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Predator Drone Helps Nab Cattle Rustlers 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the cattle-rustlers-apparently-still-exist dept.
riverat1 writes "KTLA reports police in North Dakota arrested three men accused of cattle rustling with the help of a Predator B drone from nearby Grand Forks AFB. The sheriff of Nelson Country was chased off by three armed men when he went to serve a warrant, so he came back the next morning with reinforcements, including the drone, which, while circling 2 miles overhead, was able to determine the whereabouts of the men on their 3,000 acre spread and the fact that they were unarmed. A SWAT team quickly moved in and apprehended the men. Local police say they have used the Predator drones for at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and DEA have used the drones for domestic investigations as well."
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Predator Drone Helps Nab Cattle Rustlers

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  • Half-Life 2 (Score:5, Funny)

    by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:12PM (#38348338)
    I never would have guessed that they would actually take HL2 as a guide. Did someone forget to tell them it was just a video game?
    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:26PM (#38348560) Homepage Journal

      Some bizarre version of Phil Dick, Orwell, Terry Gilliam and Mat Groening.

      If William Gibson had imagined anything like "The Kardashians" in Count Zero? It would have seemed over-the-top.

      Now, we have the dystopian technologies, without the advances in immersive entertainment that these were supposed to come with.

      Predator drones and Jersey Shore. The Jeffersonian experiment is really over.

      • by EdZ (755139) on Monday December 12, 2011 @08:24PM (#38350184)
        I do feel that the whole "police UAVs = 1984" thing is slightly odd, given that all a UAV is in this role is a cheaper police helicopter. Unless your objection is specifically against all cameras between altitudes of 1.6m and 100km, I don't see much difference between the platform being manned or unmanned.
        • by DaleSwanson (910098) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:24PM (#38350664)

          I do feel that the whole "police UAVs = 1984" thing is slightly odd, given that all a UAV is in this role is a cheaper police helicopter. Unless your objection is specifically against all cameras between altitudes of 1.6m and 100km, I don't see much difference between the platform being manned or unmanned.

          It's the same thing as a GPS tracker on a car vs a full surveillance team. In both cases the problem is that the new tech is much cheaper. Because it is cheaper it will be used much more frequently and by many more agencies. My local police department can't afford their own helicopter, but 10 years from now I wouldn't be surprised if they have a drone.

          It boils down to the previous expense made it much less common, and traceable. You probably couldn't use a police helicopter to follow some guy who made your shitlist 24/7, but drones will soon make that sort of thing inevitable. At least when this stuff was less common abuses were also less common; when it was more expensive, accountability was also higher.

        • It's not just the UAVs. It's probably also the red light cameras. A war the will never end (there always has been and always will be the threat of terror/fear). The bill going through congress to allow the military to detain U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without trial (with huge bi-partisan and little outrage from the citizenry). Carrier IQ. The idea that a private vendor doesn't have to play by the same rules as the government even if they're acting on behalf of the government. The government needs a wa
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Here is the problem that I haven't seen anyone else mention yet:

          The problem is that it is military personnel and equipment that are helping local law enforcement. If law enforcement wants to get their own drones, that's a different matter. But the military has absolutely no place getting involved in civilian law enforcement affairs, even to offer "innocent" help.

          If there was ever something that could be called a genuine slippery slope, this is it.
        • Here is a problem that I haven't seen anyone else mention yet:

          The problem is that it is military personnel and equipment that are helping local law enforcement. If law enforcement wants to get their own drones, that's a different matter. But the military has absolutely no place getting involved in civilian law enforcement affairs, even to offer "innocent" help.

          If there was ever something that could be called a genuine slippery slope, this is it.

          [Added later:] I read a bit further and saw that other
      • by denzacar (181829)

        If William Gibson had imagined anything like "The Kardashians" in Count Zero? It would have seemed over-the-top.

        Try this [wikipedia.org] instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:14PM (#38348362)

    three men accused of cattle rustling with the help of a Predator B drone

    You know, the story would have been a lot cooler this way.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:28PM (#38348588) Homepage Journal

      three men accused of cattle rustling with the help of a Predator B drone

      You know, the story would have been a lot cooler this way.

      I see a potential excuse for the US DoD on that captured drone in Iran...

      "Yes, we were pursuing some cattle rustlers."

      Need Jon Lovitz to make it credible.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        If Iran can override the signal and take control so can you!

    • There is actually a moral to this story.

      If you're doing anything illegal, make sure you have anti-aircraft capabilities.

      And if you're going out to the out house, make sure you carry your guns with you.

  • Not military (Score:5, Informative)

    by Discopete (316823) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:15PM (#38348382) Homepage

    Before anyone goes all ape-s$%t about this being an intrusion of the military into civilian affairs, the drones in question are owned and operated by Customs and Border Patrol, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. They are housed at an Air Force base, but not used nor owned by the USAF.

