Ed Kinane Talks to David Swanson

Ed Kinane was featured on David Swanson’s Talk Nation Radio show this week.  It’s a great interview drawing on our local actions as well as Ed’s knowledge of the drone program and his compassion for the victims of US drone wars.

If you have half an hour to listen you can go to David’s page or if you would like just to listen here, use the player below:

 




Grandma Drone Protester Appeal Hearing Scheduled

Press Release

Ithaca, N.Y.  The long-awaited appeals case of Mary Anne Grady Flores, one of many Grandma drone protesters at Hancock MQ-9 Reaper Drone Base, will be heard by the panel of judges of the N.Y.S. Court of Appeals in Albany, on Oct. 11, 2017. Depending on the verdict, Grady Flores, who has already served 56 days, may have to complete 65 days in Jamesville, Onondaga County Jail, E. Syracuse.

On Feb. 13th, 2013, Ash Wednesday, Ithaca Catholic Worker Grady Flores took pictures of eight Catholic protesters from the roadway, unknowingly crossing what Hancock claims to be its boundary, “the double yellow line in the middle of the road.”  Where she stood in the roadway violated a domestic violence, stay away “order of protection” (OOP’s) given by local DeWitt Court on behalf of Colonel Earl A. Evans of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard Base.  In another drone protester appeal the OOP had been ruled invalid by Onondaga County Judge Brunetti because the OOP didn’t delineate how close or far people had to be from the base. Grady Flores’ OOP’s was from a previous nonviolent witness at the base, Oct. 25, 2012.

Colonel Evans testified during her 2014 trial that he didn’t know Grady Flores or ever speak with her.  He said he, “That’s just a piece of paper. I just want the protesters away from my base.”  Judge David S. Gideon sentenced Grady Flores to a year in jail, unsuccessfully trying to stop 50 others, many who returned to protest despite having OOP’s.

Grady Flores’ appeal contends that you cannot take an order of protection out on behalf of property. Her appeal, written by Ithaca attorney Lance Salisbury, also argues that the order threatens her First Amendment protected right of free speech. NYC attorney Jonathan Wallace of the National Lawyers Guild has submitted an amicus brief in support of her case.

The eight Catholics photographed were protesting Hancock Killer Drones, atoning for the killing and maiming of child drone victims on that February Ash Wednesday. They were acquitted of their only charge, disorderly conduct, explaining their intent was to uphold law and sound the alarm of laws being violated by the base, such as extrajudicial killing, violation of drone victims’ right to due process, violation of sovereignty laws. They contended they were there to enforce law, not there to break law.

Hancock is the largest training and maintenance center for the US MQ-9 Reaper drone program. Extra judicial killings are executed by Air Force crews sitting in front of computer screens in the Syracuse base, killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In a five-month period in 2015, up to 90% of drone assassination victims were civilians. The base shares facilities with civilian Syracuse International Airport.  Hancock Air National Guard Base has been the site of protests of the US killer drone program since 2010, resulting in about 200 arrests and numerous trials, appeals, numerous incarcerations some ending in acquittal.

###

Some Background Information:

Hancock Protester Mary Anne Grady Flores’ appeal will be heard in NYS Court of Appeals.     She was convicted of violating an order of protection by standing in the street in front of the base taking photographs.    The Ithaca office of Parole had submitted a pre-sentencing report that suggested Mary Anne should not be given jail time a she was not a threat to the commander or anyone else and jail time would severely impact her family and her job, but an irate judge Gideon sentenced her to a year in jail.

The OOP was requested by the Commander of Hancock Base at the time to keep known protesters from protesting at the base.   Mary Anne was not protesting that day.  She was doing press.   The people arrested for protesting that day were acquitted of their disorderly conduct charges by Judge Jokl who found there was no intent to cause harm.  In any case, should the base commander be able to use an ‘order of protection’ to secure the perimeter of the base property from unwanted information sharing?   Does this really constitute a personal threat to him, and if not, how is the order of protection legal? These are among the issues that need to be addressed by the court.

 




Another Forgotten Drone Victim

In Pakistan in October of 2012, my group of peace activists met Malik Jalal, who spoke to us about the effect of drones on his community in Waziristan and later accompanied our caravan up to Tank, a town on the edge of Waziristan, where we joined a lively anti-war rally.    I specifically remember Malik Jalal as a handsome man in the prime of life, accustomed to having authority.   He had a full beard and wore the garb of a Tribal leader, and spoke about the suffering of his people living under drones.  There was humor in his expression and I remember that he laughed and his eyes twinkled when members of our delegation told of being arrested for sitting outside a military base demanding an end to drone wars.    Only in response to a direct question did he talk about his own experience.   He said that he sometimes slept in the mountains so as not to put his family at risk.

Last summer, in 2016, saw a photo of a man visiting London to share his experience with living under drones and demand that the drones stop flying over Waziristan.   His name was Malik Jalal.    I thought I recognized the man I had met in Pakistan, but an organizer with my group dismissed the possibility out of hand.   I waited a little, then went to my photos and took out a photo to compare with the one in the British news article. **   I was then certain it was the same man.   He had aged, and his beard was shorter.   He was dressed in ordinary Afghan and Pakhtun garb rather than the robes of a Chieftain.   But it was the same Malik Jalal we had met in Pakistan.   It was sad, really, to see him so much aged in the few years since we had met him.

This week, when I was researching the story of Faisal bin Ali Jabar, I noticed an article on the Reprieve website about Malik Jalal.   They are the ones who hosted him in London last summer, and also hosted the CodePink Peace Delegation to meet Waziri Drone victims in Pakistan.     I think the headline I saw last summer was in the Guardian.   In any case, what interested me were the details of Malik Jalal’s story.   When we met him in Pakistan, he had primarily focused his remarks on the suffering of his people.   I imagine he did the same when he was in London.   However, the article on the Reprieve website described how he was targeted and stalked by US drones.   On repeated occasions, people were blown up by drone in proximity to Jalal’s path; a friend expecting him for  dinner, people at a meeting he was on his way to attend, a family member who was driving his car, and even a random car the same color as his own traveling down the road behind him.

Malik Jalal is not an Al Qaeda operative or member of the Taliban.   As a Malik, he is a tribal leader on the payroll of the Pakistani government.  He works as a moderator in resolving tribal disputes and is a senior member of the North Waziristan Peace Committee.    While carrying out his duties, he might occasionally attend a meeting with a Taliban member present.   They too belong to local tribes, and some hold positions of authority.   But there is no possible justification for stalking Malik Jalal to try to kill him, terrorizing his family and  killing a number of innocent people who were mistaken for him.  But Malik Jalal says that the reason he is being targeted is because he came forward and spoke out against the drone strikes on other members of his community.

In 2011, Reprieve called a Jirga with a lawyer named Shahzad Akbar to bring together the people of Waziristan who wished to end the drone killing in their towns and villages.   Another person who came forward to try to end the drone strikes in Waziristan, and they were many, was a teenage boy who offered to search for missile parts in the vicinity around his home town.   The Jirga (town hall meeting) must have been infiltrated by CIA agents because within a few days this 16 year old boy was incinerated by a drone strike while driving down the road with his 11 year old cousin.  Reprieve and Shahzad Akbar, however, have persevered in their efforts to end drone killing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere, and they have continued to work with members of the community like Malik Jalal who are willing to come forward with information and to demand that the murderous drone strikes end.

Today, we don’t hear about this issue very often in the mainstream news.   The war in Afghanistan is going badly.   After hearing Malik Jalal’s story, this is not surprise.      It may be that there are less drone strikes in Pakistan this year, but although the drone strikes in Afghanistan are neither tracked or recorded, they are surely occurring at an accelerated pace.  If we are loosing there, perhaps we should look at other solutions than war.     There is no moral justification for the US war in Afghanistan and no moral or legal justification for bombing people in the tribal region of Pakistan,  a country which is not at war with us.   Code Pink invited Shahzad Akbar to come and speak in the US in 2013, but he was unable to get a visa.   The Afghan Peace Volunteers and their mentor, Hakim were invited a couple of years later, but also failed to receive visas.  These are all peace activists who can inform us about the damage done by US wars in their countries.

Drone wars have drifted out of our attention, but that is not an accident.   Since the early days of broad political resistance to the use of drones for targeted killing (execution of suspects) and surveillance, it is become more and more difficult to get specific information about drone strikes.   They are reported together with manned air strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.   But what they don’t tell us is that over time, drone strikes have become the majority of aerial attacks.   Drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are not reported at all.   Google doesn’t bring in the news from foreign news outlets about local drone strikes the way it used to.   The news is disappearing before our eyes.

How can we support a peace that will allow a country like Afghanistan to reintegrate?   Malik Jalal’s story gives us some ideas.   The tribal councils can go a long ways towards restoring balance if they can be safely held.   Americans have a strongly negative understanding of tribes because they are the indigenous power structure in countries like Afghanistan that have been resistant to westernization.   But is westernization right for Afghanistan, or Pakistan?   Maybe not.  The United States works through militarization.   That is strong suit of U.S. foreign policy.   Therefore, the only tribal representatives who are empowered through U.S. intervention are violent warlords.   These same men are then brought together with westernized rulers to govern the country.

Malik Jalal and his ilk are grass roots leaders who come from the communities they govern and take personal responsibility for the welfare of the people.   Tribal leaders at this level actually do represent the people.   They can lead an independence movement that really is independent of foreign intervention.   These are the men who attend tribal councils and support the public welfare.   Warlords and western educated ideologues only have coercive relationships with the people.    Grass roots movements are dependent on the people on the ground and their local representatives, men like Malik Jalal.   Unfortunately, they cannot safely meet with US drones on the wing.   In 2011, a US drone strike in Waziristan killed 54 men at a tribal Jirga where they were meeting to discuss a local mine.

