Yahya al-Libi alone being killed. But the Bureau’s field research appears to confirm what others reported at the time – that al-Libi’s death was part of a sequence of strikes on the same location that killed up to 16 people.

If correct, that would indicate that Congressional aides were not shown crucial additional video material. The CIA has robustly rejected the charge. Spokesman Edward Price told the Bureau: ‘The CIA takes its commitment to Congressional oversight with the utmost seriousness. The Agency provides accurate and timely information consistent with our obligation to the oversight Committees. Any accusation alleging otherwise is baseless.’

Tactic revived

The Bureau first broke the story of the CIA’s deliberate targeting of rescuers in a February 2012 investigation for the Sunday Times. It found evidence of 11 attacks on rescuers - so-called ‘double-tap’ strikes – in Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2009 and 2011, along with a drone strike deliberately targeting a funeral, causing mass casualties.

Reports of these controversial tactics ended by July 2011. But credible news reports emerged a year later indicating that double-tap strikes had been revived.

International media including the BBC, CNN and news agency AFP variously reported that rescuers had been targeted on five occasions between May 24 and July 23 2012, with a mosque and prayers for the dead also reportedly bombed.

Article continues on Read on.....