Wednesday, April 23, 2014

May 3 - Protest at NSA HQ in Fort Meade, MD




Just the other day yet another US drone strike took place in Yemen killing dozens of "suspected terrorists" we are told. However, due to the US Government’s lies, both the Obama and Bush Administrations, keeping us in perpetual war, we cannot take these official statements on face value. We know that innocent civilians including children have been killed by US drone strikes and other acts of violence. The NSA plays an integral role in providing information, including faulty data as reported by leading award-winning journalists, to the Central Intelligence Agency and US Military which in turn carry out the drone strikes. US militarism including the illegal drone program is responsible for violations of international law and is going unchecked by the US Congress. We must hold the US and NSA accountable for the illegal and immoral drone program.

The US/NSA is spying on US citizens, our friends around the world, foreign leaders, while waging extra-judicial killing and war crimes in countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. (We know this thanks to revelations by courageous whistle-blowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.)

We must speak out FOR the voiceless victims and AGAINST the US aerial assassination program, the death squads of the skies, and unbridled US military aggression.

"I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."
-- Edward Snowden



DIRECTIONS: From I-95 take Route 32 towards Fort Meade, enter on Canine Road, bear to the left and park in the visitor’s parking lot and wait.

Contact for affinity groups:


To sign on to the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] letter below, please contact mobuszewski at

Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers
Director, National Security Agency
Chief, Central Security Service
National Security Agency
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755

Dear Admiral Rogers:

As members of peace and justice groups with grave concern for the National Security Agency’s role in the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen, we are writing to request a meeting. We are deeply concerned about our government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to assassinate people in the countries listed above. As you know the NSA is involved in this assassination program by providing potential targets for the president's "kill list."

We are aware that the NSA is open 24 hours a day,7 days a week. Therefore, we are suggesting a meeting at the NSA on Saturday, May 3, 2014. We are confident that someone in a policy-making capacity will be available to meet with us and to arrange a subsequent meeting due to the important nature of our concern.

At the meeting, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance representatives will urge you to support an end to this assassination program which we believe to be illegal. Please confirm that a meeting can take place on May 3.

In 2011 in Yemen, CIA drone attacks were used to kill, first, Anwar Al-Awlaki and weeks later his son. They were U.S. citizens, who were never charged, brought to trial, or convicted of any crime. In fact, four other U.S. citizens have been assassinated by killer drone strikes without any pretense of due process.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a lawsuit in US federal court against the Obama Administration regarding the assassination of Al-Awlaki. The suit was lost on procedural grounds; however, the judge in the case stated "Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization?"

The killer drone strikes only promote more terrorism directed at the US. This point was made by Malala Yousafzai when she met with President Obama and his family. On Oct. 11, 2013 Philip Rucker of THE WASHINGTON POST wrote this: “Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are ‘fueling terrorism.’”

We are also disturbed by the lack of transparency and oversight by congress. In spite of assurances from President Obama that the victims of drone strikes are surgical targets, it has been reported that hundreds of victims who are innocent of crimes against the US have been killed including civilian men, women, and children. These people have names and families who love them.

According to a report, “US: Reassess Targeted Killings in Yemen,” released on October 21, 2013 by Human Rights Watch “United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law." The report added that the strikes are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

We hope that you will take our concerns seriously, as it is our position that killer drone strikes are wrong on many levels: the illegality and immorality of assassinations, the violation of international law and the constitutional protection of due process, the targeting of civilian populations, and the disregard of sovereignty. We have great concern for people caught up in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen. We believe the US killer drone program must be brought to an end immediately.

Please respond to our request to meet and to discuss your role in terminating the National Security Agency's role in this assassination program. This is an opportunity to consider our proposal of reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes. A U.S. policy of endless wars must be placed in the dustbin of history. We look forward to your response.

In peace,

Max Obuszewski

On behalf of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Friday, April 11, 2014

Demonstration May 3rd at the NSA Headquarters

May 3, 2014
"I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in
 1945: “Individuals have international duties which
 transcend the national obligations of obedience.
 Therefore individual citizens have the duty to
 violate domestic laws to prevent crimes
 against peace and humanity from occurring.”

