Sunday, February 12, 2012



As we mentioned a few days ago, California criminal Congressman Lucky Bucky McKeon started and chairs, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus, a polite way of saying the Drone Caucus. This is little more than a garden variety scam by the manufacturers of drones to ingratiate themselves to a bunch of Military Industrial Complex whores in Congress... like Lucky Bucky and money grubbing warmongers like Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Joe "You Lie" Wilson (R-SC), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Todd Akin (R-MO), Rick Berg (R-ND), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Robert Brady (D-PA), Joe Heck (R-NV), Anne Marie Buerkle (R-NY) and, of course Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK).

But the problems with the drones isn't just about killing in other countries. There isn't enough of a market for that. And Lucky Bucky and his band of whores stepped in to help the industry solve that by pushing to have drones flying all over a sky near you... very soon. A bill McKeon was paid very well to see passed was approved by the House 2 weeks ago and by the Senate on Monday "to open U.S. skies to unmanned drone flights within four years."
The FAA is also required under the bill to provide military, commercial and privately-owned drones with expanded access to U.S. airspace currently reserved for manned aircraft by Sept. 30, 2015. That means permitting unmanned drones controlled by remote operators on the ground to fly in the same airspace as airliners, cargo planes, business jets and private aircraft.

Currently, the FAA restricts drone use primarily to segregated blocks of military airspace, border patrols and about 300 public agencies and their private partners. Those public agencies are mainly restricted to flying small unmanned aircraft at low altitudes away from airports and urban centers.

Within nine months of the bill's passage, the FAA is required to submit a plan on how to safely provide drones with expanded access.

Even if you think it's cool that American drones are bombing the hell out of Pakistani civilians and causing unthinkable amounts of collateral damage-- people's sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, dreams... you want them spying on you here at home? The Tampa police has already ordered some. Thursday the Center for Democracy & Technology sent out this statement to the press. Did you hear anything about it on TV or radio... read it anywhere?
Congress is demanding drones in the air over the United States-- without considering the civil liberties issues. Within the span of three days last week, the House and then the Senate passed a law-- H.R. 658-- requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to speed up, within 90 days, its current licensing process for government use of drones domestically and to open the national airspace to drone aircraft for commercial and private use by October 2015. While the law requires the FAA to develop guidance on drone safety, the law says absolutely nothing about the privacy or transparency implications of filling the sky with flying robots.

As CDT and others have pointed out, drones are powerful surveillance devices capable of being outfitted with facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. Drones' unique ability to hover hundreds or thousands of feet in the air-- undetected, for many hours-- enables constant, pervasive monitoring over a wide area. Without clear privacy rules, public and private use of drones can usher in an era of unparalleled physical surveillance. Without transparency requirements, citizens will not even have the basic right to know who owns the drone watching them from above. Congress, the FAA, industry bodies, and the American people all should play a role in ensuring that drones are used responsibly.

Congress missed a major opportunity to build civil liberties protections into H.R. 658. Instead, Congress fast-tracked the bill, ordering the FAA to unleash drones without even requesting a study or holding a hearing on the civil liberties implications of domestic drone deployment. Perhaps indignant hearings are inevitable, however, once hours of embarrassing drone footage hits YouTube. Ideally, privacy rules for civilian and government use of drones would be an explicit part of the baseline privacy legislation, though Congress should consider giving the FAA authority to build privacy into the drone licensure process.

As CDT argued in a previous blog post, the FAA should build transparency standards into its drone certification process. First, applicants for a license to use a drone should be required to submit a statement disclosing the surveillance capabilities of the drone and the intended use of information the drone might collect. Second, the FAA should make the drone license and accompanying privacy statement publicly available online. There should not be an exception for law enforcement, although there may be a national security exception. Transparency requirements alone will certainly not provide adequate civil liberties protections to the American people, but they would generally prevent the secret use of drones.

The transparency requirements CDT proposes are well within the FAA's mandate to ensure the airways are used safely. There are many realistic scenarios in which knowledge of drone ownership can affect public safety, such as if an individual seeks to learn whether her abusive ex-husband possesses a drone license, as well as numerous legal precedents alleging a risk of harm to the public in divulging travels patterns, political views, or sensitive affiliations-- all of which drone surveillance can reveal. The FAA already makes many aircraft licenses searchable online, enabling the public to search for license-holders by name, craft tail number, or craft make and model - it would be illogical not to establish a similar process for drone licenses. Unfortunately, the FAA has steadfastly refused to identify current drone license-holders.

