Originally published August 22 2012
Attack of the spy drones - Thousands of them will soon fill our skies
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Travelers to any mid-to-large city in the U.S. have seen the scores of so-called "traffic cameras" sitting atop signal lights at intersections. They've seen them lurking on buildings and byways in cities and towns. Surveillance cameras, it seems nowadays, are literally everywhere.
Well, the Surveillance Society is about to expand across America, according to recent reports, and in ways once thought unimaginable in a country that was founded on a few key principles of liberty and freedom, one of them being the expectation of privacy, especially when there are no legitimate reasons for being watched.
Thousands of drones will soon be filling skies all across the U.S., according to several lawmakers who are opposed to, and uncomfortable with, plans in the works to allow drones to proliferate, and not all of them will belong to various government entities. What's more, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management noted during a committee hearing in July that the Department of Homeland Security was recommended by the Government Accountability Office nearly four years ago to take the lead on the regulating of drone usage around the country, but that DHS - which did not send a representative to testify - has so far dodged the recommendation.
Tens of thousands on the way?
Absent those recommendations, Human Events magazine reported, the Federal Aviation Administration - which actually has been tasked by lawmakers to develop drone regulations - estimates as many as 30,000 drones will be licensed and put into use by 2020.
"People can accept that these [drones] are being used for a manhunt, as we use law enforcement helicopters ... in the sky for various law enforcement purposes," McCaul said during the hearing. "What they don't want to see is sort of spying without any mission involved in the plan."
Interestingly, noted privacy expert Amie Stepanovich, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), during the hearing, DHS has one of the strongest privacy offices in the federal government, but it has been absent on the potential for surveillance abuse represented by so many drones.
In fact, she said last month, the office hasn't even performed a privacy assessment yet.
"We think that would be a great first step, and after that has been completed, to really go in to monitor [drones] and determine what they can be used for and what they cannot be used for," she told the panel.
Yes, for starters, at least.
Who will operate them and to what extent?
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, sees nothing good about expanding the use of drones around the country. And he's skeptical about their use being limited to righteous surveillance.
"Who will operate these drones, and what will be their mission? Could it be a suspicious government agent who thinks someone looks kind of funny?" he wrote recently for Human Events.
"The EPA bureaucrat who wants to snoop on somebody's farm and watch Bessie the cow graze in the pasture? Or a nosy neighbor who wants to make sure someone's shutters are pretty and the flowers don't violate the homeowners' association rules?" he said, an apparent reference to recent reports that the Environmental Protection Agency was using drones to monitor the activities of farmers in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
"This is the kind of world that Americans could face as we enter this uncharted and unprecedented world of drone technology. Just because Big Brother can look into someone's back yard with a drone doesn't mean they should. That's why we have the Fourth Amendment."
Not all lawmakers agree. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, says the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections extend to their "'persons, houses, papers, and effects,'" he said, a provision that "is not extended to the open fields."
Drones are coming. You should find out how your congressman feels about their proliferation.
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