-- Edward Snowden

On the occasion of Spring Days of Action against the killer drones the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance issues this call to action:
The National Security Agency is not only violating the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution by taking away the privacy rights of Americans and others around the world, but contributing to the deaths and the maiming of innocents, including children, in the NSA's role supporting the US CIA and US Military drone strikes.  The Obama Administration has already violated the 5th Amendment rights of Americans killed by the drones including Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in Yemen.

International law has been violated; the US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are war crimes. The NSA is culpable, and we must nonviolently express our First Amendment rights and responsibilities under international law to oppose the US Government and the Obama Administration's extrajudicial killings carried out in our name and with our tax money.

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 we will gather and peacefully assemble at the National Security Agency to hold a public witness against the its role in violations of international law, war crimes, and crimes against peace. Across the United States, citizen activists have been involved in challenging the killer drone program, and some of them have been arrested and jailed for being voices for the voiceless drone victims. 
The demonstration at the NSA will be nonviolent, and is open to all peace with justice people.  Some participants may be moved to risk arrest, however, the demonstration is open to all. 

 Please let the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance know if you are able to be at the NSA on May 3 by emailing Joy First at
A final planning meeting will be held on Friday May 2. Contact Malachy Kilbride at for information on this important planning session.
The NSA, former employer of Edward Snowden,
 is located at Fort Meade, Maryland where the
 courageous US war crimes whistle-blower,
 Chelsea Manning, was tried and convicted.
If not you, then who, will join us on May 3, 2014?
Come out for peace with justice for all and be a voice FOR the drone victims and AGAINST US militarism and the violence of empire.
For more information contact Joy First, convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

The nationwide Spring Days of Drone Action
continue! Click Here for more information!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Days of Action Against Drones in MARYLAND

Advanced Physics Laboratory, home of drones research at JHU.
Maryland has been an important site of protest activity against drones, particularly protests against drones research at Johns Hopkins University.

Numerous Maryland events are planned as part of the nationwide April Days of Action Against Drones.


TOWSON - Friday, April 5, through Sunday, April 7, 2013 - The Politics of Drone Warfare and the University - Topics in this important 3-day conference will include:
  • "Distancing Acts: Imperial War from Counterinsurgency to Drones"
  • "The Politics of Drone Warfare and the University"
  • "Teaching the War on Terror"
Speakers will include:
  • Rashid Khalidi - Columbia University
  • Nick Turse -
  • Phyllis Bennis - Institute for Policy Studies
  • Ray McGovern - Ex-CIA White House briefer
  • Irene Gendizer - Boston University
  • Judith Le Blanc - Peace Action
  • David Swanson - War is a
  • Jerry Lembcke - College of the Holy Cross
  • Vinay Lal - UCLA
  • Paul Joseph - Tufts University
  • Carolyn Eisenberg - Hofstra University
  • John Prados - National Security Archive
Friday Keynote Session: Friday evening, April 5, St. John's Methodist Church, 2640 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD. Keynote speakers: Col. Ann Wright, former Army officer and State Department diplomat; Alfred McCoy, University of Wisconsin.

All Saturday, April 6 and Sunday April 7 sessions will be held at the College of Liberal Arts Building, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252

For additional details see: Historians Against the War

BALTIMORE - Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14, 2013 - Exhibit: Drone Warfare Exhibit and Luminous Light Intervention . . . Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - Exhibit: Workshop on the Legal, Political, and Ethical Implications of Militarized Drones . . . Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - Exhibit: "DRONECOMING" - Mobile drone warfare exhibition at Johns Hopkins University homecoming events.

(Add additional Illinois events to the master list of national April Days of Action actions.)

Read about ALL the ways YOU can be involved 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Anti-Killer Drone Activists Seek Meeting with Johns Hopkins University President

National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, 325 East 25th Street , Baltimore , MD 21218 PHONE: [410] 366-1637


CONTACT: Max Obuszewski 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at


Anti-Killer Drone Activists Seek Meeting with JHU President
Letter to President Daniels and Dr. Semmel
Johns Hopkins University Refuses to Arrest Anti-Killer Drone Activists

Read related post ... JHU News-Letter: "The APL drones on and on"


WHO: The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore is a part of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR], which organizes direct action against U.S. wars. For example, NCNR members went to the National Security Agency on October 9, 2011 to seek a meeting with the director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander to discuss the NSA’s involvement in U.S. war plans.
Instead of getting a meeting, fourteen citizen activists were arrested and are scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court on May 29 in Baltimore ,

