HKR: Are Drones Coming to Oakland? Local Activists including Medea Benjamin Speak Out

Drones police A few weeks ago the city of Oakland along with Bay Area residents in general were shocked to learn that Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern was moving in the direction of getting an unmanned drone. Now according to the sheriff the drones would be used  to find marijuana plants, for search and rescue missions, and other tasks.

It’s those ‘other tasks that have alarmed folks. It’s just a short leap from drones being used to do something non intrusive like search and rescue to doing something that is considerably more militaristic…Many feel that drones are the latest tools being used by the military and now police that push society in the direction of being a police state.  Linda Lye, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California wrote this in response to Sheriff Ahern’s proposed actions

Shortly before next week’s one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s brutal crackdown on Occupy Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern announced that he was seeking funds to purchase a drone to engage in unspecified unmanned aerial surveillance. One of the many unfortunate lessons of OPD’s Occupy crackdown is that when law enforcement has powerful and dangerous tools in its arsenal, it will use them. Drones raise enormous privacy concerns and can easily be abused.

Before any drone acquisition proceeds, we need to ask a threshold question – are drones really necessary in our community? – and have a transparent and democratic process for debating that question. In addition, if the decision is made to acquire a drone, do we have rigid safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place, so that law enforcement does not use drones to engage in warrantless mass surveillance? The ACLU of Northern California has sent the Sheriff a Public Records Act request, demanding answers to these crucial questions.

You can read the rest of Linda Lye’s article HERE

Drone signsLye along with a number of other folks from a variety of social justice organizations like Critical Resistance to Electronic Frontier Foundation held a press conference in front of Oakland City Hall to speak about the situation at hand. Speakers addressed a variety of issues including the growing influence of the drone lobby and now a drone caucus that sits in Congress. There is concern that in a couple of years private corporations will be allowed to own drones, which raises concerns about the types of rights they will have or won’t have vs law enforcement.

From the looks of things whatever restrictions are levied on law enforcement will be able to be gotten around by outsourcing drone work to private companies.  There is also concern about new technology that allows drones to see through walls, listen to private conversation and intercept emails, text messages and cell phone signals.

Click the link below to listen to the press conference and the interviews we did around Drones Over Oakland

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin

The above interview focuses on the pitfalls of drones being used domestically. A couple of months before the Alameda County sheriff made his drone announcement we sit down w Code Pink co-founder  Medea Benjamin to talk to her about her new book ‘Drone Warfare Killing By Remote Control’ In her book and in our interview Benjamin talks about how our foreign policy and standing in the world is being twisted because of our military’s overuse of drones. She explains that the US has killed scores of innocent people via drones and that such atrocities may one day boomer rang back on us. Benjamin talks about the types of people recruited to man these drones and how they are set up to be operated like a video game..  She goes in on this interview and breaks a lot of stuff down..Click the link below to listen