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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy United States

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

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 (#38665522)

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

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

    Movements are publicly viewable.

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

    Needs a tinfoil had moderation option.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:14PM (#38665588)

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

  • 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?

  • 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.
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther ( 647209 ) <`ten.asu' `ta' `rehtulp'> 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:24PM (#38665694)

    You have no expectation of privacy in public, which is why we have those two words: "private" and "public". A camera looking at your door is the same as someone just standing on the street looking at said door.

    which would be loitering

  • 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.

  • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:33PM (#38665774) Homepage Journal

    Sad when you own government by you own people does not trust you and has to keep a eye on everything you do with every new technology that comes out.

    Incorrect. Aside from you (sic) atrocious language skills you've obviously never heard that the price of freedom is constant vigilance. Its just part of the price of admission. I also hope that this will serve as a reminder to everyone that its not longer "our" government anymore, its "a" government, one staffed by members of a ruling elite which stretches around the globe and into the other governments.

  • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:39PM (#38665846)

    Of course, because the people fighting the erosion of our freedoms here in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11 just want to institute a theocracy! It's all a big scam!!

    It amazes me how many people support the restriction of our rights (or resist anyone upsetting the status quo) because a bunch of fucking assholes crashed hijacked planes into buildings 10 years ago. We can be safe without infringement of our constitutional freedoms.

  • Re:US = (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:41PM (#38665868)

    I agree with you 100%. I mean, just the other day my neighbor was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for Googling "free Tibet".

  • 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.
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:42PM (#38665880) Journal

    FAR Part 91.119

    Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

    (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

    (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    (d) Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:43PM (#38665894)

    You don't need to lock down a city. You just need to take out the trouble makers, most people are sheep and will act as such.

    Take away food and water and reward people who tell on trouble makers - wont take long to get a tight grib on the population.

  • 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 [] 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 [].

  • 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.
  • Re:US = (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:55PM (#38666044)

    I mean, just the other day my neighbor was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for Googling "free Tibet".

    Mod parent up. Comparing the USA to China does a disservice to people who live in true police states. Could the USA do much better? Absolutely - But Suggesting the USA is as bad as China means one has no clue as to how bad things really are elsewhere in the world.

  • Re:Coincidence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:57PM (#38666074)

    Ender's Game.

  • 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.

  • Re:US = (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:07PM (#38666204) Homepage
    One of the things that one of my teachers said to me in primary school was: "never compare yourself to the worst, or you'll always sink to their level. Always compare yourself to the best." That's good advice here. If you just keep patting yourself on the back for how great you think you are, you'll never get better, and you'll be less competitive.
  • 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 unity100 ( 970058 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:17PM (#38666340) Homepage Journal
    Lets see :

    you are not in tibet yet. but the RATE things are going, are in that direction.

    so far, people like you have been sitting pretty saying stuff like 'this is not china' and so on, and believing that such things may not happen in america.

    and, meanwhile, while all of you were just sitting like that, the RATE things were going has not changed. increasingly, more repressive laws and bills have been put out. habeas corpus was basically gone out of the window back around 2001. but it had a condition of 'enemy combatant'. you people rationalized it, just kept sitting on your butt. and now, after 9 years, habeas corpus is gone out of the window for ALL american citizens. without any kind of reprieve.

    there have been many attempts to censor internet and new media before too. the rate things were going in that direction. you just sit on your butt while these attempts were made. believing that these would not happen there. first attack on net neutrality circa 2005 was attempted, dmca passed, acta went into preparation aaand fast forward to today - there is sopa.

    see the point ?

    as long as there isnt any change at the RATE things are going and the DIRECTION they are going, it is only a matter of time before things just happen.

    in short, if you just sit tight on your butt saying 'doh at least i am not in china', you will someday discover that, you ARE in china.


    i cant believe that kind of stupidity which afflicts the modern society : there are a group of people who are saying that they WANT to limit your rights for their own profit, they are DOING things to limit your rights for their own profit, they continually succeed in incrementally removing your rights, so it is just a matter of time until your most basic rights are gone. it is on the horizon. these people are openly saying that they want to remove them, and they are not only telling that, but they are doing what they are saying.

    it is the stupidity of looking at now, and seeing things as they are, and thinking that they will keep stay same forever, despite there are those who are incrementally changing it.
  • Re:US = (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:18PM (#38666362) Homepage

    I wish I had mod points for you. The moment you aren't concerned about it will the moment your caught up in a dragnet for viewing wikileaks, or go somewhere you're not supposed to IRL.