WHAT: NCNR decided to focus attention on the government’s use of killer drones. Since Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has a contract to do drone research, NCNR, on May 1, sent a letter to Ronald J. Daniels, JHU president, and Dr. Ralph Semmel, director of the APL, seeking a meeting. There was no response to the letter, so a group of NCNR members are going to the Homewood Campus to seek a meeting with the president.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1 PM

WHERE: Johns Hopkins University , Homewood Campus, 3400 North Charles Street , Baltimore , MD 21218

WHY: Jurists, political leaders and even the former director of the National Security Agency, General Michael Hayden, have questioned the use of drones to kill. See the op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Doyle McManus on February 5, 2012, “Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list’?” This is what McManus wrote: “When it comes to national security, Michael V. Hayden is no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.” Then the op-ed brings up the case of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen killed by a drone in Yemen , and Hayden is quoted: “’We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him, but we didn't need a court order to kill him. Isn't that something?’” Go to McManus: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list'? in the Los Angeles Times.

It is both baffling and shocking that our government has assassinated U.S. citizens without even a pretense of due process. These hunter-killer Reaper drones and other forms of unmanned aerial vehicles cause horrific destruction. But who decides the use of drones? Who decides who to target? Laws of war make it illegal to target civilians. Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution guarantees due process to U.S. citizens and probably non-citizens?

The Nuremberg Principles obligate citizens to challenge governments involved in illegal activities. These Principles forbid wars of aggression, attacks on civilians and extrajudicial assassinations, all associated with drone warfare. Citizens have a duty to act where they can to prevent violations, even if the violations are committed by their government or a university engaged in research which helps develop the weapons used illegally.

May 1, 2012

Ronald J. Daniels, President

242 Garland Hall
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles St.
Baltimore , MD 21218

APL Director Dr. Ralph Semmel

The Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory
11100 Johns Hopkins Road
Laurel , MD 20723-6099

Dear President Daniels and Dr. Semmel:

The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is composed of citizen activists who want to see that government officials are held accountable for illegal activities. As members of a peace and justice group with grave concern for the U.S. government’s use of drones in acts of war against the people of Afghanistan , Iraq , Pakistan and Yemen , we would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about the drone research being done by Johns Hopkins University . And prior to the meeting, we would appreciate receiving copies of contracts, and the dollar amounts, regarding unmanned aerial vehicles.

As citizen activists, we have petitioned government officials and legislators with our grievances. We now believe it is time to discuss with you the taxpayer-funded university’s research on a weapon which has been used to execute U.S. citizens without due process, and to kill at least 175 children in Pakistan , untold numbers of civilians, members of the Pakistan military and even rescuers.

You may be aware that jurists, political leaders and even the former director of the National Security Agency, General Michael Hayden, have questioned the use of drones to kill. See the op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Doyle McManus on February 5, 2012, “Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list’?” This is what McManus wrote: “When it comes to national security, Michael V. Hayden is no shrinking violet. As CIA director, he ran the Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.” Then the op-ed brings up the case of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen killed by a drone in Yemen , and Hayden is quoted: “’We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him, but we didn't need a court order to kill him. Isn't that something?’” Go to McManus: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list'? in the Los Angeles Times.

It is both baffling and shocking that our government has assassinated U.S. citizens without even a pretense of due process. It is very hard to imagine what it must be like in areas of the world plagued by hunter-killer Reaper drones. It is not hard to imagine that post traumatic stress disorder must be rife amidst the civilians who have survived drone strikes.

As you know, these Reapers and other forms of unmanned aerial vehicles cause horrific destruction. But who decides the use of drones? Who decides who to target? Laws of war make it illegal to target civilians. The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for sure to U.S. citizens and probably non-citizens. The Nuremberg Principles obligate us to do something in order not to be complicit with the war crimes of our government. The Nuremberg Principles forbid wars of aggression, attacks on civilians and extrajudicial assassinations, all associated with drone warfare. Citizens have a duty to act where they can to prevent violations, even if the violations are committed by their government.

We would be able to provide you with many examples of civilians being killed in drone strikes. For example, see an article written by David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2011:,0,2818134,full.story. It details the slaughter of Afghan travelers on Feb. 21, 2010 by drone strikes orchestrated from Nevada ’s Creech Air Force Base, thousands of miles away. Because the travelers stopped to pray, they were considered Taliban. None of those Afghans, however, was an insurgent. They were men, women and children going about their business, but because of mis-identification 29 villagers were killed that day. No member of the U.S. military involved in this incident faced court-martial. Each survivor received about $2,900, and families of the dead received $4,800.

The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit demanding the Obama administration release legal and intelligence records on the killing of the three US citizens in Yemen . As our government continues to violate international law and to kill civilians, we citizen activists have to respond. Besides demonstrating and contacting the White House and our elected officials, we want to meet with you to discuss the illegality of killing civilians and to discover the extent of drone research at Johns Hopkins University .

Please let us know when a small group of us could meet with you to discuss the matters raised above. We look forward to your response.

In peace,

Max Obuszewski, on behalf of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]

410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

Elizabeth Adams, Amherst, MA; Maria Allwine, NCNR, Baltimore; Jean Athey, coordinator, Peace Action Montgomery, Brookeville, MD; Ellen E Barfield, Phil Berrigan Chapter Veterans For Peace, Pledge of Resistance and NCNR; Sharon Black, All Peoples Congress, Baltimore; Toby Blomé, Bay Area CodePink organizer, San Francisco; Bernie L Brown, Pledge of Resistance, Baltimore; Linda K Brown, Baltimore; Timothy D. Chadwick, 18018-2319 Member of Humanity & NCNR; Bethlehem, PA; Marge Clark, BVM, Lobbyist, NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Washington, DC; Sherry Conable, on behalf of People United for Peace (PUP), Santa Cruz County, CA; Robert Cooke, Pax Christi, Gaithersburg, MD; Robert Daniels II, Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern (LEPOCO Peace Center), Bethlehem, PA; June Eisley, Delaware Pacem in Terris, Wilmington, DE; Joy First, NCNR, Madison, WI; Margaret Flowers, October2011 Movement, Baltimore; Carol E. Gay, Chairperson, NJ Labor Against War, president, NJ State Industrial Union Council (for identification purposes only), Somerset, NJ; Christine Gaunt, NCNR, Grinnell, IA; Tom H. Hastings;Whitefeather Peace Community, Oregon Peace Institute, PeaceVoice, Portland, OR; Martha Hennessy, Catholic Worker, New York City; Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace 28, Woodstock, NY; Judith Kelly, Pax Christi Pentagon Area, Arlington, VA; Malachy Kilbride, NCNR, Arlington, VA; Barbara Larcom, Ph.D. 1990, sociology, The Johns Hopkins University & national board chair, Alliance for Global Justice, Baltimore; Linda LeTendre, Saratoga Springs, NY; Brother John Mahoney, Baltimore; Kevin Martin, Peace Action, Silver Spring, MD; C. William Michaels, Esq., volunteer coordinator, Pax Christi-Baltimore; Don Muller, Sitka, Alaska; Bill Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law; Stephen Roblin, Towson MD; Manijeh Saba, NCNR, Somerset, NJ; Helen Schietinger, Washington, D.C.; David Schott, Veterans for Peace, Baltimore; Josie Setzler, Tiffin Area Pax Christi, Tiffin, Ohio; Robert M. Smith, Brandywine Peace Community, Philadelphia; David Soumis, Veterans for Peace Clarence Kailin Chapter 25, Madison Wisconsin; Mark D. Stansbery, Columbus Campaign for Arms Control, Columbus, Ohio; Alice Sturm Sutter, Nurse Practitioner, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice, NYC Metro Raging Grannies, New York City; Bonnie Urfer, Nukewatch, Madison, WI; Marge Van Cleef, Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, Philadelphia, PA


Around 12:15 PM on May 8, 2012, an NCNR entourage entered the president’s outer office to seek a meeting. A female assistant to the president graciously greeted the activists and indicated she would investigate if the letter was ever received. She never returned to speak with those of us concerned with drone research. Instead a male vice president came out and graciously listened to each activist’s concern. However, he informed us that the president was indisposed on a flight to Japan . He suggested that we should leave, but the activists indicated they would wait in the office.

