In what appears to be a cynical PR stunt, the UK government is considering plans to allow women who feel threatened on the street to call upon surveillance drones that would arrive in minutes and shine a bright light on any potential attacker.
What could possibly go wrong?
“Women in fear of an attack will be able to use a phone app to summon a drone, which could arrive within minutes armed with a powerful spotlight and thermal cameras to frighten off any potential assailant,” reports the Telegraph.
Trials will take place on campus at Nottingham University at a cost of £500,000 during which the tech will be used to “protect students and staff.”
The scheme will be submitted to the UK government’s Innovate research program, and could eventually see helicopters being replaced by drones as a front line tool of law enforcement.
“It is a high capability drone that costs just £100 an hour but can do 80 percent of what a police helicopter can do,” said Richard Gill, the founder of Drone Defence. “It cannot do high speed pursuits but it can do the other tasks such as searching for people and ground surveillance.”
Gill noted that 25 drones could do the job of one police helicopter in London for the same price, with the drones being housed at five base locations across the city.
The idea of countless government drones whizzing around a city keeping tabs on people is garishly dystopian.
Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Martin Defense Group were selected to build and test Manta Ray unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The companies are each developing unique full-scale demonstration systems.
DARPA has awarded on 20 December Phase 2 agreements to continue the Manta Ray programme. The two prime contractors, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Martin Defense Group were selected to build and test unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). The total amount of the contracts was not disclosed.
The companies are each developing unique full-scale demonstration systems. This effort began in 2020 and is intended to design and advance UUVs that operate for extended durations without the need for on-site human logistics support or maintenance.
Thousands of previously hidden Pentagon documents show that the US air wars in the Middle East have been marked by “deeply flawed intelligence” and have killed thousands of civilians, many of them children, according to a shocking new report in the New York Times Saturday afternoon.
The 5-year Times investigation received more than 1,300 reports examining airstrikes in Iraq and Syria from September 2014 to January 2018, more than 5,400 pages in all. None of these records show any findings of wrongdoing on the actions of the US military.
The Times reporting confirms many of the previous reports by whistleblowers Daniel Hale, Chelsea Manning and others. On July 27, 2021, whistleblower Hale was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison for exposing the true civilian toll of the US drone program. “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said at his sentencing.
From the Times report:
The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.
The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.
The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away. President Barack Obama called it “the most precise air campaign in history.”
The New York Times has published a very solid investigative report on a US military coverup of a 2019 massacre in Baghuz, Syria which killed scores of civilians. This would be the second investigative report on civilian-slaughtering US airstrikes by The New York Times in a matter of weeks, and if I were a more conspiracy-minded person I’d say the paper of record appears to have been infiltrated by journalists.
The report contains many significant revelations, including that the US military has been grossly undercounting the numbers of civilians killed in its airstrikes and lying about it to Congress, that special ops forces in Syria have been consistently ordering airstrikes which kill noncombatants with no accountability by exploiting loopholes to get around rules meant to protect civilians, that units which call in such airstrikes are allowed to do their own assessments grading whether the strikes were justified, that the US war machine attempted to obstruct scrutiny of the massacre “at nearly every step” of the way, and that the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations only investigates such incidents when there is “potential for high media attention, concern with outcry from local community/government, concern sensitive images may get out.”
“But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike,” The New York Times reports. “The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified.”
Journalist Aaron Maté has called the incident “one of the US military’s worst massacres and cover-up scandals since My Lai in Vietnam.”
Advocacy groups, human rights defenders, fellow reporters, and other readers of The New York Times were outraged Saturday after journalists Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt published their investigation into a deadly 2019 U.S. airstrike in Syria and all that followed.
“This NYT report on the cover-up of U.S. war crimes in Syria should make your blood boil,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, tweeted Sunday. “The U.S. wantonly kills civilians, covers it up, and then tells other countries how ‘democracy’ works. Infuriating.”