The drone industry has a big image problem. A glance through the comments section of any online news article on drones reveals an outpouring of strong opinions that alternate between alarm, fatalism, and-- very often-- fantasies of shooting drones out of the sky as a means to protect privacy. To counter this widespread negative sentiment, the drone industry has announced a major public relations effort to make Americans more comfortable with drones. (I sincerely hope this PR push will include drones dropping ice cream sandwiches and confetti on you on your birthday.) To be sure, drones can do many positive things and can spark broad technological innovation. However, the industry's goodwill gesture will not mask continued use of unmanned aircraft to watch over political rallies, monitor traffic, or levy taxes. The industry needs to do something a lot more substantial than PR.

The drone industry has a strong interest in supporting-- at minimum-- transparency requirements for drone licenses. Secret use of drones magnifies the perception of privacy invasion, sensationalizes the industry, and provides cover for those who would use drones for unethical or harmful purposes. The transparency requirements CDT proposes would subject the industry to almost no extra burden while providing the public with an awareness that could foster greater comfort with the technology. The drone industry should think seriously about a set of best practices for drone operators that include not identifying individuals over space and time without permission. CDT made similar arguments with regard to facial recognition.

The FAA is widely expected to propose rules for domestic drones this coming spring, at which time the FAA will solicit public comments. All Americans can submit their concerns to the FAA and demand, at a minimum, that all drone licenses be made publicly available. There is a lot at stake here. The fact that Congress, the FAA, and the drone industry appear to be ignoring the issue portends a big mess on the horizon. But by the time they get around to establishing the needed civil liberties protections, the horizon may already be filled with softly whirring black dots.

The bill passed the House 248-169, 24 Blue Dogs and Business-Dems joining all but 12 Republicans to take another giant step into Big Brother Land-- courtesy of Buck McKeon. All the usual suspects-- corporate whores like Cantor, Ryan, Upton, et al-- joined McKeon to push this through. Interestingly enough so did several Tea party-supported Republicans who were elected by people who aren't interested in drones snooping into their lives. A good example of a well-compensated corporate whore who took lots of money from the drone industry lobbyists and then voted to sell out his constituents on their behalf was John Mica (R-FL). Florida progressive Democrat Nick Ruiz isn't sure which drone supporter he'll be facing in November, crony-capitalist John Mica or lunatic fringe teabagger Sandy Adams. The two of them are in a life-and-death cage match for who will face Nick in the general. Mica voted for the drones because he was paid to. Adams was too stupid to figure out that her Tea Party base would be unhappy with a piece of legislation that impinges so directly on individual liberties. (She's also a member of McKeon's hopelessly corrupt Drone Caucus.)
"All the way from the Left to the Right of the political spectrum-- voters, privacy advocates and everyone against unwarranted surveillance of citizens by corporations or government-- are stunned by Congress' decision to essentially underwrite drone flights over American skies. But that's what happens when you elect people like Sandy Adams (R-FL) and John Mica (R-FL), both of whom voted to OK the use of drones, domestically, this week. And that's one more reason, why I'm running against them in the new FL District 7.

Rather than obsessing over the greater good of defense contractors that want to sell America surveillance drones, let's focus instead on the greater good, livelihood and socioeconomic improvement of our people. We don't need more unwarranted surveillance and invasions of our privacy-- what Americans want and need are higher wages, more jobs, greener energy, a cleaner environment and a better education for our children. It's just that simple."

UPDATE: Is This What Tea Party Activists Want-- 30,000 Drones Spying On Us?

Led by Buck McKeon, conservatives voted overwhelmingly to approve 30,000 drones flying over the American skies. Is this what the foolish Tea Party activists gave us by giving the Republican Party the majority in Congress? Were they just kidding about personal privacy?
Do not feel bad for not knowing about this, because, similar to the anti-Constitutional NDAA legislation, they purposefully tried to hide this from the American public. The corporate controlled mainstream media was once again complicit and was an integral accessory in this crime against “We the People.” The corporate mainstream media failed us all miserably once again.

Sure, the corporate media did fail us. And these guys are paid by the same sociopaths who have bankrolled the careers of politicians like Buck McKeon, Sandy Adams, John Mica, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Fred Upton and the rest of the gang that pushed this outrage through.

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At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Buck can get drones to fly over every city in America, but he can't stop Cemex?

He needs to go, now.


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