Rise of the Drones
by Robert Randle
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The Tacoma News Tribune featured an article on December 30, 2013 by Associated Press reporter Michelle Kindles, about the growing business of unmanned aerial drones, and the six states that have been awarded contracts so far; Washington State was not among the bidders for this newly evolving and potentially profitable commercial industry. Drones are supposed to be used by the military in the War on Terror to destroy al-Qaida insurgents in the Arabian Peninsula and Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan, not soaring overhead in American airspace. Proponents of this venture talk about the benefits to farmers, private businesses, the government (state/federal), and research opportunities for colleges and universities. The detractors on the other hand express “right of privacy” concerns and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to introduce la bill before Congress that would prohibit searches for illegal activity without a warrant. ACLU attorney Catherine Crump wants Congress to act now and enact legislation that would have nationwide privacy protections before the skies are filled with drones. If this isn’t bad enough, American citizens are increasingly placed under surveillance at-shopping malls, courtrooms, public libraries, art galleries, hotels, schools/colleges, government buildings (county, city, state, federal), sporting events, and watched by traffic cameras as we drive through intersections, etc. And thanks to Whistleblower Eric Snowden, the NSA has been collecting data on our personal/private cellphone conversations without our knowledge or permission.
In fact, Lawrence Hurley of Reuters was featured in Tacoma News Tribune January 18, 2014, NATION&WORLD section (page A-13), writing about 2 cases (Riley v California; U.S. v Wurie) that are scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the legal issue is “Whether police can search a criminal suspect’s cellphone [for evidence] after he has been arrested, without a search warrant”? Just like with the unmanned aerial drones, can law enforcement use technology in criminal prosecutions by extending the range of the “plain view” doctrine from a thousand feet up in the sky by the use of a telephoto camera lens of a residential home suspected of growing marijuana plants? It is all about protecting the Fourth Amendment guarantee which prohibits unreasonable search and seizures without a valid search warrant based upon “probable cause;” not on general principle, intuition, a lucky break, or some other chance and circumstance. This Brave New World or the “new normal” in America is beginning to look more like North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, or some totalitarian regime in the Middle East where, like with them, the increasing police powers of the state are slowly but surely eroding our civil liberties and privacy rights/right to an intimate life without government putting its nose into our personal business. What will be the next constitutional and fundamental right taken away or abridged? Is it like Gil Scott Heron of the Last Poets who defines “F-R-E-E-D-O-M” as free doom?
Of course one can always look on the bright side of things and say these changes are just growing pains and that American society, like the forecast on the economy in 2008, is strong and good. But wait, didn’t the Meltdown on Wall Street happen soon afterward? Perhaps not too much will be made of drones flying overhead and like most things, will be so commonplace that one will hardly notice, or it could be like the old saying, “The road to HELL is paved with good intentions.”
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
January 20, 2014
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