Men like Malik Jalal are deemed terrorists, threatened and targeted by drone strikes, and driven from their homes.   Why?   They represent the people and not the power structure the U.S. is attempting to impose on their countries.   This is true in many places.   Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sadrist movement in Iraq are both engaged in the national political system as well as supporting powerful militias that are determined to protect their countries and their people.   So called ‘Signature’ strikes which target ‘suspicious’ gatherings make any kind of meeting or gathering dangerous.   People are isolated and alienated.    Grass roots governance is not the worst basis for the blasted tribal society of Afghanistan.  But, drones cause a barrier to that possibility.

I liked Malik Jalal so I wanted to tell you his story.   Unfortunately, though the Independent covered his visit in a respectful manner as did the Daily News,  but they along with some members of the U.S. press wonder why he is in London and has not been arrested.   Clarissa Ward,  a bold modern woman, a professional journalist, became a friend of Al Qaeda in Syria, willing to report from East Aleppo while it was still held by Ahrar Al Sham, Al Nusra and ISIS last fall, standing in an empty street dressed in a black dress with veil and hijab in a city where women were liberated from that requirement decades ago.

Under the Tabloid style headline: I’m on the U.S. Kill List Pakistani Elder Claims.  Clarissa Ward tells you that she doesn’t buy his claim.   Ms. Ward criticizes Malik Jalal as paranoid and a complainer.   She wonders how he could he have got a visa to the UK if he were on the U.S. ‘kill list’.   Malik Jalal didn’t jump on a plane to NY because he could never get a visa there, and men identified for targeted killing are routinely not arrested.  The idea is to avoid the complexity of a legal confrontation.   Dead men tell no tales.

Clarissa Ward is both arrogant and ignorant.   She doesn’t listen.  Clarissa Ward didn’t meet Malik Jalal near the beginning of his ordeal when he spoke to a group of foreign peace activists on behalf of his community without mentioning his own suffering.   Her world is firmly under control unlike the real world she pretends to unveil for her listeners.   Ms. Ward pretends.   That is her job.   Malik Jalal lives the nightmare the pretenders want to erase.   Jalal was brought to London by Reprieve, an organization that defends drone strike victims, Guantanamo prisoners and men on death row.   Reprieve is the real deal.  Malik Jalal represents the real people of Waziristan.

Jalal came to London for relief nearly 4 years after sharing his story, along with several other survivors of drone strike victims, with my delegation in Islamabad.   He he had come forward to a meeting arranged and facilitated by Shahzad Akbar to reach a broader audience.   We brought their stories back but it wasn’t enough to end the killing and was soon dropped by the ever busy news cycle.  Malik Jalal says that he fears to go home now.  He doesn’t want to die and he wants his family to be safe.   Imagine!  What if your friends and family members were regularly killed when they attempted to interact with you?  It was sad for me to see the man who so proudly represented his people 4 years before, now terrorized into leaving his country to seek relief.   It was heartbreaking to see his face lined with stress to the point where those who had met him with me did not recognize him, and so did not support him.

But this is, and has been from the start, the U.S. pretense of ‘a War on Terrorism’.    Peace loving leaders of  indigenous communities, men like Malik Jalal,  are threatened, stalked and then ridiculed.  Extremist murderers holed up in East Aleppo flying ISIS and Al Nusra (Al Qaeda) flags and shelling civilian housing and schools that happen to border their territory in West Aleppo are presented as noble ‘rebels’ and their defeat continues to be mourned by the U.S. mainstream media and some alternative venues, even as residents of liberated communities return home in the hundreds of thousands.    Clarissa Ward happily complied with the oppressive demands with regard to women’s dress asserted by a mostly foreign force controlling the area.   She presents this as adopting to a ‘Syrian’ cultural requirement.   Apparently she never took the time to research the common culture of Syria before the war began.

In Yemen, the drone strikes against AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) were gobbled up by a war against all the people of Yemen.  Now AQAP, a Saudi ally on the ground, controls vastly more territory in Yemen than before the war, while the United States gives unbounded support to the Saudi air war that is tearing the country apart.  They claim to be fighting AQAP with a deadly drone strike here and there, while they are all in supporting the Saudi war against Houthi ‘Shia terrorists’, an indigenous militia that is broadly popular movement in the north part of the country who are allied with the remnants of the Yemeni army.   The ‘internationally recognized’ government of Yemen that the Saudis and their allies claim to fight for is a joke; one man; a single, unpopular, temporary ‘president’ who refused to call an election when his term had ended, for some reason internationally recognized as the rightful ruler of Yemen.   The United States and the United Nations are ready to stand by while Yemen is subjected to a genocidal mix of famine and disease caused by U.S. assisted bombing of public infrastructure and a siege enabled by U.S. and western European ships in the Arab Sea blocking access to Yemeni ports.

We call Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sadrists in Iraq ‘terrorists’ despite the fact that both organizations are deeply involved in the politics of their respective countries, both support secular governance despite the fact that they are movements lead by Shia clerics, and both groups have political alliances with movements backed by other religious organizations.  Muqtada al Sadr has met with the Kurdish government and with the respected Council of Sunni Scholars.   Hezbollah is allied with one of the Christian currents in Lebanon, supports the liberation of Palestine and has seen the danger of a regional wave of extremist violence.   Both Hezbollah and the Sadrists are popular grass roots organizations that grew out of civil wars initiated by western interventions.  Both  have powerful militias, but neither has fought beyond the mandate to protect their own country.  Yet the U.S. designates them as the most dangerous of terrorists in league with their sworn enemies in ISIS and Al Qaeda because Hezbollah is capable of defending Lebanon against Israel, and the Sadrists support a secular socialist government in Iraq.

