Targeted Surveillance: Big Brother Takes to the Sky


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Targeted Surveillance: Big Brother Takes to the Sky

  1. 1. Targeted Surveillance: Big Brother Takes to the Sky Various technologies designed to intrude on our privacy and effectively strip us of our Constitutional Rightsalready exist. So why all the controversy surrounding the use of drones? Why do they strike such fear in our hearts? Is it fear of ending up on a secret “terrorist” list and being ruthlessly hunted down by a metallic harbinger of death? Is it a simple fear of being spied upon by law enforcement agencies that are not required to uphold the principle of probable cause? Or is it invasion of one’s privacy? The United States Air Force and other intelligence agencies began developing drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) following World War II (Science, 2012). Not all drones are engaged in spying on or annihilating human beings. Some are extremely useful in preserving life. Recently, drones have been developed that can spot sharks, locate lost hikers, monitor crops, gather information from active volcanic craters, and assess various situations too hazardous to accommodate human investigation. According to NBC News, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued fewer than 400 permits for drones. The FAA has, however, has been tasked with fully integrating drones into U.S. airspace by 2015. Most drones currently tested or in use by Texas law enforcement agencies are very different from large UAVs used by military or other federal agencies. Police drones are typically smaller and usually flown within sight of their operator, unlike military drones which are operated remotely, often from thousands of miles away. Currently, the FAA only allows drone use in urban areas when life is in “imminent danger” (KTRK, 2013).
  2. 2. Al Qaeda hijacked airplanes, turning them into weapons of mass destruction.The Patriot Act which ensued from these terroristicattacks, continues to expand exponentially and has given the government the ability to invade our privacy, and even deny us our constitutional rights and freedoms for a perceived protection from terroristic acts.The fear of a terrorist lurking behind every bush has allowed the government to invade our homes and private lives.Where will it end? Equally alarming, or perhaps even more so, is how targeted use of drones is already being used in some American cities by law enforcement agencies to illegally obtain evidence. This is another blatant violation of constitutionally guaranteed Fifth Amendment Rights as well as Fourth Amendment Rights that require Probable Cause be established. Law enforcement agencies across the country have already added drones to their arsenals. It has even been proposed that no search warrant is necessary to launch one of thesetiny unmanned vehicles, completely bypassing the judicial system. Police would have the power to decide if reasonable cause exists. If the current push to strip Americans of their Second Amendment right to bear arms is successful, how could we defend ourselves? Privacy laws are not keeping up with rapidly emerging surveillance technologies. Although drones are illuminating this issue, it is expected that courts will uphold certain rights to privacy ensured by the Fourth Amendment. Some believe current laws are insufficient to protect privacy, but regulating drones is just the tip of the iceberg. The growing need for greater oversight is painfully evident. Street cameras, recent attempts 2
  3. 3. to acquire one’s email and other social media messages, and Google’s mapping vans are good examples. A hodge-podge of state laws regulating drone use are beginning to crop up. Several states, including Texas, are pushing legislation limiting the use of drones and requiring a warrant be obtained by law enforcement or other governmental agencies before deployingdrones to collect aerial photography or thermal data as part of a criminal investigation.Some bills favor excludinglimitation of drones for selected operations such as search and rescue. United States Representative Ted Poe co-sponsors the Preserving America Privacy Act,which proposes to mandate governments to obtain warrants from a court of law before using drones "to collect information that can identify individuals in a private area". This Act would also prevent drones being equipped with weapons (Hans, 2013). A National policy is long overdue and sorely needed to address how drone use may violateFifth Amendment Rights designed to protect against governmental abuse.Due process—the right to a trial before being gunned down—is guaranteed to all American citizens. This right has already been trampled on by the Obama Administration, which continues to claim legal authority to attack terroristsuspectsno matter where they are.Recently, an American citizen was targeted, attacked, and killed by an unmanned aircraft, or drone, on authority of the United States President. There was no due process,only suspicions of engaging in terroristic activities against the United States. 3
  4. 4. Obama continues to expand his executive powers granted to the President, who has the right to order strikes against foreign militants actively at war against the United States(Roth, 2013). He has claimed American citizens abroad not actively engaged in war against the United States are fair game for a place of honor on his kill list and can legally be executed. When did the President gain the power to single-handedly determinethe criteria that characterizes and establishes one as a terrorist engaged in war against the United States?Obama insists that America is a “theater of war” and his drone rulesapply. He boasts that he alone controls the infamous secretive kill list; no one elseknows who’son it. What we do know is two American citizens, Awlaki and hisminor son, made the kill list and were subsequently eliminated (Scaliger, 2013). Who else resides on his list, and how many are next? Senator Rand Paul is to be commended for his courage in demanding that Obama must acknowledge he doesn’t have a constitutional right to kill American citizens without due process. Without first charging them, providing them an attorney, and allowing a court to determine their guilt in a legal trial. Has our fear of terrorism changed our society so much we tolerate a dictator? Who exactly is minding the store? No laws exist on how data is collected, stored, or used. Who is accountable? Is it ethical to allow a machine to decide whether or under what circumstances to kill a human being? These questions must be analyzed and the American public reckoned with. 4
  5. 5. Thousands of drones are known to be in use by the American military. How many are unknown, quietly lurking on American soil, poised for attack, ready to gun down anyone merely suspected of wrongdoing?The number of drones swarming our skies, whether the large military type destined to kill or the small police type slated for spying, is expected to rise to 30,000 or more during next quarter century.(Pinkerton, 2012).Ready or not, here come the drones.Is one peering through your blinds? 5
  6. 6. Works Cited "The Drones Are Coming ... but Our Laws Aren't Ready -." N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. "The Drones Are Coming ... but Our Laws Aren't Ready -." Technology on, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>. Hans, G.S. "Drone Privacy Bills Attempt to Protect Americans from Governmental, Commercial Surveillance." Center for Democracy & Technology.N.p., 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 May 2013. <>. Miller, Greg. "Drone Wars." Science 336 (2012): 842-43. Web. Pinkerton, J. "Use of Drones in Community Policing 'unchartered Territory'" Houston Chronicle. N.p., 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>. Roth, K. "What Rules Should Govern US Drone Attacks? | Human Rights Watch." Human Rights Watch.N.p., 3 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>. Scalinger, C. "Drones Over America." N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <New>. "Texas Grapples with the Rapid Advent of Drones." Texas Grapples with the Rapid Advent of Drones. N.p., 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <>. 6