Tag Archives | Drones

The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

NSAJeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald write at the Intercept:

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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Nikola Tesla’s Mechanical Men

Tesla boatIt’s mooted by Jon Turi at Engadget that Nikola Tesla, as ever ahead of his time, designed the first military drone, although he’s quoted as saying himself, “You do not see there a wireless torpedo; you see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race”:

…Tesla once said, “The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.” It was his way of responding to the crowd’s stunned disbelief upon viewing his scientific wizardry at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1898. Using a small, radio-transmitting control box, he was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel.

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Robert Greenwald on How America Embraced Drone Warfare

Activist documentarian Robert Greenwald can be relied on to address the most topical issues of the moment, ranging from Wal-Mart’s dubious employment practices to corporate war profiteering in Iraq, exposing the Koch Brothers or showing what happens to whistleblowers.

Unmanned

His latest film is Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars. Jesse Hicks interviews Greenwald for The Verge:

What drew you to this topic in the first place? Did your perspective change as you worked on the documentary?

I was drawn to it because I’ve done a series of films and investigations around the war issues. I did the first film around the Iraq war and the reasons we were given for it; I did another film called Iraq for Sale about war profiteering; I went to Afghanistan and did a film challenging the military policy there. I see the idea of the bipartisan militarization of policy — the bipartisan belief that we will be safer by invading or occupying or droning — as one that is highly questionable.

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Pentagon Lays Out Blueprint For Robot Wars Of The Future

Pic: USDOD (PD)

Pic: USDOD (PD)

Prepare for more drone warfare.

Via Christian Science Monitor:

At a NASCAR racetrack in Miami earlier this month, teams from NASA, Google, and 14 other groups of engineering gurus put cutting-edge robots through some challenging paces.

The aim was to see how well the robots could tackle tasks that may sound simple, but are tricky for nonhumans – including, say, climbing a ladder, unscrewing a hose from a spigot, navigating over rubble, and steering a car.

The contest was dreamed up by the Pentagon’s futuristic experimentation arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and senior defense officials were watching it carefully – well aware that the Pentagon is growing increasingly reliant on robotics.

The Defense Department will become even more reliant on such devices in the decades to come. That’s the conclusion of a new blueprint quietly released by the Pentagon this week, which offers some telling clues about the future of unmanned systems – in other words, drones and robots.

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Drone Wars Go Underwater With New U.S. Navy ‘Glider’

US Navy 101021-N-5972N-006 Daniel Braun, left, Eric Sanchez and David Barney, Systems Center Pacific engineers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems CThanks to activists like Robert Greenwald and his new film Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, many Americans are well aware of the ominous threat of weaponized aerial drones. Few, however, know that the United States Navy also has a drone program. From TIME Swampland:

While you were out shopping Sunday for those last-minute holiday gifts, the Navy pushed ahead with its own vision of an underwater sugar plum: a fleet of “long endurance, transoceanic gliders harvesting all energy from the ocean thermocline.”

And you thought Jules Verne died in 1905.

Fact is, the Navy has been seeking—pretty much under the surface—a way to do underwater what the Air Force has been doing in the sky: prowl stealthily for long periods of time, and gather the kind of data that could turn the tide in war.

The Navy’s goal is to send an underwater drone, which it calls a “glider,” on a roller-coaster-like path for up to five years.

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A Hacker Drone That Turns Other Drones Into Zombies Under Its Control

dronesBasically, envision Alfred Hitchcock’s The Byrds but with Amazon delivery drones suddenly turning against you. Ars Technica reports:

Serial hacker Samy Kamkar has released all the hardware and software specifications that hobbyists need to build an aerial drone that seeks out other drones in the air, hacks them, and turns them into a conscripted army of unmanned vehicles under the attacker’s control.

“How fun would it be to take over drones, carrying Amazon packages… or take over any other drones and make them my little zombie drones,” Kamkar asked rhetorically in a blog post.

Dubbed SkyJack, the contraption uses a radio-controlled Parrot AR.Drone quadcopter carrying a Raspberry Pi circuit board, a small battery, and two wireless transmitters. The devices seek out wireless signals of nearby Parrot drones, hijack the wireless connections used to control them, and commandeer the victims’ flight-control and camera systems.

Kamkar is the creator of the infamous Samy worm, a complex piece of JavaScript that knocked MySpace out of commission in 2005 when the exploit added more than one million MySpace friends to Kamkar’s account.

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Amazon’ Drone Delivery Service Triggers Twitter Freakout

amazon droneIs it April Fool's Day? Apparently not, although the Amazon Prime Air drone delivery test has the twitterverse in uproar. Story from MarketWatch:
If we let Jeff Bezos proceed unfettered with his latest plans for disruption, we will soon be faced with Skynet-type helicopters of terror blowing up airplanes, abducting our children, and destroying everything our society holds dear. That’s the extreme reaction to what Amazon says it’s cooking up these days. There are more rational fears, as well. Either way, the overwhelming public response to the concept of drones buzzing through the air and dropping off packages to customers within a 30-minute time-frame seems to be that, at best, it’s a half-baked longshot...
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