U.N. Launches Drone Investigation

Predator_drone_2In a move which will surely strike some as predictable and others overdue, the U.N. announced that it would begin an investigation into the legality of the US’s drone program. For years now, unmanned aerial vehicles have been the mainstay of the United States anti-terrorism efforts overseas, sparking controversy and leading to demands for more oversight and transparency. And as of this past Thursday, it will be the subject of a major international investigation.

Led by special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson, the investigation is expected to focus on the legal justification for America’s expansive drone program, which has largely remained secretive and unexamined. What’s more, Emmerson and his team are expected to examine exactly how much collateral damage and civilian deaths the use of drones has caused, which is a major point for those opposed to their use.

In a statement released from Emmerson’s office, he outlines the parameters of the issue and the investigation to be mounted as follows:

“The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law. It is therefore imperative that appropriate legal and operational structures are urgently put in place to regulate its use in a manner that complies with the requirements of international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law (or the law of war as it used to be called), and international refugee law.”

Other groups were quick to chime in on the decision to launch an investigation, not the least of which were Americans themselves. For example, Dennis Blair, the former director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama and the current chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, has urged the administration to make more of its drone policies public. “There’s been far too little debate [about the tactics of drone use] said Blair. “The United States is a democracy, we want our people to know how we use military force and that we use it in ways the United States is proud of.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been waging a years-long effort to compel the Obama administration to release its internal legal considerations, also welcomed the U.N. investigation, and urged the U.S. to participate in it. Hina Shamsi, the director of the Union’s National Security Project, released a statement encompassing the ACLU’s position:

“Virtually no other country agrees with the U.S.’s claimed authority to secretly declare people enemies of the state and kill them and civilian bystanders far from any recognized battlefield. To date, there has been an abysmal lack of transparency and no accountability for the U.S. government’s ever-expanding targeted killing program.”

Naturally, the US is not the only nation under scrutiny in this investigation. And neither is the issue of civilian deaths the only focus. The use of drones has increased exponentially in recent years, thanks in no small part to extensive development of UAV technology in a number of countries. And with countries like China and Iran following suit, drone use is only expected to grow and expand. By Investigating the legality and implications of their use now, the potential exists to establish a framework before they become widespread.

Source: Huffingtonpost.com


NASA Makes Appearance at 2013 Inauguration

2013_inaugural_nasaThe 2013 Inaugural Parade on January 21st – my birthday, fyi – was quite the sight to see. In addition to the President and First Lady, many floats, and thousands of onlookers, the good folks at NASA also made an appearance. Specifically, two floats featuring the Orion deep space capsule and the Curiosity Rover were part of the parade, passing in front of the White House and the official reviewing stand while President Obama, VP Joe Biden, their families and numerous dignitaries smiling and waving.

The life-sized models were greeted with plenty of fanfare and fair weather as they floated near the front of the procession, and it is estimated that over a million people were on hand to witness the event. NASA was the only federal agency to be asked to take part in the inaugural parade, which goes to show you how important the administration considers their efforts. But given all that NASA has accomplished as of late, that should come as no small surprise.

In the few short months since it landed, Curiosity has uncovered very compelling evidence that water once flowed on Mars, and the Orion capsule is expect to take astronauts back to the moon and father into space than ever before. What’s more, the Obama administration has already granted the funding for NASA to go ahead with its plans to establish an outpost on the Moon in the next few years, as well as a manned mission to the Mars by 2030. In short, NASA and the Obama administration are pretty tight; and if you ask me, both are stronger for it!

Check out the video below of the procession, or go to NASA Flickr page for more photos of the inaugural parade.

Universe Today.com