The ACLU is suing the White House and Pentagon to end the clandestine nature of targeted killings inflicted by unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while a House oversight subcommittee took its first look at drone-related issues on March 23.
The lawsuit and hearings promise to create greater public exposure of the expanding role of drones, now labeled "the only game in town" by CIA director Leon Panetta. Civilian casualties were estimated at the Congressional hearing as 32 percent of the deaths due to drones, while their numbers in the Pentagon inventory have risen from 167 in 2002 to 7,000 currently. The Obama administration has increased the use of drones sharply since coming to office.
For information on the ACLU lawsuit, go here.
For key members of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, go here. The Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Tierney [D-Mass], reports to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Brooklyn Rep. Edolphus Towns.
Drone operations, based in the US, have been targeted for protest by local anti-war groups, planned for example at General Atomic's headquarters in San Diego this May 18-19:
Ground the Drones Protest
General Atomics Headquarters
(Makers of the Predator and Reaper Drones)
3550 General Atomics Ct.
San Diego, 92121
Sponsors: Peace Resource Center of San Diego, CODEPINK, San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice & others!
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Santa Monica's RAND Corporation, the center of the Pentagon Papers controversy during the Vietnam War, is a center of low-profile drone development, as described in their 2008 Project Air Force research contracts:
The Future Role of Unmanned Aerial Systems for the U. S. Air Force Post World War II unmanned aerial systems (UAS), often referred to as drones or RPVs, were used clandestinely and most often for reconnaissance and sometimes for surveillance. There was a resurgence of interest in RPVs in the 1970s and this led to a substantial investment in research and development. Post Desert Storm there was keen interest in UAV's to do reconnaissance and surveillance. The Predator emerged and was a product of an ACTD. Due to operational requirements for timely weapons employment, the armed Predator was subsequently introduced. The Global Hawk, another ISR UAV that flies at much higher altitudes and greater speeds than the Predator, followed. In parallel with these UAV systems, several smaller UAVs were developed, fielded and employed in combat. PAF will assess the future of UAS, considering the current inventory of UAVs, their operations, capabilities, limitations, and interaction with manned aircraft and space systems. PAF will address questions such as: Given current and anticipated technologies and threats, what is the future of UAS for the Air Force? How do we go from concept to operations? What are the most important acquisition issues? What are the vulnerabilities and countermeasures? What are appropriate battlespace control and peacetime air traffic deconfliction issues and ways ahead? [emphasis added]
Sponsor: AF/CC, ACC/CC
Project Leader: Sherrill Lingel and Jim Chow
Basing Options for Unmanned Aerial Systems in the PACOM Area of Regard
This project will identify preferred basing locations for new PACAF UAS ISR assets for operational tasks of interest and assess how to effectively support these assets in the PACOM AOR. Identify promising countries for cooperative UAS basing relationships, limited over-flight/landing rights, and potential intelligence sharing arrangements. Assess options for integrating intelligence products from forward-based assets into the primary Production, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) architecture, the Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS).
Project Leader: Sherrill Lingel and William Stanley