Q. Is there major opposition to the use of armed drones?
As the use of armed drones grew in frequency between 2005 and 2010, a number of groups began forming an anti-drone coalition in protest. What unifies this movement is a commitment to nonviolence in the service of, at the most extreme, banning all drones through an international treaty, and, more modestly, reducing reliance on drones and creating more accountability. The movement has gained international attention, with 75,000 individuals having signed a petition that would take a number of actions against the use of drones, including an international ban on the use or sale of weaponized drones, but also international action under the International Criminal Court to investigate those who have carried out drone attacks.
The international movement has had national-level followings as well. In the United States, the most visible group in the movement is Global Drones Watch run by Code Pink Women for Peace, which describes itself as a grassroots organization working to end US-f unded wars. The group organized a 2013 summit in Washington, DC with delegates from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Germany and sought to highlight the casualties that have resulted from American drone strikes. Other groups in the United States have also joined the antidrone movement. For example, a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War placed an anti-drone advertisement in the Air Force Times in 2015 urging drone pilots, sensor operators, and support teams to become conscientious objectors in the United States' armed drone strikes, arguing that these armed drone strikes and surveillance missions violate international law.
Although the use of drones is generally popular among legislators, isolated members of Congress have voiced concerns about the use of drones, though generally in the context of the homeland. Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) filibuster of President Obama's 2013 nomination of John Brennan for the Director of the CIA focused primarily on targeting Americans and primarily with force (though also through surveillance), and had little to say about the appropriateness of using armed drones abroad. Some members of Congress such as Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) have also questioned the CIA's dominant role in conducting the armed drone strikes in places such as Yemen and Pakistan, asking whether there is adequate oversight compared to the Joint Special Operations Command; nevertheless, the CIA has remained the government agency responsible for most strikes. In short, opposition to the executive's drone policy has largely been silent in the legislative branch.
The anti-drone movement has local roots, however, often at locations proximate to drone bases. For example, groups in upstate New York, many of which have connections with Catholic pacifist groups, near Hancock Airfield outside Syracuse have protested the use of this base to carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Several acts of civil disobedience have landed many of the protesters in local jails. One prominent example that made national headlines featured Mary Anne Grady Flores, a grandmother of four living in Ithaca, NY, who was sentenced to jail for a year for participating in a protest outside Hancock Airfield after being instructed by the local courts to desist.