Populist leaders and grass roots leaders are the ultimate enemy of American hegemony.   They operate below the radar when they are at their best.   They are trusted because they are men who come from the people and who have not forgotten their roots, and because they choose to support the welfare of the people above their own.  They can’t be bought and they don’t make good proxies for empire.

And so dear Malik Jalal, you have my highest respect wherever you are, in London or somewhere in Pakistan.   I pray that one day you will be able to go home and live in peace with your family.   And that all the victims of U.S. aggression and the violence of U.S. allies will be restored to your homes and your lives.   I bow to your suffering and to your dignity.   I raise your name so that you and the others like you will not be forgotten.

**

I went to look for a video recording I made of Malik Jalal in Pakistan in late 2012, but YouTube had removed (deleted) it from my account since the last time I looked – some time in the last few months.




Yemeni Drone Victim Sues US Government

Faisal bin Ali Jabar Sues Germany

Image from Common Dreams

In the spring of 2014, Faisal bin Ali Jabar sued the German Government for the drone killing of his brother-in-law and nephew in Yemen.   Jabar’s brother-in-law was an imam, and very much opposed to the program of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).   When some low level AQAP militants came to town and threatened people in his congregation, he decided to meet with them and attempt to convince them to leave his people alone.   He took along a young man who was a local policeman, Jabar’s nephew.    The suit brought out some information, including the fact that there is a repeater on the US Ramstein Base that was necessary for all US drone strikes in the Middle East and North Africa.

Essentially, there is a trunk line from the US Drone Base in Creech Nevada to Ramstein in Germany, where the signal is received and forwarded to the satellite which provides the data streams that direct the drones.    On this basis, Mr. Jabar sued the German government for the wrongful death of his relatives.   The last I remember hearing was that the case was turned down, but the judge encouraged the plaintiff to appeal.   The case brought a light on the treaty obligations that Germany has been under since World War II that require it to refrain from war making and the hypocrisy of the Americans who have a base there that is necessary to bring about the slaughter of thousands, the majority of them innocent civilians.

The case raised a discussion of these issues in Germany, and Americans were informed, and participated to support the German peace movement in pressuring the German government to push back against their American benefactors who have become parasitic in this context and who are placing Germany in a contradiction with its own laws and the laws of the European Union as well as the constraints placed on it by the United Nations since World War II.   You can read more about this campaign and the legal issues in Germany on the site, Action Reports.

Faisal Ali Bin Jabar came to the United States to testify before Congress a few months later about the human cost of Drone strikes in Yemen where both targeted strikes and so called ‘signature’ strikes against people whose behavior is suspicious were both common at the time.   The strike against his relatives was a ‘Signature’ strike.   The three militants they went to meet were under observation due to their ‘suspicious’ pattern of activity and it seemed a propitious time to strike when a couple of more men would be taken out as well.   After that I didn’t hear more about Mr. Jabar’s case.

Background of Interim Events: the Saudi War on Yemen

In the spring of 2015, Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen with assistance from the United States and the United Kingdom who have provided weapons, but also intelligence, guidance and in-air fueling for the US made jets Saudi pilots fly ever since.   Saudi Arabia formed a coalition with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Gulf states and called in markers from Pakistan and Egypt,   and hired mercenary foot soldiers from around the world to lay waste to the impoverished and embattled country of Yemen.    The United States has not only assisted the Saudi ‘coalition’ in making war on Yemen over the last 2 years, but provided political cover for them at the United Nations and assisted in maintaining a siege on Yemen that is killing more people than the bombing.

AQAP, the original US target of drone bombs, has been empowered by the war.   When the war began, the US withdrew its diplomatic staff from Sana’a, and it also withdrew the personnel from the a military base they were using there, which was immediately taken over by AQAP,  an ally of the Saudi coalition, who now control significant territory in Yemen.   Meanwhile, the US continues to bomb AQAP with drones and other means, which puts it in a rather contradictory position as it is both supporting the Saudi aggression in Yemen, and attacking one of it’s affiliates.

It’s not a surprise that Mr. Jabar’s case has fallen off the radar.   From the very beginning of the war in early 2015, the Saudi coalition has bombed schools and hospitals, water purification plants and power plants, factories and farms and people’s homes.   The civilian infrastructure of the country is in ruins.    Civilians are starving to death and a cholera epidemic is raging.   Children are dying in significant numbers.   The statistics of injury and death are deeply underestimated.    Saada, the Houthi capital in the north of Yemen has been leveled, along with numerous towns and villages.

