Orwellian Drones: 'Eye in the Sky' Spying on Americans
by Stephen Lendman
by Stephen Lendman: The
Business of America Is War
runs America. So do lobbies representing all corporate and other
for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)
represents dozens of influential companies.
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Bell Hellicopter
Textron, Sikorsky Aircraft, Goodrich, General Dynamics, Honeywell,
Booz Allen Hamilton, Hill & Knowlton, and many more promoting
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone technology.
countries, it's America's newest sport. From distant command centers,
operators kill by remote control. They use computer keyboards and
multiple monitors. UAVs stand ready round-the-clock for missions.
perform sanitized killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft.
Independent experts believe militants are hit about 2% of the time.
All others are noncombatants, despite official disclaimers.
In 1995, Predator
drones were used for the first time in Bosnia. In 2001, the Global
Hawk drone was used in Afghanistan. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq
wars, the Pentagon used various type drones for combat and spying
In Libya, Obama
authorized Predator drones. They operated throughout the war. They're
also used in Yemen, Somalia, and wherever Washington designates
targets to kill.
Anwar al-Aulaqi was assassinated this way. So can anyone anywhere
on America's hit list, including perhaps domestically before long.
plans escalated drone killing, as well domestic spying on Americans.
Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day
perhaps they'll all be unmanned.
Drone Spying in America
Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Jennifer Lynch headlined,
"Are Drones Watching You?" saying:
EFF sued the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for information on domestic
drone use. Who's flying UAVs it asked?
surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared ones,
heat sensors, and radar for sophisticated virtually constant spying.
Newer versions carry super high resolution "gigapixel"
cameras. They enable tracking above 20,000 feet. They can monitor
up to 65 enemies simultaneously, and can see targets up to 25 miles
can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions. A new model's able to
penetrate Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone
drones may be weaponized with tasers, bean bag guns, and other devices
able to harm or perhaps kill.
the US Customs and Border Protection uses UAVs for surveilling borders.
State and local law enforcement agencies also use them to investigate
"cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the search for missing
400 feet requires FAA certification. Information's unavailable on
who obtained authorizations for what purposes.
FAA comes under
the Department of Transportation (DOT). It failed to respond to
EFF's April 2011 FOIA request. EFF attorney Lynch said:
give the government and other (UAV) operators a powerful new surveillance
tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans' movements
government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these
aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these
drones are being used to surveil United States citizens."
dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens - tracking
that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives.
We're asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request
so we can learn more about" what the public has a right to
Court hasn't been people friendly on many issues, including privacy.
In United States v. Place (1983), the court held that sniffs by
police dogs trained to detect illegal drugs aren't searches under
the Fourth Amendment.
generis, intended only to reveal the presence or absence of narcotics.
In other words, Fourth Amendment protections don't apply to non-human
searchers. As a result, privacy rights are on the chopping block
for elimination. Already, in fact, they're gravely compromised under
institutionalized Bush administration surveillance policy.
In 2007, the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized spying through
the National Applications Office (NOA). It was described as "the
executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community
technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement
purposes within the United States."
With or without
congressional authorization or oversight, the executive branch may
authorize state-of-the-art technology, including military satellite
imagery, to spy on Americans covertly.
plans were delayed, eye in the sky spying ahead potentially will
monitor everyone everywhere once full implementation's achieved.
Included will be thousands of Big Brother drones watching.
3, the FAA Reauthorization Act (HR 658) cleared both houses of Congress
after differences between Senate and House versions were resolved.
Expect Obama to sign it shortly.
domestic drone spying under provisions to test and license commercial
drones by 2015. Estimates of up to 30,000 UAVs could overfly America
by 2020. Privacy advocates are concerned. Steven
Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists' Project
on Government Secrecy, said:
are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance,
by both government agencies and commercial entities.
Electronic Privacy Information Center's Amie
Stepanovich, "Currently, the only barrier to the routine
use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements
imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates."
rules changes the game. Expect it. It's coming once Obama signs
HR 658. UAV proliferation already is expanding rapidly. A July 2010
FAA Fact Sheet said in America alone, "approximately 50 companies,
universities, and government organizations are developing and producing
some 155 unmanned aircraft designs."
to account for about 70% of global growth. In 2011, Congress, DOD,
state and local governments, as well as AUVSI pressured the FAA
to review and expand its current "Certificate of Authorization
or Waiver (COA)" program related to unmanned aircraft (UA).
also examining its own rules for small UAs. It's expected to authorize
expanded COA use shortly.
6, the ACLU headlined, "Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic
Drone Use, Sideline Privacy," saying:
In fact, Congress
already authorized expanded domestic drones. Obama's poised to sign
HR 658 into law. Provisions in it include requiring FAA:
- to simplify
and accelerate permission for drone operations. The agency's already
working on loosening regulations by spring 2012.
- to establish
a pilot project within six months for six test zones to integrate
drones "into the national airspace system."
a comprehensive plan within nine months "to safely accelerate
the integration of civil (privately operated) unmanned aircraft
systems into the national airspace system."
- after submitting
a comprehensive plan, publish final rules within 18 months to
allow civil operation of small (under 55 pounds) drones in America's
15, the ACLU published a report titled, "Protecting
Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government
Use of Drone Aircraft," saying:
to America. Privacy may be seriously compromised. Protections are
urgently needed. The report recommends that "drones should
not be deployed unless there are grounds to believe that they will
collect evidence on a specific crime."
drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant
should be required." The report also urges "restrictions
on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process
for developing policies on how drones will be used."
America with drones unrestrained changes the game. A "surveillance
society" will be institutionalized to monitor, track, and record
"our every move."
Given a bipartisan
penchant for spying, expect the worst. Privacy, like other civil
and human rights, is fast disappearing under policies in place or
coming to destroy it.
with permission from The
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