Drones – Coming to the sky near you

SUA Staff – It appears there is not a square inch of land anywhere in the world that is exempt from a drone flying overhead. Drones are used for comprehensive surveillance and to drop missiles in targeted areas of known terror cells and networks. This makes sense because it means less soldiers are in harm’s way. It’s not an easy job either; it has effects on those who ‘drive’ them:

Researching his new book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama PresidencyDan Klaidman at The Daily Beast talked to the State Department’s legal advisor Harold Koh.

In preparation for a speech, Koh spent hours in CIA headquarters at Langley interrogating drone pilots. Koh wanted to find out everything he could about their job, their lives, and the mentality behind all the ‘unmanned’ airstrikes and peppered the pilots with statements like: “I hear you guys have a PlayStation mentality.”

The drone pilots are now civilians, but most were former Air Force pilots who took offense at the notion they were armchair warriors so far removed from their mission that they felt nothing at all about the death and destruction they caused.

Klaidman says the lead pilot blew up on Koh and said:

“I used to fly my own air missions. I dropped bombs, hit my target load, but had no idea who I hit. Here I can look at their faces. I watch them for hours, see these guys playing with their kids and wives. When I get them alone, I have no compunction about blowing them to bits. But I wouldn’t touch them with civilians around. After the strike, I see the bodies being carried out of the house. I see the women weeping and in positions of mourning. That’s not PlayStation; that’s real. My job is to watch after the strike too. I count the bodies and watch the funerals. I don’t let others clean up the mess.” (Read more here.)

But what about at home?

Sure, there are reasons to use drones for surveillance in high risk areas like at the Southern border, however, using them over Nebraska and Iowa farms that are not high risk areas skirts the rights of the people living there. Now police departments are looking to employ them as well. In fact, the first recorded use of a drone to help police make an arrest occurred in North Dakota:

Drone-Aided Arrest Raises Questions About 4th Amendment

The story of the North Dakota man who was arrested by a SWAT team aided by a Department of Homeland SecurityPredator Drone has caught the public’s imagination. Approximately a year ago, Rodney Brossart got into a tussle with police over the ownership of six cows that had wandered onto his land.

As the situation escalated — there were reports that Brossart chased officers off his farm at gunpoint — the Grand Forks SWAT team called in a favor to the Department of Homeland Security.  Essentially, they asked the DHS if they could use its predator drone, located at a nearby Air Force Base to survey Brossart’s property, to ensure it was safe to apprehend him.

Without a hitch the unmanned aircraft was sent to Brossart’s property.  Once it arrived, SWAT used its high-tech surveillance cameras to check if the coast was clear – it was, so SWAT, with guns drawn, swarmed in on the disgruntled farmer.  Brossart was tasered, cuffed and subsequently charged for, among other crimes, terrorizing a sheriff.

He became the first American citizen to be arrested with the help of a Predator drone (something tells me, he won’t be the last). (Read the rest here.)

Is this within our fourth amendment rights?

DHS is not satisfied either. They are ordering more than they can use:

The Homeland Security Department ordered so many drones it can’t keep them all flying and doesn’t have a good plan for how to use them, according to a new audit that the department’s inspector general released Monday.

In a blunt assessment, investigators said Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine has a fleet of nine “unmanned aircraft systems” and is awaiting a 10th — though it doesn’t have enough ground support and doesn’t have a good plan for prioritizing missions.

“CBP procured unmanned aircraft before implementing adequate plans,” the investigators said.

The Defense Department uses armed drones overseas in the war on terrorism, but American law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to them for use in detecting or preventing crimes at home.

At the same time, they are butting heads with civil libertarians who worry about intrusion into innocent citizens’ private lives. (Read the rest here.)

How did we get here America and why are we allowing these illegal searches without a whimper?