In a post from October, The Shackles of Citizenry: Guilty In Any Land, I related this story from my days of employment with a DC-based publisher:
I think I’ve told the following story to several of my friends over the last few years: my former employer was headquartered in DC and on a trip there, while in a cab to or from the airport I heard a local call-in show. The topic was, I think, crime and gang violence and the guest on the show was the DC Chief of Police. A caller asked if the police might use drones to target and eliminate gang leaders just like the military was doing with terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan (not yet Yemen to my knowledge). The host was horrified and said, “Not in my America!” and the Chief laughed and said that they were constrained by law to presume the innocence of all citizens and that a drone strike seemed a clear violation of our constitutional rights to due process.
Greenwald gives us further information regarding the “dronification” of our local, militarized, police forces in this post, “NPR’s domestic drone commercial.”
Even leaving aside the issue of weaponization (police officials now openly talk about equipping drones with “nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun”), the use of drones for domestic surveillance raises all sorts of extremely serious privacy concerns and other issues of potential abuse. Their ability to hover in the air undetected for long periods of time along with their comparatively cheap cost enables a type of broad, sustained societal surveillance that is now impractical, while equipping them with infra-red or heat-seeking detectors and high-powered cameras can provide extremely invasive imagery. The holes eaten into the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections by the Drug War and the War on Terror means there are few Constitutional limits on how this technology can be used, and there are no real statutory or regulatory restrictions limiting their use. In sum, the potential for abuse is vast, the escalation in surveillance they ensure is substantial, and the effect they have on the culture of personal privacy — having the state employ hovering, high-tech, stealth video cameras that invade homes and other private spaces — is simply creepy.
“Creepy” is too 4th grade halloween. This is terrifying and intended to be so.
Our country has long been at the precipice of martial law. This is our dive into that abyss.
You remember this hymn, written in 1831, called our “de facto anthem” prior to the Star Spangled Banner?
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
I don’t think anyone sings that one anymore, do they?