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Last year Congress asked the FAA to prepare the public for the onslaught of domestic drone use for the purposes of surreptitiously observing Americans beginning in 2015.

The FAA responded by issuing a screening information request (SIR) in order to develop six test sites within this country for the launching of domestic drones for surveillance purposes. The FAA included a provision soliciting public comment:

In conjunction with the UAS SIR release, the FAA will also publish a Request for Comments (RFC) in the Federal Register to solicit public input for the development of a privacy approach as it relates to the operation of the UAS Test Sites.

The Request for Comments was published at on February 22d.

The total number of comments received as of 11:59 pm last night? Three.

Here is one of the comments:

I urge the FAA to take action to protect the important constitutional right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, including the right to be free from UAV surveillance of my home and daily life. Please do everything you can to protect this important constitutional right.  
Accordingly, the entire notion of personal privacy in this country is now dependent upon the views of exactly three American citizens.

And that is good, because as this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled, "The Day When Drones Fill Domestic Skies" predicts:

The prospect that as many as 10,000 unmanned planes and helicopter-like surveillance devices could be launched into the nation's skies in the coming years might have once been regarded as a science-fiction scenario. But no more.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which sought the test-site proposals, has been working under a congressional directive to figure out how drones could be deployed safely above U.S. communities as soon as September, 2015.

For the rest of us who haven't bothered to make our views heard, Declan McCullagh of CNET news has provided some new details as to what the future holds:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried: identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones, government documents show.
The documents provide more details about the surveillance capabilities of the department's unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the United States' northern and southern borders, but have been pressed into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and local police.  
DHS was compelled by the Electronic Privacy Information Center[an organization you would do well to support] to release a "redacted" copy of its specifications for domestic Predator drones planned for use on American citizens. CNET obtained an unredacted copy of the same specifications that provided further detail:
Homeland Security's specifications for its drones, built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, say they "shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not," meaning carrying a shotgun or rifle. They also specify "signals interception" technology that can capture communications in the frequency ranges used by mobile phones, and "direction finding" technology that can identify the locations of mobile devices or two-way radios.
Distilled to its essence, the drones are being taught to identify both you and where you are by your cell phone.  If you happen to be armed, well that is double-plus-bad.

When asked, the Department of Homeland Security declined to answer whether "direction identification" technology was being employed in its fleet of border patrol drones, but reassuringly stated that "signal interception" technology would never, never, never be used without DHS thinking about it really hard first:

Any potential deployment of such technology in the future would be implemented in full consideration of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy interests and in a manner consistent with the law and long standing law enforcement practices.
So they've already decided its OK to find out exactly where you are--they just haven't decided how and when to listen in on what you're saying--yet.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the Department of Homeland Security will be the ultimate arbiter of the concerns expressed by the three individuals who have provided their comments, since the FAA has basically indicated it's not their job, man:

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is charged with overseeing drone implementation in the U.S., says its focus is “totally on safety,” not privacy worries. “We are concerned about how it’s being used only to the extent it would affect the safety of the operation,” says FAA spokesman Les Dorr.

*   *   *

The FAA last week began searching for six locations to test drones and is asking for input on privacy protections for these sites. While the agency acknowledges that privacy is an issue that must be addressed, it does not claim overall rule-making authority. “It’s unclear who’s responsible for privacy issues at this point and time,” says Gerald Dillingham, director of civil-aviation issues at the Government Accountability Office. “No one has stepped up to the plate.

Well, actually three people have.

If anyone else wishes to comment, here is how:

You may send comments identified by Docket No: FAA-2013-0061
using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to and follow the online instructions for sending your
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room
W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket
Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.,
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at (202) 493-2251.

Your Email has been sent.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Diane Rehm show recently did a segment (12+ / 0-)
    Marc Rotenberg executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and teaches Information Privacy Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

    Michael Toscano president and CEO of AUVSI, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

    Todd Humphreys assistant professor, aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, University of Texas, Austin
    TOSCANO10:14:54The part that I would disagree, though, with Marc is that the FAA is not responsible for privacy. Privacy is the responsibility of the courts, of the legal system, the Fourth Amendment, the states that regulate privacy. And I would contend to you that you can have invasion of your privacy done in a variety of different ways by manned systems, unmanned systems, other capabilities out there. You can have an individual that's on the next building over. They can look through your window. If they violate the privacy laws, they should be punished.
    ROTENBERG10:17:34So actually a year ago, EPIC petitioned the FAA, and we said to the agency, we know you're planning to do safety regulations. We'd like you also to do privacy regulations. And we got some good news last week because we heard from the general counsel of the FAA, who wrote to me to say, well, as we begin this process, we do intend to look at privacy issues, and we do intend to develop some guidelines.

    I think it's very likely that most folks following this as it relates to the FAA opportunity for comments are focused on aviation safety, hobbyist interests, and the interests of the many uses unrelated to surveillance. It's good that you have brought to our attention this opportunity to weigh in on the privacy concerns.

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:26:34 PM PST

  •  the Federal Register's not well-traffic'd*, thanks (8+ / 0-)

    ...for posting the explanation and link here on dKos, which is well-traffic'd...

    * above statement is an understatement, at least re: the general public


  •  Important to note (12+ / 0-)

    ... that the comment period is open until April 23.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:34:51 PM PST

  •  Send in a cmment telling them U are concerned (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dartagnan, progressivevoice

    About the drones program, and then soon, your household could have its very own drone checking you out!

    That simple!

    Offer your heart some Joy every day of your life, and spread it along to others.

    by Truedelphi on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:57:00 PM PST

  •  But if you don't have anything to hide... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dartagnan, marina, temptxan, annominous

    then that STILL doesn't give them the right to spy on you without cause.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:01:14 PM PST

    •  Look, I get it and it's true but (0+ / 0-)

      how is a drone any different than a Police-helicopter?  The same devices are mounted on them as on the drones and the drones will only be used in the same manner that a police helicopter is used.  They'll be called upon when and where they're needed.  They won't be hovering over your house 24/7.

      Drones are an important tool our Police, ATF and DEA civil servants need to do their jobs.

      •  It's because they're much cheaper and easier (0+ / 0-)

        to deploy than helicopters, and so are likely to be used AND abused more often, plus they can be equipped with weaponry, which is incredibly scary. They're sort of like having surveillance cameras on every lightpost, which is creepy enough, but with guns or high-power lasers attached to them.

        They are very small, have AI and are pretty quiet, and can get to many more places than helicopters or fixed cameras can. I can imagine the ability to give a drone an address or GPS coordinates and it'll get there on its own, quietly in the middle of the night, and then hover for hours and spy on its target. Since this will become so easy, I'm sure that it'll be abused, without due process or warrants. You can't easily do that with helicopters.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 06:58:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not comparable (0+ / 0-)

        Helicopters are big, noisy, visible and expensive. Drone's aren't. It could be used as a valuable tool by law enforcement, or it could be abused - far more readily abused than a helicopter. And it's not just law enforcement that expects to use them. Consider the potential use by private invetigators, or paparazzi for example.

        "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

        by Catte Nappe on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 11:22:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  In the '60's this was radical, scary stuff. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, cocinero, Dbug, Catte Nappe

    Right now?  Google has pictures of me from space.  Amazon knows how many bras, what size, what brand I buy a year.  And what phone I use, what books I buy, that I do Yoga, that I'm a feminazi.  I have 2 email accounts, mostly marketing and political spam.  Google and Firefox know what programs are on my computer, when I blog, what I search.  I bank online, shop online, use my iPhone constantly.  There is no privacy left, and I accept that because convenience and fun trump the privacy concerns I had when I was an anti-war hippie.  

    Everyone who's connected knows they've made this bargain, most of them get the silliness of worrying about privacy.

    If it becomes a driving concern I'll become a hermit, go off the grid and live a different life.  Until that happens my life is an open book to corporate America, why sweat this?  HSA can't be as good at information selling/gathering as Google is.

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:19:50 PM PST

    •  Most of what is public (5+ / 0-)

      is stuff you've more or less consented to share. Drones overhead spying on you for purposes unknown, is that something you consent to?

      You may feel your life is an open book already. Maybe when you try being hermit and find there is nowhere to go that is off-grid, you'll think again about the freedom you've lost.

      •  No, it really isn't. It's a forced sharing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Catte Nappe

        with entities I've never done business with.  

        My dad wrote an anti-ICBM editorial in the seventies called "Less Than A Megadeath", picked up by the NYT.  The local Birchers drove him out of his last parish because he was a commie who belonged to Clergy & Laymen Concerned and supported sex education in schools.  We're pretty sure the FBI had files on us for our anti war activism.  We still walk free, get jobs, never get visits when a shooter goes nuts.  The government always spies on citizens who are out of the mainstream.  And quite frankly I hope they scare the shit out of NRA gunrunners, survivalists with arsenals, and Dominionists.  There are some dangerous people in this country whose paranoia hurts innocents.  They abdicated their rights as citizens long ago.

