Mar 14, 2013 - Issue 508

The Drone Factor:
U.S. Citizens Can’t Be Silent About These Stealth Killers

Two extraordinary events happened on March 5 in different parts of the world.

First, after a fierce battle including medical treatment in Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez succumbed to cancer. The epilogue to his profound legacy is yet to be written.

U.S. lawmakers and mainstream media scoffed at the accusations of

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro that Chavez’ death was at the hands of his enemies. Further, Maduro claimed that the CIA would use the tragedy to attempt to topple the Venezuelan government.

Whether these claims are true or not, they certainly aren’t far-fetched. As the saying goes, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t after you.”

This brings me to the other March 5 event - the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Director, succeeding General David Petraeus.

There was real and contrived controversy about Brennan’s nomination primarily based upon the use of drones. If someone had told U.S. citizens twenty years ago that one day a remote surveillance gadget that looked like a hummingbird would be hovering over urban areas checking out the scene, many would have been incredulous.

Yet here we are in 2013 and it is not science fiction or the figment of someone’s overactive imagination. AeroVironment is developing the “Hummingbird drone” for the Pentagon. The drone business is booming. 

In the middle of dronology is Brennan, who is not a new kid on the CIA block. He spent 25 years there and is regarded as the chief architect of President Obama’s drone strategy.

Brennan served in various intelligence capacities in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, the former in which waterboarding was used to torture terrorist suspects. In 2008, Obama circumvented the Senate scrutiny of Brennan and appointed him Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, a position that didn’t require Senate confirmation. 

The Obama Administration ignored a chorus of voices calling for transparency of his drone program. These included, but were not limited to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), as well as civil liberties groups like the ACLU. They got nothing.

The Administration finally responded to Senator Rand Paul after a 13-hour filibuster. Attorney General Eric Holder gave Rand assurance that he had nothing to fear. No U.S. citizen on U.S. soil would ever be on the hit list for targeted killing by drones.

The drone manufacturing business is a global and competitive one. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry with companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics in the U.S., Denel Dynamics in South Africa and Prox Dynamics AS in Norway. Companies like these are catering to the insatiable appetite of markets in Europe, Asian and Africa (Middle East). The ranges of technologies include everything from mini hand-held helicopters to underwater drones.

What government entity is overseeing this madness? None other than the Unmanned Systems Caucus. Not surprisingly, the foxes that are guarding the hen house are well financed by the drone industry they’re supposed to be monitoring. According to the First Street Research Group, the 58 drone caucus members received a total of $2.3 million in contributions from political action committees affiliated with drone manufacturers over the last few years.

The proliferation and use of drones by our government makes for a scary scene that citizens need to be opposing at all levels. Their onerous capability lies in the fact that they can kill quickly and silently - you won’t know what and who hit you. And it just won’t be Venezuelan officials watching the skies; it will be American citizens at a protest in New York City or workers at a plant in St. Louis. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and the Black Radical Congress National Organizer. Additionally, she is an Alston-Bannerman Fellow. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Click here to contact Ms. Rogers.