Drone Warfare in America

What would Obama supporters think if they learned that their beloved President was running far-to-the-authoritarian-right of arch-hawk Charles Krauthammer on one particular civil liberties issue?

Sadly, the answer is that most Obama supporters probably wouldn’t feel very much at all, because support for Obama has always been predominantly emotion-driven (he promised change “you can believe in”, not “change that I can logically convince you will be beneficial“).

But I digress. Charles Krauthammer weighed in on FOX yesterday to telegraph his opposition to bringing drone warfare to the skies of America.

Krauthammer said:

I’m going to go hard left on you here, I’m going ACLU. I don’t want regulations, I don’t want restrictions, I want a ban on this. Drones are instruments of war. The Founders had a great aversion to any instruments of war, the use of the military inside even the United States. It didn’t like standing armies, it has all kinds of statutes of using the army in the country.

I would say that you ban it under all circumstances and I would predict, I’m not encouraging, but I am predicting that the 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.

The Founders were deeply opposed to the militarisation of civil society. There is all kinds of aversions to it and this is importing it because, as you say, it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s silent. It’s something that you can easily deploy. It’s going to be, I think the bane of our existence. Stop it here, stop it now.

And this is a big deal. A recent report by Micah Zenko noted:

Worried about the militarization of U.S. airspace by unmanned aerial vehicles? As of October, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had reportedly issued 285 active certificates for 85 users, covering 82 drone types. The FAA has refused to say who received the clearances, but it wasestimated over a year ago that 35 percent were held by the Pentagon, 11 percent by NASA, and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And it’s growing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection already operates eight Predator drones. Under pressure from the congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus — yes, there’s already a drone lobby, with 50 members — two additional Predators were sent to Texas in the fall, though a DHS official noted: “We didn’t ask for them.” Last June, a Predator drone intended to patrol the U.S.-Canada border helped locate three suspected cattle rustlers in North Dakota in what was the first reported use of a drone to arrest U.S. citizens.

But I’m going to go even further than the threat to civil liberties: I am fairly certain that the militarisation of U.S. airspace by drones is itself a huge national security threat. While Zenko notes that drones “tend to crash”, the downing of a U.S. drone over Iran late last year — supposedly via an Iranian hack — seems to suggest that it is possible for drones to be commandeered by hackers or hostile powers. And if that’s not the case today, then it almost certainly will be tomorrow. Putting drones into the air above the United States is like going to sleep on a bed of dynamite. It’s an invitation to anyone to try and commandeer a plane, possibly one stocked with high-tech weaponry.

The Federal government would do well to quit groping Grandma at the TSA checkpoint, and start worrying about the potential negative side-effects of systems they are putting into place. All the TSA security theater in the world cannot stop a determined hacker from commandeering a drone.

Charles Krauthammer is right (and after the Iraq invasion which he championed I never thought I would say that): it could be the bane of our existence. Stop it here. Stop it now.

66 thoughts on “Drone Warfare in America

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  3. What about land mines?

    There would no longer be any erosion problems at our National Parks!

    Burmese tiger pits scattered along the US-Mexican border also springs to mind.

    Perhaps motion sensor machine guns could be used in the subways to deter those pesky toll jumpers!

    On a serious note, what is the tactical advantage of having drones in the sky of country not at war? Are they looking for brown people? Individuals that have taken agricultural products illegaly across state lines? Expired car tags?

    I just don’t get it! Obama, such a disappointment.

  4. Okay I absolutely love reading your posts, but can we consider for a moment that just because we’re used to reading that the “right” and “left” can both be authoritarian might make that very political spectrum illegitimate? If both ends lead to total government, then we have a circle.

    I know people are used to the “left” being commies and the “right” being nazis or religious zealots, but they both want to control the hell out of my life, my family, my pocketbook, and my bedroom. How can someone be on the right and be for less government and less state intervention, and yet also be on the right and be far-right-authoritarian? It makes no sense.

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.

    • Well realistically I think the two-axis political compass works better than a one-axis left-right but that is still really a massive simplification. Really we would need an axis for every issue. I’m an issue-by-issue guy.


        • I think there is a corporate and military consensus with both parties. They believe the military needs to be in every country in the world in order to protect our “freedom” and, of course, corps are people, my friend.

      • Remember way back when the Soviets fell? The talking heads were talking about ‘right wing’ communists as being the ‘extreme’ ones! Shows they can’t tell their right from their left; to them being right is bad, not a meaningful description of anything. Given how confused the ‘professionals’ have been by this 1 factor simplification (and it can’t get any simpler because a zero factor model would have to be random) we should just give it up as a gross over-simplification, and go back to talking about the actual facts.

        • Right (oops — correct), Edwardo! Plus let’s pass around the correct understanding that ALL forms of absolute power over people — fascist, Nazi, Communist, monarchy, dictatorship, theocracy, etc. — are at the SAME end of the spectrum of Liberty vs. Tyranny, whatever the nomenclature. Do we Americans want to empower those who preach (and want to practice) that people are not capable of self-rule, or shall we stand with Jefferson’s, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” ? And may I remind the youngsters that several years ago the Democratic Party HALTED a century(?) of annual “Jefferson and Jackson Day” events; the Party’s split from Jeffersonian democracy became too obvious.

