DRONES:POTENTIAL USE IN USA AND ABROAD (Μικρή συλλογή άρθρων)
A)Pentagon admits it has deployed military spy drones over US
USA Today (Tribune News Service)
The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights have been rare and lawful, according to a new report.
The report by a Pentagon inspector general, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said spy drones on non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and always in compliance with existing law.
The report, which did not provide details on any of the domestic spying missions, said the Pentagon takes the issue of military drones used on American soil «very seriously.»
A senior policy analyst for the ACLU, Jay Stanley, said it is good news no legal violations were found, yet the technology is so advanced that it’s possible laws may require revision.
«Sometimes, new technology changes so rapidly that existing law no longer fit what people think are appropriate,» Stanley said. «It’s important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic.»
The use of unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS) drones over U.S. surfaced in 2013 when then-FBI director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the bureau employed spy drones to aid investigations, but in a «very,very minimal way, very seldom.»
The inspector general analysis was completed March 20, 2015, but not released publicly until last Friday.
It said that with advancements in drone technology along with widespread military use overseas, the Pentagon established interim guidance in 2006 governing when and whether the unmanned aircraft could be used domestically. The interim policy allowed spy drones to be used for homeland defense purposes in the U.S. and to assist civil authorities.
But the policy said that any use of military drones for civil authorities had to be approved by the Secretary of Defense or someone delegated by the secretary. The report found that defense secretaries have never delegated that responsibility.
The report quoted a military law review article that said «the appetite to use them (spy drones) in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow, as does Congressional and media interest in their deployment.»
Military units that operate drones told the inspector general they would like more opportunities to fly them on domestic missions if for no other reason than to give pilots more experience to improve their skills, the report said. «Multiple units told us that as forces using the UAS capabilities continue to draw down overseas, opportunities for UAS realistic training and use have decreased,» the report said.
A request for all cases between 2006 and 2015 in which civil authorities asked the military for use of spy drones produced a list of «less than twenty events,» the report said. The list included requests granted and denied.
The list was not made public in the report. But a few examples were cited, including one case in which an unnamed mayor asked the Marine Corps to use a drone to find potholes in the mayor’s city. The Marines denied the request because obtaining the defense secretary’s «approval to conduct a UAS mission of this type did not make operational sense.»
Shortly before the inspector general report was completed a year ago, the Pentagon issued a new policy governing the use of spy drones. It requires the defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It says that unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary, drones «may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons.» It also bans the use of armed drones over the United States for anything other than training and testing.
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B)Pentagon has a ‘unique’ policy for legal use of drones in U.S.
The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade according to a new report. USA TODAY
The use of military drones over U.S. soil appears to be perfectly legal, but some question why the program has been largely shrouded in mystery and say local governments should assume more control over the practice.
The Pentagon has used spy drones over the United States over the past decade, but did not publicize that fact until it responded to a Freedom of Information Act request, known as a FOIA. Benjamin Friedman, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, wondered why it took so long to provide information on a program that’s been operating since 2006.
«If everything is so legal, then it shouldn’t take a FOIA request to find out about it,» Friedman said.
The Pentagon has publicly posted at least a partial list of the drone missions that have flown in non-military airspace over the United States and explains the use of the aircraft, many to aid in local disasters. But that list is not well known.
Friedman did not question the overall legality of the program. He said using military personnel and equipment on U.S. soil is a common practice, including training at military bases and providing assistance to local law enforcement agencies during emergencies. He gave the example of National Guard troops helping to locate victims after natural disasters.
Drones, he said, are simply an extension of that practice.
That mirrors the findings of a legal analysis conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general, which found the Pentagon’s infrequent use of the military drones over U.S. soil — fewer than 20 times from 2006 to 2015 — to be lawful. According to a Pentagon report, then secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed an interim policy on Sept. 28, 2006, designed to govern the use of military drones over the U.S.
That remained in force until superseded early last year by a policy with a more standardized approval process.
The inspector general analysis found that while the Pentagon can legally assist civil authorities when requested, the use of drones was new ground. There was no federal statute that addressed what to do if a governor or a state emergency official requested the use of a military drone for some form of surveillance, such as in floods, fires or other disasters.
