Let's Make Robots!

Drones over US sky

Talk of drones patrolling US skies spawns anxiety

by Joan Lowy for AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prospect that thousands of drones could be patrolling U.S. skies by the end of this decade is raising the specter of a Big Brother government that peers into backyards and bedrooms.

The worries began mostly on the political margins, but there are signs that ordinary people are starting to fret that unmanned aircraft could soon be circling overhead.

Jeff Landry, a freshman Republican congressman from Louisiana's coastal bayou country, said constituents have stopped him while shopping at Walmart to talk about it.

"There is a distrust amongst the people who have come and discussed this issue with me about our government," Landry said. "It's raising an alarm with the American public."

Another GOP freshman, Rep. Austin Scott, said he first learned of the issue when someone shouted out a question about drones at a Republican Party meeting in his Georgia congressional district two months ago.

An American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist, Chris Calabrese, said that when he speaks to audiences about privacy issues generally, drones are what "everybody just perks up over."

"People are interested in the technology, they are interested in the implications and they worry about being under surveillance from the skies," he said.

The level of apprehension is especially high in the conservative blogosphere, where headlines blare "30,000 Armed Drones to be Used Against Americans" and "Government Drones Set to Spy on Farms in the United States."

When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, suggested during an interview on Washington radio station WTOP last month that drones be used by police domestically since they've done such a good job on foreign battlefields, the political backlash was swift. NetRightDaily complained: "This seems like something a fascist would do. ... McDonnell isn't pro-Big Government, he is pro-HUGE Government."

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., which provides legal assistance in support of civil liberties and conservative causes, warned the governor, "America is not a battlefield, and the citizens of this nation are not insurgents in need of vanquishing."

There's concern as well among liberal civil liberties advocates that government and private-sector drones will be used to gather information on Americans without their knowledge. A lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco, whose motto is "defending your rights in the digital world," forced the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year to disclose the names of dozens of public universities, police departments and other government agencies that have been awarded permission to fly drones in civilian airspace on an experimental basis.

Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to "a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities," the ACLU warned last December in a report.

The anxiety has spilled over into Congress, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been meeting to discuss legislation that would broadly address the civil-liberty issues raised by drones. A Landry provision in a defense spending bill would prohibit information gathered by military drones without a warrant from being used as evidence in court. A provision that Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., added to another bill would prohibit the Homeland Security Department from arming its drones, including ones used to patrol the border.

Scott and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have introduced identical bills to prohibit any government agency from using a drone to "gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a regulation" without a warrant.

"I just don't like the concept of drones flying over barbecues in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates," Paul said in an interview, referring to a New York City ban on supersized soft drinks.

He acknowledged that is an "extreme example," but added: "They might just say we'd be safer from muggings if we had constant surveillance crisscrossing the street all the time. But then the question becomes, what about jaywalking? What about eating too many donuts? What about putting mayonnaise on your hamburger? Where does it stop?"

Calabrese, the ACLU lobbyist, called Paul's office as soon as he heard about the bill.

"I told them we think they are starting from the right place," Calabrese said. "You should need some kind of basis before you use a drone to spy on someone."

In a Congress noted for its political polarization, legislation to check drone use has the potential to forge "a left-right consensus," he said. "It bothers us for a lot of the same reasons it bothers conservatives."

The backlash has drone makers concerned. The drone market is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years, from current worldwide expenditures of nearly $6 billion annually to more than $11 billion, with police departments accounting for a significant part of that growth.

"We go into this with every expectation that the laws governing public safety and personal privacy will not be administered any differently for (drones) than they are for any other law enforcement tool," said Dan Elwell, vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association.

Discussion of the issue has been colored by exaggerated drone tales spread largely by conservative media and bloggers.

Scott said he was prompted to introduce his bill in part by news reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has been using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska. The agency has indeed been searching for illegal dumping of waste into streams but is doing it the old-fashioned way, with piloted planes.

In another case, a forecast of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies by 2020 has been widely attributed to the FAA. But FAA spokeswoman Brie Sachse said the agency has no idea where the figure came from. It may be a mangled version of an aerospace industry forecast that there could be nearly 30,000 drones worldwide by 2018, with the United States accounting for half of them.

Fear that some drones may be armed has been fueled in part by a county sheriff's office in Texas that used a homeland security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team. The drone can be equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun. Randy McDaniel, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, told The Associated Press earlier this year his office had no plans to arm the drone, but he left open the possibility the agency may decide to adapt the drone to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.

Earlier this year Congress, under pressure from the Defense Department and the drone manufacturers, ordered the FAA to give drones greater access to civilian airspace by 2015. Besides the military, the mandate applies to drones operated by the private sector and civilian government agencies, including federal, state and local law enforcement.

Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass, and Joe Barton, R-Texas, co-chairs of a congressional privacy caucus, asked the FAA in April how it plans to protect privacy as it develops regulations for integrating drones into airspace now exclusively used by aircraft with human pilots. There's been no response so far, but Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will probably be asked about it when he testifies at a Senate hearing Thursday.

Even if the FAA were to establish privacy rules, it's primarily a safety agency and wouldn't have the expertise or regulatory structure to enforce them, civil liberties advocates said. But no other government agency is addressing the issue, either, they said.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

As to discussing ethics, perhaps we should discuss it more, since it affects all of us. (Eventually the whole world will be affected)

The UK is further ahead in implimenting the "New World Order" plan than anywhere else. I read there are 4.2 million security cameras in England now which is a camera for every 14 people in the country.

Ref:  http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/society/factcheck+how+many+cctv+cameras/2291167.html

The fellow from the UK undoubtedly knows about the neighbourhood cameras that are being mounted all over "for your protection" —which actually means, "for your government's protection" so they can keep an eye on everyone. Something around 422000 cameras in London alone now.

On the other hand, the US is behind in cameras, "There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras now deployed in the United States" but with the country so much larger, many more are needed, so they want to use drones to make up the difference. Drones are better than the pole-mounted cameras, since drones can move around, but also they may have guns mounted on them and they can also carry bombs as demonstrated in Afghanistan by the US CIA.  If there is a drone up there watching you, what if they decide to remove you as a threat to their way of thinking? You cannot tell an armed one from an unarmed one by looking from the ground. [ New World Order is the 'secret' name for turning the entire world (eventually) into a single police-state, so there will no longer be factions beyond the control of the government. It is a real-life plan to implement George Orwell's plan shown in the book 1984.

 

Also, if you think you are safe from spy cameras within your home, think again. The technology exists to see through walls (IR, radar, etc.), and to listen in on conversations (for instance an invisible IR or UV laser beam bounced off a window pane will pick up all the sound from inside a room of a home).

 Oh and need I say that there is talk by the Conspiracy Theory crowd that the London riots were staged to convince the public that there was a real need to lose their privacy and accept the cameras. Too much talk about the cameras and they had to do something to pacify the sheep...  er... I mean, citizens.

Sounds like you enjoy your consipiracy theories, nothing wrong with that par se, don't we all.

Anyway, the issue with the statistic on high camera numbers per person in the UK is they don't take into account camera location. In reality its quite rare to see a camera mounted in the street but when you go into a major city although you don't necessarily see more cameras, when you do see one it will usually have a second or occasionally third mounted to cover its blind spots. As I said earlier I don't mind appearing on these cameras, I'm not a criminal, I'm just average joe walking down the street. Most shops in britain though have at least 1 camera on entrance and more inside, several of course have them in car parks if the shops has a private car park that is. Theres even a small corner shop in my nearest town that although has 2 of the narrowest aisles ever (litterally, I have a shoulder bag and a motorcycle jacket and can't turn without knocking something) each around 5 meters long. It has 4 CCTV cameras though, probably needed though, its an indian man with limited english (no offense intended to anyone, this is just a pure fact) so alot of people take him as an idiot and do try shoplifting, sure enough their always caught. I think its mentioned in that article but most of those cameras are not government owned but instead owned by the private firms. I think in that respect it might just be culture difference that american stores don't necessarily buy as many cameras as british firms.

 

As for staged london riots, I know several people who got arrested (2 of whom are in prison still) and have an aunt living in london who's workplace got torched. I think if you were here in england seeing people posting on your news feed that you know for a fact are nothing to do with the government then it soon becomes apparent that staging it would have been very difficult. Repairs have cost the economy far too much already and we are dipping in and out of recession.

 

I must say I'm only 17, nearly 18 and I've already been stopped by a police officer, although thankfully I wasn't in trouble. As mentioned I live on a farm. I was minding my own business, riding along at 30mph on my ( power restricted :( ) moped. The road I have to leave the farm on has 2 villages either side of the farm exit. Turns out that the road between the 2 villages had been closed to allow a boat to come through on the back of a truck. Would be nice for them to give notice of somesort before hand, a letter a few days in advance maybe?

 

 

 

As for the implanting of chips. Not done in british military, never heard of it done in US military. I know several british army soldiers and an airforce intelligence officer, none of them chipped, one has his service number tattoed voluntarily though.

Well I'm roughly half a century older than you and I have seen a lot of changes in my life. Where it comes to personal liberties, the changes have mostly been downhill. We are definitely less free today than when I was your age.