    CBP had been using drones for a couple of years to patrol the borders and this is an extension of that mission. Works better than a helo, especially for very large areas.

    • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nadaka (224565) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:17PM (#38348402)

      And that is supposed to make us feel better? CBP and Homeland Security are some of the worst domestic rights offenders out there.

      • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:35PM (#38348692)
        However, this was NOT a case of the predator just flying around on a fishing expedition. The predator didn't come into play until after the police had been chased off by armed men while executing a warrant. So the real issue here wasn't cattle rustling, but rather apprehending known "presumed armed & dangerous" fugitives.
      • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:35PM (#38348700)
        Yes, it is supposed to make you feel better. The US military is forbidden from acting on US soil, and had it been owned by them, this would have been clearly illegal and a violation of US law. As it is, the drone was used after armed men chased a sheriff who was serving a legally-issue warrant away. Violation of rights: hells no, not in THIS case (they could have used a helo to do the same thing. Only reason this is a story is "oh noes, the drones!"). Could it become one? Sure.
        • The US military is sworn to defend against enemies, both foreign AND DOMESTIC. How can they do that if they are forbidden from acting on US soil?
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Posse comitatus act of 1878 prohibits the use of Army (and by extention Air Force) assets for use in civil law enforcement, except under authority of the Constitution or Act of Congress. The protections of the Posse Comitatus have been extended to the Marine Corps and Navy by Executive Order, but do not apply to National Guard troops in Title 32 status (not federalized) or Coast Guard generally. It also has specific exemptions carved out for drug enforcement and troops used pursuant to the insurrection act

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Maybe this will help [wikipedia.org]. Specifically, see the section on exclusions and limitations [wikipedia.org] for further clarification.

        • When police are equipped and have a coordinated command like soldiers what's the difference? While they had an arrest warrant, drones can of course be used for blanket surveillance (on as large a scale as wanted, unlike helos) because citizens have "no expectation of privacy" when they are not cowering under their beds.
          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            Police don't have tanks, Javelins, Hellfire Missiles, Apache helicopters, F-22s...

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Yes, it is supposed to make you feel better. The US military is forbidden from acting on US soil, and had it been owned by them, this would have been clearly illegal and a violation of US law.

          So instead we've militarized our police forces.
          I don't see how that's supposed to be better.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Synerg1y (2169962)

      And promptly turned the technology against the American public with tears of joy in their beady little eyes.

    • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:17PM (#38348412) Journal

      Relax guys, this isn't the military piloting this drone, it's the DHS!

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Lots of military gear makes its way to civilian police, that is pretty normal.

      The time to freak out is when they get armed.

      • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:28PM (#38348590) Homepage Journal

        That you consider the situation "Pretty normal"?

        The frog is already half-boiled.

      • Re:Not military (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:30PM (#38348622)

        The issue is that ICE isn't responsible for cattle rustling and using them in this fashion that far from the border represents significant mission creep. If they found them while doing routine surveillance of the borer or near the border that would be one thing, but Grand Forks is quite far from the border with Canada and this isn't really something which the ICE has any right to intervene on.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          And if local LEO asked ICE "Hey while you got that thing up there protecting us from illegal aliens from Canada would you mind checking out these rustlers since you have nothing better to do?"

        • Re:Not military (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheReaperD (937405) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:29PM (#38349552)

          I wish I had mod points at the moment...

          ICE has had a HUGE expansion of mission parameters in the last year. What makes this such a problem is that ICE is one of the few government enforcement agencies that has a large legal leeway that usually does not require warrants. This makes sense when they are patrolling the border as things happen really quickly and they have to react accordingly. But, as of earlier this year, their mandate has been vastly expanded to include things such as domain seizures and domestic law enforcement actions. Earlier this year, ICE's range was expanded to 200! miles inside the border and the media was silent. This covers a large portion of the country where a government law enforcement agency can act without a court order and detain you without cause. Now, the US Senate has passed a bill that will let them ship your ass strait to GITMO and leave you there to rot. It hasn't passed the house yet and Obama has issued a veto 'threat' but, don't hold your breath. In California, we had a recent series of of federal raids against medical marijuana growers and sellers that were legal by state standards (they went after the most clearly legal and above board operations first). The federal agency? Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in northern California, against organizations and people that were local and had nothing to do with cross-border drug smuggling verified by law enforcement agencies. They're being used as a back door way of avoiding law enforcement annoyances such as laws, due process, courts and citizen oversight. At this rate, by the time most people realize what is happening, we will be living in a fascist military state where big brother is watching. I guess Hunter Thompson was right :(

          • In California, we had a recent series of of federal raids against medical marijuana growers and sellers that were legal by state standards (they went after the most clearly legal and above board operations first).

