May 18, 2011
AP noted last year:
Unmanned aircraft have proved their usefulness and reliability in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the pressure’s on to allow them in the skies over the United States.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law-enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act.
The Washington Post reported in January:
The operation outside Austin presaged what could prove to be one of the most far-reaching and potentially controversial uses of drones: as a new and relatively cheap surveillance tool in domestic law enforcement.
For now, the use of drones for high-risk operations is exceedingly rare. The Federal Aviation Administration – which controls the national airspace – requires the few police departments with drones to seek emergency authorization if they want to deploy one in an actual operation. Because of concerns about safety, it only occasionally grants permission.
But by 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground – high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.
But when drones come to perch in numbers over American communities, they will drive fresh debates about the boundaries of privacy. The sheer power of some of the cameras that can be mounted on them is likely to bring fresh search-and-seizure cases before the courts, and concern about the technology’s potential misuse could unsettle the public.
When KPRC-TV in Houston, which is owned by The Washington Post Co., discovered a secret drone air show for dozens of officers at a remote location 70 miles from Houston, police officials were forced to call a hasty news conference to explain their interest in the technology.
A senior officer in Houston then mentioned to reporters that drones might ultimately be used for recording traffic violations.
Wired pointed out in February:
Campers may soon be able to regularly see something bigger and badder when climbing the High Peaks: Reaper drones flown by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing based in Syracuse, New York.
And drones aren’t just buzzing over the Adirondacks. The proposal to begin training missions there is part of a bigger push to build a drone infrastructure for flying missions throughout the United States. So new drone bases are being built. The FAA is setting aside airspace for drone flights.
The latest example is the amendment proposed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to the “FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Act” (S.223) that would increase the number of “National Airspace System” test sites from four to ten. At least one of these sites would have to include a “significant portion” of public land.
Although it is hard to predict where the drone infrastructure will grow, if other defense contracting projects are a reliable guide, the drone-ification of America will probably continue until there is a drone aerodrome in every state …
Given that the national security apparatus has been hijacked to serve the needs of big business and to crush dissent, it’s not far-fetched to think that information gained from drones will be used for purposes that are not necessarily in the best interests of the American people.
And as I noted earlier today, the U.S. is allowing military operations within the United States.
Remember also that Obama has authorized “targeted assassinations” against U.S. citizens.
And when John Yoo was asked last year whether drones could kill people within the United States, he replied yes – if we were in a time of war:
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