More on Ethics, Drones and Torture

The US Constitution has long recognized that unilateral executive action may be necessary in “exigent circumstances,” as long as it is followed by ex post judicial review. A US citizen and radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki was reportedly on a US Government “Kill List” for more than a year before he was killed With that kind of time frame, there is no logistical reason why independent judicial review could not have taken place. An article published in the New York review of Books can be accessed at:

 The issue is that killing-by-drone is so much easier than other forms of targeted killing. The easiness should make us uneasy. This is a dangerously tempting technology. It makes our enemies more vulnerable than ever before, and we can get at them without any risk to our own soldiers. Of course, intelligence gathering may still be risky, but the drones “see” so much more than any soldier or agent in the field that they make fieldwork seem less important. They combine the capacity for surveillance with the capacity for precise attack. At least, that is the idea, and assuming now that we are rightly in the business of killing, that there are people out there who deserve to be killed, what could be better?”  This article by Michael Waltzer in Dissent magazine ca be retrieved at:

On February 15, 2013, the Subcommittee on Oversight of the US House of Representatives held a hearing titled “Operating Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System: Assessing Research and Development Efforts to Ensure Safety. This hearing examined challenges to integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) safely into the National Airspace System (NAS) and federal research and development (R&D) efforts to ensure the safe operation of UAS in the NAS. One of the documents presented at this hearing was from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who are planning a number of Drone Test Sites to evaluate what requirements are needed to ensure the drones don't collide with planes or endanger people or property on the ground. Remotely controlled drones don't have a pilot who can see other aircraft the way an onboard plane or helicopter pilot can. There's also concern that links between drones and their on-the-ground operators can be broken or hacked, causing the operator to lose control of the aircraft.

The proceedings of the Committee can be accessed at:   The remit of the hearing can be accessed at:  The full GAO testimony can be accessed at:

An article entitled “Commodifying Terrorism” states that when the corporeal body is subsumed into a web of surveillance it often raises questions about the deterministic nature of technology. It finds that this question is a long-standing one in our modern consciousness. We are apprehensive about according technology too much power and yet it is implicated in the contemporary power relationships where it is suspended amidst human motive, agency and anxiety. The emergence of surveillance societies, the co-optation of bodies in surveillance schemas, as well as the construction of the body through data in everyday transactions, conveys both the vulnerabilities of the human condition as well as its complicity in maintaining the power arrangements in society.  Zygmunt Bauman, (in citing Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt), points out that we suffer a ‘moral lag’ in so far as technology and society are concerned, for often we ruminate on the consequences of our actions and motives only as afterthoughts without realising at this point of existence that the “actions we take are most commonly prompted by the resources (including technology) at our disposal”.  This article can be accessed at:

Why is torture so abominable? One of the standard responses is that it denies human dignity. But torture survivor Jean Amery tells us that he doesn't know what the expression "human dignity" means. He does know, however, that the first blow forever changes the torture victim's world.  This is a quotations from Jean Amery, a member of the Belgian Resistance in WWII.  And from Carl JUNG – “ The healthy person doesn’t torture others. Generally, it’s the tortured that turn into torturers. This article can be found at:

A 213 page report compiled by the Open Society Justice Initiative  (OSJI), a New York-based human rights organisation says that at least 54 countries co-operated with the global kidnap, detention and torture operation that was mounted after 9/11, many of them in Europe. So widespread and extensive was the participation of governments across the world that it is now clear the CIA could not have operated its programme without their support, according to the OSJI.  A Guardian article can be accessed at: The Globalizing Torture Report by Open Society Foundations can be accessed at: