"The passage of drone resolutions such as Leverett's are crucial for raising public consciousness about the use of taxpayer dollars being used for committing heinous war crimes in the Middle East, while communities struggle to sustain themselves, and the infrastructure in our region crumbles. Both the Department of Defense and the paramilitary force of the Central Intelligence Agency continue to put profits before peoples' privacy and civil liberties, while protecting military and multinational corporate interests at home and abroad. It seems ironic that these very same industries prop up a lifestyle that the planet can no longer support." Leverett Drone Resolution Petitioner-Beth Adams
On Saturday, May 3 at their annual Town Meeting Leverett Massachusetts passed Warrant Article #25 a comprehensive "Leverett Drone Resolution" by a healthy margin. Prior to Saturday's vote, key challenges posed by both commercial and military drones were vetted at screenings of the documentary "Unmanned" www.bravenewfilms.com and a regional public forum at Amherst Middle School.
Leverett resident, Ann Ferguson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita from UMass Amherst attended Town Meeting "to express deep concern about Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency extrajudicial murders and surveillance of citizens living in economically and politically strategic areas of the Middle East. These drone bombings clearly violate international law and the Constitution." Ms. Ferguson added that: "individuals are targeted without legal justification or due process in countries where no war has been declared. These immoral killings are committed by pilots sitting at computers using "joy sticks" causing them inner conflict and PTSD. These traumatizing attacks fuel anti-American sentiment and prolong the War on Terror. The only winners of this endless conflict are the corporations that continue exploiting land, resources and local workers and the manufacturers of drones, missiles and bombs."
The resolution instructs our congresspersons to write a bill that ends "…extrajudicial killing by armed drone aircraft, to specifically withhold money for that purpose, and to make restitution…" to the victims.
Jeff Napolitano, Program Director of the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, expressed concern that, "The primary market for the military contractors selling drones used overseas has been the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency. Now that this market is nearly flooded, military contractors are attempting to change long-standing rules about our local airspace, so that they can develop a profitable commercial market in the U.S." Citing legal precedence beginning with the Air Commerce Act of 1926, Leverett's drone resolution affirms that "landowners and tenants…have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and, that no drone(s)… shall have the "public right of transit" through this private property.
At the "Know Drones Public Forum" last week, Northampton-based ACLU of Massachusetts attorney Bill Newman warned that drones pose a serious threat to civil liberties and called for passage of local resolutions, saying, "These resolutions need to be passed in every city and town to form the foundation for public understanding and legislative action. The time to address this issue is now. Next year may well be too late."
The Federal Aviation Administration's Rule Making Committee faces a daunting task following the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012: constructing regulations for all types of drones in the airspace. Long-standing legal perameters were established by the Air Commerce Act of 1926 and reinforced by numerous successive Supreme Court decisions. Since the largest military drone manufacturers make up half of the FAA Rulemaking Committee, the likelihood that new rules will serve the public interest, preserving 500' above dwellings, remains to be seen.
Newman also made the point that local resolutions go a long way toward pressuring states and Congress to pass legislation that that would prevent the capability of local police and private investigative firms to either weaponize drones or engage in surveillance "24/7" of anyone and everyone carte blanche. Both Leverett and Amherst's resolutions seek to protect local residents, stating, "No agency of the Town…, nor any agent(s) under contract with the Town…will operate drones in the airspace over (Leverett) in a manner that violates the constitutional rights of residents".
CODEPINK recently began a campaign to encourage passage of 100 local drone resolutions. Leverett's is number six and counting.