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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy United States

Who's Flying Those Drones? FAA Won't Say 405

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the speed-monitored-by-aircraft dept.
netbuzz writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation nine months ago filed a Freedom of Information Act request to prompt the FAA to release the names of government agencies and private entities that have received permission to fly unmanned aircraft over our heads. Nine months later, the FAA has neither released the information nor explained why it hasn't. On Tuesday the EFF filed suit (PDF) to force the agency to do so. Says EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch: 'Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans' movements and activities. As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.'"
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Who's Flying Those Drones? FAA Won't Say

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:08PM (#38665520)

    Not me.. I don't want to be groped and scaned by the tsa or worse by any of those tla alphabet groups for not doing anything.

    Citizen moving along, not looking at anything at all. Don't hellfire missile me bro.

     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:08PM (#38665522)

    Guess I can fly my own since they won't show me the list to prove my name's not on it...

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:01PM (#38666128) Journal
      Not to worry, you'll have a fine time proving that your name is on the list...
  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:10PM (#38665540)

    With all the economic problems going on, and no end in sight, and the approval rating of the entire government in the shitter, it's pretty obvious. This government knows that the populist uprisings are going to eventually come to our shores, this is why they're bringing the troops home, this is why there have been so many laws restricting the rights of American citizens as of late...

    There's going to be an American Spring, maybe not this year, but soon. Things cannot continue as they are...

    • by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:13PM (#38665572) Journal
      And here I thought they were bringing the troops home at the demands of the American people.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665588)

        You must think the demands of the American people counts for something.

      • by Thud457 (234763) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:16PM (#38665618) Homepage Journal
        It's gonna get really bad when those troops are demob'd, can't find jobs and join OWS.
        Or gangs.
      • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:23PM (#38665690)

        Yeah, because just now all of a sudden people are demanding to bring the troops home. Everything was all hunky-dory up until recently.

        Come on. There were a lot of people in this country that were against the war in Iraq before we had troops on the ground there. They're listening to the American people no more now than they were then.

        • by DarkOx (621550) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:30PM (#38667180) Journal

          They are only bring the troops home because the new Iraqi government ( that we setup ) essentially kicked us out.

          They asked us to leave and they basically said we are going to attempt to capture and jail US Soldiers if they violate any of our laws, which naturally most of them probably have to do in order to accomplish anything useful over there.

          Nobody in the US government deserves any credit. All our officials were negotiating up until the last to keep the troops there, it was not until those negotiations failed they it turned into "We are keeping our campaign promise to bring the troops home". Its so hollow you'd think it was Sadam's former information minister writing the line.

          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @05:04PM (#38667600)

            They asked us to leave and they basically said we are going to attempt to capture and jail US Soldiers if they violate any of our laws, which naturally most of them probably have to do in order to accomplish anything useful over there.

            This was in direct response to contractors and soldiers committing outright murder of unarmed civilians on the streets of their major cities. Did we forget the helicopter gunship mowing down people minding their own business, and then attacking the people who came to help? How about the Haliburton contractors who opened fire in a public square for no reason? How about the group of soldiers in Afghanistan who've been convicted of randomly picking civilians to kill, essentially for fun, and planting weapons on them after the fact?

            Besides all that, the right to enforce you laws inside your own borders is essentially the definition of sovereignty. You make it sound as if the Iraqis were trying to arrest soldiers for speeding when you should know by now that there have been serious criminal acts performed by US soldiers who have as often as not, gotten away with it with a slap on the wrist. It was a reasonable request by any measure, but it was obviously one that Obama couldn't have gone along with, it would have been political suicide. But I have to imagine that they could have leaned on the Iraqi government a whole lot harder and a whole lot longer if they really wanted to keep troops on the ground. Troops or no troops, the Iraqi government receives a lot of support from the US, threatening to yank that away would almost certainly have made the Iraqis change their mind.

          • by skegg (666571) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @05:57PM (#38668202)

            Nope: the Iraqi government has wanted coalition troops out for years.

            The withdrawal occurred so that no more casualties [washingtonpost.com] occur during Obama's re-election year. And no more embarrassments [bbc.co.uk], either.

            If the elections were in another 4 years then the troops would still be there for another 3.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665584)

      Needs a tinfoil had moderation option.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:18PM (#38665632)

      you are probably right. they are circling the wagons. no american spring! that would upset the balance of power, here!

      things will get worse before they get better; but oh boy, are we in for some 'interesting' times ahead of us ;(

      anything that represents freedom to the people is fearful to the government (all of them, not just the US).

      world war 3 is not going to be fought with conventional weapons and it won't be single countries against single countries. I hope this does not happen, but all roads point to some big problems ahead for us all.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:28PM (#38665724)

      There's going to be an American Spring, maybe not this year, but soon.

      Problem is, what we get after is not likely to be any better.

      The original founders of the country were pretty effing brilliant in ways that few are any more. They set up a system that worked for a pretty long time to guard against the kinds of abuses we're seeing now, with a recommendation that we throw it all out and start over every once in a while after it becomes too bloated and power-hungry, as it has. I haven't see much out of either OWS or the TP that comes anywhere *near* the sophistication of political thought that those guys had in the 1700's. These days, it'd be all about "gimme!" and not about trying to create a free state.

      • by Jawnn (445279) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:54PM (#38666034)
        OWS and TP both fail, but for different reasons. The TP followers had the passion and focus to affect some pretty significant political "change" in a remarkably short period of time. Their problem though, is that most of them were so "unsophisticated" that they failed to realize that they were being played by big money. Can you say "astroturf"?
        OWS, on the other hand, seems to grasp the issue (that we are fast-becoming a facist state) but lacks the focus and leadership that was built into the TP movement from the start.
        Will that change? If things get bad enough, sure, but right now, the only one's seriously making change happen are the the Tea Baggers.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:47PM (#38665942)

      ...the populist uprisings are going to eventually come to our shores, this is why they're bringing the troops home

      This is much funnier if you read it with the voice of Dale Gribble. :-D

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sir_Eptishous (873977)
        Or the "Cancer Man" from The X-Files...
      • by Jawnn (445279)

        ...the populist uprisings are going to eventually come to our shores, this is why they're bringing the troops home

        This is much funnier if you read it with the voice of Dale Gribble. :-D

        Just how did you get that name? Do I know you?
        -- Rusty Shackleford

    • by mapkinase (958129) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:03PM (#38666156) Homepage Journal

      What the heck are you smoking (and the mods who modded you up, for that matter)? American Spring... American Spring my ass. We are very far from modern requirements for revolution:

      1/ support from powerful entity abroad
      2/ economical desperation (far far far from what we have now)
      3/ a socially coherent massive enough organization of individuals ready to sacrifice dramatic part of their lives (including live itself).

      The approval rating of the government could be 0.0%, yet the same 0.0% will go to street.

      OWS failed miserably.

    • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:08PM (#38666212)
      I think you've seen too many movies where soldiers and sailors are non-thinking robots. Yes they are trained to follow orders, but they are also trained to think for themselves. It is highly unlikely they will shoot their fellow citizens without questioning the legality of the order. Plus the Constitution forbids the use of the Army and Navy for domestic law enforcement. That's the reason they aren't sent in immediately after national disasters... The state governors call up the national guard. And why Coast Guard detachments are assigned to Navy ships to make drug busts. The military doesn't even carry their guns around when on US bases, unless they are expressly training. Civilians provide most of the security and law enforcement on military bases. If anything, the political class would prefer the military deployed overseas if trying to suppress the population. Make it less likely they can join the rebellion.
    • by Mitreya (579078) <(mitreya) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:14PM (#38666290)
      This government knows that the populist uprisings are going to eventually come to our shores, this is why they're bringing the troops home,

      Gaaah, why must people say wrong things on Slashdot? I don't think the government is worried about the basement uprisings that are refering to.
      The soldiers are being brought back from Iraq (the only real withdrawal I am aware of) because Bush signed an agreement to bring them back by the end of 2011. Also, Obama had negotiated to keep more soldiers in Iraq, but couldn't get unqualified immunity for them from the Iraqi government. You can read a well written article by Glenn Greenwald here [salon.com] if you wish to know more.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:10PM (#38665542)

    Movements are publicly viewable.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665594)

      so, if a camera was placed on the street corner aimed at your front door, you'd have no problem with it?

      your abstraction loses touch with reality.

      what do you WANT for a world, in terms of how we live? you WANT to encourage this creeping intrusion on our privacy?

      is that what you are arguing for?

      • so, if a camera was placed on the street corner aimed at your front door, you'd have no problem with it?

        Nah! I can hit it with a paintball or pellet gun easy. Or, pay the neighbor's kid to smash it with a hammer. Or, just wait two days for someone to steal it.

      • by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:38PM (#38665840)

        I actually find this subject interesting.

        Ignoring evil government spying and abuse, and just focusing on the standard issue crime we all know and hate...

        We are now near a point where we could use technology to very effectively cut down crime. The issue is no longer technological but social.

        As you said, imagine a camera on every street corner. Imagine a system that constantly monitored every road for bad driving and issued immediate tickets. Cut someone off.. drive too fast.. forget your turn signal.. instant ticket. Imagine how much that would improve safety on the roads. Bad drivers would either improve or driving would become so expensive that they'd give it up.

        Go forward a bit, imagine a system that can automatically detect crime. Imagine literally not being able to rob someone.. or steal anything.. because a system would immediately identify the action, and track you wherever you went until the police picked you up making it virtually impossible to escape. Imagine how much crime that would cut down on.

        All at the expense of having very little privacy, and of course opening the door for massive abuse.

        Do you want to live in that world? Personally I don't think I would either. Do we want to or can we find a middle ground?

