Scheindebatte

A fake debate.

The German defense ministry will be presenting their case Monday, 30 Jun 2014, in the Bundestag for why they must be allowed to buy and co-develop armed drones, unmanned airborne weapons platforms. But they’ve already decided, according to an “Einzelplan 14,” to buy Medium Altitude Long Endurance armable surveillance drones by late 2014. There are no longer M.A.L.E. drones that cannot be armed, said taz.de.

The Bundeswehr is currently staying in Afghanistan until 2016, and they said they need to tool up with drones and close some “capability gaps” because they’re staying in Afghanistan.

One of the evening news shows said the new supermajority government’s coalition agreement promised a debate about drones. They said this in a way that implied that the coalition agreement only promised a debate.

Update: After the Bundestag talk, the defense minister announced the German military won’t be buying killer drones. It will be leasing them, from Israel.

(SHINE day BAT ah.)

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss

N.S.A. investigative committee of the Bundestag, which began meeting on 03 Apr 2014.

The committee’s chair is Clemens Binninger (C.D.U.), a former policeman.

It is tasking itself with investigating the involvement of German police and intelligence agencies—domestic, foreign and military—in the massive spying on people and companies that is now known to have been done by the U.S. and U.K. governments and their contractors.

Also it will now be investigating Germany’s culpability in the U.S.’s drone wars. Since the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) reported that the U.S. is using its Ramstein airbase inside Germany to support drone attacks in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, violating international law while killing hundreds of civilians, Germany’s government (C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D.) can no longer pretend they don’t know this is happening.

The committee repeated that they would like Edward Snowden and other informed whistleblowers to give statements and answer questions for these Bundestag inquiries. Journalists repeated that the whole world will be watching this inquiry to see what the committee discovers and which stones they leave unturned.

Update on 09 Apr 2014: Clemens Binninger stepped down as chair of the N.S.A. investigative committee after only six days. He said he was resigning from the position because he felt people from the opposition parties were too interested in hearing from N.S.A. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Update on 10 Jul 2014: A Spiegel article about Germans’ angry responses to spying by the U.S. mentioned that Clemens Binninger is chairing the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, the secret Bundestag committee supposed to monitor Germany’s intelligence agencies.

(Enn ess ah   oon tah ZOO chh oongs OW! ss shoes.)

Doch drohnenfähige Handydaten!

Cell phone data are droneable after all!

Last summer Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, admitted they’d been sharing phone data with U.S. intelligence agencies for years but said it was okay because cell phone data couldn’t be used to locate people and something about the N.S.A. promised not to use German-supplied phone data to kill anyone. Regarding the first claim, whistleblowers from U.S. drone programs have now explained to reporters how phone data were used for targeting assassinations around the world.

One whistleblower, describing countermeasures persons of interest have taken to keep using phones while evading geolocation and how these countermeasures can deliberately or accidentally increase the drone strikes’ already terrible civilian casualties, called the U.S. drone programs “little more than death by unreliable metadata.”

Details from the article and online discussions included:
“Pods” on U.S. drones (and presumably on urban utility poles because this might be what police have been quietly installing in U.S. cities using Dept. of Homeland Security funds) can spoof cell phones into providing data and can vacuum information off wifi networks from altitudes of four miles. Telecommunications standards in some “countries of interest” make it possible for many users there to share data the U.S. uses to identify targets’ cell phones. Wireless “party lines” quietly shared by pools of low-income civilians increase the chances that countries indulging in drone assassinations will accidentally kill party line participants and their families and neighbors, or be tricked into killing their enemies’ enemies, such as by firing missiles at wedding parties or legislatures after someone hides a cheap phone there.

(Daw chh   drone nen fey igga   HEN dee dotten.)

Denkende Drohnen

“Thinking drones,” a wide spectrum of autonomous unmanned flying weapons systems, large and small, described in the Pentagon strategy paper for 2013 to 2038 called the Unmanned Integrated Systems Roadmap.

From a Spiegel.de summary of the 168-page document: Short-term, the Pentagon wants to add weapons to existing drones, including arming unmanned helicopters. Medium-term, developing smaller and more precise weapons specifically for drones. Long-term, autonomous “thinking” unmanned systems.

There will be drones that are weapons, such as the “Switchblade” minidrone and a “swarm of intelligent munitions” called L.O.C.A.A.S., low-cost autonomous attack system, to find and blow up moving targets.

