Sunday, December 11, 2011

Drones over North Dakota

It started when gun-toting homeowners chased off the local Sheriff who was investigating some missing cows.

Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.

He also called in a Predator B drone.

As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.

But that was just the start. Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
This is apparently the "first known arrests of U.S. citizens involving the spy planes in domestic cases". Emphasis on the known.

The larger question is, did Congress actually authorize this use when they gave U.S. Customs and Border Protection permission to buy unarmed Predators? The idea was they would use them to "search for illegal immigrants and smugglers on the country's northern and southwestern borders." Last I looked, North Dakota was not a entry point for either illegal immigration or drug smuggling.

Disturbingly, "officials in charge of the fleet said they have authority to perform such missions through congressional budget requests that cite 'interior law enforcement support.'" Note the use of the word "fleet." Who knows how many of these drones are already deployed, invisibly spying on US citizens?

This is unlikely to cause nearly enough alarm among ordinary Americans. In the instant case, the perps seem kind of crazy and violent and you know, thank God no one was hurt in their capture. But ordinary Americans would do well to remember the militarization of every local podunk police force in America was justified under fighting the war on drugs. So even when local police arrived in tanks, dressed in SWAT gear and busted down doors to serve warrants on minor drug dealers, no one cared. Hell, they were just drug thugs. But sometimes they busted down the wrong door. And innocent people died. And now those same tactics are being used against unarmed, peaceful protesters, seeking redress of their grievances with the government.

A police state doesn't happen overnight. Big changes happen in just such tiny incremental infringements. If we wait to express our concern until, like the Geneva Conventions, Posse Comitatus is rendered quaint, it will be too late.

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Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I will never forget the words of a German who lived through the right wing slide of the 30's -- every step toward the cliff seemed so necessary and useful and justified that we never noticed where it was taking us until it was too late.

And of course those bogeymen are so scary we should be glad to have officer friendly peeking into our bedrooms, right?

And of course such things are the ones we know about. Every move we make, every thing we buy or read or sell or say leaves an electronic paper trail today and if it doesn't, they can put a GPS tracker on us without probable cause and coming soon to a fascist country near you, they may be able to make you disappear without having to tell anyone why.

10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Frightening really. The creep is so obvious to me. I worry that not enough people see it.

5:52:00 PM  

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