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  7. I don’t know about Black Swans in Europe (We have them in Western Australia), but in Australia we also have Wedge Tail Eagles, and when I was a child a bug one atacked my toy remote controlled helicopter! I had to pick up the wreckage in Mrs Faraday’s backyard!

  8. One can only hope to fade into the woodwork. Don’t stand out. The first person that brings down a drone will have two hoverring ofer within the next two hours; pinning him until the two busses containing two swat teams can put crosshairs on the females a’la Ruby Ridge and Waco. Once you are found, the fight is over.

  9. If Iran or whomever was able to bring down a drone (with the latest tech) recently in one piece by hacking its software… what makes you think that a drone flying over us airspace cannot get hacked the same way and used against us. Geez, the enemy would be hacking it from across the world and then directing our drone on our own cities by remote. Sometime less is more…

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  11. There is one glaring issue, the Constitution. If we had a Constitutional government we could solve these problems. Most of our government nowadays, is power taken from the people and their states. We must elect Constitutional conservatives. If we as a people understood and respected our Constitution we would demand the same of our statesmen. We don’t so they do whatever they want. Tyranny is well afoot.

    • When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. That is a simplification, but I think it is very true.

    • I’m not sure there is even a border control use. Certainly there’s very little you can do with drones that you can’t do with satellites and conventional planes.

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  13. I’m overjoyed to see one “eternal verity” here: every public policy issue should be judged by the LIBERTY vs. TYRANNY test. Limited government is the foundation of our constitutional republic: people have rights, while “to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed”. Lenin-Stalin, Hitler, Mao, et al shared a common evil — absolute power to start wars, exterminate people, or do whatever they wished. Let’s follow Jefferson: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”. We can start by obeying the Constitution, legally amending it as needed rather than violating it at political whim. My priorities would be to constrain the unlimited Congressional power to tax incomes (Amendment XVI) and to remove the federal government from Constitutionally-prohibited power over education, healthcare, charity, labor relations, personal savings, agriculture, energy, etc.

    • Where did you get the idea that the constitution prohibits the federal govt from having power over education, energy, healthcare, etc?

      • I can answer this. The tenth amendment:

        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

        Now, I know most of this stuff is done under the guise of “regulating interstate commerce”, etc, but this is an extremely stretched interpretation.

        In terms of original constitutional intent, it’s as clear as night and day, although this has been muddied by later amendments. Unfortunately the South’s continuation of slaving gave Lincoln a fairly clear excuse to smash the paradigm of states rights and individual sovereignty under Federal power.

        Lincoln was right to end slavery (I wish ending slavery had been the North’s main goal, rather than a happy side effect) but wrong (under the original intent of the constitution) to establish the precedent of a complex centralist Leviathan state.

        • I think it is important to keep in the mind that the framers of the constitution wanted a strong federal govt, and if not for the few who fought tooth and nail, we may not have even had a bill of rights. I think it was hamilton that claimed the Bill of Rights was unnecessary – thank God he didnt get his way!

          Anyway, the 10th Amendment doesnt grant carte blanche to the states or the people. And I think there is a fair amount of evidence that Thomas Jefferson believed one of the main duties of the federal govt was to provide education.

        • Jefferson was indeed a believer in education; I believe he founded the U. of Virginia and designed the buildings. But where did he advocate FEDERAL government support/control? Is there anything in the U.S. Constitution “delegating” education “powers” to the federal government? Remember, Jefferson insisted on adding amendments to protect personal rights against government power.

        • “If universal healthcare is going to be a right, according to the Constitution it has to be delivered at the state (or lower) level (unless we really want to define delivering healthcare as “regulating interstate commerce”)”

          But the ninth amendment says certain rights enumerated in the constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage those retained by the people.

          Why would this mean healthcare at the state level only? People means most people, right? As long as those “rights” don’t interfere with others’ rights all is good, right?

        • But the ninth amendment says certain rights enumerated in the constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage those retained by the people.

          A service delivered by the Federal government is not a right retained by the people. If we’re going to be Constitutionalists, we have to accept that the Federal government’s role is explicitly defined by the Constitution, and anything else we want government to do is the state and local level.

          One exception: pass a Constitutional amendment to deliver healthcare by the Federal government.

        • Would you say anything the federal govt does that goes beyond what is explicitly stated in the constitution is unconstitutional? I think the tricky part with the 10th amendment is whether or not certain powers can be implied.

        • Yes, explicitly “delegated to the United States by the Constitution”. Lack of clarity is NOT in Amendment X, but may be in the delegating language.

          Modernizing/clarifying Amendment II (which prohibits any level of law infringing citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, but references “Militia”) is not the most important, but is a good example: let both sides propose amendments and fight it out in legal and open politics.

