Americans are familiar with unmanned spy drones providing surveillance of Iranian nuclear complexes and Taliban armed militants combating American troops along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now the Obama administration has quietly authorized Predator Drone use by law enforcement officials in the United States to spy on American Citizens.
According to reporting by the Los Angeles Times, "The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country's northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The previously unreported use of its drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate."
National attention has focused on a story about a sheriff in North Dakota who called in the reinforcements and an Air Force Predator Drone MQ-9 Reaper to assist in surveillance of a farm and six stray cows. The farm was owned by Rodney and Susan Brossart. And the Brossart family was known locally for being armed and apparently anti-government, hence the need for all the government resources.
This is part of a pattern by the Obama administration of bringing highly sophisticated military technology developed for war and deploying them against Americans. Law enforcement routinely uses night vision optics, heat sensors, and even armor and military grade firepower in the battle field called America's cities.
Spying on Americans by Predator in the United States could explode in the next year. Also according to the LA Times, "For decades, U.S. courts have allowed law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance without a warrant. They have ruled that what a person does in the open, even behind a backyard fence, can be seen from a passing airplane and is not protected by privacy laws.
Drones are particularly helpful in rural areas that are not blanketed with surveillance cameras the way most major cities are today. Americans living in densely populated major cities can easily spend all day on camera. Just look up. You will be surprised to see camera domes have replaced gargoyles as the building decoration of choice. This combined with greatly improved facial recognition software means everyone can be tracked and traced.
A predator drone flies high and out of ear shot. Using the sophisticated radar, sensors and optics onboard the Predator Drone, operators can identify you, know if you are carrying a firearm, and pinpoint your location.
Currently their use is limited because of FAA regulations, but two liberal Senators are pushing to change the rules. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore, introduced an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Act this past year, "to increase the number of 'National Airspace System' test sites for 'unmanned aerial vehicles' (UAV) from four to 10, and require that at least one of those test sites include a significant portion of public land."
Schumer said at the time, "drones are more important than ever to our troops overseas, our cops walking the beat and our border patrol agents keeping drugs off our streets, not to mention accurate mapping and more."
So add drones to the list of tools that can be used domestically to spy on you. The list is getting long. If you are carrying a cellphone, authorities can monitor your conversations, read your texts and emails. If you use a computer, authorities can monitor the websites you visit and the terms you search online.
With this type of technology the surveillance state envisaged by George Orwell in 1984 is here.
The question we must ask as citizens is do we trust the Federal Government with this nearly omniscient type of information and power. The history of Federal officials abusing information in earlier less technologically proficient eras is legendary. More information only increases the likelihood of more significant abuse in the future.