Privacy SOS

Bringing the drones home

Just a few days after President Obama for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of the military drone program, Congress with bipartisan support passed legislation that will fill American airspace with as many as 30,000 drones by the end of the decade.

Both Massachusetts Senators were in the 75-20 majority supporting the legislation while all the Massachusetts House Members – and trade unions – opposed it, in a vote of 248-169.

The $63.4 billion FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 integrates a “public unmanned aircraft system” into the national airspace system. Currently, domestic drones operated by the military, border patrols and some 300 public agencies are restricted to flying in military airspace, over borders or at low altitude. Soon, after being tried out on test ranges operated by NASA and the Pentagon, they will have the freedom of the skies – and another of our freedoms will be history.

In the years ahead, drones are going to be big business and a big threat to privacy, which could soon appear about as “quaint and anachronistic” as the Geneva Conventions, according to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The drone lobby in Congress is drooling over profits to come, while the Department of Homeland Security’s pet earthbound surveillance cameras already look like yesterday’s technology. 

Forget the additional risk to passengers in piloted airplanes presented by 30,000 additional pilotless airborne machines. Virtual strip searches and pat downs should keep us all safe, right?        

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.