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Jim Hightower
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 14 February 2013
In other words, we are on a fast track to becoming a society under routine, pervasive surveillance.

Watch Out -- the Drones Are Coming Home to Roost!

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For nearly four years, President Obama refused to admit a foreign-policy "secret" that was widely known here and throughout the world — namely, that the White House, Pentagon and CIA are engaged in ethically questionable and rapidly escalating drone warfare that's killing innocent civilians as well as enemy soldiers in Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. But by nominating John Brennan, the architect of this high-tech kill policy, to head the CIA, the president has let the drone out of the bag.

In the past few days, both Brennan and the policy have been getting a grilling from members of both parties on Capitol Hill, with lots of media also questioning the use of unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft to strike people with rockets launched by technicians viewing computer screens and wielding joysticks from bunkers on air bases back here in the U.S.A.

As Congress, the media and the public ponder the merits of that, however, how about noticing another deeply troubling policy secret looming ever larger on our horizon: the domestic deployment of drones. From Homeland Security officials and the FBI to your state police and county sheriff, these inherently invasive “unmanned aerial vehicles” are being spread across our Land of the Free — and aimed at us.

Shouldn't we get answers to a few basic questions before authorities swarm these “Orwellian gnats” into our skies? For example, what's the cost of this (in liberty and lucre), what's the purpose, and what are the rules to prevent abuses?

Cheap, small, noiseless and practically invisible, drones take snooping to a whole new level. Equipped with super-high-powered lenses, infrared and ultraviolet imaging, radar that can see through walls, video analytics and "swarm" technologies that use a group of drones that operate in concert to allow surveillers to watch an entire city, these devices are made to be intrusive. And, of course, they can be “weaponized” to let police agents advance from intrusion to repression.

In other words, we are on a fast track to becoming a society under routine, pervasive surveillance. As the ACLU put it in an excellent December 2011 report on the UAV threat, such a development "would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States."

It's worth adding that public authorities are not the only ones getting UAVs

Corporations have a keen interest in their potential for surreptitious monitoring of environmentalists, union leaders, protesters and competitors. Plus, those being watched might well want to keep track of those who are tracking them. Divorce lawyers, private investigators, political operatives and others who snoop for a living will surely find drones attractive. Individuals — from hobbyists to survivalists — are already building their own. And won't criminals get them, too?

The goal of drone pushers is to have a startling 30,000 of these pilotless contrivances zipping through the air by 2020. Holy moly! Our nation's entire commercial fleet of passenger and cargo planes numbers only about 7,000. And lest you think that 30,000 drones is an industry fantasy, a map compiled from military records discloses that as of last June the Pentagon alone already had 64 drone bases throughout our country, with another 22 bases planned. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from operating on American soil, but there it is. What are they doing? We don't know. But it's time to ask.

The good news is that the industry and its cohorts have been recently stunned by a remarkable left-right counterpunch. They are not only being confronted by such progressive opponents of their liberty-busting gambit as the ACLU, CodePink and Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts in the U.S. House and Ron Wyden of Oregon in the Senate, but also a determined bunch of Republican privacy defenders in Congress and the media, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, “Morning Joe” Scarborough on MSNBC, Bloomberg columnist Ramesh Ponnuru and even far-right Fox commentator Charles Krauthammer, who says: “I don't want restrictions (on drones) — I want a ban.”

Americans of all political stripes (from Greens to Libertarians) hold the rights of privacy, free assembly and speech dear. Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, for example, is a hard-right conservative, but he gets it that nothing could be more genuinely conservative than conserving those fundamental rights. Last July 24, Poe took to the House floor to shout out to all of us citizens a timely update of Paul Revere's legendary cry: “The drones are coming!”

He's chairman of the subcommittee on homeland security, so he's not just pissing in the wind. He, Markey, Paul and others are sponsoring similar bills to rein in the harum-scarum drive to infest our skies and society with drones.

Not only is this a fight that grassroots people can win against the profiteers and privacy invaders, but it's one we must win. For more information, go to epic.org.

Copyright Creators.com


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ABOUT Jim Hightower
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Regardless it looks adorable

Regardless it looks adorable even it got derailed. Anyways, a debt of gratitude is in order regarding imparting this! I truly like it. buy comments

As a PS,swarm technology is

As a PS,swarm technology is still in the future,thank whoever.The concept is sound and the research active.When they perfect this,they won't need to send something as large as a drone.They'll send a swarm of lenses/cameras with the capability to combine into one large lens.The applications are boundless and very frightening.

