Superheroes often live double lives. But so do super-villains. For four years, the Obama administration has been living a double-life regarding drones.
Publicly, the president and his leadership tell us they are using drones to protect our borders and promote national security. The administration dismisses challenges to its drone policies as falsehoods, but these “lies” are alarmingly close to the truth.
True Drone Lies at Home
Drone creep is happening. On Valentine’s Day, Obama signed the unconstitutional FAA Modernization and Reform Act, allocating $63.6 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) between 2012 and 2015. Basically, he authorized the FAA to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to loosen and expand drone regulations for both military and private/commercial use. This law violates both the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution’s mandate that Congress—not the President—make all laws.
Since February, the administration has gone on a drone-buying binge—despite Inspector General audits indicating that agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) do not need and cannot afford the drones they already have access to.
The DHS will soon have a fleet of 24 domestic drones after reportedly signing a contract worth $443 with General Atomics for 14 more Predator drones. The drones are being purchased under the guise of “border security.” However, reports indicate the federal government is using these drones to violate our Fourth Amendment rights.
Obama must know his drone policy is unconstitutional and liable to congressional and/or judicial challenge. For, he is moving to codify it: “The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program… the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized…” reports the New York Times.
Domestically, we must demand that Congress hold the president accountable for his incessant prowl for more control over our lives through the use of unconstitutional drones.
True Drone Lies in Iran
In Iran, we find many examples of the concerns that arise from the administration’s international drone policy. Using drones to spy on Iran is backfiring. We appear to be losing more than we are gaining because we are forfeiting our intelligence secrets and inciting blowback.
U.S.-Iran relations are complex, so I will provide a timeline with concrete examples:
December 4, 2011: Iranian forces brought down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone equipped with proprietary stealth technology. The U.S. was using the drone to monitor Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. The Pentagon played down the capture and President Obama asked Iran to return the drone.
February 1, 2012: Iran’s government contracted an Iranian toy company to produce a pink, $4 toy model of the Sentinel and sent it to the White House. "No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Lt. Commander Gen. Hossein Salami reportedly said.
April 22, 2012: Iran announced that it had successfully recovered sensitive data from the Sentinel—including information we had supposedly erased. Iran also said it was building a duplicate drone since the Sentinel was almost entirely intact at the time of capture.
November 1, 2012: Iran’s air and sea borders are highly disputed, yet the U.S. risked Iranian ire and flew a U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone over what Iran considers to be its territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. An Iranian SU-25 Frog-foot warplane shot at our drone in retaliation.
December 4, 2012: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps naval forces captured a U.S. drone that reportedly violated Iran’s airspace. Since the drone did not belong to the U.S. Navy, it most likely belonged to the CIA or the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency and was conducting surveillance on Iran.
We must improve our stealth drone technology or our rivals will continue to intercept it. The Predator drones we use abroad put our national security at risk because their unencrypted GPS signal is easy for an enemy to spoof and they are susceptible to jamming (according to a September Government Accountability Office report). Why are we using such underdeveloped technology?
In addition to improving our stealth technology, but we must exercise more discretion in deciding whether to use it. Iran views U.S. drone surveillance as a direct act of aggression. If we seriously want to negotiate with Iran and avoid an unnecessary war, we must reevaluate our constant snooping with bug-prone drones.
Our drones are stirring up anti-American sentiment abroad. In just four years, the CIA’s drones have killed 2,500 people (plus numerous unreported civilians). Citizens in Iran, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan progressively view our drones as violating their national sovereignty and are angered by the civilian deaths they cause.
The Obama administration may call them lies. But we know these “lies” are true: U.S. domestic drone policy ravages our constitutional freedoms while U.S. international drone policy incites blowback and threatens our national security.