Last week was "drone" week as many newspapers carried stories about unmanned drones as a potential new threat to our ever-vanishing zone of privacy. As one report pointed out, a county sheriff's office in Texas caused some consternation when it used a Homeland Security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound Shadowhack helicopter drone for its SWAT team. The drone can be outfitted with a 40mm grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun.
Why do the words "only in Texas" come to mind?
In fairness, a chief deputy with the sheriff's office said there were no plans to arm the drone currently, but he left open the possibility of adapting the drone to fire gas canisters and rubber bullets.
Under pressure from the Defense Department and drone manufacturers, Congress ordered the FAA, earlier this year, to give drones greater access to civilian airspace by 2015. The mandate applies to companies, individuals and law enforcement at all levels. Does anyone in Congress understand that they can just say no?
I get it that power companies can use drones to monitor transmission lines. Farmers can use them to see which crops need water. Ranchers can use them to count cows. Yes, there are innocuous uses.
But if law enforcement gets into this game in a major way, no home or vehicle in motion may be off-limits. How much faith do I have that these drones would be used only in appropriate circumstances? None.
Congress, having exacerbated the situation, is now discussing how to protect our privacy through legislation. Having let the horse out of the barn, apparently Congress wishes to shepherd the horse back to its stall. As Yoda might say, "Most illogical, it is." And unlikely to end well.
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