February 16, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against President Obama and the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with regard to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information concerning Obama’s drone assignation program.
The ACLU inquired about “targeted killings” and “the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out.”
The information requested under FOIA was refused “because the very fact of the existence of such documents is itself classified, protect from disclosure by statues, and privileged.”
Despite confirmation of the targeted killing program by John Brennan, nominee for CIA director and House Representative Mike Rogers on mainstream television, the DoJ dismissed the ACLU’s case, citing that “Obama officials boasted of the drone program do not constitute official acknowledgment that the CIA (as opposed to some other government generally) has a drone program.”
On appeal of the decision, the DoJ replied that regardless of public affirmation by Congressional officials and the Obama administration of the targeted killing program, the ACLU failed to “identify [any] statement in which Mr. Brennan allegedly confirms purported CIA involvement in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for ‘targeted killing’”, but merely cite “general discussions of ‘targeted killing’ that do not address the involvement of any particular agency”.
A leaked document from the Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed guidelines of the Obama administration’s legal reasoning for conducting targeted assassinations. The document asserts that the government may lawfully kill a United States citizen if “an informed, high-level official” decides that the target is a high-ranking Qaeda figure or affiliate who poses “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and that capturing him is not feasible.
Without the definitive threat of attack that could be construed as inevitable, the power of executive order is all that is needed to have a targeted assassination initiated.
The white paper includes redefinitions and expansions of self-defense and imminent attack with the ideology of a “broader concept of imminence” without the necessity of actual intelligence to support those assumptions. If the American is thought to be a threat to the US, they could become eligible of these targeted assassinations.
The document also states that Congress would be circumvented while Congressional committee’s intelligence could be considered classified legal advice which would justify the killing.
ARGUS-IS is expected to be attached to a drone. ARGUS is a 1.8 gigapixel video surveillance camera that can observe miniscule details from 20,000 feet in the air. This most advances resolution camera would complement any drone it were attached to; making surveillance of targets more efficient.
The ability of ARGUS to “see” includes the imaging unit that uses 1.8 gigapixels and captures video (with 12 fps quality). In other words, this camera could identify specifics of a target such as details about the physical features of individuals.
Three hundred and sixty-eight small sensors equal the combined efforts of 5 megapixel smartphones which are intensely observing ground targets from the air while recording movements.
Once the “mosaic” of images are brought together, minute details of the observed target are distinguishable.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) explains that the processing of these bits of information, or images, is comparable to 600 gigabits per second which translates to ARGUS’ ability to record and transmit 6,000 terabytes of video data per day. This real-time surveillance is the most advanced to date; and the camera communicates with a super computer.
ARGUS captures an estimated 1 million terabytes of data per day. This information is stored by the US Armed Forces indefinitely and for the use at the discretion of the US Military Industrial Complex.
The LLNL are partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a monitoring system called Persistics that will allow the operator of the software to identify specifics in images such as a person, cars, trees, buildings, etc. . . Objects are observed over an estimated 10 square mile radius.
Persistics data-processing “combines computer hardware and clever software to extract meaning from wide-area overhead surveillance video.” Equipping drones with this technology has been used in overseas combat missions, as well as in border patrol surveillance.
ARGUS could be utilized in tandem with a surveillance system such as the Domain Awareness System (DAS) that is a very sophisticated software technology that aggregates and analyzes public information in real time that will produce comprehensive reports to be used by NYPD to ascertain potential threats and pre-crime activity.
By utilizing smart cameras and license plate readers, combined with Microsoft technologies NYPD personnel can search suspects, allegedly suspicious packages, and any other information at their disposal to control possible criminal action in NY.
Graphical interface, environmental sensors and law enforcement databases will be interlaced so that crime analysis can effectively allocate proper man-power and improve response to potential situations. This creates a collusion of information for the NYPD to use in real-time.
The DAS will allow the NYPD to:
• Gain real-time access to video feeds and all citizens arrest records as well as any 911 call wherein the potential suspect was named
• Chronological and geospatial maps of citizen’s criminal history and patterns
• Track cars related or associated with potential suspects
• Retrieve information from various databases for appropriate deployment of resources
• Review video feeds where potentially harmful packages are delivered
• Connection to radiation detectors throughout the city and immediately alert the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative command center
Jennifer Lynch, EFF staff attorney, remarked that drones “could be revealing deeply personal details’ about American citizens.”
Lynch went on to state: “Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities. As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveill United States citizens. The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives. We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why.”
The advent of drone use under Obama’s watch may be indicative of a movement toward using this technology to become a sort of counter-terrorism Air Force wherein the US government predetermines the targets and murdering Americans is justified under provisions within the NDAA.