Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:42 CST
Watch out Cattle, they’re coming…
And so it begins… with news of the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with the help of a Predator spy drone. The unmanned Predator B drone was called from an Air Force base in North Dakota (along with Highway Patrol, a SWAT team, a bomb squad and deputy sheriffs) to locate three men accused of pinching some cows. Yes, that’s right, cows.
To some it may sound like a neat way to track criminals, but I’m not sure they fully understand the implications that the forthcoming rapid deployment of drone technology in ‘civilian’ skies will have.
Drones have been developed and designed not to track American cow thieves but primarily for military applications on the battlefields of imperialistic aggression. The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases and it has already built 60 bases around the world for its unmanned, remotely controlled killer drone warplanes. With more bases under construction, defence contractor behemoths like Boeing, Lockeed Martin and Northrop Grumman are competing for slices of the big fat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) pie. These companies can look forward to the profit windfall that the increasingly likely and long-planned military incursions into Syria and Iran will bring. They are now also exploiting new local markets that over-hyped illusory threats of domestic terrorism will bring to their balance sheets.
It’s almost as if the contractors are colluding with Government and media to ensure they have a lucrative future for their shareholders…
The Arab Spring-Board to Drone Profits
Iran recently publicised its discovery of a US drone in its backyard (most likely because of it being intact and its motor conked out). The interception has led to American concerns of military intelligence losses, although the risks have been downplayed with suggestions that the UAV technology in question is already dated: the downed Lockheed Martin RQ-170 made its début in Afghanistan two years ago, so this will apparently limit any intelligence fallout. In any event, with Israeli/US threats of pre-emptive strikes on Iran in overdrive, the Iranians have a short window in which to dabble in some reverse engineering.
The US was actually conducting covert operations using drones in Iranian airspace as early as 2004. On 13 February that year, the Washington Postreported that:
The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort.
Coincidentally, it was also back in 2005 that the Bush administration officially singled out Iran and Syria for the next stage of its imperialistic aggression to serve the interests of the Anglo-American oil conglomerates, the Wall Street financial terrorists and the military-industrial complex.
In his article “Remote Control Killing for Fun and Profit“, Stephen Lendman presents the Air Force plans to double its advanced killer drone fleet:
By decade’s end, [The US Air Force] hopes to have enough medium and large drones to maintain at least 65 round-the-clock “orbits” compared to now. Combined with other service branches, 100 or more permanently positioned killer drones may launch precision-guided bombs and missiles on targets virtually anywhere.
Moreover, improved sensors like the Air Force’s Gorgon Stare and new foliage-penetrating radars will let new generations of drones do what multiple ones are needed for now.
Given the profit potential, US defense contractors are scrambling for part of a bigger pie, developing new killer drone models, including Boeing’s X-45C, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B and General Atomic’s Avenger. Others will follow to satisfy the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for remote killing and destruction on a global scale.
If America’s military had a motto, it would be ‘war is good, the more the better’. How else can generals get stars?
Smedley D. Butler’s words in 1935 have never been more true: “War is a racket. It always has been.”
As many will be aware, the technology we see in use today is literally decades behind what has actually been developed behind closed doors. Irrespective of what drone technology has been developed in underground trillion dollar black budget facilities. Articles published on recent developments that provide a useful, albeit quite unnerving picture, of what automated killing machines will be buzzing around our skies in the not too distant future.
A rather crude analogy would be like the convergence of technologies we’ve seen with mobile phones. Believe it or not, they were originally used just to make telephone calls. It wasn’t long before cameras were added, 3G enabled data transfer and interaction with mined-social-media-internet-databases, smart phones with geolocation can now be pointed at someone to determine their latest tweets and opinions.
A similar rapid amalgamation of technologies is being brought together and developed in drones.
Drones fitted with new heat and motion sensors are capable of detecting enemy gunfire from 25,000 feet over the battlefield – and then swiftly directing a bomb or missile onto the shooter. The purpose is to provide a detection system that gives real time info on where to aim their increasingly sophisticated weaponry. Afghan, Pakistani and Yemeni women and children can tell you just how shit-hot their aim is.
Also in development are automated killing machines where drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based purely on calculations made by software; not a single decision is taken by humans. Not that many military decisions are taken by humans to begin with. To achieve this, the Pentagon is fitting drones with facial recognition software that can remember faces, even as targets disappear into crowds. Wouldn’t that be useful for US police cracking down hard on Occupy Wall Street protesters!
Besides contracts given to firms to find faces from above and track targets, another brokered deal will see drones programmed to spot “adversarial intent”, involving a database of ‘human behavioral traits’ capable of stacking informant info against intelligence data to predict a what a person ‘intends to do’. Forget the loss of habeas corpus, we’re way beyond that now. The determination of whether you are ‘friend or foe’ has devolved from trial by jury to algorithmic calculation by machines.
Here’s a sample of the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians single drone attacks can ‘perform’: 85 dead in Libya, 78 dead in Somalia of 25 dead in Pakistan and 130 dead in Yemen. The New America Foundation says US drones have killed at least 1,807 militants and civilians in Pakistan since 2006. The scatter-gun approach with the use of drones, where civilians account for 98% of the casualties, makes a mockery of Pentagon attempts to develop ‘smart-drones’… unless, of course, they’re doing exactly what they’re really intended for – blasting children to hundreds of pieces in a battlefield where the people are the enemy?
The attention being given to individual facial and behavioural recognition software aspect seems redundant in these so-called war zones. For all the carnage they’ve wrought on wedding parties and funerals, the CIA and friends may just as well be using Doodlebugs from WW2, so why bother? Could it be that the killing fields of Afghanistan, Iraq and everywhere else these machines of death have terrorised are merely proving grounds for target practice against those the corporatocracy views as the real threat to their unfettered psychopathic binges? Us Westerners fed-up with our unaccountable and fraudulent leaders, perhaps?
The Department of Homeland Surveillance
A British industry insider told a conference in the US dedicated to drone technology that the UK is preparing to fly these things in British civilian airspace. In Israel, drones circle Gaza overhead on a daily basis. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says 825 people have been killed by drones in Gaza in the past five years. Most of those killed were civilians mistakenly targeted or caught in the shrapnel blasts following an airstrike. The drones can fly for up to 40 hours on a single charge and are fitted with thermal imaging, capable of identifying vehicles that have been recently used. Israel effectively occupies the world’s largest open air prison by remote control.
In the US, ‘Robot Copters’ which carry taser-like stun guns, 12-gauge shotguns and even grenade launchers have already been supplied to police in Texas by the Department of Homeland Security.
Citing these absurd taser-capable drones, Lew Rockwell pointed out on Fox News’ Freedom Watch that most of what we’re told about terrorism is “phoney baloney” and it is the use of these drones that is the real terrorism. Through federal government funding, the ‘security industrial complex’ is driving vast profiteering. His advice is to educate ourselves on who our real enemies are – beginning with those in Washington,
With some form of martial law becoming an increasingly likely prospect in the US, and with the country being declared a battlefield, dissenting Americans now face indefinite military detention with no legal process, it is no longer science fiction that that face-recognising drones will be used to target anyone voicing opposition. We may not yet see tent-city Occupy protesters at City Hall being drone-tased from above, but with Facebook and Google+ integrating facial recognition apps into their social networks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how the data you put on social media networks could be piped automatically to a drone hovering over your neighbourhood, tasers (and worse) locked and loaded to avenge any dissenting tweets.
It will not be as in-your-face as that to begin with, so in order to win at least some public acceptance of the widespread roll-out of domestic drones I think we can expect to see gangs or drug dealers targeted initially – or maybe some more cow thieves. Who cares about them eh? Ironically (or opportunistically, depending on how you look at it), while the US military guards and assists the lucrative opium trade from Afghanistan, the authorities can use their ‘War on Drugs’ as an excuse to acclimatise US citizens to the use of drones targeting domestic ‘terrorists’.
Human Rights groups are at least taking a stand against the CIA Drone Program:
The Central Intelligence Agency’s drone program has come under attack by human-rights groups who say they are preparing a broad-based campaign that will include legal challenges in courts in Pakistan, Europe and the U.S.
The nascent effort is being modeled after the challenges brought by some of the same groups against the administration of President George W. Bush over detentions at the Guantanamo Bay military prison and in secret CIA “black sites,” say lawyers involved in the planning.
While it’s encouraging to see folks get the ball rolling in terms of legal opposition, I fear it will require a great deal more to prevent our way of life descending into the ‘futuristic’ dystopia John Feffer imagines in the introduction to his article “Can Killer Drones Be Turned on America? 50 Countries Are Trying to Get Their Hands on Military Drone Technology – What Will They Do With It?“:
Someday soon, you’ll be checking your new Clear Skies app as a routine part of your preparations to go out for the evening. First, you’ll look at your smart gizmo to read your latest email to make sure there hasn’t been any change in plans. A quick glance at Facebook lets you see who’ll be joining your group of friends at the bar. Weather and traffic apps inform you of what to wear and what route to take. Twitter will tell you about any major news developments you should be retweeting to your tweeps to prime the conversational pump over drinks.
And your new Clear Skies app will let you know if any unmanned drones are hovering 12 miles up in the stratosphere with your head in their sights.
Maybe we’ll see Terminator 2 skynet-style dog-fights from resister-drones developed underground, like this one cobbled together by Polish protesters? Whatever happens, I get the feeling the skies are going to get a great deal busier, the profits of defence contractors greater and what little remains of our privacy and civil liberties will be vanish. On the bright side, at least cows can now ‘enjoy’ their GMO feed in peace knowing that the Drones of Death are watching over them.