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.
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.