The American police state takes a major step forward with passage of bill accelerating integration of drones into American airspace
By End the Lie
On February 8, 2012, the President of the United States of America was presented with H.R.658, also known as the “FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act.”
This legislation, which was covered sparingly in the establishment media for reasons which will likely become quite obvious, includes some troubling provisions regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, better known simply as drones) in the United States.
Section 320 states that the legislation, “Requires the FAA Administrator to: (1) develop plans to accelerate the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the National Airspace System, and (2) report to Congress on progress made in establishing special use airspace for the DOD to develop detection techniques for small unmanned aerial vehicles and to validate sensor integration and operation of unmanned aerial systems.”
This section addresses both the increasing use of drones over America, which is obviously being accelerated, along with the Department of Defense’s efforts to develop systems to detect small drones and coordinate the sensor integration and operation of drones.
The same section also directs the Secretary of the Department of Defense to create a process to develop certification and flight standards which will be used for military drones at certain test sites.
The increasing use of drones in the United States, before this legislation was even passed, has been a matter of great concern for me along with many other analysts who have been keeping tabs on the issue.
Previously I have covered how drones can be used to track individuals over great distances, even tracking who they associate with and when, along with creating so-called “threat assessments” based on biometric information. These threat assessments effectively criminalize individuals before anything illegal is actually done, by detecting (or at least supposedly detecting) malicious intent.
There was also the case in North Dakota where a military drone, in this case the Predator B, was launched form an Air Force Base to assist police in finding and arrested suspects. This case obviously had sweeping implications due to the fact that it heavily blurred what used to be quite clear lines between law enforcement and the military.
This effectively circumvents the Posse Comitatus Act, something which is a disconcerting prospect for many individuals in the United States who believe in liberty and a constitutional government.
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or simply the NDAA as it is better known, the military has gained unprecedented new powers to detain Americans indefinitely without charge or trial based on nothing more than suspicion.
The American police state is growing in many ways, but the increasing use of the military on United States soil and the acceleration of the integration of drones – both military and civilian – is one of the most concerning.
The number of drones which could be operating in the American airspace is nothing short of astounding. Indeed the Washington Times reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has projected that some 30,000 drones could be flying over our country by 2020.
Seeing how the Obama administration refuses to even explain why they think they have the ability to kill American citizens with drones without any due process whatsoever, I find this quite troubling indeed.
There is essentially nothing keeping the Obama administration and future administrations from killing Americans with drones – in America no less – and then claiming it is a state secret and thus refusing to even confirm that the program exists, all while admitting it does whenever it is advantageous to do so.
With just about everyone in the United States being classified as a possible terrorist (while the definitions become even broader with every government-sponsored report made publicly available) I do not think it is out of line to be concerned about how this newest development might end up rearing its ugly head.
Even if armed drones are never utilized in the United States – a possibility which I am hesitant to get behind given the precedents set by our criminal government – there are grave implications for the privacy of Americans and our most essential civil liberties like the right to free association and unreasonable search and seizure as protected by the Fourth Amendment.
Indeed if surveillance drones are deployed over the United States it would be quite easy for the government or private entities to track the movements of individuals including their daily routine, who they associate with and just about anything else.
The problem here is that there is no need for probable cause or any semblance of justification in order to authorize the surveillance of a suspect. This spells the total loss of privacy in America with the ultimate decision making left up to unaccountable, faceless bureaucrats.
Consider the new drone sensor which is able to capture 36 square miles in a single blink of its powerful camera. This could monitor entire cities with ease and track multiple individuals over an extensive area.
Technology like this could be utilized in conjunction with facial recognition and biometric databases along with threat assessments in order to create lists of people participating in demonstrations, rallies, meetings, or other gatherings which the government might not approve of.
