Susanne Posel, Contributor
David Petraeus, director of the CIA, is strongly “suggesting” that the White House approve an expansion of the CIA’s drone fleet to extend the agency’s ability to survey under a paramilitary force.
Justification for this necessity is campaigns in Middle Eastern regions like Pakistan and Yemen. Petraeus cites the reemergence of al-Qaeda in North Africa. This would add 10 more drones to the 35 already used in counterterrorism operations. Ironically, the CIA denied knowledge of drone use in the US during a lawsuit prompted by the ACLU; as well as refused a Freedom of Information Act request claiming that they could not confirm US government drone use.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserted that the use of drones in American skies were for assurance of public safety. In collaboration with corporations specializing in surveillance, DHS has made outward requests for drone manufacturers to have their products used for spying on Americans – and get paid for it.
The DHS has teamed up with the World Surveillance Group, Inc., to develop technologies specializing in “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive (collectively, CBRNE), command, control, computers, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR), and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).” The federal agency also put out a solicitation for “participation in the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) project from the small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) for transition to its customers” to use drones in American skies for more than the expressed purpose of spying on US citizens to secure their safety.
Drone testing is slated to be conducted overhead at Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma. According to the Borders and Maritime Security Division of the DHS, they “will conduct flight testing and evaluation of airborne sensors and small unmanned aerial systems,” the request reads, and now invites vendors to submit drones to be tested “under a wide variety of simulated but realistic and relevant real-world operation scenarios.”
Military personnel will watch for “something of interest” when flying their drones and apply military judgment and get permission from a “military commander” to “conduct a physical search of the private property.”
In July, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of DHS relayed to a House Committee meeting that drones would be useful for public safety or a disaster scenario. There is also the specific testing of a Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety that would be used for encompassing surveillance. Napolitano said:
With respect to Science and Technology, that directorate, we do have a funded project, I think it’s in California, looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster, such as a forest fire, and how they could give us better information.
Researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated to officials at the DHS how drones could be hacked into through their navigation systems. Known as “spoofing”, a false signal through the Global Positioning System (GPS) could be used to “trick” the drones into going onto a new course.
Representatives Ed Markey and Joe Barton wrote in a letter to Michael Huerta, FAA acting commissioner, of their concerns about the flight patterns of drones in civilian airspace. “The potential for invasive surveillance of daily activities with drone technology is high,” Markey said.
“Standards for informing the public and ensuring safeguards must be put in place now to protect individual privacy. I look forward to the FAA’s responses and will monitor this situation as the use of drone technology in our airspace increases.”
In February of this year, Congress demanded the FAA create “rules to guide domestic drone flights”. This action paved the way for defense and aerospace lobbyists to vie for profits amidst the hopes of using drones against American citizens.
After the regulations are complete, those drones will be approved for use by private operators and local law enforcement, as well as federal agencies. Lobbyists for private firms are anxious to reap the profits to be had from the new acquisition of US military-grade drones by DHS.
Jennifer Lynch, EFF staff attorney, remarked that drones “could be revealing deeply personal details’ about American citizens.” Lynch went on to state:
Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities. As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens. The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives. We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why.
Drones serve many purposes. They are a “useful tool” for Obama to kill “terrorists”, but they can also be modified to assist farmers in spraying crops with pesticides.
Susanne Posel is the Chief Editor of Occupy Corporatism. Our alternative news site is dedicated to reporting the news as it actually happens; not as it is spun by the corporately funded mainstream media. You can find us on our Facebook page.