We keep hearing that Yemen is on the brink of faming.   But it certainly appears that Yemen crossed that brink more than a year ago.   They are talking about 10,000 civilians dead from the war right now, but a Yemeni student in the US quoted in today’s Moon of Alabama blog says that since early 2015, more people have died from hunger and disease in Yemen than from the war. Of course, those people also died from the war.    In Key Facts About the Yemen War, published in June of 2016, Al Jazeera reported that

Both sides have been accused of killing civilians: the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has estimated that Saudi-led coalition air strikes caused almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths.

And then, of course, you have the mercenaries on the ground and the siege.   According to the article in Al Jazeera, there were 2,800 civilian deaths reported in Yemen in January of 2016, and 8,000 total.   If air strikes are the main killer, the proportion seems off.   There are lots of militias fighting in Yemen, but all the members were civilians when the war started, who were moved to act by the ongoing violence.   The Houthis were a force of a couple of thousand camped out in Sana’a, demonstrating against the government.

Faisal bin Ali Jabar Sues the US for Wrongful Death of his Family Members

Car involved in Drone Strike on Jabar’s relatives

So, I was surprised last week when I received a newsletter from Reprieve stating that Mr. Jabar’s Appeal of his wrongful death case against the US Government was heard last December.     Kathleen McLellan and Jesselynn Radack filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of whistle blowers Brandon Bryant, Lisa Ling and Cian Westmoreland, all involved in the Drone program prior to their leaving the military.  Apparently, the original lawsuit was adjudicated in 2015.   I found an article in the Guardian, but nothing in the US press on the subject.   Of course, nearly two years have passed and much has changed.   The Guardian focused on the human element: Yemeni man denied apology from US for drone strike that killed his family.  Jabar actually offered to drop if suit if President US President and Top Drone Barak Obama would offer condolences as he has to western victims of drone strikes.   This of course was not going to happen.

So, it turns out that the reason I heard about Mr. Jabar’s Appeal just now is that the case was heard in December of 2016, but the decision was presented in July of 2017.    The Judges who heard the appeal upheld the original court decision.   The decision was that the judiciary does not have the authority or the expertise to contradict a decision by the Executive with regard to war and peace.   So, in matters of ‘war and peace’, ‘checks and balances’ do not apply.   Therefore, despite the fact that all were sympathetic with the complainant and recognized the merit of the case itself, the court declined to decide it.

*** Court Documents

And so, this critical case was not only dismissed on questionable grounds, but it has been lost in the fog of an escalating war on a country that is no threat whatsoever to the United States or Saudi Arabia for that matter, a poor country whose people have been struggling for security, independence and some kind of democratic governance for decades.



Drone News Has Dried Up

People do need to understand how challenging the current environment is for everyone. I was talking yesterday to a friend about how the background information is becoming more and more difficult to access. Even alternative news sites have a cycle of sorts related to what information they focus on. Drone information in particular has been under attack for some time.

When I started the Upstate Drone Action Website in 2011, there was virtually no news about drones anywhere. I created an aggregator using a Google aggregator I had created, that searched widely for Drone news. It started turning up mostly reports on US drone strikes in English language news outlets in Pakistan and other international sources including the international versions of the New York Times and CNN. But even so, I initially found only a few hits a month. I was trying to triangulate various sources on the same strike at the time so I posted them all.

By 2014 and 2015 the same news aggregator was turning out so many reports, still majority international, I had started organizing them so that I could collect all the posts on a particular event. It also turned up links to all kinds to US reports reflecting on Drone strikes as well as discussions of drone warfare in progressive blogs. After a while, I couldn’t keep up any more. There were hundreds of hits each month.

Suddenly, in 2015 and 2016, all the real news disappeared from the feed created by my tool.  Increasingly, the reports were dominated by discussions of domestic drone uses and domestic legal issues, mostly referring to little low flying drones used to snoop or capture footage of ongoing events. The conversation turned to ‘delivery drones’ something I think is an absolutely stupid and unworkable idea; cowboys shooting down drones over their property. Drones for rescue and research. Well, you get the picture. There were exceptions but they became fewer and farther between.

As the peak for drone news collapsed, a site that regularly published my work rejected a major research piece on military drones and the ways in which drone news was distorted and covered up in mainstream sources.   The main editor wrote me thank you for the piece, but the person actually posting articles chose to ignore it.   Drones didn’t interest him or her.

Currently I rarely, if ever, see an article focused on a drone strike in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia or any of the other countries where drone strikes have significantly increased since the beginning of this year.     Today my aggregator turned up several articles claiming that Chinese, Iranian and Russian drones are getting in the way of US business as usual.    But,  my feed no longer reports any US drone strikes despite the fact that  they have significantly increased since Trump came into office. If you look at it, you would think that military drones, targeted killing and spying are on an asymptotic approach to zero. You would never dream that military drone strikes have doubled under President Trump.

I shared this information at a meeting earlier today, along with an article from the World Socialist Web Site, Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites. The article talks about progressive websites but in fact many libertarian and right leaning websites have been targeted by Google as well. The ‘Fake News’ targets are decided by a committee with representatives of the New York Times, The Washington Post, Google and others of a similar ilk. They are identified as channeling ‘Russian propaganda’, but what they actually do is offer a forum for a broad based discussion of the U.S. political sphere, along with U.S. domestic and foreign policy.  In another article, New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites, WSWS asserts:

In the three months since Google implemented the changes to its search engine, fewer people have accessed left-wing and anti-war news sites. Based on information available on Alexa analytics, other sites that have experienced sharp drops in ranking include WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News and Truthout. Even prominent democratic rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.