        • I think powers can only be implied if they can be demonstrated as being concretely tied to the powers specifically enumerated, so yes I hold the (ahem) “crankish” view (but technically correct) that most of what the Federal government does is unconstitutional. Sometimes the function of government should change. Lincoln passed the 14th Amendment. I just wish that most of the 20th Century changes had been passed via Amendment instead of via executive order and legislation. Then it would have been Constitutional.

        • Since you confess “crankish”, I will be “picky”!

          (1) You merely advocate “Strict Construction” of the Constitution, along with Bork, who was lynched, and me. Beyond “technically correct”, it’s RULE-OF-MEN-NOT LAW!

          (2) You omitted the CHIEF culprit of twentieth century rule-of-law destruction: legislating from the bench or judicial activism.

      • See May 16 correct reply by Aziz. Additionally, see the NINTH amendment — in modern jargon, together the two make it crystal clear: when in doubt, rights are “retained” by the people and powers are “reserved” to the states or to the people.

        • But then health care could be a right if most people wanted it, right? And obviously you can’t retain rights that violate the rights of others or that are against the constitution…

        • If universal healthcare is going to be a right, according to the Constitution it has to be delivered at the state (or lower) level (unless we really want to define delivering healthcare as “regulating interstate commerce”)

        • If we consider healthcare a “human right”, we should join those who support and encourage private medical charities. If we want it to be a civil right, we should make sure our STATE constitution, laws and budgets mandate care for the needy. If we want it to be a FEDERAL civil right, we should amend the U.S. Constitution.

        • In Jon’s reply on the 16th he stated that health care could be a Right, I would state that health care is a Right and that is retained by the individual. Each person has the Right to obtain whatever health care and services they require to maintain their Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, so long as their actions in achieving that goal does not infringe on the Rights of any other persons individual Rights. The institution of a plan to provide universal healthcare is not implicit in an individual exercising their Right to obtain health care.

    • “If we consider healthcare a “human right”, we should join those who support and encourage private medical charities. If we want it to be a civil right, we should make sure our STATE constitution, laws and budgets mandate care for the needy. If we want it to be a FEDERAL civil right, we should amend the U.S. Constitution.”

      Why would we need to amend the constitution if most people in all states thought healthcare was a right as per the ninth amendment? Why couldn’t the federal govt simply honor the people’s wish since it shall the enumeration of certain rights shall not be construed to DENY or disparage rights retained by the people.

      • “Why couldn’t the federal govt simply honor the people’s wish” Federal govt has no money of it’s own to “honor these wishes”. It will have to plunder more to pay for it. Anyway, you have it total backwards. The idea behind English and USA system was that every individual has all the rights already. It does not need to have them “granted”. You have a right to your health and someone harming it would be violating it. You have the right to own property, so no one can steal it from you. It doesn’t mean you are to be supplied with property paid by the govt. Universal healthcare is in fact restriction of rights – you imply even more theft by the State to pay for provision of this CIVIL SERVICE (not a right). If significant majority decides it is worth it, than obviously just a piece of paper – constitution – will not stop them. They can write and ratify a new one, or an amendment.

      • Piotr’s reply has it right, Jon. [And, if his name suggests that he is a first or second generation American, I wish to note that I have found that new (legal) Americans are better — and better informed — citizens than most of us native-born].

        I confused the RIGHTS vs. POWERS issue by misusing the oft-misused term “civil rights”. For example, MLK’s movement for equal Constitutional rights — speech, assembly, personal security, trial by jury, voting, etc. — was indeed directed toward civil (legal) rights; but NOT to racial revenge, victimization/apartheid for bloc voting, etc. as with most of the exploitive current crop of civil rights (yuuck) “leaders”.

  14. Go long Lithium miners. You need lithium batteries in those babies.

    Galaxy Minerals (GXY) in Australia has it s own lithium mine and lithium carbonate plant in China. It is now planning to produce batteries in China. Vertical integration. Next they will be making drones!

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  16. Perfect weapon to use against your own population. If half of a company of infantry has low morale would resist attacking civilians entire unit is out. You can’t just try using them anyway as in the actual operation dissidents may just slip away and join the other side, also loyalists will be very inefficient in combat looking behind their shoulders all the time. But drones? You have 16 unarmed guys in a room in the middle of the military base with loyal and armed sergeant watching them, and they pack better punch than a company of infantry.

  17. I’ll bet the great “conservative” Krauthammer was all for the Patriot Act when Bush pushed it through. As was the great “constitutionalist” Mark Levin. They didn’t want to hear about the precedent it set for use on American citizens. But now, they finally see the error of their ways when it comes to the drones. But too late!!! You should have stood against the beginning of this police state back then!

  18. I don’t know about Krauthammer and the Patriot Act, but he has a great record of combining common sense with good intentions. If you are looking for a “conservative” Constitutionalist arguing individual rights over national security, try Judge (NOT the wretched Janet) Napolitano. He shows up occasionally on Fox news Channel.

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