The U.S. military is operating drones domestically and sharing data with law enforcement

By End the Lie

MQ-9 Reaper mid-flight (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

As many are now well aware, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is pushing for the integration of drones into the national airspace, especially for use by law enforcement and unsurprisingly a bill was passed and signed into law doing just that.

This is disturbing to some, for good reason. It has become clear that when you give the federal government an inch, they will take a mile. This can be seen quite plainly in the so-called war on terror and how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has rapidly expanded into a massive agency which regularly violates our rights.

It can also be seen in how some entities will simply give themselves ludicrous powers over the personal information of Americans, such as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which not long ago gave itself the power to keep the personal information of Americans – with absolutely no links to terrorism whatsoever – for a whopping five years.

A new report from CBS Los Angeles has revealed some disturbing truths regarding the United States military’s use of drones in American airspace and their sharing of data with various government entities and law enforcement agencies.

While it is far from news to most that the military is working with law enforcement in this regard, as evidenced by the launching of a military drone from a military base in order to conduct a domestic law enforcement operation, the documents obtained by CBS Los Angeles reveal some new information.

A non-classified intelligence report written by the U.S. Air Force dated April 23, 2012 reveals that video and other data captured “inadvertently” or “mistakenly” by military drones flying above the United States could quite easily end up in the hands of federal, state or local law enforcement agencies.

Even the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles realizes that this is far from minor in pointing out that this procedure is means that law enforcement and the military are “doing an end-run around normal procedures requiring police to obtain court issued warrants.”

I have been an outspoken critic of the blending between law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels for quite a while now, and to me this intelligence report is actually not all that surprising.

I see this as par for the course when you’re dealing with a government which refuses to allow states to have law enforcement with any meaningful separation from federal entities.

This refusal can be seen in many ways and a recent striking example was in Massachusetts where the federal government refused to honor the wishes of the governor in implementing the centralized biometrics program which he refused to allow.

What might be shocking to some is that this military policy is actually far from new, as CBS Los Angeles points out, it is “a continuation of a policy already a few years old, but is causing more alarm now as drones appear poised to soon become a ubiquitous presence in the U.S. skies thanks to a federal policy to promote their use, first by law enforcement agencies, and then by commercial concerns.”

Personally, I do not think that law enforcement use of drones is acceptable, nor is commercial use, as we could very well see something like Google Street Drone View.

“We’ve seen in some records that were released by the Air Force just recently, that under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations,” explains Jennifer Lynch, an attorney working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

“This report noted that they are able to collect that information and then determine whether or not they can keep it,” she explained.

We must realize that these reports actually allow this data to be passed on to a slew of other agencies, which means that they could very well pass it on to the NCTC, allowing the window for storage to widen considerably.

Under these guidelines, the military is allowed to hold on to data “accidentally” captured by drones for as long as three months before destroying it.

However, since they are able to turn over this data to “another department of Defense or government agency to whose function it pertains,” there is nothing stopping them from giving it to the NCTC which can then hold on to it with years despite no relation to terrorism.

The FAA recently introduced a “streamlined” process which allows law enforcement agencies to apply for permits to fly drones and get them approved and thus get drones in the air much quicker than previously expected.

This is noteworthy because it means that law enforcement will be able to get drones up in the air and operational much more rapidly than one might think.

Some law enforcement agencies have already expressed a willingness to purchase and use drones with support from the state government, such as Virginia where the governor cited the warzone successes of the unmanned vehicles and police chiefs seem more than willing to use them, even for purposes as nonsensical as traffic monitoring.

Officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are evaluating the benefits of using drones in the significantly restricted and congested airspace around Los Angeles, although they have yet to purchase any.

While the U.S. Air Force’s guidelines claim that drones are not allowed to carry out “non-consensual surveillance” on U.S. citizens or property, there are plenty of exceptions to this allowing such surveillance to occur.

Personally, I find it ludicrous that they specify “non-consensual surveillance” due to the fact that drones fly at an altitude so high that they cannot easily be detected and thus there is no way consent could be given.

Some of these many exceptions outlined in the Air Force documents include:

– Investigating or preventing clandestine intelligence activities by foreign powers, international narcotics activities, or international terrorist activities

– Protecting DoD employees, information, property and facilities

– Preventing, detecting or investigating other violations of law

Seems pretty broad, doesn’t it? “Other violations of law” leaves the door wide open for the drones to be used for just about everything. After all, jaywalking is a violation of law. Does this mean that if a drone captures someone jaywalking, the use of military drones in U.S. airspace is somehow justified?

The document also outlines the type of assistance that the Air Force drones may provide to law enforcement, which include:

– Violations of US federal law. Incidentally acquired information reasonably believed to indicate a violation of federal law shall be provided to appropriate federal law enforcement through AFOSI channels.

– Other violations of law. Information incidentally acquired during the course of Air Force counterintelligence activities reasonably believed to indicate a violation of state, local or foreign law will be provided to appropriate officials IAW procedures established by the Commander, AFOSI. Information incidentally acquired during the course of Air Force foreign intelligence activities reasonably believed to indicate a violation of state, local, or foreign law will, unless otherwise decided by AF/A2 for national security reasons, be provided to AFOSI IAW procedures established by the AF/A2, or his/her designee, for investigation or referral to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Information covered by this paragraph includes US persona information.

