Privacy SOS

Joystick warfare and the coming dangers of domestic surveillance drones

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The video above shows DHS customs agents using one of their newly acquired Predator drones monitoring the US border. The agents are operating out of a trailer that has been reconfigured as a drone command center.

The next video describes in greater detail the expanded drone surveillance program unfolding along the northern border. Note that in the video, the man in charge of DHS' drone operations says that the border is about 900 miles long, and "100 miles deep." Sounds odd, right? You'd think that a border was maybe 500 feet deep at the widest, no?

Not according to the federal government or DHS. The agency has been interpreting the "border" to include territory 100 miles inside the country, a geographic area in which the majority of people in this country live — including 100 percent of Massachusetts residents and 97 percent of New Yorkers. The agency acts like the area, all 100 miles deep of 'border,' is a "constitution-free zone." (Note: the 100 mile deep border theory is also used to justify increasingly regular customs "papers please" checks on Amtrak trains.)

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While the weapons-ready Predators deployed in the United States are unarmed, their cousin Predators stalking the skies in foreign lands are decidedly violent creatures. Beyond the military deployment of drones in official war zones, the CIA uses drone strikes to kill people in its many unofficial, covert wars. Details of those CIA programs remain sketchy. But the US military isn't hiding its love for drones: it proudly displays video of its drone operations on its YouTube page, as does Massachusetts-based defense giant Raytheon. You can't see what the resulting bloody mess at ground level looks like in those videos; look here for rare photographs of what's left after drone strikes.

If you are interested in a behind the scenes look at how drones are operated, take a look at the following videos. View them with a healthy dose of skepticism, however; they read like overt propaganda films for the drone industry. The first, you find at the end, was made for children. 

In related news: EFF is suing the government to learn more about domestic drone use, and the ACLU just put out a report on the same.

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© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.