The Federal Aviation Administration is taking steps to open up US skies to drones for use by the US military as well as state and local law enforcement agencies. The Washington Guardian reported that they are setting up half a dozen test sites throughout the US. They say that they are working on ways to ensure privacy from these flying eyes in the sky.
Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a “surveillance society” in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.
The military has come to rely heavily on drones overseas. Now there is tremendous demand to use drones in the U.S. for all kinds of tasks that are too dirty, dull or dangerous for manned aircraft. Drones also are often cheaper than manned aircraft. The biggest market is expected to be state and local police departments.
The FAA is required by a law enacted a year ago to develop sites where civilian and military drones can be tested in preparation for integration into U.S. airspace that’s currently limited to manned aircraft.
The law also requires that the FAA allow drones wide access to U.S. airspace by 2015, but the agency is behind schedule, and it’s doubtful it will meet the deadline, the Transportation Department’s inspector general said in a report last year.
The test sites are planned to evaluate what requirements are needed to ensure the drones don’t collide with planes or endanger people or property on the ground. Remotely controlled drones don’t have a pilot who can see other aircraft the way an onboard plane or helicopter pilot can.
Read the whole thing. Other concerns include the possibility of hackers causing the operators to lose control of the drones. But there are also other concerns that Senator Rand Paul has brought up. Paul has put a hold on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director because Brennan wouldn’t answer a simple question regarding drone use.
Sen. Rand Paul will hold up the confirmation of John Brennan until the would-be CIA director sheds light on the extent of the administration’s controversial policies on drone use.
Specifically, Mr. Paul insists he wants an answer he has not received — whether drones can be used to assassinate American citizens in the U.S.
“I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil,” said Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican. “My question remains unanswered. I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share.” …
A Justice Department memo, recently leaked to NBC News, makes clear that the administration believes it’s on solid legal footing when targeting American citizens abroad, but it’s unclear whether the White House believes it can strike them in the homeland.
“These issues must be discussed openly so that the American people can understand what constraints exist on the government’s power to use lethal force against its citizens,” Mr. Paul said.
Senate Democrats had floated a plan to create a new so-called “drone assassination court,” where a judge or panel of judges would decide whether a drone strike is justified. The idea had been gaining some traction, but a leading Republican senator rebuked the idea Wednesday. (Read More)
Regardless of whether Brennan is confirmed (and he probably will be) the government is moving ahead with its domestic drone program. This is a major concern that isn’t getting enough attention from the media. (Shocking, I know.)