Not everyone at the meeting was prepared to believe the information I presented and many  don’t particularly favor the World Socialist Organization as an authoritative source, but they do hold some of the other sites on the ‘Fake News’ list in very high esteem.   That’s an important point.   These sites are not all coming from the same political perspective but they all provide a platform for open discussion and deep reporting of events covered in a very narrow manner by the mainstream media.

In any case, James Swarts, a long time stalwart in the local antiwar movement, went home to test the hypothesis that Google is not carrying stories on military drone activity and not reporting hits on blacklisted sites.   Here is his report:

 In reference to the issue of information blackout or drone action since The Drump took office I found a quick Internet search turned up many articles, but most of them are already very dated.  However, some may be worth checking out such as the following:

    Unfortunately, as was brought out at the meeting, it appears Google is limiting hits and you have to use several search engines to find any current reports [at all].  Obviously this is a concern to be further investigated.

If you would like to make a comparison with regard to the availability of Drone News, here is the page of hits, mostly from my Google aggregator for the first quarter of 2014, and the one from the second quarter of 2013.

In Google tweaks search results to squash fake news, published by C|net news (owned by CBS)  on April 25, Google’s plan to excise ‘Fake News’ from their results is explained as follows:

Google announced Tuesday that it’s changing how its search engine works to “surface more high quality content from the web.” The search engine giant said that about 0.25 percent of its results had “offensive or clearly misleading content,” and it set out to fix that by changing how results are ranked and introducing reporting tools for users.

Over the last month, after Google updated its search quality guidelines, it used testers to weed out low-quality content, which included fake news, offensive results and bogus conspiracy theories. The search giant collected the data from the evaluators and is applying it to the ranking algorithm to push fake news further down in search results.

Unfortunately, my experience with drone news tells us that this practice is not entirely new in Google.   A practice already in place regarding certain subjects has merely been broadened and systematized.   I would, in fact, think it likely that the removal of Drone news from Google output was a test.  Did anyone complain?  Was there a public outcry?   No.   So, it was safe to create a back story and put the big censorship program in place.   1984 has come and gone.   The Imperial Seal is in place.

What really is frightening is that many of the tools we take for granted for maintaining our websites and enhancing them are controlled by Google.   Google can and will take your site down if it is deemed threat.     So far, this has been a response to malware (like viruses), but they can do it for whatever reason they choose. Once it is blocked by your browser only Google can clear it to be displayed again.  Google has a web administrator site that offers tools to check your site for problems, and also output data to assess how many hits your site is getting, and how they are distributed in a variety of contextual matrices.

Many of the sites on the ‘Fake News’ list use a Google plug-in to power the search engine that is engaged when you put a topic, author or title into the little search window at the top of the Home Page.    Google tools are used by the most popular SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools for bloggers because they are advising you on how to get your blog  a good listing with Google.   These tools make you do some work, but, if Google won’t list your site anyway, then why bother.    Google provides the engine for mapping plug-ins, email plug-ins and all kinds of services that you can get for free for you website or blog.   Google handles all of our email in many cases.

What if they decide to begin censoring email?   Will they tell you in advance?   Google list serves won’t post emails to the account of the sender (if they have a gmail address).   They didn’t announce this, so many of us thought we’d been kicked off our list.   When I looked it up, I found no way to complain.

We have been struggling to keep network neutrality alive so those of us who just want to discuss the issues on our own terms can continue to do so without technical interference.   Now the mainstream news is using the most powerful Internet management company/s (Facebook is doing this too) to block the free flow of information.   So far, you and I can still go to our favorite source of information and discussion to see what people are talking about, but new people are shut out.   No one will get the information on a equal footing with the mainstream stories when the search for information on a given topic is limited to a few US based corporate outlets.   This is very bad news and it needs to be shared widely.

 




Amicus Brief for Mary Anne Grady Flores

Jonathan Wallace has written an Amicus Brief for Mary Anne Grady Flores and submitted it to the Appeals Court on behalf of Upstate Drone Action.   Mary Anne, one of the first Hancock protesters to receive an Order of Protection, decided not to press her luck and participate in the next civil resistance action outside the base.   She did however come to the site of the protest and stand in the street photographing the participants.   As she walked back to her car, she was arrested for ‘violating’ the terms of her OOP.

Since she was in a public road well outside the locked gates of the base while merely photographing the protesters, Mary Anne was completely surprised by her arrest.   In her mind, she had followed what she believed was the intention of the OOP which was to refrain from protesting at Hancock Base and stay off base property.    She later learned that the public thoroughfare she was standing in  was leased by the base from the town, and subject to an easement allowing traffic to pass by.