    Whatever happened to spying at this level on ordinary citizens, simply being you know, WRONG?

  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:22PM (#38666400) Journal

    We can be safe without infringement of our constitutional freedoms.

    Pretty sure you won't meet anyone in government who agrees with this. Which is a problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:23PM (#38666422)

    On a principled basis, I'd oppose such a system.

    I would also oppose it on a practical basis. The laws of this nation (the USA) are so convoluted and messed up that it is impossible to get through a day without being in violation of something.

    If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged. - Cardinal Richelieu

    this is a real problem. Before (and, to an extent, now) it was an odds game. Sure, you might be breaking the law by jaywalking, or speeding a little, or receiving oral from your spouse. But the odds of getting caught were acceptably low (for the majority of people, anyway. enough to not cause significant backlash against authority).

    But, this was probably inevitable. This is what happens when you let people create laws that apply only to the governed. I can't believe I'm doing this, but Ayn Rand actually summed it up pretty well

    "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens' What's there in that for anyone?"

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:40PM (#38666620) Journal

    Its not that these people are stupid or lazy. Its a serious problem related to being human. During the Nazi takeover of Germany, about a 100,000 Jews saw the writing on the wall and got out of Dodge before things got really ugly. Another 450,000 stayed put, because they couldn't believe that things would get that bad that quickly. They were educated, well to do, and socially active. They had no idea that the world was about to throw them under the bus.

    This kind of behavior shows up all over the place and is a form of Risk Normalization. There's a great article about Why Human Beings are so lousy at identifying risk [].

    Like other mammals, we can deal with instant risk like a car coming at us, well. Slow motion risks, like building homes on the San Andreas fault, not so much. So its taken 30 years to hijack our government, really screw it over and sell it off one piece at a time to the highest bidder..Now there is only 1 party and it has two faces, whose only difference is who get's the welfare, poor folk or corporations. By the way, I assume you know whose really winning.

    We are now being scrutinized more closely than any generation in the history of being human. Virtually everything you do is being recorded somewhere. The pieces haven't all fallen together yet, but they're close. God they're close. If we allow this slow motion coupe to continue, even the pretense of civil rights and human freedom could very well vanish.

  • Re:US = (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:41PM (#38666628) Homepage Journal

    As another poster says, you do a disservice to your country by being proud of not yet being as bad as a state like China when you may be headed in that direction. Do yourself a favour and aim the opposite direction in policy if you wish to always be so proud.

  • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by White Flame ( 1074973 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:43PM (#38666668)

    Wow, you've got that backwards. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" means that the people must remain vigilant in monitoring the government, lest they lose their freedoms.

    But I guess in one way you're right: If the government can take unlimited vigilant action against anybody anywhere without accountability, they have the freedom to do whatever they want to the people. That you seem to view this as desirable or at least expected is frightening.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:44PM (#38666686)

    OWS, on the other hand, seems to grasp the issue (that we are fast-becoming a facist state)

    No, OWS doesn't "grasp the issue" - they simply want a fascist state run to their liking, rather than the fascist state the Republicans (I refuse to call them conservatives, because they are not conservatives any longer) are aiming for. One wants cradle-to-grave socialism where the government runs and administers every facet of your life. And the other wants to let their buddies running large corporations lobby for no-bid contracts to decide who gets to run and administer every facet of your life.

    If you really want to reverse the fascist tendencies BOTH of the major parties are following, you'll vote for the people who ACTUALLY want to reduce the size of government, and thus the scale of its ability to interfere with your freedom: the Libertarians.

    And before some brainiac starts with the "Go to Somalia" bullshit, let's be clear: There is no disconnect between laws against fraud and general harm to your customers and the libertarian concept of a free market. "Free market" doesn't mean "anything goes," "free market" means that all the actors make consensual decisions based on their own self interests. Fraud can still be illegal. Use of force, coercion, and harm to others would still be illegal.

    The less power you give the government to interfere with the lives of citizens, the less attractive the government becomes as a takeover target by corporations.

