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US Domestic Drone Flights Create Political Firestorm – OpEd

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Drones — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) — are effectively utilized by the United States in military campaigns and operations overseas to conduct surveillance or attack terrorists, but now a firestorm has erupted within the United States when Americans and watchdog groups discovered drones are being flown over U.S. skies.

For example the Conservative Action Alerts this week sent out an e-mail blast to warn American citizens about the Obama Administration authorizing the use of drones over domestic skies as part of its terrorism surveillance and intelligence operations:

“So, while you are putting burgers on the grill … while your kids are playing outside … while you walk your dog, or go window-shopping, or sit outside at a café, having lunch … the eyes of the U.S. government will be upon you.”

“Small drones will begin flying in June, but all types of UAV’s will be allowed into the skies by September 30, 2015-courtesy of our privacy-killing President, Barack Obama,” the CAA alert states.

The conservative organization warned that with drones set to take over the skies across America, “the next victim of our new police state could very well be you.”

“And under Obama’s reign, we have seen the regulatory state grow to epic proportions…as our freedoms diminish,” states the Conservative Action Alerts’ e-mail blast.

For their part, the law enforcement and intelligence defended their positions. The advantages of unmanned aircraft are obvious. Governments or aid groups could use them to coordinate disaster relief. Police could track fleeing suspects or search for missing people. “Urban planners and first responders could monitor traffic jams, fires or floods in real time,” said police sergeant Vincent Ganerse, who’s worked in aviation.

On how to safeguard privacy in this new era, Bloomberg View suggested that it will start by requiring police to obtain warrants for drone use that would violate reasonable privacy, except in clearly defined emergencies or to stop a crime in progress.

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It also suggested that government agencies should notify the public of any continuous monitoring they plan and post a list of such programs online.

US law enforcement agencies are currently experimenting with their own version of unmanned aircraft for police operations. The US Border Patrol will use unmanned aerial vehicles on the Mexican border more frequently, as well.

The remote unmanned helicopter enhances law enforcement aerial capabilities by acting as a force multiplier for their existing airborne assets. This frees the department’s existing helicopters, along with their pilots and flight crews, to concentrate on incidents where human intervention and intelligence is needed on site, noted a police organization’s spokesperson.

The drone is also a welcome and viable solution to provide aerial capabilities to law enforcement departments that could not otherwise afford to acquire and maintain an aircraft contingent, according to the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP, formerly Fifth Vice-President, is currently a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for ConservativeBase.com, and he's a columnist for Examiner.com. In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.

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