        • by chill (34294) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:53PM (#38666018) Journal

          How's the crime rate in London? Has it fallen significantly since they implemented this?

        • by ckaminski (82854)
          Ask how well that's working out for the UK and the City of London?

          Let me give you a hint - it hasn't.

          You cannot EVER prevent crime. You can only prosecute it after the fact. Unless you make thoughts crime. In which case I don't want to live in your world.
    • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:50PM (#38665986)

      The issue here is that WHO these are operated by appears to be a government secret. The Government should not have a secret about which government agencies are operating in the US.

      Most effective drone technology is still in government hands. (Yes there are some private drones available for anyone with the money to spare, but these are expensive and unlikely to be deployed on anything that is secret, and would more likely be used for forest management, crop evaluation, mapping, etc.)

      That leaves two principal areas of sponsorship. Law Enforcement (DEA, ICE, etc), or Military. Military training over military training areas seems perfectly permitted. Military assistance watching the boarders or off shore seems well within the military mandate.

      But military operating inland, over cities to spy on citizens is on pretty shaky grounds, and when doing so is a government secret the ground are not only shake they are slippery. You get tangled up with the Possee Comitatus act [wikipedia.org] when you start using Air Force drones for non-defense purposes or to aid Law enforcement without a formal orders to do so, that must originate with the United States Constitution or Act of Congress.

      So if the drones are flown by CIA, or Air Force there is a problem.

      If the government comes out and says they are flown by DEA, fine.

      But refusing to say seems pretty short sighted for an administration that promised open government [whitehouse.gov].

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665596)

    I don't see any reason why such licenses couldn't be sold to the general public. The plane has to meet FAA UAV standards which they'll have to make up as they go along... and some sort of background check and licensing procedure for the pilots will be important. But why shouldn't everyone get in on this thing? UAV crop dusters. UAV traffic helicopters. UAV medical helicopters. Any situation where we might use human pilots... consider if we need them. Maybe we can get skybuses. Big helicopters that take people across traffic congested cities to depots, train stations, or airports.

  • say it (Score:2, Funny)

    by phrostie (121428)

    Those aren't the drones you're looking for

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:15PM (#38665604)

    If we finally get rid of George Bush and elect a Progressive (someone like Obama, who has campaigned on maintaining transparency in government), I think we'll do away with this.

    But as long as we keep Bush and Republicans in office, we'll always have these types of issues.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:20PM (#38665662)
    ...it will be obvious that they must belong to some evil foreign country and you're allowed to kill their cams with that high powered laser that you have never built in your backyard. ;)
  • by realsilly (186931) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:22PM (#38665678)

    Surveillance on US Citizens is wrong, but we the people have let our politicians rule over us and we gave them permission to do this. We constantly re-elect the same political individuals who have systematically stripped our rights away from the citizens of this country all in the name of "they know what's good for us". Well once those drones are taken down, that's when the FAA will try to step out of the picture and the owners who have to replace these (at taxpayer expense mind you) will come a hootin' and hollerin' claiming they need more Federal $ from the budget office to replace their drones.

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      Surveillance of US Citizens is wrong, but far less than surveillance to non US citizens. Taking it as something right is at least as disturbing as there are any surveillance drones.
    • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:41PM (#38665870) Homepage
      I have discussed the surveillance state we live in now with several people, and the one overriding factor that determines someones "ease" with accepting it is whether they have children or not. Those with kids almost always(actually always...) will accept any form of "safety" whether it's taking their shoes off at the airport, having all their electronic communications sniffed for anything suspicious or now, having drones with incredibly powerful cameras spy on them constantly. The argument invariably devolves into the "I want my kids safe, Dammit!" tack. Any amount of evidence pointing to how we are slowly but surely devolving into a 1984 style society is greeted by blank looks and animosity, almost as if I'm the bad guy because I don't agree with the "save the children via becoming a police state" direction we are on.
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther (647209) <pluther@@@usa...net> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:22PM (#38665680) Homepage
    Easy way to find out:

    Capture one. See who knocks down your door.

    Just make sure you're livestreaming, because you probably won't get a chance to talk to anybody about it for a very long time...

  • by netwarerip (2221204) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:31PM (#38665752)
    Get some trial lawyer lobbying group to ask for this info and it will happen a lot sooner.
    Once a drone crashes people will want someone to sue, and without a pilot there is no one to go after. Enter an attorney from Dewey, Faulkum, and Howe looking for his 33%, and you'll have more briefs flying around than in the showers at Penn State.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:34PM (#38665798)
    Drones being flown all over the country, by unidentified pilots, Microsoft giving their Flight Simulator game away for free. I coincidence? I think NOT.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ender's Game.

  • by Feyshtey (1523799) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:35PM (#38665808)
    So to be clear, the EFF filed and FIA request to the FAA about USAF activity.

    Omg, wtf?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:46PM (#38666704)

    Just a matter of time. Don't you dare mod this as funny; you know it's coming.

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