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Domestic Surveillance Drones On the Rise 96

Toe, The writes "Predator drones have now racked up over 10,000 hours of airtime in the U.S., largely for immigration enforcement. Homeland Security reports that drone operations lead to the apprehension of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers in the past six years. Compare that to 327,577 illegal migrants caught at the southwest border in fiscal 2011. The only limits on their surveillance are FAA regulations keeping them away from crowded urban areas, and this is for safety reasons, not privacy. While the drones cannot see through windows, they certainly see a lot of what goes on in the (former) privacy of peoples' yards. The article cites Michael Kostelnik from the Office of Air and Marine for the Border Protection service saying he's never been challenged in Congress about the appropriate use of domestic drones. 'Instead the question is: Why can't we have more of them in my district?'"
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Domestic Surveillance Drones On the Rise

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:11PM (#38453148)

    Every time I see one of these domestic drone stories, I'm reminded of that scene in Blue Thunder [] where Roy Scheider, having seen a demonstration of the deadly helicopter, says something along the lines of "You don't expect to use that thing for law enforcement, do you?" to his government minder. The guy just looks creepily at him and replies "Well, that would depend on the CIRCUMSTANCES, wouldn't it?"

  • Not so long ago... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:27PM (#38453316)

    Not so long ago, this type of spying on U.S. residents was seemingly so out of the question. I never heard anything about this when growing up (and I'm not all that old). It says something about our country that this is how we're using our technological advancement -- especially when it's not just spying on potential drug dealers or illegal immigrants, but also spying on average citizens behaving themselves. One could (and probably will) argue "what's the problem if you're not doing something wrong?" The problem is this: not everyone wants to be watched, no matter what they're doing. Privacy is something that every human being innately desires and this is encroaching upon that basic need. Also, one could also argue: why should perfectly well-behaved citizens be spied upon when they're not doing anything wrong? The problem here, innately, is this isn't like the cops on the highway sitting in the corners by trees just eagerly waiting for someone to go by at 100mph because in that case not everyone is actually being watched. When the radar beeps, the cop knows who to pay attention to and nothing is really recorded (except for perhaps the camera on the dash recording you after you're pulled over). Whereas with spying, information is recorded about everyone and not just those breaking laws. There needs to be something in place to either anonymize or delete data that's not relevant to court cases.

    The bottom line: years ago, this type of behavior seemed out of the question and now the U.S. has become just as bad as the countries we badmouth every day. There's something really disturbing about the direction we're heading in.

  • i stop respecting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @05:46PM (#38453586) Homepage
    any source that measures the rate in fiscal years at which immigrants are incarcerated
    and any source that implies floundering white flight suburbia has somehow become inoculated against any need for drone surveillance in the 21st century, yet dense urban areas are teeming shit-holes that must be policed and patrolled up to the minute.

    I live in downtown Los Angeles. our "drones" are piloted police helicopters affectionately referred to as "the birds" which have canvassed the city for nearly 40 years. They started downtown when white-flight basically mandated them to prevent the scourges of economic collapse and urban decay from ever encroaching upon bob and his trophy wife in the burbs. soon they began patrolling hollywood, and santa monica, and pretty soon the ubiquitous helicopter-with-searchlight was patrolling the skies of every street in LA from sepulveda to sierra madre villa. its simple. if you dont like drones, dont accept them. address problems like crime, unemployment, and social inequality and for god sake recognize the fact that every meal you've eaten at a restaurant in the past year has at some point been prepared on some level by an "illegal."
    or dont do anything about the problem. blame victims, move away from trouble neighbourhoods and avert your eyes. vote the party line and soon enough, you'll enjoy all the wonders police state surveillance at cost to you.
  • ROI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JobyOne ( 1578377 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @06:51PM (#38454334) Homepage Journal

    Predator drones cost $3,234/hour to operate, according to Customs and Border Protection. TFA pegs the up-front cost of the drones as $20 million each (and CBP has eight of them and is buying one more). That means in total they've spent more than $200 million on this little boondoggle.

    Even assuming that every single one of those arrests wouldn't have been made at all without the drone, that's over $41,000 per arrest in surveillance costs alone.

    It doesn't sound like CBP is producing a great ROI.

  • Re:Led (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2011 @08:06PM (#38454982)

    1. There may well be people who have US citizenship (and therefore be entirely legal) who have no documentation to prove it (and thus be undocumented).

    I think you are deliberately misinterpreting the difference between "undocumented" and "illegal alien".

    The illegal alien is not illegal because he has no documents. He is illegal because he entered the country illegally to start with, or has remained in the country in violation of his visa or other entry permit. Many people have no documents. They are not "illegal aliens" because of that.

    In the US (not sure about your country), a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Well, that's the theory, at least.

    That is the presumption that the government is supposed to make in a criminal case. That is NOT a presumption of fact. I.e., if someone steals a car from me, he is a criminal, period, end of sentence (no pun intended). He became a criminal and assumed guilt when he committed the crime. The government will require proof of such, and is supposed to treat him as innocent until proven guilty with regards to punishment, but I need no such proof before I do. You could try to argue with a casino or retail establishment, but they can tresspass someone for shoplifting or other crime committed on their premises without a court ajudicating the matter.

    The idea that someone IS innocent until proven guilty is a logical fallacy. How he must be treated by the judicial system and what he actually is are two very different things.

    And, no, saying someone "looks funny" is not a lawful right.

    The AZ law regarding illegal aliens had nothing to do with deporting people because they "looked funny". Looking funny was not sufficient grounds.

    I cannot tell from a police report or a media photo whether the person was legally entitled to be in the US. Nor can you. Nor can anyone.

    Actually, you can tell quite a lot from a police report. "Subject was observed crossing the border into the US at MIddle of Nowhere, Texas." Taking the subject to the nearest border crossing facility and allowing him to either gain legal entry or remain in Mexico is quite reasonable.

    Most of those who are passionate about convicting without prosecuting would do well to remember that the road to hell is paved with "good intentions"

    Now if only those who favor ignoring federal law in their attempts at fuzzy warm feel good would remember that.

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