In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed drones in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. While the U.S. military and the CIA initially used drones primarily for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are currently routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of noncombatants and even American citizens, have been killed in covert missions.
Our nation is leading the way toward a new form of warfare where pilots sitting on the ground thousands of miles away command drone strikes, where targets are- in military jargon- “neutralized,” and where unintended victims are dismissed as “collateral damage.” Close observers, both inside and outside the U.S. military, call this “video-game warfare.” These drone operations, directed largely by the CIA, lack necessary transparency and accountability.
Drones are also being deployed domestically by border security and law enforcement agencies. Predator drones deployed by Customs and Border Protection search for immigrants and drugs on the northern and southern borders, while metropolitan police and county sheriffs are acquiring smaller drones to assist their SWAT operations. Congress recently mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration open up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015 and that it immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government drones (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) in commercial U.S. airways.
As drones become an increasingly preferred form of warfare and as their presence expands at home, it is time to educate ourselves, the U.S. public, and our policymakers about drone proliferation. As remotely controlled warfare and spying race forward, it is also time to organize to end current abuses and to prevent the potentially widespread misuse both overseas and here at home.