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Drones over America
June 7, 2012 - Stephen Browne
The Boeing aircraft company is testing the Phantom Eye, a robot drone designed to stay aloft for as long as four days observing and recording over huge areas. Models in development will be able to cruise for as long as ten days.
What has some people upset is, they are testing the drone in California for deployment over our own skies.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, FOX news commentator had this to say in an op-ed entitled, “Where is the outrage?”
“Don't believe me that this is coming? The photos that the drones will take may be retained and used or even distributed to others in the government so long as the "recipient is reasonably perceived to have a specific, lawful governmental function” in requiring them. And for the first time since the Civil War, the federal government will deploy military personnel inside the United States and publicly acknowledge that it is deploying them "to collect information about U.S. persons.”
It gets worse. If the military personnel see something of interest from a drone, they may apply to a military judge or "military commander” for permission to conduct a physical search of the private property that intrigues them. And, any "incidentally acquired information” can be retained or turned over to local law enforcement. What's next? Prosecutions before military tribunals in the U.S.?”
While I share Napolitano’s concerns about our privacy and the possible militarization of what are properly police functions within our borders, I would like to recommend a different perspective on the issue.
Surveillance devices are becoming ubiquitous in our society and there is very little we can do about it.
I just got a closed-circuit television camera I can hook up to my TV at home. I got it for $8 never-opened at a garage sale. I just missed a wireless version at another garage sale.
I’m seriously thinking of buying my son a very cool model rocket with a digital camera that snaps a picture at the apogee of its flight. I may even let him play with it.
You’re worried about surveillance drones? How much you want to bet there’ll be scaled down models for sale at Radio Shack in a few years?
That particular genie is out of the lamp and isn’t going back in.
Napolitano said, “The quoted phrases above are extracted from a now-public 30-page memorandum issued by President Obama's Secretary of the Air Force on April 23, 2012. The purpose of the memorandum is stated as "balancing … obtaining intelligence information … and protecting individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution…” Note the primacy of intelligence gathering over freedom protection, and note the peculiar use of the word "balancing.”
When liberty and safety clash, do we really expect the government to balance those values? Of course not. The government cannot be trusted to restrain itself in the face of individual choices to pursue happiness. That's why we have a Constitution and a life-tenured judiciary: to protect the minority from the liberty-stealing impulses of the majority.”
Again, I agree. But there is another way of dealing with this issue suggested by scientist, sci-fi writer, and commentator David Brin, in his 1998 book, “The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom?”
There is a lot to this book, but basically he says we don’t have to face a choice between our children’s security and our liberty, if the power of surveillance works both ways. That is to say, if the government can sit up there looking down on us, we ought to be able to look back at them.
Throw the process open. If the government has cameras on the street, then we should be able to use our smart phones to connect to those cameras. If they can spy on us, we should be able to spy right back at them.
Brin asks, "Can we stand living exposed to scrutiny, our secrets laid open if in return we get flashlights of our own that we can shine on anyone who might do us harm--even the arrogant and the strong?" A lot of people have seen problems in Brin’s scenarios - but that’s what Brin himself says is the strength of a free society. That issues are hashed out opening in the public arena, refined by feedback and argument until a pragmatic consensus can be reached.
So if you’re concerned about privacy issues, I strongly recommend you look into Brin’s writings on the subject.
And I’ll be seeing you...
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