Texas Governor Rick Perry is asking President Obama to send reinforcements to secure the nation’s southern border, and is including a request for surveillance drones.
In addition to asking the president to visit the Rio Grande Valley sector, where most immigrants pour in from Central America and other regions overwhelming border agents, Gov. Perry requested the president deploy National Guard forces and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to deter the influx.
“Direct the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the National Guard to utilize Predator drones along the Texas-Mexico border for identifying and tracking human and drug trafficking,” Perry said in a press release.
The governor’s request was one area of concern curiously omitted from President Obama’s immigration speech last night, however he did allude to the fact that he may approve the aerial spy tech.
“There’s nothing the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to,” Obama stated at a press conference in Colorado last night. “I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to contact his head of Health and Human Services when he comes down for the 6th time at the end of this week to coordinate and make sure some of the suggestions the governor had are technically feasible and what kind of resources might be needed.”
Customs and Border Protection has flown drones on the US-Mexico border since at least 2005, and it recently emerged CBP was also engaged in a “drone loan” program, leasing Predator UAVs to local, county, state and federal agencies such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals, in addition to various branches of the military for use within the continental U.S.
Sold as vital to preserve national security, those drones have been used to spy on the American people, in violation of protections outlined in the Fourth Amendment.
In 2011 for example, police in Grand Forks, N.D., called in a favor from their buddies at the DHS to use one of their drones to monitor the Brossart family farm after six cows had reportedly wandered onto their property, before conducting a SWAT raid on the farm’s residents.
The same UAVs used in “surgical” military strikes in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are also routinely used to survey agricultural conditions and enforce environmental laws throughout the country.
In June 2012, the EPA responded to a letter from Nebraska’s congressional delegation saying they “would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act,” a statement they later denied following intense media scrutiny.
Indeed, the move to blanket the skies with government drones has long been in the works. The FAA secured authorization in February 2012 to have anywhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 government drones criss-crossing the skies by 2020, and in April 2012 the DoD listed locations in 39 out of 50 states as places from which military drones will be launched.
And CBP’s scope stretches far into the interior. As the ACLU has noted, Homeland Security has declared areas 100 miles from either border essentially a “Constitution-Free Zone,” even though “Nearly 2 out of 3 Americans (197.4 million people) live within” the region.
While stronger border security is urgently needed, Gov. Perry’s proposal would increase aerial surveillance on the American people for an unspecified amount of time, and could be a foot in the door on the way to giving Big Brother a larger set of eyes.