Thursday, February 13, 2014

Texas' Militarized Border: How Will Drone Politics Impact the 2014 Midterm in the 23rd?

One of the biggest contests in the 2014 midterm elections is expected to occur in Texas' 23rd congressional district, which stretches East from El Paso along the border with Mexico.

A big question is who the Republicans will select in the March 4 primary to run against Democratic incumbent Pete Gallego.

Texas' "drone zone" is anchored by Fort Bliss in El Paso, an authorized basing/training site for Reaper drones and smaller-scale Shadow and Raven drones.

An interesting question is how the 23rd relates to two other anchors of Texas' "drone zone" -- both on the Gulf Coast:
* Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi has been designated by the FAA as one of six authorized test sites for drones. "Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity." Will those drones be tested over the 23rd?

* Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base is being developed by the Department of Defense as a Predator Operations Complex. (See Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012))
The use of drones to militarize the border in SW Texas has been driven by Texas congressman Henry Cuellar (R-28), co-chair of the House "drones caucus." Cuellar's district, the 28th, includes San Antonio and lies just to the east of the 23rd.

The incumbent in the 23rd is Democrat Pete Gallego. Gallego clearly sees drones and the militarization of the border as an issue, and seems to be walking a tightrope: “Would I rather have drones or would I rather have a joint task force with armed Army patrols on the border?” he said. “The answer for me is that I’d rather have the drones.” (See "Border reps split on using drones for security")

The Republican field includes:
* Robert Lowry, a San Antonio physician
* Will Hurd, a former CIA officer
* Former U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco of San Antonio
Notably, Canseco is one of four Texas GOP congressmen who sponsored a bill to RESTRICT drone surveillance.

Might a general election contest between Canseco and Gallego put the issue of drone surveillance and the militarization of the border in the spotlight?

The Texas primary falls on March 4.

Related posts


There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014. In at least some of those races, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations? )




Is it possible that voters in Virginia's 2nd congressional district will be forced to choose between a "centrist Democrat" -- who is also a retired Navy officer and just also happens to be a big proponent of the U.S. drone buildup -- and a "Tea Party Republican" -- who also happens to have been an opponent of the Obama administration's plan to attack Syria.

(See To Drone or Not to Drone? The Strange Choice in Virginia's 2nd District)



So here's an interesting question: the Federal Aviation Administration recently designated Griffiss International Airport near Rome, NY, as the hub of one of the first six designated drone testing locations in the country, in New York State. Griffiss is located NW of Utica, near the southern edge of New York State's 21st congressional district. But where, exactly, are they going to be flying those drones?

(See New York State's 21st Congressional District: Living Under Drones? )

Friday, May 10, 2013

Texas Drone Ban In the Air

The Texas legislature has passed a bill to restrict drone use in the state:
(The use of drones for border security is exempted from the bill.)

Even if the bill passes the Texas Senate, Governor Rick Perry is expected to veto the bill.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April Days of Action Against Drones comes to AUSTIN

The Fellowship of Reconciliation and Amnesty International rallied students at UT Austin on Tuesday for a demonstration taking place as part of the April Days of Action Against Drones. As reported in the Daily Texan, English Professor Snehal Shingavi spoke about human rights violations implicit in drone warfare as well as the depletion of domestic budgets entailed by spending on the research of drone technology.
Ayesha Akbar, President of Amnesty International's Texas
 Chapter, spoke of the thousands of civilian casualties that have
resulted from drone warfare and read personal accounts
from those directly affected around the world.
Susana Pimiento Chamorro of the Fellowship of Reconciliation also spoke, connecting the burgeoning of drone programs to the continuing war on drugs in latin america.

APRIL DAYS OF ACTION AGAINST DRONES CONTINUES! GET INVOLVED NATIONWIDE!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Call for "No Drones" in Texas Colleges, Universities, and Research Institutions

Friends,

A national call has been made for “April Days of Action” to focus on three key components of U.S. drone work: Drone Manufacturers, Drone Bases in the U.S., and Drone Research. (See the list about nationwide actions and post your own planned actions for April.)

Given the fact that drones are now the primary weapons of warfare used by the US, and for surveillance both domestic and abroad, the research and development of this warfare is growing rapidly at academic institutions, in our towns and neighborhoods. Drones are the perfect instrument for endless war that kills civilians, even as they target “militants” in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Academic institutions often receive large grants from the U.S. Department of Defense, enabling them to build labs within schools of engineering, for instance. We are well aware that without this research in robotics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and the accompanying accessories, these drone warfare projects would probably not take place. So there is an interdependent relationship between the universities and the U.S. government and or its Department of Defense and CIA. (CIA drones are used in countries with which the U.S. is not “at war”, ie Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali, and others.)

