Human Rights Groups Need Drones
They don't have to be just flying assassins
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2012 12:11 PM CST
In this March 7, 2007, file photo, the Israeli army Heron TP drone, also known locally as the Eitan, flies during a display at the Palmahim Air Force Base.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

(Newser) – Drones have transformed warfare, but they're "not just for firing missiles in Pakistan," anti-genocide activists Andrew Sniderman and Mark Hanis argue in the New York Times. Their radical proposal: Human rights groups should be buying drones, and using them to keep an eye on brutal governments. Imagine using a drone in Syria, for instance. Instead of relying on grainy camera photos, we'd have a high-def, bird's-eye view of the conflict. "A drone would let us count demonstrators, gun barrels, and pools of blood."

The idea isn't as crazy as it sounds; these days, drones cost just a few hundred thousand dollars, and one environmental group is already using them to monitor Japanese whaling. "This sounds a lot like surveillance, and it would be," Sniderman and Hanis admit. "It would violate Syrian airspace, and perhaps a number of Syrian and international laws." But supporting Nelson Mandela was once illegal, too. "If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should." Click to read their entire argument.