Online shopping Giant, Amazon has recently unveiled “Prime Air,” a drone delivery system that the company promises will get your order to its customers in 30 minutes or less. Amazon predicts that seeing Prime Air drones will eventually be as common as seeing delivery trucks on the road today.
Tar Sands Drones Are On Their Way
The energy industry wants to use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor pipelines.
It isn’t all that difficult to imagine a scenario in which hundreds of pipeline drones are actively working to block direct action across the continent.
North American energy companies are planning to use drones to monitor their pipelines—in part to check for potential gas or oil leaks, but also to limit “third-party intrusions,” a broad range of activity that includes anything from unwanted vehicles entering restricted areas around pipelines to environmental activists. The Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI), a multi-national organization funded by some of the world’s largest pipeline operators like BP, Shell, TransCanada and Enbridge, is leading efforts to research and develop unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for pipeline monitoring. The PRCI has been working with the American Petroleum Institute and the Interstate Natural Gas Association on drone research for the last two years, according to PRCI President Cliff Johnson. He says researchers are currently running test flights. “It could be a more efficient and more cost-effective tool … than a manned system,” Johnson says. Today, companies often rely on piloted aircraft for pipeline monitoring. That involves surveillance of the pipeline’s “right of way,” a strip of land surrounding the pipeline whose rights are typically shared by pipeline operators and landowners. In the right of way, which can range from about 25 to 125 feet, companies check for unauthorized vehicles, people and anything else that’s not supposed to be there. Meanwhile, companies engage in additional environmental monitoring to check for potential threats to the integrity of the pipeline, such as leakage. Drones may ultimately be able to accomplish both of these monitoring tasks more effectively than humans, says Peter Lidiak, pipeline director at the American Petroleum Institute (API). Lidiak believes that pipeline operators will start adopting drones in the next five to 10 years. These drones will probably be deployed in the United States before taking off in Canada. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will release its regulations for commercial drones, paving the way for thousands of UAVs to enter domestic airspace. Canada, on the other hand, does not yet have any such plans. The country’s FAA equivalent, Transport Canada, does issue licenses for commercial drones, but the existing regulations are stringent. But this doesn’t mean Canada will miss out on all the action—especially once multi-nationals like TransCanada, which operate on both sides of the border, start using drones on the American segments of their network. “Given that Canada and the United States, in terms of energy, are very closely connected, I can’t see but that once the restrictions are lifted in the States, there won’t be pressure to do so in Canada,” says Angela Gendron, a national security expert and senior fellow at Carleton University’s Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies. The use of drones to monitor pipelines, like any other form of domestic surveillance, raises an array of privacy concerns. In the eyes of the energy industry, anything entering the pipeline’s right of way is ultimately considered a security threat. The logic behind drone surveillance is focused on making it easier for companies to detect those threats—an ambiguous concept that can refer to animals, vehicles, non-violent protesters, violent protesters or unauthorized developers. Paul Drover, the executive director of Unmanned Systems Canada, the nation’s top drone lobby, advertises the benefits of pipeline UAVs by pointing out their ability to scan for environmental activists. At the international drone lobby’s annual convention in Washington last week, Drover told In These Times that aerial surveillance from UAVs would enable pipeline companies to better detect “folks setting up camp.” When asked if he was referring to activists, Drover replied “that’s the left side of the arc.” The API’s Lidiak insists that concerns about environmental activism are not driving industry interest in developing drones. Yet he acknowledges that protesters could be covered as potential intruders. “The primary reason for those monitoring for any kind of intrusion, whether it’s individuals that are potentially protesting or for construction equipment, is really to find out if there’s anyone doing anything on the right of way that might be harmful for the pipeline,” Lidiak says. “The primary purpose wouldn’t be monitoring for activists. You might be able to detect that activity as a result of doing your patrols, but that’s not the primary reason for any kind of patrolling.” Angela Gendron, who wrote a December 2010 report for Canada’s Department of National Defence about the need to protect the nation’s “critical energy infrastructure,” says that monitoring activists makes a lot of sense from the energy industry’s perspective. “You do get security officers