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Drones, Drones, and more Drones

June 5, 2012, by Ken Jorgustin

A brand new drone designed and built by Boeing (with their own money), has been spotted in test flights at Edwards Air Force Base a few days ago. The drone will smash the flight time of all other drones and will be able to stay in the air for 4 days. The drone is named “Phantom Eye” and is a reconnaissance plane designed to fly at an amazing altitude of 65,000 feet (12 miles!), making it invisible to the human eye while it spies on vast areas beneath it.

“This day ushers in a new era of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance where an unmanned aircraft will remain on station for days at a time providing critical information and services,” “…another aerospace first — the capability of four days of un-refueled, autonomous flight.”

The fact that Boeing fronted the money to design and build this drone surely indicates it’s belief that it will be an easy sell to the current ‘intelligence-gathering-crazed’ government.

phantom-eye-drone

On that note, it has recently been reported that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa. Infowars.com reports “In fact, the EPA has absolutely zero authority and is an unconstitutional entity of an ever-expanding and rogue federal government;”. The EPA has not addressed the constitutional question of its wanton violation of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. It merely states that it has authority to surveil the private property of farmers and ranchers.

CBS Los Angeles reported yesterday that the Federal Aviation Administration is helping to usher in an age of drones for U.S. law enforcement agencies, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) domestically by the U.S. military — and the sharing of collected data with police agencies — is raising its own concerns about possible violations of privacy and Constitutional law. Drones, now flying around US airspace are doing an end-run around normal procedures which require police to obtain court issued warrants.

Reported recently in Discovery News, “…like any new technology, unmanned aerial vehicles have their dark side.” Recent legislation passed by Congress gives the Federal Aviation Administration the green light to open the nation’s skies to drones. “Some of the privacy issues that we see with drones are very different than the sort of surveillance that can be conducted with a helicopter. Drones can quietly watch an entire town without refueling. It can conduct a pervasive and secret surveillance that helicopters cannot match,” said a policy attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. “We’re not standing in the way of drone technology. We are saying that there needs to be privacy and transparency rules for its use. Otherwise the American people are going to enter a rather dark period in terms of physical surveillance,”.

The Washington Post said, “Lobbying records released last week show that there wasn’t much opposition…when Congress quietly opened up U.S. airspace to aerial drones, which some advocates for civil liberties say raise a host of concerns about privacy.” Several big manufacturers of “unmanned aircraft,” as the industry prefers to call them, each spent millions of dollars during the first quarter of this year, in part lobbying for language tucked inside the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration requiring the agency to allow drones into airspace with other planes.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The big concern is that drones can be used for good or bad,” “They’re just a perfect vehicle for surveillance.” Unmanned aircraft can be fitted with technology to intercept wireless communications or take pictures of a crowd that can be combined with facial recognition to identify individuals.

 

The rush to drones flying in airspace of the US, begs the question… “Why?” Sure, they could theoretically be used for some good (watching the border for illegals, smuggling, etc.), but knowing that the government has a recent insatiable appetite for surveillance (e.g. new monster NSA facility in Utah), are we to assume that they won’t spy on us? After all, it’s ‘us’ who live here. The terrorists don’t live here or are not from here…unless they think we’re the potential terrorists? Or is that over-the-top conspiracy thinking? Are the drones being launched over our heads to protect the government rather than to protect us? The blatant constitutional issue aside, is the motivation here to watch our every move to protect us from… everything? The smothering of constant surveillance has a psychological impact on people and really exemplifies the increasing ‘police state’ that we live in, where we really are not free, although I suppose we are still free(er) than some others… at the moment.

 

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