People were shocked in 2007 when Texas news KPRC revealed that local police were conducting drone tests on American soil. Some cried “conspiracy theory” even as further revelations quickly showed that a full program had been established with Customs and Border Protection as far back as 2004. Drone flights took advantage of the 100-mile-wide “Constitution-free Zone” around the perimeter of the United States within which drones were permitted to operate for border security — two-thirds of the U.S. population happens to reside within this area.
The targeted killing of American citizens abroad jarred people enough to consider the “mission creep” taking place, finally wondering when strikes might land on American soil. Rand Paul pushed this “debate” into the mainstream with his much-publicized filibuster, though he later backed down by hedging his words within the definition of “imminent threat.” Paul’s comments drew severe criticism even from libertarians, prompting him to explain further. It’s an important distinction to make clear, and is the same one left unresolved by the amendment to ban drone strikes on U.S. citizens in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
So while it seems like a fierce debate is taking place, and plans to subvert the Constitution are being thwarted, every new stone overturned continues to reveal more. Rather than true debate, there has been a scramble for the public to catch up to what already has been done, much in the same way as the NSA spying story. So, what will the future bring?
For those who have been following this steady progression of drone use, as well as the continued development in high-tech “non-lethal” weapons, one might already have wondered when the two would officially merge over America. It appears that Homeland Security has also been considering this aspect behind closed doors for quite some time.
Congress already has given the FAA permission to establish safe flying rules for drones in civilian airspace throughout the U.S. by 2015.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been at the forefront of attempting to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act and through lawsuits that will show the full scope of what the military-industrial complex has in store for America. What they have found so far is quite disturbing.
According to the documents, CBP already appears to be flying drones well within the Southern and Northern US borders, and for a wide variety of non-border patrol reasons. What’s more — the agency is planning to increase its Predator drone fleet to 24 and its drone surveillance to 24 hours per day / 7 days per week by 2016.
As the Concept of Operations report notes, CBP’s goal is that its drone data will be “persistently available” (p. 21) and interoperable (p. 29) — not just within CBP, but to other agencies, and also possibly to other countries. CBP plans that its “UAS will provide assured monitoring of entities along land borders, inland seas, littorals and high seas with sufficient frequency, continuity, accuracy, spectral diversity, and data content to produce actionable information. (p. 29) [emphasis added, source]
The new documents that EFF has obtained show a desire for that “actionable information” to translate into Predator drones equipped with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize targets of interest.” And the documents are dated 2010. But even this is most likely the tip of the iceberg.
It was highlighted in 2011 that Homeland Security awarded a $300,000 grant to Texas law enforcement for Shadowhawk micro drones that could be equipped with, “taser batons, 37mm or 40mm grenade launchers or with 12 gauge shotgun rounds. Precision mini munitions could be added later to its threatening arsenal.” So it’s doubtful that non-lethal weapons are all there is to be concerned about. In fact, directed energy weapons can be deployed from the air via the Vigilant Eagle system developed by Raytheon among others.
Nevertheless, most Americans look at the drones-in-America debate as something entirely separate from what occurs overseas, and politicians are only too happy to make us forget. It has been repeatedly shown that more innocent people are killed in the various undeclared wars and military actions than are those identified as enemies of the United States. Let’s keep this in mind when we hear the term, “targets of interest.”
The military apparatus has been busy studying ways to turn real human beings into unthinking automatons, while further increasing the distance between cause and effect. This is where the greatest danger really lies. It was perfectly shown in the horror revealed by the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video.
As admitted by a drone operator below, it is a system that potentially creates a whole new generation of sociopaths. For him, he realized it too late — 1,626 people too late.
As we move two steps forward and one step back in this so-called debate over how and where drones should be used, politicians seem to be serving only to maintain the pot at the right temperature to keep citizens from realizing the pot is heading to the boiling point. The powers-that-be are desperately hoping that we forget the central argument: remote-controlled machines of surveillance and war have no place in a supposedly civilized world.
Unfortunately, most Americans have been trained through the inherent distance of media that these tools are needed to bring civilization to barbarous sections of the world. Sadly, those who have had their empathy removed might have a different perspective as the barbarity of Empire America is beginning to boomerang upon itself.
Read other articles by Nicholas West HERE