In Pakistan, Obama’s drone policy is responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. The Obama administration has been using drones which lack the precision needed to be able to decipher the difference between a terrorist and a civilian. Hence, 10% of those killed by these drones are civilians.
The Obama administration defends its actions by simply pointing out that it is legal. And, CIA Director John Brennan refers to the 10% loss of civilian life as “exceedingly rare.” The killings are exacerbated by the fact that the Pashtun culture, in Pakistan, requires vengeance for murder; therefore, when a U.S. drone kills a civilian, many young men feel compelled to join terrorist organizations for the purpose of retribution. Despite these accidental killings, the Obama administration continues to move forward with plans for the use of drones in the U.S.
For instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been experimenting with the use of drones on the U.S. / Mexican border. Similarly, law enforcement and first response agencies have also been testing the technology. Wired reports:
“The Department of Homeland Security is interested in a camera package that can peek in on almost four square miles of (constitutionally protected) American territory for long, long stretches of time.
Homeland Security doesn’t have a particular system in mind. Right now, it’s just soliciting “industry feedback” on what a formal call for such a ‘Wide Area Surveillance System’ might look like. But it’s the latest indication of how powerful military surveillance technology, developed to find foreign insurgents and terrorists, is migrating to the home front.
The Department of Homeland Security says it’s interested in a system that can see between five to 10 square kilometers – that’s between two and four square miles, roughly the size of Brooklyn, New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood – in its “persistent mode.” By “persistent,” it means the cameras should stare at the area in question for an unspecified number of hours to collect what the military likes to call “pattern of life” data – that is, what “normal” activity looks like for a given area.”
The drone program also represents a huge expansion of the power of the federal government because these are functions that have generally been handled by local law enforcement. In fact, a subcommittee of the Committee on Homeland Security is currently working on a scheme to put all drones flown in America’s airways under the direct supervision of the DHS and the Department of Justice.
In addition to usurping state’s rights, the Obama administration’s actions would also, it has been argued, significant infringe on civil liberties. The drone issue has also reignited the debate over the legitimacy of federal institutions such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As it is, some state lawmakers have introduced bills that seeks to limit the use of drones. In February, Charlottesville, VA passed the first anti-drone law.
Unfortunately, the federal government does not always acknowledge state and local laws. That has been the case with the so-called war on drugs. The federal government was also able to effectively quash Arizona’s immigration law via a Supreme Court ruling. So, it is probable that these types of laws will have little or no impact on the actions of the FAA. To make matter worse, in February 2012 Congress tasked the FAA with organizing a framework for drones to be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. This was done by passing the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. It is expected that the amount of drones in American airspace in the coming years will reach into the tens of thousands. At this time, some drone licenses have already been distributed to police, colleges and other organizations.
A recent federal appeals court ruling that might slow the gears of the drone program was issued by Judge Merrick Garland in Washington, D.C. Judge Garland called the administration on the carpet over the lack of transparency surrounding aerial drone strikes abroad. Obama insists the drone program is necessary in order to combat terrorism. The judge, who was twice considered by Obama for a slot on the Supreme Court, wrote in his ruling:
“‘There comes a point where… courts should not be ignorant as judges of what (they) know as men’ and women.
We are at that point with respect to the question of whether the CIA has any documents regarding the subject of drone strikes.”
The ruling basically revives a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union which requests records from the CIA. Obama administration attorneys have opposed the suit.
John Podesta, one of Obama’s 2008 transition leaders, summed up the drone controversy, in an article in The Washington Post, by asserting that Obama “is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days.”