        I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

        by I love OCD on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 04:40:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Bravo for your dad! (0+ / 0-)

          I'm sorry he had to suffer for his ideals, but grateful to him for taking a stand for the good.

          As for surveillance, sometimes when I'm outdoors,
          I'll flip a bird to the sky, just in case there's a drone up there.  ;-)

    •  How would one get off the drone grid? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't think it's possible, unless your hermitage were underground.

    •  And back in the 1950s (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      (the good old days, remember?) there was no internet, no google, no atms, no cameras at atms, no security cameras in corner grocery stores, no credit cards or shoper loyalty cards.

      But everybody (yes, everybody) in your home town church gossipped about you. Everybody in the neighborhood knew about the teenaged girl who got pregnant and had to go away to give up her baby for adoption. There was McCarthyism, including books containing names of people who were blacklisted because they might be Communists.

      It's not so different.

      "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

      by Dbug on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 11:13:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yet they still can't catch Wall Street criminals (5+ / 0-)

    Apparently, they have to wait for them to confess.

    (Sheldon Adelson's) Las Vegas Sands says it likely violated bribery law

    It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them. FDR

    by Betty Pinson on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:37:46 PM PST

  •  We already use airplanes and helicopters (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for surveillance, to enforce traffic laws, do searches, etc. How are drones any different? I would like to see them used to enforce ag rules, identify manure spills, catch farmers ripping out grassed waterways and plowing up stream buffers.

    •  How about having them fly over your afternoon (6+ / 0-)

      barbecue? You want that too? I sure as hell don't need or want any government entity hovering in the sky over my backyard. Giving up rights for a bit of "security" just assures that future generations will never see some of the rights, like privacy, that we at one time, took for granted.

      "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." Edward R. Murrow

      by temptxan on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 06:07:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I already have overflights (0+ / 0-)

        Medical helicopters from our local hospital fly overhead occasionally. We've had lots of F-16 training flights, most are very high, but there have been a couple of scary low level passes. Occasionally, there's a crop duster. Sometimes my neighbor flies over in his ultralight and waves.

        The F-16 squadron is being replaced with drones, but the pilots will be flying them remotely overseas. I won't miss the F-16s. I always thought about all the fuel that was wasted on those training flights.

  •  Pretty sure I saw one fly over my house today. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It looked kind of like a bi-plane with no propeller and no cockpit and with just two wings affixed to the body, and sounded like a really small helicopter.

    I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.

    by ReverseThePolarity on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:43:47 PM PST

  •  States are fighting over the opportunities to host (4+ / 0-)

    this newest MIC cash cow and a large Congressional Caucus was formed to spread the word for "the urgent need to rapidly develop and deploy more Unmanned Systems in support of ongoing civil, military, and law enforcement operations."
    And now the MIC is salivating at the prospects for the autonomous robots expected to be active within ten years, a potential trillion dollar industry all major countries including China and Russia (and of course the U.S.) are keen to spend treasury money on.
    A key question people need to ask themselves, even if they don't have the moral outrage some of us have, is if they want to keep paying for all this, and why.  The defense and national security budget has skyrocketed over the last twelve years, with drones a key part of that.  Check out your city law enforcement budgets, they're doing the same thing although somewhat skewed because of the help from Homeland Security and the Pentagon.  

    "The Global War OF Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:44:49 PM PST

  •  "signal interception" technology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, Dartagnan

    Well, turnabout...fairplay...
    UAVs run on signals. Digital control via radio waves.
    Intercepting and decrypting might be difficult but not impossible (Iran has done it).
    But just overpowering that frequency band with pure garbage, static, random digital junk.....
    I think I see a business opportunity here. ;>
    "...n other news, there has been a rash of mysterious crashes of what appear to be surveillance drones in cities across the country this week, San....

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 06:07:23 PM PST

  •  Thanks for this diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I like to think that I follow current events (including reading DKos regularly), but this is the first I have heard of the FAA's request for comments.  That may help to explain why there have been so few responses so far.  

    Notices on important issues like this should receive widespread coverage in the news media.  But they do not, while we continue to get detailed coverage of every lie Rep. Boehner tells about the "sequester".  Not a good situation.

  •  Shadowrun, for Chrissakes (0+ / 0-)

    Corporations are people.
    Voting rights are critically threatened by a bloated toady of Karl Rove in a black robe.
    UAV surveilance...
    Just add magic, elves, and President Dragon.

    We're screwed.

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