            President Obama, while he was campaigning, promised [huffingtonpost.com] that this wouldn't happen. I didn't vote for him, but did hold out hope that he would be better on civil rights than our last president. It's a shame that they're about the same.

        • The border is effectively 100 miles thick, according to the government, and 2/3rds of Americans live within it. Grand Forks lies within the US/Canadian border. ICE could confiscate cattle within 100 miles of the border unless the farmer had proof that the cattle had not been brought in from Canada.
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Lots of military gear makes its way to civilian police, that is pretty normal.

        The time to freak out is when they get armed.

        The DHS has been doing this for years - huge budget and give-aways which have left some local LEO's bewildered, such as the Armored ATV some Kentucky sheriffs department recieved. I mean, what are you going to do with with that thing, go Rambo on some moonshiners?

    • Before anyone goes all ape-s$%t about this being an intrusion of the military into civilian affairs, the drones in question are owned and operated by Customs and Border Patrol, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. They are housed at an Air Force base, but not used nor owned by the USAF.

      I know I know.. and as somebody else pointed out, it's essentially an unmanned police helicopter.

      But.. if you told me fifteen years ago that SWAT teams were being deployed based on information garnered via a

      • by Discopete (316823)

        I agree completely, however in certain circumstances such as border monitoring, the predator drones are a much better option. Cruising at about 25000 feet, they can see an enormous amount of ground. When you add the infrared and thermal imaging capabilities they normally carry, it gives you the ability to spot an object the size of a coyote in the dark and relay that information and location to officers on the ground.

        In this case, on a 3,000 acre ranch, the use of a helicopter would have been cost-prohibiti

      • Mine from 1999: http://kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/fears.htm [kurtz-fernhout.com]

        "The race is on to make the human world a better (and more resilient) place before one of these overwhelms us:
        Autonomous military robots out of control
        Nanotechnology virus / gray slime
        Ethnically targeted virus
        Sterility virus
        Computer virus
        Asteroid impact

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:21PM (#38348466)

    I'll take some cattle rustlers over militarized police chasing cattle rustlers any day, thanks. Much like the cure/disease metaphor, not every policing measure targeting every crime improves society, even if successful...

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I'll take some cattle rustlers over militarized police chasing cattle rustlers any day, thanks. Much like the cure/disease metaphor, not every policing measure targeting every crime improves society, even if successful...

      Not the rancher, I take it. Funny thing, people are all over the Big Gummint and it's intrusion into their live and property, until that same Big Gummint catches the vermin who have been helping themselves to cattle. Now if that same drone finds the farmer's weed crop in the back forty, they'll be on again about Evil Big Gummint.

      I certainly can see a lot of good use for these things - Search and Rescue, scouting forest fires, avalanche control (have one that drops small explosives to trigger intended aval

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Heck, even if I was the rancher, I'd rather lobby for taxpayer reimbursement through some sort of "cattle-rustlin' loss fund" or something, rather than going all-out with militarized law enforcement. By the standards of ag. subsidies, it'd be pretty small, too. Plus, that way it wouldn't run the risk that they'd also find my weed patch, as you say.

        • by Gordonjcp (186804)

          even if I was the rancher, I'd rather lobby for taxpayer reimbursement through some sort of "cattle-rustlin' loss fund" or something

          So how exactly does this replace your stolen cattle?

          You can't just go out and buy more.

        • by khallow (566160)

          Heck, even if I was the rancher, I'd rather lobby for taxpayer reimbursement through some sort of "cattle-rustlin' loss fund" or something, rather than going all-out with militarized law enforcement.

          It wouldn't work for the same reason that nobody reimburses people for normal theft. Someone would drain the fund with fraudulent reports of crime.

    • by caseih (160668)

      Who said anything about militarized police? No really. The Predators used in border patrol are not armed. Maybe if the tea party has their way they will be.

      It wasn't so long ago that cattle rustling was a capital offense. Many a hanging in the old west was the punishment for this (with or without the support of the law!). Heck it might still be on the books in Texas.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Policing cattle rustling has been important throughout US history.

      Just because it doesn't make the news and "sophisticated urbanites" don't care about it doesn't mean that it's not still a major crime problem in ranching areas.

      Beef = MONEY.

  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:22PM (#38348494) Homepage

    I mean ... that could just as easily be a police helicopter up there as a drone.

    • by egamma (572162)

      I mean ... that could just as easily be a police helicopter up there as a drone.

      OMG! The government is saving the taxpayers money by using a drone instead of a helicopter!

      • by pclminion (145572)

        OMG! The government is saving the taxpayers money by using a drone instead of a helicopter!

        Funny, but the reduction in cost won't be used to save taxpayer money, it'll be used to fly more flights for the same budget.

