Drone operators training at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base use civilian automobiles to practice surveillance techniques, according to a recent report in the New York Times Magazine.
The bleak, stony desert terrain in that part of New Mexico offers a suitable training group for drone operators who will fly Predator and Reaper UAVs in Afghanistan. “When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead,” recalls reporter Mark Mazzetti. “It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.”
“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” one incredulous reporter inquired. An Air Force officer “responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room,” recounted Mazzetti.
The domestic use of drones for “humanitarian assistance and homeland security” missions will soon undergo a radical expansion with the help of private-sector “subject-matter experts,” reports WorldNetDaily.
Citing a “Sources Sought” document – that is, a pitch for services from private sector contractors – WND explains: “In order to `facilitate the safe expansion’ of the Obama administration’s domestic drone deployment, the U.S. Air Force Safety Center, or AFSC, will outsource to industry the assembling of this expert crew….”
With surveillance drones taking to the skies over America, the Feds are radically ramping up their electronic surveillance efforts as well. According to the New York Times: “In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations, and other information in the course of investigations…. AT&T alone now responds to an average of more than 700 requests a day, with about 230 of them regarded as emergencies that do not require the normal court orders and subpoena.”
In most cases, carriers require a formal warrant or subpoena. However, “in cases that law enforcement officials deem an emergency, a less formal request is often enough” – whether or not it meets constitutional standards. The ever-escalating surveillance demands from law enforcement agencies has led some carriers to outsource the job to outside providers. To their considerable credit, TracFone refuses to yield to law enforcement demands that it provide cell phone information without a warrant.
The Homeland Security State has also pressured Internet search providers, including Google, into providing “an index of the Web information on users’ searches,” observes retired Judge Andrew Napolitano in his new book It is Dangerous to the Right when the Government is Wrong. Google attempted to stave off this intrusion, but lost its court case.
In April 2010, “Google launched a `Government Request Tool,’ detailing the requests of worldwide governments to take down content, or to turn over information, related to the uses of its search engine, YouTube, and its blogging software,” continues Judge Napolitano. The U.S. Government’s removal demands are roughly twenty times the number filed by the government of post-Soviet Russia – and its demands for user information are more than 100 times greater than those issued by the country that gave us the KGB.
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