The ACLU of Georgia was joined yesterday by a civil liberties coalition asking the Atlanta City Council to adopt reasonable limitations on the governmental use of drones for surveillance. To find out more about the effort, see our fact sheet here.
It's a crime-fighting tool that comes with controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union says they’re concerned about driver’s private information being easily accessible once their tags are scanned.
Chad Brock is the Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Georgia.
There have been instances throughout the country in which this type of information is being shared. We'll consider sending an opens records request to try to get a little bit more information about how they intend to use this, what kind of policies are in place to prohibit this type of information being used in the way that violates the privacy or rights of these individuals," said Brock.
A civil liberties coalition including the ACLU of Georgia met with the Atlanta City Council yesterday to advocate for adoption of regulations on use of drones by law enforcement.
The military uses them to track down the enemy. Law enforcement agencies around the country deploy them to catch criminals.
Justine Story, a homeowner in northeast Atlanta, hates the idea of robotic eyes flying over metro Atlanta watching everyday citizens.
"I wouldn't want a drone looking in my bedroom window," Story said.
Supporters of drones contend the technology can be a powerful tool for fighting crime and terrorism.
Critics say drones can intrude on the privacy of the law-abiding public.
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is defending the government surveillance program revealed to be gathering call logs from millions of Verizon phone subscribers.
Speaking after a conference in downtown Atlanta, Iskason said it’s been an important tool in preventing terrorist attacks.
“I can’t talk about some of the things that I know with regard to what our security procedures are, but I am satisfied that there’s no violation of the civil rights of an American citizen in there.”
The National Security Agency and others in the intelligence community are authorized to collect the call logs under 2001’s Patriot Act. Congress maintains oversight and federal judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court must approve all data requests. In 2011, Congress renewed the Patriot Act for an additional four years.
Protestors gathered in Atlanta Tuesday to rally against the nation’s drone strike program. They demonstrated outside a Buckhead hotel currently hosting a national conference on drone aircraft.
As nearby cars whizzed by Peachtree Street, long-time Atlanta civil rights advocate and Air Force veteran Joe Beasley said the drone strikes need to stop.
“I would implore President Obama to move away from these drones. It’s just deplorable. It’s just cowardice,” said Beasley.
He was flanked by about two dozen protestors with signs calling for an end to the nation’s drone strike program.
The rally comes just a week after the president vowed to dramatically reduce drone strikes and make the program more transparent. He said there'd be a new emphasis on capturing suspects instead of killing them and targeting only those who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the U.S. He also pledged to transfer oversight of the program from the CIA to the Pentagon, a move that would make more information available to the public.
But at the rally, Georgia ACLU attorney Azadeh Shahshahani said the president didn't go far enough.
“To the extent that there’s going to be extra oversight, that’s good, but it doesn’t end the problem that the program is going to continue and people far from any battlefield without charge or trial are going to be killed,” said Shahshahani.
A recent Gallup poll shows 65 percent of Americans support the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists based overseas. That number drops to 41 percent when targeting U.S. citizens in other countries who are suspected of terrorism.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington after the president’s counterterrorism remarks, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued the use of covert drone strikes remains a vital tool in the War on Terror.
“To open the books, so to speak, on the drone program does not make America a safer place to live.”
And at an event held Tuesday in Sandy Springs, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson called drone technology “remarkable” and expressed support for the continued use of drones in intelligence-gathering and terrorist assassinations.
“The day we decide we are no longer going to participate is the day the terrorists have won that battle and they will hold us to cower in fear,” said Isakson.
But Georgia State University political science professor Chip Carey said at the rally the use of targeted drone strikes is “shortsighted.” He argued drones kill civilians and thereby breed more terrorists. Plus, he said, the technological gap is closing quickly.
“Between 50 to 70 countries have drone technology now including Iran. It’s only a matter of time before what goes around will come around."
Carey argued drones pose as much danger as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and therefore should be tightly controlled. He wants the U.S. to enter into a binding international arms treaty banning their use.
Atlantans alarmed by the proliferation of targeted assassinations, surveillance and spying by drones will hold apress conference and protest at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 28 outside the Grand HyattAtlantahotel,3300 Peachtree Road NE.
That will be the opening morning of the international convention of the drone industry at the Grand Hyatt. The convention promises to bring together “representatives from academia, industry, federal/state agencies, government, the private sector, users, practitioners and engineers” who are working to expand the use of drones, or “unmanned aerial vehicles” (http://www.uasconferences.com/).
“I oppose the use of drones and other forms of targeted assassinations because of the likelihood that they will cause proliferation, an arms race and increasing use of drones around the world,” said Professor Henry (Chip) Carey of Georgia State University. “I am also concerned about the lack of democratic accountability for targeting and civilian casualties, which has backfired as a counter-terrorism technique.”
“The CIA and the military are carrying out illegal ‘targeted killings’ of people far from any battlefield, without charge or trial,” adds Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and president of the National Lawyers Guild. “The executive branch claims the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret evidence. The government must be held to account when it carries out such illegal killings in violation of the Constitution and international law.”
Other speakers will include Joe Beasley, president of African Ascension and southeast regional director of Rainbow Push; Courtney Hanson, public outreach director, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND); and Sobukwe Shukura of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. Dawn Gibson, co-coordinator of the Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, will moderate the press conference.
Rallies will continue from 9 to 10 a.m. each day of the convention, which ends Friday, May 31.
The Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents:
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP
One Atlantic Center
1201 West Peachtree Street
To what extent does the United States Constitution and current federal law authorize the use of military drones in counter-terrorism operations? Come hear a panel discussion on the constitutionality of President Obama’s policy on the use of drones, including the limits to their use, whether and when they could be used on American citizens, and the merits of constitutional concerns raised on the political left and the political right.
The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary! Founded in March 2008, the project works to bring Georgia into compliance with international human rights and U.S. constitutional standards in treatment of refugees and immigrant communities, including those in detention. This project engages ACLU of Georgia staff and volunteers in litigation, legislative advocacy, human rights documentation, coalition-building, public education, attorney training, and community organizing to address a range of issues. Here you can find a few of our accomplishments over the past five years.
Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia
Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.
Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.
Much of Shahshahani’s work has also focused on prisoner’s rights. She authored a report in May 2012 detailing poor conditions in the privately run prisons used to detain undocumented immigrants. Most of the problems revolved around abysmal medical care for sick or injured prisoners. Shahshahani has written prolifically in print media and given TV interviews on the need for immigration authorities to stop using private companies to run prisons. These private firms are “committed to generating money for their investors,” she said.