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At Senate Hearing, Drone Lobbyist Says Drone Too “Hostile” A Word, CODEPINK peace activist arrested for talking to lobbyist

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Medea Benjamin, (415) 235-6517

Alli McCracken, (860) 575-5692

March 20, 2013

At Senate Hearing, Drone Lobbyist Says Drone Too “Hostile” A Word, CODEPINK peace activist arrested for talking to lobbyist

 Washington, DC– The CODEPINK team expresses its deepest regrets that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 20th invited Michael Toscano, CEO of AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) as a witness for what otherwise had the potential to be a productive session about domestic drones and privacy issues. While witnesses Amie Stepanovich, attorney at Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Ryan Calo, Assistant Professor at Washington University School of Law, represented more nuanced positions, “Toscano’s appearance in Congress seemed to be part of a PR campaign to promote domestic drones without  a real debate about the risks associated with their use,”  said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Before the hearing had begun, 24-year-old CODEPINK National Coordinator Alli McCracken, who recently returned from Pakistan meeting with drone victims, approached Toscano at the witness table, asking him “How does it feel to profit from killer drones?” McCracken was promptly arrested by Capitol Hill Police. McCracken commented upon her release from the police station, “I am appalled that a man who profits handsomely from the killer and spy drone industry is being pandered to by our Congress.”

During his testimony, Toscano cautioned against the use of the word “drone,” stating that it “carried with it a hostile connotation.” He followed by preaching the economic benefits of a drone program, saying that the industry is “poised to help create 70,000 new jobs and $13.6 billion in economic impact in the first three years following the integration of unmanned aircraft into national airspace.” Throughout the hearing, Toscano dodged questions about serious privacy concerns about drones, returning constantly to the economic benefits.

“The fact that Toscano started his statement by declaring that the word ‘drone’ was too ‘hostile’ is ironic because AUVSI lobbies for organizations such as General Atomics that produce killer drones,” said CODEPINK anti-drone campaign coordinator Noor Mir.  “Even though witness Amie Stepanovich brought up the real threat of drones being used by corporations for stalking, nobody acknowledged that the AUVSI also lobbies for Lockheed Martin, which proudly announced the  ‘Stalker’ drone at the 2012 AUVSI conference. Surely, ‘hostile connotations’ rightfully apply to drones that ‘stalk’ and kill their targets,” Mir added.

Perhaps next time the Senate Judiciary Committee will think twice before inviting a man who once drew an analogy between deaths associated with car crashes and civilian casualties of drone strikes, stating that “car crashes kill 35,000 people a year, but we don’t talk about banning cars” in an interview with Salon. “A man with that sort of logical fallacy should not be deemed a credible Congressional witness,” said Benjamin.

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