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Timid New World

8:05 AM, May 16, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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A notional woman named “Julia” recently made her debut on the Obama campaign’s website. Julia, it seems, needs help at every stage in her life, and if the president has his way, the government will be there to assist her in, among other things, getting a college education, finding a job, securing birth control, and providing for her retirement. But it turns out that all this assistance will not be enough for the hapless Julia as she moves through life. It seems she will also need some close air support.    

Which is coming soon, as Bloomberg reports:

Public safety agencies will be able to operate unmanned aircraft with fewer restrictions, in the first changes in U.S. regulations that Congress ordered to broaden domestic use of non-military drones.

Police, fire and similar departments will be able to fly drones weighing as much as 25 pounds (11.3 kilos) without applying for special approvals needed under previous regulations, the Federal Aviation Administration said today in a statement on its website.

Drones have made their bones in the war on terror, flying unseen and unheard as they search the landscape below in real time with television cameras. And when they find a “high value target,” they can dispatch it with a missile. It is supremely high-tech, low-risk warfare with the “pilots” of the drones sitting at consoles outside Las Vegas, working joysticks and watching monitors. 

No surprise that “public safety agencies” would want some of that for their own operations. Drones would be perfect for spying on unsuspecting populations and keeping an eye on “persons of interest.” Cheap, too. Much cheaper than using a helicopter for, say, scouting out marijuana plots tucked away in forestland. And, if there were some seriously bad guys who needed to be dealt with, then instead of moving in a SWAT team to take them on, you could just send an armed drone to blow them out of their socks with a missile.

We are told, of course, that this would never happen. That drone use would be very restricted. But we all know that it would only be a matter of time before someone in government would be tempted to use the latent power of the drone to further the cause of … whatever. Consider that EPA bureaucrat who admired the way the Romans used random crucifixions to teach manners to their subjects.  Imagine how he might have used drones if he’d had a few in his arsenal. 

The people who want the drones claim that they will, somehow, enhance public safety. This is the government’s seduction line. You give up a little of your privacy and your freedom; we keep you safe and secure in return.

So we all take off our shoes and stand in line waiting to be examined for explosives before we can board an airplane. The safety police recently hand searched Henry Kissinger who was in a wheelchair when he went through airport security. According to news reports, the TSA inspectors didn’t know Kissinger from Adam’s aunt. Maybe. Or maybe they did. Either way, it makes one feel so much safer. 

Given how much privacy and dignity we have surrendered to the TSA, once drones are allowed to patrol the airspace over the United States, it will not be long before they begin stripping from Americans large portions of what remains of their privacy, dignity, and freedom. 

One wonders, are we really so threatened? Or, more likely, so fearful. One could imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt giving his famous inaugural address today and coming to the signature line.

“We have nothing to fear,” he would say, “except … well, except for the several items I have on this list here …  but don’t worry, because my administration is prepared to fill the sky with drones.  If we have to, we’ll fly so many of those things, they’ll block out the sun.  But you will, I promise, be safe.”

The idea of drones overhead, spying on free Americans, is repugnant. So much so that Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News, "I'm going to go hard left on you here, I'm going ACLU … I don't think we want a society where … there are the objects, hovering over streaming, real-time information about you, your family, your car, your location."

He also said that, “[T]he first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country,"

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