Drones: Their Use and Abuse

Our guard dogs have a lot to be growling about these days.  For some, the most worrisome intruder is the collection of meta-data — of electronic mail, and as we learned to day, of snail mail [and not just by the US.  France, that bastion of Liberty, has it’s own drag-net program.]  For me, the monitoring of who I call and who calls me is less worrisome than other, deadly, incursions into peoples lives, done by the US government, of course, but by many many others. It seems an inborn human habit to interfere in the lives of others, and when power is accumulated, whether by those elected to governments of long standing or by the self elected warriors of transient and morphing groups, that interference is compounded and used to grow that power.

cbp_uas_baseline_operational_viewThe news of Thursday that the notorious drones used by the CIA in Pakistan and Afghanistan to kill identified terror warriors are being used inside the US is as unsettling to me as that of meta-data collection.  In this case, the drones, authorized by Congress, have been used for some years to watch for desert-walkers up from Mexico.  Ten predator drones are reported to be in use by the Customs and Border Protection Agency, of the Department of Homeland Security.  They have been loaned out, however to other agencies.  Some of the uses seem fine, even laudable.  Who would not want one flying over a wooded area when a seven year old had gone missing?  Some uses seem odd, to be sure: deployed them to investigate fishing ? violations?  Really?  Fly fishing without a license, or mass slaughter of dolphins?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Three years ago, the drones were used by other agencies 30 times; in 2012, that jumped to 250 times. How the agency stores and shares that data with other government agencies remains unclear.

They have been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Dakota Army National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and the United States Forest Service, among others.

Drones In US Loaned Around

As we’ve seen with all new electronic gadgetry, the rule invented for a baseball stadium in a cornfield is universally true: if someone builds it,  it will be used.

I would stay in touch with Zoe Lofgren:

“What concerns me is the lack of clear, transparent rules for domestic drone use,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from Northern California, who recentlyintroduced legislation to limit their use in domestic airspace. She said she was concerned about “the government’s increased interest in using drones for domestic surveillance and security, including the potential use of force.

And the Electronics Frontiers Foundation, whose Freedom of Information lawsuit unearthed the evidence of the loan program.

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