Saturday, April 13, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
Idaho Restricts Drones Use By Police Agencies, Florida Moves Bill Forward To Restrict Drone Use By Police
(Reuters) - Idaho's Republican governor signed a law on Thursday that restricts use of drone aircraft by police and other public agencies as the use of pilotless aircraft inside U.S. borders is increasing. The measure aims to protect privacy rights.
In approving the law, which requires law enforcement to obtain warrants to collect evidence using drones in most cases, Idaho becomes the second U.S. state after Virginia to restrict uses of pilotless aircraft over privacy concerns.
"We're trying to prevent high-tech window-peeping," Idaho Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, sponsor of the measure in the Republican-led Idaho legislature, told Reuters earlier this year as the bill was pending in the legislature.
Current federal regulations sharply limit the number and types of drones that can fly in American airspace to just a few dozen law enforcement agencies, including one in Idaho, public agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and universities for scientific research.
But unmanned aircraft are expected to be widely permitted in coming years, raising fears about misuse of miniature devices that can carry cameras which capture video and still images by day and by night.
Lawmakers in Idaho and more than a dozen states this year introduced legislation to safeguard privacy in the face of an emerging market the unmanned aerial vehicle industry forecasts will drive $89 billion in worldwide expenditures over the next decade.
The measure Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed into law on Thursday requires police to obtain warrants to use drones to collect evidence about suspected criminal activity unless it involves illegal drugs or unless the unmanned aircraft is being used for public emergencies or search-and-rescue missions.
The Idaho bill, approved last week by the state Senate and the state House of Representatives, also bans authorities, or anyone else, from using drones to conduct surveillance on people or their property, including agricultural operations, without written consent.
Idaho's Republican governor couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
Americans are most familiar with drones because of the use of armed, unmanned aircraft by the United States for counter terrorism operations against Islamist militants in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.
The majority of unarmed drones expected to operate in U.S. airspace when restrictions are rolled back by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, according to a September report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Cash-strapped law enforcement agencies see small drones, which cost as little as $30,000, as money-saving, low-manpower tools that could locate illegal marijuana farms, seek missing children and track dangerous fugitives.
Yet worries about widespread snooping persist. In February, privacy concerns prompted the Virginia legislature to put a hold on drone use for two years, and grounded a plan by Seattle police to deploy two camera-equipped drones.
Civil uses for drones would likely emerge first after 2015, while a commercial market would develop more slowly as airspace issues are resolved, the GAO report shows. Possible uses include pipeline inspection, crop dusting and traffic monitoring.
The FAA's goal is to eventually allow, to the greatest extent possible, routine drone operations in U.S. airspace.
(CNN) -- Florida state senators voted Wednesday to restrict the use of unmanned aircraft by police, approving a bill backed by both the state's conservative Republican governor and the ACLU.
The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act would require a judge to sign off on the use of surveillance drones in nearly all cases. The legislation makes exceptions in cases involving "imminent danger to life or serious damage to property" and when "credible intelligence" from the federal Department of Homeland Security points to "a high risk of a terrorist attack."
The bill is headed for the state House of Representatives after Wednesday's 39-0 vote in the Senate. If it makes it through the House, Gov. Rick Scott says he'll have his pen ready.
"I believe that privacy should be protected," Scott said in a paper statement, adding, "This law will ensure that the rights of Florida families are protected from the unwarranted use of drones and other unmanned aircraft."
The use of drones has become controversial in recent years as unmanned aerial vehicles have become cheaper and more advanced. The concerns range from moral questions over their use in warfare overseas to worries about their impact on air traffic in the United States.
"We are pleased that SB 92 was passed with such enthusiasm by the Florida Senate. Because of the Senate's action, our state is on pace to be the one of the first to protect privacy by putting limits on the use of unmanned surveillance drones, " Ron Bilbao of the ACLU of Florida said in a written statement.
In Florida, the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff Department each have two drones. Miami-Dade's roughly backpack-sized Honeywell T-Hawks have been used only in training exercises so far, Detective Roy Rutland said.
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Another animal rights group is shopping for drones it will use to watch for animal abuse -- and gun owners are setting their sights in anticipation.
|Drone Shot Down By Hunter - Good Eye!|
In a press release, PETA said it would "monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds," using spotlights or feed lures, or drinking alcohol while in possession of a firearm. PETA also intends to fly the remote-controlled aircraft over factory farms, fishing spots and "other venues where animals routinely suffer and die," it said.
The group doesn't yet have any drones or specific locations where it intends to fly them, and organizers don't know when they'll attempt to put them in the air. The organization wants to watch bear hunters, in particular, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told CNN. Bear hunting is legal, but Newkirk said PETA would look for hunters luring bears with food or killing mothers with cubs at their sides.
"The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines, but PETA drones will be used to save lives," Newkirk said in a news release.
In the United States, people can fly model aircraft without approval from the Federal Aviation Administration if they keep the drone in line of sight, lower than 400 feet above ground and away from airports and air traffic. Other types of unmanned aircraft systems need FAA approval, according to the agency.
Newkirk said PETA plans to follow U.S. requirements while flying drones and will fly them overseas, where there may be fewer restrictions. PETA is active in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong and India.
As news of PETA's plan spread, gun owners reacted online. The shooting sports website AmmoLand responded by posting a PETA drone practice target for readers to use at the shooting range.
"Sounds to me like this will create a whole new shooting sport," the site said. "PETA Drone Target Shooting."
Readers at the blog Guns.com posted similar comments.
Newkirk said she wasn't concerned.
"I'd rather have them shoot something inanimate than an innocent doe," she said. "It's not the bedroom; it's the great outdoors, so let's see what they're up to."
It isn't the first time an animal rights group has considered using drones to track hunters. Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, has launched camera-carrying aircraft hundreds of times to film pigeon shoots, said Steve Hindi, the organization's president. During pigeon shoots, hunters try to shoot birds after they're released from cages or mechanically launched. Hindi posts the footage online and sends links to state and local law enforcement, but hasn't gotten much response.
Twice, SHARK's drones have been shot while filming pigeon shoots at Wing Pointe shooting resort in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Hindi said. In a press release from November, SHARK said the camera feed went out on a drone camera after a single shot from the shooting range.
State police investigators said they couldn't identify who shot the drone at Wing Pointe, and couldn't prove whether it was an accident, said David Beohm, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police. Beohm said the drone was flying in airspace restricted by the FAA.
Hindi said he doesn't believe the shooting was an accident.
"It was a damn good shot," he said.
CNN contacted Wing Pointe, but representatives declined to comment. Pigeon shoots are legal in Pennsylvania.
Law enforcement officers tried to prevent SHARK from flying a drone in South Carolina in February 2012, Hindi said. A shot brought down the drone soon after it went into the air, and it crashed into a highway, Hindi said.
The Colleton County Sheriff's Office filed an incident report. It's still an open case, and no one has been charged.
Hindi said he's gotten calls from people who say they'll fly drones over his house. He said he doesn't care, and that he'll continue to fly drones as long as it's legal.
"We have these knee-jerk reactions about drones, when the average person has no worries," he said.
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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Official speeches are crafted to give the impression that we're mostly targeting al-Qaeda members. We're not.
The Obama Administration is deliberately misleading Americans about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan.
The Obama Administration is deliberately misleading Americans about the drone war it is waging in Pakistan.
Can anyone read the McClatchy Newspapers summary of top-secret intelligence reports and continue to deny it? Set aside the morality and effectiveness of the CIA's targeted-killing program. Isn't it important for Congress and the people to know the truth about the War on Terrorism? Many Americans remain furious that the Bush Administration gave Iraq War speeches that elided inconvenient truths and implied facts that turned out to be fictions. Is the objection merely that the Iraq War turned out badly? Or is misleading Congress and the public itself problematic, especially when the subject is as serious as killing people in foreign countries?
