Belmont Club

May the Farce Be With You

Defense Tech describes the development of a micro-UAV with very aggressive flight capabilities now under development at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab.  “DARPA, as well as all the services, are funding research into Micro Air Vehicles, drones small enough to fit in the palm of your hand fitted with sensors that can penetrate deep inside buildings, tunnels, caves and urban canyons searching out the enemy. The Brits use the small 6-inch WASP MAV in Afghanistan.”

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Defense Tech writes:

The next step is to arm the little suckers. A networked MAV swarm carrying small explosive charges in kamikaze attacks could take out vehicles, missile batteries, radar installations or other soft targets like people. A swarm of these quad-rotor MAVs coming your way would definitely give you pause.

Unless you had one of these.

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But since the Taliban doesn’t have lightsabers, the UN is not amused.  Foreign Policy says that a UN expert wants governments to publish a list of everyone they hit (read the United States) and to prove they made good faith attempts to capture these individuals first. The Foreign Policy article says “the U.N. rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, issued a report June 2 critiquing the use of armed drones by the United States and recommended that the military, not the CIA, handle the strikes.”

Alston addressed the argument that CIA operatives could be charged with war crimes for their participation in drone strikes, saying that it “is not supported by international humanitarian law.” …

Alston noted that intelligence agents do not have immunity from prosecution for killings conducted in a conflict zone, meaning that “CIA personnel could be prosecuted for murder under the domestic law of any country in which they conduct targeted drone killings, and could also be prosecuted for violations of applicable US law.”

Administration officials pushed back on Alston’s findings, citing the precision and importance of drone strikes while reiterating their position that strikes are conducted within state laws and the laws of war (Newsweek). It is believed that a drone strike killed top al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, whose death was announced this week (LAT).

He wants the military to gather and act on intelligence? Maybe that’s why the New York Times leaked a secret order signed by General Petraeus in September 2009 to send “American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces.”. The NYT explained why this was a bad idea.

some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks. The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemen — which might allow the operations but be loath to acknowledge their cooperation — or incite the anger of hostile nations like Iran and Syria. Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.

You see using military forces in the role currently filled by the CIA is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

So why not take them prisoner? Because keeping them indefinitely is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Ask those who lobbied for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Now that it’s closed the Law of Unintended Consequences (though this was perfectly forseeable) means there’s nowhere to put prisoners, unless you want to render them to Pakistan or Egypt. Recently Reuters reported that prisoners are no longer taken “because there is no place to put them”. So they are droned instead. ‘We killed them in order to safeguard their human rights’.

By some accounts, the growing reliance on drone strikes is partly a result of the Obama administration’s bid to repair the damage to America’s image abroad in the wake of Bush-era allegations of torture and secret detentions.

Besides putting an end to harsh interrogation methods, the president issued executive orders to ban secret CIA detention centers and close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: “There is nowhere to put them.”

A former U.S. intelligence official, who was involved in the process until recently, said: “I got the sense: ‘What the hell do we do with this guy if we get him?’ It’s not the primary consideration but it has to be a consideration.”

Sure it’s a consideration. If you capture him you get charged with war crimes. Even if you get him can you ask him questions or do you just read him his Miranda rights, like the Underwear Bomber? If you can’t ask him questions, why bother to get the guy? If don’t get the guy, can you zap him? No that’s a war crime. So maybe should you just let him go? Hold on. If you let him go and he goes and blows up a UN facility where Philip Alston, rapporteur, is holding office, can Philip Alson or his surviving relatives sue for failure to protect? Life is complicated here on earth. The Star Wars universe was simpler. We already are in a somewhere long, long, ago and in a mindset far, far away.

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