If it’s not rule No. 1 about protesting, it should be: You gotta know the topic.
Take yesterday’s talk on unmanned systems at the National Press Club. Participants included representatives from the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk program, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, iRobot and QinetiQ. The four talked mostly about more peaceful uses for drones, like helping the Japanese during the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and providing aerial video of wildfires.
As the panelists wrapped up their presentations and us news hacks in attendance prepared to ask inside-baseball questions about Global Hawk procurement, one of the co-founders of activist group Code Pink tried to steal the show. Medea Benjamin assailed the panelists for the CIA’s covert-but-not-really program that targets terrorists in Pakistan. MQ-1 Predators have killed 700 Pakistani civilians and only 14 al-Qaida leaders, the group alleges. (A Pakistani general commanding troops in North Waziristan disagrees: He told an English-language newspaper that, between 2007 and 2011, 164 drone strikes have killed 964 militants.)
After handing out some flyers and verbally sparring with the moderator, Benjamin pressed the panelists for a response. The answers?
David Heniz, a vice president of iRobot: “At iRobot, we have no weaponized programs.”
Lt. Col. Ricky Thomas: “Global Hawk isn’t weaponized. It’s ISR only.”
Again, you gotta know the topic.