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Watch Out — The Drones Are Coming Home To Roost!

Memo Pad

Watch Out — The Drones Are Coming Home To Roost!


For nearly four years, President Obama refused to admit a foreign-policy “secret” that was widely known here and throughout the world — namely, that the White House, Pentagon and CIA are engaged in ethically questionable and rapidly escalating drone warfare that’s killing innocent civilians as well as enemy soldiers in Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. But by nominating John Brennan — the architect of this high-tech kill policy — to head the CIA, the president has let the drone out of the bag.

In the past few days, both Brennan and the policy have been getting a grilling from members of both parties on Capitol Hill, with lots of media also questioning the use of unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft to strike people with rockets launched by technicians viewing computer screens and wielding joysticks from bunkers on air bases back here in the U.S.A.

As Congress, the media and the public ponder the merits of that, however, how about noticing another deeply troubling policy secret looming ever larger on our horizon: the domestic deployment of drones. From Homeland Security officials and the FBI to your state police and county sheriff, these inherently invasive “unmanned aerial vehicles” are being spread across our Land of the Free — and aimed at us.

Shouldn’t we get answers to a few basic questions before authorities swarm these “Orwellian gnats” into our skies? For example, what’s the cost of this (in liberty and lucre), what’s the purpose, and what are the rules to prevent abuses?

Cheap, small, noiseless and practically invisible, drones take snooping to a whole new level. Equipped with super-high-powered lenses, infrared and ultraviolet imaging, radar that can see through walls, video analytics and “swarm” technologies that use a group of drones that operate in concert to allow surveillers to watch an entire city, these devices are made to be intrusive. And, of course, they can be “weaponized” to let police agents advance from intrusion to repression.

In other words, we are on a fast track to becoming a society under routine, pervasive surveillance. As the ACLU put it in an excellent December, 2011 report on the UAV threat, such a development “would profoundly change the character of public life in the United States.”

It’s worth adding that public authorities are not the only ones getting UAVs. Corporations have a keen interest in their potential for surreptitious monitoring of environmentalists, union leaders, protesters and competitors. Plus, those being watched might well want to keep track of those who are tracking them. Divorce lawyers, private investigators, political operatives and others who snoop for a living will surely find drones attractive. Individuals — from hobbyists to survivalists — are already building their own. And won’t criminals get them, too?

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. Bob Brindell February 14, 2013

    As a life long democrate, SHAME ON THE PRESIDENT! Talk about walking all over the Bill of Rights. Nice to see Dems and Repubs. on the same side against this.

    1. lana ward February 15, 2013

      Obama is firing our Military leaders that won’t fire on US citizens too!!! He’s replacing them with “his” people who will!!!!!!!!

  2. Jim Myers February 14, 2013

    If ever put on a National Poll, I would think that there would be an overwhelming amount of support for an outright ban on the use of these devices for everything not related to warfare.

    And a complete ban within the United States.

    The potential for misuse by those in control of these devices is massive. And, could also be massively lucrative for those with the resources to use them.

    1. gahoof February 14, 2013

      Yes, But is’t okay to use them on others, eh?

      Somehow, I’m still not comfortable with the situation.

      1. lana ward February 15, 2013

        Obama is firing our Military commanders that won’t fire on US citizens!!!!! He’s replacing them with “his” people who will!!!!

    2. lana ward February 15, 2013

      Our Military commanders aren’t “stepping down” either! Obama is firing those who won’t fire on US citizens and replacing them with “his” people who will!!!!

  3. Chad February 14, 2013

    WOW! I heard about this on the news but didn’t realize how crazy it has gotten. Although I don’t like the fact that the Drone Strikes have been killing innocents as well as enemies overseas I can completely understand why they are used and do support their use over there. However to bring that back here to the US to use over the skies of America, I have to draw the line. I do feel that there could be good legitimate uses for the Drone Program here at home but I think the risk far outweighs the potential for abuse by not only the Govt, but as we all know money knows no bounds so I could see some evil willed freakshow with enough money get their hands on one of these things and then turn it loose on some unsuspecting School, College or business that they are angry with. Think that Newtown or Columbine or Va Tech was bad they could go and equal the likes of Oklahoma City or the Twin Towers in New York. I would ask President Obama to use your head on this one please! No Drones over the US!!!