at private-sector energy companies who are very concerned about environmental activists and I can see that they would feel that a UAV sitting up there hovering for 19 hours or whatever [it may be] would be quite useful,” Gendron says. “As it now stands, they have to rely on police reports and anything else they have on hand to monitor where those activists are going to demonstrate next and so on. Having a UAV up there would be much a more economic measure.” While the industry appears to only be interested in using drones on completed pipelines for now, UAVs could potentially be used in the future to monitor pipelines under construction. The technology may not be ready today, but if industry enthusiasts are to believed, drones could be a fixture of pipelines 10 to 20 years from now. And with the expansion of the natural gas industry combined with an oil industry eager to link Albertan tar sands to global export markets, pipeline construction doesn’t exactly show signs of slowing down. As those plans face increased pushback from climate justice activists—whether it’s from radicals in the Great Plains or First Nations groups in western Canada—it isn’t all that difficult to imagine a scenario in which hundreds of pipeline drones are actively working to block direct action across the continent. Catherine Crump, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, says that “narrowly-targeted” pipeline monitoring isn’t necessarily problematic in itself, but warns about its potential for abuse. “I think drones raise the prospect that Americans will be subjected to constant aerial surveillance in ways they’ve never experienced before and that poses the possibility of changing our ability to engage in political protest,” Crump says. Jesse Coleman, a Washington, D.C.-based researcher for Greenpeace, points to the fact that TransCanada recently colluded with law enforcement officials to infiltrate a Tar Sands Blockade activist camp in Oklahoma to block a protest from taking place. “To think they would do that and not use drones to spy on their opposition, I think that’d be a little naïve,” Coleman says. “You are flying over all these miles of pipeline and picking up all this information. What happens when you do see things that are interesting to you? There are so many ethical considerations.” Drones could also infringe on the privacy of residents who sign agreements with energy companies to allow pipelines to cross their property. “I would suggest that folks did not sign up for video surveillance when they signed easement contracts,” says Ron Seifert, spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group trying to prevent construction of the Keystone XL’s southern segment in Texas and Oklahoma. “Of course, keep in mind that a lot of these easements go right through landowners’ front yards and backyards. Does that mean that every time they go outside they have to worry that TransCanada, a multinational corporation who is known to share information with the federal government, might be filming them? Does that mean in signing a contract with TransCanada folks are subjected to surveillance and sharing information with the government?” But Seifert says he wouldn’t expect drone surveillance to dissuade climate justice activists, many of whom are already unafraid of engaging in civil disobedience and risking arrest. “Regardless of the type of surveillance, I think folks have come to the conclusion that those risks are necessary to take,” he says. “Because to not take action is far more dangerous than to set up a blockade or participate in direct action. We all know that tar sands infrastructure is too dangerous to exist. It’s a threat to the future of the planet.”
#Drone - #Drones - #Obama - #DROPTHEDRONE
#Obama nominates mastermind of controversial drone strike programme as next #CIA director - #DropTheDrone
The man who has masterminded the expansion of a drone programme that has carried out more than 300 remote strikes against terrorist targets, killing some 2,500 people, is to be nominated as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
John Brennan, 57, the current head of counter-terrorism, has also provoked ire on the Left because of his connection during the Bush administration, when he was a senior CIA officer, to ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ such as water-boarding, which many regard as torture.
President Barack Obama intended to nominate Brennan for the CIA post in 2009 but changed his mind following opposition from Democrats. Instead, Brennan became his top counter-terrorism adviser in the White House and went on to play a key role in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Brennan angered many on the Right and some senior Obama administration officials, most notably Robert Gates, the then Pentagon chief, by delivering a briefing about bin Laden’s death that contained significant inaccuracies.
#MSM - Brandon Bryant: Drone operator followed orders to shoot a child... and decided he had to quit - #DropTheDrone
'Did we just kill a kid?': The moment drone operator who assassinated Afghans with the push of a button on a computer in the U.S. realized he had vaporized a child… and could not go on
A former U.S. drone operator has opened up about the toll of killing scores of innocent people by pressing a button from a control room in New Mexico.
