Drones. It’s not a new topic, but you’d never know it by the expressions of dismay from Electeds and Electorate alike. Apparently drones are only interesting when there’s something like a Congressional hearing. Actually, even that isn’t accurate, since Dennis Kucinich held hearings on “combat UAVs” last November, but then, that was only a couple of weeks or so after the election, and it wasn’t related to something like John Brennan’s CIA confirmation hearings.
Yesterday, Taylor wrote John Brennan’s Got Nothing to Worry About on Obama’s Drone Policy, stating, “This is about transparency, not the drone policy itself.” I think that’s basically right, as I’m guessing she’s also correct in writing that “There is no president of either party who would not avail” him or herself of using drones.
It’s still predictable, though, that often, when “our guy” does it — say use drones for targeted terrorist killings; or be opaque rather than transparent — it’s maybe regrettable but necessary, but when “their guy” does it, it’s just wrong. It’s a bipartisan thing.
What I’ve been thinking about is that both the transparency question and use of drones and a “kill list,” have been the focus of activists and simply concerned citizens for quite some time. That focus has included the growing domestic use of drones, as well as their deployment by the U.S. internationally. I knew I’d written about this quite a lot, but was actually a bit surprised when I looked back. The following list is probably incomplete, but I’m including it simply as a way to consider at least some of what brought us to the Brennan hearings.
September 28, 2012: From the Weaponized ‘Reaper’ to Nanobot Swarms, the Drones Are in Our Skies (VIDEOS).
January 25, 2013: Drones: In the U.S. Counterterrorism ‘Playbook’ and Under UN Investigation.
Of course others are covering this more extensively and regularly. For example, last month, on January 21, Jon Queally, at Common Dreams, wrote ‘Pedal to the Metal’: Obama’s Drone Program Escalates as Second Term Begins. On January 28, Queally wrote Report: US Shops for New Drone Base in Africa. The next day, at Business Insider, Paul Szoldra posted Drone Spying Capabilities Are About To Take Another Huge Leap. From Szoldra:
The fleet of drones that police our skies are about to get an upgrade.
Developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and BAE Systems, The $18.5 million Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS) program will be the most advanced surveillance system in the sky.
Once attached under an unmanned aerial vehicle, an ARGUS camera can patrol at 17,500 feet and send back high resolution images of 1.8 gigapixels.
The images are so crisp and clear that an analyst can actually see what color shirt a subject is wearing.
The article includes multiple photos, if you want to check them out.
I think it’s important, and a part of the needed transparency, to see the multiple use of drones, from civilian “toys,” to police department surveillance, to armed military use. The obviously rapid development, from vehicles for cameras to missiles, is something that will continue. We can’t count on congressional hearings for accurate and timely information. I doubt we can count on them for transparency.
Focused on domestic use, last word to Lambert Strether, yesterday at Corrente:
Will personal drones come under the Second Amendment?
My guess is that they will, but only for corporate persons.