The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the next generation of surveillance tools for U.S. law enforcement agencies — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
This week, the FAA broadened the authorized use of military-style drones that weigh up to 25 pounds — a smaller version of the aircraft that has become common on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. So far the agency has accepted applications from 61 agencies, including police departments, universities and the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
The decision already has sparked some controversy, with at least one Fox News commentator suggesting that the first American to shoot down an unmanned spy plane will be treated as a hero.
That might not be the first, or best, course of action, but there is a real and legitimate concern about the prospect of drones scattered across the country with the sole purpose of keeping a watchful eye over the citizenry.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on the law enforcement use of GPS tracking devices. So while the latest in tracking technology hasn’t been settled, another potentially invasive — and constitutionally questionable — surveillance method is being deployed.
While UAV technology has proven useful in combat, and has helped prevent countless casualties, its use in the U.S. has an Orwellian feel to it. The idea of an eye in the sky monitoring backyard cookouts doesn’t seem very American.
No doubt, defenders of the augmented oversight will rely on the tired refrain that if a person isn’t doing anything wrong, he has nothing to worry about. And that might be true if the definition of what’s “wrong” didn’t change in the political winds or end up as new laws.
The framers of the Constitution recognized that leaders change, as do the laws they write, and in an effort to prevent those changing tides from undermining our country, they sought to forever protect American citizens from unlawful searches.
— The Hutchinson News