The inserting of chips is something new, and they seem willing to take it slowly, so far. That about babies is just my concerted guess as to where it will go next. I believe it is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing.  For instance, you would no longer need to carry any identification or licenses, etc.  That would all be in the central computer, and the RFID chips might be reprogrammable to carry additional information about you. (bank account balance, etc.)

Where it becomes a bad thing is when you get people wanting to take over and become a virtual "big brother". That is the fear of a police state. I am thinking of when another Hitler pops up. When it happens with all that hardware in place, people may not be able to get out from under that big thumb. The next Hitler, could be an overzealous computer hacker for that matter, –hacking his way into the government computers and taking over.

I know there has been a recent increase in crime in the UK, so I did not say the riot was staged, –only that I had heard that voiced as a possiblity. What I did hear on the news, however, was a discussion about the cameras. They were interviewing some UK residents in a Cul-de-sac area where new cameras had just been installed to watch the neighbourhood, and the people were a bit irate about it. One bloke was saying that one of the cameras was level with his bedroom window and swept back and forth and could catch anything he and his mate were doing there. He considered that the camera had to have been put in that position intentionally. He said while he was not in trouble with the police as far as he knew, it made him feel he was under constant scrutiny.

I also know that many cameras are privately owned, but what you may not know is that the government is asking for access to all those privately owned cameras "to increase their ability to watch for criminals". Even so the number of government-owned cameras is quite high. We only have a few here in the city where I live, but there are more than I care to see. Most of the ones here are traffic monitors. --most but not all.

If the british government flew drones over my house they wouldn't find anything interesting. I'm too laid back to care about them having a picture of me wandering around the garden and if they poked through the window they'd find I only sit around, eat, play computer games and write code. They'll get bored, move on.

To be honest they make a damn good attempt at spying on me already. 3 C130 transports I saw in 2 hours the other day. Chinook helicopters aren't rares anymore and the odd sea king or merlin flies over occasionally. I live nowhere near the sea yet I get 2 aircraft I associate with being naval??? I even had the red arrows shooting over once (I live on a farm so they seem to break the min height limit when theres no people about it seems :D ). Speaking of military aircraft, a lancaster bomber came down in one of our fields during ww2. Still an old panel from it somewhere in one of the farm buildings I think.

Hello Callum “6677” King-Underwood,

One thing I can tell from yhour comment is that you really know your RAF and RN vehicles. I was wondering if you were there when that bomber crashed. That is one hell of an anecdote! Was it German? Was it one of yours?

I believe drones are fantastic from a leisure perspective. But, as any other tool, they can be very destructive if put to a bad use. I don´t know you, but I like my right to privacy... regardless of what I do. I have the right to watch TV in my underwear and not be spied on.

Lawmakers will have a tough time with this one if they intend to be fair.

Take care,

Andrés

British built lancaster flown by american pilots returning from a trip over germany. I'm 17 so a little young to have been around in WW2. Stepdads dad was 8 at the time though and watched it go down. Made it whole way from germany to cambridgeshire it seems while on fire before coming down in a field 5 miles from its landing strip.

If it's true. Sounds like the world had been turned upside down. Russia and China could be a better place to live?

The world is not upside down yet, but it is gradually getting there.  The plan is to move slowly enough to make it seem like logical steps.

Like the idea to inject identity chips in everyone.

What? It will never happen?  I have news for you.  ----It already IS happening.

Every person who goes into prison is implanted with an RFID chip. "We must keep track of criminals."

Every person who goes in the military is now being implanted also. "In case you are lost behind enemy lines, we can find you."

Next step will be all babies will be injected at birth.  They will increase the stories of child-napping (kidnapping / stealing of children)

and then push through a bill "To protect our children !"

The gullible public will accept it like a hungry fish accepts the bait and gets the hook instead. From then on within a few years most people will have the RFID chips. Within a lifetime Everyone will be under government scrutiny and control.

Someone speaks out and they want them eliminated? Feed their RFID information into a computer controlling the drones, and before long the person ceases to exist. If anything leaks out, they will show him/her as a "terrorist" or something.

It's a sure bet.

 

Hopefully not happening in a suburb near you too soon. Do I dare mention the mark of the beast in revelations.

"And [the Antichrist] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
And that no man might buy or sell, save [except] he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

Seems to me it is becoming harder every day not to buy or sell to live. I imagine the mark will go hand in hand with a cashless society.

In india they are embarking on a nationwide id implementation. Nobody can receive welfare without it. Just another example how close we could be.

 

What a scary picture you have just painted for us!