So the Pentagon drafted an interim policy that mirrored how the military provides other forms of assistance to civil authorities when requested. But the policy was made highly restrictive, according to the inspector general analysis, requiring that each request receive explicit approval by the secretary of Defense or someone designated by the secretary.
«Great care is taken by DoD (Department of Defense) personnel to protect the American public’s civil liberties and privacy rights while simultaneously preparing to employ UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) capabilities,» the inspector general concluded.
Friedman said he would be more comfortable if local governments and law enforcement agencies stopped borrowing the military drones and instead purchased their own. By doing so, he said, there would be more oversight of the programs and more input from the very U.S. citizens who could find a drone flying over their backyard.
«It’s an accountability concern,» Friedman said. «You’d like to know if you’re a voter in California or Ohio if your authorities feel they need to be flying Predator drones. You’d like to be able to have some kind of democratic debate about that.»
Have Lethal Swarming Drones Made Submarines Obsolete?
Submarines can run—but they can’t hide—from drones.That’s the contention of a new report by a British think tank, which argues that the growing numbers and sophistication of drones are depriving submarines of their stealthiness.
The report, authored by science journalist David Hambling for the British American Security Information Council, was written as a briefing paper for Britain’s Parliament, which must consider whether to modernize or scrap the UK’s Trident nuclear missile subs.
The report points out the century-old method of hunting subs is changing:
«In the past, antisubmarine warfare (ASW) has been carried out by a small number of highly capable ships and manned aircraft. Their task has been like that of a handful of police looking for a fugitive in a vast wilderness. Lacking the manpower to cover the whole area, they have to concentrate their forces on the most likely paths and hideouts, and hope for a lucky break.»
Now, highly expensive subs must contend with an expanding array of cheap robot sub-hunters that can blanket the ocean, sort of in the same way that German U-boat «wolfpacks» ganged up on Allied convoys in the North Atlantic. These include small handheld drones that the U.S. military is designing to operate in swarms, air-launched drones like the U.S. Coyote that can be dropped by ASW aircraft, and sonar-equipped underwater robot gliders that quietly search the ocean.
«Small unmanned platforms can carry many types of sensors active and passive sonar, magnetic anomaly detectors, wake detection LIDAR, thermal sensors, laser-based optical sensors capable of piercing seawater and others,» Hambling writes. «A submarine which can be seen by any one of these will cease to be invisible. A submarine whose location is exposed is highly vulnerable to instant attack. If submarines are easily detectable, they lose all their advantages as strategic weapons platforms.»
Drones versus subs is essentially an arms race, a contest between an expensive but fragile weapon pitted against hordes of cheap sensor and weapons platforms. It parallels the race between the development of stealth aircraft, and the development of sensors to detect them.
Unfortunately for the subs, it’s not an equal contest. A U.S. Virginia-class attack submarine costs nearly $3 billion: a small unmanned aircraft might cost $5,000, and a swarm of thirty drones just $150,000. The drone isn’t as capable as the sub, but that’s not the point. Nuclear missile submarines have always been considered the invulnerable backbone of a nation’s nuclear force, able to hide in the ocean unlike land-based ICBMs or bombers. If the United States, Russia, China, Britain or France—not to mention Israel—fear that their ballistic subs are vulnerable to a surprise drone attack, this could make decision-makers much more ready to pull the trigger in a crisis.
On a more human level, it would be interesting to go back in time to World Wars I and II, where a constant refrain of the sailors and airmen who hunted subs was the sheer tedium of the search. Hour after hour after hour of scanning the oceans, in the hope that a needle in the haystack would reveal itself as a sonar contact or a tiny periscope peeking above the surface. If nothing else, farming out sub-hunting to the robots will make chasing subs a bit less dull.
Either way, antisubmarine warfare will never be the same. «The oceans are becoming a ‘sensor rich’ environment full of drones, with eyes and ears everywhere,» writes Hambling. «This will leave no hiding place for submarines.»
Image: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy.