Concern About Domestic Drones, Besides Privacy, Includes That They Will Be Armed For Use Against US Citizens

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – With the use of domestic drones increasing, concern has not just come up over privacy issues, but also over the potential use of lethal force by the unmanned aircraft.

Drones have been used overseas to target and kill high-level terror leaders and are also being used along the U.S.-Mexico border in the battle against illegal immigration. But now, these drones are starting to be used domestically at an increasing rate.

The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed several police departments to use drones across the U.S. They are controlled from a remote location and use infrared sensors and high-resolution cameras.

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.

“Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle),” McDaniel told The Daily.

The use of potential force from drones has raised the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU, told CBSDC.

Crump feels one of the biggest problems with the use of drones is the remote location where they are operated from.

“When the officer is on the scene, they have full access to info about what has transpired there,” Crump explained to CBSDC. “An officer at a remote location far away does not have the same level of access.”

The ACLU is also worried about potential drones malfunctioning and falling from the sky, adding that they are keeping a close eye on the use of these unmanned aircraft by police departments.

“We don’t need a situation where Americans feel there is in an invisible eye in the sky,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at ACLU, told CBSDC.

Joshua Foust, fellow at the American Security Project, feels domestic drones should not be armed.

“I think from a legal perspective, there is nothing problematic about floating a drone over a city,” Foust told CBSDC. “In terms of getting armed drones, I would be very nervous about that happening right now.”

McDaniel says that his community should not be worried about the department using a drone.

“We’ve never gone into surveillance for sake of surveillance unless there is criminal activity afoot,” McDaniel told The Daily. “Just to see what you’re doing in your backyard pool — we don’t care.”

But the concern for the ACLU is just too great that an American’s constitutional rights will be trampled with the use of drones.

“The prospect of people out in public being Tased or targeted by force by flying drones where no officers is physically present on the scene,” Crump says, “raises the prospect of unconstitutional force being used on individuals.”

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Federal Judge Blocks Military Detention Law – Lawsuit Against President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta And Defense Department To Protect Americans From US Military – Could Have Held Citizens Forever Without Legitimate Charges

May 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a part of the National Defense Authorization Act that opponents claim could subject them to indefinite military detention for activities including news reporting and political activism.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan today ruled in favor of a group of writers and activists who sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Defense Department, claiming a provision of the act, signed into law Dec. 31, puts them in fear that they could be arrested and held by U.S. armed forces.

The complaint was filed Jan. 13 by a group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. The plaintiffs contend a section of the law allows for detention of citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the U.S. on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to people engaged in hostilities against the U.S., such as al-Qaeda.

“The statute at issue places the public at undue risk of having their speech chilled for the purported protection from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ‘associated forces’ – i.e., ‘foreign terrorist organizations,’” Forrest said in an opinion today. “The vagueness of Section 1021 does not allow the average citizen, or even the government itself, to understand with the type of definiteness to which our citizens are entitled, or what conduct comes within its scope.”

Enforcement Blocked

Forrest’s order prevents enforcement of the provision of the statute pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by Congress.

Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, declined to comment on the ruling.

The plaintiffs claim Section 1021 is vague and can be read to authorize their detention based on speech and associations that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Hedges and two other plaintiffs testified in a hearing before Forrest in March, the judge said. A fourth plaintiff submitted a sworn declaration. The government put on no evidence, Forrest said.

Forrest, an Obama appointee who has served on the Manhattan federal court since October, rejected the government’s arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue over the law and that it merely reaffirmed provisions in an earlier law, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Plaintiffs’ Activities

In her opinion, Forrest said the government declined to say that the activities of Hedges and the other defendants don’t fall under the provision. Forrest held a hearing in March at which government lawyers didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence, according to the judge. The government did cross- examine the plaintiffs who testified and submitted legal arguments.

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.”

Hedges, who testified he has been a foreign news correspondent for 20 years, said he has reported on 17 groups that are on a State Department list of terrorist groups. Hedges testified that after the law was passed, he changed his dealings with groups he had reported on, Forrest said.

“I think the ruling was not only correct, but courageous and important,” Hedges said in a telephone interview today.

The case is Hedges v. Obama, 12-CV-00331, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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War Zone: UK Military Deploys 13,500 Soldiers, Surface To Air Missles In Parks And On Top Of Residences, Painful Sonic Device With 3km Range, Helicopters, And Fighter Jets For Olympic Games In London

May 12, 2012

LONDON, UK – Britain’s military will be armed with a sonic device that can be used as a high-volume loudspeaker or a non-lethal weapon to disperse crowds at this summer’s Olympic Games in London, the defence ministry said on Friday.

The equipment, which can project a piercing sound over hundreds of metres causing physical pain, has been used during protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 and against pirates operating off the Somali coast.

The Ministry of Defence said it expected to use it primarily in loudspeaker mode to communicate with boats it wants to stop on the River Thames.

Defence chiefs have already caused controversy by announcing plans to put surface-to-air missiles on the top of residential buildings near the Olympics site in east London.

Fighter jets roared over the capital and helicopters were seen hovering over the Houses of Parliament this month during a nine-day military exercise to prepare for Britain’s biggest peacetime security operation.

The LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), made by U.S. company LRAD Corporation, can be mounted on the side of a ship or on the top of a vehicle. Some versions are roughly the same size and shape as a dustbin lid.

It can generate noises up to around 150 decibels, similar to a gunshot, and has a maximum range of 3 km or 1.8 miles.

The device can also emit a warning alarm that sounds like a police siren and “potentially prevents the use of harmful or deadly force”, LRAD says on its website.

Police and military planners say they are preparing for a range of security threats at the Olympics including protesters trying to disrupt events and attacks using hijacked airliners.

Around 13,500 soldiers will help the police during the Games, which run from July 27 to Aug. 12.

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Paramilitary Training In Abandoned Hotel In The Middle Of Miami Florida Alarms Uninformed Residents

May 10, 2012

MIAMI, FLORIDA – No, there was no smell of napalm in the morning.

But there was the thunderous whump whump of low-flying helicopters, and even the jarring blast of explosions at the abandoned Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove early Tuesday during a military training exercise that jolted many unsuspecting residents from their beds.

“It was quite a shocking experience,” said Jane Muir, who was awakened around 1:45 a.m. by the sound of military choppers that later dropped rappelling soldiers onto the Grand Bay’s rooftop. “It was kind of that bizarre feeling that you were surrounded by wind.”

From her third-floor balcony, Muir then watched the soldiers fire off flares and smoke bombs before searching floor by floor through the darkened hotel, their paths marked by flashlights and the pop-pop-pop of gunshots. “The show of force was so overwhelming,” she said.

The maneuvers were part of a “realistic urban training” exercise for about 100 military personnel, and organized by the U.S. Special Operations Command, said Maj. Michael Burns, a U.S. Army spokesman. The exercise also included three military helicopters, and the use of simulated explosions and gunfire to mimic real-life military scenarios.

“They have to train in a realistic environment,” Burns said. “We didn’t use any real bullets,” he added reassuringly.

Miami police assisted in overseeing the exercises — but they were instructed to keep quiet about the exercises until late Monday, for security reasons. The police also blocked off roads around the Grand Bay during the exercise, Muir said.

“It was the federal government’s call on what was being done. We were courteously advised,” said Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes Coconut Grove.

Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss said that a news release about the training was sent out around 5 p.m. Monday, but it went largely unnoticed.

The explosions, however, did not. A handful of alarmed Grove residents called the police and City Hall to ask about the armed choppers flying over their homes.

Muir, for one, would not have minded a heads up beforehand.

“I thought it was kind of rude, to tell you the truth,” she said. “One neighbor was swearing, he was so annoyed.”

But despite the neighborhood anxiety, the exercise went off safely and quickly, Burns said.

“It seems very high drama, but to us it’s kind of simple,” he said.

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After Years Of Brutal Torture And Mistreatment At Hands Of US Government, 5 Alleged Terrorists Being Tried In Kangaroo Court System Rigged To Prevent Defense Lawyers From Doing Their Jobs

May 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Silence and occasional outbursts from accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others during their arraignment were signs of “peaceful resistance to an unjust system,” an attorney representing one of the men said Sunday.

“These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture,” James Connell, who is representing defendant Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, told reporters at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base where the men are being tried before a military court.

Connell’s comments came after a 13-hour court session on Saturday — the first appearance in a military courtroom for Mohammed and four others since charges were re-filed against them in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The hearing, which wrapped just before 10:30 p.m., offered a rare glimpse of the five men who have not been seen publicly since January 2009, when they were first charged by a military tribunal. Mohammed, Ali and the others — Walid Muhammad Salih, Mubarak bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi — appeared to work together to defy the judge’s instructions, refusing to speak or cooperate with courtroom protocol.

On Sunday, attorneys representing them told reporters that the proceedings had been unfair to their clients. Prosecutors were expected to speak to reporters later Sunday.

“We are hamstrung … before we ever start,” said David Nevin, who is representing Mohammed. “The system is a rigged game to prevent us from doing our jobs.”

The silence from the defendants — some of whom ignored the judge, while others appeared to be reading — slowed the proceedings to a crawl.

Bin ‘Attash was wheeled into the courtroom in a restraining chair. It was unclear why he was the only defendant brought into court in that manner, though he was allowed out of restraints after he promised not to disrupt court proceedings. Toward the end of the day, he took off his shirt while his attorney was describing injuries she alleged he sustained while in custody.

The judge told bin ‘Attash, “No!” and warned that he would be removed from the courtroom if he did not follow directions.

At one point, bin ‘Attash made a paper airplane and placed it on top of a microphone. It was removed after a translator complained about the sound the paper made against the microphone.

The judge, Col. James Pohl, needed the five to vocally confirm their desire to be represented by the attorneys who accompanied them to court. Because the defendants refused to cooperate, Pohl ruled the men would continue to be represented by their current military and civilian attorneys.

All five men are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.

If convicted, they face the death penalty.

There were so many allegations behind the charges, it took more than two hours for officers of the court just to read into the record the details of the 9/11 hijackings.

Earlier, the refusal of the defendants to speak caused an issue with the court translations.

Mohammed’s lawyer said that his client “will decline to communicate with the court.”

Because the men wouldn’t speak, the judge could not confirm that they could hear the translation of the proceedings. Time elapsed while they set up loudspeakers in the court to carry the translations. Some lawyers objected to this solution, too, and translation remained a problem at the outset of the hearing.

Pohl said he would enter a not guilty plea on Mohammed’s behalf, if he refused to enter a plea. Later, the five men chose to defer entering a plea, a routine practice during military court proceedings.

The next hearing is scheduled for June 12. It will likely be at least a year before the case goes to trial, Pohl said.

Hours into Saturday’s proceeding, one of the defendants broke his silence with an outburst.

Binalshibh shouted in heavily accented English: “You may not see us anymore,” he said. “They are going to kill us.”

During recesses, the five men talked amongst each other and appeared relaxed. They passed around a copy of The Economist.

Binalshibh appeared to lead the group twice in prayer in the courtroom, once delaying the resumption of the hearing.

Mohammed, whose long beard appeared to be dyed red by henna, was much thinner than the last time he was seen publicly in a courtroom.

He also appeared much smaller and paler than the man the world came to know through photos released after his capture in March 2003 in Pakistan.

The charges allege that the five are “responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people,” the Defense Department said.

The military initially charged Mohammed in 2008, but President Barack Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Unable to close the center, Obama attempted to move the case to federal court in New York in 2009, only to run into a political firestorm. The plan was dropped after complaints about cost and security.

Last April, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the five would face a military trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The decision was met with some criticism, including from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said last month that the administration is making a “terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice.”

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Blackhawk Helicopers Full Of Heavily Armed Men Buzzing Downtown Chicago In Drills “Unrelated” To Next Month’s Summit

April 17, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Blackhawks and A/MH-6 Little Bird helicopters used by special forces circling low through downtown Chicago skies made for a scary scene along the Chicago River, as they rattled windows flying among the city’s skyscrapers.

The training exercise comes as the city found out some of the details of what the Secret Service wants for security at next month’s summit at McCormick Place.

FOX Chicago News has their terror prevention shopping list, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Portable high security barriers
Crowd control barriers
10-12 portable light towers
Sandbags, port-a-potties
Mobile offices
5-10 golf carts

The Chicago Tribune reports that the most traffic for NATO dignitaries will be between McCormick place and downtown hotels in the Loop, River North and the Gold Coast.

Fifty heads of state will attend, with delegates, and will be moving multiple times each day.

FOX Chicago News viewers called in, describing men with automatic weapons, hanging out of helicopters.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications on Monday announced that Chicago is the site of a military training exercise this week involving personnel and at least three helicopters.

But the bland press release from City Hall did nothing to prepare folks for the jarring scene that unfolded Monday evening.

“It was frightening,” Jessica Hill said. “I was definitely alarmed.”

At least three Blackhawk helicopters flying at time in close order formation – at other times separating fairly widely – zoomed around office and residential towers for several hours.

“I was pretty amazed,” Felise Llano said, “because they were definitely military.”

Witnesses described three to four very heavily armed men in each chopper. Several said some of the men appeared to be tethered and were at times literally hanging out of the choppers, and looked ready to jump.

Calling it routine training, city officials said in a statement such exercises are conducted by military personnel in various cities around the country. They say the exercises are designed to improve the military’s ability to operate in urban environments.

Emergency management officials said the training sites have been selected to minimize the impact on residents’ daily routines.

The timing of the drills led some to wonder if they’re in preparation for next month’s NATO summit.

But officials said that the summit and the drills are unrelated.

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Department Of Homeland Security Steps Up Monitoring Of Social Networks For “Social Unrest” – Plans To Use US Military To “Restore Order” (Combat US Citizens)

November 1, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The wave of civil unrest that has swept the globe over the past year has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to step up its monitoring of Twitter and other social networks in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.
Twitter User

“Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity,” reports the Associated Press.

Wagner announced that the federal agency would implement new guidelines that would focus on “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes.”

Under the new framework, when the department receives information about a “potential threat,” it will then ask its contractors to look for relevant search references using “open source” information.

Although it’s somewhat naive to think that Homeland Security wasn’t already scanning the likes of Facebook and Twitter for social trends and signs of civil unrest, the fact that its now being announced publicly illustrates the increasing concern that riots which have hit the Middle East and Europe over the last 18 months will soon manifest themselves inside the United States.

Indeed, US law enforcement bodies are already scanning Twitter and Facebook for signs of unrest. Having launched a specialized unit to focus on gleaning clues from social media websites, the NYPD Disorder Control Unit recently brought together police from all five of the city’s boroughs to rehearse what the response would be “should out-of-control riots break out here”.

Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter came in for harsh condemnation following the UK riots, with Prime Minister David Cameron advocating authorities have the power to shut down access during times of public disorder, mimicking the Communist Chinese system of Internet censorship, which is used to curtail political protests.

Although the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the only real expression of civil unrest in the United States thus far, a worsening economic climate almost guarantees the prospect of an increase in social disorder across the globe.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a prominent UN agency, warned yesterday that the world faces an imminent “dramatic downturn” in employment, and a new recession which in turn would lead to greater social unrest, particularly in European countries.

In preparation for potential riots inside the United States, the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Institute issued a report in November 2008 entitled Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development.

The report lays out the strategy for how authorities would respond to “purposeful domestic resistance,” wherein U.S. troops would be deployed domestically to counter civil unrest. The report was issued weeks after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, and included a potential “economic collapse” as one of the scenarios under which troops would be used inside the U.S. to restore order.

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