By Keith Johnson
In the wake of the double bombing in Boston, Police Commissioner Ed Davis told the Boston Herald that he’s looking to put surveillance drones in the sky before the next Marathon.
“We need to harden our target here,” Davis said. “We need to make sure terrorists understand that if they’re thinking about coming here, we have certain things in place that would make that not a good idea. Because they could hit any place. They’re going to go for the softest, easiest thing to hit.”
Earlier this week, Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, also referenced the Boston bombings while make his pitch for widespread deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
“UAVs could be an important tool in the tool kit for first responders in the event of an emergency,” he told US News and World Report. “Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, UAVs can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach. Our industry is working to develop technologies to provide first responders with the best tools possible to do their jobs safely as they work to protect our communities.”
Israel, which regularly uses drones to kill, maim and intimidate Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, also corners the market for these deadly and intrusive devices. In a Salon article, entitled Israel’s Drone Dominance, Jefferson Morley writes:
If you want to know how drones may change American airspace in coming years, just look to Israel, where the unmanned aerial vehicle market is thriving and drones are considered a reliable instrument of “homeland security.”
“There are three explanations for Israel’s success in becoming a world leader in development and production of UAVs,” a top Israeli official explained to the Jerusalem Post last year. “We have unbelievable people and innovation, combat experience that helps us understand what we need and immediate operational use since we are always in a conflict which allows us to perfect our systems.”Israel markets its expertise in defense to the rest of the world. Israeli academic Neve Gordon cites a glossy government brochure on drones titled “Israel Homeland Security: Opportunities for Industrial Cooperation,” which boasts, “no other advanced technology country has such a large proportion of citizens with real time experience in the army, security and police forces.” The chapter called “Learning from Israel’s Experience” notes that “many of these professionals continue to work as international consultants and experts after leaving the Israel Defense Forces, police or other defense and security organizations.”
The work has paid off when it comes to drones: The Jewish state is the single largest exporter of drones in the world, responsible for 41 percent of all UAVs exported between 2001 and 2011, according to a database compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Israeli companies export drone technology to at least 24 countries, including the United States.
Last year, President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which compels the Federal Aviation Administration to modify U.S. airspace rules and allow for widespread deployment of UAVs by 2015. Since this legislation was passed, applications have been pouring in from law enforcement agencies and private corporations seeking permission to place their own eyes in the sky.
In places like California, Texas and Washington State, police officers in recent weeks have intensified their demands for surveillance drones, a necessary addition they say to their arsenal of tools to help thwart crime. The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to finalize plans to put drones in U.S. airspace, but by the end of the decade as many as 30,000 UAVs are expected to be soaring through the sky.
Of course all of this is the result of intense lobbying by the powerful drone industry, which paid out big money to buy off your local congress-critter.
According to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics:
Dronemakers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives’ ‘drone caucus’ —officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus—has helped push that agenda. And over the last four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8M in drone-related campaign contributions.
For those complacent Americans who still take this issue lightly, a new study by researchers at the New York University School of Law and the Stanford University Law School, entitled “Living Under Drones,” should help put things into perspective.
According to the report:
Drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.