Top lawyer finds GCHQ spying is illegal & UK spies who help US drone strike may be accessories to murder


UK Labour Member of Parliament Tom Watson writes, "I thought you might be interested to read the latest developments on the drones and data collection front. I've asked privacy expert Jemima Stratford QC for her legal opinion on aspects of the Snowden revelations. Contrary to reassurance from the Foreign Secretary and Chair of the ISC she finds [PDF]:


1. interception of 'internal' contents data of British citizens in the UK is unlawful under RIPA [ed: the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; the UK's controversial spying bill]

2. the RIPA framework is outdated and not fit for purpose, leaving British citizens exposed to unlawful interference

3. transfer of data to NSA, which shares data with CIA, leaves GCHQ officials exposed to charges of aiding murder in the UK where the government knows that data is available for use to direct drone strikes against non-combatants

Further, she argues:

4. the government should agree and publish a new memorandum of understanding with the US specifying how data from UK can be stored and used by foreign agents.

Watson doesn't do the report justice, really -- Stratford's opinion includes that UK participation in US drone strikes opens up individual UK intelligence operatives to being charged as accessories to murder. Watson sent copies of the report to all the members of the all-party parliamentary drone group, which of which he is chair. He's also sending it to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee for their own hearings on surveillance.

The Guardian has a great summary of the memo here, but really, you should read it yourself [PDF] -- it's a very quick and easy read. Stratford is a leading public law barrister, and she argues beautifully.

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Rugged drone airframe

Drone designer Marque Cornblatt and Eli DElia have designed a sturdy multicopter airframe that stands up to the typical kinds of abusive inflicted on drones by clumsy newbie pilots. He's launched a kickstarter for these nearly indestructible frames.

World's Toughest Action-Sports Airframe by Game of Drones

Autonomous multicopter made from pool noodles

Mark Harrison made a quadcopter body out of sections of pool noodle, producing a UAV that's cheap, rugged and great for practicing on. As he points out on Make, the beauty of multicopters is that they don't have to be aerodynamic and their bodies don't have any moving parts, giving you lots of flexibility in design. Plus: "Let's face it, it's just funny to think of flying pool noodles!"

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Haunted by drones

Call me juvenile, but watching a drone in a banshee costume chasing joggers just about made my day. Cory 12

UK Ministry of Defense can arrest you without warrant for taking pictures, grazing animals near NSA and drone outposts

The UK Ministry of Defense has introduced by-laws in the vicinity of bases in the UK, making it a detainable offense to take pictures or make any image of any person or thing; to graze livestock; or to fail to clean up your dog's turds. The rules also allow the MoD to put you in jail "without warrant" for setting up protest camps on MoD property.

These rules come into effect just as a recent Snowden leak revealed that one of the bases in the UK was used by the NSA and GCHQ to spy on Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, as well as Angela Merkel. Another one of the affected bases is reportedly used to pilot drones deployed in Yemen.

All in all, the rules effect 150 bases around the UK. The MoD the second-largest landowner in the UK.

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DIY Drone Shadow Handbook: how to create accurate drone-shadow street art


James Bridle has released a CC-licensed DIY Drone Shadows handbook (PDF), which explains, in detail, how to make accurate drone-shadow street art in your town/neighborhood. It's part of a larger project around Dirty Wars, a documentary on drone warfare currently touring the UK.

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Institute for the Future forecasted Amazon's drone delivery in 2012

ZAmazondroneIFTF

At the nonprofit Institute for the Future thinktank where I'm a researcher, we always say, "Never believe anyone who says they can predict the future, especially if they're from California." We don't make point predictions but rather describe future forces we think will have big impacts on the way we live. Sometimes though, IFTF just nails it. The image above is an "Artifact from the Future" that my colleagues Jason Tester and Nic Weidinger created during the fall of 2012, more than a year before Jeff Bezos announced Amazon's drone delivery plans. We use these physical mock-ups and prototypes of imaginary products, objects, and services to make our forecasts more tangible. The above artifact was part of our Future of Coordination research you can check out here. Here's the artifact description:

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Amazon Prime Air: drone-based 30 minute delivery

Jeff Bezos took to 60 Minutes to announce Prime Air, a drone-based 30-minute delivery system for densely populated areas that comes with its own video design-fiction illustrating how it might work. The vision is an exciting one, but the designfic elides some important questions like the regulatory framework under which thousands (millions?) of drones might share the sky as businesses compete to do airborne delivery; whether that framework would be sufficient to actually maintain public safety (hello midair drone collision over a busy highway with attendant plummeting shrapnel into the path of speeding cars!); and what the energy and carbon footprint of drones would be, especially with comparison to conventional delivery logistics.

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Drone strike survivors from Pakistan speak to Congress; only five lawmakers bother to show up (video)

In the video above, Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq's mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.

Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: "It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, 'Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,' because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone."

From Kevin's report:

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Micro dronecopter aerobatics

Joly sez, "Experts, activists, and makers from all over the world gathered last weekend for the first ever Drone and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in NYC. One theme was miniaturization. Smaller UAVs are more agile, and less dangerous, although, as of now, they still suffer from the same FAA restrictions as their larger cousins. Another popular feature was FPV (First Person View) where flyers drive their drones via remote displays. One spectacular demo that combined both was from Eirik Solheim of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation who flew a 25 gram 3D printed $169 Micro Quadcopter out the stage's backdoor and into the backstage passages of the venue, and back. (here's video of the entire first day)"

DARC22 Eirk Solheim - Micro Quadcopter (Thanks, Joly!)

Rocket launch filmed by drone

The SpaceX Grasshopper's latest launch—and graceful descent!—captured by a drone-mounted camera. Grasshopper was most recently seen terrifying the cows.

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F-16 fighter jet converted into drone

Planeeeee

Boeing and the US Air Force have converted retired F-16 fighter jets into drones, designated as QF-16s. According to Boeing, "While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit." The military claims that they will use the drones for dogfight training. Video of the first pilotless test flight below. (Thanks, David Steinberg!)

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Drone's-eye-view of Burning Man

[Video Link] Matthew says, "Filmmaker Eddie Codel used a DJI Phantom drone and a GoPro Hero3 camera to film a "drone’s eye view" of Burning Man."

1939 Gumps comic strip predicts modern drone warfare

[high res] Everyone knows about this comic book, which Dick Cheney read as a boy and later used as the basis of his foreign policy during the Bush administration. Here's another comic, from 1939, that predicts modern drone warfare. (Thanks, Randy Regier!)

Burning Man drone rules

This year, the Burning Man Organization has set out rules for drone operation on the playa, developed in concert with drone-hobbyist/burners who attended a summit at BMOHQ on July 17. The rules include a common-sense safety code, parameters on where/when/who can be videoed; fire safety rules; spectrum management procedures; and guidance on elevation and wind.

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