While universities tend to publicize some information on their respective websites regarding the drone work, it is most often said to be for non-military purposes. And there are students working in the labs who are convinced that all the research is for humanitarian purposes. However, history has told us that non-military can quickly and easily become military. Moreover research has shown drones make mistakes on recognizing their targets.

We are therefore asking organizations and individuals, nationwide, to explore any drone research that might be going on at their local university. We are calling for local actions between April 16 and 18, 2013 (Suggested actions are listed below) Our limited research into University and Academic UAV programs indicates that at research centers are operating in Texas:
Letourneau University - Longview
Texas A&M University - College Station
University of Texas - Austin
Before those dates in April we will need to know what information you have acquired about the research and what actions and events your group is planning.This will be shared among groups in the Network. You can send this information to us at notodrone@gmail.com.

We will have a press committee that will receive your press release and any articles you are able to publish before or after the event.

This project will complement other outreach, education and action projects that will be launched in April, focusing on drone bases, April 27-28 and drone manufacturers , April 4-6.

Suggested actions:
  1. Learn what research is being done by searching on a university website. Look especially at the Engineering Dept. 
  2. Organize a forum, preferably on campus, with speakers and discussion. Be sure to publicize in campus newspapers, and possibly include a professor as one of the speakers. Also include local activists.
  3. Plan a small meeting with the appropriate persons in the department working on drone research, both professors and students.
  4. Hold vigils and leaflet on or close to the campus, as well as in town.
  5. Let us know if you need further tools for your research.
Thanks in advance for your reply to notodrone@gmail.com.

With all good wishes,

Marge Van Cleef, WILPF, Philadelphia
Leila Zand, For USA
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Are These Texas Congressmen Supporting Drones?

Over fifty (50) members of the U.S. Congress have banded together to increase the use of drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles") - including seven (7) members from Texas. They are all members of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, also known as the Congressional drones caucus. One of the co-chairs of the caucus is Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas' 28th district. (Read about the members of the drones caucus from other states.)


Here are the Texas members of the Congressional drones caucus:

Michael McCaul

Michael McCaul represents Texas' 10th congressional district -- the northwestern portion of the Greater Houston region stretching to the Austin area.

Mike Conaway

Mike Conaway represents Texas' 11th congressional district -- the midwestern portion of the state of Texas.

Silvestre Reyes

Silvestre Reyes represents Texas' 16th congressional district -- El Paso and the surrounding area.

Pete Olson

Pete Olson represents Texas' 22nd congressional district -- covering a south-central portion of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area.

Blake Farenthold

Blake Farenthold represents Texas' 27th congressional district -- the coastal bend of Texas' Gulf Coast consisting of Corpus Christi and Victoria up to Bastrop County near Austin and Wharton County near Houston.

Henry Cuellar

Henry Cuellar represents Texas' 28th congressional district -- a strip in deep south Texas starting south of San Antonio and ending at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gene Green

Gene Green represents Texas' 29th congressional district -- the eastern portion of the Greater Houston area.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Will Texas Skies Soon Be Full of Drones?

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Texas has seven (7) locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
Fort Bliss MQ-1C RQ-11B, RQ-7B
Fort Hood MQ-1C, MQ-5 RQ-7B, RQ-11B, RQ--21B PUMA
Brownsville RQ-11B
Fort Worth RQ-11B
Gatesville Viking
Ellington see note

Note: Ellington has been designated as a Predator Operations Complex, with TFI-ALTER UAV hangar (Report - p. 14).

The report further discloses that the drones are operated from five (5) bases -- Brownsville (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Bowie (RQ-llB Raven), Camp Swift (RQ-llB Raven), Fort Bliss (RQ-7B Shadow), and Fort Hood (MQ-5 HUNTER, RQ-7B Shadow) -- under the status "Locations Requiring COAs [Certificate of Waiver or Authorization]". ("Locations where the Army currently conducts operations outside of Restricted Areas that require a COA from the FAA. In the majority of these locations, the purpose of the COA is to transition from the launch site to adjacent Restricted Areas. Additionally, the Raven can be operated using DoD-FAA agreed-to Class G airspace notification procedures for flights flown over Government-owned or -leased land." (DOD report, p. 20))

Are the skies over Texas big enough to hold all these drones?