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Like a rapidly metastasizing cancer, the story of America morphing, virtually overnight, into a “turnkey totalitarian (police) state” just keeps growing and growing, with the latest chapter in this surreal, developing tale being all but confirmed (more about this in a moment) over the past 24 hours.

Wired’s Mind-Blowing Scoop On “Stellar Wind” And The “Enormity” of U.S. Domestic Spying 3/17/12

Every email, phone call and database (encrypted or otherwise) in the world, recorded, digitized and available for virtual, real-time analysis by our government at a moment’s notice?

CHECK!

Is Your New HDTV Watching You? 3/19/12

Television technology in your home with video cameras and microphones that you are unable to turn off?

CHECK!

NYT's Orwellian Lead: AG Holder Officially Signs Off On "Total Information Awareness" For All 3/23/12

The U.S. government formally empowered and technologically enabled (by next year) to warehouse every email, phone call and recorded/digitized piece of data on every U.S. citizen; and, with total, state-sanctioned disregard for U.S. residents’ privacy; without any legal requirement for oversight or authorization for same by any court?

CHECK!

New U.S. Research Will Aim at Flood of Digital Data 3/29/12

A concurrent effort by our government, including the Department of Defense, to include the private sector and academia in their big-data-for-big-brother initiative?

CHECK!

NYT Lead: ACLU Documents Rampant, Warrantless Phone-Tracking By Police Throughout U.S. 4/1/12

Warrantless (and comprehensive historical–see previous item, above) tracking of the movements of virtually every person with a cellphone in the United States (including the supposedly “legal” ability of the state to record an individual’s movements and index them by date and time)?

CHECK!

Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip Searches for Any Arrest 4/3/12

Supreme Court-authorized strip-searches of anyone arrested by the state, even for offenses as minor as civil protests, trespassing, jaywalking and other minor traffic violations?

CHECK!

The drones are coming––to America 4/10/12

Thousands of drones “patrolling” 400 feet above neighborhood streets and backyards (and perhaps, shortly after that, maintaining infrared heat sensing capabilities to look through roofs and walls, too; and, also capable of deploying live ammunition) throughout the United States by 2017?

DOUBLE-CHECK!

A few hours ago, I read Daily Kos’ (skillfully written this evening by Kossack wader) Overnight News Digest (“OND”), where I learned of the following story…

U.S. man 1st arrested with help of drone
UPI
April 10, 2012 at 2:19 PM

LAKOTA, N.D., April 10 (UPI) -- A North Dakota man, the first U.S. citizen arrested with the help of an unmanned Predator surveillance drone, says he's challenging the legality of the arrest.

The arrest of Rodney Brossart came after six cows wandered onto his 3,000-acre farm in Lakota in June, and the anti-government "sovereignist" believed he should have been able to keep the cows, U.S. News & World Report reported.

Brossart and two family members chased police off his land with high-powered rifles and after a 16-hour standoff, the SWAT team from the Grand Forks police department, which had a search warrant, used the unmanned drone to determine Brossart's location…

…John Villasenor, an expert on information gathering and drone use with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said he doubts the court will throw out the case. Using a drone, he said, is no different than using a helicopter…

As the article also noted, Villasenor stated, "It may have been the first time a drone was used to make an arrest, but it's certainly not going to be the last."

I should’ve stopped there…but, noooooo…I moseyed on over to Salon.com, where I read this…

The drones are coming––to America
Jefferson Morley
Salon.com
Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012 7:45 AM EDT

Congress has opened up U.S. airspace to the drone industry -- and your privacy is about to be at risk
A drone is probably heading toward your personal airspace soon. With Congress requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to simplify and expedite drone applications from U.S. police departments by May 15, industry and watchdog groups agree: It won’t be long before cops and first responders put them into action.

Thanks to a law passed without much public debate in March, the FAA must allow law enforcement agencies to operate small drones (i.e., less than 4.4 pounds) at altitudes of less than 400 feet. “The demand is huge,” says Catherine Crump, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, says there are nearly 19,000 law enforcement entities in the United States, of which only 300 now have aerial surveillance capacities.

“Those departments have helicopters which cost about $1,500 an hour to operate,” Toscano says. “You can fly these drones for maybe less than $50 hour. A lot of smaller departments can now afford this technology…”

Now, with practically every story about our government’s increasing encroachment upon our privacy, 24/7/365, the fact of the matter is that there are, certainly, positive applications for all of these new and/or advanced technologies with regard to improving the quality of our day-to-day existence. But, the reality is that it’s being quite clearly reported of late that steps are being taken by our government which run contrary to the greater good of our personal freedoms.

In this particular instance, the story continues on to note how having “an eye in the sky” will help law enforcement in a myriad of ways, from searching for missing persons in darkness and bad weather to pinpointing dangerous areas in fire zones to aid firefighters on the ground.

The article continues…

…The introduction of surveillance drones into U.S. airspace signals an unprecedented conflation of homeland security, counterterrorism and domestic law enforcement, a combination that is galvanizing civil society activists.

Technology developed for attacking armed enemies abroad is being repurposed for enforcing the law at home — without any new safeguards for privacy and civil liberties. Domestic drones can engage in constant surveillance from the sky, which the Supreme Court has ruled does not constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment strictures against unreasonable search. Photographs of political demonstrators could be fed into facial recognition software on a scale previously unimaginable. Drones can also be weaponized with tear gas or tasers for remote crowd control. Michael Buscher, president of Vanguard Defense Industries, a drone manufacturer in Texas, told the Daily that police drones could have “rubber buckshot better available for large crowd dispersal…”

I strongly urge you to read this entire piece by Morley. It’s quite comprehensive; and, frankly, incredibly scary. (I’m not going to cover much of what’s in it; I’m leaving lots of “the good stuff” out of this post. The commentary from and about the Pentagon is nothing short of stunning! Quite “Strangelovian,” so to speak. You really should read it.) Among many other things, you’ll learn…

--There really isn’t much in the way of existing law that prevents law enforcement entities from doing just about whatever they please with this technology.

--A quote from an ACLU spokesperson informs us: “There’s no federal law that controls the use of data [collected via drones].”

--A spokesperson for the Center for Democracy and Technology, Harley Geiger, states: “…the courts have said we have no expectation of privacy if we are standing in a public place or in a place that is observable from a public place. For a drone hovering at 400 or 500 feet, the airspace is considered public space. So if there is a camera up there that can observe you, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy…”

--At the end of the article, Geiger’s quoted again: “There will be thousands of them of them [flying in the U.S.] in five years.”

#            #            #

On March 5th, Kossack TomDispatch posted this outstanding (but not widely read) prequel to the above story: “Stephan Salisbury: Weaponizing the Body Politic.” It’s also well worth your time, IMHO.

Originally posted to http://www.dailykos.com/user/bobswern on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 03:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Aviation & Pilots.

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