April 28, 2012, Washington, DC—Today, CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve hosted the International Drone Summit in Washington, DC. The Summit consisted of multiple panels dealing with issues ranging from the expanding use of surveillance drones to the Obama administration’s targeted killing program. Participants had the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Pakistanis who had survived drone strikes or had their loved ones killed in them.
“We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, one of the Summit organizers and author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.”
Lawyers representing Pakistani drone-strike victims and journalists investigating the attacks shared their experiences of these events in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. New footage of interviews with victims was aired.
U.S. drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, in covert drone missions in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were primarily used by the U.S. military and CIA for surveillance prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, in the last ten years drones have become routinely used to launch missiles against human beings in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
“As the Obama Administration expands its use of killer drones around the world, so must we increase our demands for transparency and accountability” said Maria LaHood, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who spoke at the Drone Summit and who has litigated against the Obama administration’s targeted killing policy
It is also reported that drones are being deployed domestically by border security and law enforcement agencies. Predator drones deployed by Customs and Border Protection search for immigrants and drugs on the northern and southern borders, while metropolitan police and county sheriffs are acquiring smaller drones for use in their SWAT operations. On February 6, Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration open up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015, and that it immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) drones in commercial U.S. airways.
Speakers at the Summit included Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims; Clive Stafford Smith, a UK-based attorney who works with drone victims; Hina Shamsi, an ACLU national security expert; David Glazier, a professor of law who served 21 years as a US Navy surface warfare officer; Jeremy Scahill, an award-winning journalist covering U.S. targeted killings; Chris Woods, a senior reporter with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism who exposed CIA drone attacks on rescuers and funeral-goers in Pakistan; Trevor Timm, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.