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Tear gassing by remote control: The development and promotion of remotely operated means of delivering or dispersing riot control agents

Commissioned by the Remote Control project this report from by the Omega Research Foundation and Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project, looks at the development and promotion of “remote control” riot control systems.

The report highlights the States and companies that have developed and promoted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – drones, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and other remotely operated systems for delivering tear gas or other so-called “less-lethal” weapons. The report has found that there is inadequate regulation of “remote control” means of delivery of riot control agents (RCAs) (tear gasses) and that they could be at risk of being misused by both State and non-State actors. The report concludes that it is critical for the international community to determine constraints upon these devices under international and regional human rights law to guard against misuse. The report sets out specific recommendations for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure effective regulation.

Mass surveillance: security by ‘remote control’ – consequences and effectiveness

This briefing paper, by the Remote Control project, looks at the implications and effectiveness of mass surveillance as a counter-terrorism strategy following the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013.

The briefing finds that mass surveillance programmes are leading to a number of unforeseen consequences, including the proliferation of surveillance technologies to authoritarian regimes, a decrease in public trust in government and the weakening of internet security. As well as this, doubts over the ability of mass surveillance to thwart terror plots have also been found.

The Impact of Drone Attacks on Terrorism: The Case of Pakistan

Commissioned by the Remote Control project this report from Dr Paul Gill of University College London looks at the relationship between drone strikes and terrorism in Pakistan.

The report analyses data on drone strikes and terrorist attacks in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013 at the monthly, weekly and daily levels to establish whether targeted killing by drone strikes result in an increase or decrease in subsequent terrorist attacks and whether what happened in each drone and terrorist attack (who is killed and how many) has an impact. The report finds there to be a complex relationship between targeted killing by drones and subsequent terrorist attacks. It also finds that violent responses to drone strikes by terrorist groups are disproportionately more likely to target civilians, suggesting that drone strikes are having a cumulative effect on civilian casualties in terms of indirect victims.

Securing change: Recommendations for the British government regarding remote-control warfare

Commissioned by the Remote Control project this report from Open Briefing analyses the main trends in the five key areas of remote-control warfare in the past 6 months.

The report looks at the unintended consequences of remote warfare and makes 31 specific recommendations for the new British government. What is ultimately needed, it argues, is a comprehensive rethink of defence and security strategy and a move away from remote-control warfare towards more enduring, accountable and effective responses to today’s multiple security threats.

Remote Warfare (RW): developing a framework for evaluating its use

Commissioned by the Remote Control Project this report from Dr Jon Moran of the University of Leicester (Department of Politics and International Relations) looks at remote warfare from a historical context and evaluates its ethics and effectiveness when used by the UK in conflicts today.

The report finds that the lack of a UK security strategy has led to the use of remote warfare by the UK in a number of overseas conflicts as a ‘stop gap’, rather than as part of a coherent strategy. The report also warns that remote warfare, whilst a successful tactic in some cases, is often counter-productive and ineffective. The report – which evaluates how remote warfare is carried out by the British in Sierra Leone (1990s), Afghanistan (2001-2002 and 2009), Libya (2011), and Mali (2012) – reveals a number of worrying consequences of remote warfare including destabilising countries, spreading or prolonging conflicts and the danger of a ‘forever war’ scenario whereby warfare is pursued on an ongoing basis with no end.

Floating Armouries: Implications and risks

Commissioned by the Remote Control Project this report from Omega Research Foundation looks at the operation and use of floating armouries, increasingly used by Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) to store and transfer weapons for use in maritime security.

The report finds that floating armouries, moored in international waters, operate in a ‘legal grey area’ resulting in a severe lack of legal oversight and, in some cases, are subject only to the regulations of the state in which the vessel is registered. The report concludes that coordinated international action is required to address the worrying lack of regulation regarding the operation and use of floating armouries and calls on individual governments and relevant multi-lateral bodies to take action to address immediate issues.

Cyberspace: An Assessment of Current Threats, Real Consequences and Potential Solutions

Commissioned by the Remote Control Project this report from VERTIC seeks to examine the role of cyber attacks in remote control warfare, and considers the potential impact of cyber attacks on civilian populations and on future international stability.

The report finds that cyber security is becoming increasingly important to states’ national security strategies. However, the hyperbolic language used to describe the potential consequences of cyber attacks, compounded by a lack of reliable, concrete information on the real risks posed by cyber threats, has contributed to the securitisation of the debate around cyber security issues leading to possible dangers being overestimated. The report highlights that state reactions to these perceived risks may have negative implications, including increased surveillance on citizens and the emergence of a ‘cyber arms race’.

New Ways of War: Is Remote Control Warfare Effective? | The Remote Control Digest

The Remote Control digest compiles our first set of reports commissioned through investigative journalists, academics, think tanks and specialist research agencies, to delve deeper into the subject and examine the real impact remote control methods of warfare are having. It seeks to answer the question: “is remote control warfare effective in solving security problems?” The reports find evidence of troubling issues and unforeseen consequences associated with these methods including a lack of transparency, an increase in radicalisation and violence, the undermining of democracy and increased instability across theatres where these methods are in use.

US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record

Commissioned by the Remote Control Project this report from Crofton Black analyses a US procurement database to shed light on the activities of US military special operations contracting. The report looks at procurement by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) over a five year period by mining the Federal Procurement Data System, an open access database, to look into the financing of US counter-terrorism operations.

The report finds that corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects of special operations activities: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners and translating captured material, and managing the flow of information from regional populations to the US military presence and back again. Other findings from the report include the prevalence of information technology in modern warfare and the reliance on corporations to process this information.

Losing Sight of the Human Cost: Casualty Recording and Remote Control Warfare

Commissioned by The Remote Control Project this report from the Every Casualty Programme at Oxford Research Group looks at the challenges posed to casualty recording by the use of emerging ‘remote-control’ military tactics.

The report finds that where methods of ‘remote-control’ warfare – armed drones, autonomous weapons, special operations forces, private military and security companies – are used, the ability to scrutinise the actions of armed forces and record the casualties they cause has been greatly reduced. This is due to the covert or distant nature of these emerging tactics, as well as their limited oversight and regulation.