Soon thereafter, a parade of Hopkins officials, security officers and representatives of the Baltimore City Police Department came to speak to the group to encourage us to leave. Everyone fit the description of a male dominant figure. The only other female on the scene was a member of the Baltimore Police. We assumed an arrest would take place at 5 PM, when the office was scheduled to close. It became apparent that someone from the university, presumably the president, made the decision not to arrest anyone. Another decision reached by someone was to deny the visitors access to a bathroom. In fact, two Baltimore Police officers were guarding the door. Also supporters were denied entry into the building, but they held an outside demonstration with a replica of a drone.

After about six hours, some of the citizen activists were desperate to use a bathroom. Max Obuszewski challenged those inside the building, some 40 strong, not to follow an “illegal order” to deny access to a bathroom. All but one lacked the courage to question authority. However, a uniformed member of Hopkins security moved the officers aside and opened the bathroom.

Around a decade ago, there was an occupation of the building by students demanding that university personnel be paid a living wage. Memory suggests this occupation went on for ten days. So the NCNR activists--Ellen Barfield, David Barrows, Tim Chadwick, Cindy Farquhar, Joy First, Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Manijeh Saba and Alice Suter--decided to depart at 8 PM, after reading the letter and singing the classic anthem VINE AND FIG TREE. We are resolved to return, despite the fact that since we “trespassed” we are subject to arrest if we are again on campus.

During the occupation, we had an opportunity to speak with various Hopkins officials and representatives of the Baltimore City Police. Since we had a captive audience, we enlightened many who were present about the role played by the APL in doing drone research. There is a direct line between the APL’s research and killing of civilians in the Middle East . We sat and stood with many anti-drone research signs and photographs of drone victims throughout the occupation.

We raised many questions: Who reviews the U.S. 'kill list? Who decides the use of drones? Who decides who to target? Laws of war make it illegal to target civilians. Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution guarantee due process to U.S. citizens and probably non-citizens?

See also Joy First's account of the May 8 action: "Calling for End to Drone Research at Johns Hopkins University."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Call for "No Drones" in Maryland Colleges, Universities, and Research Institutions


A national call has been made for “April Days of Action” to focus on three key components of U.S. drone work: Drone Manufacturers, Drone Bases in the U.S., and Drone Research. (See the list about nationwide actions and post your own planned actions for April.)

Given the fact that drones are now the primary weapons of warfare used by the US, and for surveillance both domestic and abroad, the research and development of this warfare is growing rapidly at academic institutions, in our towns and neighborhoods. Drones are the perfect instrument for endless war that kills civilians, even as they target “militants” in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Academic institutions often receive large grants from the U.S. Department of Defense, enabling them to build labs within schools of engineering, for instance. We are well aware that without this research in robotics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and the accompanying accessories, these drone warfare projects would probably not take place. So there is an interdependent relationship between the universities and the U.S. government and or its Department of Defense and CIA. (CIA drones are used in countries with which the U.S. is not “at war”, ie Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali, and others.)

While universities tend to publicize some information on their respective websites regarding the drone work, it is most often said to be for non-military purposes. And there are students working in the labs who are convinced that all the research is for humanitarian purposes. However, history has told us that non-military can quickly and easily become military. Moreover research has shown drones make mistakes on recognizing their targets.

We are therefore asking organizations and individuals, nationwide, to explore any drone research that might be going on at their local university. We are calling for local actions between April 16 and 18, 2013 (Suggested actions are listed below) Our limited research into University and Academic UAV programs indicates that research centers are operating in Maryland:
John Hopkins University - Drone Swarming - Baltimore
University of Maryland - College Park
Before those dates in April we will need to know what information you have acquired about the research and what actions and events your group is planning.This will be shared among groups in the Network. You can send this information to us at

We will have a press committee that will receive your press release and any articles you are able to publish before or after the event.

This project will complement other outreach, education and action projects that will be launched in April, focusing on drone bases, April 27-28 and drone manufacturers , April 4-6.

Suggested actions:
  1. Learn what research is being done by searching on a university website. Look especially at the Engineering Dept. 
  2. Organize a forum, preferably on campus, with speakers and discussion. Be sure to publicize in campus newspapers, and possibly include a professor as one of the speakers. Also include local activists.
  3. Plan a small meeting with the appropriate persons in the department working on drone research, both professors and students.
  4. Hold vigils and leaflet on or close to the campus, as well as in town.
  5. Let us know if you need further tools for your research.
Thanks in advance for your reply to

With all good wishes,

Marge Van Cleef, WILPF, Philadelphia
Leila Zand, For USA
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Monday, August 27, 2012

Calling for End to Drone Research at Johns Hopkins University

by Joy First Madison, WI
May 12, 2012

On Tuesday May 8, nine activists, as part of an action organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), occupied the office of the president of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) for eight hours, calling on the university to end the drone research that is being conducted at the Applied Physics Lab (APL).

