Obama’s first director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, wanted the CIA to use its [drone strike] capability more strategically. His reading of the intelligence suggested that the collateral harm of the operation–the anger that the strikes caused among Pakistanis, even though the targeting was precise–was damaging to U.S. security interests. The CIA, in a deft bureaucratic move, simply stopped providing Blair’s office with advance notice of strikes. The dispute went all the way to the Office of the Vice President, which sided with the CIA, although Blair “won” the ability to have a director of national intelligence representative at CIA covert action briefings at the White House.
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.
The proliferation of drone technology has moved well beyond the control of the United States government and its closest allies. The aircraft are too easy to obtain, with barriers to entry on the production side crumbling too quickly to place limits on the spread of a technology that promises to transform warfare on a global scale. Already, more than 75 countries have remote piloted aircraft. More than 50 nations are building a total of nearly a thousand types. At its last display at a trade show in Beijing, China showed off 25 different unmanned aerial vehicles. Not toys or models, but real flying machines.
Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press (04/25/2013)
A particularly good – if depressing – political cartoon.
With drones, the question is how long before the dozens of states with the aircraft can arm and then operate a weaponized version. “Pretty much every nation has gone down the pathway of, ‘This is science fiction; we don’t want this stuff,’ to, ‘OK, we want them, but we’ll just use them for surveillance,’ to, ‘Hmm, they’re really useful when you see the bad guy and can do something about it, so we’ll arm them,’ ” Singer said. He listed the countries that have gone that route: the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany, China. “Consistently, nations have gone down the pathway of first only surveillance and then arming.”
It’s the creeping use, combined with perceptions of citizens’ inability to affect government behavior that, combined, arguably are provoking resistance to drones in Canada and the US.