While the drone strikes that our government is using to kill top operatives in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will help us sleep a little easier at night knowing that one more motivated, anti-American terrorist is no longer plotting against us, have you considered where else those drones can operate?
Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing stopping those very same drones from operating on U.S. soil. While traditionally there were thought to be laws that prohibit law enforcement from carrying out a murder on U.S. civilians (especially on our soil), the government isn’t quite so sure about that anymore. In this day and time, it seems those laws are relative and up for reinterpretation depending on what is wanted at the time.
What those drones can do, however, is collect almost unlimited intelligence on the daily lives of any Americans. Our lives and choices are no longer our own, as the government now chooses to invade our privacy and deploy machines that can track our every move. People are outraged by the smallest infringements on their privacy: paparazzi, private detectives, and the like are all viewed negatively and emphatically rejected by those of us who value our privacy. How are we to protect that right as the government begins utilizing drones on our own soil?
The drones that the government will likely begin using to track citizens are highly functional machines, capable of recording all of your movements in great detail. While they will not be armed with missiles (yet), these drones do have high quality cameras that can take excellent photos, as well as high quality video, of whatever activity they are observing. One drone can simultaneously track over 60 targets, and can carry the technology to sense movement, read license plates, and attach a GPS signal to whomever is being observed.
Reports noted that “there may be as many as 30,000 unmanned drones operated in the United States by 2020 for uses such as wildfire containment and surveillance, law enforcement, and surveying.” With that many operable drones throughout the country, there is no doubt that the privacy of individuals will continue to be violated, without substantial change in legislation.
The government claims that they will be using these drones for crime fighting and law enforcement purposes only, and at first, that may be true. What the use of these drones actually means is that without a warrant or subpoena, a drone can take video surveillance of your home and every action you take throughout the day, feeding that information back to the government.
Video footage is of such high quality that citizens have already been arrested for crimes based on evidence obtained by these drones, and lower appellate courts have upheld these convictions. The court system is, so far, doing little to stop this overreach of federal power. The government is being allowed to trample on our right to privacy in the name of catching a few extra criminals each year.
While using the drones for national security purposes like patrolling the border might be a natural (and legal) extension of the federal government’s power, using the drones for unwarranted surveillance of citizens is a violation of both our right to privacy and the restriction of federal power to warranted search and seizure. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to stop it. The Supreme Court will be unable to rule on the issue until a test case is available. The government may start utilizing drones to watch ordinary individuals in the next year, but it will be much longer before the Supreme Court can grant a hearing on the issue. Past Supreme Court rulings have created a precedent that should be enough to bar the federal government from continuing these drone plans, but it appears as if they are more than happy to continue plans to use drones domestically until the Supreme Court specifically applies those rulings to this issue.
Government Oversight Of Drone Use
Perhaps even worse than government use of these drones is the frightening fact that individuals and companies can purchase these drones. They will not, of course, be outfitted with missiles like our military drones, but they will be capable of high quality surveillance. The very near future could hold two major privacy threats: your previously nosy but out of luck neighbors, and the federal government—both invading your personal life and right to privacy.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has been placed in charge of creating standards for the behavior of these intelligence drones and determining what lines they may not cross. As such, groups have begun lobbying for harsh restrictions in terms of what the government should be able to use these drones for. The general public will be guaranteed no security from privacy invasions by drone surveillance unless a significant push is made to hold the government accountable and liable for the way they are using these drones. If these drones are being used to detect wildfires, the government can surely construct a rigid flight path that does not endanger anyone’s private land.
Because the question at hand jeopardizes the lives and daily activities of so many individuals, as well as our constitutional rights, it is of utmost importance that we involve the public, willingly and immediately, in a discussion of drone operation. Should we fail to do so, drones that gather intelligence on U.S. citizens will only be the beginning of more government intrusion into our lives.
We balk now at the idea of the government carrying out murders on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, but the leap may not be a large one to make. President Obama has already shown a willingness to assassinate U.S. citizens, and there is no guarantee that he would be reluctant to take a step further and commit that murder on U.S. soil if he believed there was any situation that might warrant the death of said individual. Imagine a drone secretly watching your every move, reporting to a law enforcement agency, and charges being files, all without a single application for a search warrant. With no court vetting probable cause, the infringement upon our rights by the federal government would have reached a new, and particularly intolerable, level.
©2013 Off the Grid News