J. D. Heyes
May 23, 2012
First it was traffic cams, then surveillance cameras in business parking lots. Next in line was Google Earth. Now, increasing domestic use of drones by the military, police agencies and even universities are making author George Orwell’s “fictional” novel1984– which envisions a surveillance society and features thought police – look downright prophetic.
Following what has been described as a “landmark”Freedom of Information Actrequest, the federal government has been forced to reveal that unmanned spy drones are being launched from 63 sites in 20 states.
Further, some of the drones are of a make and model that has been used overseas to target insurgents and terrorists with missiles, the government’s information revealed.
Once again, your privacy doesn’t matter
TheFederal Aviation Administration(FAA), which is authorized to license and track drone usage, says most of the spy crafts are being launched from military installations, police agencies and Border Patrol/border enforcement entities. But surprisingly, some 19 colleges and universities are also in the spy drone business.
Those institutions includeCornell, theUniversity of Colorado,Georgia Tech, andEastern Gateway Community College, and some experts believe these schools may be developing drone technology, London’sDaily Telegraphreported. Some 21 drone manufacturers are also registered with the FAA to operate the small aerial surveillance craft as well.
The FAA released the information in response to a lawsuit by theElectronic Freedom Foundation(EFF), a non-partisan group which advocates for more privacy rights – a tough job in this day and age of wholesale DNA sampling and online eavesdropping by the government and the private sector alike.
The EFF’s Web site features – ironically enough – an interactive, Google Earth-type map of the U.S. indicating where the 63 operational sites are located, and describing them.
What the descriptionsdon’tinclude are the types of drones operating from those sites. The FAA has assured the EFF that the agency will release that information at a later date – though no specific one was given.
Analysts believe most of the drones are of the smaller variety, like the Dranganflyer X8, which only has a payload of 2.2 pounds – which is more than enough to carry a camera.
And while most Americans most likely would not object to the widespread use of drones monitoring wide-open spaces such as government land to monitor for forest fires, or to protect the country, such as the nation’s borders, the increasing level of usage among military and police agencies in the nation’s heartland gives privacy advocates pause. And for good reason.
More on the way
But the government doesn’t appear ready – or concerned enough about your rights – to curb drone usage domestically. In fact, says former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Pentagon is rushing headlong into domestic drone deployment, of course as a way to increase oursecurity.
The Air Force, writes Napolitano, may be planning to dispatch one to a “backyard near you,” ostensibly to help local cops “find missing persons or kidnap victims, or to chase bad guys.”
“If the drone operator sees you doing anything of interest (Is your fertilizer for the roses or to fuel a bomb? Is that Sudafed for your cold or your meth habit? Are you smoking in front of your kids?), the feds say they may take a picture of you and keep it. The feds predict that they will dispatch or authorize about 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles across America in the next 10 years,” he writes.
At the same time, the EFF complaint disclosed, about 300 more state and local police departments have applications pending before the FAA to use drones they have already bought (many with federal – i.e., taxpayer – funds, no less).
That “friendly” drone in the sky? Don’t worry. It’s probably not tracking you.
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This article was posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 2:48 am