Drones are being used with more frequency than ever before. Obama has greatly increased the number of drone strikes. It is difficult to know how many innocent people are being killed by drone strikes because our government tries to keep this information undercover There are credible reports of 175 children being killed in Pakistan over a period of time, however the number of actual deaths of innocent civilians is expected to be much higher. I think about how people in this country would react if 175 of our children were murdered by a foreign country. How can we sleep at night with these atrocities going on in our name?

Drone warfare is illegal. The use of drones goes against the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, and the principles of the Nuremburg Tribunal. They are also against US, and other international human rights laws, the laws of war, and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force. They constitute extra-judicial killings. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, said that the use of drones by the CIA amounts to, “a license to kill without accountability.” He sharply criticized the legal arguments invoked to justify drone bombings.

We must fight against drone warfare with education and actions at military bases, but we also must target corporations that make the drones and universities that provide research on drones.

In April and early May there have been actions against drone warfare in California , Nevada , Arizona , Missouri , Wisconsin , New York , and Washington , DC . NCNR joined this national movement by organizing an action at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore , MD. On May 1, NCNR sent a letter to Robert Daniels, president of JHU, and Dr. Ralph Semmel, director of the APL, expressing our concern about the research being conducted at the APL, citing the urgency of the matter as innocent people are being murdered almost daily from U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other places across the globe. We asked if we could meet with them to discuss what they are doing.

Johns Hopkins has a reputation for being a leader in research that benefits humanity. What is not as well-known is that they get billions of research dollars from the Defense Department each year, and some of that money is going towards drone research at the Applied Physics Lab.

We got no response from anyone at JHU, so in the morning of May 8 members of NCNR met at the Homewood Friends Meeting House and worked out the final details of our plans to visit the office of the president that afternoon. I was wearing a t-shirt that I have been wearing to so many actions lately and that speaks so well as to what our purpose is. It says “We will not be silent”. It was a short 15 minute walk from the meeting house to the office of the president, and we arrived at the office at approximately 12:15 pm. We walked into the outer office carrying our signs and banners and were met by a young woman who said she would check and see whether President Daniels had received our letter.

A young man, identifying himself as a vice-president, came to greet us in the outer office. He was very polite and listened to what each person said, nodding his head as we spoke. After each person had a chance to speak, he thanked us for coming, assured us he would share this information with President Daniels and said we could leave now. He really believed that if he listened politely to what each person had to say, we would leave. But being heard (and I would argue we weren’t really heard) is not what we wanted. We wanted a dialogue and we wanted to stop the research on drone warfare. We were told that the president was on a plane to Japan and so he could not be reached, but we said we could talk to someone else who had policy-making powers, including the director of the APL.

All nine of us were carrying pictures of drone victims. I carried a picture of three small children, probably five years old and younger, who were lying dead because of a drone attack. I also carried a picture of a mother who looked like she was weeping uncontrollably, wracked by grief, because her children had been murdered by our government. We explained that this matter is urgent and that we could not leave, rather we would wait until we talked to someone in authority.

The nine of us settled into the space, some people standing, some sitting on the floor, and some sitting in the three available chairs. We spent the next several hours discussing many different social justice issues, including the drones, knowing that the JHU officials, security, and the Baltimore city police officers were listening to us. Once in a while someone would be sent to talk directly with us and ask us to leave. They told us that we were trespassing and would be arrested, that we were keeping the students from studying, along with many other excuses about why we should leave.

As we sat there, I realized that I have never been so confident that I needed to be sitting in this place, at this time. I knew that I was not breaking the law, even if we were arrested. We were engaging in nonviolent civil resistance, acting in resistance to the law-breaking of those in power. We were not there because we wanted to get arrested, and we were not trying to get arrested. But we were willing to risk arrest because we MUST do what we can to stop the murders of innocent people.

At one point I heard the head of security say to another officer “at 5:01”. I thought they would likely arrest us when the office officially closed at 5:00. But 5:00 came and went and we were not arrested, though they threatened arrest several times.

