Georgia Tech’s Ties to Drones Focus of Workshop, upcoming Activism
By Kevin Moran, Special to The Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) CHATTAHOOCHEE COUNTY, Georgia — Medea Benjamin, founder of CODEPINK, was the keynote speaker at the Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition (GPJC) Drone Task Force Workshop, at this year’s protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly known as the School of the Americas).
The protest was held at Fort Benning, Georgia, from November 22 to 24, 2013. The workshop was held on November 22.
The purpose of the workshop was to expose drone warfare as the most insidious vehicle for expanding and maintaining US imperialism. The workshop space was filled to standing room only, with even one attendee perched in the rafters.
Activists came to learn about the next generation of killer drones that are being developed by the Georgia Institute for Technology (Georgia Tech) and tested at Ft. Benning.
The workshop was co-hosted by Benjamin, as well as Kevin Caron of the Drone Task Force.
In order to raise awareness and educate Georgians, the GPJC is planning to lead a walk towards a positive and fundamentally different alternative to what they say is the US’s current racist system of violence and domination.
They will walk the 129 miles from Ft. Benning to Georgia Tech, with the objectives of stopping the research, development, and testing of automated killer drones. They also are calling for the closing of WHINSEC, where Latin American regimes send their forces to study oppressive and lethal tactics.
The walk will begin April 26, 2014, at the Gates of Ft. Benning, with the blessing of Father Roy Bourgeois.
“It will be the 16th anniversary of the brutal murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi by Col. Lima, an SOA graduate,” Maria Luisa Rosa, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) National Organizer, told Atlanta Progressive News.
The walk will end on May 5, 2014, with a rally at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. For additional information about this event, send an email to join the GPJC YahooGroup at: GeorgiaPeaceCoalitionfirstname.lastname@example.org.
This, wrote the Washington Post newspaper, is the next step toward a future in which drones will “hunt, identify, and kill based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans.”
[Incidentally, Jeff Bezos owns both the Post as well as Amazon.com. Yesterday, Amazon announced plans to test, and present to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval, mini-drones that could deliver packages by helicopter to Amazon customers in thirty minutes. This conflict of interest could bias the Post’s coverage of drones in general.]
“Georgia Tech is performing experiments with the [killer] aircraft because the research university has signed an agreement with the Army to share technology,” the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper reported.
With more than 225 miles of restricted airspace, Georgia Tech can perform tests at Fort Benning that it couldn’t conduct in Metro Atlanta.
On June 07, 2013 the Associated Press reported, “On Wednesday, a small Piper Cub aircraft loaded with special sensors and gadgets flew on auto pilot shortly after it took off Wednesday from a dirt air strip at the Army base. Three other miniature Piper Cubs and the Boomer UAS,
a drone-type aircraft, were used as part of the tests. Charles Pippin, a research scientist at Georgia Tech, described controlling the aircraft as having an autopilot in the front seat and autonomous pilot in the back giving high level commands.”
At a rally on September 17, 2013 anti-drone activists targeted Georgia Tech for its drone research.
Father Bourgeois, a longtime international advocate for the rights of the marginalized and founder of SOA Watch, was the featured speaker.
“Georgia Tech is a leading center of research into computer-operated drones, which can kill people based on computer software calculations and without remote human pilots. Remotely-piloted US drones have already killed hundreds of civilians, including several hundred children. With no human being in the loop, even remotely, autonomous US killer drones will be even more impersonal and lethal to innocent civilians,” Bourgeois said.
“We call on this great university to focus its considerable research facilities on peace, not death and destruction,” he said.
According to the UN News, a pause in progress to “a world where machines are given the power
to kill humans,” was urged on May 30, 2013 by a United Nations independent human rights expert, who called for a global moratorium on the development and deployment of lethal autonomous robots.
Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, stressing the conclusion of his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council said: “War without reflection is mechanical slaughter. In the same way that the taking of any human life deserves as a minimum some deliberation, a decision to allow machines to be deployed to kill human beings deserves a collective pause worldwide.”
Mr. Heyns urged the UN Human Rights Council to call on all States “to declare and implement national moratoria on the production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use of lethal autonomous robots, until a framework on their future has been established.”
The Special Rapporteur stressed that engaging with the risks posed by LARs [Lethal Autonomous robots] right now, before further development, would provide an opportunity for reflection that would contrast to other revolutions in military affairs, where serious consideration mostly began after the emergence of new methods of war.
“The current moment may be the best we will have to address these concerns,” he said.
“As I wrote in my book Drone Warfare, we need to build an awareness that drones are not what our government is telling us,” Benjamin told APN.
“They are not precise, humane or cheap. We are influencing public opinion and changing people’s perception of drones. We are forcing the government to talk about a program that the government wanted to pretend was not there,” she said.
After President Obama was interrupted several times, by CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin during his foreign policy speech on May 23 of this year, President Obama said, “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”
“The people in Georgia have to wake up to see this happening in their own back yards. Georgia Tech is an educational facility designed to improve the quality of the lives of people and not to design killing machines. In the end this is going to be a stain on the diplomas of all Georgia Tech graduates,” Roberto Zamora, SOAW’s Human Rights Lawyer, who coordinates legal challenges
to those governments in Latin America that continue to send troops to WHINSEC for torture and homicide training, told APN.
“The United States is not the ethical force [of the world] anymore. It is regarded as the most indecent government in the world,” Zamora said.