At the trial, the Jury sided with a very aggressive prosecution that labeled her as an intruder in the affairs of the community and convicted her of not ‘staying away’ from the base.     Judge David Gideon wanted to ‘send a message’ to the protesters so he sentenced her to a year in jail.   By that time, the actual protesters she was photographing had already been acquitted of their Disorderly Conduct charges on the basis that there was no ‘intention’ to cause alarm or disruption.

Mary Anne’s case has been appealed and the appeal will be heard possibly in the fall.    This is the context in which Jonathan wrote the brief.   I have transcribed the introduction and summary portion of the brief in this post, but if you wish to read the whole brief you can click on the pdf link at the end of the post.  I have also linked a copy of her Order of Protection so you can see what Jonathan references in his document.

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INTEREST OF THE AMICUS CURIAE

Upstate Drone Action respectfully submits this brief as amicus curiae in support of Appellant’s argument that her conviction for contempt of an Order of Protection (“OOP”) violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Upstate Drone Action is a grassroots coalition founded in 2010 which, in its
own words, “seeks to expose – both to the public and to Hancock Air Force Base personnel – the ongoing satellite-facilitated Reaper drone war crimes perpetrated in West Asia and the Middle East by the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State National Guard stationed at Syracuse’s Hancock Air Force base”.

Upstate Drone Action has organized and carried out a series of peaceful protests on the public street adjoining, and in the access road to, Hancock Air Force base. Numerous members of Upstate Drone Action have been arrested during these peaceful protests and charged with obstructing government action, a misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct and trespass violations, and some have gone to trial on these charges. Almost from the very outset, authorities in the Town of Dewitt, where the base is located, have begun issuing OOP’s under Criminal Procedure Law Section 530.13, using the same blank form which would be utilized to protect a battered spouse or frightened witness, issuing these in the name of the colonels commanding the base. Appellant Mary Ann Grady was arrested for violating her OOP at an Upstate Drone Action demonstration. Three other members of Upstate Drone Action currently face contempt charges for OOP violations, which have been adjourned by a DeWitt Town Court judge without date pending a decision on this appeal.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT

Amicus maintains that the OOP issued to Appellant violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and the New York State Constitution, because:

  1. It is so vague as to offend Due Process, in that it fails to contain any geographic limitation whatever or other clarification as to the meaning of its terms, including the phrase “stay away”;
  2. Appellant’s actions, peacefully photographing a demonstration on a public thoroughfare, were First Amendment protected and cannot Constitutionally be construed as a misdemeanor violation of the OOP;
  3. The OOP fails the “intermediate scrutiny” test applicable in First Amendment cases involving content neutrality, in that the OOP itself, and Appellant’s arrest pursuant to it, were not “narrowly tailored to a significant government interest, while allowing ample alternative means of communication”; and
  4. The OOP constituted an unlawful prior restraint on Appellant’s speech.

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                                                                       Click icon to read the entire brief: Click to Download PDF

 

 

 




Are We the Terrorists?

Are we the terrorists? This is the subject of Ed Kinane and Dave Kashmer’s informative Workshop on Drone Warfare at SUNY Cortland.   Students were informed about the actions off military drones around the world then engaged on the subject of ‘Are We the Terrorists’.   Very interesting result.  A good model for introducing the subject to those who have not had an opportunity to see things as we do.

 




Good Friday Review

Photos by Eddie Rodriguez and Judy Bello

Hover to see name of photographer.   Click on an image to view in lightbox.  Use arrows to click through.   To view full sized image (though none are ‘high def’) right click on the image in the lightbox and select ‘View Image’.




War Crimes Indictment for Good Friday

WAR CRIMES INDICTMENT

WAR_CRIMES_INDICTMENT_Good_Friday_2017.pdf

Indictment read by Matt Ryan, recorded by Judy Bello:

http://upstatedroneaction.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/Audio/Good_Friday_Indictment-Matt_Ryan.mp3

To President Donald Trump, to Secretary of Defense Secretary James Mattis, to the full Military Chain of the Command, including Command Chief Michael Will, to all Service Members and civilian staff of Hancock Air Base, and to the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of Dewitt, NY:

Each one of you, when you became a public servant, serving in a government position or when you joined the United States Armed Forces or police, you publicly promised to uphold the United States Constitution. We take this opportunity to call your attention to Article VI of the US Constitution, which states:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not with standing.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the Constitution and laws of the U.S., including treaties made under authority of the U.S. shall be supreme law of the land.

The Supremacy Clause provides part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

One Treaty duly ratified by the U.S. is the United Nations Charter. It was ratified by a vote of 89 to 2 in the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President in 1945. It remains in effect today. As such, it is part of supreme law of the land.

The Preamble of the U.N. Charter states that its purpose is to“save future generation from the scourge of war” and it further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This Treaty applies both collectively and individually to all three branches of government, on all levels, U.S. federal, state and local governments, starting with the executive branch: the U.S. President and the executive staff; the judicial branch: all judges
and staff members of the judiciary; the legislative branch: all members of the U.S. Armed Forces and all departments of Law Enforcement and all civilian staff, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes Article VI.

