Drones Aren’t Just Used In War

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Drone is an fairly innocuous word. It is often used to describe something or someone being boring, droning on and on, or a low, constant noise. The word becomes more loaded in other contexts though. Drone in the military context has never been an innocent word.

Used historically to refer to soldiers considered disposable, the term drone no longer has any connection to humans. Now they’re machines and we are told they are employed only in the severest of cases and only with a warrant. We are told the government is not allowed to use these marvels to spy on or monitor the American public but this is not the first time we were told nothing was being used to monitor us without our permission.

Drones are indeed marvels. They are incredibly designed and can be controlled from a remarkable distance. Removing any dubious use of this equipment, they are true forms of the pushbutton technology: push button, get thing. The problem is drones are being used not only in combat zones but soon on the American public as well. The ACLU has put together a fantastic report about the advancement of drone technology and the ramifications people need to be aware of.

If you’re saving that for some light bedtime reading, the gist of it is drones are being used in the United States for “routine surveillance.” They are not just being used in manhunts or to track known criminals, which would still be a screaming violation of rights. Routine surveillance means these things are being deployed on a schedule and their targets are unknown to the general public. In February of 2012, Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to change air space rules so drones could fly in areas that only allowed manned aircraft. The FAA has until 2015 to comply.

A military drone attack room. Reuters/The Atlantic

A military drone attack room. Reuters/The Atlantic

We should all have an aversion to drones, although many people don’t. The ACLU reports drone manufactures are offering to arm domestic drones with tear gas, rubber bullets, and other crowd control devices. It’s getting a little hard to believe these things are going to be used for the safety of the American people. After seeing protesters during Occupy being pepper sprayed while sitting on the ground, it’s a frightening concern there will be unmanned machines armed with weapons, despite the reassurance that they will be non-lethal ones.

Drones record information and the second question after the initial, “should this be allowed?” is the important, “what is being recorded and how long will that information be retained?” If drones are recording what they see, what is all this information going to be used for and where will it be stored? Who’s going to have access to it?

People who insist  those with nothing to hide shouldn’t be worried about surveillance need to consider the fact that rules and laws change and if a law changes and they are recording years back violating that law, they might be on a radar they otherwise think disregarded them. If files are being kept, how long is that information accessible or relevant? It’s not paranoid to ask to understand the long term goals of something as invasive as routine drone surveillance.

This is an issue that has no political side. Often times, people are led to believe the side they are supporting would never do such things, but this is not the first time  the question of surveillance and its legality has been questioned. In fact, very few presidents or presidential candidates have been outright opposed to surveillance, except for Libertarian candidates. Both sides, Republican and Democrats, are guilty of entertaining such notions.