  • by stubob ( 204064 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:52PM (#38666774) Homepage

    The same soldiers who followed an illegal order into Iraq? The same soldiers who follow illegal orders to abduct, torture, and hold without charge people, including American citizens? The same soldiers who follow illegal orders to execute anyone declared an unlawful combatant? Need I go on?

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:13PM (#38667022) Homepage Journal

    I agree completely, it amazes me as well, but we can't be safe, with or without constitutional freedoms; safety doesn't exist. You can be safer, but you're never safe. There are only varying degrees of danger... and the threat of terrorism is about the least of all physical dangers Americans face. I mean, 40,000 people die on the highways every single year. They could make America far less dangerous ("safer") by spending the TSA money on safer highways.

    Oh, as to a theocracy, we already live under a theocracy. The religion is mammon and their temple is called a "bank" and their high priests are called "investment bankers". Look at how they call economics a "science", much like the Christian Science religion does. Also notice that if you put trojan rootkits on a single computer Sony owns, they'll find you and you'll go to prison, but if Sony puts trojan rootkits on thousands of uinsuspecting customers' computers, they suffer no penalties whatever? In a society whose god is a dollar, whoever has the most "god" rules.

  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:19PM (#38667092) Homepage Journal

    Stop insulting the Tea Party. They're on the same side as the rest of the 99%, and you need them.

    Although they may be part of the 99%, they're on the side of the 1%.

    They just don't realize it.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:25PM (#38667138) Journal

    No they don't because there is the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. In most situations its not going to be reasonable to assume someone testifying on behalf the American Bar Association to the subject of your membership is false testimony. So that would satisfy me that you are not a licensed lawyer, prove to me you were practicing law and I will vote to convict.

    If someone from the government on the other hand says you are not on a list well... This nation and I have been lied to by the government so many times they simply are not credible. The higher the rank the less credible they are. I am going need to see some extraordinary evidence before I would accept such testimony. Hell if the they told me the sky is blue I'd demand to go outside and verify nothing has changed for myself.

  • by Ravon Rodriguez ( 1074038 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:36PM (#38667282)
    Plenty of people vote for a third party, just not enough; it's not human nature to go against the pack. The people who control this country are masters at understanding human nature, which is why things are as they are; they know how to manipulate the masses.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @05:12PM (#38667692)

    One wants cradle-to-grave socialism where the government runs and administers every facet of your life. And the other wants to let their buddies running large corporations lobby for no-bid contracts to decide who gets to run and administer every facet of your life.

    I never can tell with such people whether they deliberately lie, or simply don't listen. OWS wants even opportunity. Bush Jr. is explicitly against affirmative action. Nobody should ever get anything based on who their daddy was. Well, unless it's Bush Jr. getting into Yale with a poor record, in which case "legacy" (affirmative action for lazy white people) is perfectly acceptable. OWS recognizes the hypocrisy and such that the 1% uses to their advantage against the 99%. Nobody in the 99% should be eligible for "legacy" but everyone in the 1% should. As if the 1% needed even more handouts, or the 99% needed more hurdles. Yes, I'm explicitly stating that a qualified poor black person was rejected from Yale to let in a rich white person based on who his daddy was. When that's turned around, there's outrage, but when it's the poor black man being kept down, the 1% is fine with that.

    "Free market" doesn't mean "anything goes," "free market" means that all the actors make consensual decisions based on their own self interests. Fraud can still be illegal. Use of force, coercion, and harm to others would still be illegal.

    You are using economic terms incorrectly. A "free market" is a market with low barriers to entry and well informed consumers. The producers do not want a free market. They commit "fraud" (deliberately misleading consumers) whenever possible. The US does not have and would never have a free market. Such a beast requires tight government oversight, and those who say they want a "free market" do not want it, and those who are for governmental controls against corporate abuse wouldn't use that power to enforce a "free market." I'd love a free market. It puts the power in the hands of the informed consumers. But we don't have informed consumers, and may never have them.

    Libertarians don't want to reduce the size of the government. They want to push their social agenda through, which may result in a smaller government than we have now, but they have no goal of "smallest government possible". If they did, they would support education more, as it's shown that $10 in education saves $12 in prison costs later. Instead, they have the "fuck education, we'll pay to put them in jail, but not pay to get them literate and productive" which indicates a goal of something other than trying to reduce the size of government as much as practical.

  • 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 [] occur during Obama's re-election year. And no more embarrassments [], either.

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

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."