Evan Hill, a journalist on the Times‘ visual investigations team, said that “this is a long, complicated story, but it’s one that touches on nearly every problem with the global U.S. air war. At every attempt, the military tried to cover it up.”
A middle school in Pennsylvania is receiving pushback from some parents for hosting a drone-flying camp over the weekend that was not open to white students.
During morning announcements at Upper Merion Area Middle School on November 1, a school staff member said she had “an exciting announcement,” but asked everyone to first watch a short video about drones. The video included footage of students flying drones, and snippets of TV news reports where anchors noted that “drones are in high demand,” and “if you want to go into drones, you’re going to need those (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills.”
After the video, the staff member announced a drone flight camp at the middle school on Saturday, according to a recording of the announcement a parent posted on Facebook. The camp was free, but there were only 24 seats available, the staff member announced. Seats would be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.
But there was another catch.
“Here’s the thing, it is a black-student-union-sponsored event,” the staff member said, adding that “you must be black, African American, a person of color in order to participate.”
The New York Times reported that, “in the 67 years since the CIA was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama forged with Mr. [John] Brennan,” an architect of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program and former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia.
Obama’s worldview meshed so closely with this “unsentimental intel warrior” and “terrorist hunter” that Obama “found himself finishing Brennan’s sentences.”
An anonymous Cabinet member explained that “presidents tend to be smitten with the instruments of the intelligence community [but] Obama was more smitten than most—this has been an intelligence presidency in a way we haven’t seen maybe since Eisenhower.”
The consequences could be seen in Obama’s boosting funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which promotes regime change in countries defiant of the New World Order, and his drastic expansion of the use of drones—for both surveillance and targeted killings.
The Obama administration further; a) backed coups in Ukraine and Honduras; b) pivoted the U.S. military to Asia, ramped up arms sales to Saudi Arabia and expanded military bases in Africa; c) helped suppress evidence about CIA torture, d) refused to pursue a criminal case against the CIA’s money laundering bank, HSBC, e) eavesdropped on U.S. allies and a U.S. congressman (Dennis Kucinich) who opposed his administration’s illegal invasion of Libya that devastated that country, f) stepped up surveillance and efforts to destroy Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, and g) presided over the prosecution of a record number of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917.
Rick Smith, whose inventions changed the way millions of people understand modern policing, now wants to send them to war.
Smith invented the Taser, the stun gun that is often the first thing police officers reach for when things get tense. As public concern mounted that cops were maybe a bit too eager to tase people, Smith invented the police-worn body camera, which has become a staple of U.S. police departments and plays a starring role in our national conversation about police reform.
So what’s next? Smith says AI and robotics will dramatically change how police departments do what they do. They could also reshape the American way of war.
Smith’s company, Axon, is already using machine learning on body camera footage. The company has access to huge amounts of body-camera video because police departments pay Axon to host it on Microsoft Azure. “Basically every big department you can think of, NYPD, LA, Chicago, D.C., we host all their data in the cloud for them,” Smith said during the recent AUSA conference in Washington, D.C.
In August 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek revealed the existence of a pilot program being operated by the Baltimore Police Department in which small manned aircraft circled over the city all day, using cameras to continuously photograph a 32-square-mile area and giving police the ability to retroactively track any vehicle or pedestrian within that area. It was the ultimate Big Brother “eye in the sky”—and yet the Baltimore police had not notified the public or even the mayor or city council about the program. Revelation of the secret program generated a storm of controversy, and eventually it was put on hold—though in December 2019, the city’s police commissioner announced that the program would be revived.
The technology behind the Baltimore program involves pointing multiple cameras toward the ground and stitching those images together into a single, larger photograph. It also uses computers to automatically correct for the changing camera angles of the circling planes as well as factors such as topographic variances and lens distortion.
The result is a surveillance system of enormous power, able to reconstruct the movements of all visible vehicles and pedestrians across a city—where they start and finish each journey and the paths they take in between. It can allow tracking of a great proportion of people’s movements throughout a city.