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Peace and War
Most violence we face we've provoked. Those confronting us with violence are exactly as wrong as if we hadn't provoked them. But we are not as innocent as we like to imagine.
Random Row Books, Charlottesville VA, January 2013, More: http://davidswanson.org/node/3919.
In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit. The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.
Concerns include the following: drones can crash into airplanes, buildings, and each other; drones can fall out of the sky; drones can produce noise pollution; drones can produce visual pollution if put to the same use that everything from brick walls to urinals has been put to, viz. advertising; drones can be used to spy on us whether by private or public entities; police surveillance with drones will violate our Fourth Amendment rights as all existing technologies are currently used to do; police forces that view the public as their enemy will deploy drones armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, or other weapons; and ultimately a program run by the U.S. military and the CIA that has targeted and murdered three U.S. citizens that we know of, along with thousands of other men, women, and children, may eventually find it acceptable to include U.S. soil in its otherwise unlimited field of operations.
Contrary concerns over banning or restricting drones include these: drones could conceivably be put to positive or non-offensive use by departments fighting forest fires, first responders in rural areas, farmers, artistic photographers, real estate agents, tourism offices, and hobbyists; states and localities are limited in their control of air space by federal law.
Few if any localities have thus far made their desires known or created ordinances to regulate the use of drones, but state legislatures, including the General Assembly here in Virginia, are taking up bills. With the City of Charlottesville, where I live, planning to address the issue on February 19th, I've taken a look at (and plagiarized liberally from) numerous draft resolutions, including those from several cities that are now considering taking action: Berkeley, Buffalo, Madison, Ft. Wayne, et alia, as well as a draft resolution from anti-drone activist Nick Mottern, and one from the Rutherford Institute. The result is the following draft resolution that I offer for consideration, comment, and modification:
WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, with up to 87,000 flights per day;
WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation;
WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;
WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;
WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans;
WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;
WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;
WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;
WHEREAS, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadowhawk drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a grenade launcher or a shotgun, tear gas, and rubber buckshot, and such aerial police weapons send a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets and protesting government policies -- the message: stay home;
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;
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;
WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, "double-tap" strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental "friendly fire," drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them, and drones having proved a tremendously costly expense for taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and 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.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, declares Charlottesville a No Drone Zone, and instructs the City Attorney to perform the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into an Ordinance wherein drones are hereby banned from airspace over the City of Charlottesville, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that violation of the ordinance shall be considered a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000, and each offense that is more than one offense of flying a drone within said airspace will be considered to be an additional misdemeanor, with jail time and fines based on the number of violations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or private residence or equipped with any weapon.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of Charlottesville.
UPDATE: Moved from 19th to 4th of February.
Charlottesville Va City Council has chosen to place on its agenda for the February 19th meeting a resolution opposing, restricting, or banning drones. (This date has been confirmed; it is the 19th.)
The Virginia General Assembly has already been considering legislation on drones. It's important for Virginia localities to make their voices heard.
The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies. Will proper restrictions be in place in time?
In the absence of laws, local police departments around the country are establishing their own practices. If those localities that care about civil liberties stay silent, those that don't will create de facto law for all of us.
Americans are spied on without warrant or probable cause using every existing technology. Without serious restrictions and penalties in place, drones will be no exception.
Police departments that want to use drones to target protesters with pepper spray and rubber bullets will make the argument that this approach protects the police. But a better way to protect the police would be to instruct them to assist the public in exercising first amendment rights, rather than treating the public as an enemy in a low-intensity war.
If you live in Charlottesville please let the city council hear your support and advice:
If you live in or near Charlottesville, please be at the meeting on February 19th, 7 pm in City Hall, get there very early if you want to speak.
No matter where you live, you might want to watch PBS on Wednesday evening:
Learn more about drones:
Bahrain and Syria: in one the United States supports a brutal dictatorship against a nonviolent movement for human rights. In the other the United States supports violent opposition to the government in the name of human rights. All is not as it appears. We speak with Reese Erlich.
Reese Erlich's history in journalism goes back 45 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutsche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the Global Post and Christian Science Monitor. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.
Erlich’s book, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in 2007. Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba was published in 2009. Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, was published in 2010.
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Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men. But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although -- come to think of it -- nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans.