Weekly Roundup 3/18

Lian Pin Koh, a conservation ecologist and founding director of Conservation Drones, shows a UAV to Nepali government officials. Credit: Conservation Drones
Lian Pin Koh, a conservation ecologist and founding director of Conservation Drones, shows a UAV to Nepali government officials. Credit: Conservation Drones

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The administration of George W. Bush was widely criticized for its use of torture and extraordinary rendition in its War on Terror. How, then, do former Bush administration officials feel about President Obama’s use of drones for targeted killing? Zachary Israel rounds up the Bush officials who have spoken or written on the issue.


On March 12, a suspected U.S. drone strike killed Moajab bin Aziz, a local commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. According to Long War Journal, a missile struck the vehicle carrying bin Aziz and his bodyguards in the al-Jawf province in northern Yemen, a known AQAP stronghold.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has approved the purchase of an undisclosed number of American-made military Triton high-altitude surveillance drones. The Tritons will likely replace Australia’s P-3 Orion manned surveillance aircraft. (Stars and Stripes)

Protesters from several anti-war advocacy groups joined in a demonstration against drones at the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines. Following a 2012 deal in the U.S. Senate, the Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing will soon begin maintaining a fleet of unmanned aircraft. “It brings war directly, physically to Des Moines,” Gilbert Landolt, president of the Des Moines Veterans for Peace, told the Des Moines Register.

U.S. officials said that there was “zero truth” to Russia’s claims that it had intercepted a U.S. MQ-5B surveillance drone over Crimea. According to a story that appeared in Voice of Russia, an “American scout-attack drone” belonging to a U.S. Army infantry regiment that is stationed in Germany was forced to land following a Russian electronic attack on its systems. (NBC News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Smithsonian Magazine, Kate Siber examines the use of drones to fight poaching.

Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on whether the President has the constitutional authority to target Americans. The participants included Alan Dershowitz, Michael Lewis, Noah Feldman and Hina Shamsi.

At Foreign Policy, Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko argue that sensationalist reporting on drones by the news media greatly exaggerates the scale of global drone proliferation.

In response, an author known as Aelkus at the Rethinking Security blog criticizes Zenko for reversing his earlier claims of the dangers posed by the proliferation of unmanned aircraft.

Writing for Israel Defence, Tal Inbar argues that Iran’s domestic military drone program is becoming more advanced, posing an increased threat to Middle East security.

Two lawyers, Wiley Rein and Gregory P. Cirillo, claim to have found a loophole in the FAA’s regulations that prohibit the commercial use of drones. Rein and Cirillo argue that in order to circumvent regulations, government agencies and local governments should maintain “public” drones that can be leased for private commercial use. (Lexology)

At Motherboard, Shawn Musgrave reports that the F.B.I. may have inadvertently acknowledged that it was operating three unmanned aircraft in 2010.

At 60 Minutes, Morley Safer considers the privacy concerns that accompany domestic commercial drones.

At the Wall Street Journal, Jack Nicas writes that, while the Federal Aviation Administration struggles to develop a framework for domestic unmanned aerial vehicles, farmers and filmmakers around the world are already using drones regularly.

A man flying a quadcopter drone captured footage of the aftermath of a gas explosion in Harlem, New York, in which at least seven people have died. (NY Daily News)

Meanwhile, paparazzi site 247Paps.TV used a drone to capture footage of Selena Gomez in New York City during a photoshoot. In an introduction to the footage, a 247Paps.TV employee identifying himself as Cesar incorrectly claimed that this was the first time in history that paparazzi had used a drone.

Know Your Drone

Newly released budget documents show that the Pentagon is looking to dramatically increase its spending on underwater drones. (USA Today)

Wired takes a look at the Fotokite, a small quadcopter drone attached to a retractable dog leash. The Fotokite, which was designed by Sergei Lupshin, a researcher at the University of Zurich, is programmed to follow the person holding the leash and is designed primarily for aerial photography.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing soft-skinned robot fish. The underwater drones, which are made of silicon, closely mimic the motion of real fish to move around in the water. (Los Angeles Times)

Australian officials are considering the feasibility of using drones in the next feral pig cull. According to National Parks minister Steve Dickson, the drones would drop poisoned pig food near groups of feral pigs, which the drones would detect using thermal imaging. The Australian government spends over $4 million culling pigs each season. (Brisbane Times)

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One comment

  1. Looking at the root cause or motivator of the surveillance state:

    The ubiquitous and all-encompassing surveillance state that has been installed to allegedly ‘protect us from terrorists’ is actually an excellent example of how extremely misguided these attempts to shield us from every conceivable evil are. The reality is in this case that the threat is statistically minuscule; as we have previously noted, more Americans die from drowning in their bathtubs and even from merely falling off a chairs than from terrorist attacks. And yet, no-one has proposed to spend tens of billions every year to keep tabs on the citizenry’s evil furniture, at least not yet. The danger that the gathering of every last scrap of data will be abused is orders of magnitude greater than the danger emanating from terrorists.

    Source: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-21/taming-deluded-conspiracy-theorists

    Here’s a video that considers the recent coup in Ukrane and its implications:


    Let’s try an Einstein experiment. Subject matter – Drones; Internet eavesdropping, phone taps without warrants and judges or courts who ignore the United States Constitution.

    Basically, have someone watch you though your web cam, make your cell a party line and completely surrender your privacy. Does your perspective change? How about your behavior? Do you feel “safer”? Now, let’s assume you live in a place not all that dominant in the tech sphere, where its not war; its slaughter. A real war to the US is called MAD – “mutually assured destruction.” The US does not do a full scale war as life on this planet for humans goes the way of the dinosaur. However, there is a great deal in interest in roughly 50 cents on every tax dollar, which goes to bad-ass weapons. But you can’t maintain this level of spending unless there are some “evil” “nasty” horrible” people and places out there. So, is it news or a billboard to keep this level of spending?

    One interesting tool in discovering the matter is a basic question: ‘To whose benefit?’ Why are law libraries increasingly restricted access – especially when paid by public taxes?

    Ask yourself, what do you call a government without legitimacy? Printing money is no substitute for genuine productivity, Germany 1924 makes that plain. Reduce the truckload of laws designed to protect interest groups, but how when the system requires so much money as a barrier to political discourse.

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