Rights groups hold international Drone Summit in Washington DC

April 30, 2012

Graphic with children and drones

This weekend, CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve hosted the International Drone Summit in Washington, DC.

The Summit consisted of multiple panels dealing with issues ranging from the expanding use of surveillance drones to the Obama administration’s targeted killing program. Participants had the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Pakistanis who had survived drone strikes or had their loved ones killed in them.

“We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, one of the Summit organizers and author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.”

Lawyers representing Pakistani drone-strike victims and journalists investigating the attacks shared their experiences of these events in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. New footage of interviews with victims was aired.

U.S. drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, in covert drone missions in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were primarily used by the U.S. military and CIA for surveillance prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, in the last ten years drones have become routinely used to launch missiles against human beings in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

“It’s not just about killing innocent civilians in Pakistan,” said Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith. “We’re sleep walking into a drone age, where the government can snoop on you through the bedroom window and nobody’s talking about it. We desperately need a public and open debate.”

“As the Obama Administration expands its use of killer drones around the world, so must we increase our demands for transparency and accountability” said Maria LaHood, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who spoke at the Drone Summit and who has litigated against the Obama administration’s targeted killing policy

It is also reported that drones are being deployed domestically by border security and law enforcement agencies. Predator drones deployed by Customs and Border Protection search for immigrants and drugs on the northern and southern borders, while metropolitan police and county sheriffs are acquiring smaller drones for use in their SWAT operations. On February 6, Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration open up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015, and that it immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) drones in commercial U.S. airways.

Speakers at the Summit included Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims; Clive Stafford Smith, a UK-based attorney who works with drone victims; Hina Shamsi, an ACLU national security expert; David Glazier, a professor of law who served 21 years as a US Navy surface warfare officer; Jeremy Scahill, an award-winning journalist covering U.S. targeted killings; Chris Woods, a senior reporter with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism who exposed CIA drone attacks on rescuers and funeral-goers in Pakistan; Trevor Timm, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

For more information please contact Ramah Kudaimi, Drone Summit Organizer, (708) 822-5880, rkudaimi@gmail.com or visit:  http://www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=6065



1. CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. Visit http://www.codepink4peace.org/

2. The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Visit www.reprieve.org.uk and follow Reprieve on Twitter @ReprieveUK.