AuthorConforti, Michael A.

I INTRODUCTION 247 II BACKGROUND 251 A. Drone Technology 251 1. The Domestic Use of Drones and Public Policy Concerns 251 2. The Domestic Use of Drones and Fourth Amendment Concerns 253 3. The International Use of Drones and Humanitarian Concerns 256 B. The Relevant International Humanitarian Laws 260 1. The Geneva Conventions 261 2. The Hague Conventions 262 3. International Humanitarian Law 264 4. The Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions 265 5. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty 266 III. INCREASED DANGERS OF WEAPONIZED DRONE TECHNOLOGY PROLIFERATION WITH THE EMERGENCE OF NANOTECHNOLOGY 268 IV PROPOSED LEGISLATION 271 A. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation and Demilitarization of Drone Technology 272 B. Explanatory Note 275 V. CONCLUSION 277 I. INTRODUCTION

The technological revolution awe-inspired countless new innovative techniques and forever altered the international realm of global relations. Considering the innumerable benefits offered by interactively connecting an entire planet, (1) the impersonal nature of technology generally has adversely impacted human interaction, producing many negative social consequences. (2) Because of this latter detriment, the international community has displayed an alarming pattern of sociopathic tendencies that have dramatically altered international politics.

In a hurried effort to establish its technological superiority, the development and implementation of the Manhattan Project was put on display in a horrific fashion as it wiped out entire populations. (3) Of course, international muscle-flexing of such technology would prompt an immediate arms race. (4) And, because the fundamental facts of nucleonics were common scientific knowledge, nations' scientists were quick to devise their own engineering blueprints, further improving the weaponized scope of this technology. (5)

After the international community witnessed the frightening effects of nuclear devastation, the United States and Russia began to stockpile nuclear warheads in amounts that would ensure the eradication of mankind. (6) Once both nations stepped back from the launch button that would engage this zero-sum game, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ("NPT") paved the path for international cooperation, anchored by the three pillars of the Treaty: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. (7) As post-apocalyptic fears of lives relegated to permanent occupancy in nuclear shelters eased, technology continued to evolve in an ever-increasingly spectacular fashion.

Of course, the peaceful void created by the NPT was destined to be filled by technological advancements cloaked in the guise of national security. The problem with nuclear technology was that it was too loud and visible. Meanwhile, nanotechnology has enabled basic technology to be minimized in a variety of ways. Nanotechnology is seen as an evolutionary scientific improvement to enhance already existing technology by increasing performance and lowering costs. (8) In essence, "[n]anotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale." (9) More advanced concepts, then, have the ability to be mass produced at significantly lower costs. (10) Enter an overinflated military budget--and a history of weaponizing new technology--and a void-filling recipe has been created.

Simultaneously, drone technology has entered the public-private arena, opening the door to countless sovereignty violations, both domestic and foreign. Because of the unrealistic expectation of privacy as applied to drones, which can fly at altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet, (11) they have survived Fourth Amendment judicial scrutiny in the domestic sphere. (12) Internationally, however, drones "conjure[] images of a science-fiction dystopia where robots hover in the sky and exterminate humans on the ground." (13) While the operators of these drones sit comfortably in air-conditioned rooms, the drones themselves are responsible for thousands of deaths half a world away. (14) Because the full impact of weaponized drones spares the American populace of its most chilling effects, the humanitarian outcry has been lost in the mix.

Pilotless aerial machines were centuries in the making from hot air balloons carrying explosives during the U.S. Civil War to kites strapped with cameras for battleground reconnaissance. (15) Inside Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, the Obama administration is responsible for nine times the amount of ordered drone strikes than was ordered under George W. Bush. (16) Moreover, each one of those nations has suffered civilian casualties, including children. (17) How many innocent civilian deaths--especially children--are tolerable before the international conscience begins to flinch? What if this happened on US soil?

According to international treaties as currently interpreted, it is unclear exactly how many civilian deaths are tolerable. Current International Humanitarian Law ("IHL") is so convoluted that "if a drone strike is launched against a legitimate military objective by using a weapon that does not cause unnecessary suffering of combatants, and the attack does not harm civilians to a degree that makes the action disproportionate, the attack complies with IHL." (18)

However, the offensive use of some drones, such as the Predator, is classified. (19) Therefore, it becomes nearly impossible to ensure compliance of American military activity with existing international law.

The inherent flaw that exists in the international humanitarian agreements becomes exposed when a document that purports to be "humanitarian" allows innocent civilians to suffer unnecessary death or loss in the name of proportionality. Accordingly, "[t]he nature of armed conflict, and of the causes and consequences of such conflict... reflects the fundamental need to evolve IHL to the changing nature of armed conflict." (20)

This Note will explore the need to consider existing international humanitarian laws to encompass a changing global relationship as it relates to the militarization of technology. Part II will examine the background of drone technology as it has continued to develop, and uncomfortably persists, in both the domestic and international spheres. A discussion of current domestic sovereignty infringement is a necessary prerequisite to the international issue because as the American government continues to exploit loopholes to circumvent Fourth Amendment protections afforded to its own citizens, internationally the United States has completely discarded sovereignty as a concept and wholly ignored its own constitutional principles. (21) In Part III, I will highlight the dangers associated with the proliferation of military drone technology in the age of nanotechnology as it encapsulates the need to move beyond the singular focus on nuclear energy and refocus on emerging technologies that create nearly identical political and humanitarian issues. Part IV will embrace the effect of this ideology on domestic and international diplomacy as it will propose a skeletal framework to broaden universally accepted principles embodied in existing international treaties. In Part V, I will conclude, insisting that lawmakers on a global scale unite to create international cooperation to prevent the militarization of drone technology from eliminating the remaining remnants of sovereignty and humanitarianism from all sources of interaction.


    1. Drone Technology

      1. The Domestic Use of Drones and Public Policy Concerns

        To understand the perilous implications inherent in weaponized drone technology on the international stage, it is paramount to begin by discussing domestic abuses of such technology. As Ben Parker keenly observed, "[w]ith great power comes great responsibility." (22) The initial discussion centers around domestic abuses because drone technology has skyrocketed the power and judicial reach of the American government. However, rather than restricting its use to benevolent utilization such as agricultural efficiency, (23) drone technology has rapidly attached itself to police activity generally, resulting in irresponsible surveillance operations which wholly ignore civil liberties. If the American military is able and willing to weaponize drone technology against its own citizens in violation of their most basic rights, the alarming features of current unrestricted domestic policy offers a unique perspective on the uncivilized nature of international drone operations. In other words, since the United States is shoving constitutional guarantees aside at home, this highlights the necessity to directly address and give teeth to current international law which remains an unrestricted military playground for the United States to exploit as it wishes.

        Although drone technology usage has been implemented for some arguably commendable performances such as fire detection, hazardous material detection, search and rescue missions, and natural disaster response, (24) the potential for abuse remains widely available. Because very little legal precedent exists regulating the usage of these unmanned aerial vehicles, many concerned citizens have rallied around legislation that limits their usage. For example, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has proposed a "model regulating drone use (rather than outlawing it), allow[ing] them to be used with a judicially issued warrant or for limited non-law enforcement purposes." (25)

        However, Congress has already passed a bill that requires the FAA Administrator to "develop and implement operational and certification requirements for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system." (26) This legislation further requires the Secretary of Transportation to "enter into agreements with appropriate government agencies to simplify the process... ," (27) If more drones are allowed to pollute the domestic airspace, then they will pollute the domestic airspace...

To continue reading

Request your trial