– Provision of specialized equipment and facilities. Specialized intelligence equipment and facilities may be provided to federal law enforcement authorities, and, when lives are endangered, to state and local law enforcement authorities, only with the approval of the SecAF delegated authority and the concurrence of SAF/GC.

– Assistance of Air Force intelligence personnel. Air force intelligence personnel may be assigned to assist federal law enforcement authorities with the approval of the SecAF delegated authority and the concurrence of SAF/GC.

One of the most disturbing aspects of these guidelines is the inclusion of “foreign law.” This makes one wonder, which foreign laws will they honor? Why would foreign laws be honored in the United States of America? This aspect of the guidelines makes little to no sense to me but hopefully it will be cleared up to some degree.

Air Force spokesperson Captain Rose Richeson told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO in an email, “The Executive Branch has promulgated detailed Departmental and Intelligence Community-wide instructions and directives about when it is appropriate to share information with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies consistent with the protection of privacy and civil liberties.”

Sure, that sounds great, except Richeson adds that “a court order or warrant is not required in all circumstances.”

The drone industry has boasted in the past about their ability to influence the government and has even said that they should use propaganda in order to influence the public’s opinion of these devices.

If you aren’t worried or even slightly concerned yet, I don’t know what will wake you from your slumber enough to realize that what should be our government is actively working against us, the American people, under the guise of keeping us safe.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

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16 Responses to The U.S. military is operating drones domestically and sharing data with law enforcement

  1. Anonymous June 5, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    “activities reasonably believed to indicate a violation of state, local, or foreign law”

    Okay I’m just amazed at this. I couldn’t believe it until I read it in the actual document.

    What the heck is going on here?!?

    Since when do we, the U.S. of A, recognize FOREIGN laws on AMERICAN soil?!?

    I’m almost speechles. As close as I have ever been.

    What foreign laws do they mean? Does that mean we’ll start honoring the laws of China? Iran? North Korea?!

    WHAT FOREIGN LAW!? Why the heck would we EVER even consider honoring foreign law? This is America. We have our laws. No other laws should EVER be applied.

    This is treason. Pure treason. I am sick to my stomach reading this and truly for the first time scared with what they can do with this.

    Reply
  2. Shark June 5, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    I literally don’t understand this. Maybe it’s a typo? Let’s hope?

    Reply
  3. Anonymous June 6, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    This is not surprising. The government has been doing this for a while. Look at the patriot act. It already gives them the right to search your home without a warrant, detain someone indefinitly, and torture if they feel like it and you have no protection under the law, NONE. People in this country need to wake up, our government works for corporations not the people. They just want us to keep buying and consuming there goods to keep the money coming in and keep us happy so we don\’t pay attention to what is really going on. Wake up America or you will not like the future.

    Reply
  4. roobah June 6, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    We recognize foreign laws as they pertain to diplomatic imunity. Example, we agree not to target a foreign diplomat who breaks American laws if the laws are legal from that diplomat\’s country and we have provided express immunity for that diplomat to engage in what is abhorant to us. We won\’t use our drones to track the Saudi diplomat who maintains 4 wives.Believe me, AMERICANS are subject to AMERICAN laws. Of course, unless you are Israeli, then and you revoke your American citizenship when you finally get caught doing something bad and want Israeli citizenship and all that it affords to protect your criminal behavior. (Implying someone who is committing crimes, not Saudis and Israeli\’s in general, just giving a hypothetical situation here.)

    Reply
  5. tyson soroke June 7, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    WTF? Don’t all you Americans have guns? shoot the FKing things out of the sky!

    Reply
    • Anonymous June 7, 2012 at 12:21 AM

      Uh….. what? Are you retarded? What consumer firearm can hit a target at 50,000 ft flying at 220 knots?! (If we’re talking about the Reaper) or 15,000-25,000 ft at 117 knots in the case of the Predator? If you know of one, speak up. Otherwise, you’re an idiot.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: The U.S. military and Civilian Law Enforcement Operating Drones Together Over US Skies

  7. Oliver June 7, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    The foreign law does not make sense to me either.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Air Force Set to Be Deployed Inside U.S. to Collect Data and Search Citizens :

  9. Concerned Citizen June 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Send a copy of this article to your representatives and tell them to shut this illegal practice down.

    Reply
  10. Dickens June 11, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    We\’re not in Kansas, er, the land of the free anymore. The NWO is in business and they mean business. Why do you think the NDAA was signed with the added indefinite detention for US citizens?We\’ve been used, abused and fooled by dear leader but I\’m most surprised that anyone is surprised..

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Prison Planet.com » Find Out How Your Local Police Agency is Using Drones « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

  12. Pingback: Is a Military Drone Base Coming to Your Hometown? « News Worldwide

  13. infiltratedcountry June 21, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    This is interesting because this subject being made public implies that the government is starting something new in it’s monitoring of us. They have employed a flying camera of sorts for many years. This little flying camera does so with little to no noise. It employed a light that wavers it’s band so as to look like a star in the sky. A similar camera has four rotors to balance with. This one is a mystery to me because it flew fast. Very fast when it was spotted. That was over a decade ago. The level of agency that employed it is kind of irrelevant since we have been infiltrated since conception. Time passing is the biggest veil of the oppressive power

    Reply
  14. anon September 12, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    University of Texas has already hacked drone navigation system

    Reply

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