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US drones spy on Americans – ‘incidentally’

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Published: 12 May, 2012, 17:28

A leaked US Air Force document stipulates a drone that happens to capture surveillance images of Americans may store them for a period of 90 days. The paper appears to justify spying on citizens, as long as it is “incidental.”

­The document accepts that the Air Force may not record information non-consensually; however it does state “collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent.”

The report, dated April 23 was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and has been put online.

Data that is accidentally recorded may be stored for a period of 90 days by the Pentagon while it is analyzed to see if the subjects are legitimate targets for state surveillance. The Pentagon may also disseminate this data among other government organizations if it sees fit.

“Even though information may not be collectible, it may be retained for the length of time necessary to transfer it to another DoD entity or government agency to whose function it pertains,” states the document.

In addition, it justifies the gathering of data on domestic targets in certain circumstances. According to the paper, these include surveillance of natural disasters, environmental studies, system testing and training, and counterintelligence and security-related vulnerability assessments.
The document seems to spell bad news for civil liberties, considering the US government passed a bill in February allocating $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

If the bill is signed into law it will effectively allow the FAA to fill US skies with drones, a massive 30,000 predicted to be operational in US airspace by 2020.

Over 30 prominent civil rights groups in the US have rounded on the FAA and demanded that it reconsider the legislation and hold a rule-making session to address privacy and safety threats.

“Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected,” said the American Civil Liberties Union in response to the legislation.

The bill has sparked fears among Americans that their civil liberties may be under threat, considering that the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been extended to carry out attacks on militants.

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Obama Administration Sends Weapons Contract to Foreign Company with Ties to Iran

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by Ben Howe

Late Thursday night, American company Hawker Beechcraft was informed by the U.S. Air Force that they were not going to be allowed to compete for an American military aircraft contract.

The Air Force has notified Hawker Beechcraft Corp. that its Beechcraft AT-6 has been excluded from competition to build a light attack aircraft, a contract worth nearly $1 billion, the company said.

The company had been working with the Air Force for two years and spent over $100 million to ensure compliance with the requirements for the plane and says the craft (Beechcraft AT-6) met all requirements as shown through a demonstration actually led by the Air National Guard.

“We have followed the Air Force’s guidance close, and based on what we have seen, we continue to believe that we submitted the most capable, affordable and sustainable light attack aircraft,” the company said.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t appear to be a question of being outbid or outclassed. In fact, this seems to be a classic example of a contract being awarded without any bidding process at all, something you may remember infuriated the left when the recipient of the contract was American company Haliburton.

There’s a big difference this time. The company the no-bid contract went to isn’t an American company. Worse yet, the company it did go to has questionable friends. Namely, Iran.

Embraer, a Brazilian aerospace giant which is currently under investigation for potentially making illegal payments to obtain government contracts, is essentially owned by the Brazilian government. Through their “Golden Share,” Brazil essentially has control over the company’s business operations.

According to Embraer’s website, that Golden Share provision empowers the Brazilian government with veto rights over: “Creation and/or alteration of military programs, whether or not involving the Federative Republic of Brazil;” “Development of third parties´ skills in technology for military programs;” and “Interruption of the supply of maintenance and replacement parts for military aircraft,” among other things.

But Brazil has their own explaining to do regarding their long and sordid history with the rogue country of Iran.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “In 1989, Brazil chose to sell Tucanos, Embraer’s relatively low cost and basic military aircraft, to Iran.” Currently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force operates around 40 Embraer T-27 Tucanos, according to the Washington Institute. In fact, the Iranians use the Tucano as their primary close air support aircraft.

In recent years, Brazil has continued its troubling friendship with Iran and ruthless leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Hudson Institute notes that, “Another area of tension between Brazil and the United States relates to Iran. In November 2009, President da Silva invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil. In May 2010, da Silva helped broker a deal in which Iran would ship only a portion of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for reprocessing; the rest would remain in Iranian hands, where it could be further enriched for nuclear weapon production.”

According to the Financial Times, building war planes is actually part of an industry that Embraer is fairly new to as they  are only just “venturing into the defence industry.”  Yet, the U.S. government has found them to be more capable and trustworthy than an American manufacturer that already builds hundreds of U.S. military aircrafts and would employ as many as 1,400 new workers across 20 states.

To make matters worse, Hawker was already experiencing trouble as a result of the tumultuous economy and had already announced potential layoffs.  With news that they won’t be offered the opportunity to compete as the only American manufacturer for the light air craft contract, expect more bad news to come out of their offices.

Of course, the employees of Hawker Beechraft may not be on President Obama’s nice list these days anyway.  It turns out that Hawker Beechcraft employees are represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM).  IAM president, Tom Buffenbarger, is one of the few union presidents without direct access to the White House.  Here’s why:

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For the video impaired, here’s the takeaway:

“Barack so loved his own performance that he made Galesburg part of his presidential stump speech.  That’s right, he’s damn proud of his performance.  Well I’m not.  All he proved is like Janus, the two-faced Roman god of ancient times.  He could act like a friend to the workin’ man.  Even as he danced to tune dictated by billionaires.  Yes, we’ve seen this act before.”

Curious that the Obama administration would push an American manufacturing company who’d been trusted in the past in favor of a company run by a government directly involved in the continuing move towards nuclear capabilities by the nation most hostile to American interests.

Then again, with a President that is known for awarding favors to allies and punishing enemies that don’t kiss the ring, perhaps it’s not that surprising at all.

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