To justify frequent drone strikes that regularly kill innocent people, risk serving as a terrorist recruiting tool, and terrorize whole communities understandably averse to drones buzzing above their homes, Obama Administration officials give the impression that al-Qaeda terrorists are the main targets. As it turns out, they haven't just helped hide the fact that the Bush Administration kicked off America's drone campaign in Pakistan by killing someone at the request of Pakistan's government -- as Jonathan S. Landay explains, Obama officials have misled us about their own behavior. "Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified 'other' militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan's rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show," he reports.
The misleading rhetoric includes words spoken by President Obama himself:
The administration has said that strikes by the CIA's missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces" involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting "imminent" violent attacks on Americans. "It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative," President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. "It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States." Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn't adhere to those standards.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/09/188062/obamas-drone-war-kills-others.html#storylink=cpy
In fact, the documents "show that drone operators weren't always certain who they were killing." Under what legal theory does the Obama Administration justify that behavior? It won't tell us.
Instead John Brennan is trotted out to mislead us while acting as if he is being admirably forthcoming. "On April 30, 2012, Brennan gave the most detailed explanation of Obama's drone program. He referred to al Qaida 73 times, the Afghan Taliban three times and mentioned no other group by name," Landay writes. But the classified documents McClatchy reviewed demonstrate that, during the months about which they have information, al-Qaeda members were a minority of people killed by drones, and killing senior al-Qaeda leaders was rare.
I've written before about how the Obama Administration misleadingly invokes and twists the word "imminent." I've also complained about the effort to portray Hellfire missiles as "surgical" instruments. Proponents of drone strikes talk about how unmanned aerial vehicles can hover for hours to verify that the person in their sites is an appropriate target and avoid killing anyone else. That's a misleading account of how things sometimes work in the field, as retired Brig. Gen. Craig Nixon explained to an audience I was in last year at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
The McClatchy report concludes with another example of a drone strike gone wrong:
Consider one attack on Feb. 18, 2010.
Information, according to one U.S. intelligence account, indicated that Badruddin Haqqani, the then-No. 2 leader of the Haqqani network, would be at a relative's funeral that day in North Waziristan. Watching the video feed from a drone high above the mourners, CIA operators in the United States identified a man they believed could be Badruddin Haqqani from the deference and numerous greetings he received. The man also supervised a private family viewing of the body.
Yet despite a targeting process that the administration says meets "the highest possible standards," it wasn't Badruddin Haqqani who died when one of the drone's missiles ripped apart the target's car after he'd left the funeral.
It was his younger brother, Mohammad.
Friends later told reporters that Mohammad Haqqani was a religious student in his 20s uninvolved in terrorism; the U.S. intelligence report called him an active member -- but not a leader -- of the Haqqani network. At least one other unidentified occupant of his vehicle perished, according to the report.
In its drone-strike database, the New America Foundation scores that drone strike as having killed three to four "militants," zero unknown persons, and zero civilians. I've argued that the New America data very likely undercounts the number of civilians that are killed in drone strikes.
There has long been evidence indicating the Obama Administration was misleading the country about the nature of its drone war in Pakistan. This latest report only confirms the suspicions that critics of the program have articulated. And there is reason to believe that even it understates the magnitude of executive branch deception. Says Marcy Wheeler, "This report is perhaps most interesting for the fact that CIA, in its own documents, claims that none of the 40-some people killed at Datta Khel on May 17, 2011 were civilians. In other words, the CIA is lying -- even internally -- about drone strikes as blatantly as it did about torture." The New York Times report on that strike stated that "missiles fired from American drone aircraft struck a meeting of local people in northwest Pakistan who had gathered with Taliban mediators to settle a dispute over a chromite mine. The attack, a Pakistani intelligence official said, killed 26 of 32 people present, some of them Taliban fighters, but the majority elders and local people not attached to the militants. The civilian death toll appeared to be among the worst in the scores of strikes carried out recently in Pakistan's tribal areas by the C.I.A., which runs the drones."
The appropriate response when a president is caught misleading the country about a war he's waging is more scrutiny. There's no telling what else the Obama Administration is hiding. It is the job of Congress to find out, and the prerogative of Americans to know the nature of killing done on their behalf.
from The Atlantic
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