Attack of the Drones – US citizens growing discomfort over remote controlled ‘eyes in the sky’

by Mr. Charrington on May 23, 2012

With the use of domestic drones increasing, concern has not just come up over privacy issues, but also over the potential use of lethal force by the unmanned aircraft.

Drones have been used overseas to target and kill high-level terror leaders and are also being used along the U.S.-Mexico border in the battle against illegal immigration. But now, these drones are starting to be used domestically at an increasing rate.

The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed several police departments to use drones across the U.S. They are controlled from a remote location and use infrared sensors and high-resolution cameras.

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.

“Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle),” McDaniel told The Daily.

The use of potential force from drones has raised the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU, told CBSDC.

Crump feels one of the biggest problems with the use of drones is the remote location where they are operated from.

“When the officer is on the scene, they have full access to info about what has transpired there,” Crump explained to CBSDC. “An officer at a remote location far away does not have the same level of access.”

The ACLU is also worried about potential drones malfunctioning and falling from the sky, adding that they are keeping a close eye on the use of these unmanned aircraft by police departments.

“We don’t need a situation where Americans feel there is in an invisible eye in the sky,” Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at ACLU, told CBSDC.

Joshua Foust, fellow at the American Security Project, feels domestic drones should not be armed.

“I think from a legal perspective, there is nothing problematic about floating a drone over a city,” Foust told CBSDC. “In terms of getting armed drones, I would be very nervous about that happening right now.”

McDaniel says that his community should not be worried about the department using a drone.

“We’ve never gone into surveillance for sake of surveillance unless there is criminal activity afoot,” McDaniel told The Daily. “Just to see what you’re doing in your backyard pool — we don’t care.”

But the concern for the ACLU is just too great that an American’s constitutional rights will be trampled with the use of drones.

“The prospect of people out in public being Tased or targeted by force by flying drones where no officers is physically present on the scene,” Crump says, “raises the prospect of unconstitutional force being used on individuals.”


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