    1. jstsyn February 14, 2013

      How about our southern border? Fence solved.

    2. lana ward February 15, 2013

      Obama is firing commanders of our Military that won’t fire on US citizens too!!!! And replacing them with “his” people who will!!!

  4. Tom S Brown February 14, 2013

    Chicago needs those drones, desperately, send in the DRONES!

    1. Charlie Davenport February 14, 2013

      Don’t worry, unless you are Black or Hispanic.

      1. Ed February 14, 2013

        There is a famous poem which ends “when they cam for me there was no one left to defend me”.

  5. m8lsem February 14, 2013

    “the White House, Pentagon and CIA are engaged in ethically questionable and rapidly escalating drone warfare that’s killing innocent civilians as well as enemy soldiers in Afghanistan,”

    As have infantry, artillery, aircraft, submarines, missiles, and every other form of military action since the invention of rocks, sticks, and hands. The objection to drone activity is in fact an objection to violence as a ‘solution to problem(s)’, and if all enemies domestic and foreign truthfully foreswear all forms of violence forever and truthfully, we can forget every doing of such things.

    Until then … when an American citizen becomes a jihadist, adjourns to a ‘country’ ruled by anarchy, lives with and among jihadists, commences to preach jihad against the US and Europe effectively, and remains immune to arrest, because there’s no effective government there, and because another American going there to do the arresting would be committing suicide the instant he walked into that encampment, if not sooner, exactly what else are we supposed to do?

    1. Chad February 14, 2013

      Agreed as long as it takes place in another country.

    2. Maynard February 14, 2013

      Don’t omit the hundreds of Pakistani victims, many children. We are not even at war with Pakistan and have used them extensively there.
      This country knows most of the world is not ready to stand up against our abuse of power and violation of international rules of conduct.
      This whole campaign has been based on the FALSE FLAGS OF 9/11 and the anthrax attacks.
      The “sheeple” are too ignorant or lazy to look into the facts on this governmental ruse. Buildings do not disintegrate at the speed of gravity from a pancake collapse. Steel beams also would not be blown hundreds of feet and impaled in nearby buildings. Human bone fragments would not have made their way to the top of the Deutsche Bank Building to be discovered in 2008.
      Jeb Bush would not have signed Martial Law in Fl the week before without knowing something only INSIDERS would know.
      Nor would the White House insiders have SECRETLY begun risky anti-anthrax antibiotics THREE WEEKS BEFORE the first known anthrax threat if they did not know something only INSIDERS would know.

      There’s so much more, but as I said the “sheeple” aren’t ambitious or smart enough to try to seek TRUE JUSTICE for the victims.

      1. Chad February 14, 2013

        But Maynard there are still some things that only people in levels a lot higher than you and I need to know that we really don’t have to know or even in some case want to know. It is what it is, not always right but like I said “it is what it is”.

        1. Sand_Cat February 15, 2013

          And will remain so or get worse so long as people like you bury your heads in the sand.

          1. lana ward February 15, 2013

            Our Military leaders aren’t “stepping down” either. Obama is firing those who won’t fire on US citizens and replacing them with “his” people who will!!!!

      2. m8lsem February 15, 2013

        Now, Maynard, I have had the dubious privilege of watching a building collapse in an earthquake, the floors pancaking down on each other, just like the twin towers. The lateral force of fuel laden jumbo jets colliding with something and bursting into flame is immense.
        I am not a sheeperson. I am a well educated person who has studied logic and earthquakes (for litigation over the consequences of one) and served in the military. It is you, sir, who have been sadly mislead by paranoiacs.

  6. Ed February 14, 2013

    This is “Big Brother”in SPADES!!! This must not be allowed! This is our last chance for freedom.

  7. ORAXX February 14, 2013

    If power can be abused, then eventually, it will be.


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