(DENG kenned ah   DRONE en.)

Selbstständig ausweichen, eigenständig ausweichen

Independently avoid, autonomously avoid.

The airspace regulation problem cited for why the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S.A.’s Federal Aviation Administration refused to allow the at-one-time largest remotely operated drone, the U.S./German Euro Hawk, to fly over U.S. and European airspace was the agencies’ requirement for “sense-and-avoid” technology ensuring drones avoid collisions with other aircraft as well as a human pilot would do. Wouldn’t guaranteed collision avoidance be impossible without first implementing Isaac Asimov-like laws of robotics to the extent that the drone would “want” to survive and protect just as much as a human pilot? Even Asimov’s laws of robotics might not fix drones’ vulnerability to remote hacking that could deliberately crash them, armed or unarmed. Supplementary to the air traffic rules preventing collisions with other aircraft, what regulations might help keep hacked or broken drones from colliding with objects on the ground or in orbit?

The situation may be evolving and toward deregulation of anticollision requirements in the U.S.A.: an FAA.gov press release dated 26 Jul 2013 announced a “giant leap” and “milestone” had been achieved because the Federal Aviation Administration was for the first time “type-certifying” unmanned aircraft for flight: the Scan Eagle X200 from Insitu and the PUMA from AeroVironment, each weighing ca. 55 pounds with ~3-meter wingspans. “A falcon flying blind,” that cannot “see” without its ground stations, the Euro Hawk was said to weigh 15 metric tons and be 40 meters wide. Its delivery flight was supposed to be at 20,000 meters altitude.

Germany’s Euro Hawk surveillance drone program was canceled in May 2013—and the sudden course correction may only have been caused by a concerned whistleblower who informed Bundestag member Hans-Peter Bartels (S.P.D.) in whose district they were going to base the crash-prone drones. Since then, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (C.D.U.) was caught lying about when he knew the Euro Hawk was a bust yet didn’t report this and continued paying for the program. If the German defense ministry under Thomas de Maizière (C.D.U.), Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (C.S.U.), Franz Josef Jung (C.D.U.) and Peter Struck (S.P.D.) ignored internal warnings for years saying this seemingly-unsolvable safety problem was unsolvable under the planned budget and schedule, then people in government appear to have been several hundred million euros certain they could eliminate the air traffic regulations rather than fix the engineering issue.

The Euro Hawk prototype delivered from California to Germany in 2011 twice lost contact with its operators, according to FAZ.net, for about ten minutes each time. When found again it had deviated from course and “even lost altitude.”

German voters already experience a frisson of angst if they see or hear military jets in the air because it reminds them of when hundreds of spectators were sliced and burned in the firey crash of fighter jets flying in formation at an air show over Ramstein air base. The notorious industrial band took the name Ramstein after the disaster as an act of provocation.

(ZELL bst shten dick   OW! ss vye chhen,   EYE geh n shten dick   OW! ss vye chhen.)

Autonome Tötungsroboter

Autonomous killer robots.

A Süddeutsche.de article said for years now billions have invested annually in research and development of these types of weapons by the U.S.A., United Kingdom, Israel and soon China as well. The U.S. Navy for example is working on unmanned killer submarines. The U.S. Air Force notoriously has its drones. Companies like iRobot Corp. have been delivering land-based battle robots for years, on wheels, caterpillar treads, four legs and they’re working on bipedal. Post-mounted or mobile Samsung sentries (“SGR-1”) have been erected along the North Korean border that can now be set to automatically shoot anything detectable by motion, heat or, presumably, video-analyzing software.

Opponents of the technology say it’s only a question of time until remotely operated killing machines become autonomous decision-makers. The time for people to decide on an international framework for these types of weapons is now, said a United Nations expert on extralegal killing.

Sweden, wrote Süddeutsche.de, has called for an international test ban [Testverbot] on L.A.R.’s, lethal autonomous robots, asking each country’s government to announce a national moratorium on them and to unilaterally decline to manufacture and test autonomous killer robots.

(Ow! toe NOME ah   TƏ TOONGS roe BOT ah.)

Das SIGAD-Sharing

Signals intelligence activity designator sharing, i.e. data-collection-site data sharing between intelligence agencies from different countries.

Germany: Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the German foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or B.N.D., has been sharing on a massive scale communications data collected at e.g. its Bavarian Bad Aibling S.I.G.A.D. site with the U.S.A.’s National Security Agency. The data include mobile phone numbers that the B.N.D. admitted they’ve been passing on to the N.S.A. for years now supposedly under the strict condition that said phone numbers must not be used to kill people (e.g. via phone towers triangulation + drone strike); the B.N.D. also denied that it’s technologically possible to use for location purposes the G.S.M. mobile phone numbers they’ve been passing on (“G.S.M.-Mobilfunknummern sind für eine zielgenaue Lokalisierung nicht geeignet”). The German foreign intelligence agency furthermore is said to have given software it developed to the N.S.A. And the N.S.A. gave the B.N.D. its X-Keyscore software and X-Keyscore software training, including in “behavior detection.”

In an interesting parallel, the Washington Post report on 15 Aug 2013 about an audit of just a few N.S.A. branch offices which found thousands of violations of U.S. privacy rules each year also included a similarly scarcely credible excuse saying phone technology limitations were keeping the N.S.A. from snooping more: “One major problem is largely unpreventable, the audit says, because current operations rely on technology that cannot quickly determine whether a foreign mobile phone has entered the United States.”

England: The N.S.A. has apparently been paying money, such as 100 million pounds, to Britain’s G.C.H.Q., a disproportionately über-representational intelligence-gathering partner for a country of that size. The N.S.A. receives so much communications data from the U.K. that reporters said “it’s almost the same thing” whether G.C.H.Q. or the N.S.A. initially collects it.

(Doss   ZIG odd   CHER ingk.)

Kollisionsschutz

“Collision protection.” In a surprise move ~14 May 2013 the German Defense Ministry [Bundesverteidigungsministerium] cancelled its Euro Hawk drone development cooperation with the USA because the drone was not going to receive permission from civilian authorities to fly in European airspace. When the cancellation was announced, GDefense said they’d spent 550 million euros on the project, but now they’re saying 660 million. The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported GDefense knew about the “Euro Hawk” civil-airspace permission problems in 2004, three years before they signed the procurement contracts to purchase the drones. Airspace permission was denied to the unmanned surveillance drone because it lacked an adequate “collision protection” system [“fehlende Kollisionsschutz“]. Air safety authorities, business people in the aerospace industry and the German Defense Department’s own licensing office warned the Defense Ministry about the paperwork problems in 2004. Furthermore, the opposition SPD and Green Party accuse, GDefense subsequently “massively interfered” in the German Federal Court of Auditors [Bundesrechnungshof]’s attempt to do their job by investigating what the hell was going on there. On 18 May 2013 the Bundesrechnungshof auditors said they’d still not received all the documents they’d requested and some of the status reports they did receive were blacked out by censors.

Half the project’s money was spent on developing the drone vehicle in the USA and half on developing the drone’s special electronic surveillance system in Germany. The surveillance system is supposedly too large to go in other drones but could be carried by a normal plane. One Euro Hawk prototype was delivered and four more drones were going to be ordered.

The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported that serious problems occurred during the drone prototype’s delivery flight from California to Bavaria in 2011, when contact with the controlling satellite was lost twice for about ten minutes at a time and the drone deviated from its course. But the Defense Ministry did not report these problems to the Bundestag. US air safety authorities also had refused to issue airspace permission to the drone, before its 2011 transfer flight. Anti-drone activist Medea Benjamin, author of “Drone warfare: Killing by remote control,” said in a 24 Sep 2012 interview that the US air force admits about one-third of these drones have been crashing. She said apparently it’s OK for them to crash on some countries but not other countries.

The German Defense Ministry’s reason for refusing to share the information requested by the controlling authorities, the Bundesrechnungshof auditors, was agreements made with “industry partners” not to share information with third parties. A spokesman for the federal auditing authority said not receiving all the information they needed to do their jobs was “unusual. We don’t experience something like that very often.” And: “The Bundesrechnungshof has an unlimited right of inspection which the Defense Ministry cannot nullify via agreements with third parties. We can and will not accept the Defense Ministry’s limitations of our access to the files.”

On 22 May 2013, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) said he will let the federal auditors see all documents now, even despite putative contractual conditions agreed with the USA.

Germany has also contributed ~483 million euros to NATO’s Hawk drone (“Global Hawk”?) which is based on the same US drone and thus might also have civil airspace licensing issues.

(Coe LEE zee OWNS shootz.)

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