Limit Big Brother’s use of drones

MAR 12, 2013


Michigan state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, is proposing legislation that will place restrictions on state and local law enforcement – as well as private citizens – legal ability to monitor us via drones. We should all support McMillin’s effort as protection from intrusive Big Brother snooping.

The evolution of drone technology has evolved more quickly than our laws – among them the cherished right to privacy. For a minimum price, an unmanned aerial device can be outfitted with a high-powered camera and microphone to follow us and invade our private lives. Not only do police forces have the capacity to track (and potentially racially profile) people with drones, but there are also no current legal restrictions for private citizens to fly devices to follow and record others. This is beyond even Orwell’s “1984″ imaginings.

If police forces have warrants issued by judges to use drones to follow persons (or use them in emergency situations) – great. Such usage is more efficient than using old school helicopters. The problem is that law enforcement agencies have a history of overstepping their bounds, which could now include surveillance via drones.

All loopholes on unwarranted and non-emergency usage of unmanned aerial devices should be closed so that state and local police aren’t playing the role of information gatherers on law-abiding citizens in the name of crime prevention. Moreover, a signal needs to be sent to Peeping Toms that such technology cannot be used in Michigan to get kicks from following or stalking people.

Yes to responsible usage of technology – no to widespread use of drones.

Deeper conversation needed regarding the Fiasco fiasco

Deeper conversation needed regarding the Fiasco fiasco


Social media has been abuzz after Lupe Fiasco was escorted off stage after spitting politically charged lyrics at an inauguration celebration event on Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Fiasco’s politicized lyrical content did not focus on what Obama acolytes are currently challenging, such as domestic gun control and those who try to block “marriage equality.”  Rather, Fiasco read lyrics from his song “Words I Never Said,” which are critical of President Obama’s foreign policy pertaining to state sanctioned violence.

At the performance, Fiasco rhymed:

Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say sh*t

That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either

I’m a part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful

And I believe in the people.


Fiasco has also been very critical of the current U.S. drone program, which lacks transparency as to how persons are placed on extra-judicial kill lists as well as the high number of civilian casualties that have resulted from strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The organizers of the event obviously knew of Fiasco’s views and were imprudent to have invited him to perform at the inauguration celebration.  We can also question the timing and location of Fiasco making such a political statement.  What I’ve not seen much on social media and blogs, however, are harder discussions about deeper moral issues related to this incident.

First, why are there so many political progressives, who are vocal on domestic gun control and “marriage equality” that give the Obama administration a pass on its current drone program?  If President George W. Bush had a secret kill list that resulted in so many casualties of women and children, many of them would be up in arms.  This is partisanship and a good dose of identity politics to boot.

Second, would hip-hop music fans, who are dissing Fiasco about his bad timing and his “hating on Obama” be equally as outraged if a rapper was at an inauguration celebration talking about how much marijuana he smokes and how many “hoes” he’s “smashing?”  I dare to say no, because the culture of decadence is accepted more by hip-hop fans in this age than lyrics that question the political status quo and business as usual.

Third, given that this controversy was on the eve of MLK Day and the day in which President Obama ceremonially swore in on MLK’s bible, would MLK support current day American militarism and her current drone program?  I think that he would not at all.   In fact, I think that he would challenge those who claim to uphold his mantle that have been silent on these issues during the Obama years.

The fiasco pertaining to Fiacso being booted during his D.C. performance should prompt us to have deeper conversations is all that I’m saying.

Dawud Walid

Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), which is a branch of America’s largest advocacy and civil rights organization for Muslims in America. Walid is a preacher of the Islamic religion, who delivers weekly sermons at various mosques throughout Michigan.


Commentary: King would’ve been against drone wars

January 21, 2013 

Comment: King would’ve opposed drone wars

By Dawud Walid

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day symbolizes many important moral and ethical principles, including the citizenry’s responsibility to end the federal government’s abuses of civil and human rights, both at home and abroad.

King is most often remembered for his leadership in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, his witnessing the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, which challenged America to achieve a higher sense of morality. Moreover, King is remembered as being imprisoned by bigoted Birmingham, Ala., police and having his life threatened by white supremacists.

What seems to be left out of contemporary MLK Day discussions is that King was a strong critic of American military actions against civilian populations and was himself the subject of intrusive surveillance by the FBI.

King was one of the first prominent public intellectuals to take a vocal stand against the war in Vietnam. In fact, he declared that America was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” much of which targeted “little brown Vietnamese children.”

King’s call for justice for all of humanity caused him to come under intense spying by the FBI and for its director, J. Edgar Hoover, to label him “the most dangerous man in America.” America has made great progress since the time of Dr. King, yet our nation remains plagued by these same moral challenges created by American violence abroad and by intrusive warrantless surveillance by federal law enforcement.

For example, America’s drone program continues to kill civilians under the banner of “collateral damage,” thus causing the rise of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

According to a recent study by Stanford University and New York University titled “Living Under Drones,” only two percent of extra-judicial drone killings in Pakistan are of terrorists posing an imminent threat to America.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, former top commander in Afghanistan and once a strong proponent of drone strikes, now questions the negative impact they have on long-term American interests. It becomes difficult to justify the deaths of so many civilians while claiming to be the world’s torchbearer of liberty and justice for all people.

Regarding warrantless surveillance, the FBI sent uncounted confidential informants and agent provocateurs into Islamic houses of worship, without predication of criminal activity, to make “initial threat assessments.”

The tragedy of 9/11 continues to be misused as a justification for blanket monitoring of law-abiding Americans. Along with American Muslims, the FBI in recent years even monitored the late Michael Jackson, and spied on Occupy Wall Street activists. Such warrantless surveillance not only is a waste of tax dollars and does not make the homeland any safer, but also is a violation of the very principles that are supposed to separate us from police states.

In the spirit of Dr. King, our national discussion should not only focus on racial equality, but also must include serious conversations about how the violence that America commits overseas affects the soul of the nation and how intrusive monitoring by the federal government is opposed to the aspirations of the Founding Fathers.

Based on what King preached, those who seek to follow in his footsteps should stand up for due process and question the violence carried out by our nation overseas.

Dawud Walid is executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).