By Marta Mossburg
The Hendricks County Flyer
Mon Mar 25, 2013, 02:12 PM EDT
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently filibustered the confirmation of John Brennan for Central Intelligence Agency director over the fine points of drone use on American citizens.
He stood before the Senate for 13 hours to protest the fact that the government said it could under "extraordinary circumstances" strike an American citizen labeled an enemy combatant on U.S. soil.
Many ridiculed him for arguing about something that will never happen.
Maybe it won't. But in highlighting what is likely an obscure event and getting a ton of media coverage in the process, Rand, a Republican, launched what I hope is the opening salvo of a much bigger debate about the loss of civil liberties in the country.
The issue of drones, in particular, is a great place to start the discussion. Once used primarily to assist U.S. troops overseas in killing enemy fighters and to patrol the U.S. border, they are now being used to surveil U.S. citizens throughout the country.
In one of the first public instances of the federal government lending drones to local law enforcement agencies, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) let the Grand Forks, N.D., police and the sheriff's office borrow a multimillion dollar Predator in 2011 to monitor a farmer accused of not returning cows worth $6,000 to a neighbor.
If something so financially trivial prompts government into using drones, what does it say about the ubiquity of their future use?
Today, DHS is not only lending drones to local agencies but distributing grants to them so that they can buy their own without an official policy in place to guide how and when they can be used. Congress, however, has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to change airspace rules to make it easier for local police and other organizations to use them.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act request discovered that 358 public institutions, including 14 universities and colleges, have permits to fly them.
This means that machines that can film people not accused of a crime and store the information indefinitely could soon be hovering over your home and neighborhood because the owners and/or the operators feel like it.
According to a recent report by NBC News, the FAA estimates that about 10,000 commercial drones will be flying in the U.S. by about 2020, fueling many schools to start offering training for unmanned aircraft. Who could be against jobs, right?
Before all these programs start, taxpayer dollars are spent, and gazillions of images are stored, shouldn't the public and its representatives thoroughly debate the parameters of how the machines can be used?
It took a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court last year to tell law enforcement they needed a warrant to track people via GPS, so it's clear once technology is available, government officials and others will use it regardless of the ethics - and constitutionality of it.
I don't know if Americans are yet prepared to become residents of London, where cameras blanket the city, and do not think current law adequately protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure linked to information gathered from unmanned aircraft.
It is also scary to think of how drones dehumanize people. Information generated by them transforms individuals into data points to be analyzed by big government or big business in the same way that they do to enemy combatants. Using a weaponized video game to protect U.S. citizens is one thing, but to turn them loose on Americans, even for civilian reasons, should not be a natural progression.
Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been told it's necessary to sacrifice civil liberties for safety. But the vast majority of new government powers have been used not to monitor terrorists, but for traditional law enforcement.
Just because technology exists does not mean it should be used.
Without people like Sen. Paul questioning government, however, cradle to grave surveillance will become as American as obesity and bankrupt entitlement programs.
- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.
December 10, 2013
Indiana’s lopsided win in the Old Oaken Bucket game ended yet another disappointing season for those unfortunate enough to call themselves Hoosier Football fans. As a member of that tortured lot, the climactic victory over hapless, one-win Purdue offered little solace.
December 9, 2013
December 7, 2013
When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.
November 18, 2013
Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
November 12, 2013
Having gone to a football school in the heart of basketball country, I was never around soccer in my youth, and thus haven’t been a soccer guy in adulthood.
November 5, 2013
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've seen this before.
October 29, 2013
There have been a lot of big games played in Indianapolis, none bigger than the Colts' unforgettable win over New England in the AFC championship seven years ago.
While next Monday's visit from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won't eclipse that monumental event, there is no doubt that the city has never and will never experience another night like No. 18's return.
October 17, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
A change in diet quickly alters the types of bacteria living in the human gut, a finding that suggests this rapid adaptability to different foods can be used to control illnesses tied to stomach microbes, researchers said.
December 11, 2013
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