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Last month, after giving you the charts showing the quantifiable, numbers crunching mess we've gotten ourselves into, I offered some thoughts articulated by Nat Hentoff about this administration's attacks on our civil liberties and Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
Almost on cue a group of articles popped onto the pages of our local paper about a new weapon for policing us – drones. The first article came on 9/1 "Police working on drone code." Doesn't it make you feel all warm and safe knowing it's the police "professionals" putting together the ground rules for the use of these high tech tools currently being used to blow people up in Afghanistan? Of course no one is supporting drones be used for those kind of search and destroy missions here – yet.
The Chief's guidelines amount to a massive increase in the size and power of government bureaucracies interacting with each other to confirm the use of drones is always OK. Two of the guidelines are really scary. One says the images shall not be retained except when required as evidence of a crime, as part of an ongoing investigation, for training or by law." The other says unless exempt by law."
Did you pick up on the key words; "by law"? As soon as drones become part of everyday policing the chiefs will start lobbying to expand the number of images that can be kept "by law" and at the same time they'll work to expand the number of images "exempt by law" from public scrutiny.
In the same paper there was an article about Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU) which offers an online curriculum of unmanned systems classes, and masters degrees and doctorates." In surveillance! There seems to be disagreement about whether or not this is going to be an industry in the "hundreds of billions or a few trillion dollars."
Can any of us even imagine what kind of society we'll be living in when there's a trillion dollars worth of bureaucracy and hardware watching us all the time?
In a rather depressing follow up article on 9/28 our paper reported on a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the National Constitutional Center. In it 44% supported use of drones inside the U.S. Barely a third (36%) "strongly oppose or somewhat oppose" them. The rest were "somewhat concerned." The head of the Constitution Center said he was "surprised by the level of support for police use of drones." "I had assumed that the idea that American police would be using the same technology that our military is using in Afghanistan would garner an almost hysterical response."
You've probably heard or seen this many times but it bears repeating:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
Knight can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org