    • Drones make it possible to have an eye looking down at you for your entire life. Seems new to me, but I'm not religious.
      • by dougmc (70836)

        Drones make it possible to have an eye looking down at you for your entire life.

        Not yet -- after all, drones generally still require a human pilot. (Yes, I know, some run via autopilot. But most of the serious ones do not.)

        If you're important enough, they could have an eye looking down at you for your entire life now -- but it would be very expensive. But if we can remove that human pilot, and remove the need for humans to interpret what the cameras see, and especially if we could make the drone the size of a R/C model rather than the GA-plane sized Predator, then the cost could com

        • "... if we could make the drone the size of a R/C model .. But we're not there yet."
          http://www.envirosagainstwar.org/know/read.php?itemid=10585 [envirosagainstwar.org]
          "Bringing 'Mini-Drones' and 'Green Design' to the Business of War"

          • by dougmc (70836)

            You're right, I didn't make myself very clear. Of course R/C plane sized drones exist, and there's also toys (but stepping stones to more serious, tiny devices) like the link you provided. But their capabilities are currently severely limited compared to the larger craft.

            If you're looking to replace a current police helicopter with all the gear it carries and all the stuff it can do, you can't do it with a 0.60 ci engine sized R/C plane. Not today. You can do some of it, but not all of it. There's a re

  • Look its just like anything else, if you're not a criminal you have nothing to worry about. Remember that scene in Minority Report, the one where those "Spider Drones" are released in the low income tenant building and proceed to crawl under every door, claw their way up the pant leg of every tenant, and then scan their eyeball for identification? Perfectly harmless!
  • by Scareduck (177470) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:24PM (#38348542) Homepage Journal

    It's poorly identified at the story link. The original can be found at latimes.com [latimes.com].

  • These aren't the drones you're looking for. ...
  • From TFA:

    The six adult Brossarts allegedly belonged to the Sovereign Citizen Movement, an antigovernment group that the FBI considers extremist and violent. The family had repeated run-ins with local police, including the arrest of two family members earlier that day arising from their clash with a deputy over the cattle.

    So it's a good chance they were violent nutters, which makes the use of drones a lot more reasonable in my book.

    Still, you have to worry about the cost (~$3200 per hour) of using predators for civilian use.

  • by Psion (2244) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:41PM (#38348810)
    This looks suspiciously like an effort to make the use of Predator drones in conjunction with police investigations seem acceptable to the general public. The fact is the Department of Homeland Security was behind the use of drones in this affair, and this is yet another camel's nose under the tent. A few more stories like this and then stories about the use of drones in police surveillance will no longer be "newsworthy". That's when their use will become truly ubiquitous ... when no one's paying attention any longer.
  • Seriously. Firstly they use a drone, then the drone establishes that the men are unarmed, and then they send in SWAT? WTF? 2 or 3 cops with pepper-spray would have done the job, or were the SWAT team bored?

    • by BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) on Monday December 12, 2011 @06:58PM (#38349078)
      Once you chase off a sheriff with weapons, your claim to use of excessive police force goes out the window, in my book. Further, the drone technology may have limitations that prevent it from being able to determine whether the suspects were truly unarmed. If you have 3 guys walking around a field, a drone can probably tell that they don't have long guns on them, but I highly doubt that the scan (thermal mode or visual) can detect sidearms. If I were a sheriff, I certainly wouldn't bet my life on that technology.
  • Cost [wikipedia.org] of a predator drone: $30M

    Cost [ask.com] of a cow: $2K

    So, as soon as they use a predator to round up 15,000 cows stolen, they'll break even....

  • by flyboy974 (624054) on Monday December 12, 2011 @07:42PM (#38349724)

    The FAA is still trying to figure out how to integrate UAS's. (They are not called UAV's in the FAA NAS system).

    Many legal issues remain:
    - Enforcing see and avoid rules required in VFR flight
    - Defining standards for communication with aircraft
    - Who do you enforce rules with a violation when there is an accident if there is no pilot
    - How to handle technical issues such as loss of control / software failure, physical issues such as loss of a trim type control, flap system, etc.
    - Weather issues such as high winds, icing

    As a pilot and somebody active in aviation software, I'm interested to see where things go here. The reason the military has been able to fly UAV's is because they don't have any rules. Do whatever you want. But in the civil area, we have rules because we choose to protect ourselves from our government and others.

    • The reason the military has been able to fly UAV's is because they don't have any rules. Do whatever you want. But in the civil area, we have rules because we choose to protect ourselves from our government and others.

      In some universe where the military had no rule, that would be a reasonable statement. But here in the real world, they do have rules - a whole raftload of them.

  • Does anyone here know what FAA rules apply to drones? I know people flying RC aircraft have to pay attention to sectionals. How about police helicoptors?

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