Predator Drones Over New York? (Updated)

2011 April 22
by Turk Studzel

Senator Schumer (D-NY), Drone Supporter

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

Such a lovely couple! While his wife, Iris Weinshall, is busy crusading against bike lanes in Brooklyn, Senator Chuck Schumer is mobilizing the United States for war against its own citizens, pushing an amendment to the pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (S. 223) to create test zones for the introduction of unmanned drones into the U.S.’s general airspace. No, it’s not enough that these evil, Terminator-like machines are killing innocent civilians and instilling terror across Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia –  and now in the “humanitarian invasion” of Libya — we’ll soon have them buzzing around overhead.

Iris Weinshall, Bike Lane Critic

At present FAA safety regulations severely limit the use of drones in crowded U.S. airspace; if Schumer has his way, drones like the Predator and Reaper will gain much greater access to the skies–at the same time Congress is rolling back the FAA’s budget and its air traffic controllers’ ability to prevent collisions. Forget about the TSA’s “porno scanners”–you don’t want to be up there anyway!

As detailed in an April 16 report by Nick Mottern on the website Truthout, the push for expanding the use of drones in the United States involves a wide variety of interested parties, including, of course, manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, which employs 2,200 workers in Syracuse and donated $10,000 to Senator Schumer’s 2010 re-election campaign. But as the Washington Post noted in January, police agencies and the Department of Homeland Security are especially eager to have drones at their disposal:

…by 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground – high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.

Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras.

One manufacturer already advertises one of its small systems as ideal for “urban monitoring.” The military, often a first user of technologies that migrate to civilian life, is about to deploy a system in Afghanistan that will be able to scan an area the size of a small town. And the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence to seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity.

But when drones come to perch in numbers over American communities, they will drive fresh debates about the boundaries of privacy. The sheer power of some of the cameras that can be mounted on them is likely to bring fresh search-and-seizure cases before the courts, and concern about the technology’s potential misuse could unsettle the public.

Unsettle the public? The American public? Not until they start letting loose with Hellfire missiles… [See for a radio interview with Truthout journalist Nick Mottern.]

Update–This just in from Friday’s Syracuse Post-Standard:

37 people who protest at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse against the use of drones are arrested Friday

DeWitt, NY — Dozens of war protesters were arrested Friday afternoon outside the main entrance of the New York Air National Guard’s base at Hancock Field.

Thirty seven protesters, draped with red-spattered sheets, had lain themselves in the main entrance roads to the base, off East Molloy Road. They were arrested by Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputies on charges of trespassing and obstruction of justice.

They were handcuffed and, after a 45-minute wait, were led to a jail transport bus that was supposed to take them to the Onondaga County Justice Center for processing. Two were in wheel chairs.

Read more here…

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