Monday, December 12, 2011

Look Up

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on the potential use of drones by our local police departments as if it were a future concern. Well, the future is now, accoridng to this STrib article. I'm going to quote extensively from the article because each of the facts is important.

Armed with a search warrant, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm on June 23. Three men brandishing rifles chased him off, he said.

Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three counties. He also called in a Predator B drone.

As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead, its sensors helped pinpoint the suspects, showing they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare ...

The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country's 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. ...

That was just the start. Police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since then. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
[Emphasis added]

First, not only were the drones used by the local police, it was not the first time they were called into play. The aircraft, ostensibly to be used for border protection, is being used for regular local police investigations and busts. As far as I can tell, this issue has not been reported nor openly discussed with the public.

Yes, in this case it was a highly efficient tool and probably saved a lot man hours, but the use of these high tech and arms capable aircraft is still a troubling matter.

Michael Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, said Predators are flown "in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis."

But former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work. Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.
[Emphasis added]

A mistake, indeed.

It goes against the grain of the Fourth Amendment by making all of out-of-doors fair game for surveillance of civilians without a warrant. There is also the question of it being a violation of the Posse Comitatus law which forbids the military from engaging in police activities on American soil. Congress defeated the use of military satellites for such activities on that basis and an argument can be made that the use of the drones for such purposes is similar.

What is so discouraging and so frightening is that this is being done in near-secret. No public discussion, no congressional debate, just being done and reported on after the fact and belatedly. That in and of itself smells bad.

In fact, the whole thing stinks.

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1 Comments:

OpenID phoenixwoman said...

Probably better to protest now than when they deploy them with warheads.

--Charles

9:20 AM  

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