Friday, December 14, 2012
Lawsuits for Information on Drones
by Stephen Lendman
Drones are increasingly becoming America's weapon of choice. They're used to kill and spy. Domestic warrantless surveillance is illegal.
It's done extrajudicially on a regular basis. By around 2020, eyes in the sky spying will cover America. Fourth Amendment freedoms are null and void. It states:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Privacy no longer exists. Drones are now instruments of state terror. No one anywhere is safe. A previous article discussed ACLU lawsuits.
At issue is obtaining legal justification for conducting predator drone killings abroad. The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments. They stonewalled information requests. So did the CIA at a time Obama prioritizes killing by drones.
The ACLU wants information on "when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the US ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings." It faces stiff headwinds getting it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also filed suit for information. On October 31, it headlined "EFF Demands Answers About Predator Drone Flights in the US: Government Shares Drones with Law Enforcement Agencies Across the Country."
On October 30, EFF sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It functions like a national Gestapo. It doesn't secure. It terrorizes ordinary Americans extrajudicially.
Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and dissidents are most at risk. EFF wants answers about how and why Predator drones are increasingly used for law enforcement.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP - a DHS division) uses UAVs to patrol borders. Video cameras, infrared ones, heat sensors and radar are used for constant spying.
Super high resolution "gigapixel" cameras enable tracking above 20,000 feet. They can monitor up to 65 enemies simultaneously. They can see targets up to 25 miles away.
Electronic transmissions can also be monitored. Cell phones, Wi-Fi networks, and text messages can be intercepted covertly.
Drone use is expanding. Greater surveillance is planned. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are involved. "EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for more information about these drone flights."
EFF stressed immediacy. It wants CBP records and logs on spying done with other agencies. DHS stonewalled. EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch said:
"We've seen bits and pieces of information on CBP's Predator drones, but Americans deserve the full story."
"Drones are a powerful surveillance tool that can be used to gather extensive data about you and your activities."
"The public needs to know more about how and why these Predator drones are being used to watch U.S. citizens."
On October 30, EFF also sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It wants "the latest data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for public drone flights in the U.S."
Earlier it filed suit in January. FAA agreed to provide information requested. So far EFF got far less than requested. US secrecy exceeds acceptable standards. It replicates police state levels.
Millions of documents are classified without justification. At issue is concealing what free societies make public. Lynch added:
"FAA's foot-dragging means we can't get a real-time picture of drone activity in the U.S. If officials could release their records in a timely fashion – or publish it as a matter of routine on the FAA website – we could stop filing these FOIA requests and lawsuits."
Predator drones are used to kill abroad. Unarmed UAVs are used domestically. They can be weaponized with tasers, bean bag guns, and other devices able to harm or perhaps kill.
In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized spying through the National Applications Office (NOA). It was described as "the executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement purposes within the United States."
With or without congressional authorization or oversight, the executive branch may authorize state-of-the-art technology. It includes military satellite imagery and other ways to spy on Americans covertly.
Plans are to monitor virtually everyone everywhere once full implementation is achieved. By 2020, up to 30,000 UAVs may spy domestically. They'll be virtually everywhere across America round the clock.
Privacy rights are gravely impaired. Major constitutional issues are stake. Courts willingly compromise them. Congress did so years ago. It wants domestic drone use fast-tracked. So does Obama.
In February, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (MRA) of 2012 was enacted. It provides $63.4 billion in FAA funding over four years.
An MRA provision authorizes exponentially expanded domestic drone use. Provisions to ease and quicken law enforcement licensing was approved.
By 2015, commercial operations may apply for drone use authorization. In response to EFF's January lawsuit, information gotten determined that "60 public entities and 12 private drone manufacturers sought permission to fly" drones domestically.
EFF sought but didn't obtain information on how and for what purposes these drones will be used. Federal, state and local authorities will use them extrajudicially for warrantless searches.
Privacy and transparency are on the chopping block for elimination. Big Brother wants everyone watched all the time. There's no place to hide.
The ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, EFF, and similar organizations want government agencies held accountable. It's no simple task at a time repressive laws threaten everyone.
Freedom in America is fast disappearing. It's no exaggeration saying police state justice replaced it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.