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March 29, 2006

Unmanned Aerial Drones to Spy on US Citizens

Slashdot mentioned the following CNET article:

"Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been flying over Iraq and Afghanistan, but now the Bush administration wants to use them for domestic surveillance. A top Homeland Security official told Congress today, according to this CNET News.com article, that: "We need additional technology to supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective monitoring of United States territory." One county in North Carolina is already using UAVs to monitor public gatherings. But what happens when lots of relatively dumb drones have to share airspace with aircraft carrying passengers? A pilot's association is worried."

Uh...the Pilots Association? Fark the pilots and commercial craft. Where's the outrage against spying on innocent citizens? Hello? Anyone?

Posted by Peenie Wallie on March 29, 2006 at 11:57 PM


But what happens when lots of relatively dumb drones have to share airspace with aircraft carrying passengers? A pilot's association is worried."

Maybe the pilots are worried that the robots will take over their jobs.

Posted by: Robert R. on March 30, 2006 at 7:46 AM

As a truckdriver, I don't like the idea of autonomous vehicles on our roads, either.

Posted by: B.J. McKay on March 30, 2006 at 12:17 PM

Posted by: Robert R. on March 31, 2006 at 8:09 AM

The novel Enemies Foreign and Domestic (Chapter 6) illustrated the potential for abuse:

[BATFE Special Agent Wally] Malvone walked with Silvari out through the back door, around the house and up the path to his car. “Joe, I gave Castillo my proposal to activate the STU and turn it into the Special Projects Division today. You know he’s by the book, so he won’t go for it, but he’ll pass it on up to Boxell. Wilson’s already got a copy; he’s just waiting for it to come through channels.? David Boxell was the Director of the BATFE; Paul Wilson was the Deputy Attorney General. “Boxell’s a dip shit, but he’ll see which way the wind is blowing and go along. Wilson’s already in our pocket, he’s going to be our pitchman to the Attorney General and the president.?

“Is Wilson still banging that little senorita in the hot tub?? asked Silvari.

“I guess so. I think she’s still at his place. Who’d have ever guessed that an old goat like Wilson would go for a teenage taco like her??

“Did Wilson’s wife ever find out??

“No, and she won’t as long as he does his part,? said Malvone.

“You sent him a copy of the video tape??

“Damn right. It’s my favorite movie; I’ve only watched it about a hundred times.?

“Yeah Wally, that was a nice morning’s work.?

The STU had its own single-engine Piper Lance, and had obtained a BigEye surveillance pod for it. The BigEye was a gyro-stabilized combination video camera for daytime use, and infra-red camera for night use. An operator in the plane could put the camera’s cursor mark on a stationary or moving ground target and the camera would lock on to it even as the plane circled high above, out of sight and sound of its quarry.

The extensive use of light planes was a tradition in the ATF going back decades; from the time when the “revenue agents? had flown them to spot bootleg liquor stills from the air. These pilot-qualified agents bragged that for them ATF stood for ‘agents that fly’. The numerous flying special agents and ATF light planes often permitted them to reach the scenes of federal crimes involving illegal firearms or explosives before any other agencies. Any one-horse Podunk town with a dirt landing strip nearby could usually have ATF agents on the ground in a few hours at most. The ATF was independently air-mobile to a greater degree than most other agencies at the light plane end of the aviation spectrum.

After a brief familiarization period with the BigEye Malvone gave his air team the addresses of a dozen senior government officials who were in a position to help the STU. They hit pay dirt on a Sunday morning in June when the Piper was flying lazy eights over Fairfax County Virginia, and they noticed activity at the estate of Deputy AG Paul Wilson. A Mercedes arrived with a young couple who turned out to be Wilson’s daughter and son-in-law. Mrs. Wilson then left with them to attend church services.

Soon after the driveway’s automatic gate closed behind the Mercedes, Paul Wilson had appeared in a bathrobe on the back patio of the mansion by the swimming pool, accompanied by someone else. The stabilized zoom lens of the Big Eye then recorded in intimate detail the white-haired senior federal official and a black-haired girl playing in the Jacuzzi, with no detail left to the imagination for the next fifteen minutes. Upon further investigation the girl had turned out to be the 16 year old daughter of the Wilson’s Costa Rican housekeeper, who had taken the day off.

Malvone was smiling broadly at the memory. “As soon as I saw that tape I knew we’d own Wilson, we’d have him in our pocket. When the time comes he’s going to go to bat for us, big time, and we’ll get the Special Projects Division approved.?

“The FBI’s going to fight it. They’ll never let ATF have a new division with that much power.?

Posted by: A.C. on March 31, 2006 at 10:51 AM

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