This would greatly increase the ease with which the government can identify and harass individuals who the government might think are possible terrorists, and of course the criteria for this designation is constantly expanded to the point of absurdity.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has echoed my concerns, writing, “Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”
The privacy concerns are nearly endless, along with the considerable questions it raises in the realm of civil liberties and the slow descent of the United States into a comprehensive surveillance state in which nothing you say or do is not recorded somewhere for later recall should it be desired.
It appears the drone industry is well aware of the negative image they (rightfully) have, as recently the Guardian reported that groups representing the industry were planning a public relations campaign to “paint a more positive picture” of unmanned surveillance by simply painting the drones more attractive colors.
We must keep in mind that not all drones look like what might spring to mind when one thinks of such technology.
Indeed, there are even drones being paid for by the Department of Homeland Security which can carry Taser-like weapons and other “less-lethal payloads.”
The complete lack of accountability intrinsic to the use of drones is one of the most disconcerting aspects of their widening use, as no witness can say who was operating a drone or in many cases even see the drone before it is too late.
I find the approval of civilian use of drones almost as worrisome as law enforcement and military applications in the United States, mostly due to behemoth corporations with strong government ties like Google.
Indeed considering that Google has been busted “accidentally” collecting data from Wi-Fi networks with their Google Street View cars in the past, there are some concerns about what exactly they might collect using newly available drone technology.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has done a phenomenal job of tracking the Google Street View controversy and all that is involved, all of which should be considered when analyzing the potential of Google-owned-and-operated drones.
In Forbes, Kashmir Hill actually raises this prospect in writing, “a company such as Google for example could finally buy drones and use them for mapping purposes. Yes, we may finally have Google Street Drone View.”
Finally? I didn’t know that people were yearning for a Google Street Drone View, nor am I quite sure why such a thing would ever be necessary given the satellite images one can already display over maps along with Google Earth.
Then again, I never cease to be amazed by the excitement with which people will watch their privacy stripped away, especially if there is something “cool” involved.
This is especially true in my generation, where people are quick to hand over every tiny scrap of privacy they have left with the reliance on technology like smartphones – most of which are equipped with the Carrier IQ monitoring software – and social networks like Facebook which Dr. Richard Stallman recently called “a surveillance engine.”
In the United States government’s quest to monitor, track and analyze everything done across the entire world, this new legislation could prove invaluable.
With the help of the private sector along with local and state law enforcement which is increasingly blended with federal law enforcement thanks to fusion centers, federal grants, centralized databases and programs like the Pentagon’s 1033 program, it is not out of the realm of possibility for the federal government to create a surveillance grid so large it is nearly incomprehensible.
Without massive public outcry, protest and coordinated boycotts, I think it is inevitable that the American surveillance state which is already in place will only get larger and harder to escape.
With $50 computers that can be used to spy on Wi-Fi networks and now domestic drones for aerial surveillance, there is very little left that the government can’t look in on already.
In fact, we might be at the point where there is currently nothing left private and this latest development is just going to act to better allow the government to track, target and harass those who truly care about freedom and everything that America is supposed to stand for.
After all, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, if you are “reverent of individual liberty (especially [your] right to own guns, be free of taxes), [or] believe in conspiracy theories that involve [a] grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty and a belief that one’s personal and/or national “way of life” is under attack and is either already lost or that the threat is imminent” you have the ideological motivations of a terrorist.
I highly recommend that all readers take a moment to share this information with anyone and everyone they can, as this truly affects us all. Without large-scale resistance, this trend has no hopes of being stopped or even slowed down.
While this legislation has obviously already passed, we must keep in mind that as Americans we have the power to turn this issue into political and economic suicide.
By that I mean that we have the real power of making it impossible for politicians to support the use of drones domestically without getting a hellish backlash from the public.
Furthermore, we can continue to organize boycotts to force companies to change policy, just as was the case with the boycott of GoDaddy over their support of and role in crafting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).
While it might seem like it at times, the American people are far from powerless and when organized, we can be a quite fearsome foe indeed.
If I have missed anything or you would like to tip me off to a story or avenue of research, please email me immediately at [email protected] with anything and everything you have to share.