Brandon Bryant, 27, from Missoula, Montana, spent six years in the Air Force operating Predator drones from inside a dark container.
But, after following orders to shoot and kill a child in Afghanistan, he knew he couldn’t keep doing what he was doing and quit the military.
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Too much: Brandon Bryant, 27, pictured, from Missoula, Montana, spent six years in the Air Force operating Predator drones from inside a dark container
'I saw men, women and children die during that time,' he told Spiegel Online.’I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.’
Bryant joined the military by accident when he accompanied a friend who was enlisting in the army and heard that he could go to university for free if he signed up to the Air Force.
He excelled in his course and was assigned to an intelligence collection unit where he soon learned how to control the cameras and lasers on a drone, to analyse ground images, maps and weather data.
He was made a sensor operator, the equivalent of co-pilot, and at just 20 flew his first mission over Iraq - seated in the safety of a control room in Nevada.
Drone operators: A drone pilot, left, and a drone sensor operator practice on a simulator at Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico
But it began to take its toll immediately.
The first time he fired a missile, he killed two men instantly and cried on his way home.
'I felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week,' he said.
But it was an incident when a Predator drone was circling above a flat-roofed house made of mud in Afghanistan, more than 6,250 miles away, that really sticks in his mind.
The hut had a shed used to hold goats and when he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser.
The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.
'These moments are like in slow motion,' he told the website.
As the countdown reached seven seconds, there was no sign of anyone on the ground.
Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point.
But when it was down to three seconds, a child suddenly walked around the corner.
The next thing he saw was a flash on the screen - the explosion. The building collapsed, and the child disappeared.
Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach, he told the website.
'Did we just kill a kid?' he asked the pilot next to him.
'Yeah, I guess that was a kid,' the man replied.
Thoughts jotted in his diary on uneventful days clearly show the heavy burden his job was placing on him.
'On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot,' he wrote on one occasion.
He began to shut himself off from his friends, and his girlfriend complained about his bad moods.
'I can't just switch and go back to normal life,' he said to her. He stopped sleeping and began to exercise instead.
Drones: Bryant worked as a sensor operator, the equivalent of a drone co-pilot (stock photo)
One day he collapsed at work, doubling over and spitting blood. The doctor ordered him to stay home, and not to return to work until he could sleep more than four hours a night for two weeks in a row.
'Half a year later, I was back in the cockpit, flying drones,' Bryant told Spiegel Online.
But he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now Bryant has left the military and is living back at home in Montana where he feels he is slowly recuperating.
'I haven't been dreaming in infrared for four months,' he said with a smile.
VIDEO: Inside the Air Force’s Unmanned Drone Control Center:
Over the past four years, drone strikes have increased in number dramatically and are occurring in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen. In many cases, these drone strikes are occurring far from any internationally recognized battlefield. Despite claims by the Administration that the strikes cause few – if any – civilian casualties and are vital to our national security, there is increasing evidence that such strikes cause significant harm to civilian populations and serve as a powerful recruitment tool for terrorists.
Thus far, Congress has been denied the right to read the legal framework used by the Administration to justify the drone strikes. This means that these strikes are being carried out with virtually no transparency, accountability or judicial review. Victims or targets of the strikes are denied the right to due process. Innocent civilians and American citizens are getting the death penalty without so much as a trial. We do not know what measures, if any, the Joint Special Operations Command or the Central Intelligence Agency have for recognizing harm to civilian populations or to conduct investigations of who was killed.
As the use of drone strikes abroad becomes a permanent feature of our counterterrorism policy, it is more critical than ever that we push for increased transparency and accountability. We must reject the notion that Congress and the American people have to be kept in the dark on U.S. counterterrorism strategies. Simply put, drones must be subject to the same scrutiny and laws that other weapons the United States employs.