By 6:00, we had been occupying the office for almost six hours, and some of us were feeling desperate to use the restroom, but we didn’t want that to be the reason we left. Max asked if they could be respectful and afford us the human dignity of using the restroom, but they refused, posting two Baltimore police officers outside of the restroom door, which was only a few steps away from us.

As the situation became more difficult, Max increased his requests. Finally, he walked out onto a balcony area and loudly asked the 40 security officers and Baltimore PD, “Is there not one person who has the courage to disobey an illegal order….. not one person?” With that remark, the head of JHU security asked the officers blocking the door to move and to allow us to use the bathroom.

Malachy reminded us and the security personnel that though we were in a difficult situation, he was holding a picture of a dead child who will never go to the bathroom again. Holding the pictures of the drone victims helped us to keep our focus on why we were there. Malachy wrote a poem on the back of his picture about the connection we have with these victims and with each other. It is so important for us to remember that the people being killed by the bombs are children and parents and grandparents who love each other and live in families just like we do, and we are indeed all connected in this tragedy.

At about 6:30 a big, burly Baltimore police officer came into the office and tried to intimidate us, yelling at us that we were breaking the law and that we were going to be arrested. When he saw talking loudly and letting us know we were breaking the law and we would be arrested. When he noticed someone in our group smiling, he yelled that this is no laughing matter and getting arrested was something that we would not want to happen. As my friend Malachy pointed out, he didn’t know who he was talking to. We probably have several hundred arrests between all of us, and though none of us enjoys getting arrested, we know what happens when we are arrested and we know we can and will endure it.

With this latest pronouncement from the officer, and seeing all the Baltimore PD officers gathering, we were certain an arrest was imminent. But by 7:30 or so we noticed that all of the Baltimore police had left the building with no arrests taking place. At the same time, it seemed that the JHU security officers were settling in for the night. We circled together to discuss what we wanted to do. One person had to leave by nine to take care of a family member. We all agreed that we had a strong sense of community and wanted to stay together. We also felt that our work was done for now, but that we would return. During the eight hours we were there, we were able to raise awareness of the drone research and why it is so egregious with mid-level JHU administration officials, JHU security officials, and Baltimore police officers.

We decided that to end our action, we would read the letter we had sent to President Daniels and Dr. Semmel out loud, Tim would announce that our work was done for now, and we would leave singing:
And every one 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And every one 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more
And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more
As we left the office, the head security officer told us we would be arrested if we ever stepped foot on the campus again. It was surprising that they didn’t arrest us as we “illegally” occupying the office, but would arrest us if we came back, not doing anything illegal. We cannot know for sure, but we suspect that there were orders given from above that we should not be arrested. JHU officials may not have wanted the publicity this would have garnered.

We walked several blocks to Max’s van and as we waited for Max to pick up his keys, we noticed that one of the Baltimore police officers had followed us to make sure we weren’t going to get into any more trouble.

We must continue these actions. We all have a Nuremberg obligation to act in resistance to the illegalities of drone warfare. There is talk of a national period of actions against drone warfare in Sept. and October. Please join an action in your area so that we can bring an end to drone warfare.

Those involved in the action included Ellen Barfield, David Barrows, Tim Chadwick, Cindy Farquhar, Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Manijeh Saba, Alice Sutter, and myself, Joy First.

For information, please contact me at joyfirst5 [at]

* * * * *
The images accompanying this account are from the Dande Darpa Khel attack, August 21, 2009.

JHU News-Letter: "The APL drones on and on"

On May 7, 2012, the Johns Hopkins News-Letter ("Published by the students of Johns Hopkins University since 1896") ran an editorial entitled, "The APL drones on and on."

"This page must stress that it does not object to the progress APL has made in helping to help keep our nation secure and our troops safe. We do, however, object to APL’s involvement with General Atomics, contributing to the production of these aerial combat drones used by the CIA in covert operations abroad," it said.

The News-Letter particularly called into question the legality of U.S. drone operations, and called the secrecy surrounding drone research, saying " this goes against the open nature of universities, including affiliated organizations like the APL.

The editorial was spurred by a discussion forum sponsored by the Human Rights Working Group and the Graduate Student Organization, focusing on the University’s role in drone research and production.

Read the full text of "The APL drones on and on."