Review: Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military edited by Bradley Jay Strawser

Killing by Remote Control: Ethics of an Unmanned Military is a new collection of academic essays edited by Bradley Jay Strawser, a philosophy professor at the US Navy Postgraduate School in California.  Strawser, as readers of this blog may remember, was interviewed by The Guardian last year and quoted as saying in relation to unmanned drones: “It’s all upside. There’s no downside. Both ethically and normatively, there’s a tremendous value.”  Famously, Strawser argues that the US has a moral duty to use drones.

Most, but not all, of the authors writing in this collection are coming from a military perspective, either as former serving officers or currently employed within military teaching institutions. As Strawser notes in his introduction “none of the Read more

UK adds another drone to its arsenal

ScanEagleThe UK Ministry of Defence confirmed that it has signed a £30 million deal with Boeing subsidiary Insitu for the ScanEagle drone.

ScanEagle is an unarmed surveillance drone that is to be used in a maritime role by the Royal Navy.  This latest contract makes the sixth type of unmanned drone that UK forces have in their arsenal with all three services –  army, air force and navy – now operating unmanned drones. Read more

Lawyers Challenge Legal Basis of UK Drone Strikes

Click images to download document (pdf)
Click images to download document (pdf)

A leading firm of UK lawyers has today published a 52-page opinion on the legality of the use of armed drones by UK forces in Afghanistan.   In what is sure to cause consternation in Whitehall, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) argue that

“it is highly likely that the UK’s current use of drones is unlawful. There is a strong probability that the UK has misdirected itself as to the requirements of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles of proportionality, distinction and humanity and as to its human rights obligation to protect human life and to investigate all deaths (civilians and combatants alike) arguably caused in breach of that obligation.”

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Drone base invasion steps up pressure on those attempting to maintain secrecy

The Waddington Six: (from left) Revd Keith Hebden, Chris Cole, Fr Martin Newell, Penny Walker, Susan Clarkson and Henrietta Cullinan.
The Waddington Six: (from left) Revd Keith Hebden, Chris Cole, Fr Martin Newell, Penny Walker, Susan Clarkson and Henrietta Cullinan.

Six anti-drone protesters (myself included) were arrested inside RAF Waddington on Monday (June 3). The protest had three aims; 1) to symbolically breach the secrecy and silence surrounding the British use of armed drones; 2) to bring information about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians  and 3) to symbolically begin conversion of the air base to peaceful purposes.   We did this by creating a peace garden within the base, displaying information on buildings, hangars and sign posts about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians (see bottom of post)  and trying to find out information about the day-to-day use of drones at Waddington. Read more

After five years of British drone strikes, five basic facts we are simply not allowed to know

Defence Minister Philip Dunne inspects new Reaper Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington Dec 2012
Defence Minister Philip Dunne inspects new Reaper Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington Dec 2012

Five years ago this week the first British drone strike took place somewhere in Afghanistan.  Like the more than 380 British drone strikes since, details of that first strike remain shrouded in secrecy.

Although we don’t know the exact day (all the MoD reported at the time was that it had taken place ‘in the past week’), subsequent MoD reports have dated UK drones strikes back to late May 2008.  The location of the strike, why it occurred and, if anyone was killed, who they were, all remain secret.

In the five years since, the Ministry of Defence has refused to answer many questions about its use of armed drones.  Freedom of Information requests and questions asked by MPs in the House of Commons have been repeatedly refused on security grounds or that to answer would endanger our relationship with another state (no prizes for guessing who that is). Read more

Obama speaks about drone wars

obama-counterterroismOn Thursday (23 Oct) President Obama gave a much-trailed speech on counterterrorism, large parts of which focused on the US use of drones.  At the same time a ‘fact sheet’ on US policy on the use of force outside declared wars was published, as was a transcript of a background briefing given by senior US officials to journalists.  All of these documents give some insight into the US use of drones.

In the speech President Obama accepted many of the criticisms that we and others have made over the past four years including (as he put it) Read more