DHS, Drones, and Domestic Surveillance

In the name of efficiency and good long-term planning, DHS is ensuring that its Predator Drones over the USA are able to distinguish persons from animals, evaluate whether such persons are armed, and are also integrating signals intelligence systems into the vehicles. From the article:

Homeland Security’s specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify “signals interception” technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and “direction finding” technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.

The analysis and interdiction capabilities being integrated into drones may – prospectively – be considered legal. If they are legal then it should be clear that ethical and normative (to say nothing of constitutional) claims should be brought to bear on the basis that such expansions of government surveillance are almost certain to be used inappropriately and to the disadvantage of American citizens and residents alike.