Naomi Klein reports on the use of U.S. Air Force drones within the interior of the U.S. Citing a declassified Air Force white paper, she argues that drones will soon be used by the police to monitor entire populations–and perhaps one day soon–will become weaponized. The U.S. constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard only by state governors, a system designed to prevent the military from taking action aimed at U.S. citizens (so too does the19th century posse comitatus act).
The 2012 controversial Air Force document details that
the air force will be overseeing the deployment of its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the US; that it may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant – and will then, retroactively, determine if the material can be retained – which does away for good with the fourth amendment in these cases. While the drones are not supposed to specifically “conduct non-consensual surveillance on on specifically identified US persons”, according to the document, the wording allows for domestic military surveillance of non-“specifically identified” people (that is, a group of activists or protesters) and it comes with the important caveat, also seemingly wholly unconstitutional, that it may not target individuals “unless expressly approved by the secretary of Defense”.
This is a form of executive power – drones can be sent to hover over your house if the Secretary of Defense deems it so.
And what happens to all the collected data and imagery?
“Distribution of domestic imagery” can go to various other government agencies without your consent, and that imagery can, in that case, be distributed to various government agencies; it may also include your most private moments and most personal activities. The authorized “collected information may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent”.
Klein then argues that the push for domestic drone deployment is also part of a toxic relationship with corporations –
Given the Department of Homeland Security militarization of police departments, once the circle is completed with San Francisco or New York or Chicago local cops having their own drone fleet – and with Chase, HSBC and other banks having hired local police, as I reported here last week – the meshing of military, domestic law enforcement, and commercial interests is absolute. You don’t need a messy, distressing declaration of martial law.
And drone fleets owned by private corporations means that a first amendment right of assembly is now over: if Occupy is massing outside of a bank, send the drone fleet to surveil, track and harass them. If citizens rally outside the local Capitol? Same thing.
What’s next? Weaponized drones in the domestic sphere.
If US drones may first be weaponized with crowd-control features, not lethal force features, but with no risk to military or to police departments or DHS, the playing field for freedom of assembly is changed forever.
For Klein, therefore, the age of the drone is well and truly upon us, and with it, the establishment of a police state that likes of which the U.S. has never before known.