This is the new war. It is defined less by geography, than technology. This change in definition allows the President – Democrat or Republican – to concentrate the power of declaring war into his or her hands. This change in war governance also allows the President to bypass the now out of date legal and constitutional infrastructure that was constructed to ensure war is a last resort, not a first resort. This is a critical time for us to stand up and say “we see what is happening here and we won’t stand for it.”
We have a great set of panelists who will be addressing multiple aspects of our combat drone policy:
Professor James Cavallaro is the founding director of Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic. He has dedicated his career to human rights, working on human rights issues in Latin America and in developing countries around the world. He is an expert on International Human Rights law and practice and is the coauthor of a recent report on drones titled: “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan.”
Mr. Frank Jannuzi is the Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA and is head of their Washington, D.C. office. He is an international affairs policy and political expert who most recently served Chairman John Kerry as Policy Director for East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While in the Senate, Mr. Jannuzi worked on human rights legislation and conducted field investigations into human rights and security concerns in numerous East Asian countries.
Mr. Bob Naiman is the Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy and writes on U.S. foreign policy. He is president of the board of Truthout and has previously worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the international human rights organization Global Exchange and CODEPINK. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years and is the author of “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.”
A model of a Reaper Drone is pushed past the Duke Energy building as activists marched in the Coalition to March on Wall Street South, a 3-mile march Sunday, September 2, 2012, to spotlight Charlotte as the United States’ second-largest financial center, behind New York. Activists stopped in front of the headquarters of Bank of America and Duke Energy as they took to the streets in downtown Charlotte, site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
#DropTheDrone ~ #Drones: Part 1: Targeted Killings
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Drones, Part 2: Drones Go Domestic
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have changed the nature of war. But where are they flying, and what are they doing? The answers might surprise you. Tune in to learn the Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know about drones in the second part of this series.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, have fundamentally changed the nature of warfare. But who controls them? What are they doing, and why? Tune in to learn more Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know about drones.
In early February, a US-sponsored drone airstrike reportedly killed 15 members of the Abu Sayyaf, (a CIA-trained and backed extremist group) in the Southern Philippines. This recent attack counters the claims of the Philippine president, Noy Noy Aquino that it will not allow drone airstrikes and US forces to participate in any combat operations. The US has increased their supply of unmanned killer drones to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as part of their counter-insurgency operations against terrorism-linked rebel groups. The reality is that unarmed civilians are the largest group of casualties in counter-insurgency operations in the Philippines. With the blatant strategy of lumping combatants and civilians into one group or targets, more than 1,100 civilians have been extra-judicially killed in the last 10 years. How many more lives will be targeted for death thanks to US drones?
These drones are weapons of mass destruction and its use by the AFP will inevitably lead to casualties of innocent civilians.
A controversial proposal for a joint Australian-US military air base in the Indian Ocean could lead to the launch of drone spy flights across the region, according to officials quoted in Washington.
The proposed base on the Australian-controlled Cocos Islands would form part of a major expansion of ties between Canberra and Washington as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to south-east Asia.
Discussion of the proposal could spark further tensions with China. It comes after the agreement announced by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November to station up to 2500 US marines in Darwin.
But the real game-changer embedded in the law is the opening of U.S. airspace to unmanned drones. Although Predator drones already patrol our border with Mexico, and some police forces have obtained smaller drones of their own, the legal ability of federal agencies to fly unmanned missions over civil space was unclear, unwritten. Now they’ve got a big green light, and “the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates,” says Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Eerily, the law also makes way for the use of commercial drones: it’s not clear what Google, GE, or General Motors would do with a drone, but it’s hard to imagine something benevolent. The FAA projects that there could be 30,000 drones in American skies by 2020.
Which dystopian novel is it where thousands of surveillance robots constantly monitor us from the stratosphere? The chilling effects this could have on protest, not to mention acts of more militant resistance, should be obvious. And it’s hard to imagine that, in terms of day-to-day policing, this will mean less police violence and fewer arrests. Add the Department of Justice’s secret memoranda giving the president power to declare U.S. citizens enemies of the state and have them assassinated, and the legal framework now exists to make all U.S. citizens Awlakis, which is to say, blown up by missiles fired from an invisible robot by executive fiat. Is there a moment when the transition to police state actually occurs, or if you’re asking that question has it already happened?