When was war declared on

When was war declared on Yemen?Where is Yemen?Didn't Obama see the 9/11 tapes and how terrorized Americans were at the thought of death from above?Or is that the kind of terror amongst civilian populations that he wants to foster?Regardless,it makes America a terror state.

Frigate and Rebel with a

Frigate and Rebel with a Cause, that's the first really good reason I've heard for people to bear arms in their homeland. Please take a few pot shots at the machines for me, if you see them. I'm thinking that new infrared invisibility clothes invented in the UK aren't sounding so silly now.

. . Washington has forgotten

. . Washington has forgotten what built this country...Australia......botany bay.....or Devil's Island........
..WE the PEOPLE overthrew the empire - not to be re-created in Washington / by Washington. As they ask are you safer today - look at the bomb shelters under the city of Washington - so they have a place to hide from the people....They establish private security perimeters where ever they go.....
THE LEADERS - DO NOT LEAD - - THEY HIDE BEHIND ARMED GUARDS AS THEY ATTEMPT TO DIS-ARM THE CITIZENS.....
..DRONES TO SPY ON THE PEOPLE THEY ARE AFRAID OF.....THE CITIZENS......
. . . . The last alerts proved they will call out the military against the people - - NATIONAL GUARD patroling the subways of NY ??? Fully Automatic Weapons - - Guard (Police) Dogs ??? The RNC in NYC illegally ( NYPD) locking up peaceful law-abiding citizens in un-sanitary conditions.....Crossing state lines to spy on citizens / of muslin birth ???
>>>they do an excellent job of protecting themslves and NOT THE PEOPLE......but when it is said and done there will be one left to give orders to....
or alteast no-one that will listen to them

. . Washington has forgotten

. . Washington has forgotten what built this country...Australia......botany bay.....or Devil's Island........
..WE the PEOPLE overthrew the empire - not to be re-created in Washington / by Washington. As they ask are you safer today - look at the bomb shelters under the city of Washington - so they have a place to hide from the people....They establish private security perimeters where ever they go.....
THE LEADERS - DO NOT LEAD - - THEY HIDE BEHIND ARMED GUARDS AS THEY ATTEMPT TO DIS-ARM THE CITIZENS.....
..DRONES TO SPY ON THE PEOPLE THEY ARE AFRAID OF.....THE CITIZENS......
. . . . The last alerts proved they will call out the military against the people - - NATIONAL GUARD patroling the subways of NY ??? Fully Automatic Weapons - - Guard (Police) Dogs ??? The RNC in NYC illegally ( NYPD) locking up peaceful law-abiding citizens in un-sanitary conditions.....Crossing state lines to spy on citizens / of muslin birth ???
>>>they do an excellent job of protecting themslves and NOT THE PEOPLE......but when it is said and done there will be one left to give orders to....
or alteast no-one that will l9isten to them

For several years now, I have

For several years now, I have been telling my friends that our pledge of allegiance has changed to include "one nation under guard, trading liberty and justice for oil." The spygnats fit right in with this.

I have supported Obama, but

I have supported Obama, but not his drone policy. It is outrageous and wrong to have punks (whether in the military or otherwise) sitting at joy sticks killing innocent civilians like it's a casual video game. And now, of course, control freaks and profiteers want to fill our skies with drones to track us and invade our privacy. This is dead wrong, and like Citizens United and the Patriot Act, must be stopped if we truly intend to have any freedom left.

And now, your daughter, too,

And now, your daughter, too, can aspire to winning a metal for her combat role flying a drone from the safety of home here in the USA. I'm sorry, flying a drone is not combat, it is cowardice, for the worst that can happen to you as you sit spying on or assaulting people is carpal tunnel syndrome. I respect people who waste their time playing world of warcraft far more than our service members flying drones, and if I ever meet them I'll tell them so to their face. But even they are better than the war-hawk politicos and corps who instigated all of this remote warfare.

I agree with Eye in the Sky

I agree with Eye in the Sky completely on this. And why it doesn't get any national attention in the media is beyond me. Check out a great new book called "Drone Warfare" by Medea Benjamin, filled with such well-researched and detailed information on what's really going on with drones - and very readable.

Hmm, only 2 comments on this

Hmm, only 2 comments on this article so far, far fewer than other articles in this "issue". I've also noticed that on AlterNet, people seem skittish about making comments on the topic of "domestic spying". It's as though they don't want to be seen as "dissidents", and become targets of such spying. Just sayin'.

I love model airplanes, and

I love model airplanes, and real ones too! And I don't like guns. But if I saw one of these drones coming round the corner to have a look at me I'd take a shot at it, for sure! Ban those things now, before it's too late!

Skeet shooting is going to

Skeet shooting is going to take on another dimension.

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