Under the U.N. Charter and long established international laws, anyone–civilian, military, government officials, or judge-who knowingly participates in or supports illegal use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Today you must recognize that when you promised to uphold the Constitution, you promised to obey Treaties and International Law – as part of the Supreme Law of the Land and furthermore, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the U.S., you arerequired to disobey any clearly unlawful order from a superior.

Based on all the above,

WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND

TO COMMAND CHIEF MICHAEL WILL, EVERY DRONE CREW, AND SERVICE MEMBERS AT HANCOCK AIR BASE, WITH CRIMES AGAINST PEACE & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WITH VIOLATIONS OF PART OF THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS, WARS OF AGGRESSION, VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, AND KILLING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS.

We charge that the Air National Guard of the United States of America, headquartered at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, under the command of the 174th Fighter Wing Commander, Command Chief Michael Will, is maintaining and deploying the MQ-9 Reaper robotic aircraft, called drones.

These drones are being used not only in combat situations for the purpose of assassinations but also for killings far removed from combat zones without military defense, to assassinate individuals and groups far removed from military action.

Extra judicial killings, such as those the U.S. carries out by drones are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law.

It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq for targeted killings to target specific individuals which has nearly always resulted in the deaths of many others.

There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used; no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassinations.

In support of this indictment, we cite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who has said that the use of drones creates “a highly problematic blurring and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force…. The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum…. In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules.”
See United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Study on Targeted Killings, 28, May 2010.

The drone attacks either originating at Hancock or supported here are a deliberate illegal use of force against another nation, and as such are a felonious violation of Article VI of the US Constitution. By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes. We demand that you stop participating in any part of the operations of MQ-9 drones immediately, being accountable to the people of United States and Afghanistan.

As citizens of this nation, which maintains over 700 military bases around the globe, and the largest, most deadly military arsenal in the world we believe these words of Martin Luther King still hold true, ”the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government”.

There is hope for a better world when WE, THE PEOPLE, hold our government accountable to the laws and treaties that govern the use of lethal force and war. To the extent that we ignore our laws and constitution and allow for the unchecked use of lethal force by our government, allowing the government to kill who ever it wants, where ever it wants, how ever it wants with no accountability, we make the world less safe for children everywhere.

We appeal to all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.

Signed by: THE UPSTATE COALITION TO GROUND THE DRONES AND END THE WARS




Nine Arrested Good Friday at Hancock

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ann Tiffany (315) 478-4571 Syracuse, NY
Mary Anne Grady Flores (607) 280-8797 Ithaca, NY
John Amidon (518)-312-6442 Albany, NY

upstatedroneaction.org,       www.knowdrones.com/

PRESS RELEASE FOR GOOD FRIDAY PROTEST AT HANCOCK

 Syracuse, NY – April 14 Nine non-violent civil resisters of Upstate Drone Action were arrested at the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base protesting the extrajudicial drone killings perpetrated from the base. Three people hung on drone crosses representing victims of US drone strikes from seven majority Muslim countries. Eleven others carried smaller drone crosses bearing words, “Drones crucify: Children, Families, Love, Peace, Community, the US Constitution, the UN Charter, the Rule of Law, US Treaties, Due Process, and Diplomacy.

The Good Friday Hancock Drone Action Statement read, “Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.  Recognizing that 70% of our nation identify as Christian, we come to the gates of the Hancock drone base to make real the crucifixion today.  As Jesus and others were crucified by the Roman Empire, drones are used by the U. S. Empire in a similar fashion. In Roman times, crosses loomed over a community to warn people that they could be killed whenever the Empire decided.  So, too, our drones fly over many countries threatening extrajudicial killings and upon whoever happens to be in the vicinity. On this Good Friday, we recall Jesus’ call to love and nonviolence. We’re asking the air force base and this nation to turn away from a policy of modern-day crucifixion.” (full statement here)

Hancock Air Base is located on the backside of Syracuse International Airport. It hosts the 174th  Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard – the MQ9 Reaper drone hub. It is also the national Reaper maintenance training center.  The MQ9 Reaper is a robotic, satellite-linked, remote assassin drone.  Hancock is presently one of 20 U.S. drone-warfare bases across the U.S., and more in Germany, Australia, Italy, and the U.K.  The “Drone Papers”-leaked by an internal military whistle blower state that during a five month period in 2015, 90% of all drone victims were bystanders, including children.

The event was livestreamed by Wilton Vought of Other Voices Other Choices

Today’s civil resistance action is one chapter in Upstate Drone Action’s six-year nonviolent campaign to expose the Hancock AFB war crimes. The drone resistance is linked to the world wide efforts to ground killer drones and end all US wars. Since 2010 there have been over 170 anti-Reaper arrests at Hancock Airbase.

Those arrested today: Veteran for Peace- Ray McGovern, Jessica Stewart of Bath Harbor Maine Catholic Worker, Ed Kinane of Syracuse-Anti-militarist activist, Tom Joyce of Ithaca Catholic Worker, James Ricks, Joan Pleune of Brooklyn Raging Grannies, Mark Colville of Amistad Catholic Worker, John Amidon of Vets for Peace & Albany Friends Mtg., Brian Hynes of NYC St. Joseph Catholic Worker.