And the slide to the complete police state slips even closer.
1. There could be 30,000 drones overhead in the U.S. by 2020, reports the Washington Times.
2. Reaper drones’ “unblinking stare” can currently take in a 4 kilometer by 4 kilometer area — about the size of Fairfax — but that will soon be expanded, said Air Force Lieutenant General Larry James, to a 10 kilometer by 10 kilometer stare, or two-thirds the size of Washington, D.C. They call this the “Gorgon Stare” — named for the terrifying females of Greek mythology, the best known being the snake-headed Medusa. No drones have the ability to turn you to stone with their gaze (yet).
3. There’s a fair amount of disagreement about what to call drones. The industry refers to them as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Though one manufacturer, MLB Company, which launched its business in the late 1990s when no one knew what a “UAV” was and associated “drones” only with Office Space, coined the name “spy planes” for the flying machines. The Air Force calls them RPAs (remote piloted aircraft) because “they aren’t unmanned; there are pilots involved,” protested one Air Force lieutenant general. When not talking about massive Predator type drones, but instead referring to the type you can fit in the trunk of your car, many call them sUAS (small unmanned air systems). Opponents meanwhile have coined the catchy “killer drones” to describe the not-so cuddly flying machines.
4. The surveillance industry wants drones to be more cuddly, though. In Britain, manufacturers have suggested painting drones bright colors as a way to make them seem friendlier and less reminiscent of war zones, reports The Guardian. Because Big Brother is a lot more appealing wearing hot pink, quips Slate.
5. To drone manufacturers, resistance is futile… but hilarious. California Congressman Buck McKeon, a proud member of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, gave a keynote hoorah at the AUSVI conference Wednesday morning. His speech lamenting cuts to the military budget over the last 50 years was interrupted by a middle-aged woman who rushed the stage saying, “We want spending on education, not war.” This got a few laughs from the hundreds of drone industry members in the audience. As she was physically lifted and carried off the stage, she chanted, “Stop killer drones.” That got some boos and even heartier laughs from the audience.
6. The Air Force has 65,000 – 70,000 people working to process all of the data and footage it’s currently collecting from drones. Lt. Gen. James says the analysts’ work includes “watching life in Afghanistan and looking for patterns,” and that a Rand review suggested they need 100,000 people devoted to the task. The military hope is that better computer algorithms and software analysis can be developed to combat their drowning in data.
7. Cape Canaveral is now a drone base. Since the space program is now on a death watch, it’s good to know they’ve found a way to repurpose this base. U.S. Customs and Border Protection flies drones on our northern, southern, and southeastern borders. The base previously used primarily to launch shuttles is now a drone practice spot and sends out a General Atomic Guardian drone to monitor the SE border and fly over the ocean to make drug busts.
8. The FAA Reauthorization Act calls for six drone test sites around the U.S. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security plans to launch a site in June — likely in the Southeast — devoted to testing drones for use by first responders (local and state police, firefighters, etc.). DHS is looking to provide funds to industry partners so they can bring their drone technology in for test drives. This is how they will ensure that drones are safe for use — and have mastered the “sense and avoid” features that are so important to the FAA, so that a drone doesn’t fly into a plane engine or crash into a home — and how drones will more easily be making their way to your local police station.
9. The Coast Guard thinks that drones will increase their prosecutions by 95%. Coast Guard Captain Chris Martino says the Coast Guard is currently restricted in its use of drones, and has to partner with the Navy to use theirs, but projects that integrating unmanned vehicles into the Coast Guard’s array of tools will increase their surveillance of U.S. waters by 70%, meaning they’ll catch (and prosecute) far more drug runners, among others.
“The 20th century was the era of manned aircraft; the 21st Century is the era of unmanned aircraft,” said Martino.
10. Drones can tase you, bro.