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Drones coming to airspace near you?

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: May 7, 2012 - 1:25:48 PM

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RQ4 Global Hawk Drone Photo: MGN Online
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - While most Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s use of drones in wars abroad, concerns are growing about domestic use of the technology for surveillance at home.

“Drones are coming,” explained Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Advisor for the American Civil Liberties Union at a press conference April 26. “There are increasing demands by police departments to use them for surveillance. Drones are cheap. Currently there are 300 authorizations to use them. Current privacy laws are not enough in the face of this technology.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled you don’t have Fourth Amendment rights to privacy from aerial surveillance,” he added. “Drones will be an eye in the sky tracking our every move … police should not be able to use drones unless under specific conditions.”

Since 2005 the Customs and Border Protection Agency has used drones to search for immigrants and drugs on the Northern and Southern borders. Customs currently operates seven Predator B drones, which are controlled remotely by pilots sitting in Arizona, North Dakota and Florida. They hope to expand to 24 by 2016.

Police and sheriffs around the country are acquiring smaller drones for use in SWAT operations. On Feb. 6, Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration, which had been holding back expansion of domestic drone use, opened up domestic airspace to private and commercial drones by 2015 and immediately speed up the licensing process to permit the deployment of government (military, homeland security, and law enforcement) drones in commercial U.S. airways.

CODEPINK, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve hosted an International Drone Summit in D.C. April 28 and 29. The summit consisted of multiple panels dealing with issues ranging from the expanding use of surveillance drones to the Obama administration’s targeted killing program.

“We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder and one of the summit organizers as well as author of the new book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.” “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.”

“We don’t know who is being killed and why. People are being targeted by their patterns of behavior. The strikes are not new but the level of authority to now use them in America is new.”

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. U.S. drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, in covert missions.

While drones were initially primarily used by the military and CIA for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are currently routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen under the guise of the war on terror.

U.S. citizens are not off limits to drone strikes. Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was considered influential in efforts to radicalize and incite American Muslims to commit terrorist acts. He was placed on a kill or capture list in 2010. Last year he was targeted and killed in Yemen by a CIA drone. Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen, was also killed in the attack.

Weeks later Mr. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, and a 17-year-old Yemeni cousin were killed in a drone strike that left nine people dead in Southeastern Yemen.

Related news:

Iran reveals new data about downed US drone (PRESSTV, 04-28-2012)

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