Ryan Reilly | The Huffington Post
Medea Benjamin (left) of the anti-war activism group Code Pink fields media phone calls at a Starbucks after she interrupted President Barack Obama’s major national security speech Thursday, May 23, 2013. (Ryan J. Reilly/The Huffington Post).
WASHINGTON — Even Medea Benjamin was surprised she managed to get into President Barack Obama’s major national security address at National Defense University on Thursday. The long-time Code Pink protestor (and HuffPost blogger) is a fixture on Capitol Hill and well known to most D.C. reporters.
“I had my head down for about two hours and was talking on the phone for about two hours. I tried to be inconspicuous. I think sometimes I must be invisible,” Benjamin said. “There were a couple of journalists that came over to talk to me, but that’s about it.”
Benjamin, 60, was escorted out of the the hall after she repeatedly interrupted Obama’s address, pressing the president on the use of drone strikes overseas, including the killing of a 16-year-old U.S. citizen. Read More
Medea Benjamin and Noor Mir | The Huffington Post
Rand Paul’s marathon 13-hour filibuster was not the end of the conversation on drones. Suddenly, drones are everywhere, and so is the backlash. Efforts to counter drones at home and abroad are growing in the courts, at places of worship, outside air force bases, inside the UN, at state legislatures, inside Congress — and having an effect on policy.
1. April marks the national month of uprising against drone warfare. Activists in upstate New York are converging on the Hancock Air National Guard Base where Predator drones are operated. In San Diego, they will take on Predator-maker General Atomics at both its headquarters and the home of the CEO. In D.C., a coalition of national and local organizations are coming together to say no to drones at the White House. And all across the nation — including New York City, New Paltz, Chicago, Tucson and Dayton — activists are planning picket lines, workshops and sit-ins to protest the covert wars. The word has even spread to Islamabad, Pakistan, where activists are planning a vigil to honor victims.
2. There has been an unprecedented surge of activity in cities, counties and state legislatures across the country aimed at regulating domestic surveillance drones. After a raucous city council hearing in Seattle in February, the mayor agreed to terminate its drones program and return the city’s two drones to the manufacturer. Also in February, the city of Charlottesville, Va., passed a two-year moratorium and other restrictions on drone use, and other local bills are pending in cities from Buffalo to Ft. Wayne. Simultaneously, bills have been proliferating on the state level. In Florida, a pending bill will require the police to get a warrant to use drones in an investigation; a Virginia statewide moratorium on drones passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature, and similar legislation in pending in at least 13 other state legislatures. Read More
Sebastian Abbott | The Huffington Post
ISLAMABAD — The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes – a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.
President Barack Obama has stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border since he took office in 2009.
The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties – allegations denied by the United States.
According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator’s three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.
Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson’s team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians. Read More
Robert Naiman | The Huffington Post
Different Senate committees are supposed to do oversight of different federal agencies. The Senate Judiciary Committee is supposed to oversee the Department of Justice. The Senate Armed Services committee is supposed to do oversight of the Pentagon. And the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to do oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the CIA is conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and since this is, to say the least, a controversial policy, the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be doing oversight of that.
But contemplating the Senate Intelligence Committee’s past oversight of the drone strike policy evokes the quote attributed to Gandhi when asked what he thought about Western civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.”
Now that criticisms of the drone strike policy are getting some play in the press, people are floating ideas for various reforms. That’s great! Let a hundred flowers bloom. But please call on me. I have an idea for a reform.
Why don’t we ask the Senate Intelligence Committee to do its job of overseeing the CIA? Read More
William McGuinness | The Huffington Post
Sometime around 9:30 on Monday night, Josh Begley, a New York University graduate student, got fed up and began tweeting times, dates and casualty counts for every drone strike the United States has ordered. He’s tweeting the drone strike history from DroneStream, an account he created.
Originally, Drones+, an iPhone app of Begley’s design, was intended to send a notification to users every time the U.S. ordered a drone strike. Apple rejected the app three times — twice for technical reasons, and once for objectionable or crude content.
Wired explained Apple’s response in August:
Begley is about at his wits end over the iOS version of Drones+. “I’m kind of back at the drawing board about what exactly I’m supposed to do,” Begley said. The basic idea was to see if he could get App Store denizens a bit more interested in the U.S.’ secretive, robotic wars, with information on those wars popping up on their phones the same way an Instagram comment or retweet might. Instead, Begley’s thinking about whether he’d have a better shot making the same point in the Android Market.
[See what it could be]
Robert Naiman | The Huffington Post
This is slightly adapted from a presentation given at aCongressional briefing on drone strike policy on November 16, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
I want to talk about what Congress could do about drone strikes in the next 1-2 years.
To begin with, some political context, as I see it.
First, I don’t think anyone will argue with me if I say that for the last ten years Congress has done very little.
Second, I think it would be extremely helpful if Congress would do something. I think Congress doing something is intrinsically important in itself, in addition to whatever the thing is. The reason is that the media, the public and the Administration take cues from what Congress is talking about. If Congress isn’t talking about something, then it’s perceived as not very controversial. More people would contact Congress if we had a vehicle for them to contact Congress about.
Third, I don’t think it’s as hard for Congress to do things on this as some people seem to think. There’s a kind of conventional wisdom that Congress can’t do anything because no-one cares because no U.S. soldiers are being killed by the policy. I think this conventional wisdom is completely wrong. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Honduras and yet a hundred Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Honduras, and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Bahrain but Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Bahrain and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. Conversely, plenty of U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan before 2009 and Congress didn’t do much about that. So whether or not American soldiers are being killed is not as decisive as some people seem to think.